Two guys were walking along a road, talking about the events leading up to the crucifixion of the one they thought would restore the nation of Israel. The theme of their discussion is that things did not work out the way they expected them to. Along comes a stranger that they later figure out was Jesus himself. Luke 24:18 records the question they asked Jesus before they knew who he was:
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
How ironic is this question! They are questioning the knowledge of the one person who most completely knew what had happened and how the events fit exactly into God’s plan. Jesus also knew the impact that those events would have on world history moving forward.
We should not be too hard on the two men on the road. In our ignorance of what God is trying to accomplish, we often try to limit God by our own preconceived ideas and misunderstandings.
They should not have been surprised by the crucifixion. Jesus told his disciples that they were to daily embrace their own cross. Jesus predicted and then showed us that the path to glory requires a cross.
Yet, I find that though I am aware of the command in Luke 9:23, I seek to avoid my own crucifixion. And, when events force me to die to myself, I bitterly complain (sometimes out loud) about the unfairness of it all.
I am not alone in this. The beam in my own eye does not prevent me from seeing the specks in the eyes of those around me. I have observed in others who claim spiritual maturity but struggle, and often fail, to get their flesh on that cross. I see others around me allow their fears to get the better of them just as I often do.
In our ignorance we get angry or disappointed with God when he fails to arrange things according to our wisdom. The disciples on the road, had they really understood their situation, should have been elated at the events of the previous days, but instead were feeling abandoned and defeated. We have ample evidence to point us toward faith in a faithful God yet we get unraveled when events are contrary to our plans.
To increase our struggle, we have preachers that tell us that if we are living right, if we have enough faith, if we are spiritually mature and have the inside knowledge, then God will make us prosperous and relieve us from all suffering and pain. Like Job’s friends, these preachers tell us that any discomfort in our lives is our own fault and that God would bless is if we only had the right understanding (which, of course, they will provide if you buy the latest book with the smiling face on the cover).
Look, however, at Jesus’ response:
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25–26, ESV)
Then Jesus took them through the Old Testament and showed them that it was God’s plan from the beginning to send Jesus to die as a means of recovering what was lost in the Garden of Eden. Rather than thwarting God’s plan, the crucifixion was the culmination of it. Our difficulties are not thwarting God’s plan, they are a part of it.
Perhaps my reader cannot relate to this, but I often feel that I am foolish and slow of heart to believe. In fact, I know that I am. Like those travelers to Emmaus, I sometimes feel that God’s plan has been derailed and I sometimes think that I am the villain that derailed it. It is difficult to look past my failures to see God.
Yet, God remains in control and as long as I am not actively resisting God, I know that I will not walk outside of his providential control and protection. Paul assures me that God remains in control and is working out a plan that is far better than anything I can imagine (Romans 8:28).
I need to remind myself and others that those foolish ones with the slow hearts were used by God to turn the world upside down. The Ceasars could not defeat those first believers. No emperor, despot or dictator has yet managed to defeat the church. God will work out his plan and use us, foolish and slow as we are, to accomplish it.