Road to Emaus
By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Perhaps one of the most moving stories in New Testament history is the story of two men who did not recognize Christ though they had been around Him often and had believed on Him with all their hearts. The lessons from this fascinating story appeal to us all the way down at the end of time to make Christ our constant companion. As we come to the close of 2012, look back over the last twelve months and try to see if you have kept Christ by your side. Making Christ your constant companion is perhaps the most important thing for you to do in these last days.
Before we begin, let us pray. Our Father in heaven, today we ask for Your Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and teach us about our need of Christ. How often we turn from Him and go our own way. We walk the road of life sometimes in sorrow, sometimes in discouragement, and often without Christ. Today however, we want to see how we can know Him as our companion day after day. We hunger for His love. We hunger for His power, and we hunger for His teaching. Especially show us from the word of God how we can have His presence, and how our hearts can burn within us as we learn more and more of Him. In Jesus’ precious and holy name, amen.
Put yourselves in the shoes of the disciples of Jesus. They were absolutely devastated by the crucifixion. They had the highest expectations, particularly after the triumphal entry a week earlier. Imagine the enthusiasm and the power of that moment. Here was Christ, ready to proclaim Himself king, they thought. Here is a man with supernatural powers. He can feed the multitudes. He can change water to wine. He can heal the sick. He can even raise the dead. Hope was everywhere. Here was the One who could give Israel earthly success. He even said the Kingdom of heaven was at hand. If ever there was a heaven it was Israel, so they thought.
But all their hopes were crushed. Their disappointment was enormous. They were heartbroken. Instead of proclaiming Himself king, Jesus had actually allowed Himself to be taken prisoner, bound and beaten. Shuttled from one vicious judge to another He was bruised, poked, mocked, smacked and eventually punished for things He did not do on one of those cruel crosses that the Romans were famous for.
The disciples had not realized that the whole purpose of the plan of salvation was for Jesus the Son of God to take the blame for things He did not do. Your repented sins and mine were hung upon that cross too. The disciples missed the point. They were still thinking earthly, when Jesus was speaking of heavenly things.
Now after the Sabbath, the crushing defeat of Friday was especially on their minds. It had been the Passover, the worst Passover they had ever experienced. Two of Jesus’ disciples determined to go home to Emmaus, which was about eight miles from Jerusalem by road. This journey would have taken them two or three hours.
Cleopas and his companion were not of the twelve closest disciples, but they were certainly ardent followers of Jesus and loved Him greatly. Perhaps they had even witnessed the shocking crucifixion of Jesus and then lingered in Jerusalem over the Sabbath mourning the loss of their beloved Lord. Now on Sunday evening, they were finally going home, sad, disappointed, and discouraged. Perhaps they had obligations on Monday morning and could stay no longer in Jerusalem. They would have to go home and pick up their lives and move on.
It was a good long walk to Emmaus, and would have been a very good opportunity to rehearse the great blessings that Christ had brought to them and the promise that He would be resurrected. But this was not the case. They were discouraged. They were terribly disappointed and their hearts were heavy as they began their sorrowful journey to Emmaus. What happened in Jerusalem on Friday had greatly troubled and confused them. Their Lord had been taken from them and their sorrow was profound. They had not understood His words of assurance that His crucifixion was part of the plan of salvation for the human race.
They had heard that someone had taken Christ’s body from Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb, and they heard of the women who had reported seeing angels and who said they met Jesus. But they were utterly disheartened because they had expected something completely different. They were also embarrassed. After all, they had been proudly suggesting to others that Jesus was the Christ and that He would restore the temporal prosperity of Israel. Now everyone would ridicule them for believing a lie and for being deceived by another imposter. What next? “What will we do now?” they surely asked. “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel. How could it be that He has failed us?”
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever think that God has failed you, abandoned you? Do you ever think you have no one to turn to? Perhaps this message is especially for you, because that is the way they felt.
Usually we are disappointed because we have unrealistic expectations of others and when they are not fulfilled, we think they have failed us. Often that happens between us human beings, but it can also happen in our experience with God. Perhaps like these disciples we expect God to do something for us, and He doesn’t or does the exact opposite. Our hopes are disappointed. Our ambitions dashed, and we blame God. We don’t even suspect that in disappointing us God has just done what is most important for us.
Little did these disciples realize that Christ had opened an ever-flowing fountain of forgiveness and love and salvation that could not be shut off. They thought His ministry had come to an end.
Cleopas and his friend were returning home to think and pray in order to find some resolution to the pain and disappointment. Perhaps they wanted to hide from all the laughing eyes. They probably wanted to avoid the condescending stares from those who recently knew them to be followers of Jesus. They were discouraged and now they had to trudge over the rough, stony road to Emmaus.
Isn’t that the way it often is in our lives? When we are disappointed or discouraged, the road seems rough and difficult. It is so much easier when we are happy and content. Sorrow and discouragement make life hard and toilsome.
As their feet passed over the rough stones along the trail, they spoke of the rough time they had just experienced in Jerusalem. They spoke of the trial and crucifixion of Christ and how their expectations were destroyed. As they did, their discouragement deepened. “Hopeless and faithless, they were walking in the shadow of the cross.” That’s Desire of Ages, page 795.
Soon a stranger joined them. They didn’t look at Him closely. They assumed He was just another pilgrim headed home from the Passover festival. Their gloom and disappointment was the only thing on their minds. The shocking turn of events was so overpowering that they openly expressed their sorrow and faithless discouragement in front of this stranger. They were struggling to understand how a man with such powers, such love, could allow Himself to be so humiliated? How could He be the Christ? Christ had taught them many wonderful lessons, but what good were they now?
The scripture says “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.” Luke 24:16. Discouragement reduces your ability to think clearly. It dims your senses and causes you to miss important clues because you cannot be objective. If you wallow in discouragement, it keeps you from overcoming the smallest difficulties and you get stuck in the proverbial rut. Your self-preoccupation keeps positive thoughts from your mind and you can’t find your way out of it. Seeing Christ, they thought He was just another one of the hundreds of strangers that had been traveling along the road that day.
They loved Christ so much, and He was no longer with them. Tears streamed down their faces and made it difficult for them to see where they were going. They would trudge and stumble, trudge and stumble, bearing the heavy load of sorrow.
Christ had pity on them. He wanted to encourage them. He knew their grief. It was as if the light had gone out and they were utterly disheartened. But He knew that if He revealed Himself just then, they would be so overwhelmed with joy that they would miss the more important lessons they needed to learn – how to understand the prophecies of the Bible and Christ’s mission.
Luke 24:17 gives us Jesus’ words to them. “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another,” He asked, “as ye walk, and are sad?”
Then Cleopas said to him, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?” They thought it incredible that this man who had apparently come from Jerusalem would be ignorant of the dramatic and climactic events that had consumed the attention and shaken all of Jerusalem in the last few days. These would be known to anyone who had been in Jerusalem over the weekend. How could He be so uninformed? After all, what the leaders did to Jesus was so well known.
This man, they responded, “which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people;” but “the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.” They clearly saw that it was the church leaders who had condemned Him and crucified Him, not the Romans. They could see that it was an internal political matter that had motivated the accusations against Christ. The leaders could not tolerate someone who did not support them and their teachings and work according to their plans and under their approval.
Then they expressed the real burden on their hearts. “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” The very one whom they thought would break the yoke of Roman rule over Israel; the very one whom they hoped would set up an everlasting earthly kingdom, had been taken from them. He had the power to stop them, but He allowed Himself to be mistreated and destroyed. “We trusted,” they said, “because we believed in Him. He was our prophet.” “We trusted,” they said, because now, all our hopes are dashed.” “We trusted,” they said, and our disappointment is very great indeed.” “Could we have been mistaken? Could we have misplaced our trust?” “We were convinced that He was more than a prophet, but because of what happened, we aren’t sure anymore.”
“But, we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel…” Obviously they thought that meant deliverance from the Romans.
They had not lost all hope. There had been rumors that Christ had risen from the grave. Here is what they said in Luke 24:22-24. “Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not His body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulcher, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.”
So, some of the women among the disciples had claimed to have seen Him and also that they had seen a vision of angels. But, you know how it is. Sometimes people, in their sorrow, see things that they would not ordinarily see because of an overwrought imagination. Besides, others, probably Peter and John, who had also made a quick trip to the tomb, corroborated only part of their story. So, they were uncertain if the rumors were true or not. They were obviously unconvinced of the reports.
These disciples, like all the others, did not remember Christ’s own words. Jesus had foretold His own death and resurrection, but they had only focused on their own misconceptions of the Messiah. He was to come in power and great glory and destroy Israel’s enemies and set up an everlasting kingdom. “The Son of Man,” He said, “is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that He is killed, He shall rise the third day.”
They knew the prophecies of Daniel in explaining to Nebuchadnezzar the image he saw in his dream. But they misunderstood it. They knew that the kingdom represented by the legs of iron was the Roman Empire. To them the feet of iron and clay could easily have represented the current state of affairs within the empire. After all, there were many uprisings, discord and conflicts that could easily represent those feet of iron and clay. They thought that the Messiah was about to come in power and great glory like the crushing rock that pulverized the great image and all that it represented. Jesus was that one who could do such a thing to the Romans. Nobody could withstand him. They didn’t expect that things would drag on for another two millennia.
They could not comprehend that Christ was expecting to be crucified. Yes, they had heard His words, but they had not sunk into their minds. In fact, Christ’s words were so unacceptable to them that they brushed them aside as if they were not true and could not be accurate.
They had also forgotten the part in which Christ said He would be raised again the third day. They could only think of the defeat of their plans, ambitions and expectations.
The priests and rulers had not forgotten Jesus’ words about His resurrection. Matthew 27:62, 63 tells us that even though it was the Sabbath, they went to Pilate and asked him to seal the tomb and put an armed guard around it. They suggested that the disciples would steal the body and deceive the people that Christ had risen. The rulers of the people and church actually believed His words and were afraid that He would in fact be raised from the dead. They didn’t believe them unto salvation, but they did believe them.
Listen to what they said to Pilate. “Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.”
The hatred of the church leaders for Christ was so strong that they were even willing to break the Sabbath and go to Pilate to make sure that Christ would be prevented from coming forth from the tomb.
You see my friends, it is easy for us to misunderstand things and bend everything to fit our preconceived ideas. And the disciples somehow thought that the false prophetic principles outlined by the Pharisees and other professional theologians were right. After all they had studied theology and they had all the degrees. Who could argue with them?
Over the course of His ministry, Christ had plainly outlined to them the fallacies of the teachings of the leaders. He was quite frank about His mission to undermine their false teachings, and everything He did was designed to overthrow the loyalty of the people to their teachings and place them back on the Bible.
Isn’t that what Christ designs to do today? So many people are steeped in the traditional interpretations and teachings that they cannot see or understand the Bible. They think that the theologians and professional ministers have the right answers that they just accept what they say without question. But their religious leaders often mislead them into thinking that the Bible isn’t authoritative, and that it is just a book of stories with good morals. Or they suggest that they can pick and choose what they want to believe and that not all of scripture is authoritative.
So, Christ permits disappointment to come to us as He did to His disciples so that we are jolted with reality and learn to think clearly about His plans. I suspect that there will be another great disappointment among God’s people in the last days. Perhaps the people, systems and structures that have their confidence will collapse one day and they will be shocked and disappointed. Many people think that events will turn out a certain way, and that organizations and entities will be prevented from being manipulated by Satan. But that isn’t so. It is patently obvious for those who are willing to see, that things aren’t the way they should be. God is not pleased when men use their influence to support and defend the status quo, and leave needed spiritual reforms for another generation.
So often today when we talk about reform, we think of change in general. But too often reforms tend to be in the opposite direction of God’s plan. We leave spiritual regeneration for others at another time. We are content and happy with our false ideas and we live to please ourselves.
But Christ found a way to inspire courage and faith in the prophecies as He walked with the two disciples to Emmaus. He tried to show them that what they thought was defeat, was really a powerful victory. Often it is that way in life, my friends. We experience what we think is defeat, but it is God’s way of bringing us to victory. Often He uses negative circumstances to move us forward in our spiritual progress. He even uses our failings and stumblings to lead us to victory.
Christ spoke of Himself in third person. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” That’s Luke 24:25, 26.
Who is this? They thought. “How can He understand our sorrow? How can He speak so earnestly and hopefully to us?” Now they began to feel hopeful as if there is a hidden purpose to all the events that took place on Friday. They looked at the stranger and wondered why He spoke the same kind of words that Jesus would have spoken. But they didn’t recognize Him because they thought He was dead.
And how many of us today don’t recognize the providence of our loving Savior because we are disappointed and lack faith in His love and promises. We attribute to Him too little power. We treat Him as if He is dead to us, or at least not interested in us. We do not live in His love, and we do not therefore possess His power in our lives.
The disciples were amazed and their hearts were cheered by His words. “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Just imagine having such a Bible study with Christ Himself! What a thrill that would be! You will have the same kind of experience, you know, if you yield your life to Christ now. If you start to study your Bible earnestly, Christ will come to your room as verily as He came to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus and expound “in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Isn’t Christ the theme of the whole Bible? If you study your Bible you are studying about Christ. As you read and study your Bible, try to find the ways in which each verse ties into Christ, His will, His law, His life or His salvation. Then find ways to apply the principles to your life. Every verse of scripture, in some way, reveals something about Christ to us. There is power in the word of God. It will change you and mold you.
Christ promises to send the Holy Spirit to teach us. When you have the Holy Spirit, you will have a Bible study like no other. It will inspire you and move you and motivate you. Christ’s whole life was spent getting the people to read and understand the scriptures. He had to undermine the teachings of the rabbis so that people could understand the scriptures. Imagine that! Hard though that was, He did it faithfully.
What scriptures do you think Christ used to explain the real plan of salvation to these two downhearted souls?
What about that one in Genesis 3:15? “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy see and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heal.” Christ was wounded for our transgressions, but He was victorious over Satan whose end is now assured because of it.
