Saturday 23 January 2016

Awkward evangelism (Luke 24:13-35)

So I went to watch Star Wars the other day.

I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it except to say that at the very end, no one got up. The movie had finished. The credits were rolling. But everyone was still in their seats. Most of you know why. They were waiting for the end-credit scenes. The story after the story.

This section from Luke Chapter 24 is a bit like that. The gospel story is finished. Jesus is crucified, buried, raised from the dead. But we get this extra bit at the end about two guys leaving the city because they think the story is over. They think it’s time to go home.

The reason we’re reading this passage is because next month there is going to be a Pancake Evening - in fact, next week there’s the CICCU mission week - where you can bring your friends to hear about Jesus. But after the event, after the pancakes. That’s when things get scary. That’s when it’s your turn to say something about Jesus to your friends.

I call this awkward evangelism.

It’s talking about Jesus when you don’t feel like it. You know you should but you feel like chickening out. All I want to say to you today is: Try. I want to help you from this passage to try and talk about Jesus when things get embarrassing. Awkward.

I have three points:

  • How to ask questions.
  • How to use the bible.
  • What should you expect.

1. Questions

Look with me to verse 13:

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 (or debated) these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
Luke 24:13-17

When it comes to questions, most of us have questions for God - Why is there suffering? Was the world created in 6 days?

But have you ever thought about the questions that God has for you? What would God ask you?

Jesus approaches two travellers from Jerusalem - they saw him die on cross, they heard that he had been raised from the dead - and the one question that Jesus asks them is not “Do you believe in me?” or “Do you want to be a Christian?”.

No the one question he asks is: “What do you think?” Verse 17 “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

You see, Jesus is interested in their opinion. Which is why verse 16 says their eyes were kept from recognising him. He wants them to respond honestly as if to a stranger.

That’s what they did in verse 17:

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor - (a tourist, an international student) to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Luke 24:17-18

It’s an explosive, emotional response - of sadness. And then, anger.  The last thing we want to do is offend someone with our insensitive questioning.

But Jesus keeps on going. Verse 19:

“What things?” he asked.

Jesus is willing to do something we aren’t. He is willing to be rejected. To be insulted, actually. That’s what he did for us on the cross, we all know that. But you see, that’s what he does here for Cleopas and his friend out of love.

How do we ask questions? Humbly and lovingly. Just in case you misunderstand me, Jesus is not teaching us a technique to get your friends to open up. We do that at bible study, I know, we ask warm-up questions to get the group going. I’m not saying it doesn’t work. But that isn’t the point of the passage.

Rather, Jesus is teaching us to be humble and loving when we ask our friends about God (“I really want to know what you think.”) People can tell when you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Before I became a Christian, I had an irritating friend who kept asking, “Calvin, are you a Christian yet?” It was so irritating. Every time I went to bible study, every time I went to church, my friend kept asking me, “Calvin, are you a Christian yet?”

One day, I became a Christian. My friend asked me, “Are you sure, you’re a Christian?” Again and again. What do you call that? A humble and loving friend.

Jesus persists in asking Cleopas and his friend what they really think about him out of humility and love for them.

2. The bible

Picking up from verse 19:

“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 rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.”
Luke 24:19-21

That sounds like someone giving their testimony in church, telling their story about how they became a Christian. Jesus was betrayed and he died on the cross. He says: We had hoped he was going to save Israel. He’s talking about Jesus to Jesus.

Problem is: Cleopas is not a Christian! Why?

Verse 22:

“In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning, but didn’t find the 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.”
Luke 24:22-24

For Cleopas and his friend seeing is believing. They wanted to see Jesus. Yes, they heard about the empty tomb, they heard about the angels, they heard eyewitness accounts from the women and their friends. But, verse 24 says, “Him they did not see.”

Everyone wanted to see Jesus. Why didn’t Jesus go, “Tadaa! Here I am!” (Like Superman, revealing the big red “S”) Why (verse 16) did Jesus keep their eyes from recognising him?

Because Jesus want us to see him in his Word. Jesus wants us to see him in the bible.

Verse 25:

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.”
Luke 24:25-27

Jesus did bible study! He did bible study. Instead of showing himself he showed God’s word. He explained what was said in all Scripture concerning himself.

Meaning: You can turn to any part of the bible and see Jesus. He is the second Adam, the seed of Abraham, the sacrifice of Isaac, the better Moses, the true temple, the true Joshua, the true son of David. All of the bible points us to Jesus.

More importantly, the the bible shows us why Jesus died on the cross. “How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Back then, Jesus didn’t have an iPhone with a bible app. Jesus spoke God’s word beginning with Moses and all the Prophets and they could follow him. These guys, they knew their bibles!  They knew God’s word by heart.

