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Two More Believe at Last
Easter Sunday is a special day in the Christian calendar – it is the day when we particularly celebrate Jesus' rising from the dead.
It is a special day because of its phenomenal importance – in everyday life we do not meet with people who have risen from the dead. And yet that is what we remember on Easter Sunday – Jesus had risen from the dead, never ever to die again. He enjoys now the power of an endless life.
The Bible accounts of the events of Easter then deal with an exceptional matter of supreme importance and we must understand what is involved.
In order to see what Easter Sunday is all about we must understand what the facts are:
Jesus after a sleepless night had suffered scourging – strong men were known to have died when scourged
Jesus had been crucified under Roman charge and he died on the cross.
The soldiers responsible for the crucifixion were hard men who knew what death looked like as they saw it on a regular basis. They knew Jesus was dead – that there might be not the slightest doubt one even plunged a spear into Jesus' dead side thrusting upwards towards his dead heart.
Jesus was physically dead. He had not fainted and fooled people into thinking he was dead when in reality a flicker of life remained – every light had gone out of him.
The Christian message of resurrection tells what happened next to this man who had truly died. Resurrection is all about new life from the dead and not the resuscitation of the smouldering embers of existing life fanned into a flame again. To have survived such sufferings in such circumstances would have been remarkable – it would have made the headlines – but it would not have been resurrection! The Christian message of the resurrection is not that Jesus avoided death managing to escape it on this occasion it is that he conquered death and rose victoriously from the tomb on the third day!
Jesus had taught his followers that this was what the OT said about the Messiah and he fully endorsed that teaching as he tried to prepare his followers in the weeks leading up to his rejection suffering and death. He told them clearly that he would rise again on the third day – but they couldn't take on board what he told them.
I suppose we shouldn't be too hard on them – after all nothing like this had really happened before – and Jesus' followers weren't a gullible bunch eagerly wanting to believe seemingly impossible things.
And yet his followers did come to believe as they were convinced that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.
This evening we'll look at how a couple of them were brought to faith.
Two Leave Jerusalem
It was a seven miles to Emmaus and would take in the region of 2 hours give or take 15 minutes. There was plenty of time to talk and the two on the road were doing just that. They were reflecting on all the events that had taken place in the preceding week in the city – it had been a most unusual week and there was plenty to talk about.
As they walked along they were joined by Jesus but they were kept from recognising him. As he asked them what they were talking about their faces were sad – their hopes had been extinguished in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless they answered him expressing surprise that he might be in any doubt concerning their conversation. What else could anyone be talking about after the events of the past week?
So they told Jesus what they knew and what their hopes had been:
They had been talking about Jesus
They believed that Jesus was a great prophet and a doer of mighty deeds
They had hoped (notice the tense – their hopes were over and gone) Jesus would be the redeemer of Israel
They knew Jesus had been rejected and put to death
They also knew the report that some of the women had brought back to the disciples about Jesus being alive but when others had not been able to confirm the details these two had left Jerusalem.
Yes, their hopes were over – can you really imagine that they would walk away from the city if they thought for a moment that there was a possibility that the Redeemer of Israel was on the loose having conquered death?
Followers of Jesus weren't in the process of inventing some resurrection story to satisfy their aspirations – they were too depressed and their hopes far too dashed for that. If the disciples were to be convinced they would need some convincing!
Jesus Sets to Work
The risen Jesus had no difficulty drawing near to these two trudging sadly down the road to Emmaus. He was about to help them to understand why what had happened had taken place, he was preparing them for the momentous realisation that he was indeed risen from the dead.
Now, my friends, Jesus is in heaven but he still has no problem in drawing alongside men and women by his Spirit to bring them to true understanding of who he is and what he has done and that he is alive!
Has he done that in your life? Thank him if he has – ask him to do so if you are still in the dark.
As Jesus began to deal with these two on the road to Emmaus he did so by exposing inadequacies in their understanding of just who he was and inconsistencies in how they acted upon what they professed to believe. But the rebuke was not designed to crush them and to leave them even more dispirited but to move them on towards the truth. Are you ready for a similar journey?
I wonder if you've ever met people who say something like: "Jesus was a great teacher".
You know whether they really believe it by their attitude to his teaching don't you. For someone to say he was a great teacher and then totally ignore what he taught – you know that something is wrong.
But human beings can be wonderfully inconsistent and that is what these two were that day. They believed Jesus was a prophet "mighty in deed and word before God and all the people" v.19 but they weren't discussing his teaching on that day. They weren't thinking back to what he had said about being rejected, about suffering and dying, they weren't in the slightest thinking about rising from the dead on the third day. All they were doing was to mull over the events as they had observed them.
