“And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk and are sad . . . . and they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scripture . . . . And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.”
The living Lord effects such a transformation. He alone is able.
Let us join the travelers to Emmaus and behold the power of the resurrection.
Two men plod homeward. Strange as it may seem they are returning home from the feast in despair. No, they do not sulk. Cleopas and his friend have learned that pent up frustration eventually erupts into the volcanic torrents of bitterness and rejection. They are talking together, giving vent to their sorrowing and burdened hearts.
It had been a strange Passover. Cleopas and his friend had traveled the meager six or seven miles to Jerusalem in answer to the mandatory statute of the law that all within a radius of fifteen miles of Jerusalem should assemble for the feast once a year. They too had exchanged excited greetings with fellow celebrants anticipating the presence of Him Who had caused such a stir in all Jewry. From time to time they had assembled with the multitude to hear Him speak with authority and not as the Scribes. They had witnessed His divine power in the healing of the sick. They had been moved to believe that without question He was the promised One Who shall redeem Israel.
How the events of this feast had dealt them a crushing blow. Instead of sitting at His feet while He taught in the temple, they stood afar off and beheld Him in suffering and shame. From His lips came not the majestic, “I am the light of the world;” rather the piercing cry from the darkness of hell, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me”. The response of the multitude was not, “Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord;” rather, “Crucify Him, crucify Him, His blood be upon us and our children.”
The reverse was stunning!
Traveling home, Cleopas and his friend couldn’t understand it. In burning indignation they pointed accusing fingers at their chief priests and rulers. How could they have done it! Jesus was no criminal; He had tenderly healed the sick and delivered untold thousands from their misery. They had discerned a depth in his teaching, so totally lacking in the leaders of the Jews. If His subject was too profound, He would tell a story or give an illustration that would immediately clarify the point. He didn’t waver on any interpretation by claiming there were two points to every issue. When He considered the leaders of the people to err, He told them in no uncertain terms. He had been a refreshing breeze upon the stagnant ecclesiastical waters of their day. Was He not Israel’s redeemer?
Now He was dead. Crucified as a criminal, of all things!
To make matters even worse, that very morning they had heard rumors that defied the imagination. Some of the women had gone to His tomb very early I and found it empty. They saw a vision of angels which declared that He was alive! To confirm this, some of I the disciples had gone from the upper room to the grave; and their report was affirmative, the grave was empty. Had the disciples of Jesus come by night and stolen the body, as some had claimed? Was He alive? To their knowledge no one had seen Him.
Perturbed, confused, and sad they tried to find peace for their burdened hearts. Why did Jesus have to die?
These travelers to Emmaus are in a class all by themselves. They did not reject the cross; they simply could not understand it. Surely, there are many who view the cross as a stone of stumbling and as a rock of offense. They wholeheartedly despise the cross, hate it, and forthwith conclude that any gospel that preaches salvation through the blood of atonement must be rejected. To such the cross was a tragedy; and the only way to overcome its terrible loss is to make Chris a martyr and thus turn the loss into gain by heralding forth the principles for which Christ lived and for which He even died. By following this Christ and living in the brotherhood for which He died, we resurrect Him from the dead and enable Him to continue influencing mankind.
We may not place these travelers in such a category of blasphemers. Cleopas and his brother according to the faith simply did not understand. If Christ was to be Israel’s redeemer and free them from the bondage of their enemies and restore peace and prosperity to Jerusalem, why did He die?
Those burdened hearts must now begin to burn.
Jesus draws up along side them. What are you talking about? Foolish question. You a stranger in Jerusalem? Shame on you, don’t you know anything about the most important question that is being discussed in all Jerusalem? What kind of a Jew are you?
The great Pedagogue must lead them on, for hearts must be unburdened before they can burn. What things?
Then the flood gates of their wretched hearts are opened. The whole story now gushes forth one wave after another.
O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken, ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?
As the flame of the Spirit began to penetrate, their hearts began to burn. That burning was not hatred, nor offense at what Jesus said. Christ could call them foolish ones and slow of faith, but that didn’t make them angry. On the contrary, it made them eager to hear more. Suddenly they began to realize that this Man spoke with authority. They didn’t know it was Jesus for their eyes were holden. Nevertheless they began to understand that this “stranger” was well versed in the Scriptures and had insights that they didn’t possess. How quickly their sojourn of so few miles must have passed as Jesus began to “expound unto them from Moses and all the prophets the things concerning himself.”
