The Third Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2020
SERVICE OF THE WORD
This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word. Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.
P: He is risen!
C: He is risen indeed!
M: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.
C: And also with you.
Confession of Sins
M: We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children. But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment. Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.
C: Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child. But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray: Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love. Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.
M: God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins. By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever. You are His own dear child. May God give you strength to live according to His will.
Prayer and Praise
M: In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.
OH, TASTE AND SEE
C: Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed are they who take refuge in Him. Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues forever. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
M: Let us pray.
The minister says the Prayer of the Day.
O God, by the humiliation of your Son you lifted up this fallen world from the despair of death. By His resurrection to life, grant your faithful people gladness of heart and the hope of eternal joys; we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
FIRST LESSON – Acts 2:14a, 36-47
Peter preaches a message of repentance, faith, and baptism in the risen Christ to the people of Jerusalem. Thus the church is born.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:…”Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV1984)
PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 67
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make His face shine upon us;
may Your ways be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for You rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.
Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen
SECOND LESSON – 1 Peter 1:17-21eba
The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us of our redemption through the shedding of His blood.
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (NIV1984)
VERSE OF THE DAY
Alleluia. Alleluia. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. Our hearts were burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us. Alleluia. (Luke 24:32)
C: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of God. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
GOSPEL LESSON – Luke 24:13-35 (Sermon Text)
As Jesus walks with the Emmaus disciples, He renews their hope and joy.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. (NIV1984)
C: Praise be to you, O Christ!
SERMON God’s Mysterious Ways!
Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Bob Phillips was a member of the congregation I served in Seattle. Bob and his wife Hilda were almost always in church. But, when their health began to fail and they couldn’t make it to church on a regular basis I would visit them at home and bring them Holy Communion. One afternoon I was sitting in Bob and Hilda’s living room just chatting with them. Bob had mentioned something about how difficult it was getting to travel long distances to visit family and friends which led me to remark that I think it would be great if someday we could develop a ship that could fly at “warp” speed— like in Star Trek. Immediately Bob launched into a long and very technical explanation of the laws of physics and their impact upon the human body thereby rendering “warp” speed impossible. I had no idea what he was talking about! That was the day I learned that Bob was a rocket scientist— literally. He helped design and build rockets for a living.
No matter who we are there are some things that will always be a “mystery” to us. For example, rocket science is a “mystery” to me. On more than one occasion I have been in a group of people who were discussing something that led someone to make the remark, “It’s all Greek to me.” My response to them is usually something like— “Greek I can handle. This I do not understand.”
Our text for today is once again a very familiar portion of Scripture— the traditional Gospel lesson for the Third Sunday of Easter. Since this portion of God’s Word is so familiar to us I would like us to study it from a slightly different perspective than what you may have anticipated. Today let’s see how the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus gives us an opportunity to look at: God’s Mysterious Ways. There are three points we want to ponder this morning. First, let’s see that God’s mysterious ways do indeed confuse our natural, sinful human minds. Second, let’s see how Scripture clears up that confusion. Finally, let’s see how that clear understanding leads us to proclaim God’s mysterious ways to others.
Our text takes place on that first Easter Sunday. Two of Jesus’ disciples (Cleopas and another disciple whose name we are never told) had gone to Jerusalem— probably to celebrate the Passover. While these men were in Jerusalem they became eyewitnesses of the most powerful events that this world has ever seen— even to this very day. Unfortunately, they did not understand what these events meant. By the time they left Jerusalem late on that first Easter Sunday they were confused. God’s ways were a “mystery” to them— a “mystery” the likes of which they could not figure out no matter how hard they tried! In verse 15 the word which is translated in the NIV as “discussed” can also be translated as “argue or question.” And in verse 17 the word that Jesus used when He asked these two disciples, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” literally means “to throw in turn.” Picture that scene in your mind: As these men were walking along the road they were “throwing” ideas, questions, possibilities at each other as to what the events of the past few days meant.
