In Luke 24, we read of two followers of Christ who were travelling from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of Christ’s resurrection. As they travelled, “they talked together of all these things which had happened” (Luke 24:14). They were discussing Jesus; how their Master, whom they had witnessed do incredible miracles and teach amazing things, was captured by the chief priests and rulers, condemned and crucified. They were also discussing Christ’s missing body. They had heard the testimony of the women, and of Peter and John who went to Christ’s tomb and found it empty. They had heard how some were visited by angels who proclaimed to them Christ’s resurrection. Mary even claimed to have seen the risen Lord with her own eyes.
While they conversed about these incredible things, they had a very somber and sad disposition. Luke writes in verses 15-17, “So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, ‘What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?’” Later, after recognizing that it was Jesus who was with them, they were filled with great joy and they immediately travelled back to Jerusalem to tell the others what they had experienced.
As believers today, we can relate well to these two Emmaus disciples. We know who Christ is. We know of the many wonders that Christ performed during His earthly ministry, and we know His teachings because we have His gospel. We know of the eyewitness accounts, the people who saw the empty grave the morning of the third day, and of those who were personally visited by angelic messengers, and by Christ. One would think that knowing all these things would produce great joy in the hearts of all those who follow Christ. So why is it then that many people who claim to be disciples of Christ carry a sad and somber disposition? From the account of the Emmaus believers, we find three potential reasons.
The first possible reason they were sad had to do with their misconceptions of Jesus. After explaining to Jesus what had happened during the last days, they state in verse 21, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” They were hoping that Jesus would save Israel from the Romans and establish an earthly kingdom. There are many self-professing believers today who lack joy in their lives because they have misconceptions about Jesus and His teachings. Perhaps they believe that it is impossible to live a sin-free life, and so they live each day in sin, and then confess their sins each night. This false understanding of Christ’s teachings will rob believers of their joy in the Lord because of the shame and guilt that their daily sinning brings. Jesus and His disciples taught that we are to ask the Holy Spirit to fill our lives with His presence and empower us to live victorious lives for Him. Likewise, there are other misconceptions about Christ and His teachings that rob believers of their joy.
A second reason why these disciples were sad had to do with their unbelief. They had heard of the great news of Christ’s resurrection but did not believe the accounts, for they hadn’t seen Jesus for themselves. In verse 25, Jesus even says to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe.” As Bible readers, we know what happened to Jesus regarding His death and resurrection. But do we believe it? There is a difference between knowing and believing, between fact and faith. When Jesus told His disciples about His coming death and approaching ascent to heaven, He assures them in John 14:1, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” Do we believe Christ and His gospel?
The Emmaus disciples could not believe in the resurrection without first experiencing their risen Lord. This is the third reason. After they recognized Christ, they had great joy in their hearts, and they needed to immediately tell others what they had experienced. Perhaps the greatest reason why self-professing believers lack joy today, is because they haven’t personally encountered their living Savior yet. They haven’t truly accepted Christ to be their Savior. Or perhaps they had at one point but backslid in their Christian walk. Could your lack of joy be attributed to these things?
Dear Reader, does the story of Easter fill your heart with sorrow or joy? Can others see your joy in the Lord on a daily basis? If not, perhaps your lack of joy can be attributed to certain misconceptions you have about Christ or His teachings. Do you believe in the Resurrection? Have you experienced Christ’s resurrection in your heart? God wants to fill your heart with His joy, as He did the Emmaus disciples on the day of His resurrection.