Resurrection Road | Easter Sunday 2022
Every time Christ appeared to people after His brutal death by means of Roman crucifixion, He had one thing in mind: to assure His followers He had, in fact, risen from the grave. Many times during His eventful ministry He had prophesied as such:
22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief (Matt. 17).
Mark well the response of the disciples. They grieved because, from their perspective, things were going so well. Jesus fulfilled the 333 ancient prophesies of the coming Messiah to the letter. A son of Abraham. Check. Descendent from the tribal line of Judah. Check. Born in Bethlehem. Check. Raised in the Galilean village of Nazareth (Matt. 2:23; 4:12-16; Isa. 8:23; 9:1). Able to perform divine miracles like raising the dead, restoring sight to the blind, and giving new legs to the lame (Isa. 29:18; 35:5, 6; 42:7, 16). Jesus had to be the long-awaited Davidic King of Kings because there is statistically no way one man could fulfill all of these prophesies by mere chance. So, the disciples grieved because Jesus spoke not about a national victory for the Jews but a personal loss on His part of major proportions.
This prophetic word concerning His death was not the first time Jesus warned them of what the future held. He told them as much in Matthew 16, verse 21, and He would tell them again in Matthew 20, verses 18 through 19, as they headed up the mountains to Jerusalem for on last journey prior to the crucifixion. Like us, the disciples heard the teaching but refused to properly process it because it went against the grain of their understanding of the messianic hope embedded in the words of the ancient prophets.
You can see then why His horrific death rocked their world and kingdom paradigm. When He screamed from the cross, “It is finished,” and, then, drew His last breath, all they could do was focus on the fact the joy and wonder of the coming Messiah and kingdom was finished, over, and done with. Prior to the cross, hope filled their thoughts. After the cross, hope evaporated like the morning dew. Not one of the reminded the others of Christ’s prophetic teaching about His coming death and resurrection. They all focused on His death, not on the resurrected life He promised to enjoy.
So, to these stubborn, theologically myopic and short-sighted followers, Jesus, prior to His jaw-dropping ascension (Acts 1:9ff), lovingly worked to move them from uncertainty to certainty concerning His resurrection from the grave in time and space. This masterful motif is on full display in Luke 24, verses 13-31.
Concerning His Resurrection, Jesus Wants To Move You From Uncertainty To Certainty (Luke 24:13-32)
In this historical narrative, written by Luke, a physician known for giving excellent and accurate details, we learn about how Jesus took the time to appear to two struggling followers walking north westward down the green, tree-studded mountains of Jerusalem back to their home town in Emmaus . . . a trip of some seven miles. If you ever thought the Bible was boring, think again.
Everything about this story captures your attention, makes you smile, and causes you to sit in wonder at the instructive ways of God. And when you finish considering this story, you can easily conclude that one of those men could easily have been you. You, too, have your questions about Christ’s death. You, too, might not grasp the reality of Christ’s resurrection. You, too, might have lost hope in this life because of the advancement of evil. True, this story is about two Christ-followers whom Jesus helped them understand how, prophetically speaking, His death was to be followed by life and the eventual establishment of the Davidic kingdom. During this walk, Jesus, therefore, fine-tuned their theology, which is just what He might do for you Christ-followers today. For those who don’t know Him as the Savior and Lord, this short narrative might be a snapshot of how He is working to move you from disbelief to belief.
Snapshot #1: The Distinct Dilemma (Luke 24:13-15)
God frequently does His best work in our lives in adversity. The story of these two downcast and depressed disciples is a case study:
13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.
Can’t you just see these two Christ-followers slowly walking down the mountain “road” from Jerusalem, and recounting all the tragic events of the last three days? The Greek word for “conversing,” homileo, in the original text speaks of having an intense, probably emotional discussion/debate. Can’t just imagine the content? “How could the Pharisees and Sadducees, our spiritual leaders, turn on Jesus?” “How could the people go from worshipping Him as He rode the donkey into town at the beginning of the week, only to turn and chant ‘Crucify Him’ at the end of the week?” “How could Pilate buckle to Jewish political and theological pressure and assign a man he knew was innocent to death by crucifixion?” “With all the divine power Jesus evidenced in His short, but highly eventful life, how could He not use His power to free Himself from the iron-fisted grip of Rome?” C. S. Lewis said it well: “But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Jesus used the mental, spiritual, and emotional pain His death caused His followers to wisely guide them to understand the wonder of His time and space resurrection. The same principle applies to unbelievers today. Whatever pain you are experiencing right now is divinely designed to cause you to think about greater, loftier things, especially when it comes to the person and work of Jesus, the Messiah and risen Savior. So, what about it? What questions are rocking your world right now? Find comfort in the fact that Jesus has life-altering answers for you. How do I know this? Because of what happened while these two Jewish believers verbally sparred on their way home after Christ’s ignominious, shameful death on the cross.
