Last month I wrote about the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection. It must have been exciting to listen to Jesus as he opened up the Scriptures as they walked (even though they didn’t know it was Jesus!). Indeed, they later remarked how their hearts had “burned within” them as he spoke to them. But all the while he had been pointing to himself; he presented no philosophy, no ideology, no fad or fashion. He presented a person, the person of the Son of the living God. We can talk and discuss, and it is good to do so, but in so doing it is possible to fail to realize that the Christian faith is a relationship with a person, Jesus.
When the three arrived at Emmaus it was late and so the two disciples invited Jesus in to stay the night. They still had not recognized him but during the meal, as he broke the bread,“ their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight”. A few hours ago they had been deeply dejected and disillusioned but now, in a simple, familiar act, they recognized him. Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. Those four elements of taking, breaking, giving thanks for, and giving bread form the same structure in the gospel stories of the feeding of the four thousand, the feeding of the five thousand and the last supper that Jesus shared with his disciples in the upper room before his death. They may very well have observed Jesus feeding the crowds and possibly even presiding over other meals when he followed the same formula. In any event, God enabled them to recognize Jesus at this point, following a familiar procedure in a familiar setting. The more familiar we become with the character and person of Jesus the more readily we shall recognize him in those times of disappointment, reversal and perplexity when everything seems to suggest his absence rather than his presence.
They now discovered that the truth was the opposite of what they had supposed. Not only was Jesus not dead but very much alive, but also he had not let them down nor failed to deliver on his promises. He was who he said he was, he had done what he said he would do and, far from having abandoned them, he was there for them. Now they had something to share with love, urgency and joy in fellowship with other believers and seekers after the truth.
• They had something to share with love because, as Jesus had been speaking with them their hearts had been burning within them.
• They had something to share with urgency because they got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.
• They had something to share with joy and fellowship because on arriving at Jerusalem they found the other disciples had made the same discovery: Jesus was alive and had appeared to Simon. Adding their own testimonial evidence must have intensified the joy and celebration even further.
The Emmaus story is a story of encouragement within a context of disappointment, and is further evidence of how, despite the worst take we may have on a situation, we can discover that God has a better plan and a more glorious revelation to make than ever we could have dreamed of. So often we are disappointed because we are looking in the wrong direction, just as those two men, after the events of Good Friday, set off in the wrong direction. Even so, the Lord is well able to meet us on the wrong road and set us on the right one – and that’s encouragement!
Warmest greetings in Christ,
Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus