Our exhortation for this morning is taking us back in mind to that journey, recorded in Luke 24, when the risen Lord joined the company of two disciples on the way to Emmaus. We can imagine the earnest, yet sad, discussion between the two disciples still trying to accept the dreadful events of three days earlier, when their beloved Lord was betrayed, taken and cruelly crucified. All they could think of was that the Lord of life was dead and buried, despised and rejected of men. Those wicked hands that had slain a defenceless “lamb” had crushed their expectation that the Kingdom of God was near. Their own Passover remembrance had been a sad time of afflicting their souls, certainly not a day of triumph and deliverance. How their hearts ached with despair. They mourned and could not be comforted. In answer to the stranger’s gentle query they said, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: And beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done” (v21). Their despair shut out the obvious conclusion.

Added to that were the incredible stories of women who had seen a vision of angels—saying that the tomb was empty and that Jesus was alive! But they reasoned that everybody knew that Jesus was well and truly dead and buried! He of all people could heal and make alive—but now the healer himself was slain and so the flickering flame of hope faded and was snuffed out by male logic, dismissing the women’s stories as idle tales.

Yet they were happy to unburden themselves on this sympathetic stranger who must surely be the only one in Jerusalem who hadn’t heard what had happened that Passover (v19): “And he said unto them, what things? And they said unto him, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” Now their estimation of the Lord was that he was just a prophet! They did not even recognise him as the King of the Jews as Pilate had proclaimed. Not even the Son of God, attested by the Roman centurion. Only a prophet, one like unto Moses, mighty in word and deed before God and all the people.

To them, Jesus had been Israel’s Messiah but now it was a lost cause. Nothing is so devastating as hope crushed and a vision darkened. Expectations, buoyed up by his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, were now shrivelled up and dead—just like those palm branches of three days earlier, now lifeless and forlorn, blowing around the empty streets of Jerusalem. They felt empty and lost and because some of their number had gone to investigate the women’s tales—and did not find him—that negative evidence must be conclusive!

But then the stranger said to them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (v25-26). And Luke records in verse 32 that their hearts burned within them as he, who was now the risen Lord, led them through well-known Scriptures and made them come alive! Can we imagine the power of that exposition! Even a word or a phrase, a cross-reference turned the sense into Messianic prophecies. Character studies that they had known since childhood now had clear overtones to the suffering, the death and the deliverance of Messiah. Promises, prophecies, types and shadows were all woven together like a rich tapestry where the red blood thread of sacrifice was woven together with the blue of heaven and the purple of kingship. What an exposition! What a Bible class!!

Yes, fools and slow of heart to limit the Word of God, to fail to understand the meaning. And yet how often do we too, with sluggish minds, miss these gems of truth, not rightly dividing the Word of Truth. No doubt the 40 days that followed saw many repeated Bible classes like that! But for these two, this teaching session swept away one misconception after another, lifting the burden of despair, sharpening their vision and put so many proofs into sharp focus. How could they not have not seen them before?

Verse 28 states: “And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.” This tells us that the stranger made as if to move on. They asked him to stay that night. Can we picture the scene in that village house? There’s no mention of them washing his feet. He adopts the position of host, taking the unleavened Passover bread, the matzoth, he blesses it and gives to each in turn.

Their eyes were opened! They now knew who he was! How did they know him? Was it his gracious manner, so reminiscent of the way in which he always broke bread? Was it his prayer? Was it the opening of their eyes to notice for the first time his pierced hands?

Probably all those things rolled into one amazing recognition! And then he was gone! And they, almost as quickly, the same hour went back to his brethren in Jerusalem, almost flying over the miles! How beautiful are the feet (and their feet!) that publish peace, even the gospel of peace in the name of the risen Christ. How beautiful are the feet (our feet) that bring peace to hearts aching for peace today!

They were like Andrew so long ago in John 1:41-42, rushing back to Simon Peter at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, saying, we have found the Messiah! And that stunned company responded. Yes, the Lord is risen indeed and had appeared unto Simon. We can imagine the buzz of excitement, the rapid exchange of news, from eyewitnesses too. Yet for many of them it was second-hand news. And then the Lord was amongst them as recorded in Luke 24:36-37, “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.”

Here at last was the Lord, their beloved Lord. Yet again, how slow of heart were they to believe even the sight of their eyes—their fevered minds could not, in that excitement, fully comprehend and accept the obvious. He had entered unannounced. Was it a vision, an apparition, like the time on the lake when they saw him passing by, walking on the water? It had seemed a spirit then. Now they fell back in shock, too stunned to speak. But gently, he says, “Peace be unto you.” He rebuilds their confidence, giving them a space to clear their mind, to think rationally, calmly and to look and see and to believe.

When we read verses 38-43 we can almost feel the disciples gathering confidence as the Lord, with every movement of the pierced hands, every gesture, every action, rebuilt their shattered faith: “And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.”

Now there was only one inescapable conclusion. All of them in that room were eyewitnesses of the risen Christ. He was their Lord. He is not dead! He is alive—for evermore! As he said, in verses 44-48: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.”

So as no other teacher could, Jesus drew his brethren close to him and taught them again those ancient prophecies, those same Scriptures that he had vainly used to forewarn them of his impending sufferings, those Scriptures written with him in mind. How those Scriptures would have come flooding back into their minds. How obvious now the plan and purpose of God. How obvious the need for God’s arm to bring salvation, to send forth His Son to endure the dreadful sufferings of the cross. But in submitting to the cross, he came under the curse of the Law and, by his perfect obedience, he triumphed over it and took it away. He was now so obviously the one perfect offering fulfilling all the requirements of the Law. He was the perfect antitype, condemning sin in the flesh and exalting—in life and death—the righteousness of God. God was justified. And God’s holy one did not see corruption; the chains of death were broken; he was released from the prison house of mortality.

What is the lesson for us? We too have been delivered from the prison house of sin; freed from the tyranny of sin. The suffering of Christ for us has touched our conscience to live in newness of life NOW! In the light of the irrefutable proofs that our Lord is risen from the dead and is alive at the Father’s right hand, we should the more fervently model our lives after the pattern of Christ’s own all-powerful resurrection. Being free from the dominion of sin, we have become servants of righteousness. We no longer are to obey sin by yielding to its deceitful lusts. We need to yield ourselves unto God as servants of righteousness instead (Rom 6:11-23). This means that we come to him and learn of him and submit to his commands on bended knee.

Those early disciples became fearless apostles. Through their eyewitness account, we believe those undeniable proofs—those rock-solid, sure, and certain proofs—that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. We believe that he is alive for evermore. We also believe that assurance given unto all men in God raising His Son to die no more—the assurance being that the Lord will come again and judge this world in righteousness (Acts 17:31).

Now in remembering the death of our Lord, we also lift our heads and see in our mind’s eye the coming of the risen Lord, coming to his own and extending grace to those gathered at his side—forever at the side of their beloved Lord and glorious bridegroom. Let us humbly and reverentially look forward to that time and see ourselves with him. For then shall we know, not by faith but by sight, that our Lord was slain but has redeemed us to God by his blood out of every kindred, tongue, people and nation (Rev 5:9-10). May that day soon come.