Spoiler alert! While these men walked, Jesus, in bodily form, all of sudden came upon them:
14 And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and begantraveling with them.
Don’t you know they heard footsteps coming up behind them? Don’t you know they were sort of put out when this strange Jew started “traveling with them.” He didn’t blow by them. No. He slowed up and walked with them. What does this tell you about Jesus? He wants a vibrant relationship with you. He wants to answer your questions so you have hope. He cares about your adversity and desires to help you move to a better place in your thinking. He wants you to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, He is, in fact, quite alive in bodily form.
Snapshot #2: The Divine Appointment (Luke 24:16-24)
With this second historical picture, we see how Jesus slowly and surely moved these confused and disillusioned men from disbelief to belief regarding His glorious resurrection. He will do the same with you. Through some event He will chip away at your misguided, distorted thinking about Him so you can embrace truth concerning His person and redemptive work. This is exactly how this story unfolds:
16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.
The passive nature of the verb “prevented” (ἐκρατοῦντο) grammatically means their ability to identify Jesus was thwarted by an outside force, or to put it differently, here the subjects (the disciples) are being acted on. By whom? Probably Christ. He wanted to use this methodical conversation process to guide them from resurrection uncertainty to certainty. Again, it is the same way He still speaks today. Slowly and surely He gives you pieces of evidence to guide you to a spiritual “Aha” moment where you understand not only the purpose of His substitutionary death, but the ramifications of His off-the-charts resurrection and victory over death.
Watch closely how Jesus worked to enlighten these two men. He started, as He typically did in His ministry (Luke 6:3, 9; 8:30; 9:18; 18:40; 20:3, 4, 41-44; 22:35, etc.), with a simple, yet probing question:
17 And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?"
Being omniscient, He knew the precise content of the conversation. He, therefore, strategically posed this question to draw them out so they would articulate what they thought about the Messiah’s mission, so He could, in turn, enhance and deepen it with the full spectrum of truth.
At first, I’m sure Christ’s question met with awkward silence. Mark well how Christ’s question cased them to stop walking. At that point, grief and deep sadness overcame them. The Messiah had come and died and now they were walking home with no hope. This man’s short, somewhat inappropriate question (in light of all they had just witnessed during Passover Week), just brought all their dark feelings to the surface.
And they stood still, looking sad.
One of them finally gained his composure and spoke up:
18 And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him,
His name means “illustrious father.” His ensuing words will show this was not one of his most illustrious moments as he will reveal how limited and selfish his theological understanding of the prophets teaching about the Messiah was. His name also tells us he was not one of the Twelve because none of them had this name. These two men, therefore, were part of the wider circle of Christ’s first followers.
Please, listen and learn from his answer to Jesus:
"Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?"
Ouch. He basically told Jesus (and I improvise), “Have you had your head in the sand for the last week? How could you be so clueless about all the events in Jerusalem over the last seven days? Didn’t you see the bizarre eclipse on Friday from noon to three? Didn’t you feel the massive earthquake which rocked the city at 3 p.m.? Yeah, where have you been since you are descending from Jerusalem.” As a side note, one must be careful how they speak to God.
Jesus could have waylaid the man’s statement by telling him who he was, but He didn’t. He patiently and graciously asked another question:
19 And He said to them, "What things?"
Translated, teach me, fill me in on the details. This is amusing, is it not? It’s instructive too because Jesus gave these hurting men the opportunity to drop their burdens at His feet so they could find joy and peace.
Underscore how both men now chime in to answer the stranger’s question:
And they said to Him, "The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.
They are most specific. The whole week was about Jesus the Nazarene. The name Jesus was an ordinary one of the day, so they made sure this stranger knew of the Jesus they spoke of. (I’m sure He smiled when heard them mention His home town.) He was a prophet who performed mighty miracles, resulting in many Israelites seeing the proofs of His role as a (the) prophet. They also recount how, even though the Roman authorities crucified this innocent man, Jesus, the major blame and guilt for His unfortunate death rested with the Jewish religious authorities (John 19:11).
