It must have been rather late in the afternoon when two of the disciples of Jesus left Jerusalem for the village called Emmaus. Rather late, because the distance was about 7 miles and when they arrived there, it was toward evening and the day was far spent.
And what a day it had been!
On the afternoon of that day of Jesus’ resurrection, we see two men leaving the gates of the holy city in order to direct their steps to the village called Emmaus.
We shall do well to be quiet. We want to listen in on their conversation. They are certainly enwrapped in it. Question follows question, remark follows remark. They speak and ask again. And ever the same answer: No, we cannot understand why Jesus had to die! Oh, why did He have to die? Who can understand that awful cross? Here we had placed all our hopes on this wonderful prophet. He would be the great general who would lead our legions in order to once more vanquish the armies of God’s enemies. But no, without striking one solitary blow, He gave Himself to a handful of soldiers and servants, armed with swords and sticks. When they scolded Him and struck Him, He grew silent. He even rebuked one of us when we would strike and kill and destroy!
And yes, now He is gone! Nevermore to return. And did we not love Him? Oh, we love Him still even though He is gone forever. For He was so good and wise and wonderful in all His words and deeds! Our hearts are weeping within us for the Christ of God who died and went His solitary way!
And thus they talked and talked.
But, wait, here is another sojourner on the way to Emmaus. Let us fall back and see what He wants. Listen, He will speak to our downcast friends.
What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another as ye walk, and are sad?
Oh, oh, that question found no friendly home. We can see that in one glance. The one, named Cleopas, turns himself impatiently to the questioner with somewhat of a stern rebuke: Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
Oh, let us not be hard on Cleopas. The intended rebuke has a rather weighty reason. The things that happened there in Jerusalem were to them the most terrible that could have happened. Their very lives and hopes for the future were all wrapped up in Jesus of Nazareth. We can understand the annoyance of Cleopas and his friend. Besides, the things alluded to are about the most important ones of all the ages. So important that Paul after due study and contemplation, born of the Holy Spirit of God, came to the conclusion that Jesus’ cross would have to be the sum and substance of his preaching. Come now, stranger, are you the only stranger here in Jerusalem? Dost thou not know of the cross of Jesus?
But our stranger on the road to Emmaus insists: What things?
And then the floodgates of their hearts are opened. The words gush out. You cannot help but notice how eagerly they relate the whole grievous story in well chosen words; the whole sad problem, including the main question that bothered them: “and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him!”
Two things stand out in their version of Golgotha and all that related to it. First, that they could find no place for that cross. Everything else concerning Jesus they could understand, nay, worship. He was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. In a few words you have all their happy experience of the last three years. They had been witnesses of the power of God unto salvation. The dead arose, the sick were healed, the elements were but servants in His hand, the poor received life and substance. And unto the spiritually hungry the Gospel was given. But that Cross, oh, that Cross! We find no place for that cross. We thought that He would be the promised redeemer from the yoke of the heathen. But no. He was crucified and is now dead and buried three days.
And the second thing we note is their love for the Christ. Listen to Cleopas, he will tell you. Certain women have been at His grave. They tell of a vision of angels, of the unbelievable story that He lives—but, stranger, Him, oh, Him they saw not!
But as soon as they are silent again, He says to them: O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Your problem is no problem at all. You find no place for that awful cross, do ye? Well, that cross is the Divine answer to all your sad questions. It fits with Heavenly accuracy. But you have been and are fools and slow of heart in believing. Had you read your Bibles with more belief in your hearts you would have seen that the Christ of God in order to be Christ ought to suffer the things that you could not understand, in order that He might enter into His glory!
Don’t you know the Scriptures?
Come, let us begin with Moses. Don’t you remember the first Paradise and the happy pair of mortals that dwelled there? How they sinned and how Jehovah slaughtered an innocent animal in order to cover their nakedness? See the flood of innocent blood that was shed in history by sacrifices and offerings. Come with me and I shall show you, slow of heart, the cross in Isaiah’s prophecy. Listen to the roaring of the Christ in the psalms of David. You will hear the exact words that reverberated the hills of Judah a few days ago.
