As I studied the text for this sermon, a phrase from v19 jumped out at me. “Jesus was … powerful in word and deed“. How I wish more Christians and more churches could be described this way.
As I’ve previously scoured church ad’s while seeking new ministry positions, I’ve often noticed churches looking for “sound” preachers. (Like any preacher thinks of himself as ‘unsound’!) What if “sound” was replaced with “powerful in word and deed”? Would that change the type of people who apply?
Many churches over the years have emphasised “powerful in word”. They seek a dynamic preacher, and someone who teaches what they understand to be the truth. People can be proud of their church because of these two things. In my experience, it’s much less common to find a church that says, “Yes, we have average preaching, but we’re powerful in deeds.” For many, such a statement would seem “unsound”.
Jesus’ encounter with the travelers on the road to Emmaus demonstrates the importance of both words and deeds. The travelers were leaving Jerusalem where they’d seen Jesus crucified. They’d heard the testimony of the women and the apostles about the empty tomb, but they were still disheartened. They’d heard the truth, but their life experience told them that dead men stay dead!
Jesus restores their hope in two ways:
FIRST: He directs them back to Scripture. He shows them from the Old Testament how God always intended for the Messiah to suffer and die. (Can you imagine what an awesome study that would have been to have with Jesus!!) In v32 we’re told that their hearts “were burning within them while he… opened the Scriptures to us“. God’s words are powerful!
SECOND: He gives them an experience they won’t forget. Jesus replaced their negative experience with a positive one. Through his teaching he reoriented their expectations, but he didn’t leave them at that point. He revealed himself to them, confirming his teaching, proving his resurrection. He could have left them without revealing himself and they would have been wiser, with a greater appreciation for the Biblical teachings. But he revealed himself, stayed with them, ate with them, comforted them, and loved them. He restored their hope.
- If we accept that churches aren’t perfect (hope that’s not a shock to you), and therefore they will emphasise either “word” or “deed”, why do we more often than not emphasise “word”?
- It seems to me that the traditional Bible Class structure helps make “word” a church activity, but leaves “deed” as an individual responsibility. How can Bible Classes better integrate “deeds” into the lessons?
- What sort of “deeds” can churches perform that others would describe as “powerful”?
- Have you ever known a person that you’d describe as “powerful in word and deed”?