Then, in what must have been an emotional moment, they admitted the source of this despair and disillusionment:
21 "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.
If their hope was wedded to the words of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, which he uttered after God permitted him to finally speak after momentarily causing him not to speak, then the redemption focused heavily on deliverance from Israel’s enemies, especially the Roman Empire which occupied their land (Luke 1:68-71 based on prophecies like Isaiah 41:14; 43:14; 44:22-24). When Jesus, the amazing prophet died, hope, therefore, died . . . hope of a Davidic Messiah who would conquer their foes and bring peace and justice. Three days in, therefore, rigor mortis would pretty much almost extinguish any messianic kingdom flame.
The flame of hope did have a small noticeable flicker as the men admit what happened on that first Easter morning:
22 "But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. 24 "And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see."
Indeed, the women said Christ’s body was gone, and they reported how angels said He was alive; however, the disciples didn’t see a resurrected body of Christ. Hence, in their minds they remained perplexed doubters, to employ a phrase from Darrel Bock’s commentary on Luke.
What did this men want? They wanted empirical, incontrovertible evidence to prove Jesus was alive, but since they hadn’t seen His body living and breathing, they had their concerns. How utterly ironic this all is. Empirical, incontrovertible evidence stood in fleshly form right in front of them! What they sought, they saw and didn’t know it. Why? Probably because their focus on the Messiah’s mission as the Davidic king left no room for a Suffering Servant and Savior.
What about you? Is your misguided, misinformed thinking about the entire mission of the Master keeping you from understanding He had to first die for our sins before He would be resurrected to new life as the victor over sin an death? Are you guilty of overlooking empirical, incontrovertible evidence which verifies not only Christ’s life in time and space, but the reality of the resurrection itself? In case you need to dig into these proofs, I would direct you to a book by Gary Habermas titled The Case for the Resurrection of Christ.
With the third historical picture, Jesus wasted no time moving these men from their state of spiritual ignorance concerning the Messiah’s total mission to one of spiritual enlightenment. What grace and mercy on His part.
Snapshot #3: The Divine Data Points (Luke 24:25-27)
The stranger now turns and gets in their faces by confronting them with their religious and spiritual limitations:
25 And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Jesus has a hard time with people who are given prophetic facts and they fail to consistently understand and apply them. Had they been paying attention to their biblical studies they would have known that degradation of the Messiah had to come before His exaltation and kingship. As we have seen this Easter season in our study of Isaiah 53, this precise prophecy foretold some 800 years before Christ’s birth how He would die for the sins of mankind and then be ushered into life. No one should have missed the evidence for the death and resurrection of the Messiah. First He would be the sacrifice for sinners. Second, He would become the messianic King.The one, most assuredly, preceded the other.
While walking downhill to Emmaus, Jesus, then, the ultimate Rabbi, lovingly gave these two distraught, disillusioned, and misinformed men a history lesson in how the entire Old Testament pointed to His work as Sacrifice, Savior and King. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been part of this Bible study? I wonder what He covered? Covering a mile possibly every fifteen minutes, it means they probably had, at least, over two hours to hear Jesus expound the prophetic Scriptures to them.
- He would be the seed who would be struck by the Devil but who would deal a death blow to His adversary (Gen. 3:15).
- He would be the greater Joseph who would forgive His brothers for rejecting Him without cause.
- He would be Shiloh, the King, who would come from the line of Judah (Gen. 49:10-12).
- He would be the greater Moses, the Prophet to end all prophets (Deut. 18).
- He would be the Star and the Scepter which would arise to rule over the earth in justice and peace (Num. 24:16-24).
- He would be the Burnt Offering lamb, the Day of Atonement goat, the Passover lamb to eternally take away the sin of repentant sinners.
- He would be the Davidic Branch which would arise the from the stump of David’s tree which Babylon felled (Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 6:12).
- He would be the Son of Man who would receive the Davidic kingdom from the Ancient of Days after He summarily destroyed all world empires (Dan. 2:40ff; Dan. 7:13-14).
