This past year, I’ve seen so many people face some incredibly difficult trials. Many of them have fallen into despair & questioned their faith, wondering why God would allow such terrible things to happen. I’ve gained some insight that gives a very elegant & comforting explanation about why these things happen.
Start out by reading “The Road to Emmaus.” – Luke 24:13-35
For your reference, I’ll include the full text at the end of the post.
To set the context… Jesus had just been crucified three days earlier. His tomb was found empty. The two men in this story were on their way to Emmaus, talking about everything that had just happened.
This is a story of lost & found. The two men lost their hope & faith that Jesus was the Savior when they saw the empty tomb but did not see Jesus. Extremely difficult situations where the Lord is seemingly absent can cause us to lose faith as well. Why DOES God allow these terrible things to happen and how can anything good come from them? That’s the question I plan to answer in the following discussion.
There’s a lot going on in “The Road to Emmaus.” For this discussion, I’d like to focus on the meal. Much of what Jesus said and did throughout his ministry had a deeper meaning beyond what you see on the surface. This is true for the meal he shared with the two men.
The focus of the meal that Jesus shared with the two men was the bread. Most of us are familiar with the bread representing the body of Jesus, but there is a different spin on it in this story. In this case, it is what Jesus did with the bread that has significance.
At the meal with the two men, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. This models the way God works on our lives. We’ll break down each step and see how they fit into our lives.
The Taking Phase
There are many ways God takes us from one situation to another. Maybe it’s from one job to another, one home to another, one relationship to another, one state of health to another, and even one faith/religion to another. Think back to all the transitions in your life that have led you to where you are now. Is this where you are staying, or do you think God will continue to transition you from one stage to the next? What is the purpose of all this transition anyway? Why can’t we just stay put when we are happy with where we are?
Change and transitions are ways that we learn, gain experience, and grow in wisdom. The transitions can be both positive and negative; both of which are invaluable. Many people view any kind of change as something negative. This greatly hinders the learning and either closes doors, or makes us blind, to the opportunities that are right in front of us. As I always tell my kids (and myself), the right attitude makes all the difference. If you go into a transition looking for the positive aspects that is what you will get out of it. The flip side, equally valid, is that a negative attitude toward change will yield negative results.
If you are in the midst of a transition right now (especially a negative one), take a moment to look at the positive side of it. Think about the possibilities that could come from it. The future for us is unwritten. We have the ability to affect our future for the good. If you include God in those plans, He will help you get to where you need to be.
The Blessing Phase
This is probably the most sought-after aspect of a personal relationship with God. Who DOESN’T like it when things are going well? Success at work, loving relationships, good health…
The danger in this phase is that we tend to lose sight of God over time. Sometimes, when we begin to take credit for our successes, an unhealthy pride creeps into our lives. We tend to give ourselves the glory and push God out of the picture. Other times we become so used to things going well that we become almost robotic in our daily routines. We become apathetic to the things that matter to God. How dependent are you on having God direct your life? Do you find yourself taking credit for all your successes? Do you seek His wisdom above your own?
The Breaking Phase
We’re about to enter the heart of the discussion, the Breaking Phase, but I want to take a slight detour and explore what God wants FROM us and FOR us. That will help as we talk about the difficult situations in our lives.
I can go in several directions with this, but I’ll select just one for now.
When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, his response was to love God first, followed very closely by loving other people.
God yearns to have a personal relationship with each of us. He loves us the way we love our own children. He wants all of us to have eternal life with him, and to not lose a single person.
Unfortunately, we have a spiritual enemy who works day and night trying to get us to turn away from God and do things our own way. He wants to separate us from God and from other people, to destroy our lives.
God loves each person, and he calls on each of us to do what we can to help those who may be lost or hurting. We are at our weakest point when we are hurting and alone. That’s when the enemy strikes. Difficult situations and loneliness are fertile ground for us to have a crisis of faith, to turn away from God, and to rely on ourselves to get through life’s tragedies.
When you are in a desperate place, turn TOWARD God and seek help from Him and from people who understand your pain. On the flip side, when you see someone who is lost and hurting, don’t walk the other way. Love them enough to do something to help.
