Rev Scot Schlittler
“And behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.” Luke 24:13
Well, we’ve sheltered in, applied for unemployment, and heard some heart wrenching stories. Some of us even have been part of those stories. We’ve seen beautiful demonstrations of love and sacrifice, giving and receiving, recoveries and refrigerated trailers for lost loved ones. We’ve seen corporate abuses, government blunders, and public demonstrations. We’re sick. We’re sore. We’re also somewhat settled in, but we’ve settled into an uneasy world. We want to get back to “normal” whatever the new normal may be. We’re all on a journey. It’s a journey with many unknown turns and roadblocks. How will we reenter life? What will life be like? These questions remain to be answered. For now even just taking the first step is in question. Now what?
A journey began on that first Resurrection Sunday which has changed both the course of history and the hope of all mankind. We’ve taken stock in certain lessons.
The first lesson responds to the angelic announcement at the empty tomb: Remember what? Remember that God does just what He says! He said Jesus would die for our sins and rise again. Then it happened! He died for our sins. He lives for our life, eternal life with Him in glory. He said it; He did it, and is doing it for us today, forgiveness and eternal life! Yes, God does just what He says. Say what? That’s the second lesson when the women proclaim what they’ve just experienced. Their message sounds silly to many, but nonetheless people are hearing it, marveling at it, believing in it: Jesus lives and loves! He lives for me, and He loves me. Amazing!
Now what? That’s the question we start to look at today. Did you notice I said, “start”? The first two lessons look at the first twelve verses of Luke 24, but “Now What?” covers twenty four verses, each rich with meaning and application.
Of Human Condition
We are joining the pair of disciples journeying on the road to Emmaus. It’s a journey on the roadway called the human condition. We’ll see compassion and generosity. We’ll see both concern and quarrel. Some things we get right; other things we get wrong. Sometimes we just don’t see; at other times our eyes are opened. It’s a road we’re all traveling, and especially these uncertain days. What will be our new “normal”? It begins with the first step. Now what?
The Emmaus Road Appearance uniquely belongs to Luke. Luke’s a physician so his keen observations into human nature shine through his writing. Read Luke 24:13–35 with this in view and our own journey through life starts to make sense. So what are we waiting for? Let’s join those two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Not an Easy Road
The first striking thing about this story is that there are two of them. One can’t help but think of another pair, the angels announcing the resurrection of Jesus. They are even described as “men” drawing our attention to both pairs (Luke 24:4). The “men” at the tomb are dazzling and confident; the men on the road are worn and bewildered. These days I feel like the men on the road. I am on that same journey, weary with all that’s been happening both globally and personally. I think we all are. Life right now is not an easy road. The angels speak the truth while we are searching for answers. The angels are on the scene while we want to escape.
That’s how it appears for these two disciples. Everyone else is back at Jerusalem. They’re at ground zero. They’re afraid. They’re upset at the news the women have brought. Most are unbelieving. Some are amazed. Where do you fit in? I’m somewhat “all of the above.” Now how about these two disciples? They’re “all of the above” too except they’ve hit the road, and they’re taking their troubles with them.
When troubles come we all respond differently. We all pretty much feel the pain. Everybody hurts, but what we do with the hurt differs. Grief is like that. I’m even in the grip of grief while writing this. There’s a part of me that wants to escape, and some do. My family (I imagine like many) mostly wants to hang together. Even in the midst of this Covid19 crisis we want to pull together, but a few want to escape. They hang back. Their grief is real, and maybe even profound as they don’t want to be “too close.” I’m learning that it’s okay. As mysterious as grief is with its waves of emotion, anger, and loneliness, it doesn’t really have a cure except to journey through it. It’s a hard journey, but a good one. It’s part of the journey of life. And when we’ve emerged from the sorrow we’re better and stronger, but Oh what a journey! Are you experiencing a hard journey? I’m thinking we all are.