Perhaps He showed them from Exodus 12:5 how the lamb without blemish represented the perfect sacrifice that Christ would make for our sins. “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year…” This was a representation of the perfection of Christ’s character.
Maybe He showed them Numbers 21:9 “And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” The serpent represents sin. We have all been bitten by sin and we will die eternally unless we have salvation. But Christ became sin for us and was crucified on a pole, a cross, so that we too could look to Him and live. This no doubt made a lot of sense to the two men.
What about how the suffering Jesus fulfilled the words of Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”
Or how the Jewish leaders mockingly fulfilled the words of verse eight which says “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” (Also see Matt 27:43).
Or verse sixteen, “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” For sure, the assembly of the wicked priests and rulers had surely surrounded and enclosed him. And they joined with the wicked nation and called upon them to accomplish His death. That’s also the way it will be at the end of time with Christ’s followers. The wicked, including many who claim to be Christians, will compass about God’s people and seek their destruction because they keep God’s holy law.
And then there is verse 18 of Psalm 22, which prophesied, “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”
Can you imagine the astonishment of the disciples as they discerned the meaning of these words of prophecy of Holy Scripture as directly applying to the cross of Christ? It was as if strong rays of light came into their minds and they saw Jesus their Master as never before. Often it is after the fact, when we realize the significance of things that happen to us, isn’t it?
Here is another one that He might have used. Isaiah 7:14 says “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us.” God came in human flesh to unite with the fallen human race forever, so that He can experience our sufferings, endure our temptations and at last be victorious over the evil one. There is power in these words, and Christ brought them to bear on the minds of these two dear brothers.
There is also Isaiah 50:6, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” This was precisely fulfilled.
Consider Zechariah 9:9 which says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion: shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Again this was exactly fulfilled.
And all of Isaiah 53, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted… and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all… he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not His mouth.”
No doubt Cleopas and his friend were astonished at the clear presentation of how pointedly the prophecies of Christ were fulfilled to the very letter. Their hearts were touched by the love of God and the details that the scriptures gave concerning the purpose of Jesus’ death on the cruel cross.
How about Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Christ showed them that this would be the result of His sacrifice. The whole universe would be at peace, under the Prince of Peace.
There must have been no better Bible study than that. These words stirred these men deep inside, and they realized that Christ was indeed the Messiah, and that He had fulfilled every detail. But more importantly, they now understood why He had to suffer. Christ was in fact, the One to redeem Israel, not from their temporal rulers, but from their spiritual ruler, Satan. It was a spiritual kingdom that Christ was to establish. Now they understood it. Now the scriptures came alive to them. They were no longer in darkness. All the Old Testament scriptures looked forward to the Messiah. They saw that Jesus was their focus. Jesus was their Lord and Savior.
If Christ would have revealed Himself at first, they would have been so overjoyed that they would not have appreciated so fully the truths He shared with them. They would have been satisfied and probably would not have remembered the important lessons He now opened to their understanding. They would not have hungered for more of His word. Christ drew them to the scriptures. Through His words, their hunger for more of the word of God grew. It was important for them to see how the Messianic prophecies, historical events, and sacred rites applied to Christ and to themselves. He wanted them to understand the prophecies so that they could understand His mission. Christ knew that if their faith was not rooted in scripture, they would not remain steadfast when the storms of doubt would come upon them.
The same is true in the last days. God’s people need to see how the prophecies apply to our own times and to see how they draw us to Christ. I’ve had people sometimes say to me how the application of the prophecies is depressing. But the fact is, these things, which appear depressing are the very things that reveal that we are near the coming of our Lord and Savior in the clouds of glory. After all, the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 would have seemed depressing to the disciples. You know, all those wars and rumors of wars, pestilences, famines, earthquakes and other signs of the times. And then He added that these things are only the beginning of sorrows. Now that’s depressing. But He had more to say. He also spoke of the great time of trouble. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” That’s depressing too (verse 21). He spoke of false Christ’s, and false prophets, and great iniquity and abominations. Oh, these are depressing.
But what was He really saying? Christ was saying that these things must come to pass and He is warning us of them so that we are prepared mentally and physically for them. He wants us to survive the time of trouble such as never was. He is not trying to depress us, but rather to give us joy that our redemption draweth nigh. He wants us to have happiness in the midst of all this depressing news.
Throughout history, Christ’s followers have had to suffer abuse, loss and privation. They are called to self-sacrifice and self-denial. This is the road to happiness. It is not depressing. It is the way of life, eternal life. So when disappointments come upon you, when your expectations are not met, and when you think that you are abandoned and alone, that is the time to rejoice. That is the time to start singing. That is the time to think of our heavenly home where Christ is preparing a place for us that we may live with Him eternally.
