Summary: When we find ourselves confused, and struggling, doubting God’s power, questioning his goodness, wondering about his faithfulness or whatever else it might be, don’t walk away from Jesus. Walk with Jesus, just like Jesus did with those followers on the road to Emmaus on Easter afternoon.
“What do you want?” “I don’t know. What do you want?” “I’m not sure, what do you think?” “I don’t know. What do you think?” Sound familiar? Ever had a conversation like that when it comes to choosing a movie or a TV show or what to order for takeout – pizza, fish, Chinese, Mexican, Thai? “I don’t know. What do you think?”
You can almost picture Jesus’ followers huddled in that room in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday having that type of conversation, but not on what to eat or what to watch. The confusion of that morning was still hanging in air leaving them unsure what to do or even what to think. “Jesus is dead,” says some of the disciples. “No, Jesus is alive!” say the women who returned from the tomb. Peter and John chime in, “The tomb WAS empty.” And then you hear two of Jesus’ followers say, “We’re leaving,” and they walk out the door and head towards a village called Emmaus.
Cleopas and his travelling companion (we’re not told their name) began walking away from Jerusalem, but Jerusalem did not leave them. They could not help themselves from talking about all that had happened in Jerusalem over the last week. There was Palm Sunday when Jesus rides into Jerusalem to the praise of the crowds, and there was the teaching of Jesus to the crowds at the temple. There was his arrest by the Jewish religious leaders and his execution by crucifixion. And now there were these women who came this morning and said that an angel told them that Jesus was alive and that they saw him. It was all so hard to wrap their minds around, to understand, to believe. So they decided to leave Jerusalem. Maybe getting out of the city would help clear their heads, collet their thoughts and calm their hearts. Little did they know just how very good this walk was going to be for them.
Suddenly a man starts walking along side of them. His identify has been hidden from them. It’s Jesus and he’s listening to their conversation when he asks, “What are you guys talking about?” Jesus’ seemingly absurd question stops them in their tracks as Cleopas exclaims, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened in these days?” (Luke 24:18). Where did this guy come from? Did he just crawl out of some hole in the ground not to have heard what all of Jerusalem had been talking about? At first it might seem like Jesus was toying with these disciples a bit when he asks them, “What things?” (Luke 24:19). But what did Jesus’ question lead them to do? It forced them to think about all that they had seen, learned, heard and believed.
You can almost imagine a smile coming to Cleopas’ face when he says, “[Jesus of Nazareth] was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19). Cleopas thinks back to better days. He thinks about the powerful miracles that Jesus had performed and the authority by which he spoke, confirming who he was both before God and the people who saw him. But then the smile begins to fade from his face as Cleopas says, “The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:20,21). Here is the heart of the matter. They hoped and believed that this Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, who through his suffering would accomplish all that God had promised for his people. But the suffering and death of Jesus seemed to have accomplished nothing. Why? Cleopas explains, “And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place” (Luke 24:21). Jesus had not just died an hour or two before this conversation. Jesus had now been dead for three days. They thought that there was absolutely no way that Jesus could possibly be who they hoped him to be. What only added to their confusion was that some women said that Jesus was alive, and his tomb was empty. It was all so confusing, so hard to believe, so difficult to understand.
Have you ever been there? I think we know that feeling maybe sometimes better than we’d like to admit. We struggle with the question of why. Why would go allow this to happen to me or to someone that I care about? Why doesn’t God do something to take away the pain or to remove this struggle with pornography or jealousy or gossip? Maybe it’s when we do what God asks us to do and it actually makes our life more difficult. You decide to have that conversation with a son or daughter about the choices that they’re making which are not what God wants for them, and what’s the result? That son or daughter gets angry at you and stops talking to you. Or maybe you look at your marriage and while you know that God says marriage is a gift, wow is it hard to see when the person you live with seems to just make your life miserable. You look at life and what you or others are going through and it all seems so confusing, God’s promises so hard to believe, God’s ways so difficult to understand. And so the temptation is to just walk away – walk away from Jesus and go it on your own.