“What’s the chances”
On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne, and his wife, Sophie, were shot dead in Sarajevo by a group of six assassins with the political objective to break off Austria-Hungary’s provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. The assassins’ motives were consistent with the movement that later became known as Young Bosnia. The assassination led directly to the First World War when Austria-Hungary subsequently issued an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, which was partially rejected. Austria-Hungary then declared war. Franz Ferdinand’s car in which he was assassinated had a license plate that read “A III118″. World War 1 ended with an Armistice, a peace agreement on 11-11-18, and during the second world war, when Soviet archaeologists opened the tomb of Tamerlane, a Mongol descendant of Genghis Khan, they found an inscription that read, “Whoever opens my tomb will unleash an invader more terrible than I”. It was June 20 1941. Germany invaded the Soviet Union two days later on June 22.
Two amazing co-incidences that some may label mysteries.
Next Saturday is Anzac day, a day that we pay tribute to those who have served us in and with their lives, that we live our lives in a free country.
But today we look to our Lord, to revere, praise, worship and thank our Lord for the life He has given to us in both our lives now, and when the times arrives, in our death.
And today, through our Lord we look at three mysteries from our Gospel text.
- There is Jesus who walks with his two disciples and talks with them, and they don’t recognise him.
- Jesus explains the Scriptures to the two disciples who don’t recognise him, and it is like a fire burning inside them.
- There is the mystery of the breaking of the bread, the moment when the two disciples recognise Jesus, and he disappears.
- The first mystery
Jesus comes to his disciples as a stranger. It happens on the beach, early one morning after the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. The Scripture says,
“but all that night they did not catch a thing. As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water’s edge, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”
It happens again in the locked room, when his disciples think they are seeing a ghost. They are scared out of their wits, but Jesus keeps assuring them “Don’t be afraid! Peace be with you!” Jesus shows them his hands and his side and asks them to touch him to be assured it is he, and not some scary phantom from Hades or wherever ghosts come from.
And it is important to note that Jesus comes to people whether they recognise him, or not. He comes whether they are ready for him or not. Jesus comes when he is ready. When he comes, he shows himself to be fully and completely alive. It is really him. Ask Thomas! But his risen body has also been made new in a way that goes beyond the laws of nature and physics that rule us and our bodies. Jesus is able to enter and leave the disciples presence in an instant – even when they are in a locked room. This is a mystery of the risen Lord. We have difficulty grasping the miracles we see in nature. A flower, opening into a beautiful bloom or a tiny bird hatching out of an egg. Our world is full of delightful miracles. How much more are we in awe of the mystery of Jesus alive again, gloriously raised from the tomb?
It hard to fathom, the Creator of all miracles walking around as a human being, obeying the laws he put into nature. It is even more fascinating when he is greater than the laws of nature and physics. He who works miracles in nature, turning water into wine, walking on water, appears back from the dead after three days. Jesus is God at work. We can’t explain his work in mere scientific terms. We leave the mystery at that.
When Jesus appears to us he might still come as a stranger, and we might not recognise him. In Matthew 25 we read how Jesus might come and visit us dressed down as a beggar in dire need of help, desperately needing a glass of water, or a bite of food to eat, or needing some of our clothes to wear. He might even come to our home as a stranger who needs a place to rest.
Jesus is thankful for our care for him when he comes to us as a stranger. Jesus says,
“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me”.
And that may be a little scary! And so He still comes to us with the words of truth that wqe need to hear “Don’t be afraid. Peace be with you. Your sins are forgiven”. Go in peace.”
- The second mystery
Jesus comes and explains the Scriptures to the two disciples.
If there was ever a conversation that we would love to overhear, it would have to be when Jesus opened up the Scriptures to his two disciples as they walked along together. Of course the Scriptures he used are what we now call the Old Testament. We might think of it as a book. In those days it was a collection of scrolls, all written in Hebrew. How does one fathom the meaning and main purpose of the Scriptures? Again, the Word comes to us in human form and words. This in itself can be a mystery to us. We might prefer that God would sit in heaven, write it all down, and hand it down to us. But it comes to us in human form! What do we make of it?
Some people treat the Bible as a magic book, with secret numbers and hidden messages about the future of people on our earth. Some people like to kiss it, and bow down to the Scriptures. Are we meant to worship it, or do Christians only worship the living God who comes to us in the Scriptures?
Is there a secret to the Scriptures? Yes. There is a secret key to understanding the Scriptures. In verse 27 of our text we read, “And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the book of Moses and the writings of all the prophets.”
Right from the beginning, and right through to the end, these Scriptures are all pointing to Jesus. The key to understanding the Scriptures is Jesus. If we are to understand the Scriptures, then we need to look for Jesus in the words and paragraphs. Jesus is the key who opens up the mysteries of the Scriptures.
It would great to know which passages Jesus took from the Old Testament and said, “This refers to me,” but we aren’t told. Maybe it was Isaiah 53? There is a hint in Jesus’ words when he says, “Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things …”? Did Jesus tell them about the Passover Lamb, and how the lamb was taken in its prime, and sacrificed, and the flesh eaten with the unleavened bread? It’s probable the Passover Lamb was included, but again we are not told. It remains a mystery which passages of Scripture Jesus said pointed to him.
If we want to know which passages of Scripture are more important than others, then we know to look for Jesus there. He is the key for us to understand the Scriptures. There is much we don’t fully grasp about the Scriptures, and we don’t need to. What we know is that Jesus is the key to God’s central message of Scripture – the same one who suffered the worst on the cross for us.
It is interesting that the two disciples still didn’t recognise it was Jesus himself who was explaining the Scriptures to them. It is significant that their hearts burned within them – a pointer to the Holy Spirit and the fires that would burn at Pentecost.
- The third mystery is the breaking of the bread.
We cannot explain in scientific terms how this happened. When Christians try and explain what happens in Holy Communion they can easily empty it of its real blessings.
There is ordinary bread and wine. Jesus takes the bread, as God’s people had been doing for several thousand years. Jesus then breaks the bread, and gives it to them, saying, “Take and eat, this is my body, given for you.” And then he took the cup – we know the words!
Saint Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11,
“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
The two disciples at Emmaus immediately recognise the risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread. There is a deep mystery here that we can’t explain in scientific terms. The two disciples are so excited and overcome with emotion and joy,
“They got up at once and went back to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples gathered together. The two then explained to them what had happened on the road, and how they had recognised the Lord when he broke the bread.”
Holy Communion is our celebration of Easter, when the risen Lord Jesus comes to us, bringing victory and forgiveness in the bread and the wine. The risen Jesus who suffered and died for us comes to visit us in the bread and wine every time we join in the Lord’s Supper. He comes as the Lamb of God who was offered up in sacrifice for us. He comes bringing forgiveness, with the message, “Don’t be afraid. Peace be with you. Your sins are forgiven.”
The risen Jesus comes to us again and again as we travel through this life. We never travel alone. He walks with us. He talks with us.
The risen Jesus, the same one who was sacrificed for us on the cross, visits each one of us personally today in the breaking of the bread. A profound and wonderful mystery. But a mystery behind a truth that you never need doubt, that yes, Your sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God!