|Series Theme: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ|
|Meditation No. 7|
|Meditation Title: Where was Jesus?|
Lk 24:13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
We have been following the events of that first Sunday morning after Jesus had risen, trying to find out who was doing what as we trace the activities of the disciples, but there is a far bigger question that arises, which we will only partially be able to answer: where was Jesus and what was he doing? Our answer is going to be only sketchy at the best because we are not told what he was doing, only in as far as we have specific encounters with specific people – which did not take up the whole day.
All we know so far in what we have studied, is that at some time early on Sunday morning he rose from the dead, shed the grave clothes, obtained other clothes from somewhere (because no one commented that he was naked when the various people met him) and was out of the tomb. Subsequently he met Peter and the women and Mary Magdalene (although even the order of those encounters is not very specific) and then he seems to go off our radar until we come to the encounter on the road to Emmaus which culminated late afternoon. Assuming the walk to Emmaus would naturally take about two to three hours, it would seem that, if there were no supernatural element about him getting there, he left Jerusalem early afternoon, unless he had some other goal or destination that we don't know about, and he had left to go somewhere else first and thus left earlier.
What is clear, and what we rarely think about, is that we are mostly in the dark about what Jesus did in that day, simply because he has not told us. It is not surprising that there is often a lack of clarity or agreement in the accounts because this was without doubt the most confusing event of their lives. They had all been through a time of immense anguish and fear, a time of utter disappointment and loss, a time when their emotions had been harried to the nth degree. They had possibly hardly slept and were quite likely physically and emotional wrecks. Sunday must have appeared as a dream – or more likely a nightmare initially, and their minds struggled to cope with the wonder of what was being presented to them. It is no wonder, therefore, that they are not uniformly specific about what happened. In fact, the more we think about it, the more incredible it is that the Holy Spirit was able to bring even this order to their minds twenty or thirty years later when they wrote the first three Gospels.
Returning to what Jesus was doing, it is possible that if he continued to do some of the things he had done in his life previously, he was spending some of the time communing with his Father, in prayer. It is also possible, of course, that he may have gone and visited other people, but if so, they simply didn't pass it on to the others. We are, however, left to speculate. Why also, we may wonder, did he bother to walk fourteen miles (because he also came back from Emmaus later) simply to have an encounter with these two men? Why didn't he just go to the main group of disciples and explain it to them? We aren't told and so all we can do is speculate or remain quiet. The best that my powers of speculation can come up with is that he was already visiting someone else in that direction (had he been out to Bethany to visit Mary, Martha and Lazarus?) and simply used this encounter to reveal something more of himself.
Consider basically what happened: the two disciples are some way on their journey to Emmaus when they encounter Jesus, although they don't recognise him (Lk 24:15,16). They talk and he chides them for their lack of belief and then explains how all the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled (Lk 24:25-27). When they arrive at their home in Emmaus, he appears to be going on but they prevail on him to stay and eat with them. It was only as he broke the bread that they recognised him – and then he disappeared! (Lk 24:28-31). Now two particular things stand out in this account, so far, which are naturally strange: first that they didn't recognise him initially, and second, that he disappeared the moment that they did recognise him. The fact that they didn't recognise him could be explained by the fact that his head and face could have been largely covered against dust and wind, but mostly that they simply never expected to see him because, in their minds at least, he was dead. It is, of course, possible that the resurrected Jesus did look slightly different, because Mary Magdalene had had the same difficulty of recognising him initially. Mystery! We might try and explain away his sudden disappearance as he slipped away while the other two became so excited, but as the whole of Jesus' ministry had involved divinely supernatural abilities (e.g. walking on water) I'm not sure why we need to go to lengths to explain away his disappearance.
If we look at the basic principles that arise in this episode of resurrection appearances, we should include the following. First, we find again, as we have noted before, all these things involve people doing very ordinary things. These two disciples were simply walking and talking before Jesus arrived. The Christian faith stands out from other world faiths in a number of ways, but one of them is the way that God comes to ordinary people living ordinary lives. It is not about ecstatic experiences for they are far from that. These men are likely to be tired and dirty from their walk. They are far from the ‘cleansed' devotees of some religions when they have their divine encounter, for that is what it is.
Next, and following on from that, is that divine encounters sometimes take very ordinary forms. As we said, there is no ecstatic or rapturous experience here (not at first anyway), just a listening to an apparent human figure who brings revelation to them. The point we would wish to make is that so often God speaks into our lives in very ordinary ways, so ordinary in fact, that we sometimes don't realise who it was speaking. And that, thirdly, is what happens here. These two disciples of Jesus don't recognise him, for whatever reason. How many of God's people don't recognise God's hand on their lives or God's voice speaking to them?
The fourth thing to note here, surely, is that there is a blend of the mysterious with the ordinary and that ‘mysterious' element cannot be explained. The requirement upon us to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) is simply because our minds are not big enough to comprehend God or His ways. This, of course, is the stumbling block for many of us who are so insecure that we feel we have to be in control and with full understanding all the time – though of course that never happens in reality!
Can we take on board these ‘lessons' that come out of this incident, or will our security make us shy away and flee from God? The truth is that God's love is there constantly seeking to reassure us and bring us into a place of security where we can trust Him completely, even if we do not understand everything. May that be your experience.