GETTING THE MESSAGE/Jesus serves others
Lord willing, we will return to the study in Acts next week, but this week I want to look at the story of the resurrected Jesus appearing to two of his followers (Luke 24). These men are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a seven mile trip. As they walked, they discussed the trial of Jesus and his death on the cross.
The Lord Jesus drew near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him Luke (24:15). This difficulty in recognizing him paralleled their blindness to the truth about Christ. Jesus says they are “foolish and slow to believe all the prophets have spoken” (verse 25).
Jesus was speaking about the necessity of his suffering, death, and resurrection as was written of in the Old Testament. One of the reasons for their unbelief was because of their misconception of redemption. They were hoping Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel (verse 21), but their hope was more political freedom than salvation from sin.
The hope they had was dashed by the earthly rulers and authorities demonstrating their power over Jesus. The reality, though, was that God was working out his purposed through the rulers according to his word and promise.
Men have countless different hopes and desires that are met with disappointment over in this world. Many others have sought and obtained what they were seeking. But the only way you will have peace with the living God is through the forgiveness of your sin, and that is accomplished only by Jesus dying on the cross to take sin away. And his people set their minds above where Christ is.
The blindness of these two men to their essential need was not because they had a poor teacher. They had followed and listened to Jesus. Nor was it and intellectual problem. Jesus said they should have known. The Scriptures were clear, and Jesus himself had told them he must suffer and die (Matthew 16). Their problem was a moral problem. They were foolish.
Jesus had warned people that to call someone else a fool was to put yourself in danger of hell. He said this because we are foolish about the things of God. We must become fools in our own eyes to become wise. We must become poor in spirit to see the kingdom of God and how great a salvation the Lord accomplished for us.
The Lord is full of patience and love. As the two men continue to walk, he explains the Old Testament to them concerning his suffering and death. He would have pointed out Scriptures related to the sinfulness of man and the need of an atoning sacrifice, and many other things. It isn’t just prophecies here and there; the Old Testament is saturated in truths about Christ.
A lack of evidence isn’t the problem. Being willing to receive the truth is the issue. If we humble ourselves to see the peril we are in because of sin, we see that God made all this plain in his word so that we would see Christ and run to him. He gave him for our benefit, for our salvation and joy.
When the two men get to Emmaus, they see that Jesus is going to continue on his way (Luke 24:28). But they plead with him to stay, so he goes in to eat with them. Notice how accommodating the Lord is. He assents to their request. If you seek the Lord you will find him. If you call upon him he will hear. We may be poor, but he is rich in grace and mercy, and freely gives to those who ask.
When they sit to eat it is Jesus who serves the men, which is an unusual thing since he is the guest. When he breaks the bread and gives it to them, their eyes are opened and they recognize him. This is the way of the Lord. He takes the initiative. We love him because he first loved us. We recognize him not because we served him, but because he served us, giving his life for us.
Jesus disappears, but they don’t discuss that. Rather, they talk about how he blessed them. “Our hearts burned when he spoke to us.” This isn’t heartburn, but a taste of heaven. That is why they pleaded for the Lord to stay. It is why Paul said it is better to depart and be with Christ. The Queen of Sheba went a long way to see and hear Solomon. When she did, she said that the report we heard in that remote land was true, though it did not even tell 1/1000th of it. One much greater than Solomon awaits all who belong to him. May our hearts burn within us over the truth of the Lord Jesus.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.