When We Hurt
Easter was the next morning. I was at church, tired but rejoicing after three packed-out presentations of our church’s passion play that weekend. Hundreds of people had visited, and dozens had made professions of faith in Christ.
Just then, a distraught man approached me. His 5-year-old grandson had been in a car that was struck by a drunk driver. The boy was in critical condition. The situation was every grandparent’s worst nightmare.
We gathered his wife and other family members, held hands, and prayed for young Ollie. The next morning they learned he had died. Where can we find hope when life seems to crumble around us?
Our culture generates plenty of emotion concerning Christmas, with scenes of silver bells, jolly elves, and the babe in a manger. But it doesn’t seem to care much about Easter. Yet that first Easter Sunday was dramatic. Luke 24 presents one of the most fascinating Easter accounts and illustrates the path to unlocking hope in our own lives.
Doldrums of Despair
The disciples’ hopes were crushed with Jesus’ crucifixion. When they heard Jesus’ tomb was empty, they didn’t believe it. Their doubts disoriented them. Two disciples decided to go home immediately, “to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And as they talked together of all these things which had happened,” they tried to make sense of their confused emotions (vv. 13–14).
In that culture, people walked everywhere. So it was not unusual for someone to join them along the way. “While they conversed and reasoned…Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him” (vv. 15–16). The other traveler was the risen Christ.
Wanting to draw them out, Jesus asked, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” (v. 17). The man named Cleopas asked the stranger if He was the only one in Jerusalem who did not know the things that had occurred. The Lord asked, “What things?”
They told Him about the crucifixion and voiced their disappointment: “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (v. 21). “Indeed,” they continued, “besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see” (vv. 21–24).
Doubt, disorientation, disappointment, depression, and despair had gripped these men. How could they find hope? How can we? How can we offer hope to grieving grandparents or others in our despairing world?
Only when the two men had finished venting their despair did the stranger respond: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ [Messiah] to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (vv. 25–26). He rebuked them for failing to understand God’s written revelation in the Hebrew Scriptures, which could have prepared them for His suffering, death, and resurrection.
As they walked, Jesus taught them: “Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (v. 27). The entire Old Testament had paved the way for Him.
Unlocking hope requires understanding God’s written Word. The better we know the Bible, especially what it says about our Savior, the better prepared we’ll be for hope-threatening tragedies. And the better we know the Savior Himself, the more peace we have in life.
After expounding the Scriptures, Jesus gave the men an opportunity to spend more time with Him. Then He revealed His identity. As the evening unfolded and they ate together, Jesus blessed and broke bread. Suddenly, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (v. 31). The veil was finally lifted, and they recognized that the One with whom they personally had walked, talked, and eaten was the risen Messiah. Unlocking hope requires a personal relationship with the living Lord—not merely knowing about Him, but knowing Him.
After He departed, the men exclaimed, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (v. 32). Their personal understanding of the written Word prepared the way for their personal experience with the living Lord.
The men were never the same. Their hearts burned with joy and an excitement they had to share. They immediately returned to Jerusalem and told everyone what had happened. They had been hurting, but they found their hope in Christ.
What about little Ollie’s family? His kindergarten teacher and principal both approached me moments before I conducted his funeral. They were shaken, not only by his unexpected death but also by his extraordinary life. You see, the day before Ollie died, he was overheard telling a classmate, “We don’t have anything to be afraid of because God is always with us and takes care of us.”
From age 3, Ollie’s favorite place was church. He loved to quote Bible verses about Jesus and was often overheard singing his favorite song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”
Today Ollie is with Jesus. God had personally prepared him for heaven and made him an amazing witness to family, classmates, and teachers. Yes, his family grieves; but they don’t sorrow as others who have no hope. And they know for a fact they will be reunited with Ollie someday.
If you are trodding along the path of despair, Jesus wants to walk with you, reveal Himself to you, and give you undying hope. On Easter morning and every morning, we can face tomorrow because He lives.
If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, why not meet Him in the Bible and receive Him personally by faith today?