Why was all of this so confusing? Why was all of this such a “mystery” to these disciples? Look at verses 19 & 20. These men knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that when it came to Jesus of Nazareth, “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him.” Now look at verse 21, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” “But we had hoped….” You can just hear the profound sadness that permeated the hearts and minds of these men. For centuries God’s faithful people had been waiting for the One who would “redeem Israel.” For awhile these two disciples were convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed “the one.” But now Jesus was dead. And to add to the confusion which had overwhelmed these two men were the mysterious events of that first Easter Sunday: the message of the women who found Jesus’ tomb empty, the appearance of a heavenly angel, Peter and John’s discovery that the tomb was indeed empty, “but him (Jesus) they did not see.” God’s mysterious ways had indeed confused these men— because they were trying to understand all of this with just their limited logical minds.
There is only one way to clear up that type of confusion. Look at verses 25-27 of our text. Luke writes, “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
While God’s Plan of Salvation for sinful mankind is a “mystery” in so far as it does not make logical sense to us, at the very same time God’s Plan of Salvation for sinful mankind— for you and for me— has been clearly laid out in His holy inspired Word! To not believe what God has revealed to us in His Word is the height of “foolishness”! To not “see” how the holy Scriptures reveal to us that God had planned out our salvation from all of eternity is to be “slow or dull of heart.”
The risen Christ began to clear up the confusion of these two disciples by putting the events of the past few days into their proper perspective as well as by summarizing God’s Plan of Salvation with one simple question: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” The arrest, the trial and the crucifixion of Jesus may have confused Cleopas and his friend but they were absolutely necessary. Contrary to the “opinion” of many people— including many people today— sin is serious! Each and every sin is an open act of rebellion against the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth— an act of rebellion that must be punished— with death! Think back on how often you have rebelled against God. Would you want to endure the punishment that your sins deserve? The only way for you and me to “escape” the punishment we deserve, my friends, was if someone willingly endured the punishment of death for us. Behold the cross of Jesus Christ! (Pointing to the cross) He took our place. He endured the punishment we deserved. He “suffered these things” so that through His innocent suffering and death our debt of sin could be stamped “Paid in full!” Once the entire debt of mankind’s sin had been paid then— and only then— could the Christ victoriously “enter his glory” once again!
With that basic outline of God’s Plan of Salvation clearly in focus Jesus then walked these disciples through the “details” of that Plan “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets.” Did the power of God’s holy Word clear up the confusion that these men had concerning God’s mysterious ways? Look at the reaction of these two men when Jesus ultimately “opened their eyes” so that they could recognize Him. We hear them say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Mystery solved!
What did these men do when God’s mysterious ways were no longer mysterious? Look at verses 33-35 of our text, “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”
These two disciples simply could not wait to share the Good News with others! Like the shepherds who heard the announcement of Jesus’ birth Cleopas and his friend had to share the announcement of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead!
