This past week I didn’t get much done Monday-Wednesday. I was at a Pastor’s Conference in New Jersey. It turns out that 18 hours listening to corny jokes from 5 other pastors is not conducive to getting a lot of work done. So my Todoist list had stock piled. But, as I looked at it again and again Wednesday evening, I was confident that I had a good plan for getting all of my tasks done the next day.
Then, Thursday happened. An unexpected meeting here. A longer phone call there. A few conversations that lasted a little longer than I thought...and suddenly, my Thursday Todoist "to do list" looked the exact same as the Friday list...only with few more tasks than before.
I had such a good plan to get everything done, but it failed.
Ever happen to you? Ever plan to do something only to watch your plans fail?
Did you know that God plans too? In fact, while Jesus was on earth he told his disciples about God's plan. John 3:16 gives it to us in a nutshell: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
But then, Jesus died. Life happened. Death happened. The question is: Had God's plan failed? Can God’s plans fail?
I. When God's Plan Appears to Fail.
This appears to have been the basic premise of the disciple's conversation on the Road to Emmaus. Scripture tells us "They were talking with each other about everything that had happened." And later "That their faces were downcast." Their Messiah had died. God's plan had failed. They would never see him again.
Then, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.
But what's interesting is that Scripture says: They were kept from recognizing him. It isn't like Mary Magdalene whose grief and tears prevented her from recognizing her Savior. They were kept from recognizing him by God. By Jesus.
Why did Jesus do that? Presumably for two reasons:
1) He wanted to give them an opportunity to voice their faith. Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden. God asks, "Where are you?" Not because he didn't know, but because he wanted to give them a chance to fess up to their sins. At the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus had asked Philip, "How will we feed these people?" Not because he didn't know that he was about to perform a miracle, but because he wanted to Philip to voice his confidence in that miracle.
Jesus is doing the same thing with the Emmaus disciples. He wants them to have a chance to voice their faith in God's plan.
But just like all those other times, the Emmaus disciples don't voice faith. They only voice their disappointment with God and his plan.
They explain that they were talking 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 they did not see Jesus.”
Isn't it interesting? They mention the third day, a part of God's plan to raise Jesus from the dead. They mention the women seeing an empty tomb. They mention that a few disciples had confirmed this. But they still did not believe God's plan had worked. Look at verse 21. It's most telling, "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
As in: "They didn't believe it anymore. The plan didn't work. They were still under Roman rule. Their lives still felt the same. In fact, they were probably crummier. They had wasted time and effort believing this Jesus was a part of God's plan, and now that plan wasn't working."
Ever felt disappointed with God? Ever felt like God's plan has failed you? Maybe it sounds like this:
"I was supposed to have a career! I was supposed to climb up the corporate ladder. Instead, I'm stuck in my first job at a pay rate much lower than I expected and I don't have any hope of climbing out of it. God, your plan, must have failed!"
"God, I thought, you "knew the plans you have me, plans to prosper and not to harm me..." Then, why can't I find the right guy? Why am I still single? Why are all the people I date 'Sleazeballs?" God! Your plan is not prospering, but harming me!
"My marriage isn't happy all the time. There is tough stuff we go through. God. That can't be your plan. Which must mean that your plan has failed!"
"My relative is super sick. They are suffering. God is love. He doesn't like suffering. Which can only mean that he can't stop the suffering and his plan is failing!"
Now. Stop and think with me. Is God that bad at planning? Is the ruler of all eternity that poor at future planning? Of course not.
Listen to this carefully. God’s plan’s don’t fail, we simply fail to see God’s plans.
II. We Simply Fail to See God's Plan
This is exactly the problem that the Emmaus disciples had. They expected God's plan to be that Jesus would rid them of Roman rule, they themselves would become officials in his kingdom, and life on earth would become 'awesome.'
When Jesus died and this didn't happen, they felt terrible.
But listen to Jesus' assessment: 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Did not the Messiah 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.
If you wanted to build a house, an architect makes a blueprint for the contractor and everyone he works with to follow. If they want to know where the support beams are supposed to be, they look at the blueprint. If the electrician is wondering how many outlets to run in the living room, they look at the blueprint. If the homeowner has a complaint about the window sill being placed too low on the wall, they look at the blueprint to see if it's valid.
A second reason that Jesus didn't show himself to these disciples right away is that he wanted to teach them where to look for God's plan. He wanted to show them the Almighty's Divine blueprint. It showed them, at that time, the Old Testament Scriptures which contained a detailed explanation of God's plan.
Through the prophets God gave his people details about the coming Savior so that they wouldn’t miss his coming. Malachi said where Jesus would be born. Zechariah foretold how Jesus would be betrayed for 30 silver pieces. Psalm 22 detailed how he would be crucified, how they would cast lots for his clothes.
Various scriptures talk about God's son had to die. Which in reality as it happened, must have seemed awful. But it needed to happen. It was God's plan. Isaiah 53 explains it beautifully. Memorize this passage. Commit it to memory. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
This is God’s greatest plan. He desires to save you from hell. He wants you in heaven. So, no wonder, he doesn’t always take care to make sure that you have the roomiest house, the fanciest car, and the big scholarship to school. When push comes to shove, God wants you in heaven! That’s his goal. It’s his plan. It’s his desire!
When the disciples realized that Jesus’ death was a part of this plan, do you know what the result was? Verse 32 reports that the disciples confessed: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
What had changed? The Romans were still rotten. The taxes were oppressive. The Jewish leaders were corrupt. What changed was that the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures had opened their minds. They understood God's plan. They understood that it had worked. They understood that God's plan was way better than anything they had imagined. It didn't just involved a perfect marriage, a good job, and the latest electronic always in your possession.
It involved eternity. It involved forgiveness. It involved escape from eternal hell. It involved the promise of heaven.
III. God's Plan is Alive and Well
Now the disciples understood something. They understood that God's plan was alive and well. But they didn't grasp exactly how alive and well God's plan was until later that night: 30 When Jesus 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.
Brothers and sisters, recognize that God's plan for you is alive and well. He lives! Because he lives, so does God's plan for you. It doesn't matter what happens in our lives. It doesn't matter how sin gets the best of us. It doesn't matter what evil can do to us! The LORD lives! Our divine planner lives AND he is still in control. And I'll tell you what...that takes trust! It takes trust cause you aren't in control.
Ever been to a financial planner? That's hard to do. You know lots about your money. You know lots about what you want to do with it. Nobody likes to be told how to plan their future.
But...I recommend you see one. Planning finances is their job. They understand economy. They understand stocks, investments, and bond value. They're professionals at planning money. It's what they do. Trust them.
God's a professional at what he does too. He's a professional at planning for your eternal well being. It involved sending his Son to die and giving him power to rise again. He knew what he was doing then and he knows what he is doing no.
I know it's hard to give up control of your life and to totally trust God. It’s your life! But consider this: He's smarter than you. He's more powerful than you. He's been around longer than you. He loves more than you. He loves you more than you.
Trust Him. His plans don’t fail. His plans are good. His plans are alive and well. Amen.