Yesterday I finished my latest reading through the gospel of Luke, this time in the New Living Translation. I enjoy this translation very much. The word choices often arrest me with new revelation and inspiration.
Such was the case with Luke’s last chapter, the one that merges into Chapter 1 of the Book of Acts. This wonderful account takes us from the empty tomb to a road stretching toward Emmaus, and then to Jerusalem, where Jesus reveals to his disciples that he has indeed been raised from the dead!
As I read this chapter with an open heart, the emotions are palpable. I look for feeling words, and there are plenty. I am quite sure this was purposeful in the Spirit’s inspiration through Luke. This is no dry history of a day in the life of some disciples. This was a time of extreme anguish and terror followed by unspeakable joy and amazement.
First, there are the women who devotedly arrived at Joseph’s tomb. Jesus had been laid there hastily, wrapped in linen cloths, but not yet anointed or prepared for burial. We know, of course, that by the time the women arrived he was not there! As they stood gaping at the stone that had been miraculously rolled away from the tomb’s opening,
“two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! (Luke 24:4-6).
These wonderful lovers of Jesus of course ran back to the disciples waiting in Jerusalem to tell them what they had seen and heard. Peter and John were perplexed, but ran to see for themselves.
Next there is a scene shift to the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, where a couple of disciples encounter the risen Lord, but don’t recognize him. They were greatly troubled on their walk, their hopes of the Messiah’s deliverance of Israel seemingly dashed after witnessing his brutal murder. Jesus, incognito, asks them,
“What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces (24:17).” One of them, named Cleopas, tries to bring this “stranger” up to speed on current events.
Instead, Jesus corrects their faulty perception of reality by presenting the entire story of redemption, starting with Moses, “explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (27).
Naturally, when they get near their destination, they want more of this well-informed Bible teacher’s company, still not knowing his identity. Only when they get home and convince Jesus to join them for dinner do they discover who he is.
“Suddenly their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! They said to each other, ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?’ And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem” (31-33).
I never noticed it before, but the two disciples turn right around and head back to Jerusalem. Like the women at the tomb, they have to find the guys who knew Jesus best and let them know they’d seen him.
“There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter” (34).
Jesus had beat them to it. He’d been able to appear to all of them in different places, no longer bound by the constraints of time and space.
Their mutual excitement makes me smile so big. I wish I’d been there at that meeting! To top everything off, as they are sharing their stories,
“Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? (36-38).
Jesus shows them his hands and feet, with nail holes in them. They stand staring in disbelief, but reality hits, and they are “filled with joy and wonder(41).
If we were there, what would we want to do next? Ask him questions? Give him a big hug? Fall on our faces in worship?
Jesus asks, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish.”
After all of the praying and sweating blood, being flogged and tormented, trudging to Calvary and hanging suspended in excruciating pain, dying and rising, it turns out Jesus was a tad hungry.
Maybe that isn’t the only reason he asked them for something to eat. I think he wanted to give his followers who weren’t there in person the assurance that immortal humans can still eat. That means that when our bodies take on immortality, we can eat too! I’m happy about that. I like eating–broiled fish and a thousand other things.
I can’t improve on the end of Luke’s account, so I’ll end my reflection here. After they had eaten and spent some more time together, he blessed them and was taken up to heaven.
So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God” (52-53).