There are moments in scripture that are easy to miss, but they are deeply profound if we take time to consider them. One of those moments happens on the road to Emmaus. Jesus speaks two words in light of the context that reveals a world of encouragement.
It is resurrection Sunday. A handful of people have seen the empty tomb, but only a couple of followers have seen Jesus alive. The hearts and minds of most disciples are still distraught—including the two disciples leaving Jerusalem making their way to Emmaus.
These were not two of the 12, but they were close followers. Emmaus was six to seven miles from Jerusalem, and the walk would typically take about two hours. Jesus joins them on the walk, but he makes their eyes unable to recognize him. As they talked to each other, they could not hide their sorrow as Jesus approached and engaged them.
Jesus begins by asking them what they are talking about. They are shocked and ask if he is the only person unaware of the things that happened in Jerusalem three days ago. Then Jesus asks the disciples a question that should amaze us every time we read it; “What things?”
Jesus’s question is fascinating. As a reader, we have a bigger picture; we know what Jesus is doing. He is getting them to uncover their wound so he can heal it. However, as if that is not enough, there is something else there that is often missed. To see another layer of the stunning reality behind Jesus’s question, adding a cut-scene between Cleopas’s question and Jesus’s response would be helpful. It would look something like this.
Cleopas: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’
Cut-Scene: Here, we should let our minds go through a series of flashbacks. First, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane sweating drops of blood at the thought of what he was about to face. Next, Jesus is being stripped of his robe and given 39 lashes that would have removed the flesh from his back. Then we see him mocked, spit upon, and a crown of thorns placed on his head. From there, we see nails driven into his hands and feet to fasten him to the cross. Hanging there, he cries, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” as the wrath of God for our sin is poured out upon him. We see Jesus under the greatest agony that any person could ever endure, as, finally, he dies and the soldier thrusts the spear into his side to make sure.
Jesus: “What things?”
His relaxed response to such a horrific event reveals absolute victory, complete conquest. He knew what Cleopas would ask him before he engaged them, yet he did not avoid the reminders of his trauma. When Cleopas asks him the question, his eye does not begin to twitch, he does not break into cold sweats, and his bowels do not loosen. Nothing in him begins to re-experience the terror of that day. He has paid the price, and it is finished.
Every Christian should take comfort in Christ’s casual two-word question, “What things?” Because of the reality behind it, we have a response when the enemy comes to accuse us. He will indict by asking, “Do you not know what your sin demands; you should be ridiculed, mocked, and tormented. Have you forgotten that your iniquities require you to hide in shame? Do you not realize that the law of God demands your life and not only physical death; you must die an eternal spiritual death in everlasting torment? How can you live knowing all these things are against you?”
Our response to those questions should be the same as Jesus’s. “What things?” It is only because Jesus can ask, “what things?” without further suffering, that we can look at our sin and ask, “what debt?” without being thrown into an anxious or guilty state. In Jesus, we have no reason to re-experience the threat of wrath that once hung over us.
Who the Son sets free is free indeed. – John 8:36