When the Plan Seems Hopeless

Steve Viars March 22, 2008 Luke 24:13-35

 

- If you enjoy basketball at all, you’ve probably watched a few games in the last week or so...

- First there were all sorts of conference tournaments that had some unbelievable finishes...

- [like this one where Minnesota beat IU in the Big Ten tournament with a last second left- handed hook shot...]

- then the NCAA tournaments have started...and with the parity in College basketball these days---there have just been some very entertaining games...

- one of the saddest parts, though, is to watch the players on some of the losing teams right at the end of the game...

- they started with such high hopes...they made it into the tournament, which says they had a solid season with a lot of wins...

- there’s always the possibility of making in the sweet sixteen, or the final four...

- but somebody’s got to lose every one of those games...

- in fact, for the whole tournament field...every team’s season is going to end with a loss except one...

- and at that moment, some of those of those players look heartbroken...

- you’ve got men and women who are tremendous athletes...many of them incredibly tall and muscular...

- but they’ve got their heads buried in a towel...or their jerseys over their heads...

- you have to feel bad for a person like that whose hopes are dashed...who had a plan for victory but it just didn’t work out...

- and I realize that you might say – but PV, its just a game...they’ll get over it...and that’s true...

- although many athletes report---that’s the game you remember...when you hopes were just dashed...and the plan didn’t come to pass...

- sometimes that happens in ways that are far more serious...

1. A couple gets married...and it started so well...

- they had a great time dating...- they would talk, and laugh and spend time together...

- she was so sweet...he was so romantic...

- eventually he proposed in some creative way...

- then they planned their wedding and it was such a great event...

- after that the honeymoon and it all went so well...

- but now 5 years later, or 10 years later...all of that is a distant memory...

- now it’s the fights about money...or all the hours at work...the spark is long gone...

- I can’t tell you how many couples have said to me over the years---I never thought it would be like this...I never realized it would be so hard...the plan seems hopeless...

2. Or you get a new job...

- and yes it involves a move...but you rationalize that it will be good for the family...

- the salary and benefits are higher...the management team seems to really have their act together...

- you can see yourself rising up the corporate ladder...you can see your family on great vacations that you could never afford before...

- but that was then...now 2 years later reality has set in...

- and you’ve found some things about the company they forgot to tell you...

- and you’re carrying a ridiculous load and working outrageous hours...

- “and oh, we can’t do raises this year because the stock price is down”...

- “and you’re going to have to pay a higher percentage of your medical insurance”...

- and you wake up one day and you don’t even want to get out of bed...and you think---what ever happened to the plan?...

3. Or you find out you’re going to have a baby...

- and everybody’s excited...you tell everyone you know...

- you paint the nursery...you have the shower...

- you imagine yourself holding your little baby in the rocking chair while she gently coos as you softly hum lullabies...

- and then reality hits...and let’s just bypass the dirty pampers and the sleepless nights and terrible twos and head straight for age 15...

- when your little darling walks in with her neon hair and pierced nose and skin tight clothes and introduces you to her new boyfriend named Spike...who greets you with a grunt and informs you that they’re going to be out riding his Harley and you don’t need to wait up...

- and as you’re looking for the nearest firearm...you can’t help but wonder---what in the world ever happened to the plan?...

- if you’ve ever been in those shoes, or find yourself there now---you’re not alone...

- the exact same thing happened to two men who thought they were followers of Christ...

- you could title their story...When the Plan Seems Hopeless...

- with that in mind, would you open your Bible to Luke chapter 24...[page 69 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- Our church’s theme this year is Seeking God’s Plan...

- we’re doing that in part because every five years our congregation goes through the process of discussing and determining our next 5 year strategic ministry plan...

- so we are off and running on that project for sure...

- but we are also applying that same theme to many other areas of the Christian life...

- and during Easter time, we’re asking...what happens...When the Plan is Missed?

- this morning we’re going to focus on the incredible story of The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus – When the Plan Seems Hopeless.

- read Luke 24:13-35

- with our time this morning, let’s look for Three principles to remember when the plan’s not going well.

I. Sometimes Your Plan Seems Hopeless Because it was Never God’s Plan to Begin With.

- that idea should become clearer as we go along--now, just a few details about all of this...

- no one knows for sure exactly where the village of Emmaus was...

- Luke tells us that it was about 7 miles from Jerusalem so it is close to where all the events surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ have occurred...but “seven miles in what direction” is open for discussion...

- We also are not sure who these 2 men were...verse 18 identifies one of them as Cleopas --- but that was a common name...

- there is another Cleopas mentioned in the Bible in John 19:25 – he was Jesus’ mother’s sister’s husband...[did you get that?]...in other words, Christ’s uncle...

- but whether these two men are the same or not we’re not sure...but we can be certain about this...

A. They were looking hopeless.

- Verse 17 [said]-- ...they stood still, looking sad.

- Greek word skuthropos – it means a “dreary, downcast look of settled grief, pain, or displeasure”

- like the basketball players we showed a moment ago...their plans and hopes had not come to pass...

- and the core reason for that is explained in verse 21...