We’ve talked about the Taking & Blessing phases, and we’ve talked about some of the things God wants from us and for us. Now it’s time to dig into the breaking phase.
This is where the pain, suffering, insecurity, and loneliness come into the picture.
One thing the Bible is crystal clear on is that we will have trouble in this life. Some of you have been through the lowest point already, some of you are there now, and for the rest, the day will come. It could be a job loss, a broken relationship, an addiction to something, a major illness, or even the loss of a loved one. This is the point where faith is lost, found, or restored.
The thing I love about Luke’s writing is that he was very precise and deliberate about the details he puts in his writings. In this story (The Road to Emmaus), not only does he describe what Jesus did with the bread at the dinner table, but in verse 35, he places particular emphasis on the fact that it was when Jesus BROKE the bread that the two men recognized him. Despite having listened to Jesus speak 3+ hours about himself as they walked to Emmaus, it was the breaking of the bread that opened their eyes.
Why do you think Luke included that specific detail? I think there was something so unique about the WAY Jesus broke bread that nobody else did it that way. That was his signature, if you will; unique to only Him. When the two men saw the way Jesus broke the break, they knew instantly who he was.
So, how does that apply to the Breaking phase? When do you think most people come to faith? It’s when they are at their lowest, most broken state. When they’ve exhausted all earthly & human options, they turn to God/Jesus as a last resort.
At that point, Jesus does something in them that only He can do. There is a sense of relief, of peace, an understanding that defies all logic. It is singularly unique to the breaking phase. People on the outside, observing what’s happening, don’t understand it.
When you think you can’t take it anymore, go to Jesus with it, and let Him take control.
While I’m thinking about it, I wanted to point out a common misunderstanding people have with something they think the Bible says, but it really doesn’t. Don’t mistake this as me looking down on you and wagging my finger in shame. I had the same misunderstanding until someone else pointed it out to me.
I hear many people say that God will not give you more than you can handle. Unfortunately, that is incorrect. They are referring to 1Cor 10:13, but they are missing a key point in the passage. The verse, in fact, says that God will not allow the TEMPTATION in your life to be more than you can handle. That’s different than the daily struggles that make our lives so difficult.
This fits perfectly with the Breaking Phase we’ve been thinking about. God has a higher perspective than we do. He can see what’s in our best interest long before we do. In some cases we need to stop relying exclusively on our own abilities and let God, and other people, in to help us get through the tough times. There are times when God WILL allow a situation to be more than you can handle. That’s when he wants you to put you full trust in him and let go of the things you can’t control.
To put it simply; do what you can do, and let God do what you can’t do.
The Giving Phase
Here we are in the home stretch. We’ve talked about how God Takes us from one situation to another, the Blessings he bestows upon us, and the Brokenness that comes into each of our lives. Now it’s time to talk about the Giving phase. This is the point where God’s Will transfers from one person to another.
When Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the two men, he was giving each man exactly what he needed at that particular time and place; nourishment and fulfillment. I had mentioned that in your brokenness you should find someone to help you through it. In the Giving phase, YOU become that person for someone else. God had you go through that trial for a reason; to take what you learned and share God’s comfort and love with someone who is now in the midst of their own brokenness. Fill and nourish them with God’s love. They, in turn, will pass it along to yet another person.
God’s love is shared, one interaction, one relationship at a time.
You don’t need to reach thousands of people to have a positive impact in this world. God’s plan is to do it one relationship at a time. Reach out to people who are hurting. A kind and encouraging word, a sympathetic ear, or even a loving embrace will impact both of you more than you realize.
One last image/learning from this passage… When Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, and breaks it, it NEVER LEAVES HIS HANDS. When he breaks the bread, it is in BOTH hands. In the same way, you are always in God’s hands, and when you are broken, he holds you even tighter, with both hands, to make sure you don’t fall.
Now go. Your ARE in God’s capable hands. Seek the help you need, then share it with someone else.
New Living Translation (NLT)
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
19 “What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on,29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.