“Didn’t the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (LK24:25-27)
Crucifixion and burial of Jesus of Nazareth must have made quite a stir to the small coterie who ministered unto his needs and looked up to him as sent from God. Cleophas and his companion were not his apostles but were quite close to those who walked with him during his earthly ministry. Now they were traveling to Emmaus on the first day of the week and they were so seized with the latest events. Death of the Lord and rumors regarding his resurrection indeed perplexed them.
They had heard of the version of the women who had early that morning seen the vision of angels. The two had not yet sorted in their hearts if it were true or not. The absence of the body was quite perplexing to them to say the least. Perhaps they had reasoned out why. It must have run thus: the Roman guards must have spirited away the body in the cover of night lest it should be used as holy relics. The least the Imperial Rome wanted was a new cult emerging from the crucifixion and burial of one whom the Jews themselves had found a malefactor.
Jesus joined them as they walked towards Emmaus. Yet they did not recognize him. They had looked for Messiah and their understanding of the scriptures was not enough to reveal the identity of the third presence. The Scriptures is replete with the prophets predicting the death and resurrection of Messiah. Cleophas and his fellow traveler were apparently well acquainted with these passages(Ac.2:22-32). But it did not make them connect with the presence of the risen Christ.
The Jewish nation indeed looked for the advent of Messiah. Only that they hoped it would reinstate the nation about Jerusalem. They hoped for a Priest King and not a Servant-King (Mt20.28). Much we may have read about Jesus as meek, lowly and as a teacher. But our mind can grasp its significance only by the spirit of God. (2 Pe1:20-21) It is an essential component in understanding the Scriptures. Jesus during his earthly life faulted the teachers of law because legalism colored their mind and they could not see Jesus as fulfillment of Messianic predictions. Similarly Cleophas and his companion were perplexed by the strange happenings since their Jewish mindset prevented them from the true significance of the events and the identity of the Presence.
God is a spirit and Jn. 4:23-24. God is worshiped in spirit and truth. It is how a Christian ought to read the Scriptures. We read in the same passage that ‘they are the kind of worshipers God seeks’.(vs.23NIV) Jesus of Nazareth suffered in his body, and death was only as far as it related to the body. In his spirit there was no corruption. The passage where he reveals the wounds ‘Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself’.(Lk24:37) was with regards to the person. He died for our sins while his Spirit was the same. Jesus Christ the same, today and forever. The transfiguration(Mt.17:2-9) came during his earthly ministry to prepare him for the death. The outpouring of Holy Spirit on all flesh (Ac. 2.) was the other visible manifestation that came as a result of resurrection.
The will of God concerning the body of Jesus of Nazareth is found in the book of Psalms (40:7) -‘A body hast thou prepared’ and the prophets who predicted the death and resurrection touched on the physical person.
We read that there were two momentous events that only related to the Spirit. What God the Spirit records on these two manifestations are to grasped spiritually. Jesus had to die and go to the father so Spirit may be received by all through faith. The first event indicated death of the body: God the Son must taste death once for all mankind. Second was how that event would prepare mankind to be joined to the spiritual reality of the risen Christ, the Church.
He was aware of his ministry so he could say,’I am the Resurrection and life.’Jn 11:25
Word was made flesh and death of it must make reading of Word a spiritual experience. It is as spiritual as Lord’s supper we partake as a memorial of his death. Reading the Word is a sacrament that every child of God may partake on every day basis. Death and Resurrection of Jesus work their way into our lives so what we read from the Scriptures quickens us. Jn 11:25. ‘I am the Resurrection and life’. Easter celebrates the risen Christ. He is also life as he tells before the raising of Lazarus. It is of this abundance of life his words hold that Cleophas and his companion later testified. Breaking of the bread sure enough made their eyes open.
To recap: In this passion week we need to fix our mind on the significance of the death of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the manifestation of divine will. It was necessary to provide a quickening spirit with which the Word becomes real to us. Reading without the spirit of God working in a Christian’s life is like seeking him among the dead. ‘Christ is indeed risen!’
He for once died for our sins and was exalted to the right hand of God.'(Ac.2:33). He conquered death so every child of God may also overcome the terror of death.
When we read therefore we are reading with the aid of Holy Spirit so the dry as dust words are endowed with power and we can justly divide the word of truth(2 Ti 2:15) The way he broke bread with the two did something to them.’They recognized the resurrected Lord.Lk24:31) Later the experience made them realize with what force the scripture touched them.’Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way… ‘ The Emmaus experience made them effective witnesses of the Risen Christ.