Opened All The Scriptures Concerning Himself

But we were hoping that it was He Who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.  Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.  When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.  And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.                   Luke 24: 21-24

Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, overlooked Gehenna, a valley south of Jerusalem cursed because in that valley certain kings of Judah had sacrificed “their sons and daughters” by fire to the false god Baal [Jeremiah 7:31, 19:2–6].  Gehenna had since become Jerusalem’s garbage dump where continuously burning fires with their smoke formed the backdrop for the picture of hell.  It lent a powerful setting to the battle our Lord faced on the Cross.

Two obscure followers of Jesus had lived through the last three days.  There had been a lot of noise and commotion on this day in particular – the third day, on which Jesus had declared He would be risen.  Some had seen angels, some inspected the empty tomb, but it all meant nothing to these two because “Him they did not see.”

For these two, to see Him was important.  Just to see His hands would mean so much.  Those hands brought sight to blind eyes, hearing to a deaf man, touched the untouchable leper, raised a dead daughter, and lifted disciples cowering in fear at the Transfiguration.(1)

How wonderful it would be to hear His voice again – a voice which could command demons, speak forgiveness to an adulteress, invite all to rest and peace, speak judgment against hypocrites, welcome all who would come to Him, give eternal life to a thief.(2)  In His touch and in His voice there was the evidence of the presence of God, there was wholeness and tranquility to be found, there was hope to carry one into the day no matter what the day brought.

But there was no such comfort for these two followers of Jesus.  As sunset approached, the third day would be over and there obviously was no Jesus.  These two gave up.  He had been their best candidate – but all the promises, even the promise of the great Kingdom of God He was to rule over, and the redemption of Israel, were betrayed.  Their hope had been a bright star, bathing their lives and futures with glowing conviction that this was indeed the long promised Son of God.  All this was shattered.  They had lost their Lord, lost their hope, lost any substance to their lives.  Time had run out.  They were just going home.

As they made their way through the seemingly bleak and lifeless Jerusalem, mentally they were wending their way through humanity’s garbage, all brought to the surface from the last couple of days.  They had been witness to the insurmountable mountains of hatred, the sewage of pietistic arrogance, the sludge of political maneuvering, the stinking manure of self importance, the clammy muck of good intentions, the oily smoke of injustice, the deadly swamp of envy.  But there were the other obstacles of greed, betrayal, denial, cowardice, failures, lies, selfishness, disbelief, depression, emptiness, callousness, and so much more – all leftovers from this tragic week.

Everywhere they stepped, there was trash of sin and rebellion against God everywhere.  Every street, every home, every business was overrun by the mess.  There was no escaping something which filled human nature.  What hurt was that some of it was their own doing; and in some of the trash, they could recognize others’ contribution – not so much to distract attention from themselves, but it was the realization that this was the world and the conditions that they lived in and were a part of.

As they picked their way through Jerusalem, it was Golgotha all over again.  It was the depth of despair and depression.  Sometimes depression makes us see the things inside us which often are ignored and merely glossed over.  Depression can be scathingly honest about who we are, what we do, and what we deserve.

Now a third Traveler joined them, Who had the audacity of not joining in the pity party.  Because He was not mournful, they had expected Him to be ignorant of recent events, but He ended up scolding them for not paying attention to the evidence.  Starting with Genesis and then through to the prophets, tying prophecies, festivals, and theological types together, He made the Old Testament come alive.

This was no mere inventory of the passages which just described that Jesus would die and then rise again – instead there was the why, the how of the Word of God touching them and their lives, the connections which filled the last three days with eternal meaning, even the connections to the spiritual trash heaps that they themselves had been picking through.  They were shown the masterful hand of God building to the climax at Golgatha.
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The Passover [Exodus 12] suddenly now had profound spiritual impact, for it described that to escape humanity’s garbage of rebellion and inevitable death, God provided a seeming thin layer, the Lamb’s Blood, yet any, no matter who he or she was, who enter under and through the Blood, humbly submitting to God’s way, had a powerful guard against eternal death and the concrete proof of never-ending life in His presence.

