A Resurrection Day Story
The old man sat in the early morning sun, his eyes closed and his body slowly rocking back and forth. The swaying would occasionally stop as his lips moved in the urgency of silent prayer and then resume as he fell back into quiet meditation. He had been sitting in the courtyard for some time, waiting for the family of his grandson to awake.
© 03.22.08 By D. Eric Williams
As if on cue, a small boy skipped into the yard startling the old man out of his meditation.
"Grandpa! Have you been sitting here all night?"
The old man blinked his eyes and then opened them wide as he spoke. "No, no, Josiah my child. I have only been here since I returned from worship. And where have you been little one?"
"Why, I have been in bed. Where else would I be?"
The old man slowly closed and opened his eyes again before looking steadily at the boy. "You should have been at worship – as should your entire family. Especially on this most glorious of days. But then, I have said this many times before – no one cares to listen to an old man I suppose." His voice trailed off as his eyes closed.
"We do go to worship. But you don't think it's good worship." The little boy scuffed his sandaled foot in the hard packed dirt of the courtyard as he spoke.
The old man opened his eyes once more. "No my little one; I do not think that Gnostic worship is any worship at all. It is what the apostle called a form of godliness without its power." He sighed deeply before continuing. "Its lack of power is especially apparent on this particular day."
The boy wrinkled his brow as he spoke. "What do you mean by ‘power' grandpa?"
"I mean the power of God to raise a physical body from the dead. That, my boy, is the most important display of power God has ever graced us with."
"But grandpa, my daddy says that there is no raising of the dead. He says that the things we can touch are of no value and have nothing to do with the real Jesus."
"I know he says that my child; I am afraid I have failed to lead my family into the truth." The old man leaned back against the courtyard wall and lifted his eyes to the red clouds overhead. "I should have been more diligent to correct the errors in my own son's thinking but, alas, my failure to do so has sown destruction in my grandson" the old man dropped his gaze to the child before him, "and in my great-grandson as well I fear."
He fell silent for a moment. Then placing his hands on the boy's shoulders, he looked directly into his eyes as he spoke. "You see, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then the gospel is empty and your faith is also empty my little one." The old man leaned forward and brought his face near to that of the boy. "My child, if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen, and if Christ has not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!"
A look of concern crossed the face of the little boy and he stood without speaking. Then the scowl was lifted and his eyes brightened as he suddenly spoke. "But grandpa! Daddy says that the resurrection of Jesus is as real to each person as they want it to be. Daddy says that you can believe it really happened if you want to." The boy's lips held a tentative smile. It was evident that he loved his great-grandfather and hoped to set his mind at ease.
The old man's expression softened. "I love you dearly little one, just as I love your father. I do not want to cause strife and discord; but I would be sinning against my Lord Jesus if I were to agree that the resurrection of my master is only a reality if it is perceived as such. No, the Lord Jesus Christ truly and physically rose from the dead," the old man's face suddenly held a look of eagerness as if he had unexpectedly remembered something important. "And Josiah, it was on this very day nearly 50 years ago that it happened!" He gazed steadily at his great-grandson, hoping for a show of interest on the part of the boy.
Aware of his great-grandfather's expectations the child raised his eyebrows and nodded. He grinned as he spoke. "Grandpa, will you tell me the story about that day again?"
A broad smile broke out on the old man's face. "Yes! Of course I will! Indeed, I thought you would never ask" he chuckled.
"Well grandpa, I am asking. And I have to say, I do enjoy hearing the story."
"Very good, very good. Now, let me see. It was so long ago I sometimes have trouble remembering all the details. But I can tell you; I remember the most important parts. I will never forget that wonderful day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Now, let me see; my friend Cleopas and I were walking to Emmaus..."
* * * * * * * * * *
Two men silently plodded along the dusty road which ran from Jerusalem toward Emmaus. The younger of the pair would occasionally glance at his partner with a look of expectation. Finally he stopped and glared at the older man. His fellow traveler did not notice that his companion had ceased walking and so continued down the path.
"Cleopas! I will not go a step further until you explain to me what has happened these past few days!"
The older man, startled out of his private thoughts, turned and looked at his comrade with a weary gaze. He slowly shook his head and his eyes fell to the ground at his feet. "What is there to say my young friend?" The man shrugged his shoulders as he spoke. A dark cloud of despondency seemed to hang over him. "I do not understand any of this myself. How can I give you an explanation?"
"But Cleopas, you had been with him from the beginning. You were among the 70 who were sent out to preach the kingdom of God. If you do not understand what has happened how can anyone understand?"
"Jacob! The eleven do not understand what has happened! How can I, Cleopas, a man of no account, how can I understand something that even the eleven do not know?"
Jacob shook his head and set his jaw. It was a long moment before he replied. "We had such high hopes. And Jesus never did anything to dispel those hopes. Is it possible that he did not understand any of this himself?"
