Sometimes the truth can be an elusive item to get a grip on. Sometimes we have to hunt, prod, and search before the truth is ever found. The fact of the matter is that the truth will come to light! Covert cover-ups can seek to silence the truth, but the truth will be heard. Antagonistic efforts can attempt to still the truth, but the truth will continue its march forward! Intelligent arguments can try and keep the truth hidden, but truth will shine like the noon-day sun! The real question is not whether or not we will know the truth. The most important question is, “Will we embrace the truth once it is known?”
The discovery of the truth has nothing to do with one’s intelligence, but it does have everything to do with one’s intensity in the search, and one’s openness to embracing the truth once it is discovered. Many smart people, intelligent people, sophisticated people who have pursued other things in life and have found them, have never given their efforts to searching for the truth or have turned away once the truth became known. As a result many of these folks have ended their days in the fog of deception.
For those who would pursue “truth,” the beautiful thing is that once the truth is discovered and embraced, it can’t be taken away or stolen. Once the truth is discovered it will stand the test of time and prove itself to be true over and over again regardless of the test it is put to in life.
Lies and the truth have some things in common. Lies can prove to be elusive and deceive us into believing that what is untrue is really true. Lies can sound so real, so relevant, so realistic. As a matter of fact, the most powerful and destructive of lies are nothing more than truth with a half twist applied to them. Like the truth, lies will always come out into the open, sooner or later, and their true character will be known.
Charles Colson, one of former President Nixon’s political “big guns,” writes,
Before all the facts were known to the public — in March 1973 — it was becoming clear to Nixon’s closest aides that someone had tried to cover up the Washington break-in. There were no more than a dozen of us. Could we maintain the cover-up and save the president?
Consider that we were political zealots, among the most powerful men in the world. With all that at stake, you’d expect us to be capable of maintaining a lie to protect the president. But we couldn’t do it.
The first to crack was John Dean. He went to the prosecutors and offered to testify against the president. After that, everyone started scrambling to protect himself. The great Watergate cover-up lasted only three weeks.
Some of the most powerful politicians in the world — and we couldn’t keep a lie for more than three weeks. ( Colson, Chuck, A Dangerous Grace, pgs. 81-82.)
President Nixon and his power-brokers sought to cover-up the truth with lies, but truth eventually poked its head from underneath the rubble of deception and set things right.
Much has been said about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Over the centuries many lies have sought to shroud the truth of Jesus’ glorious resurrection. Some have said that Jesus didn’t really die, others have said that Jesus passed out on the cross and was later resuscitated, and those “prominent American theologians” of the Jesus Seminar have concluded that Jesus died, was buried in a shallow grave, and later was dug up by a pack of dogs and eaten — this is why we can not find His bones. The lies which have been poured out upon society in an attempt to discredit the resurrection of Jesus have been unveiled for what they are — nothing more than empty lies.
Still there are those in our society who have come face-to-face with the truth and are still uncertain of the truth of Easter. Many of you who have come here this morning may be wondering about the truth of Easter. You’ve sat through dozens of Easter services, you’ve heard the story until you can recite it by heart, and you may have even bought an Easter lilly to mark the occasion, but you’ve never really stopped to think through the truth of Easter. For you Easter may be a sweet story of epic proportions, but the truth of Easter, the relevancy of Jesus’ resurrection for your life is cloudy. I would hope for nothing more this morning than for our eyes to be opened to the truth of Easter. I would hope that this would be the day that Jesus opens your eyes so that you might see the glorious hope that has been made available to you and me through the empty tomb once occupied by Jesus.
The “opening of our eyes” is the fundamental activity which must take place for us to understand the truth of Easter. Without our eyes being opened by God, Easter can be a neat get-together for family and friends, but it is powerless to change our lives.
Those in the first century ran the same risk that you and I run today. There is a wonderful story in Luke 24 which vividly illustrates the importance of having our eyes opened. Let’s take a look at Luke 24:13-34.
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles 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.” (Luke 24:13-34 NIV)
This is such a wonderful story that I have read countless times, and yet it is as exciting and fresh as if it rolled off the press this morning. The tragic element of the story is that we get a chance to see the hopelessness which can engulf us when we accept at face value the experiences of life. The wonder of the story is how the hopelessness can be washed away once the Truth shows up.
With the two followers of Jesus, hopelessness was written all over their faces until the Truth showed up and dispensed with the lies rumbling in their heads. On the road to Emmaus, the Truth appeared in the whirlwind of misinformation, deception, lies, and sorrow and a new day dawned in the hearts of the two men! Boy, does Truth make a difference!