I could go on, but I’m sure you can readily see how Christ probably educated these misinformed men. Everything about the Old Testament pointed to His mission of degradation as the perfect sacrifice for mankind’s sin to His ultimate resurrection so He could live and reign forever more over the kingdom promised to Israel’s forefathers. How could these men have missed this? How could they have been so theologically selective? Did they have their heads in the theological sand? If you would like to read about this further; namely, how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies perfectly, I would direct you to Dr. James Smith’s What the Bible Teaches About the Promises Messiah.
What about you? God has given you plenty of detailed prophetic proofs in the Holy Scriptures to educate you about the redemptive/kingdom program of His Son, Jesus. First, He had to come and die for our sins for sin against an infinite, holy God calls for a sacrifice of infinite, holy Savior. Only Jesus, the God-man, fit this description. Second, He had to rise bodily from the grave for He prophesied He would, and it is with His risen body He will one day return to earth to rule over the long-awaited Davidic empire. Third, He has promised to give us, His followers, resurrected bodies like His which are designed to enjoy the glories of the kingdom age and eternity to the fullest (1 Cor. 15; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). The question now is clear: What will you do with those proofs? Will you permit them to guide you from spiritual uncertainty to certainty so He can save you and grant you eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28 )?
How did these two fellow travelers respond to Christ’s profound and enlightening teaching? We see the answer in the final snapshot:
Snapshot #4: The Divine Disclosure (Luke 24:28-32)
Realizing that Jesus was no ordinary man, but a highly gifted and insightful teacher, they invited Him to spend the night in one of their homes. Ah, they couldn’t get enough of His biblical insights.
28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go farther. 29 And they urged Him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over." And He went in to stay with them.
How interesting. Everything about this story reveals just how much of a body Jesus possessed. He walked and talked with them, just like any other man. He was dressed like anyone else, and probably had the same type of shoes they wore. Nothing about Him smacked of a ghostlike, spirit-form. On the contrary, as He will challenge the disciples later that first Easter evening:
39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet(Luke 24).
Yes, He had died. They had all witnessed the tragic event. Yes, He was resurrected in bodily form and they could all touch Him to verify the truth of it all.
The two disciples of Emmaus were about to have a revelatory moment to be all revelatory moments.
30 And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
Imagine. The resurrected Lord took the time to sit down for a meal with them. This showed, once again, how much He valued fellowship with people. Yet, something happened as He blessed the bread. All of a sudden the two men recognized their fellow traveler. He was no stranger but the Savior, the risen Savior. This event makes you ask yourself, “Did His voice teamed up with the blessing cause them to flashback to other times when Jesus did this?” “As He reached for the bread to break it, did they see, for the first time, the fresh nail scars on His hands?” Since they were reclining at a u-shaped table called a Triclinium, which forced guests to recline on one arm, leaving your feet exposed behind you on the floor, did they notice the nail scars in His feet. Is that what awakened them to His identity? We won’t know until we see Him face to face and can ask Him. All we know is in flash of rare insight these men moved from uncertainty about the resurrection to absolute, inexorable certainty.
What happened at that precise revelatory moment? Jesus simply vanished. Poof. Gone . . . . like He had been instantly transported. Granted, He possessed a resurrected body, but it wasn’t like any body known to us. It could be an active part of this limited dimension, but it was trans-dimensional and empowered to be fully in this dimension one moment, while instantly moving into the unseen, mind boggling spiritual dimension. That, my friend, is some kind of body. One day, Jesus will give all saints the same kind of body and it will be fitted and suited for the heavenly dimension. Will you be there, is the question.
The two disciples Jesus spoke to that day will be there.
I’ll be there.
I know many of you will be there because Jesus is your Savior, too.
These two men were never the same again. I know that’s the case because of what they said next:
32 And they said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?."
Ah, there is it. When God is speaking to you, when God is connecting theological prophetic dots in your life, when your spiritual questions are getting answers, your heart is burning with joy because have found the answers you seek about life, and you now know there are more answers to your questions because God has disclosed Himself to you in a profound fashion.
This historical story is what Easter is all about. It’s about God moving people from uncertainty about the resurrection to certainty so they can be saved and ushered into God’s eternal family. If you know the power of Christ’s resurrection in your life right now, you need to do what these two disciples did. They joyously headed immediately back up the mountain in the darkness to tell the main disciples they, of all people, had walked and talked with the risen Lord Jesus.
It is now our turn to walk back up the mountain and shout from the mountaintops, “He is risen. He is risen, indeed.” This truth, my friend, changes everything.