Dejection: "We Were Hoping"
"But we were hoping that it was he who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened." (Luke 24:21).
Things were not going well for these two, at least they thought not. Their hopes, big hopes, had been dashed in pieces. What had been such a bright, promising prospect now lay in ashes as a ruined dream.
They were two disciples of Jesus, Cleopas and Simon, walking westward from Jerusalem toward Emmaus in the evening of the Sunday following the Lord's death. This would have them walking into the sunset, which probably seemed to symbolize very accurately their faded hopes.
As they walked and talked, a "stranger" approached them and asked about what they were discussing. It was obvious that these were sorrowful men Cleopas answered the "stranger" with a rebuff, "Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things that have happened here these days?" Then, they proceeded to tell the "stranger" about Jesus, the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and the rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. "
They continued by telling of the empty tomb and reports from some of the women disciples that He was alive (Luke 24:13-35).
The "stranger" (who was actually no stranger at all, only their eyes had been kept from recognizing Him; but was the resurrected Lord whom they were mourning) addressed them saying, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?"
Then, the "stranger" began to explain about how all the prophecies had been fulfilled by the events of the past three days. After stopping to eat, the "stranger" took bread, blessed it, gave it to them, and just as their eyes were opened to recognize the "stranger" as Jesus, He vanished from their sight. Of course, such news could not wait, so they returned to Jerusalem to report what had taken place to the other disciples (Luke 24:13-35).
The Truth of the Matter
"The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people..." (Luke 24:19).
Jesus would not have been the first prophet of God slain by evil men, but these two disciples are probably convinced that He was the greatest. It must have been difficult to try to piece together the events of the last three days in some way so as to make sense of them. Why had the One who walked on water and calmed the sea not delivered Himself from death? His enemies had treated Him so badly, and had taunted Him to "come down from the cross." Why had He been so yielding? Why did He refuse to defend Himself at the trial against the lies? Why had He not appealed to Pilate when given every opportunity to do so? It almost seemed as if Pilate had wanted Him too, but He wouldn't.
It is simply impossible that they may have been wrong about Jesus. Too many signs to the contrary; Jesus had to be from God. Even among the rulers, Nicodemus and Joseph knew it. "Teacher, we know that you are from God, for no one can do the signs that you do except that God is with him." (John 3:1,2). And now, what will happen to the new kingdom that was supposed to have been established? Where is the redemption that had been thought to be so near?
The truth? Well, the truth is that everything was right on schedule. The Kingdom will come and these two disciples will have opportunity to be in it. Redemption's price had already been paid in the very event that is so troublesome to these two; the crucifixion of Jesus. The problem was not so much the event itself, nor the Scriptures which had foretold it, but the two disciples' failure to comprehend the Scripture as well as their doubts created by the recent chain of events.
When Things Seem To Go Wrong
"But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel..." (Luke 24:21).
It appears that neither disciple is thinking that way any longer; "We were hoping..." should have been "We are hoping... ." Sometimes, when problems mount, it is difficult not to let our confidence in God and His care become past tense instead of present tense.
The fact is that God was redeeming His people in accordance with the ancient prophecies of which these two disciples ought to have been aware. Also, we are not competent to "see the end of a thing from the beginning" as God is. The cross of Jesus served a divine purpose, and though these two disciples could not yet see it, they soon would. But God already knew the blessings which would come from such an ugly deed.
Sometimes, our plans undergo similar upheavals. Is it possible for any good to come from the darkness of personal tragedy? Of course, the answer is yes. We do not see the final outcome, but it is always good for those who have faith which endures to the end, no matter what. For this reason, we are encouraged to remain "in Christ" where we can never be separated from "the love of God" by tribulation, distress, persecution, famine or sword (Romans 8:35-39). We will never "throw away our confidence" but will endure so that when we "have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised." (Hebrews 10:35-39). Jesus has promised, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life." (Revelation 2:10).
Confidence in the Scripture Would Help
"And He said to them, 'O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets had spoken!" (Luke 24:25).
The sorrow experienced by these two disciples would have been dramatically lessened had they fully understood and believed the Scriptures. Why had they not realized at this point that the famous Messianic prophet Isaiah had seven centuries before foretold of the death of the Redeemer and had explained how it would be a redeeming death (Isaiah 53). As the "stranger" explains the Scriptures to them, they will later admit, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).
There is strength and optimism gained from the Scriptures to the extent that we believe them. There is peace and assurance to be found. There is direction and guidance. But there must first be a knowledge and acceptance of its teachings.
I suspect that the two disciples' hearts were 'burning within" because they realized, perhaps more than ever before, that the Scriptures were speaking to them. I also suspect that we need to recognize the same thing. The Bible is not just a book for "going to church" but a book for living. It is a wonderful resource book for troubling times. Do not neglect its pages, for the truths found there are meant to reveal to us the "abundant life" found in Jesus. The sooner we realize this the better our lives will be, and the better equipped we will be to deal with life's unpleasant situations.
It would be later that evening that Jesus would appear to the group of apostles and talk to them about these events (Luke 24:44-49). He would assure them, encourage them, promise them, and bless them. Then, they would return from Bethany" to Jerusalem with great joy." This joy is His to give, as only He can, and it is not just for them, but for us as well.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 9.2; February 2002