As the Day of Atonement scapegoat [Leviticus 16], the rejected goat bearing the sins of the whole nation, was driven away “as far as the east is from the West” [Psalm 103:12] it signaled the time when the burden of rebellion would disappear to the searching eye of God.  In Isaiah’s suffering Servant in chapter 53[:5-6]: He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; but the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” – at the cost of the Blood of the Son of God, God was taking out the garbage in the life of the world.

“The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world,” as John the Baptist called Him, had removed the dirt, muck and trash – and has added light, life and hope to a once dreary landscape.  Jerusalem had been transformed – even Golgotha had become a place of honor and blessing, the place where ironically, eternal life began; the city became a reminder of a far better and glorious City, a Jerusalem to come.

Like desert travelers finding an oasis, the two followers found that they couldn’t get enough from their new-found Friend.  What was particularly impressive was that this fellow Traveler made the two understand that all this and so much more was for them, each one they were intimately involved in this salvation, being turned aside from the trash heaps of humanity, and having discovered the path which their Creator God set before them, all in order that they might have life and have it abundantly,

And then …  …  invited to bless the meal, the Stranger took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them – wasn’t it the same action they had just seen only days ago at the Last Supper?  Or the hands – the hands which had touched and healed, which now had the evidence of nail holes?  Alive!!  Jesus is risen indeed!!   Excited!!  There was no trash, sin, dreariness, or other obstacle inside them or out to mute their euphoria, as they flew back to tell the disciples.  Jesus had indeed cleared the path all the way to the Resurrection.

How often have we also walked away from Easter with the garbage of the world, the burden of guilt, and the dreariness of our lives weighing down our own footsteps?  How often have we also: ”But Him they – we – did not see”?  Like the two followers, Jesus scolds us, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”  Just like the two, how often have we also focused on the piles of trash and have not lifted our eyes to the bright sunshine of Easter morning?

Stop here right now – the whole world has ceased to us at this moment and we are given the vision of a world swept clean from all the sewage, muck, and rubbish of human rebellion, and are given a taste of what the Lord has brought to us on Good Friday and now in Easter.  It is important then to take the time to pay attention to what the prophets have described not just about salvation, but also about the heart and earnest desire of a God Who would not withhold His Son in order to save us.  It is also time to capture a glimpse of the power and concrete reality of the Resurrection within the eternal plan of God.  But most of all, it is to stop and see the hands and hear the voice of the Lord Himself standing apart from the commotion which surrounds us.

Then now come and discover this same Jesus sitting at our table here, blessing and breaking this Bread, and with the same hands bearing the marks of the Cross sharing His Body with us; then sharing with us the Lifeblood which is the living Water to our souls which too often have wandered the desert of the dreariness of death, the Lifeblood which cleanses away every result of human rebellion for any who repent.

And then no more shall we stand still looking sad as the two on the road had been, filled with world weariness, with sorrow, with lifelessness, but instead we enter into the reality of life which death cannot overcome.  There is a power here revealed which stands unwavering in concrete actual history, in spiritual implication, and in daily living bringing a great gladness, a joy which the world cannot fathom.  It has such strength in the face of all the garbage and despair which attempts to defeat our confidence, so that we can boldly find comfort and authority in the Resurrection.

One year, shortly after World War II, the communists were disturbed by the religious feelings in one of the southern villages.  So the people were gathered together and the party official harangued them about the beauty of atheism and that Jesus, after all, was simply and completely dead.  At the end of their time they asked if anyone would like to come forward and have a chance to speak.  One young man went to the platform and asked if he might say a single sentence.  He was given the microphone and these were his words, “Brothers and Sisters, the Lord has risen!”  And the answer came back from the crowd in chorus after chorus:  “He is risen indeed!”   [Henry Sawatzky, “Amid the Garbage and the Flowers,” The Christian Ministry]

(1) John 9; Mark 7:32-35; Luke 5:12-16; Matthew 9:23-25; Matthew 17:5-8.
(2) Luke 4:35-36; John 8:10-11; Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:37-39; Luke 23:42-43.

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