The events of the first Resurrection (Easter) Sunday started just before dawn when the Lord of life broke out of the tomb, and it ended at dusk after two disciples had the privilege of walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
Every year at this time, we commemorate the most important day in human history. Peter stated its significance when he wrote that God ‘has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3).
Early in the morning of 6th April 30 AD Jesus of Nazareth rose up through his burial clothes and walked out of a sealed tomb. By the way, the angels did not roll away the stone securing the tomb to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in to see that Jesus was no longer there.
Later that day, two disciples left Jerusalem to go back to their home in the little village of Emmaus some 11 kilometres away. The story of their journey is told in Luke 24:13-22, but let me recount it to you.
On the Road to Emmaus
One of the disciples was Cleopas and we can deduce that the other was his wife, Mary, because John 19:25 records that Cleopas’ wife Mary was with the other women observing the crucifixion. Although tradition holds that the ‘Clopas’ of John 19 is not the same person as the Cleopas of Luke 24, I believe that they were a married couple walking with Jesus to Emmaus.
The two of them were sad and confused and as they journeyed they were discussing the events of the weekend. Jesus walked up and joined them but they did not recognise him.
He asked them what they were talking about and Cleopas rather rudely retorted that he must be the only person in Jerusalem that didn’t know what had happened there.
They told him that they had hoped that Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. Then they recounted all that had befallen him, Jesus… while he, the risen Lord, was walking with them. Jesus responded by rebuking them: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”
Then comes a most significant statement in Luke’s account:
What a bible study! What a privilege to have the author and subject of scripture teaching them! It is no wonder that later on, they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?”
Just as it was getting dark, they arrived at Emmaus and the couple invited Jesus to stay and eat supper with them. They gave him the honour of breaking the bread. The account merely says that as Jesus was breaking the bread and giving it to them ‘their eyes were opened and they recognised him’. It is quite possible that as Jesus did this his wrists were exposed to view and they saw the fresh nail wounds. Jesus broke open through the grave clothes, broke open the scriptures, and opened their eyes as he broke the bread.
We need to recognise that this Jesus, who opened the scriptures to those two disciples, is the same Jesus who opens them to us today.
This Jesus is ‘the fullness of the Deity living in bodily form (Colossians 2:9), and ‘the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:30. This same Jesus stands before us today and says something like: “Here I am! I am your creator and the source of all knowledge and wisdom. So listen to me, copy me, obey me; and welcome my living my life in and through you.” Now, what would you call a bible-believing Christian who disregards this? We would have to call such a person what Jesus called the two disciples who walked with him; foolish and slow of heart to believe. For surely, what HE said, did, modelled, and revealed MUST be our primary guide to faith and life!
The Christocentric Principle
What I call this the Christocentric Principle is an approach to understanding the bible and life from a Jesus-perspective.
To be Christocentric, Jesus-centred is not just a matter of talking about him, or adding his name to the end of our prayers, or wearing a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet. Nor is it just trying to find references, types of, or actual appearances in every book of the bible.
Other Lessons from Luke 24
While this is my main learning point for this article, we can draw several others from the narrative of walking with Jesus.
- Firstly, God initiates encounters and we respond. He is neither evoked nor persuaded to appear to us. It was Jesus who approached the disciples on the road and not the other way around.
- Sometimes we fail to recognise him when he does approach us because we don’t expect to encounter him. I remember, many years ago, what happened when I flew down to Cape Town to conduct my niece’s wedding. As I drove into the venues parking area in my rented car I spotted my elderly father being helped out of the car that had brought him and my mother. I rushed over to him and said “Hello there!”. I guess he hadn’t been told that I was flying in to conduct the wedding because he looked at me quizzically and asked, “and who might you be young man?” He didn’t recognise me at first because he wasn’t expecting to see me.
- Thirdly, when we do encounter Jesus we tend to talk too much and listen too little – just like the two disciples.
- Something else to note is that bible study is not just about Jesus but with him. We should commune with him as we read the bible, interacting with him in the context of the text and our lives.
- Lastly, the Lord’s Table, Holy Communion, is not a ritual tagged onto the end of a church service. It should be what its ascription implies, communion with the living Lord of all – and it can be an eye-opening experience.
Examples and Applications
I want to move Christocentricity from the realm of theory to practice by giving a few examples of how it is applied. The main idea is to determine what Jesus taught or modelled either directly or indirectly concerning the text or life situation before us.
One issue that Jesus addressed directly is ADULTERY. As part of his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 15) he explained the extent of the 7th Commandment, ‘you shall not commit adultery. So we don’t need to go further than this to know what it is and that it is prohibited.
But what about an issue that Jesus did not address directly, like HOMOSEXUALITY? Well, he didn’t teach on it but he did model how we should treat people involved in sexual sin. John 8 contains the story of how the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by bringing him a woman caught in the act of adultery. The question was would he condemn her to death by stoning or would he pardon her? Jesus challenged any among them who was without sin to throw the first rock at her. They pondered this and then slunk off leaving the woman lying among their discarded rocks at Jesus’ feet. He asked her where those who had condemned her were and she observed that they had all gone. Then Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
If we apply this to the issue of homosexuality, the lesson is quite clear; extend dignity and human worth, refrain from condemnation, but challenge clearly for changed behaviour in the future.
One last example that is also relevant to us today: May Christians arm themselves for SELF-PROTECTION. Well, just before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane he told his disciples that their lives were about to change radically. He said that if they didn’t have a sword then they should sell their cloak if necessary to acquire one. (Luke 22). The disciples responded with “See Lord, here two swords” and Jesus retorted with “That is enough”. A short while later when the rabble came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and cut off the High Priest’s servants ear. Jesus immediately rebuked him with the words, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).
In these and other matters, there are many other aspects we need to consider and other scriptures we need to reference. However, we are bound to start with what Jesus said, did, modelled, and revealed and to use this as our primary method of determining correct interpretation and practice. If we did this consistently there would be less confusion and fewer squabbles over doctrine.
So then, Easter Friday is all about Jesus dying for our sin of rebellion so that we could be forgiven and restored. Resurrection Sunday morning is all about his rising from the dead to provide us with the template for new spiritual birth into eternal life.
Resurrection afternoon is all about Jesus walking with us and us with him along the road of life.
Jesus died for us and all we can do is believe and accept. He rose for us and his spirit alone gives us new birth into a living hope. Our life with him on this planet starts with our salvation and ends with our passing on into glory. However, between the start and the end, WE need to walk with him in trust and obedience. This walk would be so much more significant if we would make it too all about Jesus – walking out life by living out a Jesus-centred understanding and application of scripture.