I would love for every day to be a happy day. I would love it if no one ever hurt or faced tragedy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have an endless stream of happiness. Life isn’t like that though, it’s a mixture of ups and downs. The ups are good but the downs can be devastating, and what makes them worse is, you can’t envisage them happening or plan for them. They just hit us out of nowhere and send us spinning. Our settled lives are turned upside down and nothing makes sense.
That’s how it was for a couple many years ago. They had met someone who they believed could change their world but then he died. To them it was unexpected, and they didn’t know how to react except to lose all hope. Hope filled lives became hopeless lives.
They had been in Jerusalem when it all went wrong so they set off back home to their village of Emmaus wondering what the future now held. As they walked home filled with an air of despondency a stranger appeared and asked them what was wrong. They were surprised and said, “Are you the only person from Jerusalem who didn’t know what was happening there these last few days?” (1) The stranger said, “What things?” (2) and they answered by saying, “Those things that happened to Jesus from Nazareth. By what he did and said he showed that he was a powerful prophet, who pleased God and all the people. Then the chief priests and our leaders had him arrested and sentenced to die on a cross. We had hoped that he would be the one to set Israel free! But it has already been three days since all this happened. Some women in our group surprised us. They had gone to the tomb early in the morning, but did not find the body of Jesus. They came back, saying that they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. Some men from our group went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said. But they didn’t see Jesus either.” (3)
The stranger listened to them and said, “Why can’t you understand? How can you be so slow to believe all that the prophets said? Didn’t you know that the Messiah would have to suffer before he was given his glory?” (4) Then he began a conversation that I would have loved to have listened to. The stranger took them step by step through the existing Scriptures and showed how they all link together pointing to the coming of the Messiah and the fact that he had to die. Something that would have been vague to them before suddenly hit them with great clarity, as if he had used a cloth to wipe a dirty window enabling them to see everything clearly. It was so amazing that when they recounted the conversation they said to one another, “When he talked with us along the road and explained the Scriptures to us, didn’t it warm our hearts?” (5)
The stranger visited their home as they requested and shared a meal with them. It was during the meal that they suddenly realised who the stranger was. It was the man they had previously placed all their hope in. The man who we can assume they had witnessed being crucified. The same man who died and who, in doing so, broke their hearts, took away their happiness and turned their lives upside down. The stranger who walked alongside them, who spoke to them and shared a meal with them, was Jesus.
Life suddenly took an upward turn again, and they had a joy in their hearts that would never be taken away no matter how bad things were in the future. It was possible that, along with so many more, their lives were horribly taken from them during the persecution of the early Church, but the joy of knowing Jesus was alive would never leave them. It would be a constant source of support and strength. Easter is the time we focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus, it’s not a children’s story, it’s a true story. Jesus died, was buried, but is alive today and still bringing joy into the lives of those who come to know him as they turn to him in faith. I would love for you to be one of the joy filled Christians living for Jesus because they know he died for them and lives for them. He lives for you so that you can live for him.
(1)–(5) Luke 24:13-33