Disappointment, Broken Dreams and the Sovereignty of God
The Emmaus Journey
They were two very sad and disappointed men, traveling the Road to Emmaus. Their dreams were shattered. Their master and teacher was dead; murdered by the very government from which they had hoped he would deliver them. Rome was a noose about the necks of the people of Israel and they so wanted Jesus to be the Messiah, the anointed king that would start a new golden age for God's chosen people. But now it seemed to them that Jesus was like all the rest of the Messiahs who had come and gone. All talk and no action.
I. The Identity of Cleopas
Scripture only records one of the names of these men in this story from Luke 24:13-35. Verse 18 tells us that He was called Cleopas. Although we don't know for sure who he was, many scholars believe him to be the brother of Joseph, Jesus' earthly father. His wife was the other Mary at the cross found in John 19:25. (Clopas is a form of Cleopas). This same Cleopas is also believed by some to be the Father of James the less, one of the twelve apostles, as well as Jude, and also the grandfather of the sons of Zebedee James and John (two other members of the 12 apostles).
But whoever he was, or his companion, we know that they were devout men, and ones who loved Jesus and believed in what they thought to be His cause. And their pain and disappointment had momentarily caused them to be without a purpose in life. Their dreams were shattered. They were traveling to Emmaus, but weren't sure what they'd do when they arrived. Their lives as they knew them to be, ended with the death of their Lord.
II. The Entrance of the Lord
But the beautiful thing about God is that He can take a seeming ending and make a new beginning. He truly brings life out of death. The Lord puts the broken pieces of dreams back together again and makes them more beautiful than we could have ever imagined for ourselves.
The two men were talking about the events of the day, while walking, and low and behold the Lord Himself came up to them. At first the men didn't know Him. Somehow He was able to make it so they didn't recognize that the One whom they mourned was standing right in their midst. And their lives were about to be changed forever.
Jesus asks the men: "What is this you're talking about?" Cleopas answers: "Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem today that has no idea what has happened?" The crucifixion of Jesus was such a well known event that these men were shocked that there was someone who hadn't heard about it.
They went on to explain that Jesus was a prophet, mighty in deed and word in God's sight and how the rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death. They told of their shattered hope that He would be the one to redeem Israel.
On top of all of this, it was the third day following His death and the Lord's tomb was empty. Some women said that they had seen a vision of angels who said that Jesus was alive from the dead. Others had gone to confirm that Jesus' tomb was empty and, sure enough, it was true.
III. The Teaching of the Lord
Then Jesus began to rebuke them: "Oh foolish men and slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" The Old Testament is full of references to Jesus if you but look with the eyes of faith. But these men, and indeed it would seem that all of our Lord's followers had missed it. So the Savior Himself becomes the teacher and goes from Moses through all of the prophets and explains all that was written concerning Him and His salvation ministry to the world. What a wonderful teaching session that must have been to have the divine author of Scripture explain the true meaning of what was written.
IV. The Revelation of the Lord
Then when the disciples approached the village where they were headed, Jesus acted as if He were going to go farther. Because of the lateness of the hour, the disciples urged him to stay the night. Then they all ate a meal. Jesus took bread, which was reminiscent of the Passover a few days earlier. He blessed the loaf, broke it and began to hand it to the men. It was then that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him whom they loved with all their hearts. Immediately after that, He vanished. I can imagine what these men felt when they finally knew who Jesus was. It must have been a combination of joy and bewilderment, for they did not yet know the full scope of the resurrection, and all that it means to us today. They didn't have the benefit of the New Testament Scriptures and 2000 years to explain it. But they did know something. When they heard Jesus speak, recounting the Old Testament Scriptures and how they pertained to Him, they felt something they'd never known before. In fact, they said: "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" Indeed, something wonderful had happened. They had encountered the resurrected Lord of glory. And their lives were forever altered!
V. The Modern Emmaus Experience
All of us at one time or another have had our own Emmaus experience. We have had our dreams shattered and our hopes dashed. Life doesn't always go the way that we intend. In fact, sometimes it goes horribly wrong. Life can be disappointing and throw us for a loop. It is then that we have to recognize that we are not alone. There is someone right there beside us on our Emmaus journey, walking with us. He too has experienced great suffering and pain. And He has gone through rejection and misunderstanding by those who should have known better.
But this Jesus not only has the power to sympathize with our weakness. He can actually give us the ability to turn our Emmaus experiences into a great victory. We are promised that all things will work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8;28), Those seeming tragedies, are really triumphs in disguise. For God is using each thing that happens to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. Nothing that happens to us can be allowed unless it first is approved by the God who loves us more than any earthly parent ever could.
So whatever your Emmaus experience may be, give it to Jesus. Let Him take it and make it an event that brings honor and glory to God and a sense of peace and triumph to you. As the song states: "Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus; shattered dreams, wounded hearts and broken toys. Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus. And He will turn your sorrows into joy." That about sums it all up. Thank God for our road to Emmaus. For only in it can we know the true power of a loving God and His purpose for our lives!