A seven-mile walk toward profound revelation
The After Road: Part 1
Everyone has their favorite stories to re-tell. They are often stories of embarrassment, joy, danger, risk or the unbelievable. When you get around your friends, your closest friends, the friends who have been by your side for years, you re-tell those stories. They are markers of unity, triumph, camaraderie and hope. When new friends join the fold, you are sure to download these stories to them as well. Just because they weren’t there doesn’t mean they can’t also experience the exhilaration of those moments.
Ardent relationships are fashioned through these minuscule, imperceptible moments. The moments happen so quickly it’s not until hours, days, months or even years later that you recount their magnitude. Yet, the memory is not comprised of the moment alone. It’s not what you did, it’s who you did it with.
- Maybe it was the time you got suspended from college with your friends because you chose to set off fireworks at 3 a.m. to wake up the entire dorm.
- Perhaps your heel broke just as the man of your dreams passed by, and all your girlfriends laughed hysterically as they watched from a distance.
- Maybe you passed out at the altar of your best friend’s wedding because you locked your knees. Never lock your knees!
No matter how far you go or how high you rise, the friends who were with you in those moments will always bring you back down to earth. You will sit around a dinner table or a fire pit for hours, recounting every detail.
Luke 24:14 seems like such a flippant mention of a profoundly meaningful human moment.
“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them” (Luke 24:13-15 ESV).
One of the men was Cleopas, but we can’t identify with certainty the other man. Regardless, they were talking about all the things that had happened. Imagine for a moment how they recounted the times they laughed until their sides hurt. Perhaps it was the time they celebrated Shabbat at Mary’s house, but Matthew got lost and ended up knocking on another tax collector’s door. He felt so awkward he just stayed there and ate with them.
Maybe it was the time James pulled the stool out from under Peter just as he was about to sit to eat dinner. Peter chased him around the house while James threw pieces of bread and baskets of clothes at him. Jesus laughed and kept saying, “Boys, boys, we’ll never be welcomed back into this home if you keep acting like children!” Of course, Peter responded, “He started it!”
Ah, then the time Jesus laid His hands on the blind and they received their sight. They recited every word and recapped every detail. The look on that blind man’s face … they’ll never forget that look.
A seven mile walk to Emmaus wasn’t going to be enough time to rehash every miraculous moment, profound word and dynamic revelation. They learned so much about God and about themselves during their time with Jesus. They felt valued, seen and embraced for more than their profession. They didn’t have a lot to offer, but it didn’t matter. Jesus understood the relational compound interest wouldn’t be seen until after His final proclamation, “It is finished.”
You can’t imagine the hurt, confusion, joy, sadness, hope and anger the disciples must have felt in the days following Jesus’ death and burial.
Hurt because what they had aspired to see did not happen. Confusion because He was supposed to be the Messiah, but now He just seemed like another prophet – anointed but not the Anointed One.
Joy because the moments were real, the journey changed their lives, and they were honored to have been chosen to see it all.
Sad because they missed their friend.
Angry because He should have fought His accusers.
And yet, for some unexplainable reason, they still had an indecipherable image of hope branded upon their spirits.
A Reunion with their Purpose
While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
As they relived the past, Jesus stepped into their present. As they spoke of the crucifixion, Jesus walked alongside them in resurrected form and power.
As they dwelled on His death, He interposed new life.
The journey to Emmaus was more than a reunion with their friend, their Lord and their Savior. It was a reunion with their purpose. Many theologians have pondered how and why Jesus supernaturally kept Himself from being recognized by the disciples. Perhaps the how is less important than the why. An introspective revelation had to occur. Jesus had to connect the spiritual dots so that their experience and convictions would be melded into a mission of urgent Kingdom advancement.
The disciples were seldom the sharpest tools in the shed. Jesus often had to spell things out, and still they failed to understand.
John records their conversation in John 4:31-33 ESV:
“Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’”
But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”
“Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.
Can you picture the bewildered look on their faces? They were so simple yet walking step by step alongside the infinitely complex Son of God. They were out of their league, yet He was patient, kind and led them like lambs to green pastures and cool waters.
Here they were again, walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, downcast and once again confused by the words Jesus spoke.
“What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Jesus asked.
They stopped walking. For some reason that question knocked the wind out of them. Perhaps they responded in frustration, perhaps in dejection. Nevertheless, they responded how Jesus had responded to the Pharisees time and time again. They answered the question with a question.
“Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Jesus, not to be outdone, responded with another question, “What things?” It was a game of conversational tennis, and the disciples were outmatched.
“He was a Prophet.” they responded.
Ouch. Just a prophet?
This is why He hid His identity from them. Clearly, seeing Him in the past didn’t cement His deity. He needed to guide their revelation. Jesus had planted for years. It was now time for the disciples to plow the ground and harvest the reward. He had to ensure the disciples didn’t get lost in the farming process. They had to finish what He had started, so Jesus seared upon their psyche and impressed upon their hearts the story of humanity’s redemption, beginning with Moses and the prophets.
Just as they put one foot in front of another on the seven mile walk toward Emmaus, so Jesus guided them step by step on the walk toward profound revelation. He was not just a prophet. He was the One whom the prophets prophesied!
Much like the moment with the woman at the well, Jesus was now nourishing them in their spiritually emaciated state with the “food they knew nothing about.” After urging Him to stay after their journey, Jesus sat down to eat with them. He had fed them the Word, and in the symbolic breaking of the bread their eyes opened, and they saw Him again.
“Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around.
The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest” (John 4:31-38 NLT).
The seed had been planted, watered and harvested. It had been ground and formed into bread for them to consume. The whole discipleship process was beautifully calculated with agricultural imagery sown throughout. Adam emerged from the ground much like a seed, but He did not yield the intended produce, so a new Adam had to be sown into the earth, Jesus. The plant had to die, but not before He germinated the earth with grace, peace, love and a stubbornly passionate group of men and women to carry the gospel throughout the earth.
It was this moment of revelation – as they sat stunned at the dinner table, holding the bread in their hands as the Bread of Life spectacularly vanished from their presence – when the final connection was made. The dam of enlightenment broke, and they were bombarded with complete understanding.
- The bread.
- The loaves.
- The five thousand.
- The four thousand.
- The woman at the well.
- The bread of life.
- True bread. Not living by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
- The bread of the Kingdom of God.
- The last supper.
In a moment, Jesus took imagery sown throughout the Scriptures over thousands of years and, upon breaking the bread in their presence, opened their eyes to His resurrected form. They recalled every marvelous work with newfound hope. He wasn’t just a prophet. He was who He said He was … the Son of God … the Messiah.
Immediately grateful for the seven mile walk on the road to Emmaus, “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?’”
In other words, “We knew, but now we know, because He was made known to us, and we will make Him known to the world. But first, let’s get the others, our closest friends. This is a new story they’ve got to hear!”
This Easter as you celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, will you tell your story? Tell the story to all who will listen of:
How Jesus found you at your lowest place and resurrected you to life.
How you were dead in sin, but He did not leave you there.
Miracles He performed for you.
How He healed you.
How He comforted you in your loss and suffering.
Each one of us has experienced our own journey to Emmaus. As you gather with your family and friends, breaking bread – eating ham or lasagna – share your personal stories of what Jesus has done for you. If your story has gone cold, you may find your heart burning within you once more to experience it again.
Read Part 2 & 3 Below: