Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Through the Lens of Emmaus

I've been going through the gospels the past few weeks, reading out of The Message. I just finished the book of Luke today, which ends with one of my favorite stories -- the road to Emmaus, when two sorrowful, confused followers of Jesus come upon a stranger who doesn't seem to know anything about the dreadful things that have happened in Jerusalem. They describe Jesus to the stranger and tell him, "And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened." Then they mention the women who have gone to the grave but found it empty (Luke 24:20-25).

With that, Jesus begins to open their eyes to who he is. "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? Do you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him (25-26).

It was after they had shared a meal with Jesus, when he blessed and broke the bread, that they recognized that this stranger was himself Jesus. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. "Didn't we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures to us?" (31-32).

I am so glad this story is included in the Bible. In it we meet people who actually walked with Jesus and still didn't know him. As often as he told them that he would be crucified, buried, and raised, they did not get it. And surely they did not grasp that everything in the Scriptures was pointing to him.

Thick-headed and slow-hearted. That's what they were. And that, so often, is what we are. I'm not sure that, had you or I been among Jesus' followers, we'd have gotten it any better than they did.

But that is not the main point of this story. Cleopas and his companion on their way home to Emmaus that day were overwhelmed with grief because they did not recognize Jesus for who he is. This encounter is here to tell us the truth about Jesus, that all of Scripture is here to showcase him. He is the One spoken about by Moses and David and all the prophets. He came to show us the Father and to restore the relationship between God and man that had been broken in the early chapters of Genesis.

Paul brings the truth of Jesus into clear focus in Colossians 1:15, 18-20 (The Message): We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created...He was supreme in the beginning and -- leading the resurrection parade -- he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe -- people and things, animals and atoms -- get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

As you prepare for Christmas this year, see Jesus, not just as the sweet babe in the manger, but as the risen Lord. Open your eyes and your heart to the fullness of who Jesus is. This child, this baby, was God in the flesh sent to bring healing to all the "broken and dislocated pieces of the universe"!

Don't sing the Christmas carols glibly, mechanically. Listen to the words, bask in the truth. And rejoice that God has a plan for this broken world.

Let Jesus open the Scripture to you, pointing out everything that refers to him. Grab hold. Throw yourself into believing him and celebrating him. Let this Christmas be a joyous season for you as you worship Jesus, the infant born to die and be raised to life for you, and for the whole world.

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