|If this sermon contains Greek or Hebrew words they will appear as scrambled letters enclosed in <brackets> unless you have the appropriate fonts installed on your computer. See the Information about this web site page for more information.|
Doubts about the Resurrection
This study © 2000 by David Humpal
An Easter Message
We all go through times of doubt in our lives. Tan points out that if you tell a man that there are 581,679,000,000 stars in the universe, he will believe you. But if a sign says “fresh paint,” he has to make a personal investigation.
After the crucifixion of Christ we find two followers of Jesus filled with their own doubts as they walked the road to their home in Emmaus. They had believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but now their minds were filled with questions and confusion. Perhaps as you approach the Easter season, you also have doubts about God or about his promises to you. If so, you can learn a valuable lesson from these two otherwise unknown followers of Christ.
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
One of the two disciples is named Cleopas as revealed in verse 18. This is the only mention of this disciple and we know nothing further about him. Some have suggested that the other unnamed follower of Christ was Luke, the author of the gospel, since this encounter is unique to his gospel. I find this doubtful since it seems Luke was a gentile believer, not a Jew. We know that Luke was the only gospel writer that seems to have done independent research to write his gospel (Luke 1:2-3). This may explain how he came across the testimony of Cleopas that the other gospel writers missed.
And talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
As they walked the long road to their home, they talked about the events that had just transpired in Jerusalem. They had believed that Jesus was the son of God, and then they found their dreams and hopes dashed by the sight of Jesus on the cross. It is true that Jesus had spoken many words about his resurrection, but like all the other disciples, these two did not seem to understand them or believe them.
As they walked and talked with each other, they must have expressed many of their questions and confusion to each other. This must have been a devastating time for these men who had believed the words of the gentle Nazarene. Now he was gone, and their hope and confidence was rapidly unraveling.
While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
It is interesting that God blinded them from recognizing Jesus. Certainly, they did not expect to see him on the road. We hear nothing more about these two followers of Christ, and yet Christ chose them to hear one of the most amazing accounts recorded in scripture. Do you feel like an anonymous believer? Do you feel unimportant in God’s kingdom? We will see how these two men were chosen for a special time of teaching from the scriptures that, as far as we know, none of the other disciples received. God can speak to you just as he did these two men.
When you are going through times of darkness and confusion, you may not realize it but Jesus is walking right by your side. You may be blinded as these followers of his were. You may think that Jesus is far from you. But he is walking right beside you. You just need to open your spiritual eyes.
And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
Jesus asked them about the conversation they were having. Notice their response -- “they stood still, looking sad.” They were sad that Jesus’ ministry was over, that his promises were unfulfilled, that what they thought was God’s purpose had been thwarted. They probably began to doubt much of what Jesus had told them, and maybe began to wonder if they had just wasted their time these past few months or years that they had been following him.
I had accepted Christ as my Savior when I was eight years old. But when I went off to college, I spent one year tormented by intellectual doubts about my faith. I finally came to the point where I had to tell God that I wanted to serve him, but he would have to deliver me from the doubts that had crept into my thinking. Ever since then, not only has God delivered me from those doubts, but he has also revealed to me how foolish was my reasoning and how fallacious were the intellectual arguments that caused me such confusion.
Whenever things don’t go the way we think they should, it is easy for us to have doubts about God or his promises to us. The Christian walk is one of faith, often without direct tangible evidence that what we believe to be the truth is, in fact, true. Perhaps you have been plagued by doubts. Maybe you even have doubts about the resurrection as these disciples did.
Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.”
Cleopas was shocked that this stranger had not heard about the events that had happened in Jerusalem. Apparently, the whole city must have been talking about these events. By the reaction of these two disciples, it seems that there must have been a great division among the Jews in Jerusalem. Many must have supported Jesus, and the whole city was in an uproar over the crucifixion. Many think of Christ’s disciples as only a small band of loyal Galilean followers, but these remarks indicate that emotions about him were widespread.
How many times had Christ taught his followers that he must suffer and die! How many times had he taught them that he was the Messiah, the son of God! Cleopas and the other follower must have heard it many times. But now when they answer, they identify Jesus as only a prophet, although one “mighty in deed and word before God.” If they thought he was the son of God before, doubts in their mind had changed their opinion. If they thought he was the Messiah that would redeem Israel before, confusion over the events of the past three days caused their faith to waver.
“And how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened.”
