Apr 5 2013
“I’m gutted. How could we get it so wrong? I really thought Jesus was the one. I mean he had the power; we saw his miracles with our own eyes! And his teaching; well we’ve heard good rabbis but no one ever spoke like him. I really thought he was the one the scriptures spoke about; that he was the Messiah, it’s what I told my family. Now it’s all over, like a dream. When I awoke this morning I had to face it; Jesus is gone!” As Cleopas spoke he heard steps behind and turned. A stranger had caught up with them. “You two look serious, what are you talking about?” he asked. For a moment Cleopas thought the voice was familiar, but he couldn’t place it. But this was okay; three would be safer than two on the road to Emmaus. “We’re talking about the things that have been going on in Jerusalem,” said Cleopas. “What things?” asked the stranger. “Jesus who was crucified,” replied Cleopas looking surprised, “You must be the only one who doesn’t know!”
Luke 24:13-49 explains that the inquisitive stranger was Jesus. Cleopas and his friend ended up having an interesting day with him. I would like to comment on some of the things that were said and done on this thought provoking day. If you are not familiar with the story it will help to read the verses above first.
Cleopas claimed Jesus was a prophet (19), but he had hoped Jesus was the Messiah (21). He had arrived at this conclusion logically; if Jesus was dead he could not deliver Israel and so he was not the son of David who would rule forever. The best Jesus could be is a prophet like Elijah or Ezekiel. But Cleopas didn’t know that Jesus had risen from the dead and was the stranger walking beside him. Once he realised that Jesus had overcome death, he returned to the belief that Jesus was the Messiah; the one who would rule forever. Our Muslim friends around the world should take note of Cleopas’ thinking here, because the Quran agrees that Jesus is the Messiah (Surah 4:171) but it does not explain what this title means. For this we must go to the Bible. There the Messiah is always more than a prophet. He is a King who rules forever (1 Samuel 7:13) and that is what Jesus himself claimed; that he was King of a heavenly kingdom (John 18:36). The word Messiah means ‘Anointed.’ Kings were anointed with oil at their inauguration. The Messiah or The Anointed One is The King of all the kings (Rev 17:14). This should be taken on board when we see the Messiah mentioned in the Bible or the Quran.
Notice how Jesus responds to Cleopas’ suggestion that he is just a dead prophet. He says, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (25) Jesus then launches into a lengthy survey of what Moses and the Prophets said showing how the Messiah was to die and rise again. There is a lot of material Jesus could have used for this including the Passover, Temple sacrifices, and the promises made to David. But my favourite is the account of Abraham going to sacrifice his son and receiving him back alive. This is a powerful picture of the Messiah laying down his life as a sacrifice for sin and returning from the dead to start a new covenant nation (See Isaacs Easter).
Clearly Cleopas and his friend enjoyed Jesus’ explanation as to why he was more than a prophet because they later said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road ..?” (32) This meant his teaching filled them with a faith and a passion that burnt within. I have felt that on occasions when listening to a teacher who has fresh revelation that makes sense of all the unknowns. That’s what Jesus was doing here.
Christians need to realize that the Messiah’s Resurrection is their central message. It’s the message that makes all the difference. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, there is no good news. Paul put it like this, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:14-20).
At meal time their eyes were opened (31). They saw that the stranger was Jesus. Scripture specifically says that they were kept from seeing it was Jesus until the right moment (16). Perhaps God intercepted their memories, so they could see but not recognize him for that period. Then when the stranger broke bread they suddenly saw who it was, and Jesus disappeared from their site. Can you picture Cleopas staring at the empty seat with a piece of bread halfway to his mouth? There’s a lesson in this. Revelation of Jesus is a sovereign act of God. We cannot make it happen.
Cleopas and his friend returned to Jerusalem (33). They were leaving; everything had come to a bitter end. Now they had a reason to go back. Jesus had risen from the dead. The show was not over; it was just beginning! They were super excited and couldn’t wait to share the news with the other disciples. Has this happen to you? Did Jesus change the direction your life was going in? Did he fill you with a passion to talk to others about him? I know it happened to me.
Jesus shows he is flesh and bones. As Cleopas is telling the eleven about their experience on the Emmaus road, Jesus appears in the room among them. For Cleopas and his friend this was the second appearance in two days. You might think they would be comfortable with it, but they weren’t. They were gripped with fear thinking he was a ghost! So Jesus does what he can to show them that he is physical. He shows them his scars, he allows them to touch him (39), and he demonstrates how he can still eat by having a meal in front of them (43). Even today Christians do not fully grasp the fact that the resurrection is physical. We talk as if resurrection is all about leaving our bodies and going to heaven. No, it’s being reunited with our bodies and using them on earth. That’s right! The last two chapters of the Bible tell us there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Our resurrected bodies are designed for the earth! Oh, it’s true that we go to heaven, but later heaven comes to earth. Somehow the church has forgotten this.
If Jesus’ resurrection was just a spiritual rising of the soul his body would still be in the tomb and Christians would have no way to prove he was any different to any other prophet, or good believer. But the resurrection was bodily and physical and those who are witnesses experienced Jesus that way; they took his bread, they touched his scars, they enjoyed his breakfast (John 21:12). And as Jesus did these things he was saying ‘Follow me’ (21:19), he was showing us the way; his resurrection is proof that ours will follow. “Happy Easter!”
Other Illustrations used: Mourinho’s disguised return | The Crucifix & The Cross | A Wheelchair Resurrection | What one touch can do!
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