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On the Emmaus Road

24 April 2014

Jesus in the OTOn Easter day morning we focussed on Jesus’ resurrection. On Easter day evening we focussed on the disciples’ reaction to this momentous event by looking at the Emmaus Road passage from Luke 24: 13-31.

Even before the Easter events Jesus had taught his disciples what would happen; for example in Luke 18:31-34 Jesus had predicted his death and resurrection:

“Jesus took the twelve aside and told them “we are going to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled….they did not know what he was talking about.”

Despite the fact Jesus taught his disciples that he would be killed and rise again, after the resurrection they were bewildered and confused. Indeed the early Church spent the next three hundred years grappling with the same difficult questions; what exactly did Jesus do on the cross? Exactly who is Jesus? In the Emmaus Road passage, especially v 25-27, it is clear that immediately after the resurrection the disciples have not really grasped who Jesus is, or his significance:

“He said to them, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ 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.”

From their discussion, it is obvious that they believed that Jesus could only redeem Israel if he was still alive; his death seems to mark the end of the road, the end of the line. Israel has been waiting for a Messiah, a strong political/military figure to free them from occupation and lead them forward; like the old glory days of King David. The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to a Messiah of Israel (a royal figure) and a Messiah of Aaron (a priestly figure).

The Emmaus road passage notes that Jesus refers back to Hebrew scripture; to Moses and the prophets, to explain how He fulfils their prophecies about the coming Messiah. We can only guess which passages Jesus referred to. Isaiah 53 v 2 – 12 is a hot favourite, given that this refers to the Messiah as Gods servant, despised and rejected, pierced for our transgressions yet by his wounds we are healed.

There are around 360 prophecies in the Old Testament relating to Jesus; a recommended read to dig into these is Chistopher Wright “Knowing J through the Old Testament.” The disciples were aware of these scriptures, but had not directly related them to Jesus. By the time the New Testament gospel/epistles were written the early church was starting to understand e.g. 1 Peter 1 v 10-11:

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”

The Old Testament and New Testament are consistent in showing Gods divine purpose being worked out. Old Testament and New Testament consistently show the damage and consequences of sin, plus the faithful love of God through various covenants looking to redeem humanity. This Old Testament background makes the showdown at Calvary in the New Testament inevitable!

Jesus is pained by the disciples “foolish thinking” and “slowness of heart in believing” that he is the fulfilment of the Old Testament expectation of the Messiah. We may believe that He is indeed that fulfilment, but there may be many others ways in which Jesus could ask us the same challenging question. As we ponder the events of Easter, we ask if there are ways we respond to God, other people or situations with foolish thinking or if there are ways we are slow of heart to believe? The answer for me in my own life, sadly, is yes. Maybe you can find things in your lives too. The challenge from Emmaus Road for all of us is how do we respond to Jesus’ challenge? Two obvious suggestions; the more we get to know scripture the less prone we are to foolish thinking and the more we get to know Jesus (and the more we see His Spirit at work in our daily lives) the easier it is to believe.

In many ways we are not unlike the first disciples. Yet Jesus loved them, bore with them, forgave them, called them his friends, even before his resurrection. How much more so are we accepted as sons and daughters after the resurrection, even when we engage in foolish thinking or are slow to believe. As we finish celebrating Easter for another year, we remind ourselves that through the events of that first Easter day we can know God, experience his love, get to know who Jesus really is and be filled by Holy Spirit to help us grow in our thinking, belief and faith.

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