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Easter: Living Life in the Future Tense

  • Paul Anderson Preaching.com
  • 2010 3 Mar
  • COMMENTS
Easter: Living Life in the Future Tense


Text: Luke 24:13-25

Luke 24:13-25I recently read an article called, "How You Can Tell When It's Going to be a Rotten Day." It was signed "Author Unknown But Troubled." You're going to have a bad day when:

  • You wake up and your braces are locked together.
  • The birds singing outside your window are buzzards.
  • You put both contact lenses in the same eye.
  • You head for work and your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell's Angels on the freeway.
  • Your boss tells you not to bother to take your coat off.
  • Your income tax check bounces.
  • Feeling the stress, you call Suicide Prevention -- and they put you on hold.

We had one of those days recently at the Anderson household. The timing was bad because it was supposed to be a good day. We were hosting a dignitary from Japan, and things had to be just so. Karen had given her "Mom's Speech" to the five kids, the house looked better than normal, and we were ready -- sort of. Then the action began. Our youngest threw the vitamin bottle on the floor. Had the top been fastened, it would have been easy to clean up. We had quite a floor show as everyone chipped in to help rescue the vitamins. We argued during the process whether or not they were too dirty to save. Who wants to take vitamins for his health, then die because someone dragged in rabbit poop on his shoe and a vitamin landed on it?

Erikka was having fun while setting the table with Mommy's special dishes -- and broke one.

When the dignitaries arrived, we did all right until just before sitting down to lunch on our deck. The single red rose in the crystal vase at the plate of Mr. Dignitary looked so special, until the wind blew it down and knocked the cream over, spilling onto his plate.

The meal was built around apples -- apple salad and baked apples for dessert. Only problem -- he didn't like apples. We made the table nice with a red candle, but the wind blew it out and spilled the wax on the tablecloth. While pouring the apple juice, more went on the table than in the glass.

Afterward, Naomi broke a special goblet she had received from a friend. With days like this you duck every time you hear a sound. You start expecting problems and, sure enough, there they are. It was supposed to be a good day but we had one upset after another.

Some of us have marriages that were supposed to be good ones, jobs that were supposed to work out, relationships that were supposed to click, dreams that were supposed to pan out, hopes that were supposed to be realized. Yet when reality set in, "supposed to" didn't happen.

Two men were walking to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. It was Sunday. Jesus had died the Friday before, a very bad day. He had said He was going to die, but they didn't really expect it. Palm Sunday was a great day; at least it started that way. It looked like He might even have enough popularity to be the Messiah. Yet events turned, and by Friday He was dead. It wasn't supposed to happen that way -- then it did.

Life has a way of robbing us of dreams, of throwing hopes back in our face. The men going to Emmaus said, "We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21). Great expectations -- cancelled by death.

Death Puts Us in the Past Tense.

1. We live with what might have been but isn't.

The best that could have been is in the past -- and it died. So we live with memories rather than hopes. We have more picture albums than goals. It may be death of a vision, death of a relationship, death of a friend, death of a future -- for the Emmaus men it was death of the potential Messiah. They said to the Jesus they didn't recognize, "We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21). They took a risk by putting their hope in Him -- and now their dream was dead.

When I was in school we had what was called the pluperfect tense. I think it may be called "past perfect" these days. It denotes action completed before a past time. Its effect continues to the present. To say "I was planning" (using the imperfect tense) keeps the door open for the present. To say "I had planned" (past perfect) closes the door on the present. The Emmaus disciples saw the door barred ("We had hoped..."). They were living with what could have been but wasn't. Their conversation centered around Bad Friday. Luke says they were "talking with each other about all these things that had happened" (24:74).

When death brings us up short, we tend to rehearse the past more than make plans for the future. I was told when counseling someone considering suicide to listen for any indication of a future tense in their speech. A sign of forward thinking is cause for hope, because people who commit suicide have lost any sense of tomorrow. Today is all they have, and that isn't enough.

Our first trip to Green Hills Cemetery after losing a child at birth was a teary one. We were thinking more about the past than the future, about what might have been but wasn't. Death makes things look final. Death puts us in the past tense, and....

2. The past keeps us from seeing the present or the future.

Luke tells us that as these men talked "Jesus Himself drew near and walked along with them; they saw Him, but somehow did not recognize Him" (24:15-16, TEV). Perhaps it was not unlike Mary in the garden who mistook Jesus for the gardener. Depression affects perception. We don't see life as others see it.

3. We live as losers.

An instructor said to a new parachute trainee, "When you jump, the rip cord will pull automatically, but if it doesn't, pull the auxiliary chute on your back. If that doesn't work -- well, there will be an ambulance waiting for you on the ground." So the trainee jumped, and nothing happened. He pulled the auxiliary cord and still nothing happened. He said, "Of all the luck. And I suppose the ambulance won't be there either!" His pessimism was warranted - ours often isn't.

Inertia is the tendency of matter to remain at rest if at rest; or if moving, to keep moving in the same direction. It is the disinclination to act, the unlikelihood of changing. Those who have lost often live as losers, and it is hard to change. Good news is reinterpreted. Facts are assembled to fit in with their pessimism. Someone has said, "Always borrow money from a pessimist. He doesn't expect it back."

The report had come to the Emmaus men from the women that Jesus was alive (24:23), but it was too good to be true. A friend of mine said recently, "It's an amazing thing about us humans; we have an incredible capacity for doubt."

I received a call this Easter at 6:00 a.m. The person on the other end said, "Did you hear the news?" My first thought was "The President has been shot." I responded, "No, what happened?" The voice at the other end said, "He is alive. Jesus is risen." I laughed and said, "Amen, He is risen indeed." When I hung up, I said, "Lord, forgive me for so often thinking the worst rather than the best."

