Believe It or Not.
Matthew 28:9-15; Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” – Luke 24:17-18 NLT
This is a wonderful story, full of irony, humor, and fascinating juxtapositions of sorrow and joy, defeat and victory, and tragedy and triumph. Jesus has risen from the dead and has begun revealing Himself to many of His followers. News about His resurrection has begun to spread, but it has been met with disbelief and incredulity. When the Jewish religious leaders were informed about what had happened at the tomb by the guards who were ordered to protect the body from being stolen, they couldn’t believe their ears either. This was the worst thing that could have happened. It was what they had feared would happen and they they had begged Pilate to post guards at the tomb in the first place. But rather than believe the guards’ stories and accept that Jesus had risen from the dead, they concoct a lie that accuses the disciples of stealing the body while the guards were sleeping. Think about that. While the guards slept, somehow the disciples rolled away a large stone from the face of the cave and then carried off the body of Jesus – all without waking the guards! And how would this admission of dereliction of duty look on the records of the Roman guards? Sleeping on the job would not be a career enhancer for these men. But evidently the story of an earthquake and an angel appearing and rolling away the stone sounded far too unbelievable too. And the fact that the guards fainted at the sight of it all would not exactly leave the guards looking good in the eyes of their superiors either. So they agreed to spread the lie, and it became the popular explanation among the Jews as to what had happened that day.
But meanwhile Jesus was living, breathing and walking about. He was revealing Himself to His followers. And Luke records His encounter with the two on the road to Emmaus. They were leaving Jerusalem and heading home. Their mood is one of sorrow, dejection, and disappointment. Their dreams have been shattered. Their Messiah is dead. And all their hopes of a restored Jewish kingdom and salvation from Roman rule have died with Jesus. Then suddenly, Jesus appears walking next to them, but “God kept them from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16 NLT). Here was the resurrected Jesus walking right beside them, but they didn’t realize it. So Jesus asked them what they were discussing and they respond with surprise at this individual’s ignorance of current events. “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days” (Luke 24:18 NLT). Unbeknownst to him, Cleopas was addressing his somewhat sarcastic remark to the very one to whom all “the things” had happened. So Jesus, playing dumb, asks, “What things?” Then they begin to tell Jesus all that had taken place. But notice what he says. “He WAS a prophet.” “He WAS a mighty teacher.” “We had HOPED he was the Messiah.” They had been told that His body WAS missing. These same individuals also told them that angels had appeared to them saying the Jesus was alive. But Cleopas and his friend hadn’t believed a word of it. Why? Because Luke tells us that when Jesus found them walking on the road, they had “sadness written across their faces” (Luke 24:17 NLT). Despite the fact that there was news that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb and that He had risen from the dead, they refused to believe. They were headed home in defeat and disbelief. So Jesus said, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26 NLT).
Then Jesus began to unpack the Old Testament Scriptures, from the writing of Moses to all the writings of the prophets, showing them all the things concerning the Messiah. This was a comprehensive Bible study taught by the Savior Himself, and the focus of the study was Jesus. Later, when they finally recognized who it was who had been walking and talking with them, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn with us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32 NLT). Why did their hearts burn? What was it that lit a fire inside them? At that point they still didn’t recognize Him, but as they had the Scriptures opened up to them, they became convinced about who Jesus was and all that the Messiah had come to do. The written Word of God opened their eyes so that they could receive and believe in the living Word of God. Now, rather than going home, they returned to Jerusalem and found the disciples and told them about their encounter with the risen Lord.
The Word of God reveals the Son of God. The Old Testament gives us a vivid glimpse into the life of the Savior. He is represented throughout the writings of Moses and the prophets. His suffering, death and ultimate resurrection was prophesied. His crucifixion was predicted in vivid detail. His torture at the hands of the Romans was written about hundreds of years before it happened. His substitutionary death and sinless sacrifice were told clearly presented long before they ever happened. But all those things were overlooked or ignored by generations of Jews because they didn’t fit their concept of who the Messiah would be. But God’s ways are not man’s ways. He never does things the way we would. He had a plan that would make no sense to us. But it was the only plan that would work. It was the only plan that would satisfy His holiness and still allow Him to extend grace, love and mercy to those who had openly rebelled against Him. Jesus was the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament predicted. The writer of Hebrews tell us, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3 NLT). God had predicted the coming of His Son. Then He actually sent Him to do what He had to do. And one day He is coming back to complete God’s plan. And the Scriptures reveal that part of the Messiah’s assignment as well. Believe it, or not.
Father, Your written Word is full of insights into the life and ministry of Your Son, and it’s not relegated just to the Gospels. His life and ministry is found throughout the Scriptures. Give us a desire to know Him better. Give us a passion for Your Word because it is in Your Word where we discover the truth regarding Your Son and His ministry, past, present and future. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men