One of the most enduring web memes (if such things can be said to endure) is the facepalm. I know its not really a word but for those of you who don’t know what it is Captain Picard demonstrates below.
Since it is sometimes possible to do something so foolish that a simple facepalm is an insufficient response, Captain Picard and Commander Riker demonstrate the rare double-facepalm.
And truly this is the sort of situation we are dealing with in Luke 24:13-35, our great Bible passage of the week, at least a double facepalm moment, when Disciples of Jesus don’t even recognize him. And isn’t this how we generally characterize the two disciples who were walking the road to Eammaus, as dummies who should have known better? After all, surely we would have known Jesus anywhere.
Life Sometimes Stinks (13-24)
Consider how often life treats us cruelly. It picks us up, only to bring us down again. It is always as though, even in our joy, we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Thoughts like these must have been on the mind of Cleopas and his friend as they walked along the road to Emmaus. Can you imagine having met Jesus; to have heard him, to have touched him, to have believed he was the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel and then see him crucified? What a shock. These guys were firmly grounded in reality. They had seen Jesus, they knew he was the Son of God. But they had also seen him crucified.
And then there was the strange, unsettling story some of the women were telling, that they found Jesus’ tomb was empty. The women also said, but who could possibly believe it, that they had seen and angel who said Jesus is alive. Their companions confirmed the tomb was empty, but saw no sign of Jesus dead or alive. Had the Romans and/or the Jews taken even their ability to grieve over Jesus body away? How much worse could things get?
Have you ever had the rug pulled out from under you just as you thought you had it made? How did that makeyou feel? How did you react? Did you feel hopeless?
The Work of Hope Begins in Scripture (25-27)
When we are without hope, when we are hopeless, we often cannot see Christ – even if we have seen him before, we cannot know who he is because our hopelessness clouds our vision. But God did not leave us without a way out. He gave us scripture. When we read scripture we begin to get a glimpse of the one who is the subject of scripture and who is the basis of all true hope.
Do we try to find Jesus in the scriptures? Have you been successful finding Jesus in the scripture alone?
The Work of Hope is Completed in Communion (28-32)
Knowing Jesus is not something that can be done with the scripture alone or based on our expectations alone. It is when he abides with us, in quiet, in our ordinary activities of life, in quiet; it is then we recognize him, and then not because of our efforts, but because of his will. Our ability to recognize him is based on our reading and talking, but finally it is God who chooses to reveal him to us.
If you have been distant from Jesus, when you didn’t see him in your life circumstances, when you finally did see him, was it startling to you?
Our Response is to Share What We Have Seen (33-35)
The scripture says the Cleopas and his colleague went immediately, not considering the danger of night travel, to Jerusalem to share their encounter with the risen Lord with their friends. Everyone who truly encountered Jesus in Scripture had the desire to tell someone what had happened.
Now back to the facepalm silliness. Cleopas and his buddy really do deserve a double face palm, but so do we. How often do we fail to recognize Jesus and what he wants to do in our lives? Matthew Henry puts it like this:
The disciples ought to have known Jesus, they had heard His voice so often, and gazed upon that marred face so frequently, that it is wonderful they did not discover Him. Yet is it not so with you also? You have not seen Jesus lately. You have been to His table, and you have not met Him there. You are in a dark trouble this evening, and though He plainly says, “It is I, be not afraid,” yet you cannot discern Him. Alas! our eyes are holden. We know His voice; we have looked into His face; we have leaned our head upon His bosom, and yet, though Christ is very near us, we are saying “O that I knew where I might find Him!” We should know Jesus, for we have the Scriptures to reflect His image, and yet how possible it is for us to open that precious book and have no glimpse of the Wellbeloved!
Henry goes further yet. He also says:
And why do we not see Him? It must be ascribed in our case, as in the disciples’, to unbelief. They evidently did not expect to see Jesus, and therefore they did not know Him. To a great extent in spiritual things we get what we expect of the Lord. Faith alone can bring us to see Jesus. Make it your prayer, “Lord, open Thou mine eyes, that I may see my Saviour present with me.” It is a blessed thing to want to see Him; but oh! it is better far to gaze upon Him. To those who seek Him He is kind; but to those who find Him, beyond expression is He dear!
And whom do we expect to see? Is it Jesus? If not, why would we not expect to see Him?
And just for completeness, I’m sure he does this regarding me all the time.