Don’t yield to depression when you think of the difficulties of the time of the end. Think of what it means. We are so often like the disciples. We see only the earthly. We see only the sorrow and woe. We see only the pain and sickness and depressing scenes around us. But God wants us to realize that all this is the result of sin and because the love of many waxes cold, and sin abounds, we realize that His return is nearer than when we first believed. We are almost there. Do not lose hope. Do not lose faith. Do not lose courage. This is His message to us.
Our faith can be firmly founded upon the Holy Scriptures. We can be encouraged by them, strengthened by them and empowered by them. It is our first and most important work to find in God’s word the explanations and perspectives necessary to navigate the discouraging circumstances around us. Most people are dealing with these terrible things today without the Bible to show them the way. They have no hope.
The disciples looked upon the discouraging circumstances of Christ’s death as if it was the end of all their hopes. But now Jesus showed them from the prophecies of scripture that all of this was foretold about the Messiah. They now saw it in a new and powerful way. He showed them how that these prophecies of the suffering Messiah were really the strongest evidence for their faith in Him. He showed them that they need not lose faith and courage, but that now they had something so much better than the mere presence of Christ. They now had the eternal victory over the evil one.
From the scriptures Christ showed these disciples what His mission was as a human being. He showed them that their human ambitions to have a Messiah that would take the throne and kingly power were wrong. And today Jesus wants us to understand that often our own desires are not for our best good, and that often He has to disappoint us so that we can understand the real Jesus. We often paint a false Christ in our own minds. We often falsely think that if we are Christians, we will have prosperity in earthly temporal things. But this is the same kind of thinking that the disciples had. They wanted a Messiah that would satisfy their carnal desires. Christ knows that through disappointment of our human ambitions and desires, we will often be more open to hear His voice.
By explaining all the things concerning Himself to the disciples from the scriptures, Christ used the Old Testament prophecies to help them understand who He really was. Likewise today, the prophecies of the Bible open before us the true nature of the work of the Holy Spirit and the issues in the great controversy between Christ and Satan that will help us navigate the crisis that is coming upon the world and especially on God’s people.
“Many professed Christians now discard the Old Testament, claiming that it is no longer of any use. But such is not Christ’s teaching. So highly did He value it that at one time He said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16:31. That’s from Desire of Ages, page 799.
None of God’s word, my friends, can be neglected. All of it is included in His expressed will for our lives. Some people say that the Old Testament no longer has any meaning. Others say that you can’t apply all of the New Testament for our time and that the local culture at the time it was written by the apostles is different from our own. Still others believe that the Bible itself is not authoritative today. But that is not the way Christ teaches. Christ continually called the disciples back to the scriptures and away from man’s tradition. It is in the Bible that Christ is revealed from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation.
Christ explained to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that their idea of the Messiah, whom they thought would take the throne of Israel and restore Israel’s temporal glory, had misled them to reject Christ’s suffering and death. They did not understand that Christ would leave the highest position in the universe and take the lowest that could be occupied. This is totally contrary to human nature. But self-sacrifice is the key to heaven. God had to reveal to the human race that God is not selfish, nor self-centered.
What Christ experienced in His humiliation and shame was the very thing that the scriptures had foretold. Imagine listening to Christ tell His story and the reasons for His cup of suffering! What a lesson that must have been! They could now understand more clearly the purpose of the Messiah’s divine mission laid out before the world was created. And though Christ died as every sinner must if he continues in sin, it was not a defeat. It was a great and eternal victory.
Now the two disciples walked with a spring in their step. Their tears were dry. Now their hearts began to burn with love and wonder at the great sacrifice of Christ for the fallen world. There was much at stake in the death and resurrection of Christ. And it isn’t just the salvation of the human race; it involves the eternal security of the universe. If Christ would have yielded to even one temptation of Satan, the universe would not have been safe. There would always be a lingering distrust of God.
There is one more thing that Christ told the disciples about on the road to Emmaus. In the course of His conversation with them, Christ told them of the future. Of necessity He would have told them about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. This would have been another blow to their pride and ambition, for Jerusalem was their great religious symbol. They had another preconceived idea about their church structure. They thought that there was nothing that could happen to Jerusalem. It could never be overthrown. Its walls and ramparts were impregnable, so they thought. Yet weeks before, Jesus had already prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed. Now He could explain to them the reason why. Jerusalem represented a church that had rejected the Lord of glory. Their system was no longer a living example of the way of salvation. Christ, the great anti-type, had taken its place. The eternal law of God was still in force. The Old Testament was still an inspired source of instruction, wisdom and authority. Only the typical system was no longer necessary. Christ had met the type in His life and death. Now they understood more clearly the blindness and opposition of the church leaders. They could see that Jerusalem no longer represented the place where God’s presence would abide. He had left the temple, and its destruction was assured.
