The horrors of war and suffering are nothing new, yet this conflict in Ukraine has brought it all much closer to home. As I look around the world at increasing troubles on so many fronts, I fear it will get worse, not better, in the years ahead.
My need of God, not a god made in my image, nor my wishful thinking about God, but God as revealed in Scripture, is greater than ever. Perhaps I need to take a walk along the road to Emmaus!
On Easter Sunday two disciples of Jesus, confused and saddened by events of that weekend, are joined by ‘a stranger’ as they walk home from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Their problem? Despite the teachings of Jesus and his explicit warnings on several occasions, they had focused on only one aspect of Messiahship. He would be the triumphant king! In their minds this had to mean the end of occupation, not death in weakness and shame on a Roman cross.
Open the Scriptures
Jesus calls them foolish, slow to believe ALL that was spoken by the prophets. What a wonderful teaching session that must have been, as the very author of life unpacks for them the things concerning himself in ALL the Scriptures (Luke 24:25). How we need this. Jesus from Genesis to Malachi! The Old Testament is important to help us appreciate who Jesus is from Matthew to Revelation, and Jesus in the New Testament is vital to our understanding of the Old.
Open our minds
What did Jesus share concerning himself? Starting with the Books of Moses he no doubt drew their attention to Adam and Eve’s shame being covered with skins and the promise that though her descendant would crush the serpent’s head, his heel would be bruised. I’m sure he talked of the promise to Abraham and the substitution of the ram in place of his son – then the Passover lamb and the protection of the blood. Did he show how the whole sacrificial system foreshadowed the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 who would be led like a lamb to slaughter and pierced for our transgressions.
Sometimes I fear our understanding is limited because we focus on our favourite verses, without grasping the big picture of God’s plan for the world, and the role he has given to us, his followers. Perhaps this Bible study with Jesus brought home to them the awfulness of sin, the deep deep love of God and the inevitability of Calvary, that the path to glory was through pain and death. It was this opening of Scripture and the opening of their minds that caused their hearts to burn.
Open our eyes
Later in the chapter when the resurrected Jesus appears again we read he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:44).”
Our friends on the road persuade Jesus to stay, and he turns from stranger to listener, to Bible teacher, to host at the table. Suddenly they see clearly; they recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread. What wonderful communion as at last their hearts are in harmony with his. Jesus suddenly disappears but Cleopas and his friend have had their eyes opened to God, his plan and their role, all much bigger than they had thought. With great joy they return to Jerusalem and obey their commission to go and tell.