The Emmaus Road: New Hope for Shattered Dreams!
Death Dashes Hope
Gary Thomas, in the magazine Christianity Today, wrote of Leonid Brezhnev, atheist and former leader of the Soviet Union who died in 1982. At his death, Vice President George Bush was asked to speak. Bush later said that he was deeply moved by the silent protest of Brezhnev's wife who stood motionless at the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the casket lid to close it, Mrs. Brezhnev performed an act of great courage and hope. And if you know what the Soviet Union was like, you'd know that what she did was a great act of civil disobedience which could have gotten her into immense trouble with the state. She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest. Here are the words that Gary Thomas told us about this event:
"There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all, hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband."
Mrs. Brezhnev had some vague understanding which many in America need to grasp in our 21st-century world. That there is hope in the crucified Christ. But more importantly, there is hope in the empty tomb of Jesus.
Today, we don't celebrate a dead Savior. We celebrate a gloriously risen Lord who is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, waiting to return to this earth one day as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will not return as a helpless baby but as a conquering monarch who will reign over the entire universe.
He died and rose again from the tomb. Jesus rose from the grave, never to die again, but rather He is the hope of eternal life for all who accept Him as Savior and believe in His name.
I think we have all experienced, or will one day do so, a time when we lose hope in the future. Or maybe in something, or in someone. Some terrible trial comes that doesn't ever seem to go away. A relationship that we thought would last a lifetime suddenly ends. Or we look at all the good things in our lives and ask: "Is that all there Is?"
An ultimate dream-destroyer and hope-dasher is the death of a loved one. We make so many plans for our future. And in it we envision this person by our side, sharing our victories and all that goes with them. Now, that person is gone, never to be seen again on this earth. All of our plans will have to be re-arranged. And suddenly, those hopes for the future don't seem as good anymore. And we ask: "Why?" "Why him?" "Why her?" "Why now?" "Things were going to be so well! But now, it's over!"
Such were the thoughts of the disciples on that first Good Friday. The day that Jesus died on a cruel cross. To them, it didn't seem so good. They had pinned all of their hopes and desires for the future of their nation and themselves upon this one man. They thought that He'd be the promised Messiah, the Anointed One, the King that would free them from Roman rule and lead them into the glorious future that God, through His Scriptures, had promised them.
Maybe they would have a place next to Jesus as his co-regents in that glorious kingdom promised to one of King David's descendants.
However, what was left of those aspirations had lain dead in a cold tomb, covered by a huge stone and guarded by a host of Roman soldiers. And, not only that but now it appears that something has happened to the body. Perhaps someone had taken it for some dastardly purpose. Some of the Apostles checked and the body was indeed gone. Sure, some women had seen a strange vision of two men they thought to be angels who had told them that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:1-11). But nobody believed women in those days. They couldn't even testify in a court of law.
All that they knew for sure was that their King was dead and with Him, so were their visions for a brighter, more glorious future. "Why Him? Why now? What next?"
It is these sorts of questions that all of Jesus' followers had. And it was probably these very words that the two disciples of Christ were discussing when Jesus Himself approached them on the road to Emmaus.
I. The Disciples and the Setting of the Emmaus Journey
And what about these two persons, traveling? In all honesty, we don't know who these disciples were who were walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus that day. The Gospel of Luke, from which we get the most full account doesn't tell us much. Luke relates the story in 24:13-35. All we know from this is that one was named Cleopas (Luke 24:18). The other's identity, though widely speculated about, is not given. Some even hypothesize that the second disciple wasn't even a man but Cleopas's wife or daughter. However, the Holy Spirit leaves that to our imagination.
The Gospel of Mark is unhelpful here. Though it is the only other Gospel account that talks about the encounter with Jesus by these disciples, Mark barely mentions the event and doesn't tell either of the people's names or the fact that they were headed to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13).
The truth is, we don't even know exactly where Emmaus was either, though tradition tells us that it was most likely a town known as Kubeibeh, which is 7 miles North West of Jerusalem. All this mystery could be so that we might place ourselves in the footprints of these disciples. So we too can take our journey on our own Emmaus Road and find the one who offers us true life and true hope.
As a matter of fact, many who have studied this account have said that it is a model story that shows the journey that every true Christian makes as Jesus opens our eyes and points us to the Word, revealing Himself to us in life's walk, and finally showing Himself as the resurrected Savior and Lord. It represents our own personal journey to belief.
II. The Account of the Emmaus Journey
Getting back to the story, it was on the very day that women had discovered the missing body of Jesus and also the day Peter and John verify that it was missing, that we see the two disciples traveling the road to Emmaus (24:13). Obviously defeated and most likely wanting to escape all the mess that had happened in Jerusalem, they were walking and talking about Jesus.
While talking, it says that Jesus Himself came up to them and began questioning. However, their eyes had been Supernaturally closed so that they didn't recognize their Lord (16).
The men were quite surprised that, after all which had taken place, this stranger didn't seem to know anything about what had transpired in Jerusalem these past three days. This was odd considering the crucifixion was such a well-known event.
