On the Road to Emmaus:
The Original Easter Teaching of Christ
I know the tenth commandment is: "Do not envy others." But I confess to being more than a little jealous of the two men whom Jesus encountered on the road to Emmaus. What a privilege it was for them to have had Jesus—crucified, risen, and glorified—all to themselves, their private tutor for the better part of an afternoon! I would gladly trade a lifetime of learning for the education they received from Him that day. Could any Bible study anyone has ever engaged in have been more revealing and enlightening than the one these men had with Jesus? When Jesus met with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and then again later that day with the eleven in Jerusalem, "he opened their minds to understand the scriptures; and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Lk.24.45; Lk.24.27). Wow! Take that in for a minute. What just happened there? What did He do for them? He personally equipped his disciples, the future bishops of the Church, to be the true interpreters of scripture and prepared them to preach "The Gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the Gospel concerning his Son," (Rom.1.1-3) with absolute authority. He gave them wisdom. He bathed them in truth. And He impressed upon them one thing.
One thing we glean immediately from that original Bible Study is that the key to understanding the mission, teaching, and ultimate significance of Jesus Christ is to realize that everything Our Lord did throughout His life, from His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, to His death on a cross in Jerusalem, to His Resurrection from the tomb, to his glorious Ascension to the right hand of God, He did according to the plan of God. It was a plan announced beforehand in the scriptures, a plan that, therefore, could have been discerned by any of the scribes and teachers of Israel; but a plan, nevertheless, that Christ alone understood because He was both the author and the executor of it.
The plan of God the Father to rescue and ransom human beings from sin through the sacrifice of God the Son began on the very same day as the Fall of man. God announced his intention to redeem humanity in the Garden of Eden, giving hope to Adam and Eve even as he closed the gate of Paradise to them. To the serpent, the deceiver of mankind, he declared, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel" (Gen.3.15). The Church has called this the Proto-Evangel: the announcement that God would in time create a new Eve, a new Woman (Jn.2.4; 19,26), whose Son would once and for all take revenge on the seducer and corrupter of mankind. Satan would strike Him down and win a battle. But He would vanquish Satan and win the war. On the cross, the devil struck "his heel," but at the same time, because He was obedient even unto death on the cross, Christ defeated the devil (Phil.2.5-11).
The whole history of Israel, as told in the books that Christians call "The Old Testament," is the story of God working out that Proto-Evangel of God, realizing and fulfilling his plan for the salvation of the world through a man, the son of the Woman. It was a plan that began with God preparing a people from among the descendants of Abraham, a people who would come to know him and to love him and who would in time make his deliverance known to the entire world. God developed his plan by revealing the Law to Moses and through the triumphs of King David; through the obedience and disobedience, success and failure, faithfulness and unfaithfulness of many kings over many centuries; and through the preaching of the prophets who spoke of the coming Messiah, the righteous one of God (Is.53.12) who would establish a new covenant for the forgiveness of sins (Jer.31.31)—the Savior who would be the perfect prophet, priest, and king. Patiently, over a millennium, God set the stage for his coming to the earth in person to rescue his people from their sins.
Finally, one day, in a quiet corner of the world, when no one was looking, God sent an angel to his chosen vessel, the Virgin Mary, the Woman he had prepared for himself, to announce to her his intention to become man, if only she would permit it. With her consent ("Let it be unto me according to your word") she conceived the Son (Lk.1.38). And in her womb, God became man and God incarnate; "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn.1.14)! And Mary, the virgin of Isaiah's prophecy (Is.7.14), the one whom the world would know at first as the mother of Jesus, became the mother of God. And Mary "kept all these things in her heart" (Lk.2.51).
Then, thirty years later, like NASA counting down to blast off, God set the final stages of his divine plan into motion. All of human history converged on Jesus, the carpenter turned exorcist, Jesus the miracle worker from Nazareth about whom the crowds were saying the most amazing things: He could turn water into wine and multiply bread by the power of His word, heal the sick by His touch and even raise the dead to life again! Jesus approached Jerusalem where He would at last reveal Himself! "I tell you," Jesus said to His disciples privately, "many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it" (Lk.10.24). It was about to happen: after centuries of anticipation and waiting, Israel's king was coming. How did He come? Did He come with trumpets and drums? No. His entry was nothing like the entry one expects royalty to make. The impoverished Galilean came into Jerusalem, not as a conquering hero would come in a chariot of gold, but as God had ordained the savior of his people must come: humbly and riding on a donkey.