: First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 22-24, 36-41
Three thousand people repent and are baptised
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:
22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
36 Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (…OVER…)
38 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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
: Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-23
Set free by the sacrifice of Christ
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 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, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
: Gospel Reading: Luke 24:13-35
Jesus made known in the breaking of the bread
13 Now on the day of resurrection two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about eleven kilometers from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 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?” 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. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 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. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body.
They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. 
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 2:36). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 1:17). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Lk 24:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
: Sermon for Third Sunday of Easter
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving Father God during this Easter Season, our fellow Christians around the world celebrate in isolation the resurrection
of Your son Jesus Christ, as we worship You. Guide our time together this morning that we may come to recognise the presence of the risen Lord in our lives. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Amen.
There was once a young boy who decided he wanted to find God. He knew it would probably be a long trip, so he decided to pack a lunch—four lamingtons and two cans of sparkling lemonade.
He set out on his journey and went a few blocks until he came to a park. He was beginning to become tired, and sat on one of the park benches next to an older lady surrounded by pigeons.
When he grew hungry, he pulled out a lamington. As he ate, he noticed the woman watching him, so he offered her one. She accepted it gratefully and smiled at him. He thought she had the most beautiful smile in the world.
Wanting to see it again, he opened a can of lemonade and offered her the other one. Once again she smiled that beautiful smile. For a long time the two sat on that park bench eating lamingtons, drinking lemonade, smiling at each other, and watching the pigeons. Neither said a word. Finally, the little boy realized that it was getting late and he needed to go home. He started to leave, took a few steps, turned back and gave the woman a big hug. Her smile was brighter than ever before.
When he arrived home, his mother noticed that he was happy, but strangely quiet. ‘What did you do today?’ she asked. ‘Oh, I had lunch in the park with God,’ he said. Before his mother could reply, he added, ‘You know, she has the most beautiful smile in the world.’
Meanwhile, the old woman left the park and returned to her home. Her son noticed something different about her. ‘What did you do today, Mom?’ he asked. ‘Oh, I ate lamingtons and drank lemonade in the park with God.” And before her son could say anything at all, she added, ‘You know, God’s a lot younger than I imagined.’”
(Jef Olson, Hearts Burning Within)
This morning we read in the Luke’s Gospel of two others who encountered God in a special way. As a result their eyes were also opened, their hearts warmed, with their spirits tingling. Two who discovered God in as unlikely a place as a park bench shared with a new friend.
These two disciples had followed Jesus during His ministry. They had heard him speak, saw him perform miracles, watched him heal the sick, experienced his forgiveness of sins. But they also witnessed His cruel death. And after this, they heard the witness that Jesus had been raised from the death he so willingly accepted on our behalf. There are some who say that Cleopas was a cousin of Jesus of Nazareth. That he may have been there at the Last Supper with Jesus.
After all that, on the same day of the resurrection of Jesus, they lowered their heads and began the sad march toward their home in Emmaus. A journey to try and pick up the shattered pieces of their lives after their great adventure of following Jesus. While on that journey home, they are joined by someone who appears to be a stranger. Someone who appears to be oblivious of the events that have happened in Jerusalem.
Someone who doesn’t appear to know about Jesus. Someone they don’t yet recognise. So, they fill this stranger in on the sad news. News about a man, Jesus, who was a prophet and teacher. A man who they thought might be the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. But a man who was condemned to death and crucified. The unspoken words of these two followers are the sad news that this was not the Saviour they had been waiting for.
I can just see Jesus, shaking his head and smiling. Speaking words directed toward all humanity, and not just these two followers, “You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.” Then Jesus opened the Scriptures to their understanding. Scriptures that they surely heard him recite during his short ministry.
And even then, they still did not recognise the resurrected Jesus. Because they were not looking for him. They were not expecting him. It was unthinkable to them that Jesus could really be alive. But that is precisely the good news that overcomes the shadow of their sad news.
Jesus is alive, forever!
And Jesus is present with us every day of our lives. Even on our loneliest and saddest journeys. Even during this time of COVID separation from friends and family.
When Jesus sat with them to eat, and when he broke the bread and blessed it, they suddenly recognised him. We aren’t told what it was that awakened them. Whether it was the act of breaking bread that would become the hallmark of our renewal in Christ. Or the prayer that he said to bless the bread. Or the imprint of the nails in his hands as he handed the bread to them. Or maybe all of these witnesses that this was truly the risen Lord, once again in their presence.
And just as suddenly as they recognised him, He disappeared. But he left behind in the wake of his passing through their lives, a sure and certain faith, and the warmth and comfort of his continued presence. Opened eyes, hearts, and spirits.
Isn’t it amazing how accurately this describes the experience of almost every Christian. We are brought up with the Scriptures, that tell us about Jesus. We encounter Jesus personally in our baptism. But so often, we set aside our faith in the hustle and bustle of busy lives.
But at some point, our heart is softened, our mind is prepared, and our spiritual eyes are opened. We receive the full impact of Jesus as our very real and very personal Saviour.
From that day on, our lives are different. We have a new outlook, a new hope, and a new future. And then, in the wake of this spiritual renewal, we face the temptation to doubt the reality of our renewal experience. Was it real? Did it really happen? Does is matter at all anyway? This temptation becomes almost palpable for some to doubt God’s love and care during the threat of the challenges the world faces, especially from this virus.
Peter wrote in his second letter, ‘I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.’
Thank God that we have the witness of the Apostles. A witness that remind us of the continued presence of Jesus in our lives. A witness that confronts our own doubts.
And Thank God that we have the presence of our Saviour in our lives. In our prayers and meditation, in the fellowship of other believers by phone and social media, and in the joyful witness of baptism that we hold in our hearts.
What an honour it is to worship our Lord Jesus Christ, whether it’s through reading the words of others, through streamed worship services, or listening to recorded messages on the radio.
The two followers experienced fellowship as well. After their experience with Jesus, they rushed back to Jerusalem to share the experience with the Apostles, Disciples, and other followers. But instead of presenting their Good News that Jesus appeared to them, they receive the confirmation that yes indeed, Jesus is risen! When Jesus disappeared while in their presence, He went ahead of them to appear before those gathered in the Upper room on the evening of the resurrection.
And then despite all their initial doubts, they celebrated together. What a joyful time it must have been. What a joyful time it will be again to join together and celebrate our risen Lord, after our current restrictions are ended. And despite any doubts, and any challenge to continue believing, by our Saviour’s sacrifice, our baptism and our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will also be raised to be with Jesus, at just the right time.
We have a gift from the Holy Spirit of faith, and a sure hope in our Saviour, Jesus Christ. May the grace and peace of our God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, the author and perfector of our life eternal.
Jesus is risen, praise to God our Father!
Rev David Thompson.