The death of Jesus on the cross appeared to be a great blow to His followers. They had expected the Messiah (or Christ, in Greek) to immediately assume leadership of the Jewish nation and to overthrow the Roman government. With Jesus dead and in the tomb, there no longer appeared to be any hope for this. It looked like all of their ministry efforts with Him over the past three years were a failure and a waste, and all for naught.
Such was the thinking of two of these disciples as they abandoned their ministry efforts in Jerusalem and sadly began to walk home to the town of Emmaus. As the two discouraged disciples walked along, they were joined by a mysterious stranger. It was, in fact, the risen and glorified Jesus Christ, who as victorious Messiah, would now continue to expand His ministry of reconciliation from sin to the entire world. He explained to them that the scriptures foretold that the Messiah must first suffer to atone for the sins of people.
26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:26-32 (NKJV)
The two did not initially recognize Jesus, who they “knew” was dead. Perhaps His glorified appearance was somewhat altered, or He was covered or cloaked, but whatever the case, they were certainly not expecting to see Him on this dusty road to Emmaus. The last they knew of Him, Jesus was lying in a tomb in Jerusalem.
Their eyes were opened to Him as He broke the bread and blessed it, much like He did with His disciples a few days earlier at the Last Supper Passover meal. They realized that the Holy Spirit burned in their hearts like fire as Jesus spoke of the scriptures that prophesied of the Messiah, that He first must suffer before being glorified to atone for the sins of the world.
We do not know which scripture verses Jesus referred to when speaking to them, but they likely included King David’s Psalm 22. Many of these verses have a direct application to Jesus’ suffering on a cross 1,000 years later. Psalm 22 was also penned long before the cruel practice of crucifixion was instituted.
Some of the verses in this Psalm that foretell of the crucifixion of Jesus are:
14 I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
16 For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
17 I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
18 They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:14,16-18 (NKJV)
The fiercest and most evil of spiritual forces gathered from around the globe to surround and attack the vulnerable Christ as He was dying on the cross. They tormented and mocked Him, even after the tremendous beating he had endured and the inhumane act of the crucifixion itself. After they had done their worst to Him, they then taunted Jesus to come down off the cross before He died, so that all of His suffering would have been in vain.
But Jesus endured, staying His course on the cross to offer Himself for us as an innocent sacrificial Lamb, bearing all of our sin and shame. He endured the taunts and the unbearable pain because He loves us and wanted to perform this cleansing act for us. With His mission fulfilled, believers could now be cloaked with His righteousness and made worthy for eternal entry into the kingdom of heaven.
Psalm 22 shows us that the cross had been God’s plan from the beginning. Jesus would come to earth as a man to do for us what we were unable to do for ourselves – to live a life of holy obedience to the Father and offer Himself as a spotless sacrifice in our place.
Given that Jesus did so much for us, it is not something that we would want to foolishly ignore or reject. Be encouraged that He loves and cares for you, came to earth to suffer for you, and wants you to reach out for Him today.
Isaiah Chapter 53 also gives a powerful prophecy about how the coming Messiah must first suffer, then be resurrected to glory. It tells about the forgiveness, healing, and eternal life that flow to us from this loving act. It is a short chapter and well worth the reading, and was written many hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for suffering for us on the cross so that we may be cleansed. We reach out to You to claim your gift of forgiveness and eternal salvation, proclaiming that You are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Light of the World. We pray this in Your holy name, Amen