So here I sit on the day before Easter, thinking about what the disciples were doing on THAT Saturday some 2,000 years ago. I know there is an historical argument for what day of the week Jesus was actually crucified on – but that’s not the subject or point of this post. I’m simply putting myself in the place of that group of men (and women) and wondering what they were thinking.
The Gospels don’t give us much detail about what took place on that day. We do know historically it was the day of preparation between Israel’s weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbath that took place during Passover. What does that tell us… it means there were normal things they needed to do in the midst of their questions and grief. It also tells me during those times we wonder where God is or what He is up to – yes, even in the darkest of hours – life still goes on.
The one passage of scripture that gives us a hint to what they were going through is found in Luke 24, where a resurrected Jesus is talking with the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus.
“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.” (Luke 24:3-14)
A lot of speculation has been made about these two and what they were doing going to a village 7 miles away from where the others were most likely hiding out together. I myself have preached on this over the years and assumed it was they were simply going back to their “normal” lives. Or maybe it’s that they felt being anywhere but in Jerusalem at the moment was a good idea. Maybe they were carrying news of Jesus’ death to others who were in Emmaus… well, on this side of heaven we’ll have no solid answer. BUT, we do know what was so heavy on their minds.
“As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but 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. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’‘” (Luke 24:15-24)
They were disappointed, discouraged, and in despair. It’s all wrapped up in the last sentence… “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Jesus was supposed to be THE Messiah, but in that moment he was just another failed Messiah. He certainly wasn’t the first to make claim to the title (several had during Rome’s occupation of Israel) – but because Jesus was also “a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people”, their hopes had risen higher with THIS probable Messiah than any of the others. And now, their hopes had been crushed.
Let’s face it, we all have moments like this. Not just where people have disappointed us, but where we feel that God has, too. It’s in that unanswered prayer, financial hardship, broken relationship, or medical prognosis that looks impossible. We find ourselves wondering just like these two, “But God, YOU were supposed to be the answer this time!”
It’s in moments like this we don’t see the risen Jesus either. We look in the empty tomb and miss it’s meaning. We walk along with Him, but our grief keeps us from seeing He is right there with us. We lose hope and want to just keep on walking.
He doesn’t let us stay there very long.
“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)
How quickly we forget the promises of God’s Word! How easily we lay aside what the prophets have spoken over us! And in doing so, we become foolish and as the King James puts it, “slow of heart” – we just lose heart. BUT WE CAN’T! WE HAVE TO HOLD ON! WHY? Because – to steal a phrase from the poor little red-headed orphan girl…
“The SON will come out tomorrow! And tomorrow is only a day away!”
OK, it was cheesy – but I think you get the point that I am making. We can NOT lose hope in the middle of our grief, or in the midst of a time of questioning. Those times WILL come… but they don’t have to be an END. Jesus is no longer dead! There’s an empty tomb! The promises made are promises fulfilled!
“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 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?’ They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” (Luke 24:28-35)
I love how it says that Jesus acted like he was going to keep on going further. The light-hearted love of God in the midst of our despair – why? Because he knows this is just a moment, and knows it will end in joy! Remember what Paul says in Hebrews 12:2, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross”? See, Jesus was the Word made flesh – and while Hebrews hadn’t been written yet, Psalm 30:5 had – “Weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning!”
What hope and promise we have! If we’d only let our hearts burn within us in the midst of our struggle, simply because we have the promises of God and His Word!
Forget the horror of Friday. Stop looking down in the despair of Saturday. Sunday’s coming, and it’s a whole new day!
And boy, does the story get good from there!