In this last study in our Scripture series, we'll pick up on events that take place after the death and resurrection of Christ. The events of Luke 24 take place after the resurrection, and in these accounts, of all the things the resurrected Jesus could do, He meets with the disciples and takes the effort to explain Scripture to them. Jesus took Scripture seriously. What does He say is the point of Scripture?
(A) Scripture: Reveals God's plan for His people (Luke 24:13-27)
This passage focuses on 2 characters, one of whom is named for us (Cleopas, who happens to be Jesus' uncle). These are disciples of Jesus and we are told that they were on a road to Emmaus, 7 miles from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13). This meant that they were actually heading away from Jerusalem.
As they were walking, they actually met Jesus on the road but we realise that "their eyes were kept from recognising Jesus" (Luke 24:16). Their inability to recognize Jesus was apparently no accident. We are also told that when Jesus approached them, they were sad (Luke 24:17).
Luke 24:19-24 shed light on the reasons for their disappointment. They were discussing about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word, but was condemned to death and crucified. They hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel but it might not be done ever. Furthermore, apparently his tomb was empty and some claimed that they had seen a vision of angels, and that he is alive. From their words, we can tell that these were not just distant followers of Jesus, but were actually people that knew Jesus and also had the latest information. They were disciples but did not immediately believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They were also disappointed followers who were walking away from Jerusalem because everything they had hoped for would not be able to come to pass. They were Jews who knew the prophecies and would know what the promised Messiah was supposed to do. They would also have seen the works of Jesus and heard His teachings but now, Jesus in whom they placed their hopes of deliverance came, was even killed and Israel still remained under Roman rule. That was certainly not a Good Friday for them. That was the day all their hopes evaporated, and it might have felt like the past 3 years were wasted.
We do have so much in common with these 2 disciples, don't we? They had all these information -- both in the form of the words of the Jesus and the women's testimonies -- but also did not fully believe and trust, and struggled with disappointments and misplaced hopes. In the same way, we too, are recipients of so much information and hear and read God's Word but sometimes, we don't always connect the dots and truly believe in what it says.
Jesus proceeds to address their disappointments (Luke 24:25-27). The easy thing would have been for Jesus to reveal Himself. But instead, He points them to Scripture! Specifically He pointed them back to the Old Testament, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets". From the OT, He sought to show them how it was necessary that Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory (Luke 24:26). Jesus probably spoke about Gen 3:15, the promised Seed from the Woman who would destroy the serpent, but sustain a bruising to His heel. He would also have pointed to how a prophet greater than Moses would come (Deut 18:15) who would also fulfill the Levitical laws. This promised One would also be a King from the line of David (2 Sam 7), and be the True Kinsman-Redeemer, but also be the Suffering Servant written about in Isaiah. In all these things, Jesus would have explained to them how He is the Promised Messiah who fulfilled the promises in the OT and things happened as was prophesied. Things might not have turned out as the disciples expected, but things happened as God planned. Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies and was the fulfillment of God's promises to His people all through the ages. Jesus was God's plan and solution to bless the world and to reverse the curse of Gen 3.
Luke also describes the disciples' attitude for us after they heard Jesus' explanation (Luke 24:28-31). As a stark contrast to their initial sadness, now the disciples appeared to want to learn more and even urged Him to stay. They were still discussing the same set of facts but something has changed now. They saw how Scripture was fulfilled, and everything no longer remained as facts, but they understood how things happened in light of a larger storyline, as part of God's big, grand, redemptive plan through the ages. Reading through the lens of Scripture gave the same facts new light, that even made their hearts burn (Luke 24:32). What they needed wasn't to see Jesus and for that to make all things better. Jesus knew that. They needed to see God's plan of redemption in all the Scriptures, and this made all the difference to their emotion. This isn't just restricted to the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is the experience of every Christian! Before we were Christians, the events surrounding Jesus' life are mere historical facts with no real implication or impact. But when we became Christians, these things take a different meaning and light, and become meaningful.
What does this mean for us? What can we learn? We don't merely need to see Jesus, though that would be nice. We need an understanding of God's plan as revealed in Scripture. It also means that God's plan for us is bigger than what we think it is -- what schools we go to, what jobs we get, who we marry etc. These things in our lives are wrapped up in a bigger plan -- God's intention to redeem the world and to bring blessing by reversing the curse, as we read in last week's study. This changes how we live our lives how we counsel and encourage each other when we struggle with life. The solution to most, if not all of our problems, is not merely to have our circumstances changed. Luke 24 challenges us with something bigger. It calls us to understand our circumstances with a different perspective that is brought about by understanding Scripture.
(B) Scripture: moves us to share (Luke 24:28-49)
Jesus spoke to the 2 disciples and suddenly vanished (Luke 24:31). What effect did the revelation of scripture and the risen Christ have on the disciples? We are told that they "rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem" to meet the other 11 to share the good news and their experience (Luke 24:33-34). Though it was late (Luke 24:29), they could not wait to share the news with others who were likely to be discouraged and disheartened too!
Jesus also appears to all of them and they were startled (Luke 24:37). They were frightened because they thought they saw a spirit. Jesus knew and addressed their disbelief (Luke 24:38-39), and he invited them to inspect His physical body. Jesus was kind enough to meet them where they were, and also explained everything in a way that they would understand. He wanted to make sure that they recognised that He wasn't a spirit but had a physical body, and therefore the resurrection from the dead was true.
Once again, Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). When that happened, the disciples were transformed from a state of despair to a state of marveling. They too, began to understand all that Jesus showed them from the Scriptures. The revelation of Scripture turned their doubts to belief, and turns their sadness to joy, and this is a joy that cannot be bottled in, but has to be shared. Understanding Scripture has this effect on us.
The road to Emmaus is a beautiful picture of what it means to be a believer in a fallen world. The struggle with disappointments, misplaced hopes and even doubt will occur in life. Luke 24 shows us that the antidote lies in understanding Scripture and looking at our lives in light of what Scripture says.
What is the Bible for? The Bible is not the kind of book that gives us answers to life decisions. It is a book that causes us to see our sin, turn away from it and to turn to our Savior who came to meet us and rescue us from death and brings us to life. And when we see and experience how true it is, it gives us great joy, joy that overflows and moves us to share.