Read Luke 24.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Luke 24:1-7 (ESV)
Sometimes it’s difficult to see what is right in front of our eyes. Jesus spoke of the necessity of His death as well as the reality of His resurrection. None of the disciples put it together even though they were familiar with the writings of the prophets.
Angels announced the tidings of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, and angels announced the reality of the empty tomb to Jesus’ followers, Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women.
Shepherds and women- those not considered to be worthy in society- they were the ones visited by angels. God wasn’t sending angels to Herod or the chief priests, the Pharisees or the scribes.
As some of Jesus’ followers were traveling to Emmaus, they encountered a stranger, or so they thought. They didn’t know it until God revealed it to them – in the breaking of the bread- that they were walking with Jesus and being taught by Him.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:28-35 (ESV)
One might wonder why Jesus was revealed in the breaking of the bread. He had said at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” We may never understand the mystery in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, but central to it is the word “is.” Jesus said, “This IS My body. This IS My blood.” When we share in the Sacrament, He is with us in a real and personal way.
Jesus appears to His disciples as they are discussing the Emmaus road encounter. He shows them His wounded hands and feet. He eats broiled fish with them. He has a body. He is not a disembodied spirit or a ghost.
Then he (Jesus) said to them, (His disciples) “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:44-49 (ESV)
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. No one understands the Scriptures apart from the Holy Spirit.
And he (Jesus) led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:50-53 (ESV)
We are given the writings of the prophets, and the testimony of the apostles in the Holy Scripture. Throughout this Advent, chapter by chapter, we have followed Jesus from the conception and birth of His forerunner, John the Baptist, to His miraculous conception and birth, through His life and ministry. We learned of His betrayal and His bitter death by crucifixion for the forgiveness of our sins. The curtain of the temple was torn in two, and the penalty for sin was paid for us, by Jesus, a free gift. We see Jesus risen on the third day- Jesus Whose birth was announced by angels to lowly shepherds and whose rising from the dead was communicated by angels to women, who in Jesus’ day were considered little more than livestock.
The reason why God came to earth as a helpless infant was to die in our place, to save us from the penalty of our first parents’ transgression, to deliver us from the Fall that has consigned humanity and this world to sin, death and the power of Satan.
Emmanuel, God with us. With us in the manger along with his virgin mother who is trying to understand what is happening, and is struggling to trust that God will provide for her, her husband- and this promised, holy child. With us in the hour of crisis and sorrow and through the valley of the shadow, when we think that the next breath is impossible and the next heartbeat is too excruciating to endure. With us when the trumpet sounds and we are forever changed, we are forever in His presence, where fear and death and crying are no more.
Thank you, Jesus. Forgive us. Save us. Be with us today and always.