3rd Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2017
“You’re Going the Wrong Way”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the traditionally assigned Gospel lesson – the narrative known as The Disciples on The Road to Emmaus.
My dear friends,
Not that long ago in a sermon I mentioned how much I love the comedian, actor, writer, and musician Steve Martin. Well, one of my favorite movies of all time is the classic on-the-road holiday favorite “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” I have seen it scores of times and I still laugh every time.
One of my favorite scenes is when John Candy and Steve Martin have finally secured a car and are driving towards Chicago. John Candy, behind the wheel, inadvertently takes the on-ramp for the freeway in the opposite direction just like what happens all the time up in Tampa. In other words, he is driving north-bound into south-bound traffic. Another motorist screams at them from across the road “You’re going the wrong way!” “What?” “You’re going the wrong way!” Steve Martin turns to John Candy and relays the message. “He says we’re going the wrong way.” “Oh, he’s drunk,” John Candy replies, “how does he know where we’re going?” “Yeah…how would he know where we’re going.” Of course, they ARE going the wrong way down a one way, and those who have seen the film knows what happens next.
And so we come to today’s Gospel lesson. A follower of Jesus named Cleopas – who is only mentioned here in the Bible – and another anonymous follower are walking away from Jerusalem. They are headed towards Emmaus, a town 7 miles NW of Jerusalem. It is the evening of what you and I call Easter Sunday and these 2 followers are headed to Emmaus with sadness upon their hearts as they shuffled their feet along the dusty trail. They were headed to Emmaus because there was no reason to stay in Jerusalem anymore. They were going the wrong way. They had been in Jerusalem for Passover and saw Jesus delivered up to be condemned to death and they saw Him crucified (24:20). They had hoped Jesus was their Messiah – their Savior from Roman oppression – the one who would redeem Israel (v. 21). It had all gone down Friday, and this was Sunday. Sabbath is over; it’s okay to travel again. No reason to stick around. They headed out the wrong way.
But haven’t we done the same thing even since we’ve seen Easter’s resurrection miracle? Easter was only 14 days ago, and I bet in the short last 2 weeks there have been many times – MANY times – that you also have found yourself going the wrong way. You knew the right thing to do was to forgive your spouse or child or sibling, but you found yourself going the wrong way instead. You knew the right way to go was to make that phone call or pay that bill or make those difficult arrangements or finally commit to recovery, but you found yourself going the wrong way instead. You knew that the right way was to love your neighbor, to pray for those who persecute you, to turn the other cheek, but you found yourself going the wrong way instead. That’s called sin, my friends. It is every thought, word, and deed contrary to God’s Word and will. God wanted you to go one way, but you found the other way so much more fun and easy and so you found yourself going the wrong way instead. Again.
In Joanne’s car we have a Garmin GPS and that GPS, probably like yours, speaks to us when we are going the wrong way. If I take a route other than what has been plotted, the GPS “says” in a digital woman’s voice “Recalculating” because I’m going the wrong way. Now imagine those 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus, going the wrong way in the sense that they are walking away from where Jesus is. And then He slides up next to them…and He provides the ultimate “recalculating.” Jesus said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ESV). Now that’s the ultimate Bible study!
Whoa. Friends, when we are headed the wrong way in life is when Jesus steps in to remind us of His resurrected presence, and that resurrected presence changes everything! A crooked, sinful generation is “OK” with going the wrong way. It is perfectly content to let everyone go the wrong way…if that’s what they choose (Postmodernism/no absolute truth). However, the baptized in Christ fervently cling to forgiveness and grace in Jesus, believe His Word and wondrous divine mysteries, and confess Christ crucified, risen, and living in all that we do and say. By faith we understand that Jesus’ death was necessary so that we would know imperishable life. Without His death, the breaking of the bread which we are blessed to do again today would be empty ritual. But in the holy feast instituted and offered by and through Jesus, we receive the broken bread and the body of Christ that sustains us in a life and world filled with people going the wrong way.
And surrounded by people – a generation or more – going the wrong way, you and I in our Baptisms and in our table fellowship that is the Lord’s Supper, we reach out to them to share an extraordinary, life-changing faith. It is our God-given faith that enables us to confess timeless divine truths amid a lack of absolute truth: hope, faith, forgiveness, and love from God in Christ that enables us to go the right way in our homes and in our neighborhoods and classrooms and in our workplaces even though we are tempted to follow the world headed in the wrong direction. The first step in doing so is to re-discover the courage to tell people that they ARE going the wrong way apart from Christ.
Today you are here at church; you’re NOT going the wrong way. Instead, you are here “recalculating.” Today you are here to be reminded of God’s love and forgiveness. Today you are here to be pointed in the right direction in life through Word and Sacrament. Today, as a forgiven sinner, you are here because you want to go the right way…the way that leads to eternal life through faith in Jesus and that’s better than even the best Steve Martin movie.