On Friday, the sun darkened, the birds stopped singing, the wind stood still at attention, and sorrow wrapped itself around the world. The adversaries of Jesus danced and announced from the roof tops — “He is dead! He is dead! The Nazarene is dead!” For three days the followers of Jesus, those who had heard His voice, felt His touch, and looked into His eyes (oh those eyes), walked around like sheep without a shepherd, like lost dogs, like a child who’s lost his last friend. They were more than down, more than depressed, more than despondent, more than despairing, they were without hope.
When we pick up the story, two of Jesus’ followers are walking along the road heading to Emmaus. They had just gone through the most horrible experience of their lives. The One they had put their trust in, the One they had hoped in, had been hung on a cross, mocked, and died. As He died, their hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow died along with Him.
Emmaus, the city the two men were walking towards, was located just seven miles from the site where Jesus was crucified. The name of city means, “hot baths.” It had to have been a place where those who were burdened by the stresses and strains of life could get away for a couple of days, lay in a hot bath, and scream at the top of their lungs, “Calgon take me away!”
Times haven’t changed a bit have they? After a long day when the phone rings off the wall, problems pop-up at every turn, and it seems like everything you do is wrong — there is nothing like a long, hot, soothing bath to transport us to a more tranquil existence. The men had set out on foot to walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Along the way they were talking about the death of their dreams when they were joined by Jesus, although they didn’t recognize Him. Take a look at the Scripture,
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?” (Luke 24:14-18 NIV)
The experiences they had endured on Friday were dominating their every thought, pressing down on them at every turn, even as they tried to escape them. Jesus said, “Hey fellas, what are you talking about?” It stopped them dead in their tracks. They looked at one another with disbelief and finally Cleopas said, “What rock have you been hiding under? Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has happened?” Jesus said, “Hmm, what do you mean?” The men retraced the life of Jesus — from who He was, to what He did, to what was done to Him, to the supposed sighting of Jesus by the women. They told the story with sadness in their voices and sorrow etched on their faces.
As the men shared their heartache, their condition didn’t change at all. The dark cloud of despair encircled them and held them captive, lies had a strangle-hold on them sucking the life from their body, and hopelessness walked with them step by step. Even though Jesus was standing by their side, looking into their eyes, they still remained in despair.
Then something miraculous happened, something beyond the capabilities of human strength or ingenuity unfolded before their eyes — Truth spoke up! Jesus said,
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. (Luke 24:25-31 NIV)
The followers of Jesus, even though they had been with Jesus, heard Him teach concerning His death and resurrection, and seen Him follow through on all of His promises — they did not understand the truth of what had taken place. They had bought the lie that it was all over, finished, and done. Listening to sermons, memorizing Scripture, and going to Bible studies is not a guarantee that we will not be duped, hood-winked, and bamboozled by the lies that come our way to convince us that we’ve come to the end of our rope, that all hope is lost. I know I’ve just knocked on your front door. We’ve all bought the lie, we’ve all surveyed our experiences and arrived at conclusions that had absolutely nothing to do with the truth.
I was a sophomore in college with plans to play football for the rest of my life and then have my grade school coach, Hammer Prestige, introduce me for my induction into the National Football League’s Hall of Fame. I know it wasn’t a very real dream, but hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big! If you are going to be a bear, be a grizzly. I had all of these hopes and dreams that I had worked so hard to try and achieve when I was mowed down by a big, ugly offensive lineman. When the play finally ended, my foot was laying beside my helmet and I thought for a moment that my flexibility had been greatly improved over a very brief period of time. Then the pain screamed out at me like a fog horn in the harbor. The next thing I knew I found myself lying on my back in the hospital with a cast that looked eight miles long covering my left leg.
For six long weeks crutches became my constant companion and disappointment hovered overhead like rain clouds on a spring day. In my heart I knew I could beat it, I knew that I could work hard and be better than I had been before, but there were voices in my head that constantly told me, “It’s over.” To make a long story short, I bought the lie. I didn’t ask what the truth of the situation was at the time, and as a result, I bought the lie. I continued to play, continued to work hard, but I was convinced that God let me down and that I would never achieve my dream. I didn’t stop to consider that God might have something else planned for me.
The summer before my senior year in college I worked at a Christian athletic camp called Kanakuk. I had made up my mind that I was going to work hard while I was at camp so that I could be in the best shape I had ever been in since I started playing football so that I could have a good senior season — the last hurrah. When I was at camp that summer the Truth spoke up and I listened. God’s desire for me was not that I might tackle running backs, but that I might carry the Gospel to those who need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ! When the Truth spoke I was freed — freed of disappointment, freed of despair, freed of discouragement! I was finally free to pursue what God had purposed for my life. God had opened my eyes to His glorious Son and I was finally free.
