Nathele Graham – [email protected]
The events of the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth were horrific. The abuse inflicted upon Him at the hands of the Roman soldiers would have killed a lesser man, but Jesus wasn’t ordinary. After the beating, Jesus was still able to carry His cross to be crucified. Roman soldiers pounded the nails into His already bloodied body and lifted Him up for onlookers to ridicule and mock. After it was all over, His body was placed in a tomb which was securely sealed and Roman soldiers were dispatched to guard it. This was done so the small band of men who had followed Him wouldn’t be able to remove Jesus’ body to make it look as if He had risen.
This wouldn’t have happened because the men who followed Him were hiding in fear. By human terms it was all very secure and escape-proof. Jesus’ Jewish followers were bound by Jewish Law, and it was the time of Passover and Sabbath so they weren’t able to tend to His body until the first day of the week, which was three days away. What a surprise awaited them. On the first day of the week a group of women went to the tomb at the first light of day the took spices to care for the body. “And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.” Luke 24:2-3. Who had moved the heavy stone? Where were the guards? They were soon to discover that Jesus had risen! He had conquered death and no stone nor Roman guard could possibly hold Him.
The women were understandably upset and confused, but saw two men (angels) there who began speaking with them. They reminded the woman that Jesus had spoken very clearly about what was going to happen. As Jesus travelled with the 12 disciples and others who also followed Him, He taught many lessons. As the time drew near for Him to offer Himself as the final sacrifice to take sin away, He began to speak of that event openly. “Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” Luke 18:31-33.
If you had been there and heard these words, would you have understood? Jesus spoke very clearly, but those who heard the words just didn’t understand. Don’t be too hard on them. Experience had taught them that when someone dies they don’t just come alive again. I can hear their thoughts: “He said He will rise from death on the third day, but what does He really mean?”. Jesus meant exactly what He said. Too often we read Scripture that clearly describes events, both past and future, but instead of believing God’s word we try to figure out what He “really” means by using human understanding.
When someone dies we know that their body is put into the grave and we certainly don’t expect to see them walking along a road. That’s exactly what happened to two disciples. They heard the story the women told of the empty tomb. Then Peter and John had also seen that it was empty. They were understandably perplexed and had a lot to talk about as they walked to Emmaus that day. “And it came to pass, that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” Luke 24:15-16.
How could these two men not recognize Jesus? Some say they couldn’t recognize Him because He still bore the wounds of the beating He had endured. Maybe, but if He looked that bad it seems they would have offered Him medical attention. Why couldn’t they recognize His voice? They were blinded by “facts” of human understanding. He had died. He had been buried. He can’t be walking and talking. Their eyes were “holden” (held back) from recognizing Him.
They needed to hear the Bible study He gave as they walked, and so do we. First He asked what had happened and they summarized what had taken place. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.” Luke 24:21-23.
They just couldn’t put the things they saw together with the prophecy that He would rise on the third day and understand that Jesus was alive. This blinded them from recognizing their Lord and Saviour. Would this stop you from recognizing Jesus? We mere mortals tend to put God into a box that fits human understanding and we miss the greater things He has done and is still doing.
Jesus didn’t leave them in confusion. He walked with them and began opening their understanding of Scripture. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27. We’re a lot like these two disciples. Things we’ve been taught may not line up with Scripture and we become confused. When that happens we often decide that God is wrong and that causes confusion and doubt. Lots of people think there are many paths to Heaven. There aren’t. Some religions teach that Jesus was just a nice man and a prophet, but Allah (or some other demon) is god. He isn’t. Some religions teach that Jesus and Satan are brothers. They aren’t.
Some secular humanists would have us believe that Jesus didn’t create all things in six days. He did. When we finally come to the place where we’re willing to let go of the things we “know” to be true, we can then learn the real truth. Jesus is God, He conquered death, and only faith in Him will give you eternal life. If you’re willing to allow Him to teach you, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes and allow you to see Jesus as the fulfillment of all the Jewish Law and the prophets. You will see Him as your only way of salvation.
Mary Magdalene had been one of the women who found the empty tomb and she went and told the disciples. Peter and John went with her to see for themselves. After Peter and John left, Mary was alone and filled with grief. She looked into the tomb and saw two angels “And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” John 20:13.
Mary knew Jesus as Lord, but had yet to meet her Saviour. Jesus had cast seven demons from her and she had followed Him ever since. The things she thought she knew as true were blinding her to what really was the truth. Mary was about to have her eyes opened. She was weeping and with tears in her eyes she turned away from the tomb. “And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.” John 20:14. Mary’s grief was genuine and through her tears she saw Jesus but didn’t recognize Him.
She thought He was the gardener. She knew that when someone died they couldn’t be seen standing in a garden. Was it the tears that blinded her, or the “facts” that she supposed were true? Then He spoke to her. “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.” John 20:16. She heard Him call her name. That’s when she knew that her Master was indeed alive.
Mary told the disciples what she had seen but they had their doubts about her story. That evening Jesus removed all doubt. The door was locked and fear filled the room. The disciples were in danger because of their association with Jesus and now somehow the heavy stone that sealed the tomb had been rolled away, the Roman guard had failed in their duty, and the body was missing. The danger for Peter, John, Andrew, and the rest was real and they hid in fear. Then Jesus appeared to them in that locked room. Did they recognize Him? “And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” John 20:20.
It was only after they saw the scars of the crucifixion that they accepted that Jesus had indeed been resurrected and had entered the locked room to stand with them. Don’t ever think that if you see a loved one who has died that it’s a good thing. You can be sure that Satan and his minions will try to convince you that Uncle Joe has come back from the dead with a special message for you. Rebuke that satanic spirit in Jesus’ name. The reason Jesus met with them was that there were some lessons these men had to learn in order to spread the Gospel.
First they had to understand that the tomb was empty because Jesus had been resurrected, not because the grave had been robbed. “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” John 20:21-22. They had to receive the Holy Spirit and understand His power. Their doubts had to be put to rest and God’s truth had to be understood.
Nobody alive today has actually seen Jesus and walked with Him. How, then, can we recognize Him? The place to start is God’s word. When Jesus walked and talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He began with Moses (the first five books of the Bible) and then the prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, etc.) and showed them that these Scriptures were all about Him. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16.
All scripture is there for a purpose and we learn from all of it. The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament and needs to be studied to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus. When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus in the Garden, she recognized Him when He called her name. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” John 10:27. She had a personal friendship with Jesus and knew His voice. She couldn’t be deceived by a false shepherd. We need to study Scripture and make friends with Jesus. This will help us to hear His voice and recognize Him.
Probably the most important thing is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. A person who hasn’t accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour isn’t indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Therefore Scripture is confusing. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14. When various Scriptures confuse you, the Holy Spirit will lead you to find the correct answers. The Holy Spirit will help you to discern truth from false teaching and as you grow in your understanding, deeper truths will become clear. Remember, the Bible isn’t a novel to be skimmed over, but God’s truth that is to be understood and applied to our life.
When He calls your name, will you recognize Him? You will, only if you know Him.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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