By Rosie Moore.
Imagine seeing Jesus in the flesh after his resurrection! The pair on the Emmaus road had burning hearts as Jesus walked beside them and opened up the Old Testament to them. They started their journey bewildered, sad and disappointed, but that evening at dinner, Jesus opened their eyes to see that the cross and empty tomb were part of God’s plan from the beginning.
Back in Jerusalem, the eleven disciples thought they were seeing a ghost when Jesus joined their meal. But he invited them to touch his body, reminding them that his death and resurrection was all written down centuries before, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44; 45). When they finally turned to their Bibles and saw Jesus for who he was, they couldn’t be silenced. The fire of the truth could not be extinguished. Is that your experience?
Today, let’s join two burning hearts on the road to Emmaus:
15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 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?”
19 “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. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 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. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
We had hoped…
Why is it so easy for us to misunderstand who Jesus is, or be disappointed that he has not done for us what we hoped? Perhaps it’s because our view of Jesus and what He came to accomplish is skewed, confused, small or incomplete. Perhaps we don’t pay enough attention to the original source, but only to podcasts and videos about Jesus, plucking from the Bible the ‘useful’ bits that fit our hopes, dreams and needs for today. Like the two disciples, we too are prone to define Jesus for ourselves but blind to God’s big story for the world. Jesus tells us where to look if we want to see Him and his mission clearly. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the whole Bible to see who Jesus is and why He’s much more than we could ever hope for.
In all the Scriptures…
“He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
You might find it odd that Jesus’ first revelation of himself to these disciples was by way of a Bible study from the Old Testament! That isn’t exactly the kind of sentimental message we pass around social media, which makes us Oooh and Aaah in amazement! Jesus was explaining how all those flawed heroes, stories, symbols, laws, sacrifices, shadows and types were scenes from an unfinished play, awaiting their fulfillment in Him. As Nancy Guthrie writes,
“The Old Testament serves to point out our cavernous need for a better law keeper, a better judge, a better prophet, a better priest, a better king. Jesus must have looked Cleopas and his companion in the eyes that day and said, “That’s me. I’m the one the whole of the Old Testament points to. I’m the one God intended to send all along.”
It was while Jesus filtered familiar Scriptures through the mesh of the gospel, that the sparks of spiritual insight were lit, and their eyes became clearer.
Their eyes were opened…
…29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! (Luke 24:29-34).
But is it true?
Today’s familiar story is happy and hopeful, but I pray our hearts are burning with its Truth. Luke intends us, 2000 years later, to be fired up by the same internal combustion engine that no one has been able to switch off since those first disciples saw Christ alive. The resurrection is a critical moment. Jesus’s whole life stands or falls on this moment in history. In fact, the whole Bible stands or falls on whether it’s a fact or fallacy. Was Jesus a blasphemer, a delusional man, a liar…Or was He speaking the truth when He called himself the Messiah-King? (Matt 26:63-64)
The only way you and I will answer that question with integrity is if we read the gospel accounts for ourselves and decide whether Christ’s claims are true.
Search the Scriptures, see Christ for yourself!
I’d like to suggest that the best way you can spend lockdown is by returning to the source and searching the Scriptures for yourself.
I’d like to suggest that one of the best ways we can use our time in lockdown is by turning to the source and searching the Scriptures for ourselves.
“Jesus showed us that the surest road to wisdom is not speculation, reasoning, or reading human books, but meditation on the Word of God…When Jesus sought to enrich others, He worked from the quarry of Holy Scripture…O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson!” (C.H Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Jan 18).
Read for yourself how Jesus showed the first eye-witnesses his hands and feet and invited them to touch him (Luke 24:39-40). Join their journey from amazement to adoration as they exclaim one by one, “My Lord and my God!…It is the Lord!… I have seen the Lord!… It is true!” (John 20:28; John 21:7; John 20:18; Luke 24:34). Read for yourself how they watched Jesus fill their fishing nets and eat a breakfast braai with them on the beach (John 21:1-14). From defeat, doubt and disbelief, they were led by the truth to clarity, joy, worship and boldness. Is this your experience?
But this story is a forewarning that the truth is flammable. Once God’s Spirit opens our eyes to see Jesus in the Scriptures, we cannot be silent about Him. The Bible isn’t just ink on paper, or inspirational thoughts, or head knowledge. It should fiercely impassion our minds, emotions, words and actions! It’s God’s true story of what He is accomplishing in the world, and in us, through Christ. And it is only this fire of truth that will make us bold and confident in the gospel over the long haul. Without the fire of God’s Spirit, we will just use the Bible to gather dry factual crumbs or inspirational quotes, instead of feasting on Christ, the Bread of life. Let us be warned by the Pharisees of Jesus’s day:
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).
Lord, open our eyes to see and wonder at the truth of who you are in the whole Bible. Give us a big, beautiful picture of yourself that not only fills our hearts, but extends to the whole world. Help us to be diligent in searching the Scriptures for ourselves, rather than relying on snippets from those who are more learned. Holy Spirit, make our hearts burn with the truth of your Word every day of our lives. Soften our hard hearts that think we know it all already, but refuse to come to you personally to have life. Amen (John 20:31; John 5:40).
A foretaste of our new series “Burning hearts”
The Emmaus Road was just a foretaste of the revelations to come. Before Jesus sent his disciples out as his witnesses to the world, He spent almost forty days opening up the Jewish Scriptures with them. He showed them how every book from Genesis to Malachi pointed to Himself and mapped out their gospel mission to the nations. He taught them, through the familiar Torah, how God’s promised Messiah would save them through suffering, dying, rising and returning as Judge and King on the last day. Don’t you wish you could Zoom to those Bible studies with Jesus?!
In the weeks before Ascension day, The God Walk will give a tiny taster of what Jesus discussed with his disciples in these final days. We will start at the beginning, Seeing Christ in Creation. Then the Lamb of God, Son of David, Wisdom Song and The Prophet’s Promise. I look forward to walking with you on our mini Emmaus road!
Instead of a song, here’s a video to help us to see that Jesus truly rose from the dead. I pray that you will stand alongside those first eye-witnesses and say, “It is true!” And that this truth will change you forever.