Christ did not want His people to have any surprises. So, He told them everything they needed to know. He revealed to them that a new church was soon to arise, one that He could use to proclaim the present truth for that time.
Still, these two men, Cleopas and his friend, did not yet suspect who their special companion was. How often, my friends are we blind to the heavenly realities all around us. How blind we are to the providence of God. Little annoyances come up, and we are so quick to become upset by them, and complain, and we close our eyes to His promises, His providence, and His purposes. In reality we are complaining against God because nothing can happen to us without God’s permission. We complain and lose the blessing that God has designed for us. We are so preoccupied by our sorrows, aches and pains that we forget that we are under the special care of the one who loves us more than we can know.
If we would only think more on Christ, if we could only remind ourselves of His providence, the little disappointments and discouragements of life would be as water rolling off of a ducks back. So often we miss the fact that Christ is right by our side. We are blinded by our own pride and self-respect, our own disappointments and sorrow.
How many times has Christ come to you in third person, that is, in the person of some pain, some insignificant annoyance and some trifling disappointment? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could look at those things as God’s way of maturing our faith in His love and power?
The two disciples assumed the stranger had been at the great feast and was now returning home. He was just as careful as they to avoid the rough stones on the winding mountain road. He would even stop with them for a short rest from time to time. Christ didn’t need to be careful about stones. He didn’t need to stop for rest, but Jesus showed His sympathy and oneness with humanity by living among us and putting up with our humanity. He has taken that humanity onto Himself for eternity. He is forever one with the human family. He understands our sorrows. He understands our disappointments. After all, how much sorrow and disappointment did He suffer?
Imagine these two men conversing with the One who was soon to take His place at the right hand of the throne of God in the heavens. They did not realize that they were conversing as a friend with the One to whom holy angels bow in great humility and adoration. Little did they comprehend that walking humbly beside them was the One who could say “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Matthew 28:18. Little did they know that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was respectfully explaining the Bible, the most sublime truth, in the most understandable language. All heaven would soon be given the command to bow in worship before the Victor in the battle with Satan. Yet, here He was tenderly, patiently explaining the prophecies of scripture to these two sorrowful disciples. His priority was not the honor and glory, but the happiness and joy of His followers on earth.
And friends, it is the same today. When you open the word of God to study its sacred pages, it is the same Christ, who sits at the right hand of Power, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who is again patiently, tenderly, explaining the scriptures to your heart and mind, teaching you of the things of God, of Christ and His purpose for you in these last days. He reveals the prophecies of the future today, just as He did with the two men on the road to Emmaus.
By the time the three of them reached Emmaus, the sun had set. All was quiet in the little town by the time they reached Cleopas’ home. The fields were now silent from the day’s labors. The shops were closed, and the streets were empty.
Luke 24:28 says that the stranger “made as though he would have gone further.” The disciples were so enthralled with what He had told them that they did not want Him to leave them, so, they said “Abide with us.” Verse 29
But the stranger appeared not to accept their invitation. This alarmed them, for they did not want to lose His presence. They were so hungry for more of the scriptures that they pressed their invitation upon Him saying, “it is toward evening and the day is far spent.” Christ then yielded to their plea and “went in to tarry with them.” Think about it, the Victorious King of the universe was willing to enter this humble home and accept its hospitality. Do you think Christ would do that today? I know He would!
What if the disciples had not urged Him to stay with them? Can you imagine what they would have missed? They would have lost the most wonderful revelation of the victorious risen Christ and their souls would have been left without the fullness of the blessing that Christ longed to bestow on them. He longed to reveal Himself to them, but He waited until He had their invitation. Christ will never force Himself on anyone. Christ is interested in those who need Him. He loves to reveal Himself to them because they recognize their spiritual hunger and long for more blessing. He loves to cheer the humblest and sorrowful hearts. If we are too indifferent to think about Christ; if we do not recognize that we have heavenly guests that want to bless us and surround us with joy and love, it will not happen. He will pass on, and we miss a wonderful opportunity. We will not recognize Him any more than did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Oh friend, press the invitation upon Him today! Don’t miss the blessing.
How many times have you neglected to press your invitation on Christ? He will gladly enter your home and bless it with His presence. No home is too humble. No soul is too sinful. Look what he did with the Samaritans. Look what He did with Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Look what He did with Zacchaeus. You and I can have the same presence of Jesus in our homes as if He was literally present on earth. The Holy Spirit will bring Him right there with us. Oh friends, urge your Savior to abide with you. This is the most important request you could ever ask of Him. For when He abides with you, you have it all. Salvation has come to your home.
