By Michael E. Brooks
“Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened” (Luke 24:13-14).
Working among the churches and remote areas of South Asia often involves considerable walking. Sometimes it is just a matter of a few hundred yards from the nearest road or river into the village, but on some occasions I have walked several days in order to visit a particular area. At such times one good way to fill the hours is by conversation with fellow travelers.
I remember a preacher in Nepal studying the Bible with our hired Hindu cook while we were walking near Dunche in the mountains. He was able to cover a lot of doctrine and text as we traveled for several miles. Since I am limited to English, I usually confine my conversation to the few English speakers who are normally preachers accompanying me to translate and provide leadership for the treks. This time has enabled us to deepen relationships, exchange personal information, and discuss doctrinal and practical issues of our ministries.
I can hardly imagine a conversation so fascinating however as that engaged in by the disciples of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. “These things which had happened” might conceivably include all the life and ministry of Jesus, or at least as much as they had witnessed or been told of. More likely though they would have focused upon the events of the last days of Jesus’ life, especially the week of his final ministry in Jerusalem and his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection.
These were not articles of faith, doctrine or historical record to these two men. Rather they were events of which they were eyewitnesses. And they were very recent events, some occurring that very day. These things involved them – their hopes and dreams, their own experiences, perhaps even their safety and security. After all, there was no certainty that the disciples of the executed Jesus would not yet be arrested and tried for their association with the “famous criminal”, or on suspicion of stealing his body for fraudulent purposes (Matthew 28:13).
No doubt they were second-guessing and analyzing these events, wondering if they could have done anything to have prevented Jesus’ suffering. There was likely some guilt expressed, along with much grief. Beyond that there must have been a great deal of puzzlement concerning the meaning of Jesus’ prophesies of his death, and why, if he was indeed the Messiah, God allowed these things to happen.
Christians still discuss these events. Much the same topics and motives dominate our conversations. Guilt is felt when we realize that he suffered because of our sins. Philosophically and theologically we are still troubled by the possibility and necessity of God dying. We marvel at how he loved us, and how he suffered for us.
But although we may talk about the same things, I wonder how many modern believers ever approach the emotional intensity of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The events were so recent (still occurring, actually), so personal, so dramatic that they were involved to the very core of their being. How could they not discuss them, puzzle over them, relive them in their memories?
But are we not just as involved? Jesus’ physical death occurred two thousand years ago and ten thousand miles away, but spiritually it is just as near as my last sin, or my last repentance. He died for each of us – it does not get any more personal that that. And his death conquered sin, death and hell. That is as much drama as this world can conceive.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are still recent, relevant, and real. As we walk with our friends, visit with neighbors, or work with associates, let us talk about these things, discussing their meaning and their significance in our lives. It not only will help us pass the time – it will also help determine how we and others will “pass” eternity.
By Michael E. Brooks