Day 8 of the Week That Changed History
It was like I had been reading the scripture the way I wanted it to read instead of letting it talk to me!
The following is based on Luke 24
“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.” Luke 24: 1-9
It was early in the morning and the sky was getting brighter as I walked the dusty road speaking in low tones with my friend Cleopas about the things that had transpired over the last few days. So many things! All very bad!
It started with the arrest of Jesus in the Garden east of the city. During the night and into the early morning of the Preparation Day (Friday) the soldiers and mob began to move Him between the governor and religious leadership. Then they beat Him to a pulp and eventually crucified Him on a Roman cross on the hill outside of Jerusalem later in the afternoon on the Preparation Day. I watched as He hung His head and took his last breath. I think I saw Peter off in the distance. He appeared to be on his knees with his face in his hands. His disappointment must be very great! We all loved the gentle Jesus and will miss Him. He certainly went about doing good. I just don’t understand. Why?
I will certainly be labeled as a fanatic believer by my brothers, the Sadducees. The religious leadership have declared Jesus a blasphemer.
There had been an earthquake and the sun refused to let go of its light. Darkness took over the land like a thick wet smothering blanket. Everything seemed out of place…frightening. The large curtain in the temple had been ripped from top to bottom by some unseen hand. There were even reports of people, considered saints, coming out of their graves and appearing to many in the city! (Matthew 27: 51-53)
My personal disappointment was great, because I believed everything He said and was amazed at His great miracles and works of kindness. We thought Him to be the Messiah prophesied by many of the prophets hundreds of years ago. He was going to set up His kingdom and deliver the Jews from the iron rule of Rome. He was the coming king upon which I hung all my hopes. But, it seemed like He did not want the office of king. I had left everything to follow Him and learn His teachings, but all this seemed to come to nothing on that Friday afternoon when He died.
Now only doubt, sadness, and disappointment draped itself on Cleopas and me. My head is spinning with confusion. I want explanation, but the reality of deception was creeping into my thoughts and it made me feel sick and foolish. On top of everything else, the body of Jesus is missing! The women said He was alive, confirmed by a couple of other disciples, but I know better. It is just wishful thinking on their part. No one could have survived the beating, the nails, the loss of blood, and finally the sharp sword in the side. I saw it and refuse to belief anything but what my eyes can confirm. There was no mistaking… the vision of so much blood and the pale appearance of death was real.
We are on our way to Emmaus to start over; a walk of about 8 miles. It will take me the usual 3 1/2 hours or so to walk…maybe longer today because of our conversation and heavy heart. This will give us plenty of time to try to put all the pieces together….to try to understand and make sense of everything and to decide what to do with the rest of our lives. My clothes are now those of the common person. I have removed my garments worn by the other Sadducees.
All of a sudden, and unexpected, a stranger walks up from behind and joins us. He asks,
“Why are you so sad and what are you discussing?”
I find these two questions odd in the light of the excitement and well-known events of the weekend. Slightly agitated and amazed Cleopas speaks before I can open my mouth and he answers the question with a question. He throws in some sarcasm for good measure.
“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem that does not know the things which happened there this last few days?”
I am even more amazed when the stranger asks,
In disbelief, we began to explain to the stranger the events of the last few days. Reviewing everything does not help my disappointment and we rush through them as a courtesy to the stranger.
“These things concern Jesus of Nazareth who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people . The chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. Then they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”
Then the stranger calls Cleopas and me “foolish ones” and that we are “slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken” This is certainly not so! I have always believed the prophets. I have come from a family who believes in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and I have read it often. The prophets said, that the Messiah would come and deliver Israel from its enemies.
But the stranger began to recite the writings of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) and all the Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Malachi, etc) of the Tanakh and explain things I had missed before.
The stranger clearly points out passages that were references to Jesus. For the next 3 hours, I am amazed at the knowledge and clarity of the stranger’s words. As I listened to him recite our ancient books, I begin to see that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the sins of the world, but that He would be raised up the third day! How had I missed that? Why had we not believed Jesus when He said it was necessary for Him to die and that he would rise again? It was like I had been reading the scripture the way I wanted it to read instead of letting it talk to me! Indeed, we felt foolish, but encouraged by the words of the stranger. My heart burned within me! I wanted to hear more! This was all exciting and new to me! Hope was starting to spring up in my heart! What if Jesus really was alive again?
As we near the village it is almost dark. I don’t want the stranger to go and I look for excuses for Him to stay the night so we can hear more. Thankfully, He agrees to have supper with us.
As He breaks the bread, I recognize those hands and the manner in which He breaks the bread! I finally look across the table into his eyes about the same time as Cleopas. It is Jesus! As soon as we recognize him, He disappears! We had been talking to Jesus the whole time and we didn’t recognize Him!
With intense excitement and joy, Cleopas and I jump up and run the 8 miles back to Jerusalem in the dark! We must tell the others who were behind closed doors…those who share our confusion and disappointment. When we arrive, we find them huddled in a group in fear and disappointment. Out of breath, we begin to tell them what had happened over the last several hours. As we are telling them, Jesus appears in the room!
Everyone jumps back. They think they are seeing a spirit, but Jesus tells them it is Him and that He is not a spirit. To prove it, He invites them to touch Him and He asks for something to eat. They give Him some fish and some honeycomb. After everyone settles down and the scales of their eyes begin to fall away, Jesus repeats the same type of study Cleopas and I heard on the road to Emmaus. This time, He uses the entire Tanakh including the Psalms to explain how He is found all through scripture. All the disciples begin to understand that He had to die, but that He would rise on the third day. How could we have been so slow to understand? It was right there!
Then He said to us,
“These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you. that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. And He opened our understanding that we might comprehend the Scriptures.”
The only disciple not with us is Thomas. The disappointment of the cross was too much for him. We have not seen him since Friday. It will be 8 days before Thomas shows up….
Next, we will take a look at Jesus through the eyes of one who is a well-known doubter (Thomas) and attempt to understand why the resurrection of Jesus is an absolute cornerstone of the Christian faith. In fact, without it, Paul says we are most pitiful of all men (1 Corinthians 15: 12-19). But, after we see through the eyes of Thomas we will exclaim as he did:
“My Lord and My God.” John 20:28