by Steve Witmer
Slowly they trudged along the familiar pathway; sorrow, grief and confusion were their travelling companions. They had been eyewitnesses to remarkable miracles, heard profound teachings and had embraced this prophet and rabbi as the true Messiah. The hopes and dreams of a restored Israel had been fully awakened, but the betrayal of the priests and the brutality of the Roman soldiers had crushed their dreams, one blow of the hammer at a time. The Messiah had died. His grave was sealed, guarded by the suspicious Sanhedrin and the Roman guard.
Today the women had brought confusing news: the grave was empty and an angel appeared, sharing the news that Jesus was risen! How could it be? It was all so unsettling. This was not what they had expected or hoped for. For Cleopas and his travelling companion, Jesus was not only the Hope of Israel, He was also their Hope. Hope had been brutally beaten and nailed to a Roman cross. When He died, so many of their dreams died as well.
Desperately needing some space to process, they decided to go home to what felt safe, stable and familiar. While they wanted to put as much distance between themselves and these troubling events, somehow they couldn’t stop talking and reliving the painful details. They couldn’t stop talking about Him.
As they journeyed, they were joined by a fellow traveller. One unshaken by the upheaval in Jerusalem that had rocked their private worlds. With wisdom and remarkable skill, this man explained the prophetic mysteries and revealed that the Messiah must suffer, die and then be resurrected. In the subsequent breaking of bread they recognized that it was the Lord!
Often this passage reminds me that grief and times of confusing difficulties have a way of blinding my eyes to the obvious presence of Jesus. Theologically, I know He never leaves me, nor does He forsake me, especially in times of trial and conflict. However, at times, inflamed emotions flood the “eyes of my heart” and blur my vision.
Undoubtedly you’ve encountered a crisis where hearts have been broken by the sudden and unexpected loss of a parent or a child. Perhaps, you’ve attempted to counsel a grieving spouse who has been forsaken for someone new. Unexplained grief and loss, far too often, serve as a harsh reality of this fallen world. Even today, as I was penning this article, I received an emergency text requesting prayer for a pastoral family whose tween daughter, depressed because of a medical diagnosis, attempted to take her own life. This dear couple, who love God and serve faithfully, were blindsided by this unforeseen crisis and now face challenges they could never have imagined!
Fellow sojourners, as we journey through life’s adventures and adversities, may our eyes always be focused on the Lord who walks alongside us. He is forever faithful, always present and is both our wise Counsellor and Guide. He alone can bring peace and make sense out of our confusion and chaos.
Here are three things that have been helpful to me:
The apostle Paul interceded with passion, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called – his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:18)
2. Remember who God is.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:1-2, 7)
3. Release your struggles to Him.
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
May we, like Cleopas and his fellow disciple on that first resurrection Sunday, be filled with overflowing rejoicing because we have seen Jesus! Our living Saviour amazingly shows up in the midst of distress, journeys with us, and provides peace and joy. He is risen indeed!
Steve Witmer and his wife, Becky, serve as contract retreat leaders with Kerith Retreats, a ministry of Focus on the Family Canada. For more information about our retreats, visit Kerithretreats.ca
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