Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising Him.
He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked Him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
"What things?" He asked.
"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him; but we had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find His body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see."
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ 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.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if He were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So He went in to stay with them.
When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when He broke the bread.
The story of Cleopas and his unnamed companion walking to the village of Emmaus takes place on Resurrection Sunday. The mood of despair and gloom was changing rapidly to one of joy and celebration, as the news of Jesus’ resurrection began to spread.
The conviction that Jesus had conquered death and that He was alive was the basis of the faith that motivated the early Church. Those who loved Him and were captivated by the challenge of His mission in the world discovered in Him a new personal experience. The early Christians, and in particular those who had known Him before His death began to realise that He was closer to them after His resurrection than He had been before His death on the cross.
So in the days immediately following the resurrection, Jesus appeared to more and more people, and they began to realise that what He had been, He continued to be. They were convinced that what He was He would continue to be. They knew that He had come to be with them in a real way by the Spirit. They didn’t really understand how this all worked, because we don’t fully understand the spiritual realm, but there was enough evidence for them to be overwhelmed with joy and excitement, because they began to realise that Jesus took the initiative in coming to them.
And the same truth applies to us, all these years later. The living Christ takes the initiative in coming to us with purposes of love and ministries of mercy. We should not be surprised by this. God took the initiative in creation. The universe did not come into being by accident. God called it into being. God took the initiative in revelation. The Bible is not a book that contains human speculation about God; instead, it is the inspired record of God’s activity of revealing Himself to us. God has taken the initiative in our salvation. Human beings did not suddenly decide that they needed salvation. God came in the person of Jesus Christ on a rescue mission. The Holy Spirit reveals to us our need for the salvation of God and works this salvation into our hearts and lives as we respond to Him by faith.
One of the deeper messages in the account of the road to Emmaus is the fact that as we walk along life’s journey, often consumed by our own problems and issues, is that God still walks with us, even though we might not recognise Him. Cleopas and his friend did not invite Jesus to join them on the road. It was Jesus who took the initiative, and it was He who eventually opened their eyes so that they recognised Him. But this only happened after they invited Him to share a meal with them. There is another verse in the Bible which has a similar message where the divine initiative of God is so clearly pictured for us: Revelation 3:20.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
This is all about the divine initiative of God, but for us to limit this visit to a once-off experience of conversion means that we miss the beauty and the fullness of its meaning for each of us. The words of Revelation 3:20 were written to the Christian Church at Laodicea. They were not written to the unsaved world, even though they do picture Jesus’ concern for a lost world.
Nicky Gumbel uses Revelation 3:20 on one of the sessions on the Alpha course, so it can certainly be applied to evangelism, but the message for the Church and for Christians is that we need to recognise our need to respond to the Christ who comes again and again to the front door.
Jesus comes and stands at the door. He comes without invitation. He comes not because of our merits or achievements or because He is paid to come. His deepest desire for us in this life is to involve Him in every aspect of our lives, and this is why, when He is not, He remains at the door of our lives.
But the living Christ not only stands at the door, He also knocks, and He speaks, wanting to share in the journey of life. In 1991 Bette Midler sang the word-wide hit which I’m sure most of us can remember. The chorus contains the words ‘God is watching us, from a distance.’
It may have been a hit song which won her a Grammy award and made her an absolute fortune, but the theology in that song is shaky at best. Even if we choose to ignore God, and decide to go our own way, He doesn’t retreat to a distance, barely concerning Himself about us and our lives. He is always there – within reach, just on the other side of the door. We have deep, personal needs which we don’t even realise sometimes, but He does, and He can fulfill those needs. That is why He is always near.
There is a famous painting by Holman Hunt, which I’m sure most of us have seen, as well as the interesting detail which has caused much discussion over the years. Jesus is on the outside, but the door can only be opened from the inside – by us. The door has no handle on the outside. The invitation is there, but it is up to us to respond.
You might be interested to know that there is no handle on the outside of the main door of our Church and the Chapel, for the same reason. They can only be opened from the inside.
Jesus wants to be part of our lives as individuals, and as a congregation. We need to be constantly responding to His invitation, inviting Him to be part of every aspect of the life of our Church. All of our teaching, our worship, our fellowship, our outreach – everything – simply must have Jesus at its centre. Without Him, we are nothing more than a social Sunday club. Pray for our Church.
Jesus also stands at the front door of your home. Is He an essential part of your family life? On one occasion Jesus was bold and gracious enough as to invite himself to the home of Zacchaeus. The wisest decision that Zacchaeus ever made was to let Jesus come into his house, and Zacchaeus’ life was changed forever.
How easily we forget that the abundant life which Jesus offers us begins in this life, and not when we walk through the gates of Heaven. In John 10:10 He says quite simply, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” If we are going to exclude Him from various parts of our lives, we are going to miss out on so much. Jesus can enrich parts of our lives which we are not even aware of.
Before His public ministry as a young adult, Jesus’ trade was that of a carpenter. He knew what it was to have callouses on his hands. He knew what it meant to earn a living by the sweat of His brow. This was not God at a distance. He became one of us in a very real way, and by His Spirit He remains closer than we sometimes think. Even in this modern computerised age He remains concerned about us. He wants to be our counsellor and helper. What I mean by that is if there is something in your life which is important to you, then it’s important to Him. Take even the seemingly mundane things of your life to Him in prayer.
Jesus stands at the front door of your heart, and you are the only one who can let Him in. It can only be opened from the inside. Christ will not enter unless He is invited.
In the old days when you could go up to someone’s front door and knock or ring the bell, if there was no answer, we would eventually realise that there was no-one home, and would give up and walk away. But not so with Jesus. For as long as we live this life, He will remain at the door. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:16 about the endless patience of Jesus. “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”
“Here I Am. I stand at the door and knock.” Jesus’ visit to the door of your heart is not a once in a lifetime event. He is the Saviour who has come, and He will continue to stand and knock. He is there when you have decisions to make and need divine guidance and wisdom. He is there when you have burdens to bear. The responsibilities of life can often be oppressive and overwhelming. Life is hard, and if we are not able to give those burdens to Him, there will come a time when the burdens will simply swamp us.
1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
There is no doubt that the time when we need Jesus the most is when we face tragedies in our lives. Sorrow can crush the human heart, and sadly, we all lose loved ones. One of the prayers I usually use during memorial services contains these words: “Father, those that we have loved go on into a world of light, but for us it is past our seeing and beyond our understanding. When we are lonely, touch us; accept our tears and heal our broken hearts.”
That is a prayer which Jesus can, and does answer. When we reach a point in our lives where we lose someone dear, we are faced with a choice. We can either run to God, or from Him. We can open the door of our hearts, or we can double bolt it from the inside. He loves us more than we can possibly know, and He longs to bring comfort and peace during our saddest times. But He can’t do that through a locked door.
The hand that knocks at the door of your heart is a nail-scarred hand. It belongs to the one who loved you so much that He died for your sins. He died to give you life. The nail-scarred hand knocks in order to offer to you the forgiveness of sins and the gift of new life which you need more than anything else. Eternal life with Christ begins here and now, and if you are in a place right now where for whatever reason Jesus is on the outside of your heart, rather than inside, my prayer for you today is that you would allow Him in. Allow Him to bring the healing you so desperately need. Open your heart to Him, and allow Him to transform your life.