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The road before us was hard and colorless. It was springtime, but we were deaf to the birds singing in the trees. We were blind to the flowers blooming in the field. The sun gave no warmth. The skies had no color. Jesus the Nazarene was dead.
We were full of questions and doubts. We had been in Jerusalem for the Passover. It was only a few miles from our village of Emmaus. But instead of celebrating the Feast of Deliverance with joy, we observed the crucifixion of our Deliverer with despair. We were at Golgotha. We saw Him die. I had come to believe this Jesus was the Messiah. My friend and I were both His disciples. Not chosen to be among the twelve, but disciples no less. We followed Him. We listened to Him preach. We submitted to His instruction. We believed His words. We expected to see Him established as God’s anointed king on earth, the hope of Israel, and light to all the nations. Instead, we saw Him crucified, falsely convicted by our leaders and executed by the Romans. He was gone. When He died, all our hopes died.
The crucifixion was Friday. We stayed in the city through the Sabbath. The weight of His death grew on us each hour until it seemed we would be crushed completely. On the morning of the first day, we prepared to return to Emmaus. There was nothing more to do in Jerusalem. There was some chance the authorities would arrest any disciples of Jesus they could find. Those who stayed in the city were keeping out of sight.
As we prepared to leave, we heard some rumor that His grave was empty. Someone had heard it whispered that the women had seen Him alive. Another snatch of news had it that Peter and John had been to the tomb and seen it empty. But who knew for sure? There was no way to know. We took to the road. We walked some distance in sad conversation. Then we became aware of footsteps behind a man walking by Himself. We let Him join us. He asked what we were talking about. “Why do you look so glum?” He said. At first neither my friend nor I responded. Was He in sympathy or would He betray us?
Finally, I risked it. “Where have you been these last few days? Haven’t you heard what has happened in Jerusalem? Are you a stranger here?” How could anyone within miles of the city not know what had happened? This had been common execution. Three hours of thick darkness covered the land. Never had earthquakes accompanied a crucifixion. How could this stranger be ignorant of all this? But He seemed sincere. We told Him that the one we expected to redeem Israel had been crucified and placed in a grave. His death was the end of our hopes. There could be no deliverance now. We even told Him the rumors: that some of the women had gone to the tomb that morning and found it empty. Peter and John went too. But what could have happened to the body? Who would have any reason to move it? And what about the Roman guards? We admitted the stories were hard to believe.
The stranger shook His head at our confusion. He chided us for not believing the promises of the Scriptures regarding Messiah. Then He taught us. He quoted passage after passage from Moses and the prophets, and David, showing us how the promises must be fulfilled: how the Messiah must suffer first before He began His reign. How His death would atone for sin, and that God would not leave Him in the grave, but would raise Him to life again. Our hearts quickened to hear these words of promise and new hope.
By the time we arrived at our village, it was late in the afternoon. Traveling after dark was dangerous because of thieves on the road, so when we saw that the stranger intended to go on alone, we persuaded Him to stay. He accepted our invitation and came to dine with us. We reclined together at the table. The stranger took up the bread, blessed it, broke it and we began to eat. That’s when I noticed them--the marks on His hands. When He broke the bread, I caught my breath. I said, “Show me Your hands.” He held them out and turned them over. Nail prints. I raised my head and looked Him full in the face. His eyes held my gaze. And I knew Him. My heart pounded in my chest. I was looking in the face of Israel’s Redeemer, Jesus, the Messiah, our Teacher, alive from the tomb. The women were right. Peter and John were not talking nonsense. He was alive, in my house, reclining at my table. I looked across at my companion. He, too, had recognized the teacher.
When we looked back, Jesus was gone. I stood up quickly, “We have to go to Jerusalem. We must tell them what’s happened.” My companion said, “Are you crazy? We’ve been on the road all day and now it’s after sunset. It will be dangerous.” I picked up a heavy walking stick. We left everything and rushed back to Jerusalem. That seven-mile journey was the most exciting of my life. If there were bandits, we never saw them. In the city, we found the place where the disciples were hiding. We burst in. Peter, James, John and the others--we told them. Then we told them again. They told us what they had seen. That small room could barely contain us.
Yes, I am one of the twelve voices of Easter. I am Cleopas, and mine is the voice of assurance. I tell you today what I know is true. Jesus is alive. I have seen Him. I have looked the resurrected Christ straight in the eye. I have heard Him teach. I have eaten bread broken by His nail-scarred hands. Now there are no more questions. No more doubt. Only this assurance: I have seen Him. He is alive.
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