“Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”
It was the day of our Lord’s resurrection.
Two men, wrapped in intimate conversation, were leaving the Holy City as the afternoon shadows lengthened. The intermingling of amazement and fear, of mild hope and deep sorrow in their conversation reveals them as disciples of Jesus. Although not of the eleven, they are included with those who refused to give up the conviction that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God. One of them, who does most of the talking, is Cleopas. The other is probably Luke, if we may conclude that from his extensive account of this event in his gospel treatise.
The travelers are so completely absorbed in their conversation that they do not even consider it an intrusion that a third person quietly comes up behind them, falls in step between them, and joins in their discussion. What does seem so very strange to them is the fact that He seems to know nothing of the events of the past few days that, have set all Jerusalem and Judea in turmoil. Wonderingly they ask: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know all the things that are happening here?”
To that they receive the answer: “What things?”
Still they do not recognize Him as Jesus. One reason for this is that the resurrection was something so new, so strange to them, that they can not yet grasp it. Another reason is, as Mark tells us, that He appeared in another form. Luke says that their eyes were held, that they would not recognize Him. Wisely, Jesus approaches them as a stranger to help them with their problem. Wisely, He urges them on to put their problem into words, and thus to unburden their souls.
That simple question is all that it took to break open the floodgates, causing a stream of words to burst forth from their troubled, burdened hearts. They have a problem, an enigma, that must be solved before they will ever find peace. Not only their peace of mind, but even their salvation depends on having their problem solved. Jesus is aware of that, and lets them talk.
Of one thing they are convinced: Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came from God to redeem Israel from all their sins. Proof for their conviction lay, first of all, in the fact that He was a prophet sent of God. No man ever spoke as this man, with a power and authority that put the scribes to shame. What He said was so completely founded upon the Old Testament Scriptures that no one could contradict Him. He could say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” and the guilt of sin fell away like a heavy load from one’s soul. Besides that, He sealed His testimony with signs and wonders. He spoke, and the dead arose. He commanded, and devils obeyed Him. Even the winds and the waves of the sea were quieted at His word. He instilled faith, a faith so strong that it could be severely shaken, but never destroyed.
Hesitatingly they carry one. This is a bit more difficult to put into words, but His attentiveness encourages them to go on. This Jesus died last Friday afternoon yes, you understood us correctly, He died. Now listen to this. Early this morning some women, who cherish the same convictions of Him that we do, went to His tomb. They came back with the upsetting, yet wonderful tidings that He is risen. We hardly dare accept that, but here is the evidence. First, they actually saw that the tomb was open and His corpse was gone. Second, they saw angels there, as they tell us, who said that He was risen. Third, others went to investigate this seemingly impossible report, and they came back confirming every word of it. Fourth, we keep thinking that this is the third day, for somehow Jesus attached importance to that third day when He was still with us.
Now for the real problem.
As we said, He died last Friday afternoon. Had He died an ordinary death at the early age of thirty-three years, we would have been sorely disappointed, but He died the worst death conceivable. He died the shameful and accursed death of the cross as the worst of sinners. No, it was not Pilate, the representative of the Roman government, who took Him under arrest and sought to kill Him. Our own rulers, our High Priest and our Sanhedrin, whom we were always taught: to respect as representatives of God in meeting out justice, captured Him, tried Him, and condemned Him to death, seeking the aid of Pilate to carry out the death sentence. Why, if He was innocent of any crime, did these rulers condemn Him? Why, if He is indeed the Christ, did He submit to such an infamous death?
Why? O, why? The cross is the real enigma.
Added to that, there is the second problem, if He is risen from the dead, where is He? Why did He not come to the home of John and Mary to stay with them? Why is He in hiding? Why does He not come to us and be with us as before? We simply do not understand!
It was a relief to put it all in words. Their attentive listener had made it so easy for them, urging them to pour out their souls completely. He was so amazingly understanding, that even as they talked they wondered Who He might be.
The cross is their problem, as it still always is. Actually, it is a double problem, for there is also the mystery of the resurrection. This will always remain, unless we listen by faith to Him Who knows all!
“Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things?”
Jesus strikes at the very heart of the problem: These men have their hands full of pieces of a puzzle, none of which seem to fit. Jesus picks out the one piece, the key to the solution; holds it up for them to see and then fits it in its proper place, so that all the other: pieces fall into position.
This divine Instructor says: “Let us begin here: Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, Your evidence stands. Everything that happened since only confirms that fact. We must, however, look at it in the light of the Scriptures.
“What do the Scriptures say about Him? Let us begin with Genesis with the promise of the Seed of the woman, the Christ, Whose heel is bruised as it bears down heavily upon the head of the serpent, Satan. Consider that God Himself covered Adam and Eve from His penetrating, condemning eyes when He gave them skins of animals to hide their nakedness. Think of the sacrifices of innocent lambs that were slain, the rivers of blood that flowed throughout the old dispensation, which never atoned for a single sin, but spoke of better things to come. Listen to David as he mournfully sings in a minor key of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. Hear, Israel chant in solemn strains of their promised Messiah, ‘The offering on the altar burned gives no delight to Thee; the hearing ear, the willing heart, Thou givest unto Me. Consider Isaiah’s suffering Servant, the Man of Sorrows, so thoroughly acquainted with grief, that everyone hid, as it were, his face from Him. Even Isaiah could tell, that He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep dumb before its shearers, so He opened not His mouth.”