The Prophet preached to these travelers. The theme of His sermon was, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” Taking them through the portico of the “mother promise” He unveiled before their eyes the basic unity of Scripture. Christ was to come as the seed of the woman to destroy the seed of the serpent and redeem Israel from all their iniquity through the sacrifice of His own flesh upon the cross. The blood of the lambs cried unto God for the fulfillment. The tabernacle and the temple were earthly signs of God dwelling in the hearts of His people as they dwelt under the covering of blood. That veil must needs be rent! The feasts of the people had no significance in themselves, they pointed to a better day when the joy of the heart would be manifest not in waving palm branches and dancing, but in the triumphant song and worshipful praise as all creatures blend their voices in singing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” Abraham by faith looked for that day, David sang about it, the prophets expounded it. The hope of Israel was to be found at the foot of the cross.
Here we find Christ Himself emphasizing the centrality of the cross. Christ must suffer and enter into glory! The cross was not a tragic mistake. Neither was the Son of Man a victim. It was necessary that He die; it was the only way to glory. That necessity lay in the very purpose of His coming. He came to redeem Israel. A price had to be paid for the release of His captive saints. The righteous God as Judge of heaven and earth had pronounced judgment upon the sinner, “The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The curse of death had to be carried away by a man that was more than a man, yea, very God. That Jesus had done. His Father had sent Him to represent His own and accomplish this necessary work. That was now past. These travelers to Emmaus may have been eyewitnesses to the events.
Once that price of redemption was paid, there was only one thing left: glory! As the righteousness of God was satisfied for all His own, Christ must needs manifest Himself as the complete redeemer. Death in all its horror was swallowed up in victory. The wrath of hell was overcome, for He drank the bitter dregs; the caverns of death are free from all pitfalls, for He made it a passage way unto life; the grave with its naked fear has been clothed with immortality. All this is summed up in one word, glory! The glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!
No wonder their hearts burned! This was good news. A new light was cast upon the dark past. The blurred and confused feast now took on even greater meaning than usual. This was a feast of all feasts. For not only was it typical, but they had just witnessed its fulfillment.
The gospel of the Living Lord is exactly the necessity of the cross as the way unto glory. It is only this word that can bring burdened hearts to the burning stage. Change that word of the cross as it is being done today, and no wonder you have a dead “Christianity”. If Christ is a good example, a proof of universal love and brotherhood, one whom man has to resurrect from the dead by accepting the things for which He died, thenHe is not alive to preach. If Christ be dead, ye are yet in your sins, and of all men most miserable.
May the Word of Christ cause our hearts to burn.
That word drew these travelers to Christ. Even though they did not know it was He, yet they did not want to be separated. Christ pretended He would travel beyond Emmaus, but Cleopas and his friend constrained Him to stay. Jesus knew that they had need of further revelation; for in the breaking of bread their eyes were opened, and they knew it was Jesus.
That did it! Suddenly their eyes focused upon Him who is the resurrection and the life. Jesus met them in their very need. They could not understand why He had to suffer and die, now He had told them. Now they could understand more fully the glory that followed. The Redeemer of Israel came not to establish an earthly kingdom, but a far more glorious Kingdom in the everlasting portals of peace with His Father in heaven.
He disappeared. And thus it should be. For His glory is beyond our earthly comprehension.
It was too quiet and lonely in Emmaus that evening. There awaited many a troubled heart in Jerusalem that would flutter with joy to hear that Jesus was alive and victorious. They must needs return with all haste to tell the disciples.
One joyful cry greets them, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon.”
Bountiful hearts cannot keep silent. A transformation took place that must needs be heralded. The Lord of life had unburdened their hearts through His burning process. Glory to His name!
Without this revelation Calvary would be unspeakably black. A hopeless sinner could never find peace. But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.
Death is swallowed up in victory!
May our hearts undergo this transformation, and may our lips show forth the praises of His glory from this time forward and forever more.