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On the first Easter morning two distraught and melancholy disciples were walking the dusty road back home to the village called Emmaus. They had been followers of Christ and had trusted that he was the one who would redeem Israel. They expected him to re-establish the ancestral throne of David. However, they had witnessed his execution on a shameful cross and heard him cry out, “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” and watched him die a very ignominious death. Their pre-conceived idea of what his real purpose was had caused them great consternation and they reluctantly acquiesced to his demise. They were soon to discover, however, that what seemed to be the world’s greatest tragedy would be turned into its greatest triumph. The world’s Creator was dying, that he might be the world’s Redeemer. Having endured the courts of five sham trials, he received the crown of thorns; that was his glory. He wore the purple robe; that was his royalty. While hanging on the cross amidst all the noise and din of the jeering crowd and agony of his physical suffering he was still able to hear the cry of the repentant thief and took him home with him. When he said, “it is finished,” he laid the capstone on an uttermost salvation and as the Lamb of God he died to deliver a fallen race and destroy the works of the devil.
These two were exemplary of the fact that one cannot receive the knowledge of Christ’s resurrection second-handedly. They had witnessed his burial and now three days later, though they had heard some say he was alive, they had not witnessed it first hand. So with blighted hopes and blinded eyes they make the long journey back to their home.
They were evidence that until one has a personal experience with the risen Christ there will always be uncertainty and confusion in one’s life. Christianity is an encounter with a living Christ. The central theme of the early Apostle’s preaching was not the death of Christ but rather the resurrection of Christ. Acts 1: 3 states that “he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs.” These two on the road to Emmaus, as of yet, had not met the risen Christ. As they were walking along the dusty road suddenly, quietly, and unobtrusively a third person appears. They did not immediately recognize him to be the risen, living, deathless Lord because they were too consumed with their own grief and perhaps their own preconceptions.
He was there to bring a spirit of joy out of their mourning. He wanted them to “cast their care on him for he cared for them.” He was going to turn their night into day and their sorrow into singing. After a brief conversation his presence was renewing and as he “expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” and it revived their faltering faith. They discovered that an open grave gives us a living Christ and a living Christ gives to us an open Scripture. Their hearts burned within them as he opened the word of God.
When they arrived at their destination Jesus made as though he would have gone further but they constrained him to stay. Jesus will never intrude our lives without our permission, he must be welcomed with open arms. When he went in with them the guest became the host. “He took the bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.” This first-hand encounter with the risen Christ produced a powerful and deathless enthusiasm and so rejuvenated them that they, “rose up the same hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, the Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.” Having this irrefutable, personal revelation of Christ, with burning hearts they went forth to tell everyone they came in contact with that the Savior is alive.
Christianity is a religion of experience and unless you know him personally by experience you can never be a vital witness for him. Too many Christians are living on the right side of Good Friday but on the wrong side of Easter.
Grace is seen in his crucifixion but glory is seen in his resurrection. In the Christian, glory is his holiness shining forth through his children. It is the out-flowing fragrance of a holy life that makes people long for the same presence in their own lives. These disciples who witnessed his resurrection now were waiting for the “promise of the Father” (the Holy Spirit). In Acts chapter 2 they experienced the cleansing invasion of the Holy Spirit. Having been filled with the Holy Spirit and fused into one body they turned their world upside down for Christ.
He had banished all their doubts and with this full assurance of faith there flowed a contagious enthusiasm. The love of God filling their hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit was the inward compulsion that constrained them. “Their eyes were opened and they knew him!” A prevailing zealousness was born as their hearts burned with the reality of his resurrection and they were blessed with the hope of his return. Nothing can take the place of knowing the risen Christ. Let us never lose that glow which is the evidence of his living presence.
“I serve a risen Savior; He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives, He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”