TELLING WHAT HAPPENS

“Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread”.

Lk 24:35 NIV

The Emmaus Road story is amazing in several ways. We encounter the couple at no other juncture. Jesus walks along with them for quite some distance, but they fail to recognize him. Then when they do recognize him and he vanishes, they set off back to Jerusalem. Emmaus, according to Luke, was seven miles (or eleven kilometres) from Jerusalem – and they had just walked it one way late in the day. Fourteen miles is a long walk, but they go, bearing in mind that they will later have to foot slog the same seven miles back to Emmaus a second time. The excitement they must have felt and the joy of their message must have inspired and enabled them to perform this considerable physical exercise. But they had to tell the other disciples about Jesus who had come to them alive and full of “presence”.

The gospel of Jesus has been passed on down through two thousand years because those who have witnessed his love and power have told others – like these two from Emmaus. And those who have heard have, in their turn told yet more. The testimony of some has inspired faith in others. And they have passed it on again. Always those who have had their faith set alight have passed on a spark of faith to someone else. The telling is part of the gospel itself. God uses simple, ordinary people to spread the gospel of Jesus and those others have become a new part of the good news. You pass it on too. Become part of the Easter story and pass on the greatest message ever told.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to tell what Jesus means to me.

IT IS TRUE!

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon’”.

Lk 24:33, 34 NIV

There is a saying – usually handy for criminals in movies – that goes, “Dead men tell no tales”. As far as the enemies of Jesus were concerned, his death was the end of the matter and now everyone could get back to business. The business of power and the power of business could revert to their normal ways. But they had overlooked one small matter – God. He should never be discounted or written off. He has a habit of making a nuisance of himself when people do this.

And, of course God had turned the world upside down. Only he had done something that wasn’t easy and straightforward to accept. Amending the movie cliché somewhat Jerusalem was wrestling with the fact that “Dead men don’t rise”. But one had. Several people had seen him. Others were telling the tale around the city. The two people from Emmaus had scampered back and had told their story to the disciples. Then they heard it. The great news was that Simon had seen him. That settled it. No further evidence was needed. If they had met him and he had appeared to Simon then it had to be true.

Doubters and sceptics down the centuries have poured cold water on the story. Some people have believed and doubted alternately. But a whole religion involving billions can hardly have survived for two thousand years unless there was “something in it”. But it is as true today as ever it was in Jerusalem all those centuries ago.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to believe the resurrection and never to doubt.

AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him”.

Lk 24:31 NIV

There is an English saying, “There’s none so blind as them that will not see”. Many people are blind in this sense when it comes to recognizing who Jesus was – and is. They refuse point blank to exercise their faith faculty and believe in Jesus.

This was not the problem with the two disciples (probably a husband and wife pair?) whom Jesus met on the road to Emmaus. They had been bewildered by so many strange and unexpected events in the previous few days that they probably wondered if life would ever return to normal again. It was difficult for them to think or see straight in anything. They were probably relieved to find that the road to Emmaus was still in the same place! They were so perplexed that, when he joined them they didn’t recognise Jesus for who he was – and it was evening, and probably dark already. Having accepted their earnest urging to come in and stay, Jesus joined them at the supper table. It was as he took bread and broke it that they recognized him. Was it the nail marks in his hands that gave him away? Was it the way he handled the bread? Or the blessing that he asked? Whatever, there he was – their Jesus, their friend and their master, the Lord of glory and the Saviour of the world.

Whatever your ideas or doubts, whatever your difficulties in believing in the resurrection, let the scales fall from your eyes this Easter. Whatever prevents you from knowing Jesus, or acknowledging him, serving him, and glorifying him – let your eyes be opened now. Own him as your Lord and Saviour. And serve him from this moment on.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord help me to see you and know you.

JESUS STAYS

“He went in to stay with them”.

Lk 24:29 NIV

The events of the resurrection of Jesus are very instructive for his disciples. They not only tell us that he rose from the dead in a gloriously miraculous way.

They tell us that he returns. In the Old Testament there were accounts of God coming to various people. Abraham was one. Moses was another. So was Isaiah. The story of Jesus appearing to the two believers on their way home to Emmaus tells us that Jesus not only comes. He returns, and he stays with people in the midst of their confusion, grief and sorrow. They wondered what in the world was happening after all the events of holy week. They were bewildered by the attitude of the religious leaders and the lack of justice on the part of Pontius Pilate. They were shocked that Jesus could have been murdered in the way he was. And now God had performed the unbelievable all-time action in raising Jesus. Into the midst of their bewilderment Jesus now came – and came incognito – and he went in to partake of their hospitality, to rekindle their faith and to calm them down and turn them round.

When Jesus comes he comes to stay with you as well. He comes to stay with you in your ups and downs, your times of doubt, and your turmoil. He comes to stay with you during your family upheavals, your business failures and your life-ruining mistakes. He comes to stay with you when your dreams are shattered, your hopes come unstuck and you have to try to pick up the pieces and put them together again. And he comes to stay with you through the trying experiences of old age and till you die.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Thank you, Lord, for your abiding presence.

STAY WITH US!

“They urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over’”.

Lk 24:29 NIV

The stories of the appearances of Jesus to his disciples after his resurrection are dearly loved narratives. The dialogue on the road to Emmaus is particularly full of meaning. It is sad that the village has been lost in the centuries of time and visitors to Israel today are unable to retrace that epic journey.

All disciples of Jesus will echo this plea to the risen Lord, “Stay with us”. How we wish we could hold him, keep him, converse with him, ask him questions, share our problems with him and explain our failures and weaknesses. The truth is, of course that he does stay with us. He said he would when, according to Matthew he promised, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20 NIV).

We want him with us in the trials of life when the going is tough and we wonder how we are ever going to pull through. We want him with us when we are in confusion and we can’t fathom out the sense in any of the problems or queries that beset us. We want him with us when we are weary and don’t know how we are going to carry on, when the “burdens” we have to shoulder threaten to break our backs and our spirits. We want him to stay with us when illness lays us low and we begin to wonder where it is going to lead us, and fears of death start to creep into our consciousness. We want him to stay with us when grief and sorrow overwhelm us, and the future seems dark. Then, as ever, we plead, “stay with us”.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, now and always, stay with me.

ROLLED AWAY!

“The women … found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus”.

Lk 24:1, 2, 3 NIV

It is Easter Day, the day we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. Christian disciples the world over will be poring over the resurrection stories again, looking for clues, proofs, previously unnoticed details and any other aspect of the story that “hits” them. The great hymns will be sung again, pilgrimages will be pursued, and faith will be renewed for millions of people. And since this is a day of remembering people who have died, it will all be tinged with moments of sadness.

But it is a day of great hope as well. The resurrection of Jesus, in all its mystery, says to us, “This mortal life is not all there is”. Life is in the hands of God, not nature, not fate, doubt nor “common sense”. For many people life is meaningless. It doesn’t make sense. The universe is something that has happened but everything in it is a mess. And it is made worse by the stupidity, greed, animal cravings and conflicts of the human beings in the universe. That is a pretty miserable and bleak understanding of life on planet earth. But the resurrection of Jesus throws light on the subject. It says to uncomprehending human beings, “God has the final word. He is greater, mightier and more glorious than all the great people who have ever lived and beyond this earthly existence there is hope of a future and hope for the future. Easter is all about hope in each and every situation. There is hope beyond defeat, beyond disappointment, and beyond death. Hallelujah!

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, let me live always in hope.

IN THE FATHER’S HANDS

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’”.

Lk 23:46 NIV

One of the amazing aspects of the life story of Jesus was his closeness to his heavenly Father. The faith of the Israelites had always been strictly monotheistic (which means belief in only one God). Furthermore, this God was transcendent (which means high above and far removed from humans). But by the age of twelve Jesus was talking about his discussions with priests in the temple being his “Father’s business”. Already the pattern was set – he lived close to this far-away God, whom he addressed as “Father”. Later, as people tried to fathom out the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father they described his work as “revelation”. He revealed the nature and mission of the God his people had worshipped and obeyed for all the centuries. Some Christians have called Christ’s coming and mission as “The Divine Self-Disclosure”. And the way they knew Jesus prayed meant that he didn’t just repeat a set and prescribed pattern of prayers. It was personal, intimate, communication in which “two hearts beat as one”.

In the long prayer Jesus offered in the upper room at the Last Supper the address was to his Father. He began, “Father the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you”. He knew he had come from the Father. He knew that everything that was going to happen was going to glorify God. He was from, with and in the Father from start to finish, only it wasn’t going to finish. There was more to come. The Father would have the last word. It is a guide to all Christ’s disciples. At Easter – and always – we too are in the Father’s hands.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, I commit myself into your hands now and for ever.

CRUCIFY HIM

“Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, so he appealed to the crowd again. But they shouted back, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Lk 23:20, 21 GNB

“Life is difficult”. So said Scott Peck setting down a principle of human existence which, once you accept it and see the depth of truth in it, is a great help in facing it. But there is more. “Life is not fair” is another fact of existence which few of us perceive until it is pointed out to us. We grow up thinking that it ought to be fair. No matter how much you disagree with this, it is true – it’s one of the stubborn realities of life. And the older we get and the more we see of life, the greater we see the injustices of life to be.

The Romans prided themselves on the quality of their law and their system of justice. The crucifixion of Jesus was one of the major instances of injustice. But the Romans, and the Jewish authorities that held sway in Jerusalem, somehow conspired together to murder an innocent man – in fact God’s Son. It was one of the most ignominious acts of ancient history. And it led to ongoing violence and persecution of Christians in many parts of the Roman Empire.

Dwell today on this event. Do not try to understand it. It is beyond comprehension, rationality or decency. Appreciate it – and that he suffered there for you, in all the humiliation, cruelty, indecency and madness of the day. And pray to God with gratitude, humility, spirituality, and pride. He did it for the salvation of the world and for you. And bring your sins and confess them to Jesus and leave them there. And go – saved and to save.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, thank you for your work for me on Calvary

JESUS PRAYED

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives … knelt down and prayed, ‘Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”.

Lk 22:39, 42 NIV

We refer to this week as “Holy Week” as we move from the events of Palm Sunday to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. There are several places in the gospel where Jesus engages in prayer.

As he faces this great crisis of his life we might expect him to be concentrating on the opposition, the forces ranged against him, or perhaps an attempt to beef up his supporters. Instead we find him preparing in prayer. In the upper room with his disciples he engages in a long prayer to the Father for his friends. This prayer, recorded in John 17, is known as the “High Priestly Prayer”. Then later in the garden of Gethsemane he prays earnestly to his Father asking that “this cup pass from me”. Here he is not praying for anyone else. He is seeking the Father’s way forward and his Father’s strength. It is a prayer of submission and to know God’s will. It is also a prayer of agony indicating how tough it was for him to face the agony of the cross and the suffering. It was not an easy, automatic acceptance of the Father’s will. In his prayer he sweated drops of blood.

The agony of Jesus calls his disciples to agony of soul as well. Good Friday demands that we allow ourselves to be incorporated in Christ’s agony and share his suffering. We are “in him” and he is “in us”. This applies to his suffering as well as to his presence and resurrection power.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, involve me in your agony on this special day.

SATAN NEVER SLEEPS

“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the twelve”.

Lk 22:3 NIV

I t is difficult to decide which of the disastrous incidents in the final few days of Christ’s life was the worst. The Jewish leaders wanted rid of him. Judas agreed to betray him. Peter denied him. Pontius Pilate weakly let the crowd have their way. It is significant that Luke in describing Judas’ action refers to him as “one of the twelve”. Luke seems to be saying, “It happened, this treasonous act, right there from amongst the intimate core of Christ’s disciples”.

Judas had walked and talked with Jesus. He had listened to the parables, witnessed the miracles – had gathered up the crumbs after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand hungry people – and had seen the opposition to him of the religious high-ups. Some disciples on the strength of similar access were ready soon to give their lives for Jesus. But Judas never made it. He was Satan’s son.

One of the stubborn facts of human existence is the undeniable presence of evil. Satan is always looking for an opportunity to mess up the good things and to invade the holiest circles. He corrupted the greatest Jewish King, David. And he had taken occupation of the religious leaders in Jerusalem as they sought to rid the city and the people of Jesus. Instead of welcoming Jesus and lionising him as God’s Son, they tried to “queer his pitch” at every step of the way. It all shows that religious groups are often the most vulnerable to Satan’s wiles. It happens today – in high-up dignitaries, popular evangelists, and seemingly committed spiritual leaders in churches. Disciples will not be surprised or shocked at the personal failures that occur. They helped to crucify Jesus.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help to protect me from the stratagems of Satan.