Today is the day we put the two instances together side by side. Jesus telling His disciples of His death two times. The final time on the road to Jerusalem and the time on the road to Emmaus.
When we first started this comparison idea I stated a couple of things I wanted to look at. I copied and pasted those ideas here so I wouldn’t get too far off track. “I want to look at the emotions of the disciples in each of these two instances. I want to look at Jesus’ telling of the story. And I want to look at the results of each of these tellings.” I know that as we went along I threw a couple of “spoilers” in with my prayers, but that’s ok. We still have plenty to work with. Let’s take our comparisons in order of how I originally listed them.
What were the disciples emotions like during each telling?
I’m sure you remember that during the “first telling” they were on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus told them again of His upcoming death. They loved Jesus with all their hearts, or at least most of them did. They had already tried their best to persuade Him not to go this year. I believe they were jumpy, examining every shadow for possible danger. They were confused as to why this journey was so imperative to Jesus. They had been to Passover celebrations with Jesus before, but He seemed different as they approached this one. Almost driven by an unseen hand; God’s hand. I’m sure they were also expectant, at least some of them were. They had been watching the crowds and gaging their attitudes towards Jesus. They believed He would be setting up His kingdom right away. I say this because of the request made by James and John to sit on Jesus’ left and right.
They were preparing to take the kingdom by force if necessary. Readying themselves for battle. Watching for danger on the way to the final battlefield but committed to the fight. And He was predicting failure before they even got there. I wonder if Jesus’ predictions of defeat made them a little angry even. “Doesn’t He have any faith in us? Of course we won’t let that happen. With all the support we have garnered we WILL take this fight!” Or could it have been sadness instead? “Why doesn’t He trust us to fully support Him?”
On to the “second telling.” This one happened on the road to Emmaus. The number of listeners was drastically reduced; from twelve to two. Our two listeners weren’t expecting an explanation from their new companion. The started off as the ones explaining. Their companion seemed oblivious to the happenings surrounding Jesus’ death. Their hearts were still full of love for Jesus but that love was drowning in sorrow and despair. Their hope and expectancy were crushed, but not fully destroyed. I’m thinking there was some shame there also for the way they acted when Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified. They had pledged their support and lives to Him, but had run away when He needed them most.
They were living with the consequences of their defeat. Their battle plan had not gone as expected. “We pledged our lives to Him. Now that the religious leaders are going to be after all of us too. We are in serious danger.” But the report of the women’s report brought confusion with a tinge of hope. It was the third day and each time Jesus told of His death He also told of something special happening on the third day. “His body is missing. What could this mean? Is it possible…? No. Best not to even go there.” A sliver of hope drowning in despair.
What was Jesus like during each telling?
We know that on the road to Jerusalem Jesus’ determination was set like stone. He would NOT be detoured. He would not be prevented from reaching His purpose. But He was also not going skipping and singing along this path. His heart was heavy. He knew exactly what lay ahead. I imagine He was in prayer a lot of the time as they walked along. “Here we go Father. Give me Your strength.” He also had the added responsibility of preparing His disciples for what was to come. He did not take pleasure in telling them what lay ahead, but they needed to know.
He needed them to know that their failure to prevent His death was ok. That it wasn’t the end of the story either. There WAS hope still attached. They needed to know that He knew what lay ahead and that He was ok with it. “I know it doesn’t sound like it, but this IS part of the plan. No. You can’t change it but I will make sure you are safe during it. What I need from you now is patience and faith. I will take care of the rest.” “Father how I wish I could explain all this to them but it’s not time yet. Keep them safe in my absence, even from themselves. Guard their hearts, minds and bodies.”
On the road to Emmaus when Jesus told of His death He wasn’t constrained by secrets. It was time to reveal God’s full plan. I can see a twinkle in His eye at FINALLY being able to spell it all out for them. But I can also feel His compassion for their despair. He didn’t berate them for not believing in His resurrection. He didn’t discount their confusion and pain. Instead He painstakingly took them through the prophecies. He opened their minds and hearts to the FULL truth of what had taken place.
“The Messiah couldn’t have done it any other way. He HAD to suffer for the sins of the world. He had to be the sacrifice in the place of others. Blood was required to remove sin and it had to be innocent blood. His was the only one that could do the job PERMANENTLY. This was God’s plan all along.” But in the telling He didn’t do a “chest thump” and identify Himself. He kept that secret for just the right moment. I can feel His smile and excitement hiding under the surface waiting for that perfect moment to reveal Who He is. Wait for it…
What are the results of telling?
I’m excited and want to skip ahead to the second telling, but I won’t. We have to “wait for it…” too. The final telling along the road to Jerusalem had a purpose. That purpose was not to make Jesus’ disciples look incapable or put them down for their “upcoming failure.” It was to prepare them for what WOULD happen. This was not a MIGHT happen but a CERTAINTY. Jesus knew all the details but He could only share a limited amount with them. It was also to keep their hope alive. To let them know that there was something wonderful to look forward to; His resurrection.
