My Dear Shepherds,
Don had been a faithful churchgoer all of his 80 years but when he came to our church his faith didn’t know what to think. He waited for the sermon like a man who hadn’t eaten. He’d sit right down front in rapt attention. He believed in Christ. He loved Communion more than most. But he’d had no idea how rich and life-giving Scripture was.
When Jesus appeared incognito to Cleopas and his fellow disciple on the Emmaus road they were like Don. They were deeply committed to Jesus and “had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” But they couldn’t make sense of Jesus’ death or the angels’ proclamation of his resurrection. Then this Stranger, who had seemed oblivious to what had happened, said,
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25–27)
Those two disciples bear a striking resemblance to folks in your church. Your people may be further down the road with Jesus than those two, but God put you among them, Bible in hand, to serve in Jesus’ stead. Devout disciples—ourselves included—are still prone to be uncomprehending and slow to believe what lies plain in Scripture unless someone opens our minds.
By “foolish,” Jesus meant they were undiscerning, blind to the obvious. They weren’t “slow to believe” the Scriptures because they were hardhearted but because they expected too little. They thought they knew more than they did. They saw the Passover, for example, like we might study a stained-glass window at night, without ever seeing the light that made it beautiful. They knew Isaiah’s Servant Songs, but evidently they had never factored them into their hopes for Jesus. Disciples are still like that, seeing only so far in Scripture; believing only so much.
I’m sure you’ve puzzled over why those two disciples “were kept from recognizing” Jesus. One reason is that if they’d recognized his face they wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on seeing him in the Scriptures he was explaining so vividly. Incredibly, seeing Jesus in Scripture might be even better than seeing him in person! It was clearly enough to enflame their hearts.
Now, we take Jesus’ place in walking with his disciples. He’s there, but they just see us. So, before we meet them, we’d better study the Word diligently and prayerfully, assuming that we, too, are prone to be oblivious to what lies before us unless Jesus teaches us and we think, hard. Not every passage is about Jesus, but he delights to meet us in every text to show us God’s grace and truth embedded there. We are not called to simply explain the Bible. We are to reveal Christ. Because when our people see Christ their hearts are set afire.
There was another guy like Don. Tom and his wife came to our church for their grandchild’s dedication, and never left. It was God’s Word that held them. They drank it in. Tom always sat in the second row, left side, and when I preached he just stared at me. I joked with him once, “Tom, you never take notes.” He replied, “I’m not taking my eyes off you.” He might have been looking at me, but in those sermons he was seeing Jesus.
Be ye glad!