I love the biblical scene captured for us by Luke in his account of the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus:
“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them…” (Luke 24:13-15).
Here are two of Jesus’ disciples who are walking along the road out of Jerusalem after the events of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was Sunday, and as far as they knew, Jesus was dead. One of them, according to v.18, is named Cleopas. His companion is not named, but many believe it is his wife, and together they’re going home talking about the things that had happened in Jerusalem that day.
This included all the events that occurred after Jesus was arrested … the trials and tribunals before Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate. They recounted the horrific treatment by the soldiers as Jesus ultimately carried his Cross to Calvary where He was crucified between two criminals. And so far as they knew, that was the end of the story.
Their lives were filled with all kinds of questions … and the answers weren’t coming easily. But the answers were closer than either of them knew. For the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, came and walked with them and talked with them … and gave them Easter’s answers.
Jesus, still unrecognized by the two travelers, asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast (v.17). Jesus didn’t ask the question because He didn’t know what they were talking about. He knew exactly what they were discussing. But he wanted to challenge them at the point of their discussion.
These two people had the marks of disappointment all over them. They stood still, paralyzed, and looking downcast. They are surprised that their unnamed visitor didn’t know about it. “Sir, don’t you know what has happened. Jesus of Nazareth was a powerful preacher and prophet. But the Jewish leaders had him crucified.”
Then you see their disappointment seeping out: “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:21a).
“But we had hoped that …” All their hopes had been dashed against the rocks of disappointment. They went on to explain that there were reports that the tomb was empty, but no one had seen Jesus.
Life is filled with disappointments. We may be disappointed by others. People fail to keep their promises to us. They let us down by missing the mark of our expectations.
We may be disappointed in ourselves. Often we have a hard time getting beyond the regrets that fill our lives.
If you’re a baseball fan you know that Lou Gehrig was one of the greatest players in baseball history. He was known as the “ironman of baseball.” It was rare that Lou Gehrig ever struck out. He had such a keen eye that he could always get his bat on the ball. In one game, however, that was not the case. Lou and his New York Yankees were close to clinching the pennant. It was a very close game, in the ninth inning; they were one run down and the bases were loaded (what else?). With two outs Lou Gehrig stepped to the plate and the crowd went wild. The commentator said, “The best man in baseball is up to bat.” People settled down and Lou dug in. The pitcher wound up and delivered the first pitch. Lou looked at it, then let it go by without moving a muscle. STRIKE ONE, the umpire cried. The crowd erupted again. “Come on, Lou!” Lou squared himself in the batter’s box again, the pitcher wound up and let the ball fly and it whizzed right by Lou again. He never moved his bat. STRIKE TWO. Now it was getting tense. Lou knocked the dirt from his cleats, dug into the earth, licked his lips, and raised his bat over his shoulder. Everybody knew that no matter what that pitcher threw Lou was going to get a piece of it. Again the pitcher wound up and let go. STRIKE THREE, YOU’RE OUT.
In stunned silence Lou Gehrig did something he never ever did. He turned and said something to the umpire, then walked back to the dugout. A newspaper reporter sensed this would be a great story. What did Lou Gehrig say to the umpire? The reporter tracked down Gehrig after the game and asked him the question: “What did you say to the ump?” Gehrig paused a minute then replied, “I said, ‘I’d give $10,000 to have that pitch again.’”
We all can look back on experiences along the way in life where we would like to replay that day or that hour. But we can’t. And we feel disappointed in ourselves.
People may even feel disappointed in God. Of course, God never fails, but in our times of doubt and discouragement we may admit that we feel like God has not come through as we thought He would or should.
This must have been some of what the two disciples felt on that first Easter morning: “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” (Luke 24:21).
God doesn’t always move on our schedule. He doesn’t always perform the way we want Him to perform. And many times, we are disappointed in life because we think God let us down.
“But we had hoped that _________________.” How would you fill in that blank? What disappointment in life has left you hanging?
Interestingly, the answer was right before their eyes, and the reason they didn’t see is that their hearts were filled with doubts. How surprised they must have been when the Stranger rebuked them: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25).
They were “slow of heart to believe.” In other words, they couldn’t put all the pieces together. They knew the basic details. Jesus had been crucified before their very eyes. And then came the reports from early that very morning that some of the women had gone to the tomb and found it empty. There were even angels announcing that He was alive. But Jesus was nowhere to be found. And their minds were filled with doubts about Jesus and all that He told them would happen.
Interesting! They remembered all the things that Jesus did and said, except what he said about his resurrection. And now Jesus was right there before their eyes, and they couldn’t recognize him.
Disappointments do that to us. We can’t connect the dots.
A few years ago Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, was outrageously popular. There is a scene in the book where Leigh Teabing, one of the main characters in the story, says, “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.” Our doubts can be fueled by skeptical comments like this.
But the answers are there right before these two struggling disciples. Jesus connected the dots for them.
Easter’s answers are found in God’s plans: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26).
Jesus explained that the Christ had to suffer before he entered into His glory. That’s the way it is. Suffering, letdowns, disappointments are part of this life, but they give way to something better in Christ. It was true for Christ. God had a plan for Christ, even through the horrific events of the Cross. The prophets hundreds of years before predicted it would happen. It’s what had to happen if sinners such as you and I were to be saved?
Easters answers are also found in the promises of God. Jesus helped these dejected friends see the rich promises of God: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
The answers to life’s disappointments are found in the promises God has left us in His Word. These promises tell you that God has not left you, that you are not alone. They reassure you that God cares for you, that He is with you. God will never abandon you. Jesus is alive and there is hope. Don’t give up!
Easter’s answers are also found in God’s presence. Our two travelers finally arrived at Emmaus, their hometown. Jesus had walked with them along the way, and they still had not recognized him. Jesus would have moved on, but they strongly urged Jesus to spend the evening with them. “So he went in to stay with them (v.29).
They prepared a meal for their guest. But Jesus quickly moved from being the guest, to being the host. For it is Jesus who takes the bread, breaks it, gives thanks, and hands it to them. And in that instant their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus for who He was.
God is closer than you think. Jesus was there with them, and they didn’t recognize Him. When did they recognize Jesus? It was after they invited Him into their home, and into their lives. They opened their home and their hearts to Jesus.
And looking back, they could see it: “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?’” (Luke 24:32).
That day for these two weary travelers the road of despair, disappointments and doubts, was changed to a road of joy, hope and faith … all because of personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
May that happen for each of us this Easter!