Resurrecting Hope

Psalm 39; Luke 24:8–35; Acts 26:1–8 (read online ⧉)

Brian Sanders (Executive Director of Tampa Underground) shared some very interesting thoughts regarding the Emmaus Road story.

Cleopas and the unnamed disciple hadn’t yet seen the Resurrected Jesus. Like any of the “outer circle” disciples, they didn’t see Jesus immediately, and many of the inner circle missed him too. So, they were “stuck” on the outside. They knew of the wrongful conviction, abuse, and death. They’d heard this impossible to belief story—from people they trusted—that Jesus had died, but was now risen!

Sanders suggests that our 2 Emmaus Road disciples were running away from the confusing situation in Jerusalem. They were feeling overwhelmed. They were probably hurting. They were probably confused. Sanders also suggests that they were “packing” their “escape route”. The day we just celebrated, possibly people were trying to escape it.

Sanders’ suggestion just seems wrong in so many ways. How could these disciples be so confused and hope destroyed that they were trying to escape? Yet, Sanders makes a good point in that they were leaving Jerusalem. Leaving. They weren’t joining the other disciples. They were leaving.

They didn’t understand, not really. How many of us ourselves have been at the point where there was an internal disconnect between what we thought we knew/believed, and what we think we should have known? That point in our lives that we started to run away in some small way: alcohol, drugs, partying, gambling, videos, gaming, even reading.

Then Jesus shows up. That’s a pretty common story in the Christian world. It’s a pretty common story in the world outside of Christians, but far too many people are self-blinding and cannot (or will not) see Jesus. Sometimes that is us, too. Then Jesus shows up and life is changed.

Paul went from accuser and abuser of Christians to defender of the faith. He stood before people who could, at their whim, cause him to live or die. Instead of renouncing Christianity, he wouldn’t just defend, he tried to convert! Unlike the Emmaus Road disciples, Paul wasn’t hopeless or lost when he met Jesus. Quite the contrary. Paul was a rising star in the Jewish world. He was going to fix this minor annoying Nazarene sect, and get them back on the right path of the Law. Paul’s conversion story is the opposite of many’s conversion stories. He is in power. He has had—to our knowledge—no qualms seeking to fix the wrong-thinking of this new sect. It on his way with even more power in his hand, that Jesus turns the script. While many convert on their knees and in desperation with nothing to lose, Paul converted when he only had something to lose, a lot of something.

It really is the question Paul asks in Acts 26:8 that is Resurrection of hope that the Jewish people, and the world, really needed. “Why is it thought incredible by you people that God raises the dead?” Today we are told that this Resurrection is a fairy tale. In Paul’s day, it may have been far fetched, but it wasn’t unbelievable. In a time when people believed that gods could raise the dead, Paul still had to defend Jesus’ Resurrection. This should tell us something. Jesus’ Resurrection was something far greater than just a dead person coming to life! A dead person “just” coming to life wasn’t the greatest concern. It was Jesus’ Resurrection that was. The Jewish leaders knew and understood (no matter how much they opposed it), that this was no normal come-back-to-life tale.

This means that this Resurrection is something greater. Perhaps its the kind of thing that causes those who have lost hope or who have run away from their confusion, become empowered and full of hope and faith. When those who have a Resurrection hope and faith not only turn toward what almost destroyed them; they walk (or even run) to it with the ability to overcome it with a power that comes through the restoring power of God.

God of all mercies, grant us the power, faith, and hope to look at all the troubles of the world, whether they be distant or near, and know that through you the world can have the hope it seeks. Give us the eyes and hearts to see where we are called to be the agents of restoration, so that the hopes of the world may find true hope through the Resurrection of Jesus. This we pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

1) Was your conversion at a height or at a low? Why do you think it was there, rather than the opposite? If you’ve known no other life than life with Jesus (i.e., from childhood), what cemented your faith in Jesus Christ?

2) What are some characteristics of “Resurrection” hope versus “normal” hope? What could be the difference between Resurrection hope and Saving hope?

3) Often we look at the weaknesses of people in the Scriptures and respond with, “glad that’s not me.” Except it is. When were you like the Emmaus Road disciples? When were you like Paul?