As they entered the home, the presence of almighty God came in with them. As they prepared the simple bread for their evening meal, little did they realize the surprise that awaited them. As they placed the food before their guest who took His seat at the head of the table just as He will in the earth made new, He now stretched forth His hands to bless it, as He will in that great banquet, the marriage supper of the lamb when sin and sinners are now more. Just as it will be then, it was for the disciples in that humble home. There, as His hands were stretched out before God to ask His blessing, just as He had done hundreds of times before His disciples, they saw the unmistakable marks of the cruel nails that had hung Him to the cross. Suddenly, the two men realized who it was that was with them. They fell back in astonishment. This is Christ! It is the Lord Jesus! He has risen from the dead!
They are stunned as the meaning of what happened to them began to sink in. They realize that He has been with them for virtually the whole journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They realize that it is He who has explained the scripture prophecies to their understanding like never before. Now that their spiritual eyes were open, they were prepared to have their physical eyes opened as well. And they saw the Lord Jesus their Savior. They instantly jump up from their seats to bow in reverence before Him and worship Him. As they do, He vanished out of their sight. Verse 31.
They have just walked with the One who had so recently been laid in a grave. They have just been talking to the risen Christ, and it takes a few moments for them to process all of that. Then they exclaim, “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?”
Christ loves to do the same for you and me. He loves to cause our hearts to burn with love and adoration for the One who is our Lord. Every day we have this privilege. When we start the day with Christ, He will do the same for us. We cannot neglect this precious opportunity. He will come into your home and raise His nail-scarred hands in blessing upon you and your family. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? The Messiah, the Victor, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will enter your home and make your heart burn with His love and power through the study of the word of God. He will also reveal Himself to you through the scriptures like you have never understood Him before.
The two disciples were so overwhelmed by the good news that they had to share it with the disciples back in Jerusalem. But that meant that they would have to retrace the eight miles back to Jerusalem in the darkness. They lost their hunger and they leave their meal on the table. They are energized and filled with joy by the wonderful news that Christ has risen! They immediately determine to go and tell the disciples in Jerusalem.
Remember the road back to Jerusalem was a mountain road and in some places it was dangerous, particularly at night. But they hurried back anyway. Their message is too important to wait until Monday morning. They climb over the steep places. Up and down they go along the twisting, winding road. They slip on the rocks, but catch themselves and keep going. They lose their way, and then find the track again. Sometimes running, sometimes walking, pausing barely long enough to briefly catch their breath, the disciples scrambled as fast as they could back to the city.
With them in the darkness was Jesus Himself. They could not see Him, but He was there, protecting them along the way.
Friends, that is wonderful news! It is important for us to understand that Jesus travels the road with us, even if we cannot see Him. He is by your side no matter how rough, how dark, or how difficult the road may be. He knows the way and He will help you keep on track.
The disciples press on as fast as they dare. The night may be as dark as any night can be, but Christ’s light is shining upon them. They have His joy. They have a new perspective, a new outlook. They live in a new world. To their minds, everything is bright and hopeful, even though the night is dark. They no longer mourn. Their tears have ceased to flow. And now they keep on repeating the words, “He has risen, He is alive.”
Again, this is what Christ wants to do for you and me. He wants to take our darkness and make it bright with the light of His presence. When you come to trouble in your life, or a dark experience, that is God’s way of offering you the same experience He gave to these two devoted men.
When they finally reach Jerusalem, they enter by the eastern gate, which is left open at night during the festivals. I can imagine that they have a few bruises and scratches from their hurried journey along that treacherous road. But everything is quiet. The houses are dark. Many have gone to bed. The moon shines on the deserted streets.
Cleopas and his friend find their way to the place where they knew the disciples would be, the very place where Jesus ate the last supper with them before His betrayal, persecution and death. The door is barred shut. They knock, but do not get an answer. They give their names and the door opens cautiously. After all, the occupants cannot afford another betrayer. As they enter in, another unseen enters with them. They lock the door to keep out any unwanted spies or enemies.
The disciples are excitedly talking about the news of Christ’s resurrection. “He is alive,” they told Cleopas and his friend, “Praise be to God! The Lord has appeared to Simon.” Then the two men, still breathing heavily from their hasty journey to Jerusalem, tell of their story, of the two hour walk with Christ explaining to them the prophecies, how they pressed Him to stay with them, and how they recognized Him when He raised His hands to bless the bread. They tell all, of their discouragement, and how Christ brought them hope, their faithlessness and how it was replaced with joy that now burns in their hearts.
Some of their number still can’t believe it. They are still bowed down with sorrow over the huge disappointments they have suffered.
Suddenly, there He is standing in the midst of them. Startled and terrified the disciples look around to the door and they see that it is still locked. How did He come in? There was no knock on the door. There was no noise of footsteps. Is this a ghost, they wonder? They are filled with fear and terror the Bible says in Luke 24:37.
