The last post in this series discussed how Jesus might speak through unexpected sources. Today, I want to put forth a reason why the two disciples on the Emmaus road might have been kept from recognizing Jesus in the first place.
Remember, they were discussing current events when Jesus approached them. They think he’s a stranger. Jesus asks what they’re talking about, and the two disciples kind of look at each other before they explain what’s been going on:
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, a man who was a prophet might in deed and word before God and all the people, 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 these things happened.”
They go on to explain how certain female disciples claimed that angels had declared Jesus alive. The disciples went to the tomb and found it empty, like the women said it was, but there was no sign of Jesus.
This is one of my favorite parts of this story. Try picturing Jesus’ face as his own disciples confide in him (unknowingly, that is) that they “had hoped” their teacher would redeem Israel. The implication of failure is obvious. So is the scent of disappointment.
And it’s at this moment that I wonder if Jesus didn’t disguise himself because his disciples wouldn’t have been honest if they had known they were talking to him.
The game we play in church is often the game we play with God: we say and do the right things because that’s what we think they and He want us to do. And if you have questions and doubts about Christianity, then you keep those to yourself because sometimes, the very last place to be open about your thoughts is in church … and with God.
Maybe that’s why Jesus isn’t showing himself to you like you’re begging him to do in your prayers. You might think his silence will be the end of your faith. Maybe he’s trying to get you to a place where you can actually be open about the fact that you’re struggling.
And if it takes withholding His presence to draw out the real secrets of your heart, then maybe that’s what He’s going to do.
Because you can’t receive answers until you’ve learned to ask the right questions, and you can’t ask those questions if you’re not honest enough to admit that you have them.
Someone might point out that Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of belief; I even pointed this out in my previous post. But notice that it’s not the end of their relationship.
Jesus takes the time to speak to them.
He explores the Scriptures with them.
And, at the end of the day, he still sits down to dinner with them: a sign of friendship.
They are still disciples. He is still the teacher.
He is still invested in them. Concerned with them. Devoted to them.
And before they could realize that, they had to walk by themselves, convinced that their Lord was no longer around, and say the things that we’re often afraid to say.