After getting over the initial shock of the seeming ignorance of their fellow-traveler, they answered his questions about what they were discussing. Here is the exchange:
And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.
Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. some 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.” (24:19-25).
After hearing this, Jesus rebuked the poor slow disciples on their lack of faith. He told them:
"Oh, foolish men and slow of heart to believe what the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory!" (25).
What followed then was probably the greatest Bible lesson this world has ever heard, coming from the lips of the one who created the universe. Jesus took all of the Scriptures and expounded them, telling the two disciples how all of Bible that they had at the time, meaning the Old Testament, told of Him and His mission to this world.
When they all approached the village, Jesus acted as if He were going on, but the two disciples urged Him to stay because it was getting near evening. So when they arrived, they began to eat a meal together. Jesus blessed the bread and broke it. Then when He handed the bread to them, suddenly their eyes were opened and they recognized their master. Then Jesus vanished from their sight (24:28-31).
The two then responded:
"Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" (32).
With that, they didn't wait until the next day. They departed that same hour to go the 7-mile journey back to Jerusalem to tell the others what they had seen (33-35).
They had left Jerusalem, sad, dejected and hopeless! They would return excited, encouraged and with infinite hope. Their Lord was Alive!!
III. The Hope of Our Emmaus Journey
Well, the journey of these disciples happened more than two thousand years ago now. And it is safe to say that we understand more about the death and the resurrection of our Lord than they did then. We know that Jesus was more than just a political figure who came to bring hope to the nation of Israel as their future King. He was and is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the whole world. And all who come to Him through faith will be saved and inherit eternal life.
But we do have something very much in common with these two disciples. We all, like they, have to be confronted by the Savior. It is He who, through His Spirit, opens our eyes and reveals Himself to us. And it is we who have to accept Him as our Living Savior and Lord.
All who have accepted Him and His sacrifice for our sins have realized the utter hopelessness of life without Him. If you have never concluded that life has no ultimate meaning without Christ, then it is my desire that you have your own Emmaus road crisis today. Because this life is short. It will end sooner than you think, and you need to accept Him in order to have an eternity in Heaven in the future.
Scripture teaches that without Christ, we are all dead in trespasses and sins and under the wrath of a Holy God who cannot look upon sin (Ephesians 2:1; Habakkuk 1:3; John 3:36). All without Jesus are without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). And their eternity will be separation from His presence forever in Hell and ultimately the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20).
But, thanks be to God, the resurrection gives us power for the present and hope for the future. Jesus has conquered death, Hell and the grave and offers that experience to us as well. Like these disciples on the Emmaus Road, we have reason to have excitement, encouragement and infinite hope!! Our Lord has risen from the grave! Death could not hold Him. Satan could not stop Him!! He indeed is Alive!!
Famed T.V. producer Alfred Hitchcock hosted his own program a generation ago. In it, he told a lot of eerie and bizarre tales. One of those tales was dramatized in a 1987 episode which was actually a remake of a 1964 story. It was about a murderous woman who, once condemned to prison, vowed that she would never be held captive and that, somehow she'd figure out a way of escape. The story was simply entitled: 'The Final Escape.'
This woman studied carefully her surroundings looking for a way out and noticed an old gravedigger whose job it was to cart away the deceased prisoners for burial in the plots in the graveyard just beyond the prison.
The lady noticed that the man was old, moved slowly and that his eyesight was badly impaired by cataracts. She approached him one day to bribe him into helping her escape,
The plan that she made up was simple. When the death bell tolled, indicating that another inmate had died, she would make her way to the morgue and climb into the coffin with the dead person. The gravedigger would then wheel the coffin to the plot and bury it in a shallow grave. Then he'd come back after dark and release the woman to freedom. All this would be in exchange for the money for the old man to get cataract surgery to restore his sight. The old man agreed and together they waited for the opportune time.
Time passed and then the woman heard the death toll. She was excited because to her it was the sound of freedom at last! She felt her way through the dark room and found the coffin laid out on the cart, waiting to be removed. Opening the lid, she crawled in next to the body then pulled the lid shut.
The lady soon felt the cart moving. She could almost taste the freedom that lay ahead. Moments later she felt the thud as the coffin was lowered into the ground. She heard the dirt as it hit the lid. Then silence and nothing. Minutes turned into hours but still, no one came. She became panicked and struck a match, surveying her situation. To her horror, the poor woman found out that she was face to face with the gravedigger. No one was coming to save her.
Sadly, Hitchcock's murderous woman had placed her life in the hands of one who had no more power over the grave than she had. In the end, she had no hope. The question is, who are you placing your trust in for hope beyond the grave. Buddha? Mohammad? They are both dead and buried. But whoever your deliverer is, whenever you strike your match, make sure that they are not in the grave with you.
The disciples from Emmaus found the only man in history who proved that He has the power over sin and the grave. Jesus did this by rising from the dead Himself and He wants to be your deliverer as well. Hallelujah, we serve a risen Savior! And It is He alone that gives us real, lasting and eternal life! Let us worship Him who gives us both hope in this world and in the one to come!
© 2019 Jeff Shirley