“God’s anonymous: Two men on the road to Emmaus”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Twenty years ago, back in 2002, Warner Brothers released a film called, A Walk to Remember. It tells the story of a popular, but rebellious, young man named Landon Carter who, after a prank gone wrong, was threatened with expulsion. As part of his punishment, he’s required to take part in certain school activities which included mopping floors, tutoring young children and performing in the drama club’s spring play. That’s when he began to interact with a girl named Jamie Sullivan, played by Mandy Moore, the only child of a local pastor.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember how the two of them, Landon and Jamie, were worlds apart--he was brash and rude, while she was shy, quiet and old-fashioned, the laughing-stock of other girls her age.
But as they worked together and performed together, they eventually fell in love. Her life truly became a walk to remember.
The book of Luke chapter 24 tells a story about another walk to remember, a walk of two disciples and their Lord Jesus. It begins with this: “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. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. And He said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’ And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered Him, ‘Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’” (Luke 24:13-18).
“That very day,” it said. What day? The first day. Easter Day. The very day Jesus rose from the dead. He had been crucified on Friday, laid in the grave all day Saturday, then triumphantly rose on Easter Day.
Then it says, “That very day two of them…” Two of whom? Believers. Disciples. Followers of Jesus.
And as those two trudged along that long, gloomy, seven-mile road toward a little town called Emmaus, they reminisced and remembered the joys they once knew--about the time when men tore a hole through a roof to lower a paralytic down to Jesus’ feet, or the time He took five loaves of bread and a couple of fish and fed thousands, or when He stopped a funeral procession just outside the city of Nain and said, “Young man, get up,” or when He walked on water. Though spring was bursting all around them, inside there was nothing but despair and death.
Sure it was Easter, but there was no joy.
It’s been said that the longest walk you’ll ever take is to walk away from the grave of someone you love--to walk away and feel as if your world has come to an end, to think about what used to be and will never be again, to play over and over in your mind the good times, the laughter, and the fun stories, and to cry until you can’t cry anymore.
So it was for these two men on the Emmaus road.
How they knew Jesus and loved Him. They heard His voice. They saw His miracles. They were sure He was the Promised Son of God. They had followed Him longer than most anyone. And best of all, they believed.
But now everything had changed. In their stupor, they passed the very place where, just a few days before, in a height of righteous indignation, He had driven the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip, claiming it was His Father’s house of prayer. Down a side street was a second-story house where He sat with His disciples for one last Passover meal. And through that gate was a garden called Gethsemane, where men seized Him in the middle of prayer.
But as they walked along, as disappointed, depressed, disillusioned and discouraged as anyone could be, who should suddenly walk with them, but Jesus. But as it says in verse 16, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.”
And as He walked with them, He asked, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”
They stared at Him in disbelief. They said, “We’re talking about what everybody’s talking about! Where have You been for the past three days?”
“Tell me,” Jesus said. “What happened?”
They said, “Jesus was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. But the chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and crucified Him. But we had hoped He was the One who would redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21).
“We had hoped,” they said. “We had waited. We had prayed. But now our Lord, our Master, our Savior, is dead and gone.”
Then what did Jesus say? He said, “O foolish ones, how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Then with deep compassion and insight, He went on to weave a picture, not of a conquering Messiah, but of a suffering Savior who bore the sins of all the world.
“You remember the words of Genesis, don’t you? Just as soon as Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, the Father promised that the Messiah would come. ‘He will crush your head,’ He said to the serpent, ‘but you will crush His heel.’ So began the centuries-long struggle between good and evil and life and death.
“And do you remember when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, only to get him back again, or when Joseph saved his brothers even after they tried to destroy him, or when the Israelites escaped from Egypt by the blood of the Passover Lamb? And remember how Moses lifted up a serpent on a pole in the wilderness and said, ‘Everyone who looks on it will live.’ All these were mere shadows of the Christ who was to come.
“Just as the prophets promised, He was born of a virgin in a little town called Bethlehem. His name was Immanuel, God with us. Isaiah wrote, ‘Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted’ (Isaiah 53:4). And David wrote in the book of Psalms: ‘Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and feet…they divide my garments and cast lots for my clothes’” (Psalm 22:16, 18).
That’s when it hit them like a ton of bricks. Jesus was the Passover Lamb of Exodus, the Sheep led to its slaughter, the Root of Jesse and the Branch of righteousness. Just as He said while He was with them, He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
“Now we get it,” they said. “Now it all makes sense. Jesus is the One God promised would come. That’s what He said when He was with us: ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinners. He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life’” (Matthew 17:22-23).
And as they sat down to break bread in that dusty, little town, that mysterious Stranger who opened Scripture to them, took bread and gave thanks. And as He did, something caught their eye. His hands were rough and calloused, far different than what they would expect from a Man of such vast wisdom and intellect, and each bore a jagged wound as if a nail had been driven through. And in His eyes they saw a sparkle, one they had seen somewhere before.
Could it be? No, it couldn’t. Yes, it is! It’s Jesus, risen from the dead!
Like those two disciples of old, we too live somewhere between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, as we walk along together on that lonely Emmaus Road. We too sometimes grow discouraged and doubts creep into our minds. And we wonder if we can go on. All hope, it seems, is gone.
But that’s when Jesus comes to us and says, “No, you’re not alone. You never were alone. For when you thought I couldn’t be any farther away, I was with you every step of the way.”
Have you been rejected by those who should love you? So was Jesus. The very ones He came to save demanded His crucifixion. Have you been tormented by those who are closest to you? So was Jesus. His own people plotted His death. One of His own disciples betrayed Him with a kiss. Those whom Jesus loved beat Him, crowned Him with thorns and nailed Him to a cross. Have you felt forsaken? Then hear Jesus cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
All this He suffered so that we might find in Him a Redeemer, a Savior and a Friend.
It was August of 1953 as eight men, funded by the American Alpine Club, were attempting to climb what’s called “K2,” the second highest mountain in the world.
On the seventh day of their ascent, the leader of the team, Pete Schoening, was within reach of the summit. Then suddenly, the weather turned against them, destroying their tents and blasting them with eighty mile per hour winds. Trapped for ten days, they finally had no choice but to abandon their attempt and head back down the mountain.
But as they made their way back down, tragedy struck. As one of the climbers, George Bell, was working his way across the steep face, he slipped and began to rocket down the side of the mountain. And since one climber was tied to another climber who was tied to another climber, in a moment, six men were suddenly careening down the side of the mountain. But at the last second, Schoening thrust his ice axe into the snow behind a boulder, bringing the climbers to a sudden stop. And with the rope wrapped tightly around his shoulders, he performed what is considered to be one of the greatest saves in mountaineering history.
Today, Schoening’s axe, what some have called the holy grail of mountaineering artifacts, is on permanent display at the American Mountaineering Museum in Golden, Colorado.
We have One who’s anchored us in the heavens. He smashed the chain of death against the rock wall of His tomb, then walked out holding the keys to death, hell and the grave. Though you can’t see Him now, you can pull on the rope any time of any day, and you’ll know that, even today, the anchor holds.
In the words of a hymn: “Troubles overwhelm my soul; griefs like billows o’er me roll; tempters seek to lure astray; storms obscure the light of day: but in Christ I can be bold, I’ve an anchor that shall hold.”
Dear Lord, as we sometimes walk on our Emmaus road, we pray that You will walk with us. Open Your Word that our hearts may burn. And help us to know that because You are with us, we are safe. This we ask in Your name. Amen