Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lessons from Emmaus

Luke 24:13-35 [NIV]
13 Now that same day two of them [Jesus's disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"

19 "What things?" he asked.

"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
There are some stories in the bible that just make you want to scream at the characters in them.

How stupid are these people?

I mean, they were steeped in the Torah, probably from birth, they had followed Jesus around and heard his teaching, they had seen what he went through, they had heard that the tomb was empty, they had heard that angels - yes, angels - had said that Jesus was alive, they even felt in their hearts that something amazing was going on... and yet they did not believe. They did not understand.

Hang on. These guys hadn't merely read their bibles regularly and been part of a church. They could probably recite entire books of the Torah (OK, I'm reading this in to the fact that they lived 7 miles away from Jerusalem; only serious Jews would live that close to the temple) and had spent time with Jesus himself. Talked with him. Heard his teaching. Eaten meals with him. Seen him heal the sick. Observed his life.

And yet they didn't understand the bible.

And they didn't really know who Jesus was.

They followed him. They believed in him.

But they didn't get it.

Blimey. If it was possible for them to know Jesus and still misunderstand what he was all about, how much more likely is it that we don't get it either?

How many Christians in our churches don't actually get it? They read the bible, they follow Jesus, they have a personal relationship with him, but they still don't get it?

What if I don't get it?

What if you don't get it?

I bet those guys were sure of what they believed. They knew the bible. They knew Jesus. But they were still wrong.

I'm sure you're sure of what you believe in too. Have you ever considered you might have misunderstood Jesus?

What if you haven't got him yet?

Are you sure your preconceptions are right? I'm not sure about mine.


Caris said...

Here's my stab at answering your (probably rhetorical?) question, "What if you haven't got him yet?"
Answer: He's got you! And that's the beauty of the gospel for those believers on the road to Emmaus as well as for his children now (flighty, disbelieving, forgetful, and truly safe all at once children)
I am really proud to be your sister, though continents away, so I just wanted to share a preconception I'll believe in to my dying day: the pure childlike trust that Jesus most definitely espouses can produce no shame about our preconceptions. In his eyes, you know who exactly who he is if he's given you his love, calling you his beloved son. That's your righteousness--not living nearest Jerusalem, not memorizing Torah scroll to scroll, not even learning by osmosis all the teachings of your Rabbi with whom you spend time night and day. Evidence of that sonship is giddy in-your-gut hope that one day he himself will come to show us what he is so we can be all of what we hope and more. It seems like you're equating their belief with their understanding--I wonder if you'd elaborate some more on how you come to that. I think that their understanding and their belief or "heavenly standing" so to speak can be shown to be quite unalike and even unrelated in the eyes of the Christ. Note that he chides them not for misunderstanding (intellectually?) what was written, but for being "slow of heart to believe" (v25). When they do catch on that they were wrong, I think their tone in saying "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us?!?" is elated, free of shame or regret. At once, all he laid out for them from the Scriptures gave clarity, repentance, and pure joy. To me, it's like they're jumping up and down, chuckling despite themselves, "It never depended on uuu-us!!! WE GOT A PRESENT!" ...just like a bunch of rambunctious munchkins... in beards and tunics. :)

1 John 2:28-3:3

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming... If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him. See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Ricky Carvel said...


Thanks for that. I wasn't really equating belief with understanding. If anything, I was pointing out that understanding is not required for belief or salvation. It is quite possible to be a Christian and not have understanding. Or, as I believe the case to be, that most Christians only have partial understanding.

I suppose my point was really that we should hold our beliefs a bit more lightly, because some of them may be wrong - however much we know our bibles and however long we've been Christians. We should always be open to new ideas, because they might be right and we might be wrong. And (and most importantly for me at the moment) we should not let minor differences in understanding lead to rifts in the church. The church is so fragmented these days, and often over very minor issues that should not really have been divisive. If only we had the grace to say "you could be right, I could be wrong, lets try and get along", the church would be a much better place.