Thought for the Week - 17th April
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 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.”
25 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.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 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! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
I always find this story quite difficult to get my head around because the two people knew Jesus well, but when Jesus joined them, they didn’t recognise Him. Why? Partly this was spiritual, “They were kept from recognising Him”. I also wonder if they were caught up in their despair: Jesus had died, and while the tomb was empty, they didn’t think he’d risen again. Their inability to see Jesus was accompanied by their blindness to what had happened at the tomb. They were caught up in what they could physically see: they could see a physical world, but not the spiritual one around them.
We can all be just as blind. Before we were Christians, we didn’t see things like we see them now. When we were saved, our eyes were opened, we experienced life in a new way, as the hymn Amazing Grace says: “I once was blind but now I see”. But as Christians, we can be blind in a particular situation or in our daily lives, where we can’t see Jesus in it, where it feels like we’re walking along without Him.
Jesus revealed Himself to the two people in three different ways, and these are also a good guide for how Jesus can reveal Himself to us, even when we don’t feel we see Him.
First, He asked them about their problems: what they were discussing. Jesus lets them unload their troubles. Roy Hession writes of how Jesus reveals His power by responding to our needs: by raising up our needs to Him, rather than fixating on them or trying to solve them ourselves. As one song puts it: “In my need, His power is displayed.
Second, He reveals Himself through the scriptures. Jesus shows Himself to us through what we read in the Bible. When we are struggling, how often does a verse strike at the very heart of our problem and open our eyes? This happened for the two: they said afterwards that their hearts burned within them when Jesus opened the scriptures to them.
Then, before the third way, they invited Him to stay with them. There’s something we need to do on our part. It’s amazing: that we can ask Him to stay with us and He answers.
Thirdly, He reveals Himself through communion: He took the bread and broke it. This was an ordinary, end of day meal, but Jesus turned it into something extraordinary, into communion with Him. Jesus wants to turn the ordinary in our lives into the extraordinary. Through the act of communion, as well as simply spending time with Him: He reveals Himself to us.
And what was the outcome? Power. Shortly before, the two people were encouraging Jesus not to go further, because the day was almost over. Jesus is always ready to go as far as we’re willing to. But now, they got up and quickly travelled the seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell the others. They literally turned 180 degrees.
As soon as they recognise Jesus, He disappears. Why? Before He died, Jesus had said, “The coming of the Kingdom of God is not something that can be observed… the Kingdom of God is in your midst”. Jesus wasn’t just interested in showing them He was alive – He was training them: not to rely on outward signs or the physical world, relying on emotions or senses which can fail us but to find the Kingdom of God within them. And for us too, that we can seek and find Jesus in the quiet places of our hearts, as the quiet, unmoving rock that stays still when all about us, and even the feelings rising within us as stormy.
Like for Elisha’s servant, God wants to open our eyes to things unseen, to see the power that surrounds us, protecting us and allowing us to move forward in Him.