(This series was originally posted in October 2011 on my personal blogsite. We thought we would share it with you all this resurrection week.)
This week we are taking a walk with two disciples and Jesus. During this walk, we will explore seven lessons from the story of the Road to Emmaus. Our text for the week is from The Message translation of Luke 24:13-32.
That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.
He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”
He said, “What has happened?”
They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”
Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.
They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.
Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”
— Luke 24:13-32 (The Message)
I love this story. Even though I have heard or read it my entire life, it didn’t resonate with me until a week or so ago. Since then, I have spent a good deal of time meditating on it and want to share some thoughts.
We find two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were Christ-Followers. They had been in Jerusalem during Passover. While we’re not given a lot of specifics about them, it would be likely that they were there when Jesus rode triumphantly into the city, perhaps they were there in the upper room, and they might have been in the garden with Jesus. We don’t know how long they had followed Jesus, yet Luke gives us a good understanding that they were disciples. They tell Jesus, “We had hoped He was Messiah.”
They had forsaken all and followed down what seemed now to be a dead end. Now, they had turned back to Emmaus and were going home.
Lesson 1: Following is sometimes
hard faith work
Think about it. Two men that had chosen to follow Jesus. They had walked where He walked. Talked to the same people He had talked to. We find in the story that they considered Jesus a best-friend.
But, now, He’s dead. And their conquering political hero is not able to overthrow the Romans.
And that’s where we find the breakdown.
They considered Jesus as the One who would “free” the Jews from their oppressors. Jesus – the next King of Israel.
Now, it’s three days later. Sunday afternoon – Easter afternoon. Jesus has risen. The women are talking about it, but these two aren’t following that. They had seen Him die.
Until that fateful Friday they had followed. They had done the work that they were called by Jesus to do. And now, it’s Sunday afternoon. They’re going home. It had been a dead-end road.
Jesus calls us to forsake all and follow Him. Sometimes it may seem that we’re on a dead-end trajectory. Sometimes it might seem that we’re headed to Jerusalem for Passover. And we tend to almost always be ready to give it all up because we don’t understand the bigger mission. We’re ready to walk back to Emmaus because we don’t understand why the breakthroughs for which we have been praying aren’t happening.
We’ll see a bit later in the story that faith is critical. It’s more than just thinking that He was the One, but truly believing it. Following requires faith. Like these two followers, we don’t know or understand why Jesus wants to go to Jerusalem.
Maybe our two friends were saying to one another, “If we’d have known, we could have celebrated Passover at our place in Emmaus.”
Sometimes, Jesus wants us to go to Jerusalem for Passover. It takes a step of faith to follow. Forsaking all, they had followed. Unless we understand the bigger mission, we – like our two Emmaus friends – will think it’s all a dead end. Yet, faith tells us to keep walking toward Jerusalem. Faith tells us to linger in Jerusalem for 40 days.