Three years with Jesus was transformative for the disciples. They’d walked and talked with God in the flesh, and had learned more than just teachings, but how to become imitators of Him. How many of us have wished we could talk to Jesus face to face, to ask Him our deepest questions and hear Him answer us clearly? Most of us imagine that we’d never doubt Him again if we could see Him just once.
When Jesus had risen again, the book of Luke says that the women told the disciples about the angel at the tomb announcing that Jesus had risen, and Mary Magdalene actually spoke to Jesus who she mistook for a gardener. But the disciples weren’t quite sure what to believe, or how His body had disappeared. That day, two of them were walking towards a village called Emmaus, and another traveller joined them as they trudged along. He heard them trying to make sense of what had happened to their Lord who’d been crucified, and asked what they were talking about. Neither of them recognized that Jesus Himself was walking by their side. They were surprised at His question, and even jokingly asked if He was some foreigner who hadn’t heard the big news!
How could the very ones who loved Him so much, who most longed for Him to still be alive, not even see Him standing there in front of their own faces? They walked with Him until evening and invited Him to stop at an inn for supper, and only after He broke the bread and blessed it just like He had done at the Last Supper did they recognize Him. They realized it was Jesus, and then He disappeared.
God gives us a clue about how this could happen in Jeremiah 17:6. It says cursed is anyone who trusts only in men, in their own strength, and not in God – “For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when good comes, but will inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.”
Whoever tries to figure out life by their own strength, who disregards God’s promises because the results they want aren’t happening, will be unable to see when good comes. It could be staring them in the face, and they will see nothing. The disciples had Jesus’ promises, centuries of prophecies in scripture, and the eyewitness testimonies of the women that Jesus had risen. But they still wouldn’t trust. Instead, they spent that glorious first Resurrection Day in fear and confusion. As they walked along the road to Emmaus, Jesus reminded them of all the promises and prophecies, but they were skeptical.
When Jesus left, those disciples asked each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn inside of us when we heard Him talk?” They had known all along! The Spirit of God had been confirming that He was right there for hours as they walked, but they’d ignored His prompting. They were living through the most earth-shattering experience of the history of the world, and they didn’t even know it. No wonder Jesus’ answer to their sarcastic question on the road was, “O fools! And slow of heart to believe what the prophets have spoken!”
So if they, who had seen Him in the flesh could be so obtuse – what about us? How often has Jesus been right there in front of us when we were afraid and accusing Him of abandoning us? Loving God and trying to follow Him don’t always mean we trust Him fully. At times we can allow fear and confusion to stifle the Holy Spirit, attempting to fix our problems by our own strength. But if we quiet the anxious noise in our head, we can hear Him clearly, be empowered with peace and strength, make the right choices, and the Spirit of God will burn inside of us each time we hear Him talk. That’s a burn we all could use!
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out its roots by the river and shall not fear when heat comes, but its leaf shall be green, and it shall not be anxious in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8, MEV