Family Devotional 4: The Road Less Visible

Series: King David: Man of Passions & God of Grace

Family Devotional, Week 4

This week, similar to the first, looks ahead to David’s successor, lest we forget in next week’s epic battle between David and Goliath who our true enemy is and therefore what our hope should be. It is also the case that this story has been hanging in my heart like a heavy, led ball…

Text: Luke 24:13-21 “That very day (three days after Jesus’ death) two [men] were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all the things that had happened. And while they were talking, Jesus himself drew near and went with them [but they did not] recognize him. And he said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?…. And they said to him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty 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.”

I know this story is typically called The Road to Emmaus, but that is quite misleading, because for these two men the road they were walking was not a road to Emmaus but a road away from Jerusalem. It was not a conquest but a retreat. It was not a walk of hope and promise, of vision and destination. That was the walk that had taken place a week earlier, on Palm Sunday, when they escorted Jesus into town, waiving palm branches, yelling out, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” (Save now, Save now), blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David” (Mk. 11:10).  That’s what they meant in saying they had hoped he would redeem Israel. They had hoped Jesus would put Israel on top again, like King David had, that he would smash the head of Caesar like David did Goliath, that Jesus would rise up against Rome and Rome would fall down at his feet. But that’s not what happened. Just the opposite happened, in fact. Rome won. Jesus lost. And after three days, when all hope had run dry, they started back down the road on which they came–away from Jerusalem–in light of the bleak reality that in this world every road that leads to hope is the same that leads to despair. But then a stranger appeared.

Why a stranger? Why don’t the two sojourners in Luke 24 notice him? I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if it is because they “hoped that he would redeem Israel.” In other words, their hope was in something specific that Jesus would do. Redeeming Israel, for any first century Jew, had to take quite a particular form, which meant that Jesus had to follow quite a particular script. In other words, it wasn’t just that he was a stranger to their eyes. He was a stranger to their hopes.

But their hopes were too small. Their eyes were stuck looking down a microscope ever situated on present-day Jerusalem. They had become nearsighted. They couldn’t see the world for the city, and thus neither could they see the Savior of both, even as he stood their speaking to them. But for them to see the redemption God was offering, their hopes had to die, precisely because for God to offer the redemption they weren’t seeing, their king had to die. Their king, their Jerusalem, their present day all had to die, because as long as their redemption was bound by time and space and other ethno-particularities, it was far too small. The fact was, they were neither walking to Emmaus or away from Jerusalem, at least not while they were walking with this Stranger, because in his eyes it was all his territory; it all belongs to the place he calls The New Jerusalem. But it’s hard to see this road for what it is, as hard as it was to see the Stranger for who he is.

It is simply a matter of fact that every human being has to at some point go through a process of letting his or her hopes die. Our bodies scream for life from the first moment we are laid in our crib to the last moment we are laid in our deathbed. It is unnatural to give up hope for the here and now. But God is dead set on giving us eternal life, which does require us to be rescued from this “body of sin” (cf. Rom. 6-7), but such a rescue requires that we live and let die, in hope of the eternal life that is offered from a God who was willing to die and let live. But letting life die means nothing else but letting our displaced hopes die, which are as promising as is the promise to that old grandfather clock that it will soon be time for him to have a rest.

I don’t know what you are hoping are hoping for, what hope exists in your household, but I do know that if it is less than all God can do, it needs to die, because it is just too small. The God who spun out the planets like marbles and flooded them with light at his Word, whose breath brings life to clay and whose Spirit brings life to the dead—this is the God who is a Stranger to our hopes, because our hopes are too pathetically small. I expect that if you dared to hope in proportion to the size of God’s promises for your family, promises of life and love and peace and joy and contentment–I mean really hoped for it–God would do “far more abundantly than all that [you] ask or think, according to the power at work within you all” (Eph. 3:20). But you have to ask, even if it feels like asking a favor from a Stranger.

So may I encourage you to give up hoping that God will do something only as small as your school, as small as your career, as small as your America–whatever your hopes are bound to. Instead, just hope in God, who gives abundantly all that has boundless value, the only kind of stuff that can bring you any joy for the here and now anyway! Don’t settle for going to Emmaus or even to Jerusalem. In The New Jerusalem, which is here but not yet visible, every road leads to hope, because the Stranger “who sits on the throne has said, ’Behold, I am making all things new!’” (Rev. 21:5).

Psalm Reading: Psalm 42

Discussion Question:

  • Simply this: where do we put our hope in this home?

Closing Prayer

  • O God, we are surrounded by the false advertising of all advertising. Would you lift the veil of heaven that we might see the world for what it is and lift the veil of the world that we might see you, the Stranger, for who you are?

 

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