The Risen King (Luke 24:13–49)
We celebrate Easter to commemorate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such commemorations bring out some questions: What did the Resurrection mean for the first disciples? What does it mean for us today?
The King walks with the disappointed
Two of the disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. We don’t know why they are travelling. Maybe they want to escape the possible persecution by the Jewish leaders. Maybe they want to go home after celebrating the Passover. Maybe, as their later words could show, they left in disappointment, after seeing seeing their hopes and dreams of a liberated Israel die with Jesus on the cross.
|James Tissot, detail from "Pilgrims on the Road to Emmaus" (1884-1896), watercolor on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum|
Then Jesus came and walked with them. As they talked, the two disciples told Jesus about the how their Master showed Himself powerful in word and deed, but was arrested by their own religious leaders and executed by the Romans. They also told Him about their disappointment, after having hoped that Jesus would be the promised one who would liberate Israel from Rome.
After listening to the disciples' heartbreak, Jesus told them about what the Scriptures really told about the Messiah. After teaching them, He went off to continue without them. But the disciples urged Him to stay with them. Why? They were open to having their beliefs changed, after He enlightened them. If they were not, they would have let Him go off alone. But no, they wanted to learn more. And this openness was what Jesus wanted before revealing Himself.
Jesus revealed Himself in that most intimate of ways--sharing a meal. In many cultures including Filipino culture, sharing a meal is more than just eating together; it is a sign of close relationship.
The King who would break bread with us.
After their encounter with the risen Christ, the Emmaus disciples ran to back to Jerusalem, to where the other disciples were hiding. They found the other disciples feeling a mix of fear and excitement--they were behind locked doors out of fear of being arrested by the Jewish authorities, but excited over the news of seeing Jesus alive again. Then Jesus appeared amidst them, despite being behind locked doors. Then they were terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. They know how Jesus died, so this must be a ghost. And knowing bitterly how they deserted Him, they probably think this ghost is here for some payback.
But Jesus, I imagine laughingly ask why they are terrified. He then invited them to touch Him, to see His scars, and see that it really is Him. To prove this point further, He asked if they had anything to eat. He did this not only to show that He has a physical body that can eat, but also as a sign of fellowship with them. And this was a big thing for the disciples who ran from Him when He was arrested, put on trial, tortured, and killed.
After the disciples reasonably believed that it was Jesus who was before them, He talked about how Scriptures spoke of how He, as the Messiah, had to suffer, die, and rise again. He then commissioned them to be witnesses of who He is and what He has done.
The King who is gentle but firm
Jesus often represents our hopes and dreams, that we sometimes forget who He really is. If we follow faithfully in His steps, we will see those hopes and dreams get killed, crucified with Him on the cross. And then the doubts will come. We will wonder if He really is God, if He really is in control, if He really does care for us. This is normal for any follower of Christ, and a true test of faith.
The Lord Jesus, risen and glorified as He is, will meet us where we are. He will go to great lengths to listen to us, explain to us where we went wrong and will show us who He really is. He will show us that He is with us, that we can relate to Him, and then point to who He is – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And His kingdom is unlike what we know of kingdoms and governments, because it is the King who will absolutely provide, protect, guide, affirm and give purpose. All that He wants from us is to believe in Him and love Him. And He will give us new dreams and new hopes that are in line with His heart and will. And if our former dreams were according to His will, He will resurrect it with new power.
Believe in Him
The Lord Jesus calls us to follow Him. And following Him means walking the way of the cross. We will have to die to our loves, hopes and dreams before Jesus can truly be King over our lives. And as He rose from the dead, we, too, will rise to new life. And this is not just the life that we can expect after we die physically, but our new life can begin today, now, as our old selves die and we grow conforming to the image of Jesus. And it all starts when we commit our lives to Jesus our King, when we confess that we have sinned against Him, and trust Him to save us from our sin and bring us into His kingdom, both here on earth and in the age to come. The path is difficult and painful, but life is difficult and painful as is. He will be with us if we follow Him, and He will give us all we need and desire in due time, when He knows we are ready to handle it.