Things could not have turned more cruel or ugly on the cusp of such a promising weekend. No one was prepared for what happened on that Friday and then on Sunday. ♦
The two men were devastated as they walked toward the village. Certainly many in the city where they began their trek were crushed by what had transpired only two days earlier in the sparse outskirts of town. The townspeople, particularly the devoted followers, must have been in deep shock and depression after witnessing the speed and brutality of dubious justice by those in power, as well as the turning and distancing of so-called devotees who only days earlier had heralded the victim’s arrival.
Such was most likely the mood and tenor of that first Sunday morning, that first Easter after the disaster that occurred with the arrest and swift trial, conviction, and execution of the hope of Israel, the so-called Messiah, this Jesus, the Christ. He the one that many of the Jews in Jerusalem had determined was the anointed king who would free them from oppression and bring to life the promises of their beloved Hebrew prophets of old.
But Jesus was now dead. The dream and the dreamers were crushed.
This would be an unfathomable blow to the disciples and Christ-followers. Their leader was gone. Quickly snuffed out by a cruel Roman occupying authority with cooperation and encouragement by a corrupt and deceitful Jewish religious ruling class.
What happened? How did this happen? How could something so good, right and promising go so bad, wrong and get destroyed?
“You Don’t Know?”
Here’s the full Biblical account of the two men leaving Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus following the crucifixion of Jesus. The story is provocative, supernatural even. Actually, so Christ-like:
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.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “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 they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “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?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on 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?”
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. (Luke 24:13-35)
The Ultimate Teaching Lesson
These two men on the road to Emmaus were given an exceptional gift and opportunity to be side-by-side with the risen Christ, to engage and even have a meal with Him.
And a Biblical history lesson from Christ himself.
Jesus ties together the Scriptures from Moses to the Prophets and connects the dots on all the references to himself, indeed the promised Messiah. It would take the further illumination with His appearances to the Disciples and over 500 people over the next 40 days for all the implications of the once-dead and risen Messiah to fully sink in.
The world has not been the same since.
What I Would’ve Done
How would you react if confronted with the events of that first Easter weekend? I believe I would have followed or watched Jesus out of curiosity. I would have observed in real disappointment as he was killed by the Romans and then questioned his stature since he never seemed to effectively defend himself.
I would have needed a “road to Emmaus” encounter with the living Jesus to bring about a turnaround in my skeptical thinking. Without that I do believe I would have come around to full-fledged Christian faith at some point in the following months or years. If not by my own witness of the resurrected Christ, then by the teachings and writings of Paul and the early evangelical apostles.
Yes, that first Easter week began so exciting and promising. But then it quickly turned so dark and evil, reaching great depths of tragic despair. But what was in play was much bigger than anything that one person could have naturally expected or honestly anticipated. As such, the resurrection of the crucified Christ was and is the most significant event in human history. And we all are confronted with this great story, the history, and the very real evidence available to us of the resurrected Christ.
How we respond is our own personal plight.
Have you confronted and dealt with the resurrection of Jesus?
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all… – Acts 4:33