"Ah yes, we had high hopes, that is true. But perhaps our hope was misplaced" said the older man.
Jacob looked at Cleopas sharply. "How can you say that! How can you even suggest that hope in Jesus was misplaced!"
A cheerless smile formed on Cleopas' face. "It seems to me that you are the one who is saying that hope in Jesus is misplaced." He sighed deeply before continuing. "No, you foolish young man I am not saying it was wrong to hope in Jesus. I am merely suggesting that perhaps we misunderstood his purpose. After all, he always described the kingdom in terms that seemed so different then the military and political kingdom we look for."
Jacob shook his head again and crossed his arms. "Well, if the kingdom is not political or military then what can it be?" He turned and gazed back toward Jerusalem. "Besides, it is not so much the nature of the kingdom that troubles me this day." He looked toward his associate once again. "I am uneasy about what has happened this morning. Are we to believe the reports of the women?"
Cleopas was about to reply when, suddenly, a stranger appeared, walking toward them. The men looked at the newcomer and then glanced at one another before turning their attention back to the man who seem to come out of nowhere. There was an uncanny familiarity about the stranger but neither Cleopas nor Jacob recognized him. He came near to where they stood and stopped.
"What kind of conversation is this that you are having with one another as you walk and are sad?" he said
Jacob scowled and was silent and after a long pause it was Cleopas who replied. "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who is unaware of the things which have happened here these past few days?"
A smile worked at the face of the stranger as he replied. "What things?"
"The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. Are you saying that you are not informed about how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him?" Cleopas paused and turned toward Jacob with an incredulous look. It seemed unbelievable to him that anyone within 100 miles of Jerusalem could have failed to hear the news concerning Jesus.
With Cleopas silent, Jacob picked up the narrative. "You see, we were hoping that it was he who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things have happened. Not only that, certain women of our company who arrived at the tomb early this morning, astonished us. They went there to anoint his body, but he was not there! At that point they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said Jesus was alive."
Cleopas interrupted his companion to conclude the story. "Others who were followers of Jesus went to the tomb afterward and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see."
The two men stood and looked at the stranger as he slowly shook his head. Jacob and Cleopas could see what seemed to be frustration in the face of the newcomer.
"Oh foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?"
And so, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning the Christ. He told them about the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent but be bruised as he did so. He told them that this promised seed was typified in the sacrifices which God commanded Israel to offer. He told them that the prophet which was to arise from the seed of Abraham in the place of Moses was the very same one who would crush the serpent's head.
The stranger continued to explain the scriptures to his companions throughout the entire trek to Emmaus.
"I tell you the truth," said the stranger, "this one is the God who created the universe who came to earth to give his life to save you from being lost to him forever. And he gave you the word that you might know him so intimately that he will live in you and through your very life. He accomplishes this through the sacrifice of his Messiah and by the power of his Holy Spirit."
Jacob and Cleopas hung on every word as the stranger continued. "Have you not read that the Messiah was to be wounded for the transgressions of God's people and that he was to be bruised for their iniquities? Moreover, the chastisement for their peace was upon him and it is by his stripes that they are healed. Are you so dull of understanding that you do not recognize that the Messiah is stricken for the transgressions of God's people?"
The stranger stood still as they arrived at the gate of the village and the two men turned toward him. "I tell you," he said, "it pleased the Lord God to bruise the Messiah – it pleased the heavenly father to make his soul an offering for sin."
The stranger lifted his eyes heavenward as he continued. "Yes, by his knowledge the righteous servant justified many for he shall bear their iniquities - bearing the sin of many in making intercession for the transgressors."
With that the stranger nodded his head at each of them in a silent goodbye and turned to continue down the road.
Jacob glanced at Cleopas and then toward the back of the retreating man. He took a step toward him and called out. "Wait! Please, abide with us. It is toward evening and the day is nearly over. Why not join us for the evening meal and we will gladly provide you a place to stay for the night."
At first it seemed that the stranger was about to refuse but after a moment's hesitation he stepped toward them with a smile. "Yes, I will accept your hospitality. Perhaps we can continue our discussion at the meal time."
A meal was hurriedly prepared by the household servants; Jacob and Cleopas were anxious to hear more of what the stranger had to say concerning Jesus. They were so taken by the man that Cleopas requested that he act as host and bless the meal. Then, as the stranger sat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
All at once the eyes of Jacob and Cleopas were opened and they realized that it was Jesus himself! They started from their chairs and reached for him with shouts of astonished joy - but he vanished from their sight!
No one spoke for instant and then all at once pandemonium swept the household. Jacob, leaping and dancing with happiness, could only say over and over "it is Jesus – he is alive – it is Jesus – he is alive!" Cleopas stood stock still with tears streaming down his face. Some of the servants were terrified while others were overjoyed. In any case, their reactions were equally loud.