We often do the same – we view things from our own perspective and simply assume that the way we see things must be right. We can so easily act as though how we currently see things is the only way things can be seen and interpreted. At such times we need help; when it comes to grasping spiritual matters how we need the illumination of God's word to help us!
Having rebuked these two for setting aside God's word Jesus embarked on a Bible study to show them how the Scriptures would have shaped their thinking if only they had read them aright.
Is that the reason that the Christian message and the events of Easter remain somewhat obscure to you? You want to rely upon your own understanding of how things are or how you think they ought to be and you are refusing to allow the light of God's word into you heart and mind.
The Bible has been readily available in our country for centuries now. It is available in our own language and can be bought cheaply. You can download multiple copies for free on the internet and you can hear it read there too. But do you?
The Bible has been and still is taught in so many churches – you have opportunity to learn what its message really is. But do you avail yourself of the opportunities that you have?
How important a matter this is! And Jesus in his dealings with these two on the road to Emmaus underlines its importance!!
How Jesus Goes about Convincing these Two
If you had been in Jesus' shoes I wonder how you would have gone about convincing your followers that you had conquered death.
We meet folk who say – I won't believe unless I see a miracle. So perhaps you'd be tempted to put on a display of power to overwhelm the stubborn resistance of the human heart…
But Jesus performed no miracle here, there were no bright lights here, there was nothing to appeal to the emotions here… just a Bible study.
These two had had their hopes extinguished in Jerusalem as they watched Jesus suffer and die. The women had testified about the angelic vision they had seen and the message they had been told but this had done nothing to dispel the heaviness and the sadness of this pair as they trudged don the road to Emmaus.
But as this man spoke to them about the truths of the Bible a change slowly began to take place deep inside.
Now it seemed they arrived too soon at Emmaus. This man who had given them such a clear overview of the Bible's message looked like he intended to continue on his journey – they would lose his company and they didn't want to do that! They pressed him to stay and eat with them – they had an appetite for bread but their spiritual appetite was more important to them.
We read in the book of Hebrews that some have entertained angels unawares (Heb.13:2) – well these two entertained the risen Lord Jesus Christ unaware of who their guest actually was. But that was all about to change!
The Bible study on the road had been so good for them; how it had lifted their spirits! How many preachers would love to have a copy of the study outline that was shared on the road that day! But do you know, the Bible study did not bring the two to realise that they were in the presence of the Prince of Life. Something else was used, and that something was so very simple!
As they prepared to eat Jesus took the bread and pronounced his blessing over it. He then broke it and shared it for the others to eat.
Many folk today want something special to be done, some performance for their own personal satisfaction, before they will believe but that is not Jesus' way.
A Bible overview explaining carefully and clearly the role and purpose of the Messiah's coming into the world. An explanation as to the crowning victory over death indicated by his resurrection form the dead. And a simple identification confirmed by the saying of grace before a meal!
And everything came together for those two! The Jesus they had known before and believed in albeit imperfectly before was indeed the One spoken of in the Scriptures, the revelation of him there had already caused their hearts to warm with hope again, now they saw, now they understood. And they recognised that this was indeed the risen Lord Jesus Christ they had just met!!
How wonderful it all was! Had they witnessed some mighty act without the eyes of their understanding being opened in subsequent days they could have doubted whether it had really taken place at all; had they merely been confronted with surging strong emotions in the cold light of difficult days how easily those emotions could be forgotten! But now they know! Their minds informed, their hearts warmed and their spiritual eyes opened – I bet as they travelled back to Jerusalem they made better time even though the route was uphill on the way back!
Some Concluding Comments
I'm glad that we're told that this pair only had their eyes opened as Jesus broke bread with them. Jesus himself makes himself known and if any of us are to become real Christians then we must be dealt with by him.
I'm glad that it was something so simple as an identification by the saying of grace. Otherwise I might be tempted to think that everything depended upon preparing Bible studies that demonstrated a masterful grasp of the entire sweep of Bible history!
How majestic are God's ways! This pair had been led in a Bible study the like of which had never been giving before by the greatest teacher ever known but they only "saw" as he broke bread with them!
Jesus is alive! The tomb was empty just as the women had reported it. He was risen just as the angels declared it. And it all was a piece with God's wonderful plan of salvation revealed in Scripture.
Jesus is alive and meets with men and women, boys and girls, as he convinces them by his Spirit that the man who went about doing good in Israel 2.000 years ago is the One who is the Mighty Conqueror, the Victorious One who was dead and is now alive forevermore.
Christian rejoice in him! Unbeliever repent and believe!