Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them. But they were prevented from recognizing him. Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged (Luke 24:13-17).
What a week it had been. It had been an exhausting roller coaster of emotions. Jesus had entered into Jerusalem, and the crowds heralded Him. The palm branches were laid, and the Hosannas were shouted. There was an air of excitement in the holy city, in this holiest of weeks—a sense of expectation that something was going to happen. These disciples were not the only ones who initially looked with hope and anticipation on the arrival of Jesus, believing that they were going to bear witness to that which their fathers and their fathers before them had looked forward to—the coming of the Messiah. God’s chosen one. The deliverer. Surely, with His authority to teach and to perform miracles, Jesus was the One they had been waiting for.
But then it had all gone sideways. The false accusations and the mob-like trial. The rush to crucifixion. The blood and the tears. And they had, to their shame, scattered from His presence just as He said they would. And what now? Not one of them could say for sure. There were the rumors of course—the ravings of Mary Magdalene and the other women about a resurrection. Others, too, claiming that the miraculous had happened.
And here they were—two disciples, such as they were—but disciples of what? Followers of whom? They didn’t know. All that was left to them was speculation about what it could all mean. And where it left them. Speculation … and doubt.
That’s when Jesus came and walked with them, and they recounted to this man they did not know everything they had experienced. They were somewhat frustrated in their retelling because, after all, had this man been living under a rock for the last few days? Apparently so, for He simply listened to their tale without immediately responding. For their part, these disciples were honest with their fellow traveler. They let Him in on their fear and doubt:
“But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened” (Luke 24:21).
So, what would Jesus do with that doubt?
It’s a relevant question because we, too, have had similar questions. We, too, have heard the stories. We, too, have had our hopes dashed by circumstances. Surely there has been a moment in all our lives when we were hoping – maybe even daring to believe – that Jesus is who He said He is. That He could do what He said He could do. And that if He was who He said He was and He could do what He said He could do, then we could put our faith in Him and believe that He was truly in control. That He truly loved us without condition. That through Him, we could have true and abundant life, even if following Him meant bearing our cross and walking the pathway of loss.
We hoped. We believed. But then “it” happened. The disease.The job loss. The depression. The change in circumstances. And now here we are, wondering if we have been duped. Feeling foolish for putting our stock in an old story and a hilariously impossible Savior.
So, what would Jesus do with that doubt?
There are many answers to that question. He might, as He did with Mary on the day Lazarus died, enter into the doubt and weep with us. He might, as He did with Thomas, meet us and reveal Himself to us in the midst of our questions. But the answer is at least this:
In the midst of our doubt, Jesus sends us to His Word. That’s what He did with these two men on the road to Emmaus:
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27).
In response to doubt, Jesus opened up the Scriptures. Surely, He will still tell us to do the same.
When our emotions are quivering, when our circumstances are failing, when the foundations of our reality seem to be shaking, what we need most is that which doesn’t quiver. Or fail. Or shake. We need to return to the sure and stable Word of God and allow God’s unchanging Word to define our circumstances. It happened with these two men.
Suddenly, they weren’t allowing what they experienced to define their reality; instead, they were seeing what they experienced through the defined reality of God’s Word. God’s Word provided the necessary filter through which they could see everything that was happening in and around them. So may it be for us today.
It’s so tempting during seasons of doubt to let our emotions, our senses, our troubles be the foundation of our reality. But, we have something better than that. While all those things may come and go, we have at our disposal that which never will. Friend, if you find yourself today in that season of doubt, then embrace this direction from Jesus. Turn again to God’s Word. Be reminded of who He is, not who you feel He is. And put your stock in that, not yourself.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.