But they didn’t know the gospel. The gospel tells us: God’s chosen king is God’s suffering servant. The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men. The gospel tells us the good news that Jesus had to die on the cross for bad people like you and me.

So, what is evangelism. We tend to say, “Telling people about Jesus.” Cleopas was telling Jesus about Jesus. He talked about the cross, he talked about the tomb. He was sincere and he knew his bible, maybe better than you and me. But he didn’t know the gospel.

He did not know why Jesus had to die. It was his suffering that authenticated his glory. It was his suffering that made sense of his glory.

Evangelism is pointing people to a man dying on the cross, covered in blood, crying out “My God! My God why have you forsaken me!” and saying, “That’s how he saved me. That’s my King.”

The Christ who had to suffer, who came to die, who came to serve me and then enter his glory. That’s the kind of Christ I want to serve. The whole bible tells us this is how you know Jesus is the Christ.

3. Expectations

Finally, what should we expect. What kind of response should we expect?

Verse 28:

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going further. 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.
Luke 24:28-29

There are two responses. One is quick the other is delayed.

The quick response is friendship. Doesn’t always happen, but this is a real friendship. “Stay with us, Jesus. Eat with us, Jesus.” That’s the response we would love to get from our friends. “Pancakes? I love pancakes! Everyone is so friendly here, I’m going to join you guys every week!”

But verse 30 show us a second, more delayed response:

When he was at table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised 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?”
Luke 24:30-31

Their eyes are opened! When Jesus breaks the bread, when he gives thanks for the food, their eyes are opened - It’s Jesus! Maybe they see the nail marks on his hands. Maybe they were there when Jesus broke the bread and fed five thousand people (Luke Chapter 9).

But then they say, “Were not our hearts burning back on the road?” Jesus had been speaking the gospel to them for 7 miles and they only got it now. Isn’t the more important response we are praying for? For our friends to see Jesus?

A delayed response means two things: Patience and preparation. Patience means it will take time for the seed of the gospel to take root, to grow and to bear fruit.

But secondly, a delayed response means preparation. Romans 15:4 says, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” God speaks to us today to teach us from the past to prepare us for the future. Almost everything you read in the bible is preparation: for suffering, for glory, for mission, for holiness, for repentance, for faithfulness. God is preparing us step by step so that when the time comes, we can say, “Yes, Lord.”

And according to verse 33, the place that God prepares us to speak the gospel is the church. Verse 33:

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.”
Luke 24:33-34
We think of evangelism as telling other people the gospel - my parents, my colleagues. Why doesn’t Jesus send Cleopas and his friend out to tell the gospel? He will. But first, he sends them back to the apostles, to Jerusalem, back to the believers to prepare them to speak the gospel.

God prepares us to speak to others by reminding us to speak the same gospel to one another. The gospel that saves us is the gospel that builds us up as the church. Colossians 3:16 - “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” Each letter in the New Testament is written to people who know the gospel. 2 Peter 1:12 - “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.”

The church is the place where God prepares his people with the gospel. They go back to Jerusalem, back to the Eleven, back to the gathering of believers and tell them the good news.

The three things we have seen today - Asking questions, Using the bible, Expecting a response - are not first and foremost techniques to win outsiders to CGS, my hope is this is what it means to be in the CGS. You are constantly looking out for one another. You can constantly speaking God’s word. You are patiently building one another up in Christ.

Verse 35:

Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.
Luke 24:35

By the way, Cleopas doesn’t look good in this story. He scolds Jesus for being ignorant. He walks away from the cross and the empty tomb. He doesn’t believe the eyewitness accounts. And Jesus calls him a fool!

Some of us think, “If I do a PhD in theology, if I become chairman of CGS, if I give a talk of evangelism… then it will no longer be awkward.” Then I will be confident. I will have the skills, experience and charisma. Friends, it will always be awkward talking about Jesus. Be careful of the guy who is slick, who is more impressive in himself than the gospel he is speaking about. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

A guy named Ralph Winter once said, “If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly.” It is worth doing poorly. Not perfectly but poorly.

The first evangelists in the book of Acts were people like Stephen (Acts 7) whose job was to make sandwiches for the widows. He preaches one sermon which gets him killed and all the Christians kicked out of Jerusalem. Acts 9: Saul starts preaching and people tried to kill him, the disciples were still afraid of him.

If it is worth doing, it is worth doing, badly or otherwise. In other words, Try. Ask questions in a humble and loving manner. Use the bible to show to point to the cross. And be patient with the response.

The place to start with one another right here.

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