Joel Rosenberg has a great message on The Road to Emmaus (video), 3-27-13 at http://www.calvarytucson.com/listen.asp
Continued from yesterday, “The Greatest Betrayal”:
Someone came an hour after dawn, banging on our door. It had been a bitter night. Not bitterly cold, just bitter. I ached with grieving and with simmering anger. Before I knew it was Peter, I shouted, “Go away!”
But he burst in, speaking loudly and rapidly, intense with emotion. I didn’t listen. I didn’t care what he had to say. I’d had two rotten nights. I wanted to be alone and his presence in my house, in my room, against my will, was infuriating.
“He’s not there!”
I buried my ears under the pillow. Whatever he was saying, I didn’t want to hear it. He was violating my privacy and my silence. If I hadn’t preferred to keep trying for some sleep, I would have thrown myself at him and slammed the door behind him.
Peter ripped the pillow off my head and flung it to the floor.
“The women were there. They took spices for the burial. But there was no body! They said they saw angels– John and I ran and looked in and they were right! The body’s gone!”
Then I did lunge up and throw him out. I slammed the door and when after a few minutes he knocked again, more calmly, and called to me, “If you’d only let me tell you– I saw Him!” I buried my head in the bedclothes again and ignored him.
I don’t know what the others did, the rest of us who had been betrayed and humiliated. I just knew I had to get out of Jerusalem. People would be talking about the whole sordid debacle. Those of his followers who recognized me as one of them would want to ask what happened; they’d want an explanation and comfort–how could I comfort them? I didn’t know any more than they did why it all went wrong. It just did. It blew up in our faces; it wasn’t supposed to happen like that. Those who were his enemies and recognized me as one of them would want to jeer and mock, rub it in.
Either way, I wanted out. There wasn’t a person in the city–and those visiting for Passover had swelled the population to millions–who didn’t know a rabble-rouser and blasphemer had been justly crucified for messing with our heads and wouldn’t think us crazy for having been taken in by him. I threw some stuff in a leather bag and took off. I’d pay off the rent and move back to Nazareth later.
Cleopas must have had the same idea. We ran into each other at the city gate. He was headed home to Emmaus and that was good enough for me. “Just don’t mention–him!” I warned.
He gave me a look that said, “I wasn’t going to.” Crowds were streaming through the gate, headed in all directions to hometowns around country. We kept our heads down and walked fast.
It was seven miles to Emmaus. When the crowd thinned out, we slowed down, tired with the stress and loss of sleep. The subject that was consuming both our minds could not be pushed away any longer.
“I thought–,” I said, “I really believed–”
“I know,” said Cleopas. “So did I. We all did.” He didn’t have to remind me his wife had stood at the foot of the cross even longer than we did–at least she was still there when I stumbled home that afternoon. But he said, “My Mary went with his mother to the tomb this morning–”
I willed him to be quiet.
“–with spices,” he said and choked up.
We trudged a long way without saying anything. Then Cleopas turned to me, his face contorted with pain. “I don’t understand. My wife said the body wasn’t there and that angels told them– But it doesn’t make sense! He was the Messiah! I know he was! I would have sworn it! I would have died for him! How could the Messiah–” His voice trailed away. “–die?” rang in our ears. How could the Messiah die!
I thought we were alone by now but I sensed someone else behind us and looking over my shoulder saw a tall, tanned stranger pulling up alongside.
To my annoyance, he greeted us and paced himself with us. “What have you been talking about?” he asked, as if it were any of his business.
We stopped still, too sad to answer. The stranger waited. At last Cleopas said with quiet irony, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who has no idea the things that have been happening these past three days?”
“What things?” the man persisted.
With an effort, Cleopas answered, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people–” He took a deep breath “–and how the chief priests and rulers delivered him to the sentence of death and–and crucified him.” His last words were barely audible. There was still horror and disbelief in his voice.
“We were hoping,” I said, “that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. But it has been three days since these things happened.”
Cleopas looked up, tears in his eyes. “Some of the women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find the body, they came, saying they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women had said. But they didn’t see Him.”
The stranger began to walk again and we found ourselves walking with him. At the same time he started to speak and his voice was amazingly calming even though what he was saying was an affront to our senses.
“O foolish men,” he said, “and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
“Necessary for the Messiah to suffer?” His words had no meaning to us but we could not help but be drawn by this voice into what he was saying.
“Don’t you remember how in the first book of Moses, God told the serpent, ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’? Moses was speaking of the Messiah. A man born not by the seed of a man but of a woman would crush Satan’s head, a fatal blow, and the serpent’s seed would strike the Messiah’s heel, a deadly wound from which he would recover.”
We were listening. His explanations opened the Scriptures to us and captivated our imaginations.
“Don’t you remember Isaiah’s prophecy, written as though it had already happened, that ‘he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
“He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. . . his life was cut off in mid-stream. . .”
Yes. Those vivid ancient prophecies the stranger was quoting to us, we had seen graphically fulfilled. Our long-anticipated Messiah rejected. Pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. The Lamb of God, silent before His accusers. Unjustly condemned. . . his life cut off.
“He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave–” Yes, I had been there when one of the leaders of the Religious Council had taken the body of Jesus into his own arms–willingly defiling himself with the dead body–to lay in his own grave.
“Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. . .”
It was so clear when he quoted the prophet. How could we have missed it?
By this time we were in Emmaus and approaching Cleopas’ home. As we came up to his door, the stranger did not linger. But by now we were curiously attached to him. Neither one of us could bear to have him leave and it was getting late so we urged him to come in with us.
The three of us knocked the dust off our sandals and stepped inside the house. Cleopas called for his sister and, not having expected him, she rushed around getting us all something to eat while we stretched out and rested.
When the bread came, Cleopas reached for it, to pass it around. He was, after all, our host. But the stranger took it gently from him. We were mesmerized by the gentle motions of his hands as he broke off hunks and handed them to each of us– Those motions! Those hands! We had seen those hands divide bread before and hand it out–and hand it out–and hand it out–until 5,000 people were fed! And as we gazed at them we saw the scars and remembered the sound of the spikes hammered into them only three days before.
“It’s–” “–the Lord!” I don’t know which of us said what but the instant we recognized him he was gone. We had seen our crucified Savior–and he was alive!
We exchanged a long look, stunned. The empty grave, the women’s hysterical claims, Peter’s urgent visit, the stranger’s chiding, the Scriptures–the Scriptures! Of course it had been there all along. The Christ had to suffer and even be “cut off” from his people by death. He was God’s lamb, bearing and killed for the sins of his people. Killed for our sins, His blood offered in place of ours. Not every year, as the Passover lambs were but ONCE for all time. Not just to cover our sins but to do away with them forever!
Of course he would not remain dead. Of course he would rise again. We had made assumptions based on what normal people do! But when had Jesus Christ ever been limited by what normal people do? Of course he would deliver on His promise, His promise to deliver us–in the Father’s way, in the Father’s time.
Then we were on our feet, Cleopas and me. “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” Which of us said what we were both thinking?
We covered the seven miles back to Jerusalem in half the time it had taken us to get to Emmaus–yet we could not get back soon enough. We couldn’t wait to gather with the others who were His friends. We knew they would be in the room where the twelve had eaten their last meal with Him.
We burst in breathless, not caring that we were interrupting. “The Lord really has risen!” I cried out. “He really did appear to Simon Peter!” There were hearty, joyous hugs and tears between us all.
As we sat down with the rest of His disciples to piece together the whole story my mind kept repeating with awe, “HE IS RISEN! He is risen indeed!”