B. They were hoping that Jesus would provide immediate political relief.

- Luke 24:21 - But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.

- I think it is hard for many of us to understand how distasteful it was for the nation of Israel to be under the rule of the Roman Empire...

- for a variety of reasons they chafed under that system...

- and when Christ came on the scene...they believed that He could deliver them from Rome...He had the power to do incredible things...He had the courage to stand up to the powers that be...

- their plan was that He could be their political Messiah to free them from what they considered to be the very difficult and distasteful circumstances they were facing.

- the principle is a hard one to swallow – but it’s true -- sometimes your plan seems hopeless because it was never God’s plan to begin with.

- now, what other observations can we make about that?

B. Focusing on your plan alone may cause you to fail to make important connections.

- one of the details that just jumps out at you is what we just read at the end of verse 21...

- Luke 24:21 - ...Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.

- it is amazing that they were not able to connect those dots...

- please tell me – had Jesus spoken repeatedly about the significance of what would happen the third day after he was crucified?...an incredible number of occasions:

- Matthew 16:21 - From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

- Matthew 17:23 - and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day. And they were deeply grieved.

- now...why didn’t they make the connection?...because that part of God’s plan never fit logically with theirs...

- in fact, Matthew 16 is where Peter famously rebukes Christ for even suggesting such a thing...no more talk about you dying...because if you die, then you won’t be able to establish your kingdom right here and right now and that’s the predominate reason I’m following you...

- what’s especially galling about this particular detail is that the enemies of Christ actually took Jesus’ prediction about rising on the third day seriously...how do we know that?

- Matthew 27:62-64 - Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ “Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”

- and you have to put yourself in Pilate’s shoes – let me get this straight – you want me to send soldiers to guard a tomb – this has to be the strangest week of my life...

- but how shameful that the enemies of Christ took His words more seriously than His followers...and the reason they didn’t is because they were so focused in on what they wanted that anything Christ said or did that didn’t fit their desire was immediately ignored or rejected...

- see, there’s always 2 plans in play...God’s and yours...is that true?...

- I asked at the beginning of this series...do you believe that God has a plan for you?...we reminded ourselves of Jeremiah 29:11 - ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

C. Questions every person has to ask about the plans:

1. Do I exist to further God’s plan or does He exist to further mine?

- see, some people who call themselves Christians are often hopeless because God didn’t give them everything they wanted...

- “I thought becoming a Christian was like sitting on Santa’s lap---I just read Him my list and then His job was to deliver in on time...”

- that’s not even close to defining what it means to follow Christ...

2. Am I willing to try to conform my plan as closely to His as possible?

- it’s like back in the days when we had overhead projectors...

- if we could write down on one piece of transparency film God’s plan...

- and then write down on the other piece of film your plan...

- put them on top of one another on the glass and turn on the light...

- what should we see projected on the back wall?...

- a match – I was trying to make mine...equal to His...

- but that’s the dilemma...for many folks---God has a plan, and they have a plan...and they are substantially out of sync...

- and please remember this – Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived, God is not mocked...

- in other words, He doesn’t bless His competition...

- He’s not going to let a person chose their own plan entirely devoid of any concern for His will and still allow than plan to work...[repeat the question]

- that was the problem with these men – their agenda did not match God’s....so they failed to connect the dots...they could say “and its the third day since these things happened” and keep right on going and never connect that fact to what Jesus had previously told them...

- it gets worse...

D. Focusing on your plan alone may cause you to discount important voices.

- Luke 24:22-24 - But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.

- the more complete part of that story is found earlier in Luke 24...

- Luke 24:10-11 - Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.

- did you hear that?...these words appeared to them as non-sense...and they would not believe...

- I wonder how many people will be in our services today who have adopted a plan that is substantially different than God’s...and He has brought events in your life to try to help you repent but you didn’t connect the dots...and He has even brought people in your life who tried to talk to you and help you get on track...

- and because God’s plan doesn’t match yours...you didn’t connect the dots and you haven’t listened to the voices...

- friend, can I be straight with you this morning...it might be time to discard your plan...

- sometimes my schedule gets a bit jumbled up and I appreciate how my professional assistant Heather Smith tries to keep me on the right path...

- the Thursday before last I had been asked to come to the Statehouse to lead the Senate in prayer...but I also had a series of phone appointments I had to keep...and then I needed to meet someone at a restaurant in Indy and then I wanted to try to get up to Russiaville for the viewed of one of our church member’s father who had died...

- so Heather will tell you – I just ask her to print out directions on MapQuest...for every stop...and I seldom even look at them until I start driving...but I just need to know – go here, here’s the directions, then do this...and then go here...here’s the next set of directions...

- and it started working pretty well...I was heading to downtown Indianapolis...and I was pretty sure where I was going...and the directions were right...

- and I was able to take the phone appointments on my cell phone and that all worked out...

- I spent some time at the Senate and then I knew that my next meeting was at a restaurant just off 465 so I assumed that the directions from MapQuest would take me back on I 65, up to 465, and then off the ramp to the restaurant...

- but that’s not what they wanted me to do...Mapquest said...don’t get on the interstate...take this road, then turn this way, and turn this way, and turn this way...