Here the two followers admit the source of their doubts -- they had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel, but they had seen him put to death. When they saw Jesus on the cross, their faith left them. All they could see was his dead body. They could no longer hear the words he had spoken about his resurrection. And even if they had held out any hope of a miracle, three days had passed and each day weakened their faith that much more.
Do you find yourself facing doubts about God? Is your faith wavering? These two disciples were about to learn some important lessons that we need to also learn. Let us listen to the words of Jesus and learn how to overcome our own doubts and confusion.
“Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some 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.”
In these verses the two men make a startling admission. They report about what the women claimed to have seen, but their questions clouded their thinking. They seem to conclude that because Jesus was not at the tomb, that must have been the end of it. Even in the face of compelling evidence of the resurrection, their skepticism overwhelmed their faith.
As I look over my life and the life of my family, I have seen miracle upon miracle over the years. There were so many times when I just seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and there were so many circumstances where afterward I recognized God’s protecting hand on me. We all have compelling evidence in our own experience of God’s faithfulness. But sometimes doubts come along and it seems we forget all the many blessings we have received from God.
Allmand gave good advice when he wrote, “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your beliefs.”
And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”
These words Jesus spoke to the two disciples, and these words Jesus speaks to us today, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus does not condemn them for having doubts about his own words. He condemns them for not believing the words in the Old Testament written by God’s prophets centuries before, which confirmed Christ’s teachings. It should be pointed out the importance Christ placed on scripture. It was not to be taken lightly. When we trivialize or diminish the important teachings of the Bible, we are really revealing our own skepticism and suspicions. The problem is we are foolish people and we are slow to believe. Christ thought scripture was important. We should too. We can trust God’s promises in the Bible.
“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Jesus held a small Bible study for these two disciples. He began in the first five books of the Old Testament and worked his way through the various books showing how they spoke of the coming Messiah and how they foretold his suffering.
There are prophecies of Christ throughout the Old Testament. Some of the more famous ones are found in Isaiah and the Psalms. So much of the Old Testament points to the coming Messiah that Simpson wrote a series of books called Christ in the Bible. Each of his books covered a different book of the Bible. I’m not sure if he wrote one for every book in the Bible, but he did for most!
I wonder why these two disciples were the ones that Jesus decided to spend so much time with in study of the scripture! We do not hear anything about them after this encounter, and yet you have to think that Christ chose these men purposely. Perhaps they were not great preachers and maybe they did not have the gifts that would be necessary to pastor or lead a group of believers. But one thing they must have had was a deep understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus goes through all the Old Testament references, and they find his teaching so fascinating that they later say, “did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us.” These two men could have been scholars or scribes who had intimate knowledge of scripture. They would be able to share what they learned this day with the more vocal of the disciples who would share it with the people. God is always looking for serious students of the Bible to teach them and reveal to them his divine truth.
MacDonald comments, “It was a wonderful Bible study, and how we would love to have been with Him then! But we have the same OT, and we have the Holy Spirit to teach us, so we too can discover in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.
As they drew near to their home, Jesus acted as if he would continue down the road. But the disciples constrained him to stay with them that night. Jesus never forces himself on anyone. We must be willing to invite him to come with us. These men’s minds had been opened. Now Christ was going to open their hearts.
Perhaps your mind has been cluttered with doubts and confusion. Christ will come to open your mind if you will allow him. He will teach you out of his word and reveal spiritual truth if you are willing to listen. But first of all, you have to invite him in your heart.
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”
When Jesus sat down to eat with them, the men noticed a familiar action in the breaking of bread. They had seen that before -- the way he took the bread, the prayer with which he blessed it, and the way he tore the bread into pieces. They recognized these actions and suddenly God opened their eyes to see that the man hidden under unfamiliar clothes was indeed Jesus -- the one who had been crucified on the cross and was now dining with them.
The Scripture Union points out, “The frugal meal became a sacrament, and the home became a House of God. That’s what Christ does wherever He goes. ... The two had opened to Him their home, and now He opens their eyes”
If you are ready to let go of your questions and skepticism, invite Jesus to join you and commune with you. He will shine light in the darkness of your heart, and you will suddenly see things that you have never seen before. He will do for you as the men said in verse 32, “he opened to us the scriptures.” And you will find your doubts and confusion disappearing.
Footnotes are with the permanent file on the Pastor's Help for the Hurting Christian web site. Use your browser's back button to return here after viewing them.
To view footnotes click here