That, and obviously many more mysteries were unfolded during the seven mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As patiently as He had listened, so eagerly. He now draws away the veil revealing step by step the wonder of grace in sending Jesus into the world to seek and to save that which was lost.
The travelers hearts were all afire. This Stranger knows His Bible. He speaks with the authority of God, as no man has ever spoken before. Never had they understood. prophecy as clearly as He explains it. Never had anyone shown so convincingly from the Scriptures that every piece of the puzzle fits, even falls into place, when the cross is centered as it should be. Jesus is indeed the Christ, powerfully proven to be the Son of God, the only possible Savior, by His death and resurrection from the dead. Indeed, Christ was working His power in the Hearts of these travelers as the power of God unto salvation, even as. He spoke. “Were not our hearts burning within us.”
Here is an inescapable “ought.”
“Ought not the Christ to suffer these things and enter into His glory?”
God is not compelled by circumstances and conditions outside of Himself to do something that He never intended or wanted to do. God is GOD. Let no one in any way deprive Him of His glory. He eternally knows the, only possible way in which He may reveal Himself in all His infinite perfections as the all-glorious, ever blessed covenant God. He knows how to take His people into His covenant fellowship, that they may forever enjoy His dazzling majesty, radiating the light of His life in intimate covenant communion with Him. God knows how to do that in Christ Jesus, our Lord. He carries out that purpose in all of history. His counsel stands and He does all His good pleasure. I stammer to say that there could be no other way, there simply is no other way possible, in which all creation may be united to declare: “My God, how great Thou art.” This is so true, that God did not hesitate to surrender His Son, the Only Son of His bosom, to infamy and the horrors of hell. God spared not His only begotten Son, but gave Him as a ransom for the sins of His people. There was a “must” in God that demanded the way of the cross to bring many sons into glory. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God: How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.” (Rom. 11:32, 33)
There was also a divine “must” for the Christ.
What a joy for Him to be able to talk about that divine necessity that had led Him by way of the cross to His wonderful resurrection.
Christ thinks of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to explain to her the wonder of the virgin birth. He recalls how He lay as a helpless, poverty stricken Babe in a borrowed cattle stall, already hated, rejected, hunted as a beast of the forest. Jesus recalls His tender age of twelve, when He was in the temple asking His mother, “What, wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” There were the forty days in the wilderness when He asked: “Father, what wilt Thou have Me do?” And the answer came in the form of Satan and their bitter encounter. Yes, there were those bright moments, when the voice from heaven confirmed Him saying, “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” There was that unforgettable experience on the mount, when He spoke with Moses and Elijah and was given a brief foretaste of the glory that God had prepared for Him before the world was. But there was also that anxious night in Gethsemane, when drops of real blood oozed from Him, as He cried: “Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass from Me, Thy will be done.” Well Christ remembered the powerful, sustaining hand of the Spirit as He bent His back to the smiters and turned His cheek to the spit of His mockers. He had prayed: “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son with the glory that He had with Thee before the world was.” Here is the answer in His presence among them! He speaks of a confidence of victory that these men cannot yet fathom.
He also puts the question to them, and to us ought not your Christ to have suffered these things, to bring you glory?
As personal as the question was for Jesus Himself, so personal it was also for His attentive audience.
Perhaps they did not fully understand at the moment. Surely they did not understand as clearly as they would later, or as we see it today. Finally the light began to dawn on their sin-weary souls. Our Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. We all like sheep have gone astray. It belongs to our very nature to be like stubborn, wayward sheep, prone to wander from the fold, and once lost, unable to find our way back, defenseless over against the enemies, perishing in our sins. The Good Shepherd loves His sheep, comes to seek them, to take them into His bosom, and to carry them safely all the way, even into the sheepfold of glory.
The light begins to dawn.
There still remains that needling question: “but Him they did not see.”
At this point Jesus could well remind the travelers and us once more, that we are fools and slow of heart to believe all that is written of Him. We are of the earth, earthy, minding earthly things. How difficult it is for us to fathom heavenly things! Yes, that is not only difficult, but impossible. We need the enlightening power of Christ through His Spirit to give us eyes of faith, eyes to behold that which eye cannot see, ear cannot hear, and never can enter into the heart of man.
What these men still had to learn was that the risen Lord was now heavenly, spiritual, immortal. The man Jesus was no more among them as before. He had passed from death into life to bring them with Him into Father’s house with its many mansions.
Jesus waits until they have arrived at their destination. He pauses yet for them to ask Him to tarry with them. He sees a hasty meal prepared for them. Then He assumes the position of Host. He prays for a blessing upon this food, and they take no offence, for before the men recover fully from their surprise, they see Him!
The Lord is risen; is risen indeed!
And our salvation is complete. Hallelujah!
My Savior and my Lord!