The disciples are on their way to Emmaus. As they are traveling along they are talking. Talking is a good outlet to release our troubles and let the healing begin. They were saying the same things to each other, the same things on everyone’s lips. How could Jesus be dead? How could this have happened? It’s so heart wrenching! It’s so horrific! How could all these things come together? Their conversation is much like ours today. How could this be? Only a month ago life was fine! So much sadness! So much death and distress! It’s so horrific! How could all these things come together? Yes, we’re very similar to these two disciples.
The text says that they are also seeking answers. What could have prevented this from happening? How are we going to continue on without Him? All our hopes were pinned on Him! Now what? You can hear their despair. All these questions need answers and it’s in the answering that disagreements flare up. That’s just what happened to these two disciples. That’s the meaning of their “reasoning” in Luke 24:15. They are arguing. And how about us? The more answers that are generated, the more opportunities for disagreements. Yes, we’re all traveling on this same path called the human condition. The harmony of common ground gets shaken. The questions are the same, but the answers differ, and we start to argue. We find ourselves arguing with the very ones who are our friends: welcome to being a human being.
Now something incredible happens. Jesus draws near and is journeying with them (still Luke 24:16). Just think! The One who became human, who paid the price for their sin (who paid the price for this very argument) draws near to them. Don’t you feel the hair on your arms standing up about now! He paid the price for their troubles and now enters into them! Wouldn’t you think He’s had enough?! He died for the very argument they’re having! Welcome to the human condition! We have a Savior who does not fly the coop on us. He draws near to our pain, and more, He draws near to our sinful way of handling it. The text says that He also journeys with them. So He not only draws near and enters, He then journeys together with them, and with us too.
Our lives have been uprooted and set on edge for about a month now. Many have died. Many more will join them. Many can’t afford to live, and many will have to find a new way to live. Are you hurting? Do you sometimes handle the pain incorrectly? If you haven’t gotten into an argument, have you had one inside yourself? Have you murmured under your breath about something you heard? Jesus not only died for our sins, lives for our life, He draws near and journeys with us, and yes, He journeys with us through all the rough and hard spots as we journey through life. He draws near and journeys with us even when we’re being all too human thinking our perspective and answer is better than any others. Wow! That’s amazing and scary and wonderful! Makes me want to examine my motives and seek Him more than the answers. I hope you have the same desire to draw near to Him and pray and find that certain comfort and assurance only He can give.
He Walks with Us
Remember the two angels? They are dazzling and confident. The disciples are like us, worn and bewildered. The angels have been sent; we want to flee. The angels have an announcement; we have the questions. They proclaim, “He is risen!” Our lives argue otherwise. But there’s one huge and wonderful difference! They proclaim, “He is not here!” but He is with those two disciples. He is with them, and He is with us too! He’s journeying with us through all the heartaches, and yes, even when we handle things incorrectly. His love and forgiveness extend a whole lot further than we could ever imagine. He draws near and walks with us.
This makes a huge difference to me, an incredible difference. The human condition doesn’t seem so confusing, even when too many answers generate strife. Jesus has drawn near and will stay by our side no matter where the journey takes us. How empowering! He not only died for our sins. He not only lives for our life. He draws near and stays on the journey with us. Amazing!
The next verse though throws us a monkey wrench. The disciples’ eyes were held back from recognizing Him (Luke 24:16). What? If Jesus is with us through thick and thin, why don’t we recognize Him, rely upon Him, gain assurance from Him? What’s going on? That’s for our next devotional.... Now what?
For today take stock in these things. God does just what He says. The resurrection of Jesus proves this with the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan. Because Jesus rose again we know His sacrificial love, His forgiveness and eternal life: just as He said. This message may sound like nonsense to many, but creates amazement in those who are willing to get up and run with it. His love empowers us. Not only did He forgive us, not only does He give eternal life, He draws near and journeys with us through life! No matter how rough the journey, He is traveling right along with us. How loving our gracious Lord! May these things inspire and propel us to move forward even through these uncertain days. That’s my prayer for us. God bless every one of you.
[The Rev Scot Schlittler is pastor of the historic Madisonville Christian Church, Pennsylvania, USA, and my friend. We were schoolmates at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana, graduating together in 1991. JK]
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