“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
For three years Jesus had held the tiny band together, through journeyings, storms and opposition. And now – following a public trial and execution – He was gone.
Take away the dominant figure, and an organisation can quickly crumble. Take Theudas, an earlier messianic claimant. Once killed, his 400 devotees melted away. Then there was ‘Judas the Galilean.’ When he, too, was removed, the movement scattered. It was a respected Pharisee, Gamaliel, who used these incidents to discourage his fellow Jewish leaders from persecuting the new Christian church. “Don’t worry about this threatening new movement!” he was saying:
Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or
activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you
will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves
fighting against God (Acts 5:33-40)
Now, it was Easter Day evening. And here were two discouraged disciples walking to Emmaus. As far as they were concerned, their leader was dead. The ‘scattering’ process had already begun. It had started on that fateful Thursday evening of Christ’s arrest, when Jesus had quoted to his disciples from the prophet Zechariah: “It is written ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’” (Matthew 26.31.)
The dream was over. “Let’s go home - back to Emmaus.” Yet Luke 24 is the glowing account of the entire re-building of a world-view. As an apparent Stranger joins the two, it was like the uncorking of a bottle; their story pours out. Surely - they argued - The future Redeemer of Israel - and crucifixion - have nothing to do with each other!
Then began a fascinating Bible study on the road. Evidently in their studies, the two had skipped the passages that spoke of a suffering Messiah. The Stranger says, “Let me fill in those bits for you.” Now the figures of a Suffering Servant and a conquering King begin to coalesce into a single photo-fit! Then, at supper with the two, comes the familiar action of the breaking of bread, and – Why…. it’s Jesus. Hot-foot, the pair make the seven miles back to Jerusalem. Ultimately, it was the Scriptures that did it for them. Now they can’t keep the glowing news of the risen Christ to themselves!
If Jesus had not been bodily raised from the grave, the demoralized movement – like that of Theudas – would have folded within days.
And you and I would never have heard of Him!