Finally Cleopas pulled himself together long enough to blurt out - between sobs - "did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us on the road, and while he opened the scriptures to us?"
He made three slow revolutions on his heels as he gestured with his hands, arms tight against his sides. "But now he is gone! He is gone, and..."
"We must go back to Jerusalem at once! Right now Cleopas!" shouted Jacob.
"But, night is falling - and you know how dangerous it is to travel..."
"Cleopas! I don't care if the roads are full of thieves tonight! I am going back to Jerusalem to tell the others! If you choose to stay here then so be it - but I will go!"
"Yes, yes what am I thinking? You are right. We must go back and tell the others. Yes, yes..." Cleopas turned another tight circle as he gestured feebly with his hands.
Jacob leapt forward and grabbed his friend by the shoulders to guide him out the door. "This way my friend! This way! If we hurry we can be in Jerusalem in little more than an hour."
And so, running and walking the two men traveled the seven miles back to Jerusalem as quickly as they could. The city was dark when they arrived but they had no trouble finding their way along the abandoned streets to the place where the eleven were hiding. In his weariness and haste Cleopas forgot to knock in the prescribed manner. He simply began to pound on the door.
"Jacob, it seems that they are gone! Do you think that the authorities have found them and thrown them in prison?"
"No" said Jacob with a laugh, "I think that you have forgotten to knock as you were instructed." He stepped forward and knocked on the door with two quick raps, paused a moment before knocking with three more taps in rapid succession. Nothing happened and Jacob was about to knock again when they heard someone on the other side fumbling with the lock. Both men pressed forward in their eagerness and when the door was opened they nearly fell into the room. However, before they could say anything, the eleven – and those who were with them – surrounded the two men and began to babble about having seen the risen Lord!
"The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon Peter!" someone shouted.
Finally, once the hubbub had died down, Cleopas and Jacob were able to tell the assembled group about the things that had happened to them on the road and how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
"And so," said Cleopas, "The women were right - Jesus is alive - he is the Messiah!"
All at once Jesus himself stood in the midst of them. A gasp ran through the room and everyone pulled back. Jesus looked around at them all with a smile. "Peace to you" he said, but they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
"Why are you troubled? And what do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Handle me and see, for Spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have" Jesus said gently.
Then, slowly and with trembling hands, those nearest Jesus moved forward and reached out to touch him. He showed them his hands and his feet yet no one in the assembly could believe that it really was Jesus; it was too good to be true and frightening as well! Even Jacob and Cleopas found that the presence of the Lord Jesus caused as much fear as it did joy.
"Have you any food here?" said Jesus as he looked around the room. Someone handed him a piece of broiled fish along with a bit of honeycomb. Jesus took it and ate it in their presence.
Realizing that a spirit could not eat solid food, their fear begin to melt away and the disciples pressed forward to be near him as he commenced to speak.
* * * * * * * * * *
The old man fell silent and little Josiah could see tears in his great-grandfather's eyes. The boy stepped toward him and wrapped his arms around his neck.
"Grandpa I love you" he whispered. After a long pause he spoke again; "what happened next grandpa?"
The old man wiped the tears away from his face with his sleeve and returned the little boy's embrace before speaking.
"Well Josiah," his voice trembled as he spoke. "He began to teach us just as he had done on the road to Emmaus." He paused a moment to control his emotion "but it wasn't just teaching little one; he enabled us to understand the Scriptures."
"What do you mean ‘enabled you' grandpa?" Josiah's eyes were wide as he spoke.
"I mean that he gave us understanding. It was a gift, a grace from God. What I mean Josiah is that the Holy Spirit taught us. It is just what the prophet Jeremiah spoke of when he said that the new covenant would be written on the hearts of God's people." The old man leaned back against the courtyard wall and sighed. "Then Jesus said this; ‘thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the promise of my father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.'"
The little boy stepped back, his eyes were wide and his mouth fell open as if speak. His great-grandfather senced a sudden change in Josiah.
"What is it my little one? Are you all right?"
"Grandpa, I think I have been enabled too. I understand something now. If Jesus was supposed to suffer then he had to have a body like you and me didn't he?"
"Yes, yes that is right" the old man leaned forward in his eagerness.
"And grandpa, if repentance and remission of sins are given by Jesus because of his suffering and resurrection, then his suffering and resurrection had to be a real and true didn't they?"
"Yes! My boy, do you truly understand? Have you been truly made a new creation in Jesus Christ?" Tears were once again streaming down his face.
The little boy began to sob. His were not tears of sorrow but of joy. He threw his arms around his great-grandfather again as he wept.
"Grandfather I understand now! I understand why you think this day is so wonderful! It is wonderful because Jesus rose from the dead – really and truly - with a body just like ours, he rose from the dead so that we might have life!"
The two of them wept with joy as they held each other - and the Angels rejoiced in heaven that morning because a little one who was lost was now found on this most magnificent day of the year.