I read this passage over some twenty times in the last two weeks and always came away with the same questions. Those questions have nothing to do with the resurrection, per se. They don’t involve not recognizing Jesus, or conversely recognizing him in the breaking of bread as a prelude to a communion service. They have nothing to do with his touchable, hungry, physical resurrection as opposed to some “spiritual thing.” All of these ideas and more may be valid, but in this instance there were other questions that would not leave me alone.
They have to do with what Jesus thought was important in these little stories.
They have to do with what Jesus focused on after he got the attention of the two on the road to Emmaus
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (NIV).
That, folks, is the Old Testament. Jesus not only thought it was important, he spent his time reviewing it for his friends. In our churches and even home studies, do we give it equal time and attention?
Then, after he appeared again in Jerusalem and let them satisfy their doubts about him so he could have their complete attention, Jesus returned to his theme, even if it is so rarely our theme.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (NIV).
It seems to me there are far too many “Christians” these days who are perfectly content with fuzzy Christmas stories and stores about Easter and salvation without caring one whit about what came in between. Why is that?
Of those who do care about more, the gospels seem sufficient and the gospels are just about all most really want to hear. Why?
Of the few who will hear more than just the gospels, they might only be interested in the epistles… as a way of better understanding the gospels, perhaps.
Who is left that cares one whit about the Old Testament, that is, the Prophets, the Law, the Psalms? Oh, we may preach and teach now and then on some of the more familiar stories, like Jonah and the whale or Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac, but really. When was the last time you heard preaching and teaching on Zechariah or Malachi or the Ten Commandments or the plagues on Egypt or the Proverbs or, let us say, Psalm 141, or God forbid, creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Able?
According to Calvin, the Bible is the book about God and ourselves. If you wish to know anything about God, there is no other source of information, and the Old Testament is a big part of that. Don’t you want to know who this God is that you are worshiping?
According to Jesus, the Old Testament is the primary source for understanding who he is, what he taught, why he lived, why he died and why he was raised on the third day. Don’t you want to know who this Jesus is that you are worshiping?
The Book of Acts, the epistles, and even the Revelation given to John are, for the most part, books written for the community of the faithful (the church), to keep us on track. The gospels tell the story of Jesus but are a little slim on the whys and wherefores of it all. To really understand and know God and Jesus, one must go back to the beginning – to the point of creation itself and work forward with open eyes and an open heart and a spirit open to the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had to ascend or the Holy Spirit would not be given to us. He said as much, and he also clearly felt this gift of God was important – even more important than him sticking around. But why was the Holy Spirit given? To guide us into all truth, we are told. It was not just given so we could enjoy fuzzy Christmas stories and show up on Easter to hear about our salvation and how much God loves us. The Holy spirit was not given so we could ignore everything else.
Jesus took the time, his limited time here after the resurrection, to open and explain the Old Testament to those who were closest to him. Clearly he thought the Scriptures of the Old Testament were supremely important for our understanding. Do you?