No, we have not the exact words of the sermon, but we have the beautiful text. It is the Bible. It is the exposition of the Son of God.
And here is the emphasis: Christ must suffer and die in order to enter into His glory. Do you see it, Cleopas? Together with your friend?
It must happen. There was a Divine necessity. God wanted to glorify Himself in His children. The elect children of God whom He loved, had by His determinate counsel fallen into sin and subsequent guilt. Yet He loved them even while they were sinners. And He determined to have them with Him in heaven forever. And since the Son of God was made their Head in His counsel that Son must needs suffer and die for them, so that He might bring all these sons and daughters to glory.
The two wayfarers have grown silent. Not one question they asked. Far from interrupting the stranger, they have hung on every word He uttered. They drink in every word, every phrase, every thought expressed. Their eyes shone, their faces lit up, their every mien and bearing expressed exultation.
What strange, passing strange scene we are witnessing.
A preacher of the Word of God. Yes, but He is both subject and object of His sermon. He preached the Christ and He is the Christ. What authority rang in every word.
And what audience to this perfect sermon. They are silent in admiration. They are taught heavenly wisdom. O happy souls. Would you not have liked to be there? But then, let us make no mistake. We have the sermon in Old and New Testament. And when the Holy Spirit has opened our hearts we also may sit at Jesus’ feet to listen and drink of the water of life. And we do unto God’s praises.
But watch the closing scene.
Talking and listening the miles have dwindled away. There are the first houses of Emmaus. They approached their own dwelling. But the stranger held Himself as though He would go farther.
But no, stranger, no, that may not be. Please, enter our dwelling. There must be more to say, to listen, to enjoy. This is heaven to our souls. (Our hearts are burning within us and it is all because of Thy words and sermon.
Sweet, simple, lovable children of God! They had enjoyed the bread of angels. And would fain prolong such bliss. It is not every day that we may sit at the feet of such a Teacher and Preacher. Oh, the Savior’s audience was indeed appreciative.
Yes, they constrained Him. It has become history. Cleopas said: Abide with us, fast fall the eventide! The day, O stranger, is far spent! Note the words that convention dictates. Their plea is: Abide with us! And here are the reasons, O stranger! It is toward evening. And: the day is far spent! Yes, but Jesus knew the real reason: they had learned to love this stranger! Their shining eyes have told their story.
And He went in to tarry with them. Angels hovered near their Lord and His children. Scene of heavenly harmony and bliss. Our hearts grow weary with longing for heaven and heaven’s God.
Yes, and He was invited to sit at meat with them.
And then the second miracle happened. The first miracle was that Jesus would deign to appear to them in earthy garb. As long as their eyes were holden, that is, as long as their eyes just functioned as earthy eyes should function, they would not know Him. But now the second miracle happened.
When He took bread, blessed it, and brake, and gave to them, their eyes were opened and they knew Him.
Do you not notice how the mouth of Cleopas already opens to say: My Lord and my God!? But too fate. He vanished out of their sight. Why? Because no manner of misery, despair, sorrow or anything could ever blot out the image of their Lord whom they had learned to know through His Word. No enemy or devil could ever obliterate the image of Jesus that dwelled in their hearts through the Holy Ghost that was given unto them.
Are they sorrowing because Jesus disappeared out of their midst? Oh, why should we ask such a foolish question. Watch Cleopas and his companion. They rose up the same hour and back they went the same journey to Jerusalem. They will multiply the joy that burns within them. Oh, why do you think we speak and sing and make music this day?
The day is far spent and yet our Lord abides with us. And He shall abide until life’s journey is over. Then again He will take the chief seat at the table of the Lord in His Father’s house. To take the bread and bless and give it.
Unto our eternal joy and singing.
The Lord is risen indeed and appeared unto His own. Hallelujah! Amen.