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Disciples discouraged by the cross

April 19, 2022

Daily Scripture

Luke 24:13-24

13 On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. 15 While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. 16 They were prevented from recognizing him.

17 He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast.

18 The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”

19 He said to them, “What things?”

They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. 20 But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. 22 But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Luke shared details about Jesus’ birth that no other gospel included, and his research (Luke 1:3) found this unique story about the resurrection day. Jesus, unrecognized, walked with two disciples discussing recent events. They felt disillusioned (“we had hoped”—verse 21), sad about the crucifixion, and stunned that some women said Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. Note that these two followers gave no sign that they believed the report—just that it puzzled them.

  • Scholar N. T. Wright noted, “It wasn’t simply…that they couldn’t recognize him. This is a strange feature of the resurrection stories, in Matthew (28:17) and John (20:14; 21:4, 12) as well as here ….Jesus’ body, emerging from the tomb, had been transformed. It was the same, yet different—a mystery we shall perhaps never unravel until we ourselves share the same risen life.” * Do you long to share the gift of that risen life, even the aspects that for now remain puzzling to us?
  • Cleopas, like the other disciples, was still in the grip of preconceived ideas of what the Messiah would be and do (cf. Luke 9:44-45). In what ways can fixed assumptions today make it harder for you to trust the Bible’s testimony? When have you found greater joy and peace after letting God alter or overturn some fixed idea you may have held for years?

Loving Lord, when I feel discouraged, disillusioned, or disbelieving, please come and join me on the road. It is at those times, in particular, that I need your living, loving presence with me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

The image of two disciples walking along the road musing about whether God had left them, all the while not realizing that Jesus was walking right beside them, is so vivid that this post could write itself. It’s a metaphor that applies in so many parts of life, and I think most of us have stories along these lines. One important thing I want to touch on, though, is why these two disciples were feeling dejected and what finding Jesus among them meant for them.

Cleopas’ words in verse 21 state their crushed expectations rather succinctly: “We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel.” In Jesus’ sacrifice, he founded a kingdom that would live on through two millennia and longer, but that’s not what his followers were expecting. Jesus delivered the kingdom of God to everyone; his followers had expected the kingdom of Israel to be delivered to them. They sacrificed much to follow Jesus and expected that to be transactional. They wanted Jesus the conqueror and they got a sacrificial lamb.

I’ve talked about this before on this blog, but I didn’t grow up in the Methodist church. I grew up in a fundamentalist Evangelical church, and many of my formative years as a young adult were during the politically divisive Bush presidency, so I got a lot of strong opinions. The growing rift I saw between many of my friends stemmed from the same expectation that Jesus’ followers had in the time leading up to his death: they wanted Jesus the conqueror to come and take things back for them.

Browsing Twitter on Easter Sunday just a few days ago, I saw some Easter greetings, but I also saw a lot of posts from Christians from that conqueror mindset. Take back our churches. Take back our freedom. Take back our spaces. Take back our country. There’s this desire for Jesus to come back and smite all the evildoers and drive them away so we don’t have to deal with them. It’s easy to look back at the two disciples in today’s passage and think about how silly they were to expect a conqueror Jesus instead of a true redeemer, but looking around at much of the discourse today, I don’t think we’re far off from that mindset even today. I wonder how many of us would recognize a Jesus walking among us who would never conquer, but instead opened up the borders of the kingdom of heaven to everyone.

I look at how much of our discourse around politics and religion is based not in helping the downtrodden, but in punishing the people we believe to be undeserving, and I wonder what kind of difference we’d see if we had to face the harsh realization as the early believers did that the conqueror Jesus would not come in our lifetimes. If I take the conqueror Jesus out of my faith, does my viewpoint change? Do my conversations with others change? If they do, that gap may end up being the biggest regret I have in my faith life.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Luke for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 295). SPCK. Kindle Edition.