Seeing the Savior
April 18, 2004 | Brian Bill
This light bulb represents bright hope. It’s full of promising potential. But, like your heart, it’s also very fragile [drop bulb so it shatters].
We’ve all experienced the crash of unmet expectations. Some of us have been gouged by grief that won’t seem to go away. Many of us have been hit with a wide array of the “deadly Ds” – doubt, disappointment, depression, disillusionment, defeat, despair, and even death. All of these “Ds” were evident in the followers of Christ as they tried to deal with His departure.
During this series we want to go “beyond the tomb” and look at the appearances Jesus made to people after the resurrection. Today our focus is on two broken-hearted disciples who saw the Savior, and as a result, were never the same again. As we study the process they went through, we can get a better view of Jesus, and our lives can change as well.
If you have your Bible with you, and I hope you’re in the practice of bringing it to church, please follow along as I read Luke 24:13-16: “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” That “same day” refers to Easter Sunday. It’s probably late in the afternoon and two followers of Christ are making their way home to a town called Emmaus, located about seven miles from Jerusalem. These are two very ordinary people, just like you and me. We know the name of one guy is Cleopas from verse 18but we don’t know anything about the other individual.
These two are enjoying the companionship of each other as they discussed everything that had happened during the past week. They were probably there on Palm Sunday when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem and no doubt were nearby when Jesus was sentenced to death and then crucified. As they are walking along the road, they are doing what Deuteronomy 6:6-7 challenges all of us to do: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts…talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Notice that it says they talked about “everything” that happened. The phrase “talking with each other” is where we get the word “homiletics,” which means preaching.
As they communed together and questioned each other, they hear footsteps behind them, as Jesus joins their walk. That reminds me of the little boy who was asked by his mother if he knew the name of God’s Son. He replied, “Yes, it’s Andy.” The mother was a bit flustered and wanted to know where he picked that up. Her son answered, “I learned it in a song at Sunday School: ‘Andy walks with me. Andy talks with me.’”
Jesus walks with us when we’re wiped out, wounded, and worried. When Jesus strolled with these saints, we see the truth of Matthew 18:20 illustrated: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” and John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” They did not recognize Jesus, but He was there. Likewise, He is with us, even when we think He is far away.
Do you have a companion who will faithfully field your questions and help you process your doubts? While it’s good to have a friend like this, never forget that Jesus is closer to you than anyone else will ever be. Proverbs 18:24: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” And when you go through the dreaded “Ds” you can claim the promise of Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…”
As Jesus walks with them, He also talks to them by asking two questions to get them to open up. The first question is found in verse 17: “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” This stops them in their tracks; literally, as we read they “stood still, their faces downcast.” As their feet falter, their faces fall. They’re sad because they are in sorrow about their Savior. In their minds, He is gone, and all their hopes with Him. Cleopas can’t believe that their walking partner does not know about what has happened in Jerusalem: “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
I love how Jesus keeps the conversation going by asking a second question in verse 19: “What things?” The two then summarize what they know about Jesus, and they get a lot of the details right. Notice how quickly and naturally they’re ready to talk about Christ. I’m also struck by their unwillingness to believe that Jesus is alive. Look at verses 19-24: “About Jesus of Nazareth…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. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
While their synopsis is adequate, their understanding was limited by their own perspective:
- They speak in the past tense: Jesus was a prophet. They think it’s all over and that there’s nothing He can do in the present.
- They are disappointed: “but we had hoped.” Because their hope has disappeared, their hearts are broken. As they’re trudging home from a funeral, they’re experiencing the truth of Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” We haven’t changed much, have we? We want a Savior who will make life a bed of roses, who will take away all our problems and worries.
- They were amazed by the reports of the women but discounted them.
- They heard about the empty tomb but didn’t stick around to investigate. Sadly, they were blinded when the evidence was right there. And, now they don’t have a clue that Jesus Himself is walking right next to them. Their problem wasn’t with their heads; it was with their hearts.
The resurrected redeemer patiently listens to His children talk, much like He does with us when we pray. He sees them as trapped in their own understanding of the tragedy that has taken place. But He doesn’t leave them there. After they unload, He uploads them with truth as the conversation turns toward a time of correction.
Look at verses 25-27: “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Jesus refers to his disciples as slow to believe. This was not the first time He said this to His followers. Mark 7:18: “Are you so dull?” and in Mark 8:17-18, Jesus rebukes them for not remembering: “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?”