How do we apply this study of God’s Mysterious Ways to our hearts and to our lives today? I have long taught people that while the Bible does not answer every last question we might possibly have it does answer every question we need an answer to! And while there are many different venues in which we could look at God’s Mysterious Ways this morning, in keeping with our text let’s boil it down to one question that sinners like us truly need to address: How can I be saved? In light of all of my sins, in light of my greed and my lust, in light of my pride and my arrogance, in light of my lack of love for both God and my fellow man— how can I be saved? My own sinful nature tries to tell me that I am not really all that bad and at least I am not as bad as others. But deep in my heart I know better. My own logical mind tells me that if I do something wrong then I need to do something good to make up for it and hopefully that will “balance out” the scales of justice. But when I’m honest with myself I know that there aren’t enough hours in the day to even begin such a futile quest. Out of sheer fear I might hope that God will change His mind and just “overlook” sin— or at least my sin. But then I attend the funeral of a friend and I am reminded of the truth, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) No, my friends, when it comes to the question, “How can I be saved?” any answer that focuses on me and what I do is profoundly wrong! The only correct answer to that question focuses our attention right back on God’s mysterious ways, doesn’t it! (Pointing to the cross)
Since God knew that we were hopelessly lost in our sin and completely unable to save ourselves He promised and sent His only Son into this world as our true Brother. God’s mysterious way of saving us was to take our place— to live for us, to die for us and then to rise again for us! God’s mysterious way of taking the salvation which His Son secured for us on the cross and making it our own personal possession centers on the power of His Holy Spirit working through His Means of Grace— the Gospel in both Word and Sacrament. God’s mysterious ways assure us that when a little baby is baptized in the Name of the Triune God that child is washed clean of all of their sins and adopted as a dearly beloved child of our heavenly Father. God’s mysterious ways assure us that when Jesus comes to us in His holy Supper and assures us that all of our sins are completely forgiven by saying to us, “Take eat, this is My body…Take drink this is My blood…” that He is speaking the Truth! God’s mysterious ways assure us that when a person dies trusting in Jesus as their Savior from sin they automatically inherit the eternal glory and perfection of heaven itself. God’s mysterious ways assure us that because God promises that everything that happens to us will work for our eternal spiritual good— it will!
God’s mysterious ways can indeed confuse us, my friends— but only if like these two disciples we try to “figure out” God’s mysterious ways without using the light of His holy Word. When Scripture is our guide, when Scripture is the foundation of both our faith and our life then God’s mysterious ways become for us God’s glorious ways!
Even though I had many enjoyable visits and many enlightening discussions with my friend Bob, rocket science is still a mystery to me. Thankfully, I don’t need to understand how the laws of physics impact the human body thereby making “warp” speed impossible in order to be welcomed into our heavenly Father’s Home. God’s Plan of Salvation for me, for you and for the entire human race is very clearly laid out for us right here on the pages of His holy Word. While that Plan does not make sense to our logical human minds, while that Plan is not something we would have come up with on our own that glorious mysterious Plan is what guarantees to us eternal life in heaven.
“’Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
May God grant that we will now share God’s mysterious ways with others.
To God be the glory!
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior. We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Dear Lord God of heaven and earth,
We come before you today humbly yet confidently acknowledging that you are the God who reminds us through your servant Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8, 9).
It is with both great joy and deep respect that we freely confess that your ways are often a mystery to us. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus we often walk our path through this world unsure of what is taking place and why it is taking place.
Use the power of your Holy Spirit working through your holy Word and your holy Sacraments to open our eyes so that we are always able to see you and to see that you are guiding and controlling everything in heaven and on earth.
When Satan tries to cover our eyes so that we cannot see you, when the unbelieving world tries to fill our minds with questions and doubts, when our own sinful nature tries to convince our hearts that we are lost because of our sins— come walk alongside us to give us both clarity and confidence. Help us to always turn to you and to what you have revealed to us in your holy Word so that like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus our hearts will burn within us as you open the Scriptures to us in even greater measure.
Heavenly Father, in whose hands are the issues of life and death, we thank you that you are a God of love and pity, a God who is especially concerned about the welfare of those you have made your own children through faith in Jesus Christ. Into your fatherly keeping we commend our beloved Christian brother, Dan, asking that if it be your will you not only spare his life in the surgery that he is about to undergo but also repair and restore his body. Guide the hands of the surgeons and lend skill to all who assist. Impart to our brother strength to bear patiently and prayerfully any suffering that may result from this surgery, and use this experience to draw his heart even more closely to your own. Encourage him to cast all his cares upon you and to trust without failing that you indeed care for him. Give calm assurance to his family and friends who are concerned about his welfare and who hope for his speedy recovery. May their hope not be put to shame. We leave all to your good and gracious will in Jesus’ name. And in His name we pray:
C: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
M: O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
M: Brothers and sisters, go in peace. Live in harmony with one another. Serve the Lord with gladness.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.