Matthew 28:11-15; Mark 16:12-15; Luke 24:13-35
Christ had offered Himself on the cross. He became the sacrificial Lamb, making a way for the forgiveness of the world. After He paid the terrible price for us, His dead body was laid in a tomb. On the third day, He rose again.
The wonders of God’s divine plan were made known through the glory of an earthquake, the tearing of a veil, a stone rolled away, brilliant angels heralding His resurrection…and His own words of love to His heartbroken friends.
Meanwhile, the chief priests were in a frenzy once again. For you see, Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb had come forward, telling them about the magnificent angel who had rolled away the stone. Remarkably, these extraordinary testimonies had no effect on the chief priests of Jerusalem.
How strange that these pagan, Gentile soldiers claimed to see an angel exactly as they were described in Jewish Scriptures. Did the leaders not fear that somehow the hand of God was on Jesus’ side?
Apparently they did not, because their first response was to come up with another deception. They called the elders and religious rulers together yet again. They took secret counsel about how to silence the rumors. The news of the opened tomb and the disappearance of Jesus’ body was sure to spread. When the people heard it, many would assume it was true…and many would interpret it as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. At the very least, they would assume that the religious leaders had put to death one of God’s own messengers.
They had to put a stop to it. So they gathered a huge sum of money to bribe the soldiers to lie for them. They found the soldiers more than willing to go along with their story.
For you see, when a Roman soldier was on guard, it was a capital offense if he failed to do his duty. They were put to death for that offense.
How could these soldiers possibly explain what happened in those early morning hours? They could hardly tell a court that a mighty angel had appeared!
If they lied and said that they had all gone to sleep, they could claim that the disciples had come to steal the body. Then nobody would believe the followers of Christ, for what soldier would testify such a thing at the risk of his own life?
The chief priests and elders promised the soldiers that if the governor ever learned of their excuse, they would intervene and save them from execution. Both sides would get what they wanted.
Can you imagine the utter foolishness of these men? Who would lie about the coming of a heavenly angel? Would nothing cause them to repent? But their hearts were so hard that the plain truth didn’t make any difference in them.
Just the week before, Jesus had told a parable about a rich man and Lazarus. In that story, Jesus declared that those who truly loved and honored the God of the Old Testament would love and honor His words. He warned that those who were hard-hearted would not repent, even if someone rose from the dead. The priests and Pharisees and elders did not heed that warning, and now it was coming true. They were fully given over to the work of God’s vicious enemy, seeking to keep the glorious new work that God had performed from the people, barring the way to the Good News of Christ’s resurrection!
What utter foolishness for these petty little men to believe that they could thwart God’s plan. In truth, it showed that they had no faith in God at all. They could only see things in light of their own desire for power.Thankfully, that was not true of everyone in Israel. God had called many His own, and the Good News would be made perfectly clear to them!
Meanwhile, two such men were making their way home after the Passover Feast. They were headed to Emmaus, a seven-mile walk from Jerusalem. As they went, they discussed all of the things that happened at the Feast. They were in deep conversation when Jesus Himself came up to them. Their eyes were kept from recognizing Him, so they saw Him as a stranger. Jesus asked, “‘What are these words you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?’”
The men came to a stop. Could this man really not know? One of the men was named Cleopas. He asked, “‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?’”
Jesus asked, “‘What things?’”
They must have been amazed! Did this man live in a hole? They said, “‘The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also, some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.’”
Then Jesus said, “‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’”
Then Jesus gave them the best history lesson in the history of history lessons. He began with Moses and explained about all the prophets, showing how they had foretold the coming of Christ throughout the Old Testament. It must have been an absolutely fascinating walk. Hundreds of years of history were laid out before them as they along with the One who made it happen. Eventually, they arrived at Emmaus. Jesus stepped out as if He was going to keep walking. The men didn’t want Him to go. “‘Stay with us,’” they said, “‘For it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.’” So He went to their home.
The mealtime came, and as Jesus reclined with them at the table, He took some bread and broke it. Then He began giving them each a peice. Suddenly, they knew that this was Jesus Himself! Their eyes were opened! Just as immediately, He vanished from their sight.
What a delight for Jesus as He miraculously showed up in the lives of His dear friends, opening up little windows for them of the glorious things He had done. As the men sat there, stunned, they began to say, “‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining Scripture to us?’” Within that same hour, the men got up and were on the road back to Jerusalem. They had to go tell the disciples!