They needed a fresh understanding of God’s Word in order to believe
They had missed what all the prophets had said about the suffering servant because they were focused on the redeemer who would reign. They saw the crown but not the cross. In short, they had confused His first coming with His second. Jesus makes clear that He had to suffer before He could enter His glory because suffering always comes before celebration. The disciples missed out because they left the Scriptures out. They needed a fresh understanding of God’s Word in order to believe. Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
Jesus then gave them a Bible lesson they would never forget as He starts with the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses and concludes with what the prophets said about Him. The Greek verb used here for “explain” is where we get the word “hermeneutics,” or Bible interpretation. We believe the Word needs to be taught so that we can apply it to our lives through our creative children’s ministry team all the way up to senior adults. If Jesus took time to explain and exegete Scripture, then so must we.
From Genesis to Malachi, the Scriptures point to the Savior. Warren Wiersbe writes: “The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page” (“Bible Exposition Commentary,” Volume 1, page 279). In John 1:45, after Philip was introduced to Jesus, he came and found Nathaniel and said, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” In John 5:39, Jesus taught that the Scriptures testify about Him and in Luke 24:44, Jesus said, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Friends, don’t leave the Old Testament out of your Bible reading. Romans 15:4 reminds us that the Scriptures are what give us hope: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” I’m reading the book of Joshua right now and enjoying how relevant it is to my life today. It’s intriguing to imagine what passages Jesus preached from in His sermon to the two disciples. It was without doubt the greatest Old Testament exposition in history. Here are some I think He touched on from the three main sections.
From the Books of Moses:
- Jesus probably started by recounting the prophecy given to Satan in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This was graphically portrayed in the Passion of the Christ film, as Jesus crushed the head of the serpent in the garden.
- I’m sure Jesus enjoyed making the parallels between the Passover Lamb of Exodus 12:21-23 and the Savior being sacrificed during that year’s Passover celebration: “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb…he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway…” Jesus is linked to this event in 1 Corinthians 5:7: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
- Jesus is the prophet to come in Deuteronomy 18:18: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.” This is quoted in Acts 3:22.
From the Psalms:
- Psalm 2:7 reads, “He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” When Jesus was baptized, a voice boomed from heaven in Matthew 3:17: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
- In Psalm 22:1, the psalmist prophecies the very words that Jesus spoke from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Later in this same Psalm, we read of people shaking their heads in scorn, the piercing of hands and feet, and the casting of lots for clothing (verses 6-8, 16, 18).
- Perhaps Jesus chuckled at the very thought of kings bowing before Him at His birth as predicted in Psalm 72:10-11: “The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.”
From the Prophets:
- Writing 700 years before Christ, Isaiah 7:14 clearly states that the Messiah would be born of a virgin: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
- Isaiah 53 is filled with precise prophecies of both the death and resurrection of Christ. I’ll give just two examples, but there are many more. As we know, Jesus remained silent during His trial. This is foretold in Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth…” And, as we learned a couple weeks ago, Jesus was crucified with criminals but buried in the tomb of a rich man. This is exactly what Isaiah said would happen in verse 9: “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death…”
- I’m certain that Jesus recited Micah 5:2 as He described the exact location of His birth, grinning as He described how a Roman census was used to get His parents to this little town: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel…”
- And as he thought back a week in time, He likely recounted His triumphal entry, describing the importance of Him riding a donkey to fulfill the words found in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
We don’t know how long Jesus took to exegete the Scriptures, but we do know that He preached from all of them.
The disciples are corrected by Scripture, which after all is one of its purposes from 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
After being corrected, they crave additional preaching and so they ask Jesus to spend more time with them, even though they still don’t know who He is. Follow along as I read verses 28-32: “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 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?’”
Jesus is a gentleman; He won’t force Himself on you if He’s not really wanted. These two guys want to commune with Christ and so they urge Him strongly to stay for supper. This reminds us of Revelation 3:20 where we read that Jesus responds to an invitation and comes in when we open the door. Listen to this familiar verse from the Message paraphrase: “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.” Matthew Henry writes: “Those that have experienced the pleasure of communion with Christ cannot but covet more of His company and beg of Him, not only to walk with Him all day, but to abide with them at night” (Electronic version, Biblesoft).
we must learn to see Jesus in the ordinary
Notice that it doesn’t take much to get Jesus to stay. A meal is thrown on the table and interestingly, the guest becomes the host as Jesus “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” Let me say that this is not communion as we know it, but rather a simple shared supper. Likewise, we must learn to see Jesus in the ordinary. When Jesus broke bread, they were reminded of when He took loaves to feed the 5,000 and when He broke bread at the Last Supper. And then, when He passed the bread to them, they saw His nail-pierced hands…and the light bulb finally came on for them. Interestingly, we read that their eyes are now opened, they clearly recognize Him, and then He disappears.
