Happenings around Antioch

He Opened Their Eyes

I love the story Luke tells of the two men, Cleopas and another unnamed disciple of Jesus, walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, discussing the events that they have just witnessed. And while they talk and reason with one another about these things, Jesus walks up beside them and asks them a question. Why didn’t they recognize Jesus? We don’t know, but the simple answer may be that God prevented them from recognizing Jesus. Isn’t that the case with many whom we talk to about the Lord? We have the Spirit of Christ but they cannot recognize him. Their hearts are hardened or broken over the circumstances of their lives or it is simply not the right time yet. 

Jesus asks them a question, as he has done so many times in his ministry. You know, Jesus never asked a question because he lacked knowledge, but in order to peel open hearts, that he might speak into them. (Never underestimate the power of a well-placed question! It will often provide access into a life that nothing else will.) Jesus asked them what they had been talking about as they walked.

We see that God has a sense of humor, when Cleopas responds, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know what just happened there?” I can imagine Jesus stifling a grin because he is the only one in the city who DOES know what just happened. Saints, we can come to the Lord sometimes with our prayers and say, “Lord, don’t you see? Don’t you know what is going on with me here?” And the truth is, he is the only one who knows what is going on with you. We don’t ever fully know what is going on, even with ourselves. But the Lord does, and cares.

Jesus says, “What things?” Never underestimate the power of an open-ended question.

Cleopas and the other disciple of Jesus respond with a word that reveals dashed hopes. They say that Jesus of Nazareth has been crucified, and then they reveal their hearts: “But we had hoped that he  was the one to redeem Israel.” Two things about their response: first, they had misplaced hope. Their hope was for a Messiah who would come as a victorious champion and conquer Rome and deliver Israel from bondage. They did not understand the truth, that God had always told his people that the One who came to deliver them would have to do it through his own death. That the path to glory went through suffering. They have ignored the bloodiness of Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Instead they have gone right to Isaiah 61: 1-2 “…he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God…”

Second, it was hope that had been buried with Jesus. We had hoped, they said. In other words, we don’t hope any more. We were hoping, but all hope is now lost. Jesus of Nazareth is dead. In fact, he was put in a tomb. That’s where you put dead people. That’s why the women went there today, to see the body, but when they got there to see the dead body, the dead body wasn’t there. He was crucified and buried, but now he is gone. An angel said he was alive, but they didn’t see him. They just know his dead body wasn’t there. You get the point, right? They were sure that Jesus was dead.

It was when he was breaking the bread and blessing it that these two finally saw Jesus. I love the way Luke says it: “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Was it that they saw the nail prints in his hands as he was breaking the bread? Or was it the way he broke the bread that reminded them of times when Jesus broke bread and fed five thousand in the wilderness? Or was it the way he spoke to the Father as he blessed the bread that reminded them of the way they had heard Jesus talk to the Father before? The truth is, we don’t know, but what a difference was made in the hearts and the lives and the attitudes of these two men!

When Jesus opens our eyes to the truth of who he is in every situation, the situation itself may not change at all, but we do. And if we have believed a lie and then Jesus opens our eyes to the truth, it is resurrection day all over again. 

The men knew they had to go find the other disciples and tell them all they had just seen and heard. Night is approaching, they have just walked seven miles, but neither of those facts deter them now. They rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. How many want to wager that they ran a little, if not the whole way back? Truth sets us free. Free to run. Free to live without fear and guilt and shame. 

Jesus Christ is risen in our hearts. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.