Summary: Fantastic! Outstanding! Incredible! Thanks to blockbuster movies, thrill rides, and Madison Avenue ad campaigns, we have come to expect that if life isn’t “sensational,” something must be wrong.
Encountering Jesus along Life’s Road
Sermon Series: Jesus: The Greatest Life of All
From the Bible-Teaching Ministry of Charles R. Swindoll
Fantastic! Outstanding! Incredible! Thanks to blockbuster movies, thrill rides, and Madison Avenue ad campaigns, we have come to expect that if life isn’t “sensational,” something must be wrong. If we are not careful, we can apply those expectations to our spiritual journey and fail to see the hand of God in the ordinary events of life. Even more tragic, we might fail to recognize His loving care for us in the midst of trials.
Let’s face it, life typically isn’t fantastic. Usually, life is ordinary and sometimes painful. But that is when we do the most learning and growing. That is when we have the greatest opportunity to encounter the risen Jesus . . . if we have eyes to see.
1. Understand the Setting (Luke 24:13–16)
Prior to His arrest, Jesus traveled up and down the strip of land once ruled by David and Solomon, inviting the people of Israel to become a part of His kingdom, promising abundant life. His followers fully expected that He would become their king and that Israel would again be prosperous and free. He was their Messiah. But on one fateful Friday afternoon, as the sun fell behind the horizon, the Son of God hung cold and lifeless on a Roman cross just outside the city walls.
As the sun rose on Sunday morning and the Passover feast came to an end, two of Jesus’s followers, disillusioned and resolving to leave their foolish dreams in Jerusalem, left for home. The dejected pair began the seven-mile walk to Emmaus even as rumors of resurrection circulated among the ranks of Jesus’s disciples (Luke 24:13).
Luke describes the disciples’ conversation as bantering ideas back and forth with great emotion in a shared search for answers (Luke 24:14–16). The Greek phrase homileo suzeteo, “talking and discussing” (24:15), would be more literally translated as “conversing” and “disputing.” The disillusioned followers desperately wanted to know why their expectations of the Messiah had come to such a tragic end.
2. A Revealing Question (Luke 24:17–29)
Luke employed a clever narrative device called literary irony, in which the reader is aware of important facts that are hidden from the characters.
And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” (Luke 24:14–17)
Jesus asked a question designed to engage the men in conversation, but Cleopas’ reply reveals a delightful paradox for the reader: “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” (Luke 24:18). Of course, if anyone understood what had happened, it was Jesus! They did not believe Jesus had risen from the dead, so they were left with three faulty perspectives.
First, their viewpoint lacked a spiritual dimension, leaving them with a human understanding of the events. Take note of how Cleopas characterized the death of Jesus. Don’t miss the lack of any divine involvement.
Second, their own agenda determined their expectations. Many disciples made the mistake of thinking that the Messiah would merely recapture the glory days of King David. In other words, they hoped Jesus would bring Israel the same power and prosperity she once enjoyed, only magnified and multiplied. Given their exclusive worship of God, this would not be an inappropriate wish. But compared to the reality that lay before them—Roman oppression and a dead Messiah—their hopes for glory seemed to have been utterly destroyed.
Third, they failed to acknowledge the resurrection. If these two followers believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, two things would have been true. First, they would have been walking toward Jerusalem to see the risen Lord, not away. Second, they would have seen the trials, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus as the fulfillment of all He promised, not as the end of their hopes.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life were originally documents intended to be read aloud in Christian gatherings. When the reader reached the part of the story in which Cleopas recounted the events of the past three days, the tension among the listeners must have been unbearable, because the two followers simply did not have the eyes to see what should have been plainly visible (Luke 24:16).
Finally, Jesus broke His silence to bring a reproof, ask a question, and offer an explanation. In the reproof, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25), Jesus demonstrated that the two followers knew the contents of Scripture but did not accept its message as truth. As a result, they failed to see God’s sovereign plan. His question, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” pointed to the reason for their unbelief (Luke 24:26). They had confused their own expectations with the hope God was offering, and they had failed to see God’s ultimate purpose.