That reminds me of the story of three guys discussing what they’d like people to say about them at their funerals. The first guy said, “I’d like people to say, ‘he was a great humanitarian, who cared about his community.’” The second one remarked, “I’d like them to say, ‘He was a great husband and father, who was an example for us to follow.’” The third guy grinned and stated that he’d like people to say, “Look, he’s moving!” That would be something, wouldn’t it? But Jesus was moving! He was alive and still is!
Have you ever wondered why the Lord didn’t stay longer? During the 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to people for a specific purpose: He wanted them to know that He was alive! And, He never stayed long because He wanted His followers to manage without His bodily presence…just like us.
We are not left as orphans, however because He gave us at least two things: Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Cleopas and his buddy now remark that their broken hearts have been replaced with burning hearts.
These two guys had spent the day walking to Emmaus, but now they realize that they have a commission to fulfill. The women had found the tomb empty and now they could verify that Jesus was in fact alive because they had seen Him! They probably didn’t even do the dishes, as they pushed away from the table and sprinted back to Jerusalem. Remember, it is now evening, and it would have been dangerous to travel on the roads at night, but that didn’t bother them. They couldn’t contain themselves. Friends, when we have an encounter with Jesus, we must share Him with others! Look at verses 33-35: “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”
Before they could share their good news, the other followers reported about how Jesus had appeared to Peter! I imagine them all jumping up and down for joy! Friend, Jesus has a commission for all of us and we need to deliver the good news, no matter how difficult or challenging it is to do so.
On the Road Again
These two believers had started their walk with broken hearts as they headed home. They end up traveling the same road again, but this time everything has changed. Are you in the ditch of despair today? Let’s look at each section of their journey so that we can get back on the highway of hope. Interestingly, the five points from this passage correspond with our IMPACT purpose statement as a church.
- Companionship = Caring. Are you unplugging from people? Do you find yourself drifting in your discouragement? If so, it’s time to find a companion who can walk the road of life with you, someone who can hold you accountable. If you already have someone like that, as you look around, is there anyone God wants you to reach out to? People who have lost hope need a companion who will love by listening. One of the best ways to experience companionship is by entering into community with other believers in a small group.
- Conversation = Praying. I love how Jesus was able to get these doubting disciples to talk. Friend, Jesus longs to hear you put your worries into words. Pray Scripture back to Him. Talk to Him about your life and be specific about your requests. What do you need to say to Him right now? He longs to listen to you, no matter what it is.
- Correction = Instructing. Make a decision today to begin reading an Old Testament book. I suggest you tackle a book like Joshua or one of the Prophets and a chapter from Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month. For instance, today you would read chapter 18. As you open the Word, ask the Lord to give you insight. Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
- Communion = Adoring. One of the best ways to stay connected to Christ is by adoring Him in worship. We do that not just by singing songs on Sundays, but by living our lives on purpose for His purposes. Worship Him while you work at your jobs. Worship Him in your giving. Invite Him into your ordinary and routine, recognizing that He is the unseen host at every meal and the invisible participant in every conversation.
- Commission = Telling and Mobilizing. Think of one person you know who doesn’t yet know Jesus. Determine this week to tell them the good news that Jesus is alive, and how He can change their lives as they walk with Him. Don’t delay. I think of the over 20 young people who will be serving as missionaries this summer. May their tribe increase! When John Wesley began his walk with Jesus, he said that “his heart was strangely warmed.” Some time later he was asked the secret of his ministry. He replied, “I ask God to set me on fire and let people watch me burn!”
It’s time to see the Savior like never before. When we do, we’ll move from heartbreak to heartburn; from broken hearts to believing hearts, as we shine forth the light of Christ to a dead and dying world [put new light bulb in lamp and turn on].
Are you ready right now to begin a walk with Jesus for the first time? The best way to start is by simply taking the step of inviting Him into your life. Pray this prayer with me from your heart: “Lord Jesus, thank you that you have been my companion even when I’ve gone down the wrong road. I want to converse with you right now and tell you that I know I’m a sinner. My dreams and hopes have been shattered as I now recognize that my heart will stay broken until I ask you for a new one. Thank you for correcting my thinking through your Word. Help me to because a student of Scripture so that it will burn within me. I now desire to commune with you and so I ask you to come into my life and save me from my sins. And help me to fulfill the commission you have for me by telling others about you. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”