The result for Jesus was different than the result for His disciples. I believe the result for Jesus was relieving and frustrating. Relief at being able to share a little bit of the burden, and frustrating because His disciples didn’t believe what He was saying. He knew they had questions that He had answers for but they didn’t ask and He didn’t tell.
For Jesus disciples the result was very different. There was no relief involved. There was heightened concern for Jesus’ safety, frustration that He was still committed to going in spite of the danger ahead, and sadness at His apparent lack of confidence in them. They weren’t even listening to the “hope” at the end of His prediction. They couldn’t see past the pain. They were NOT filled with expectation at His words but foreboding.
Jesus telling on the road to Emmaus had a totally different result. This telling had a purpose too. It wasn’t to scold them for not understanding previously or to say “I told you so.” It was to “lift the veil” of what God had really done. It was to open their eyes, hearts, and minds to the TRUE victory. Let’s look at the results like we did the previous telling; results for Jesus and results for the disciples.
The result for Jesus was relief at FINALLY being able to share the whole story. He had been holding it in for so long, NOW He could let it all out. No more keeping the battle plans secret. Satan couldn’t do anything to change the past. It was finished! I can see Him carefully laying out the facts and explaining all the links in prophecy as they walked along. Layer by layer He was building them up to the final “ah ha” moment. He was laying the foundation of His church. You could almost call this a “dress rehearsal” for when He met with all of His followers to cement the foundation.
For these two privileged disciples was gradual understanding with an exclamation point at the end. They had been following the Messiah all along. They had believed Jesus was the Messiah but the recent events had called that belief into question. Jesus’ explanation and revelations showed them that their faith had not been misplaced. He really was the Messiah. This brought relief and joy but also a question. “Where is Jesus now? Why hasn’t He come back to them if He is really alive? How will we know for sure that He is really alive if we can’t find Him?” Wait for it…
And then it happens. The moment we have all been waiting for. The Stranger breaks the bread and as He hands it to each of the occupants at the table, their eyes are TRULY opened. They see Jesus. Not the one burdened with what lay ahead but the one triumphant at all that has been accomplished. Their RISEN SAVIOR! Talk about an “ah ha” moment! Sorrow and morning has fled away. There is only excitement and joy remaining! The perfect embodiment of, “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11). They hopped up and ran back to Jerusalem to share this exciting news.
There are two more players in this story that I want to take a quick look at their reactions; God and Satan.
God’s reaction during the telling on the road to Jerusalem was caution. “Careful with the ‘battle plans’ Son. You don’t want to let the enemy know what’s coming. And YES I will watch over those You love while You walk this hard road. We are in this together to the very end. I’m sorry there isn’t an easier way. I LOVE YOU Son.”
God’s reaction with the second telling is relief and excitement. “FINALLY! We can tell them everything now. It is finished!” I can see Him smiling and nodding along as Jesus lays out the facts to these two disciples. He doesn’t have to keep them from understanding any longer. And, YES, He kept the disciples from understanding what Jesus was saying. “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:34). This was God’s doing and He is the one who allowed the veil to finally be lifted too.
Satan’s reaction is comical to me, on this side of the events. It wouldn’t have been funny from the other side. When Jesus shared what was coming while on the road to Jerusalem, Satan was rubbing his hands with glee. “See, He even knows He has lost. Look at Him! He is walking right into my trap. We have Him now boys! Wait for it…” He thought he has everything all figured out and saw only victory in his future.
During the second telling Satan was a lot less confident. As he listened in to Jesus explaining each of the prophecies he is saying, “$@#&! How could I have missed that! That was sneaky God. You just wait until the next round! You might have won this one but You just wait. The war’s not over yet and I won’t go down without a fight!”
Father God, thank You for the “final reveal.” I would be lost without it too. I can’t imagine being on other side of understanding and hearing Jesus tell of His death. I would have wanted to jump up and shout, “Over My Dead Body!” too. But it had to happen exactly how it did. I LOVE how You hid everything in “plain sight.” A few people understood a little bit along the way but You played Your hand “close to the vest” until just the right time. Your timing is ALWAYS right on!
Satan doesn’t have a chance! I read the back of the book and YOU WIN! It doesn’t matter how hard he fights. The battle belongs to YOU. Thank You for that assurance. I’m looking beyond the pain to the final victory.
I wonder what would have been different if the disciples had understood. Would they have gone into Jerusalem with a different attitude? Would they have been rejoicing at the cross? Or would they have tried to stop the process? What would I have done in their place, with or without the full information? As much as I would like to think I would have stood by Jesus during this process, I know I wouldn’t have been any more faithful than His other disciples. Maybe I would have at least been with the women at the foot of the cross. They stayed closer, even if they were powerless to stop it. THANK YOU that it DIDN’T end there!!!