Have you ever felt disappointed about something God did? Have you been disillusioned because God did not answer a prayer the way you wanted? Have you been discouraged because faith is much harder than you imagined? Have you wondered if trusting God was worth the trouble?
Last week, a friend and influence in my children’s lives unexpectedly died of a heart attack. I wondered what God was doing. A pastor in his 40’s was recently diagnosed with ALS and given about three years to live. The question of “Why God?” came to the forefront of my thoughts. More times than I care to admit, I have wondered aloud why God didn’t give me a different personality or set of gifts to be successful in ministry. “Why did God call me to a task that he did not equip me for?” I’ve thought on several occasions.
If you have ever been disappointed, disillusioned, discouraged, or despairing about your relationship with God, you’re in good company. Jesus’ own disciples felt those emotions following the crucifixion. Luke 24:13-35 tells the story of two disciples who gave up after the crucifixion and went home.
The story begins at the end of the worst weekend of their entire lives. For three years, the disciples followed Jesus. They learned from him. They believed in him. A few days previously, they hailed him as the triumphant hero as he entered Jerusalem. But then he was crucified. Now, feeling discouraged (17) and disappointed (21), they gave up and went home (13). These two disciples had a threefold problem—they didn’t see (16), they didn’t understand (17-24), and they didn’t believe.
As they are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus joins them on the journey. He asks what they are talking about (17). Surprised he doesn’t know the current events (18), they fill in the backstory (19-24).
During the course of the conversation, Jesus meets them right at their point of need, though he does so in reverse order. He addressed their unbelief (25), he explained the truth (26-27), and he opened their eyes (30-31).
While the text doesn’t tell us the content of their discussion, it’s not hard to imagine. Perhaps Jesus began in Genesis 1 by explaining that God created a perfect world and perfect people. But sin entered the world and people chose to sin (Genesis 3). Perhaps Jesus reminded them that God promised to send a deliver who would crush Satan (Genesis 3:15). Maybe he discussed the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4) and how Cain tried to earn God’s approval through his own efforts but Abel brought a sacrifice. Chances are Jesus brought up Abraham sacrificing Isaac and his confidence that God would provide a substitute (Genesis 22). Undoubtedly, Jesus talked about the need for the Passover lamb to be without spot or blemish (Exodus 12:5) and that atonement came through the blood of the sacrifice (Leviticus 17:11). Jesus probably spoke of the fact that the Messiah would suffer for our sins (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22).
Arriving at their destination, the two disciples invited Jesus to join them for a meal and to spend the night with them. During the meal, their eyes were opened as he broke the bread and gave it to them. Maybe his language or mannerisms reminded them of when Jesus fed the 5,000. Perhaps they had heard the story of the last supper in the upper room. Possibly they saw the nail prints in his hands when he distributed the bread. Either way, they recognized him right before he disappeared from their presence.
Now that their eyes were opened, they had to tell someone. They hustled back to Jerusalem to spread the news (33-35). When we encounter the risen Christ, we can’t wait to tell others.
What can we take away from this story?
- Jesus suffered and died for our sins as the Scriptures foretold.
- He rose from the dead on the third day as the Scriptures predicted.
- Not only did he appear to these two people, he also appeared to over 500 others.
How should we respond to this message?
- Examine the evidence. See for yourself what the Bible says about Jesus.
- Ask God to answer your questions. He can handle your doubts.
- Believe the message. Ultimately, it comes down to making the choice to believe the facts.
- Receive the gift of forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross so we can be forgiven.
- Tell others what Christ did for you. Be like these two disciples and spread the good news.
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 5, 2015. It is one of several messages on the resurrection of Jesus. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.