Summary: Like the two on the Emmaus Road, we sometimes grow disappointed with God. But, if we seek his will through his word, he speaks to us and clarifies his plans. Then, our disappointment turns to joy as we begin to see things from God's perspective.
Running into Jesus
The Bible records ten different resurrection appearances of Jesus. Today we look at one of the most captivating, a story only found in the gospel of Luke. The setting is a round trip hike between Jerusalem and Emmaus. A couple of Jewish believers are heading home after the Passover celebration. One is named Cleopas, the other unnamed, perhaps his wife or son, we’re not sure. Scholars don’t know exactly where the town of Emmaus would be, but Luke tells us it’s a seven-mile walk from Jerusalem. The two travelers probably were surrounded by lots of other Jewish pilgrims making the same journey back to their homes, so it was no great surprise when a fellow traveler joined them.
Their emotions ran full gamut that day, as do ours at times. So today, let’s join these travelers on the road to Emmaus. For, you see, basically we go through the same emotional roller coaster as they did. We grow disappointed with God. But, if we seek out his will through his word, he speaks to us and clarifies more of his plans. Then, our disappointment turns to joy as we begin to see things from God’s perspective. Let’s unpack each of these segments of the journey. First,
1. We grow disappointed with God. In today’s story, “disappointment” is an understatement. Cleopas and his companion had put much stock in Jesus as their nation’s savior. Scripture says their faces were “downcast” (verse 17), as they shared, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (verse 21). They were tired of living under the tyranny of the Roman government and desperately wanted God to rescue them. Jesus looked like the answer to that prayer, that is, until he was turned over by their own Jewish leaders and executed by the brutal Roman government. All their hopes died with him on that cross.
But the two continued: There was something strange amiss. Women were talking about an empty grave. His body wasn’t where it was supposed to be. These folks were confused. They were sad, disappointed, perhaps a little hopeful but afraid to be more so; perhaps even angry with God for dashing their hopes, for not answering their prayers, but wondering if maybe God was up to something new.
And if we’re honest, we can relate. Sometimes it seems God lets us down. God doesn’t come through for us in the way we expect. We pray for healing and it doesn’t happen. We talk to God about a relationship and it gets worse. We pray for peace of mind, and we become more anxious. We pray for enough money to get through the month, but the cash ends before the bills. God lets us down.
Bill Gothard calls this the “death of a vision.” He writes, “Faced with the death of a vision, a person must hold on to hope, anticipating and expecting God to work out His revealed will in one’s life, even when it seems impossible. This ‘season’ of waiting provides us with the opportunity to develop Christ-like character, to realize our shortcomings and inadequacies, and to trust God to demonstrate His power and bring the vision to fulfillment” (http://iblp.org/questions/how-does-god-work-through-birth-death-and-fulfillment-vision).
Sometimes it takes us a while to remember the Lord is there, that the Lord can handle our anger and disappointment and sadness. And if we are brave enough, if we are smart enough, we might just run into Jesus on our way. Our path might intercede with his. Sometimes, in our pity party, what we really need—to be honest—is a heavenly kick in the rear end. We need Jesus to say, as he did to these two in verse 25, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe!” And thus, we begin the second phase of our journey on the Emmaus Road, where,
2. God clarifies his will through scripture. That’s what Jesus did here. He began to unpack the Bible of the time, what we call the Old Testament, and he showed these two how the prophets through the ages had predicted not only a triumphant Messiah but also one who would suffer and die and rise again. We don’t know which verses he used. Maybe he began with Genesis 3, where in the original sin story God promised a descendent of Adam and Eve who would come and stomp the head of the serpent for good. Maybe he quoted from Isaiah 53, the suffering servant, or Zechariah 12:10, the one pierced for our transgressions, or Malachi 3:1, the messenger of the covenant. Jesus’ Bible study reminds me of the famous Bible scholar and teacher, Henrietta Mears, who wrote, “No one can ever understand the Bible unless he sees Christ on every page.” Jesus systematically showed them Christ on every page.