It’s Holy Saturday, the time between. For those who had been following Jesus, who had left everything and put their faith in a carpenter from a small backwoods town, believing he was the Anointed One, their dreams had been hung on the cross with their hero yesterday at Skull Hill. Jesus had spoken of being raised on the third day, but nobody had a frame of reference for what He had meant by that. It must have seemed like just another of His confusing riddles or parables.
So nobody really knew what to do next.
There’s a funny little story that Luke is the only gospel writer to record (Luke 24). Even though it occurs after Jesus’ resurrection, it is before anyone has fully comprehended that this has happened (“the women” had discovered the empty tomb and been told by the angels that He has risen, but again, it wasn’t until they saw Him that they were able to process what had transpired). And this is just like Jesus–you’d think that with something as miraculous as coming back to life, He would want to be the one at the tomb greeting His friends, proclaiming something like, “See guys! This is what I meant!”
But instead, He does the unexpected. He appears first to two followers whose answer to the “what do we do now” question was wander over to the next village, Emmaus. Only one of these followers gets named in the story, Cleopas, and this is the only time he gets mentioned in the Bible. In other words, these aren’t Peter or John or James, or even any of the other disciples. Just Cleopas and friend. They were discussing everything that had happened over the last few days, probably disappointed and dazed, not sure how it all could have come unraveled so quickly. Just a week ago, people were waving palm branches at Him in honor, laying their coats down along the path as he rode into Jerusalem. What happened?
And then Jesus shows up, asking them this same question. Luke explains that they were kept from recognizing him, but he doesn’t say why. Maybe it was intentional by God, maybe Jesus wore a disguise, or maybe they simply weren’t expecting to encounter Him alive, so they didn’t really look very closely. In response to Jesus’s question, they look sad for a moment, then Cleopas basically says, “What are you kidding me? Are you the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s been going on?”
Jesus baits them further with an innocent inquiry about what had been happening. So they summarized it for Him. In return, He scolds them a bit, then takes them back to Moses and the prophets, explaining how everything had pointed to Jesus being the Messiah, and everything had to happen the way it did.
After that, they invited Jesus over for dinner when they had reached Emmaus. When they sat down to eat, Jesus took the bread and broke it, handing it to them. At this instant, they recognized Him, and He disappeared!
Coming back to Holy Saturday and the question of what do we do now, there are a few things we can remember from this odd little story as we ourselves stumble toward Emmaus, trying to figure out what to do next.
First off, God is never too busy to spend time with us. You would think that Jesus would have been too busy right after coming back from the dead to walk seven miles and have a detailed discussion with two minor followers, but He made it happen. God wants to be in a relationship with us in which we talk to him all throughout our days, not just in some big formal prayer in church one day a week.
Next, by appearing first to Cleopas and friend instead of the “most important people”, I think Jesus is showing us that we each have an important role in His kingdom–not just the pastors or other religious leaders. Whatever we do, let us do it well, as though we are serving God. Because we are, each in our own way.
It was also obviously important to Him that these lesser-known followers really understand the full context of who He is and why He fulfilled all the prophesies. From this, I think He is guiding us to try to understand Him, His story, and His significance as best we can. Dwell in His word, go to Bible studies, listen to sermons, or whatever helps you to unpack who He is and all that He has done for us. This doesn’t seem to be something we should take lightly. For all of our other important relationships, we generally do everything reasonable to learn what we can about them–why should we do anything less for our relationship with God? Having said that, though, it’s important that we do this eagerly out of the love we have for Him and in response to all He has done for us, and not out of obligation. We should be able to see from the distaste Jesus had for the religious leaders of His day that God has little use for people who are there out of obligation.
Finally, Jesus also shows us that it’s OK not to fully understand it all. Although He scolds them for not getting it, He then takes quite a bit of time to explain it all to them. They had their best understanding of the events, but they were off a little bit, so Jesus straightened them out. We will never fully understand God’s ways, at least not this side of the grave, but if we are earnestly trying to learn more and more, He will be patient with us and help us along the way.
What about you? How else do you think God might want you to answer the question, What do we do now?