- so I’ve got two plans...and I only had a moment to decide which one to follow...

- so I went with MapQuest...which turned out to be an incredibly bad idea...

- in my gut...I knew it was wrong...but there was some security in that piece of paper...and I trusted it...to my own hurt...

- the smartest thing I could have done was ditched the plan...

- and that will be true for a number of men and women who hear this message today...

- so what did Christ do?...He opened the Scriptures...and the principle is...

II. Sometimes Your Plan Seems Hopeless because it Needs to be Clarified by God’s Word.

- the text says thatLuke 24:27 - Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

- do you see the Word explained?...

- explained – di-er-main-eu-sen – hermeneutics – principles of Bible study

- He helped them clarify their plan with a greater understanding of the Scripture...

- now, a question you may have had all along is...

A. Why did Jesus restrain their eyes in the first place? - isn’t that the way this story began?...Luke 24:16 - But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.

- was He just messing with their heads?...

- why not just immediately reveal Himself to them and let them rejoice in the experience of seeing His resurrection?...here’s the answer – because right then they needed a faith that was based on more than just experience...

B. Our hope is grounded in the revealed Word of God.

- Romans 15:4 - For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

- now I realize that someone might say, but that’s where you’ve got me Pastor---because I just can’t believe all those fairy tales in the Bible...if that’s a helpful crutch for you religious folks...fine...but don’t expect me to adjust my plan because of that...

- friend, please hear this...God commands people to believe in the resurrection of Christ after a careful and thorough examination of the facts...

C. God’s Word clearly prophesied the Messiah’s death, burial, and resurrection.

- we don’t know for sure what passages Jesus discussed with these men...

- Psalm 22:1 – My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.

- Perhaps He taught them the whole Psalm, which includes words like...Psalm 22:6-7 – But I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised by the people.  All who see me sneer at me...

- Later the Psalm says...Psalm 22:16-18 – For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

- another strong case could made that Jesus walked them through Isaiah chapter 53 – Isaiah 53:7-12 – He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth...He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.  As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. 

- surely Jesus would have spoken about Psalm 16:10 – For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.     

- the point is – Christ had something better for their faith than even the experience of seeing Him alive...it was understanding that everything that had occurred had been part of God’s plan from the very beginning...

- fulfilled prophecy is, as one writer put it, evidence that demands a verdict...even if that requires an adjustment to you plan...

D. Jesus Himself clearly and repeatedly taught that He would die, be buried, and then rise again.

- we saw a number of verses already where Jesus emphasized the third day, the third day, the third day...but then there’s also the matter of...

E. The Bible is filled with testimony of eyewitnesses.

- including these men---they became part of the historical record...

- the apostle Paul said --1 Corinthians 15:3-8 - For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

- I Corinthians was written in 51 AD...but most theologians believe, and many unsaved scholars believe that those words were actually part of an creed of the early church [note Paul said – I received this – some people believe it may have been codified in the church just a few years after the resurrection and recited by the members of the early church]...

- and Paul is clear – many of these eyewitnesses are still alive...feel free to go interview them and check them out...

- Lee Strobel, the author of several books including “The Case for Easter” was educated at Yale Law School and was the legal editor for the Chicago Tribune.  He described his own spiritual journey in this way:

Because of the evidence, I now believed Jesus to be the Son of God.  But to become his child, it was necessary for me to receive the free gift of forgiveness that He purchased with His life on the cross. 

So...I talked with God in a heartfelt and unedited prayer, admitting and turning from all my wrongdoing, and receiving the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus.  I told Him that with His help I wanted to follow Him and His ways as best I could from that moment forward.

Some people feel a rush of emotion at such a moment; for me, there was something equally exhilarating: the rush of reason. (The Case for Easter, Lee Strobel, p. 89)

- now, you might say, PV---what if I decide I’m not going to believe what the Scripture says about these matters...regardless of the weight of the evidence?...please keep this in mind...

F. Jesus’ analysis of people who will not believe Scripture is not very complimentary – v. 25.

1.  foolish men.

2.  slow of heart

3.  slow to believe in all the prophets have spoken.

4.  not understanding the necessity of the cross.

- now, could I be so bold as to suggest that...

G. Perhaps your plan needs to be clarified by God’s Word?

1. You may be here this morning and you’ve believed that you can earn your way to heaven by your own works...

- but then you hear that God has a different plan...Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

- but that means you would have to humble yourself...that means you would have to ask God to give you something you can’t conjure up on your own...

- but friend, if that’s God plan...wise is the person who discards their and embraces His...

2. Or you may be here and would say...PV, I can relate to one of those stories you told at the beginning...

- I wanted a perfect marriage, and a perfect spouse, and its not working out that way?...and I find myself losing hope...

- friend, would you let the Scripture clarify that plan?...perhaps God wants to use the imperfections of the people around you as a means of drawing you closer to Him...and helping you see ways you need to grow...[could apply to parents...]

III. God Does Not Want You to Remain Without Hope.

- did you notice how this chapter ends?

- Luke 24:51-52 - While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

- return to the 2 questions on p. 4

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video