What if Jesus were in your small group Bible study?

When I was in Israel, we got on the bus and went west from Jerusalem, and in a short while the guide said, “By the way, there is the location of Emmaus.” Today it’s just a stop on the highway outside our bus window. In fact, one of my favorite Bible passages is from Luke 24, the two disciples meeting Jesus on the road there. The name of this blog, Open Our Eyes Lord, is taken from the passage:

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:13-16

Comment: Probably God blocked their ability to recognize him, but also they did not expect to see him alive. The human mind plays that trick with us, we often see only what we expect to see, and don’t see what we think is impossible. In this case, their lack of faith blinded them to the possibility that Jesus was alive.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.

Comment: This is astounding, since what they says is almost verbatim what Jesus had already predicted would happen in Jerusalem; and yet it doesn’t ring a bell that Jesus has said in Luke 18:31 – See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.”

In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

Comment: They knew of the rumors of the resurrection but no more and – but only by some of the women disciples, who in popular culture could not be depended on to give a reliable witness – they may have some hope but very little.

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Comment:Foolish” here is not low intelligence, but in the sense of being dull-witted, obtuse, stubborn and unwilling to pay attention to a new set of facts. And then he spends time going through the OT to show them why, what has just happened, had been God’s plan all along: maybe he quoted Ps 1610 “because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay”.  Or maybe Isa 53 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain…  5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.”

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

Comment: Their eyes were opened, God took away their blindness and allowed them to recognize his face, with their eyes but also with the eyes of faith. In fact, some years afterward, Christians built a church on top of the traditional house of Cleopas in Emmaus, to commemorate this event.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. [Jesus appeared to them in the Upper Room]. They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

Gary: Before drawing some applications for us, I want to point this out, because it’s important for us to understand what happened at Easter. When Jesus rose from the dead, he arose “bodily”, that is, he was not a ghost or pure spirit, but a resurrected man who also is God the Son. He broke bread; he had flesh and bones and could eat – ghosts don’t do that. Paul affirms this truth later on, 1 Tim. 2:5 says, “For there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”, present tense, there is a man. This means that, as far as I can see, his glorified body was only in one place at a time. That is very relevant, and I’ll show why. When he spoke to Mary Magdalene when she was weeping in the garden, he was there talking with her and was not somewhere else. So to come back around to Emmaus, what astounds me is this: that, he set aside hours on the very day he was resurrected to walk and talk with just two of his disciples, being with them at that time and not with other people.

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Hence my title, “What if Jesus were in your small group Bible study? What if Jesus decided to meet with you for a few hours and said, “Let me show you what the Bible is all about?”

Two brief applications:

  1. This idea of, “What if Jesus himself visited your small group” already should overwhelm us. But Jesus boosted the blessing on us, by saying, that once the Holy Spirit came, our fellowship with God in Christ would be more intimate, powerful, life-changing. You can read John 14-16, there are many references to this. For example:

John 16:7 – Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you… 16:13 – When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Note the phrase “your advantage” – Even for people who had walked with Jesus for years, it was better that he go away so that they would receive the Spirit. How much more for us, who have never met Jesus face to face? So since the Day of Pentecost (May 31 this year), the intimate walk that every single man, woman, girl, boy has with Christ, or at least should be enjoying, is levels above what the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had. And their experience was amazing: Luke wrote his gospel 30 years or more after Emmaus, and he tells the story in such detail that we might guess that Cleopas and his traveling companion couldn’t stop talking about it! But for us, it’s much, much better. The Advocate is not just a teacher who give us information, he’s the kind of teacher who gives us God’s truth and then rewrites our hearts and minds to conform to that truth.

  1. If we potentially have a daily opening to – walk to Emmaus with Jesus? no! far beyond that experience, a Super-Mega all-inclusive Trip to Emmaus package – then what in the world are we doing with it?

What if Jesus in effect told us, “I would like to drop by to spend time with you and a Plus One of your choice, we’ll talk about God and his Word.” I am guessing that some of us would say, “Great, pencil me in!” But others apparently would say, “Yeah, no, Thursday’s not good, nor afternoons, and mornings are out, my schedule is so busy these days, once things settle down, definitely, we’ll have to set something up.”

Or, if Jesus said, walk and talk with me! Are some of us are the type to say, “Yeah, the bus is really much more convenient”, or “Emmaus, huh? Well my day is already up and running, I’m already distracted, let’s start out fresh tomorrow.” Tomorrow, God. Like the lady said in Macbeth: “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.”

If you or I were IT in a game of hide-and-seek, God would be the worst player: The Lord wants us to find him, he “hides” in plain sight, he waves and shouts to us to show where he is, and instead of running away from the person who is IT, he keeps “drawing near” to us.

Let’s listen to Isa 55:6 “Seek the Lord while he wants to be found; call upon him when he draws near.”

2 thoughts on “What if Jesus were in your small group Bible study?

Add yours

  1. Amen brother Gary.. for your very encouraging exposition of the 2 brothers’ encounter with Jesus !!

    Indeed it was such a great privilege then for the 2 of them to be taught by the Great Teacher Himself..

    and equally a privilege also for us as believers, to be led by the Spirit of Truth who indwells in the hearts of all who have placed our trust in the finished work of Christ !!

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