The Prophets and the Gospel
“And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 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: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto 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? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took 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. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:13-32.)
One of the lovely stories often revisited during the Easter season is the meeting of Jesus with two disciples along the Emmaus road, shortly after He rose from the dead. They had hoped Jesus would turn out to be their long-awaited Messiah, with his riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, and being hailed as the king the Hebrew prophets had prophesied would redeem Israel, the previous Sunday. But having had their hopes raised these were soon dashed when Jesus was executed as a common criminal the following Friday. They were disappointed and confused, but had heard reports of the empty tomb and Jesus risen from the dead.
Speaking personally, if I had a time machine, the one thing I would love to be able to do is eavesdrop on the conversation Jesus had with these two persons, so distraught and bemused, concerning what it was the prophets of old had said about his first coming. With reference to the preceding chapters, it is quite evident that a lot had been written concerning Jesus life, death and resurrection, often down to the minutest details, in the Hebrew scriptures, such as contained in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 or even Zechariah 9 about entering Jerusalem on a donkey, and there is even more about His second coming as King of kings and Lord of lords – the very thing these two disciples were hoping for in the person of Jesus.
Most of the Christian church celebrate special days, especially the Christmas and Easter seasons, sometimes preceded by Advent and Lent respectively, as times of sober reflection and preparation. Both these special seasons and the OT Feasts of Yahweh, that some Christians argue are even more worth recognising, point to important Gospel truths. The Incarnation (when God entered the world in human form), the Atonement (when God in the person of Jesus died on the cross as the sacrificial lamb to reconcile mankind with God) and the Resurrection (when Jesus rose from the dead) are three significantly glorious truths central to the Gospel message, as is that of Jesus coming again (we do not know when) to reign in glory – all of these truths having been wonderfully foretold by the Hebrew prophets. As for “unfulfilled” Bible prophecy, methinks there will surprises for all us.
All this is a reinforcement of the Gospel message discussed in Chapter 17, and I have shared these thoughts here by way of providing balance to earlier thoughts on the modern day “political” prophets and what to make of and how to respond to events unfolding in the world today, discussed in Chapter 21, and the section that is to follow. We live in a time when it is easy to become side-tracked, taken in by deception, lose hope, and become less than whole-hearted in our discipleship. Whatever importance we attach to and interpretation we may give to modern day events and the pronouncements of these modern prophets, we must not lose sight that as followers of Jesus, we are firstly mandated to preach the gospel – and “when necessary, use words” (according to St. Francis of Assisi). The fact that Jesus is alive should give us hope and remind us that God wins!