Miafede chronicles the thoughts of a traveler in this faith journey with brothers and sisters who believe we are not alone and seek a closer union with God and each other.
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?” | Luke 24:25-26
Early in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring (the first in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) there’s a moment where Samwise “Sam” Gangee and Frodo Baggins are beginning their trek along the countryside, making their way across streams, over hills, and through meadows. Eventually finding themselves in a cornfield they stop. Frodo turns to Sam and asks what’s wrong.
“This is it,” he replies. “If take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”
Sam was sad, and perhaps afraid. Many of us feel this way. We’ve reached a block, a stopping point. Life has changed around us and we’re not prepared. Our expectations are suddenly different from reality. What we had counted on to be true is no longer reliable.
“What do I do now?” we ask. “How do I make sense of all of this?”
We live in a confusing world, a world that often makes little sense. Yet there’s nothing new here. As Bob Dylan penned, the times may be “a-Changin,” but haven’t they always been so?
In the aftermath of every Easter many of us feel the same nagging sense of hesitant expectancy. “Christ is Risen!” our proclamations recite. “Now what?” some ask. I mean, it’s been 2,000 years. The story always ends the same, no surprises. The stone is rolled back, the tomb is empty. The world awaits a returning savior. “What do we do until then?”
For skeptics, this is simply veiled language for “what if it isn’t really true?”
A Dusty Road
I imagine two travelers heading out of Jerusalem down the dusty, seven-mile road to Emmaus the day following the Resurrection had similar feelings. Passover Week, beginning so hopefully, had ended in the stunning crucifixion of a prophet and presumed Messiah; they were dejected and in shock.
As they walked, the events of the past few days were still raw and immediate. The world they knew had, in a moment, been turned upside down. They would naturally be asking themselves “What do we do now? What if it wasn’t true?”
Luke 24:15 tells us that as they talked, Jesus approaches and begins walking along side. For an unknown reason, the travelers don’t immediately recognize him. When Jesus asked what they were discussing, the two travelers shared their despair as well as surprise that this stranger had no idea of the tragedy they had witnessed: Jesus, their great prophet and hoped-for Deliverer, had been arrested by the Jewish authorities, turned over to Roman overlords, executed and placed in a tomb for three days. Now his body was somehow mysteriously missing.
Once filled hoped, they were now shattered. A broken man nailed to a Imperial cross had been the end of the journey for them. They were living in the past, not the now. While they didn’t disbelieve the Easter morning accounts of Mary or Peter, they had not personally seen the risen Christ.
As with many encounters described in scripture, Jesus realizes these two travelers need something more, a deeper revelation into the reality of God’s plan. He begins with a gentle rebuke in Luke 24:25 and continues with the pivotal question in verse 26: “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
The travelers clearly didn’t understand. They, like many of Jesus’ followers, had misread or misinterpreted the prophecies concerning the awaited Messiah. They believed the popular teaching that Israel’s Redeemer would forceably drive out the Romans and establish his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.
The Ultimate Bible Study
Jesus proceeds to offer them what may be the ultimate Bible study in history. Beginning with Moses and prophets he details every aspect of his true purpose, filling their hearts with the Word of God.
The travelers’ problems were similar to many of our own – they had viewed Christ through their eyes and expectations rather than through God’s. They believed the cross had been a failure, a mistake because it did not fit their vision of what a Messiah should be. They failed to see the cross as what it was: the means by which Christ would enter his glory, the very fulfillment of scripture and pathway to redemption.
Reaching Emmaus, the travelers invited the still-unrecognized Jesus into their home for supper. After blessing and breaking bread, Jesus is finally revealed to them and then, suddenly, vanishes. In the place of his physical body, he left something even more permanent and immutable – the Word and Voice of God.
Astonished, they share how their hearts had been burning in his presence and how as he revealed God’s plan to them their understanding had changed.
Luke tells us the travelers got up that very hour and returned by the same road to Jerusalem to share their experience with the 11 apostles and those gathered with them. The same road that had started with despair was now a road of hope and elation.
This encounter reminds me of so many stories I hear from others. Hopes and dreams are crushed. Life has taken an unforeseen turn. Doors that once seemed wide open are suddenly slammed shut.
Yet even the midst of chaos, disappointment, and dead-end roads often filling our lives Jesus walks beside us still, restoring hope and renewing our strength through the inerrant Word of God. Like the travelers to Emmaus, our walks can end with hearts ignited rather than filled with despair, emboldened by the love of a risen Savior.
Ultimately, just as Samwise asked “what now?” at the edge of his understanding, we ask “what now?” at the edge of ours and are answered by Jesus himself. The Word of God is the “what now?” in all our lives.