On the first Easter, two men left Jerusalem even though they had heard the first reports of Jesus’ resurrection. Fortunately for them, God intervened. He sent Jesus to walk and talk with them. (Luke 24:15). He sent Jesus to turn their lives around so they returned to the place where God was at work—the place where they needed to be—the Promised Land!
This blog is based on the chapter “A Healthy Jesus walk to Emmaus” first published in 2004 in my book Hoping in the LORD, at pages 313-318.
On the first Easter, two men left Jerusalem to go to Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:13). These two men left Jerusalem even though they had heard the first reports of Jesus’ resurrection.
It seems odd that in the midst of so much excitement, they would have left Jerusalem.
We don’t know why they left. Maybe they had pressing business commitments elsewhere for the next day. Maybe they were afraid of being arrested and executed as Jesus had been.
Perhaps it’s just as well that we don’t know the specific reason why these two men left Jerusalem. This uncertainty helps us realize that there are many reasons—and many excuses—that we use to leave the very places where God is most at work.
Because, for whatever reason or reasons, these two men who had followed Jesus were walking away from the greatest event in history. They lacked the perception, interest or commitment to be personally involved in what God was doing in the world at that moment.
Fortunately for them, God intervened. He sent Jesus to walk and talk with them. (Luke 24:15). He sent Jesus to turn their lives around so they returned to the place where God was at work—the place where they needed to be.
It is comforting to realize that Jesus was willing to walk along with them even though they were heading in the wrong direction. Jesus is willing to be patient with us as we learn his ways better.
And it is wise to remember that, even though Jesus was right there with them, “they were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:16).
We are not told why Jesus kept these disciples from recognizing him while they walked together. But we often learn about God by going through experiences that seem to have nothing to do with God until, looking back at them—sometimes years later—we realize that God sent those experiences our way to make us wiser, better, more mature, more disciplined people.
In this case, I suspect that Jesus did not reveal himself to these disciple immediately because he had things to teach them that they’d learn better if they didn’t recognize him immediately.
In particular, Jesus does not want us to recognize him from his physical appearance. Jesus wants us to recognize him from his spiritual appearance by relying on the Scriptures that describe him and his ways.
When Jesus teaches, he often starts with questions. That is why it is never wrong to question the things that people teach us—even when the person teaching us is a Christian. Often these questions come from God to help us know him and his ways better.
Jesus “asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’” (Luke 24:17). They did not answer quickly. “They stood still, their faces downcast” (Luke 24:17).
Their hearts were in the right place, even though their feet were taking them the wrong way. They had loved Jesus and his ways. Their downcast faces proved their sincere grief at the tragedy that befell him. All they needed was understanding and hope to get them walking in the right direction.
Similarly, if you keep your heart sincerely loving Jesus, he will find a way to get you walking in the right direction, even if your downcast spirits lead you the wrong way.
After letting the men vent their hopeless confusion, Jesus relied on the Hebrew Scriptures to prove his point. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
In the same way today, look to the Scriptures! If you are walking the wrong way—if you are discouraged and confused by the hopeless circumstances that swirl around you, look to the Scriptures for guidance.
In the Scriptures, you can find answers to your confusion. In the Scriptures, you can find hope to walk the way you should walk.
Because “[a]ll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the [person] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)—thoroughly equipped to worship the LORD in Spirit and in Truth by blessing all peoples in the Promised Land.
And so, if you study the Scriptures sincerely and diligently, Jesus will walk with you, restoring hope to your heart and purpose to your life. Jesus will heal your Promised Land, enabling you to establish the Work of your hands.
However, Jesus will seldom do so in as dramatic a fashion as he did that first Easter as he befriended the two men walking to Emmaus.
Keep in mind that the two men did not yet realize that their companion was Jesus.
Similarly, you may not realize at first that it is God himself who is helping you find hope and purpose from studying the Scriptures. But, as long as you feel strongly urged to keep studying the Scriptures, you can be confident that you are in the process by which God will make himself fully known to you.
Eventually, you’ll recognize that Jesus is the friendly traveling companion of your life.
The moment of recognition for these two men came as they shared a meal with their “new” friend. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him . . .” (Luke 24:30-31).
As soon as the men recognized Jesus, “he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:31).
We are not told how these two men recognized Jesus at that moment. Indeed, perhaps it is good that we are left to use our imaginations to search for ways that people can recognize Jesus. Because different people recognize Jesus for different reasons.
Some people may recognize Jesus from the close fellowship found by sharing a meal.
Others may recognize Jesus as they begin to taste the good things he gives them—spiritual food such as hope in their hearts and purpose in their life.
Others may recognize Jesus when they see the nail holes in his hands as he gives them their spiritual food. When they realize that Jesus gave his life to save them, they recognize Jesus as their Savior.
Whatever specific act by Jesus opens your eyes so that you realize that he has been walking with you and talking with you, I hope you feel as much excitement as these two men felt.
Once they realized who they had been with, “[t]hey asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32).
I hope that once you recognize Jesus, you will act on that revelation as quickly and decisively as these two men did. Jesus had taught the men what they needed to know. Now was the time for action—not for sitting around the table eating.
“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem” (Luke 24:33).
Back in Jerusalem—the place where God wanted them to be—these two men found even more reasons to have hope in their hearts and purpose in their lives. Because “[t]here they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’” (Luke 24:33-34).
Furthermore, encouraged by the faith of the other believers, these two men found a new purpose for their lives—giving hope to others by telling “what happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread” (Luke 24:35).
Today, as on that first Easter, you can fill your heart with hope and your life with purpose by going to the place where God wants you to be—the place where God is at work. The Promised Land.
In the Promised Land, you will find best friends who believe that Jesus is alive.
In the Promised Land, you will find best friends who feel their hearts burn within them as they open the Scriptures to learn more about Jesus and his ways.
In the Promised Land, you will find friends who worship Jesus by joyfully proclaiming: “It is true! The Lord has risen.”
In the Promised Land, you will find a new purpose for your life—blessing all peoples by giving them hope.
How will you give all these people hope? By being best friends with them. And by telling these best friends the good news about Jesus.
You’ll tell these best friends how Jesus walked with you through life before you even recognized him.
You’ll tell these best friends how your heart burned within you while you diligently and sincerely studied the Scriptures to learn about Jesus and his ways.
You’ll tell these best friends what Jesus did that opened your eyes so that you recognized him.
You’ll tell these best friends how to walk the way Jesus wants you to walk.
You’ll tell these best friends the way to reach the place where God wants you to be.
You’ll tell these best friends the way to reach the place where God is at work—the Promised Land.
You’ll tell these best friends how Jesus guided and carried you across oceans of hopeless confusion until you reached the Promised Land.
When I talk about the Promised Land, I am not talking about a geographic concept. I am talking about a spiritual concept—a “Promised Land” where “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). I used this spiritual concept in all my books, most notably The Promised Land and Healing the Promised Land.
To read why I believe Jesus rose from the dead, please read the chapters “Caiaphas and Pilate Ensure No One Can Steal Jesus’ Body” and “God the Father Resurrects His Son, Jesus Christ” in my book Hoping in the LORD, at pages 297-308.
To read about the effect of the Resurrection of Jesus on his followers, please read my blog “Overcoming Oceans of Despair” and the chapters “As Mary Cries, Jesus Comes and Calls Her by Name”, “A Healthy Jesus Walks to Emmaus”, “Jesus Tells the Disciples, ‘Peace Be with You!’”, “Jesus Overcomes the Doubts of Doubting Thomas”, and “Jesus Encourages Peter to Take Care of His Sheep” in my book Hoping in the LORD, at pages 309-333.