Jesus rebuked them for being "foolish men, and slow of heart to believe" (24:25). These are hard words for depressed people. Was Jesus being insensitive to them, or were they being insensitive to Him? Living in the past makes it hard to see the future as any different. Even the strong words of Jesus about His death, just days before, did not register now with them. They didn't lack for evidence, but they lacked for hope.

We've all been there. Life has a way of making us feel like losers, of trading off a hopeful future for a dismal present. Is there a way out? Yes....

The Resurrection Puts Us in the Future Tense.

1. We are given a new beginning.

Our Emmaus friends invited Jesus to spend the evening with them. As He broke bread with them, "their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight" (24:31). Imagine their excitement. "He's alive. He's really alive. He was dead, but He is alive. Did you hear that? He's alive. I can hardly believe it but it is true. He is alive. Jesus is alive."

If Jesus is alive, what could have been still can be. The resurrection takes us out of the past and puts us in the future. Everything is new. Paul says that "as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). If the worst happened -- death -- and God turned that around, it must be a new day. Death looks like the enemy's period, but the resurrection is God's exclamation point. The disciples told the religious leaders, "You crucified Him, but God raised Him up." Their defiant no was answered by God's irreversible yes. Death is what people do, resurrection is what God does.

2. We are given a new sense of purpose.

All who believe in the resurrection have a mission. Jesus told the disciples, "You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you" (24:48-49). They were given a fresh sense of their destiny. They went from a depression to a commission because of the resurrection. That makes all the difference in the world, and in eternity.

If we had a crucified Christ but not a risen Lord, we would have a morbid religion. Our message to the world is not, "Jesus died for your sins." It is, "Christ is risen. He died, but He is alive forevermore." Our call is to live as if Jesus is alive and share the good news that we serve a risen Savior. People die all the time but they stay dead. If someone comes back to life and stays that way, it's time to do some rethinking. That is our message.

3. We live as winners, not losers.

Jesus showed up in the Upper Room that evening. They weren't exactly expecting Him for dinner and they were frightened. After Jesus let them see the marks of His death, they gained some composure, but "they still disbelieved for joy" (24:41). It takes a while for a loser to become a winner.

Jesus had already opened their eyes. Now He gave them a "Walk Through the Bible" course and "opened their minds to understand the scriptures" (24:45). He would not be around for long. They would need the Living Word to point them to the Living Lord. By the time of His ascension, they had solid assurance of His eternal life and theirs as well. They knew the meaning of the death and resurrection -- and they turned the world upside down with that knowledge.

The allied troops under General Wellington fought Napoleon on June 18, 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, a village in Belgium just south of Brussels. News was transmitted by the use of lights across the channel to anxious Britishers. The words were spelled out, "Wellington defeated --" and then a fog, so typical of England, fell over the channel. England thought the battle was lost and the dreadful news was spread quickly, throwing the land into despair. But when the fog lifted they could see the final word, "Wellington defeated Napoleon." And the mood in Great Britain changed from one of tragedy to triumph. The whole country exploded in thunderous celebration as the news was relayed. Napoleon had been defeated.

It is possible to be a winner and still live as if you are a loser. The fog of depression can keep us from the celebration. A friend said recently as we were discussing this passage, "Imagine winning a victory and not even knowing it. Christ had pulled off the most astonishing victory of all time and his rooters thought he had lost." The Emmaus men received only part of the message: "Jesus defeated --." That is enough to put any hopeful person into severe depression. But after the fog lifted the full message came into clear view, "Jesus defeated Satan." He has won, and we win with Him.

Why did Jesus draw near to those two men on that Sunday? Because He wanted to turn their sorrow into joy, their helplessness into hopefulness -- and He did. He can do the same for you -- because He is alive today, still coming to people with broken relationships, shattered dreams, unfulfilled aspirations, and giving them a new beginning. Jesus is the Lord of new beginnings. If you have seen the worst, then start looking for the best, because when there's been death, resurrection is just around the corner.

Has it ever occurred to you that maybe God wants to bless you real big, that He wants to show you His love in ways beyond your highest expectation? Does God's Word give you any indication that it could happen? It certainly does. And He certainly will. He is the Lord of new beginnings. "Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3). A living hope is one that will never die.

I received a letter this week from members of my congregation. They said, "Eighteen years ago, Resurrection morning, we answered our phone to the words, 'You can come and take your baby home today'." This baby, born Ash Wednesday, had lived six weeks in an incubator and was still a half pound too light at four-and-one-half pounds to be released to us. And yet now he was coming home. David Paul, an unbelievable gift to our family that day. Earlier we had also been called for David's twin brother, but to take him for burial - 37 days of lights, talking, laughing, of lying naked, of crying but making no sound, of wearing a blindfold, of being fed by a tube to the stomach, and of finally being surgically implanted with a tube in the neck which at last brought infection and death. For Nathan, wasn't it more of a passing from death unto life than from life unto death? John carved a cross which stands in our little backyard garden: 'Even so in Christ shall all be made alive.' And these words have become a jubilant song from Handel's Messiah echoing in our family the last eighteen years -- 'Even so in Christ, shall all be made alive.' Yes, our baby is dead, but even so...."

Yes, there is death. We face it every day. Paul said that we are always being delivered up to death. But because of it, there is more life. There is no resurrection without death, but resurrection is just as certain as death.

Are you living life in the past tense or in the future tense? May the resurrection of Jesus Christ give you cope for the present and hope for the future.

Content provided by: Preaching.com

Publication date: March 23, 2010