Written by Drew Naumann
Then He said to them, “O 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 beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
Good news is a wonderful thing. Have you received any lately? In high school, maybe that could come in the form of finding out that special someone you like likes you back. Maybe those keys or that wallet you have been missing for a few weeks turn up. If you’re a senior, maybe you get accepted into that college you want to attend really badly. Or maybe even a loved one who has been battling cancer shows clear scans.
Probably one of the most common reactions to good news is, oddly enough, a question. “Really?” With a question mark. Really? Are they sure its my wallet? He or she wants to go out with me? Really? Who told you? Aunt Megan’s cancer is gone? Really?
How strange it is that we humans are so instinctively unwilling to accept good news at face value. Our text highlights an excellent example of this. The Emmaus disciples are travelling together, discussing recent events. Jesus of Nazareth has been crucified by the Romans and the Jews. This Miraculous Man who, everyone thought, was supposed to deliver Israel from its bondage under the Roman occupation had gone and died.
But, three days after His death (and here comes the good news) Jesus’ tomb was found empty! Some women who had been following Him went to anoint His body with oil and His body was gone, nowhere to be found.
Now, Jesus had told His disciples that He was going to be killed and rise again the third day, we read this in Matthew 16:21. But when the women came with the news that Jesus was not in His tomb, they answered in a very human fashion: “Really?” Is He really not there? It’s almost as if the possibility that Jesus would rise, just as He said, didn’t even occur to them, they were so racked with doubt.
Here’s what the Emmaus disciples did when they heard the news and were travelling: we read a few verses prior to our text “they conversed and reasoned”. Now there’s a mistake. Man trying to reason out how Jesus could disappear from the tomb. Mortal man trying to apply logic and human faculty to the Son of God and His redemptive work. And it’s a good thing God is not constrained by our infantile human capabilities to reason and apply logic.
When man tries to rationalize His relationship with God, he will discover two things. The first is that we are all, each one of us, sinful creatures. God’s Law in the Old Testament and written on our hearts confirms this fact. Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” Romans 3:10 “as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE.” Psalm 143:2 “For in Your sight no man living is righteous.”
The second conclusion man comes to is that he needs to do something about this. We can see this clearly evidenced in every religion in the world. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam etc., every religion requires man to work out his own salvation by good works. Even, sadly, within Christianity we find work righteousness set up like a vending machine. Insert good deeds, and a refreshing can of justification clunks out.
This is because mankind reacts the same way to the empty tomb that the Emmaus disciples did: with a question. Really? And Jesus replies to us the same way He did to those disciples that day on the road: “really.” No question mark, no strings attached, no works required. We read again “Then He said to them, “O 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 beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
Really! The tomb is empty because Jesus is risen! Why are you sad about these things that have happened? Didn’t Isaiah say that He would be despised and rejected by men? That as a lamb before His shearers is silent, so He would open not His mouth? That He would be bruised for our transgressions, that the chastisement for our peace was upon Him? Hasn’t Israel been offering sacrifices in preparation, as a reminder, for this very thing? Did Job not confess, “I know that my Redeemer lives?”
And we have these same assurances recorded for our benefit as well. The same proofs that Jesus laid out to these disciples, we have right here. We, by faith through the Holy Spirit, on the testimony of Holy Scripture believe and confess that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the risen Messiah who even now sits at the right hand of the Father. His perfect life lived in our place and His all atoning death are not a secret. But, this is not something to be wrangled by human reasoning. 1 Timothy 3:16 “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a mystery to a mind enslaved by rationalism.
But faith removes the question mark. “Really?” becomes “really.” Even as the Emmaus disciples confessed after Jesus had been revealed to them “how our hearts burned within us”, may our own hearts too burn within us. May they burn in thankfulness for a God who has redeemed His people; for a Shepherd who returns His wandering sheep to the fold. The favorite response of everyone who heard about Jesus’ empty tomb was a question: “really?”. But the unanimous reaction of everyone who then heard that Good News explanation for the empty tomb, that there was no body because tombs are for dead people and Jesus no longer fit that description, was action. They ran. They ran and told, ran and told. The Emmaus disciples, the women at the tomb who had spoken to the angel, Peter and John, they all did this.
Those who had once been under the Law, but who are now under grace cannot help but do the same. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.” And we who are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Scripture alone. May God grant that as we are running and telling, running and telling the Good News of sinners saved for Christ’s sake, that we be ready to answer the question “really?” with Scriptures blessed assurances. “Really”. No question mark.