27th Apr, 2018 Day 117
The Emmaus road resurrection encounter with Jesus is amazing. As a dramatic story it has everything – sorrow, suspense, puzzlement, gradual dawning of light, then unexpected actions, astonished recognition and a disappearance. It has much to speak to us – human hopes fading in sad dismay; finding someone who may or may not be able to help; the discovery that the Scriptures contain the keys to unlock mysteries and bring us to truth and then finding Jesus is with us. There was a famous journalist and TV presenter called Malcolm Muggeridge who started out so far from God, an anti-establishment, anti-church broadcaster. He was in Israel doing a programme on the Emmaus road when he encountered Jesus in a life changing way. God does that.
It’s a helpful passage to ponder and meditate on – and as Bill Johnson says, if you are good at worrying, you already know how to meditate – just on the wrong things! Bring your agony, your issues, your problems, to the road to Emmaus with Cleopas and his wife. Be prepared to share them with someone and then learn to listen for God’s voice, explaining what’s going on from the Scriptures and warming your heart. It’s inexhaustible! Only Luke gives this story in such detail. Mark hints at it in a couple of verses.
So we are going to look at the text in 3 parts – Hearts Broken, Hearts Searching and then Hearts Burning
Just a week before on Palm Sunday, excitement had reached fever pitch – Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, people were cheering, waving palm leaves and having a party – the Messiah had come. Now they are heartbroken, without hope and headed for home. Human hope is pretty fragile and difficult to revive when lost. No wonder the OT tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick. Watching a parent go downhill with dementia; a marriage born in love and joy gone cold; redundancy; long term sickness; adult children far from the Lord. You almost don’t dare to hope for fear of another let-down or rejection. Life can be like a light bulb – bright and shining, full of promise, but fragile and easily shattered.
In v. 21 Cleopas tells the stranger “We had hoped…”. He’s saying we had hoped once, but we don’t expect anything now. Wendy Mann, over at Kings Arms in Bedford, says faith is belief in truth and expectancy it will happen. We need both. But when hope has gone, disappointment is high, we have little expectancy. We need to deal with the disappointment and despair, talk them out so expectancy can return.
So as Cleopas and Mary are talking to Jesus they describe him as “a man who WAS a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” Note the past tense there. They were following Jesus, prophet and miracle worker, but he has been taken away from them, cruelly killed on a cross. They pour out their disappointment – the cross has changed everything, but for them not in a good way yet. Their experience of Jesus is all past, he hasn’t yet become a burning bright present reality.
Jesus works on these two, by coming alongside them – He drew near and walked with them. Interestingly it says “But their eyes were kept from recognising him”. There are a couple of reasons for that:
1) To help us – Paul tells us in 2 Cor 5 that we walk by faith not by sight. He opened their hearts’ eyes, their faith eyes, before He opened their physical eyes;
2) In v. 25 Jesus says they are foolish ones, slow of heart to believe what the prophets have spoken. Their outward inability to recognise Jesus came from their inward unbelief of what the Scriptures had already revealed about Him.
James Boice says that there are three openings in this passage. First Jesus opened scripture, then He opened their eyes and then He opened their understanding. Before he does any of that Jesus asks some questions to get them talking; talking it out.
Once they have finished speaking of their disappointment and hope deferred, then and only then does Jesus answer.
“O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” They have only understood part of the Old Testament, they haven’t grasped what it all revealed about Jesus. They had maybe grasped the triumphant Messiah passages, but not connected the suffering servant ones. To them it’s an unfinished jigsaw puzzle of types, shadows and symbols. Jesus is about to complete the puzzle, the mystery, by going through the whole thing and explaining how it all points to Jesus! That small congregation of two is about to get the best Old Testament exposition ever.
Jesus began with Moses, by which Luke means the first five books, the books of Moses and all the prophets. So taking them through the rest of the Old Testament, He interpreted them to show Himself. He’ll have started with creation and his involvement; then taken them to the Fall – where mankind started sinning and brought in the curse of death. Taking them to Gen 3:15 where the apparently victorious Satan, in the form of the serpent, was told that the seed, the offspring of the woman “will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15). Then on through to Abraham, ready to sacrifice his son, only to get him back again. To Joseph, preserved to become the benefactor of his brothers who tried to destroy him.
Then on to the Exodus where the Israelites were saved from slavery in Egypt through sign of the blood of the Passover lamb. On to the wilderness, to His own teaching of how the Israelites escaped physical death in the wilderness from a plague of serpents when they looked trustingly to a great bronze serpent which Moses raised on a pole, pointing out that He too would be lifted up on the cross, “that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life in him” (John 3:15).
Jesus would surely have taken the now speechless disciples through the ‘Suffering Servant of Jehovah’ passages in Isaiah. He would have recounted how the nation of Israel, taken into exile and brought back again to rebuild Jerusalem, was a symbol of the greater redemption through personal salvation through faith in Him. Over that walk He would have shown them the over 300 prophecies of His birth, life, death and triumph over death to show them that He indeed was the Messiah.
Those two shared their heartache and their disappointment with a stranger, little expecting an answer, little expecting that Jesus was not the problem, but the solution. They needed to make sense of the cross – to them just shame and humiliation and loss, and see that it was of God; used by God to become the cross of redemption for all that come to Him in repentance and faith.
God was coming to them to bless them, love them, forgive them. What did they do? What do you do? Jesus doesn’t impose on them, he gives them a choice to respond, or not. He does that in v. 28 – acting as if He is going to go into the night. He’s knocked on the door of their hearts and waits an invitation to come in.
On the Alpha course, Nicky Gumbel shows the Holman Hunt painting of the story from Revelation 3:16. The painting shows Jesus standing at a door with a light, clearly having knocked and waiting. Interestingly there is no handle on the outside of the door. Jesus doesn’t force himself in. He knocks; knocks on the door of your heart, waiting to be invited in. Do they have an appetite for more?
Of course they do – they urge him strongly to accept hospitality. Come in, eat, stay with us, it’s evening. So they prepare a meal including bread. At this point Jesus takes the bread, just like He has done before at the feeding of the 5,000, just like He did at the last supper. But this time is different. He has nail scared hands. His body has been broken, His blood has been shed. He gives thanks and breaks it giving it to them. They see his hands and their eyes are opened. It’s Jesus! In an instant they knew and in an instant He was gone!
Why did he disappear? It’s part of the education over these next 40 days – to get used to following Jesus without Him physically present. To be ready for the Spirit to come and indwell us, to feast by faith when we break bread, to enjoy His presence as we worship and encounter Him in His word. You can imagine them hugging each other as realisation comes. Their hearts burned within them. The world is alight again. Everyone needs that eye-opening moment, that conversion moment when revelation dawns and we realise who Jesus is and what He has done.
Where are you at with your journey of being a disciple, a follower of Jesus – are you heart broken because you haven’t met the risen Lord yet. Are you heart searching, checking Him out, trying to make sense of it all or is your heart burning within you?
On your journey as a disciple, there are times of heart break – times when things don’t work out, when a healing doesn’t happen, a relationship doesn’t work out, children reject the Lord. The Emmaus road shows us that God is listening and wants you to pour out your disappointment to Him. Tell Him of your hope deferred, your heart sickness. It’s important you get all that out – the Psalmists wrote laments to do that. And then when you are done, realise that God is telling you He is good and He does have the answers and will restore hope and bring joy again. That it really is all about Jesus.
Today as you read and ponder, Jesus wants to restore hope again…