My experience is not unusual. As a matter of fact eyes have been opening throughout history to God’s amazing grace and His glorious plan for His people. It happened to the two men who were walking to Emmaus to escape the clutches of despair. Take a look at Luke 24:31-34,
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.” (Luke 24:31-34 NIV)
Did you notice what I noticed? Did you hear a complete reversal in the attitudes and demeanors of the two men when Jesus opened their eyes? Their slumped postures of disappointment and defeat were transformed into a stance of strength and an attitude of confidence. When their eyes were opened by Jesus, the men said that a raging fire burned inside them!
After a long days journey full of conversation, tears of disappointment, and lessons from the Master — it was time to find a place to stay for the night. The sun was going down and the men needed to find some place where they could rest until morning. The men begged Jesus to stay with them. They fixed supper and then it happened. Jesus took bread, broke it, gave it to the men, and then He disappeared before their eyes. When the men’s eyes were opened a new passion permeated their soul. The men didn’t wait until morning, they got up and got out of there. They were so excited about their new lease on life that they ran all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the others, “It’s true! It’s true! What the women said is true! He really did appear to Simon! It’s true!”
I came here this morning to tell somebody who has been walking on the road to Emmaus way too long — it’s true! You may have been burdened down, beaten down, and bruised by the circumstances and situations of your life. The Enemy may have whispered in your ear that it’s all over, the end has come, you have nothing to live for, nothing to look forward to, but like the rising of the sun, the Truth has risen to say to you that a new day has dawned, a new beginning has come, a new hope has sprung eternal. Don’t believe the lie, believe the Truth!
Just over one year ago I got the bad news–Connie had cancer. My heart raced, tears filled my eyes, my mind took me to the worst case scenario. Bottom line is…I bought the lie. I had no idea what the Lord had planned for us, but now, looking back I can see more clearly than I have ever seen. Life is precious. Each day is a gift from His hand and we must live, truly live, one day at a time.
You see God is teaching me to look beyond the circumstances, to hear beyond the shouts of what appears to be, and to listen to the Truth. I can see how the world is duped into believing the worst. Let’s face it — things look bad, the days seem dismal. Your experiences scream at you from every turn. One day you said, “I do” at the altar before God and your friends and now you’re saying, “I can’t take it anymore.” One day you are laughing with those you love and a few days later you are standing at the graveside wiping tears from your eyes. One day you are excited about the prospects of starting a new business and a few years later, after blood, sweat, and tears have been poured into the business, you are declaring bankruptcy. One day your babies are crying for you to hold them and a few years later they are pushing you away from them. One day your body is strong, your mind is sound, and your spirit is alive but a few years later your body is broken, your mind is failing, and your spirit is weary. I see how the world can be fooled into believing the worst, but I choose to listen to another’s voice. I choose to look into the eyes of the One who overcame the grave! I choose to cling to the One who defeated death, sorrow, suffering, and alienation! I choose Jesus.
We began our time by talking about “truth” and “lies.” Those who said Jesus is dead were partly right. He did die, but He got up from the grave! He didn’t stay down, He got up! Jesus died for you and for me, to pay a debt that we could never pay, but once He paid our debt, He got up! Because Jesus got up from the grave, those who repent of their sin and turn their trust to Jesus will also get up from the grave and walk in newness of life in God’s eternal Kingdom.
Someone may say, “Well, I believe Jesus was a good man. His teachings have been a blessing to my life, but I don’t know so much about this resurrection thing.” My friend, if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, then those of us who have placed our trust in Him are to be pitied the most! Paul wrote,
14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. (1 Corinthians 15:14-21 NIV)
There is hope for you and for me today because the Truth has spoken! Our sin, the hardness of our hearts, cries out against us telling us that God could never forgive us for what we have done. Don’t believe the lies of the Enemy, the Truth says that our sin was nailed to the cross with Jesus. We can be forgiven, we can be cleansed, we can gain admittance into the Kingdom of God through the precious sacrifice of Jesus our Lord. Listen to the Truth this morning. Confess your fears, your defiance, your weakness, your sin, and allow Him to come in and bring new life to your tired, weary, and frustrated soul.
The world put Him down, but God raised Him up! The world shut Him up, but He spoke out! The world handed Him defeat, but He claimed the victory for you and for me! Let the glories of Easter, the Truth, shine in your heart this morning. Invite Jesus to take up residence in your heart this morning!