Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Road to Emmaus

I wrote this a couple years ago for a Sunday school lesson on Luke 24, and thought I would share it. I ran out of time to finish before teaching the class, so when I got to the end, I just told it to them without reading it. I just now finished it. The first paragraph is based on the beginning of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and the end is based on the final lines of his A Tale of Two Cities.

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Jesus was dead, to begin with - deader than a doornail. I don't know what's so dead about a doornail. I don't even know if they used nails in their doors in Jerusalem at that time. I do know that several of Jesus' friends watched Him die, and they saw Him buried. There was no question that He was dead.

Now it was the third day since He had been tortured and killed in a way that no human should have to suffer. Strange rumors were going around town. A few women were saying they had gone to Jesus' tomb, and that it was empty! Not only that, but they said angels had appeared to them and told them Jesus was alive! Of course, Cleopas knew better. People didn't come back to life after being dead. These women must have been out of their minds!

After a very sad and very strange day, Cleopas and his friend were walking home to the town of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked, they were talking about what had happened the past few days. They had been through a lot the past week, and now this new rumor was really confusing.

While they were walking, a stranger joined them and asked what they were talking about. Cleopas couldn't believe that someone didn't know what had happened. He asked the stranger, "Are you a visitor to the area? Do you really not know what's been going on lately?"

"What's been going on?" asked the stranger.

So Cleopas and his friend explained all about Jesus. They told the stranger how Jesus had come to town and done some amazing things, and that they had been sure this must be the promised Savior. But the priests had arrested Him, and the Romans and the priests had condemned Him to death on a cross. They explained how they had hoped He would save Israel, but instead, they had watched their beloved teacher die slowly on a cruel wooden cross.

Then they explained what the women had told them about the empty tomb and the angels. Then Peter and John had gone to look, and they found that the tomb was empty. This was all very strange, and they couldn't figure it out.

Then the stranger surprised Cleopas and his friend. He said, "You silly people! Why is it taking you so long to believe what the prophets said? Don't you know that the Savior had to suffer and die? Then He started in the book of Genesis and explained everything the prophets had said about Jesus.

Pretty soon, they reached Emmaus, and the stranger acted like he was going to go on his way. It was getting dark, so Cleopas and his friend invited the stranger to stay with them for the night.

So they sat down at the table to eat. The stranger thanked God for the food. Then he broke the bread and handed it to them. Maybe it was the way He gave thanks and broke the bread. Maybe they saw the holes in His wrists as He handed them the bread. Whatever it was, they suddenly realized: This was Jesus! And just like that, He disappeared.

Needless to say, they forgot their dinner. They jumped up and went right back to Jerusalem ... seven miles ... in the dark ... and they told Jesus' followers that Jesus was alive and they had seen Him with their own eyes! Then they found out that Peter had also seen Him alive. However, some people in the room still didn't believe them ... that is, until Jesus appeared in the middle of them. Even then, some people thought He was a ghost. So He showed them His hands and feet. He had them touch Him because ghosts don't have skin or bones. Then He asked for something to eat, so they gave Him some fish, and He ate it. Since ghosts don't eat fish, they knew He was alive! Jesus reminded them that this was what He had told them before. He explained that everything Moses, the Prophets and the psalms said had to come true. The Savior had to die a terribly painful death to save us from our sins, and He had to rise from the dead the third day. Starting in Jerusalem, His followers needed to proclaim the great news of His death and resurrection to everyone around the world. He reminded them that they had seen this with their own eyes, and promised that He would send them the power to preach, as God had promised. However, they needed to stay in Jerusalem until that happened.

And so they did. Jesus left them a few days later and returned to Heaven, but just as promised, He sent them the power of the Holy Spirit, and they preached boldly. Many of them gave their lives so that others would know that He came to save them from an eternity of torment. It was a far, far better thing they did than they had ever done, and when their time on earth was done, it was a far, far better rest they went to than they had ever known.

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