Then Jesus speaks to them in the voice they know so well, melodious, full of joy and assurance, “Peace be unto you,” He says. Verse 36. Christ had often said words like these words of comfort before, so they were very familiar.
But they are still uncertain and He can read their hearts. In verses 38 and 39, “Why are ye troubled? He asks. “And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”
Here Jesus emphasizes a point that is very important. By pointing them to His flesh and bones, He is emphasizing His humanity. He also shows them His hands and feet because the scars are also intended to remind them and us of His humanity throughout all eternity. He wants the disciples to understand that He is one with the human race. He is one of us. He may have capabilities that we do not have because He is God. But He is human. Forever human. Forever God with us, just as His name Immanuel reveals.
The disciples looked at Jesus hands and they see the nail prints that will ever remind us of His great sacrifice. They look at His feet, and again they are reminded of His great love. No spirit has a body and bones that would have been nailed to a cross.
The disciples recognize His voice. It is like no other, soft, warm, kind and gentle, they are soothed by His words.
Finally, even though the truth of Christ’s presence began to sink into their troubled minds, and joy began to fill their hearts, yet the astonishment was so great that they still had a hard time believing it.
To further let it sink in, Jesus asked them “Have ye here any meat?” Eating is not something that a spirit needs to do. Jesus however, had eaten with them many times, and this would help them understand that this is no vision, it is no hallucination. It is real. It is Christ Himself that sits with them. They “gave Him a piece of broiled fish and of an honeycomb,” and He ate it in front of them.
Now faith and joy filled their hearts. Yes, it is the real Christ. It is not an apparition, and they acknowledged Him as their Savior. His words of peace still fresh on their minds, the disciples worship Him.
“Jesus is ever ready to speak peace to souls that are burdened with doubts and fears. He waits for us to open the door of the heart to Him, and say, Abide with us. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20. That is from Desire of Ages, page 803.
After He ate, Jesus had another Bible study with the disciples. “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” That’s verse 44.
Jesus reminded them of His words. He wanted them to learn to rely on His word as true and faithful. But He also turned them to the scriptures. Verse 45, “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” He explained the prophecies to them. He explained how He had fulfilled them. Can you imagine how the disciples now listened carefully to what Jesus was saying to them? All the things they had put out of their minds because they didn’t want to hear them now made so much sense. Now they could truly understand the mission of Christ to the world.
Often we don’t really understand the truth of the scripture, unless we go through some experience that brings it alive. When we have a dark time in life, God uses it to help us understand how He works in the shadows. When we’ve gone through it, we have a much better understanding of the meaning of the words found in scripture.
Christ concluded His lesson by drawing their attention to scripture again. Verses 46-49 say “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”
Now Jesus gives His disciples some instruction concerning their duty. They were to preach Christ among the unbelieving Jews. They had to follow in the steps that Christ had gone through before them. It became clearer to them that they had a work to do to win the world for Christ and explain the mysteries of salvation. They were soon to go out and help others understand the scriptures just as Jesus had done with them. They were to explain the prophecies so that lost souls could find their way unto salvation. They were to prophesy of the future.
Now they understood the scriptures in a new and living way. Now they realized that they were to go and tell others the truths that Christ had entrusted to them. John 20:22 “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”
Christ gave His disciples a down payment of the Holy Ghost that was to come upon them upon His glorification. He gave them a small dose to commit to them the great gospel commission. It was as if He was assigning them their work.
And today, He does the same for us. He gives us a measure of His Holy Spirit so that we are empowered to begin the work we are to do. And as we do, He will give more of His Spirit. The reception of this gift, prepares us to accept the power of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. The Holy Spirit is the life of the soul. It is also God’s way of bringing the life of Christ into our hearts so that we live His life. Then we are able to stand as His witnesses and minister to lost souls and bring them to a knowledge of His saving grace. In these last days, the Holy Spirit is given to strengthen you for the work of reaching out for lost souls in darkness and bringing them to the light. The prophecies are to be proclaimed concerning the last days and the preparation that is needed to get ready to receive it.
So, friends, if you feel like you are on the road to Emmaus in your experience, this is the time to go back to the Bible and learn the lessons He taught to Cleopas and his friend. Make Christ your constant companion. He has a purpose for you. Let Him navigate the difficulties of life for you.
Our Father, how grateful we are for the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. What precious lessons are taught in it! I pray that we will be daily making Christ our constant companion. We need His instruction and teaching. We need His love to empower our souls. Today, Lord, let us not be discouraged by our circumstances. But let us learn to rejoice in all our disappointments and discouragements. And we will thank you and praise you throughout all eternity. Tenderly show us your truth, like You did for Cleopas and his companion. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
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