“…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.” (Luke 24:21, NIV)
After asking these Emmaus-bound disciples what they were chitchatting about, Jesus begins to purposely work toward the heart of the issue like a squirrel with an acorn. And by the heart of the issue, I mean quite literally why their heart had lost its fire, which is the theme we’ve been exploring in this blog series thus far. These boys’ hearts were going to blaze again, but first the all consuming fire Himself had to clearly show them—as well as us—why their inner man had grown so cold so quickly that they couldn’t even recognize God Himself was talking to them face-to-face.
Jesus asked a few more questions and listened patiently to their perspective. He wanted them to hear them more than He wanted to learn anything more about Himself. And what we see in Cleopas’ reply glares right at us: “What we hoped for didn’t happen. We thought this Jesus guy was the guy, the real Messiah, but it turns out we were wrong. He was just another prophet that could speak well and do miracles, but He wasn’t the true Redeemer. It was nice while it lasted though. I guess we’ll have some neat stories for the grandkids. We’re even considering writing a book about it to make ends meet.”
Well, that’s my silly paraphrase of what was stated, at least. But seriously though, as you carefully read the actual words spoken, there’s a tangible hopelessness enveloping these men like a thick fog on a damp central Illinois morning. They really believed it was going to work out and they really believed it didn’t work out. And it’s at this low point of utter dejection—the point where we would maybe expect a little compassion from God—that Jesus instead comes in hard without mincing a word. He knew they had to hear the actual truth (in love, of course) in order to break free of the bondage of unbelief to move toward that burning reality of radiant faith once more. Unfortunately for their pride, however, it was going to involve a rather large slice of humble pie they would need to savor.
“How foolish” and “slow of heart” where a couple of the phrases that began to pierce through the hardness of these forlorn men. What we see in this sermon is that these two in particular had become hopeless because they didn’t understand particular critical truths of the Scriptures at all—even though they likely thought they did. They were spiritually foolish, deeply unbelieving and had almost no real understanding of God’s ways. They didn’t have a clue that the true Messiah would suffer first and then be glorified. They rode the wave of Jesus’ miracle ministry, and enjoyed fellowship with the inner circle of the revivalists of their day, but they didn’t personally know Him or His Word really at all. Seriously, yikes!
Crazily enough, our pride can be so deceptive that when things go south we’d rather delude ourselves into thinking that God was wrong instead of admitting we were wrong. We get so jumbled up that we actually think we’re the ones who are in the know and Jesus is the uniformed visitor from out of town who needs to be filled in and take our advice. Yeah, double yikes!
The reality that these travelers didn’t connect to, and that we don’t often connect to, is that God’s ways involve suffering before glory. Humility before honor. Down before up. Trial before triumph. Death before resurrection. Pruning before growth. This is how it is across the board and there are no exceptions among the beloved. When we think we’re the exception, we get that generous dish of fresh heaven-baked humble pie. Jesus sits right there at the table with us with a happy smile on His face and watches us eat every last little crumb. Chef Jesus knows full well that the nutritional value of this special kind of dessert is critical to our long term spiritual health and produces in us the best kind of heartburn. Then and only then, after we eat His special pastry, does He move on to the next message we need to hear.
Friends, what I’m getting to is this: let’s be those who are humble enough to receive Jesus’ evaluation of our life, whatever it may be. If He says we’re foolish and unbelieving, we simply need to say, “Yes, sir.” The longer we argue with Him about how dedicated we’ve been and all we’ve done for Him, the longer we delay getting back to that place of being spiritually alive. Jesus evaluates us with a truthful accuracy more precise than any laser known to modern science. His eyes see all the way through every thought, motive, attitude and desire. Truly, He knows what we believe and who we really are.
We should rejoice when He tells us what He sees. We should consider it a priceless gift. We should trust His goodness knowing He only tells us these things in order to remove what’s getting in the way of the sincere Christlike love He died on the cross for us to possess. We should believe He’s setting us up to blaze again with a blessed holy fire upon our hearts. Because in His mind, brothers and sisters, it’s the only way to live—to live with holy passion for Him. And when we realize He’s always shepherding us to this end, and when we realize He’s doing it for both our good and His glory, we’re much less prone to resist it and much more motivated to welcome it.
The wonderful news is that the road to Emmaus story doesn’t end right at this point of corrective reproof. This was probably the toughest part on the path, but it’s a journey of increasing joy from here on out. Next week we’ll see how things unfolded after this difficult message Jesus shared. We’ll see what happens when we graciously receive the hard word and how it sets us up to fellowship with Him in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined. Jesus was about to open their eyes, blow their minds and set them on a brand new course.
This brand new course was going to change the course of many others too—including the Eleven, who were desperately needing fresh encouragement and a true word from God.
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash.
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