It seems to me that one of the longest walks we ever take in this life is when we walk away from the grave of someone you love. Once you’ve done that, it sticks with you for some time. I have seen husbands married for decades walk away from the grave feeling as if the world has come to an end and playing over and over in their mind the good times, the laughter, the wacky stories. Or parents walking from the grave of a child wondering what might have been and realizing you can never reach out and touch that face again. You know it is over, done, finished, the end, and there is nothing you can do about it.
The disciples were feeling all of the above after Jesus was crucified. One story is told in Luke 24. Two disciples are on the road to Emmaus. They were followers of Jesus, the teacher and prophet who claimed to have been sent by God. As much as anyone could, they truly believed.
But Friday changed all that. Jesus had been crucified and buried in a tomb. There were rumors of an empty tomb, but they could not and would not believe the stories about a resurrection. They knew the Romans. If the Roman wanted you dead, it could be fast or slow, relatively painless or excruciatingly painful, but either way you would be dead. The Romans were good at killing people. And crucifixion was the most terrible way to die so only the worst suffered that fate.
Armed with this reality, the men walked down the road. Suddenly a stranger (Jesus) joins them and walks with them. Verse 16 says “but they were kept from recognizing him.” On their walk, the two men were talking, the stranger intent to listen. Finally he breaks in and asks, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” The question confounds the two men: “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And so they tell the story to the stranger in verses 19-21: “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 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.”
Everything they said was in the past tense, which is how we normally speak of the dead. Because there comes a time in life when you have to face the facts and deal with reality. The reality was that the promise died with Jesus. The third day was almost gone and Jesus had not been seen. It was over.
As the two disciples pour out their confusion and despair, Jesus listens patiently. When they are finished he begins to speak. He calls them fools, which simply means they were slow to apply the truth they already knew. He rebukes them for failing to understand and apply the Scriptures. He tells them they should have known and believed what God had said. He tells them plainly that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and die on the cross. It was part of God’s plan from the beginning. There are clues throughout the Old Testament that the Messiah would suffer and then would enter his glory.
The whole purpose of the Bible is to point us to Jesus. He’s the theme of every book from Genesis to Revelation. I find great encouragement from this story. Where is Jesus when we need him? He is with us even when we are slow to believe.
This, to me, is the point of the whole story. Because Jesus is alive, He is with us even when we don’t know it. He is with us when we think we are walking alone through the dark valleys of life. And even when we have given up all hope, we discover that He was with us when we need Him most. When you come to the conviction that Jesus is alive, everything changes. That’s why the two disciples couldn’t wait to get back to Jerusalem. They had to go back and tell the others what they had seen and heard. Once you encounter Christ, nothing will ever be the same again. Verse 32 says “They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
We all live somewhere between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We are on the Emmaus Road journey together. There are times when we feel alone and overwhelmed and doubts creep in and our heart gives way and we feel like we can’t go on. Then Jesus reminds is that we are not alone, that we were never alone. Even when we thought were alone, He was with you every step of the way.
Pastor Note: We are anticipating exciting, packed services around the incredible truth of the resurrection in each of our campuses. Our Worship Arts team is working hard and praying hard that this be a life-transforming day for all that attend. I cannot stress enough how important the part that you play. Do we want this to be a day that lifts and encourages your spirit? Absolutely. But we would miss the mark if Easter is not the day when the Gospel message is taught to those far from the heart of God – to those who may attend church only once this year. Which brings me to your role: determine now that you’ll be inviting someone to join you for Easter service. Pray toward that end. Start extending the invitation and making the “ask.” Partner with the Holy Spirit and see what He does as a result of that. And then be prepared for God to do the impossible.