There are many stories around the event of Jesus’ resurrection. Some of them are recounted in the Gospels. Some are only hinted at. We often limit our Easter morning reading to the encounter between the risen Jesus and the women that had come early in the morning.
Also on that same day were two men. Two disciples or followers not listed among the primary twelve disciples. We know the name of one. We know they were saddened by the weekend events and unsure about the report of the women. We know one other thing – they were on the road somewhere between Jerusalem and the small village of Emmaus.
“That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
Ever had something happen that you just couldn’t stop talking it through. Think about those defining moments that impact a generation and echoes throughout history. It’s that kind of conversation that was happening between the two men when they were joined by a third.
Now, Jesus knew their discussion. He knew their heart in the same way that God knew where Adam was hiding in the garden. But Jesus invited them to tell their story anyway.
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.”
I sometimes wonder if this is the Reader’s Digest version of Cleopas’s explanation. But notice that although Cleopas and his friend followed Jesus to some extent, they didn’t understand yet who Jesus really is. At this point Jesus was only a prophet for them that did wonderful miracles like those of Elijah and Elisha. In their understanding, Jesus was a man, a special man, but still only another man. They had hoped Jesus was their promised Messiah that would rescue Israel from Roman tyranny.
Cleopas continues, “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
They heard the news of the empty tomb. Perhaps wondered. Perhaps it was just too fantastically impossible for them to fully understand. They, however, had yet to find hope in or believe the report. They were still sad.
“Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Ok, the best way to win friends and influence people is not to call them foolish. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be called a fool and be corrected than remain trapped in falsehood. Again, we are getting the Reader’s Digest version. Wouldn’t you love to hear Jesus opening the books of Moses and the prophets to reveal the truth about himself?
“By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!”
What did they see? What gave Jesus away? Was it God opening their eyes? Was it the scars made visible as Jesus broke the bread? Was it something in the blessing? We don’t know. All we do know is that their eyes were opened. No longer was Jesus a prophet that did wonderful miracles, crucified by the Romans, whose body has mysteriously gone missing. They saw Jesus as the risen Christ, the Messiah. Not the Messiah of their hopes but the Messiah of their needs.
“They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”
Their sadness and doubt vanished. Others must know what just happened, they must know the truth. Jesus is alive, He’s resurrected. The reports are true. So they retraced their seven-mile journey in the dark and reported to the disciples. They told their story, probably over and over again throughout their lives.
What about you? Are you sad? Confused? Doubting? On a journey to who knows where? Jesus will meet you wherever you are. Whatever your doubts He’ll meet you there. Whatever your pains, your scars, your heartache, your disappointments, your needs, Jesus will meet you where you are just like Cleopas and his friend. Then, you too will have a story to tell about the resurrected Christ. Oh, what a glorious day! That you Jesus have saved me. What a glorious day!
Luke 24:13-14; NLT