I’m telling the story of Easter in four paintings. The story our first painting highlighted our culture’s loss of transcendence. But we said the Emmaus story suggests two ways in which Christ may yet be known in our world. Here’s the first …
The second painting is by James Janknegt is a contemporary Catholic artist from the Unites States. The key thing about his painting is the way he captures the connection to the Bible story in bubbles depicting Moses raising the bronze snake, Jonah being thrown to the whale and so on. Jesus is known through his word, through the message of the Bible.
In Luke 24 we’re told three stories that all take place on the same day: early morning at the tomb, afternoon on the way to Emmaus and in the evening in Jerusalem. And all three stories have a similar pattern:
- People are bewildered, disappointed and fearful (4-5, 18, 21-22, 37)
- People are rebuked (5-6, 25, 38-39)
- People are taught Christ’s words or the Scriptures (6, 8, 27, 44-45)
- People are taught that the Christ must suffer and die (7, 26, 46)
- The result is they go and tell others (9, 33, 47-48)
The message of these three stories is the same: the disciples should not have been bewildered or disappointed because they should have realised from the words of Jesus and from the Scriptures that Jesus had to suffer and die.
Here are the angels at the tomb. And the women come along, confused and bewildered by the empty tomb. You might have expected the angels to say, ‘You foolish humans, you haven’t got a clue have you. We could tell you and thing or two. We’ve seen his heavenly glory. We’ve followed the story. Let us tell you what happened.’ But no, what do the angels do? They remind them of Jesus’ words.
Here is Jesus himself, the Word incarnate, freshly risen from the grave. Surely he would simply speak and the world would listen. But instead he conducts a Bible study. The Risen Christ on that first Easter Day made himself known through the Scriptures. And we can make him known in the same way. Only the exposition of the word will cause people to say: ‘were not our hearts burning within us’ (32)
No-one in the Easter story has a clue what’s going on until Jesus explains it from the Bible. No amount of human wisdom or philosophy or contemplation will tell you the meaning of the Jesus’ resurrection apart from the Bible.
In Luke 16 Jesus tells the story of a beggar called Lazarus who lives at the gate of a rich man. When they die Lazarus goes to heaven with Abraham while the rich man goes to hell. The rich man wants Abraham to send Lazarus with water to cool his pain. When he is refused, he makes a second request. He asks Lazarus to be sent to his brothers to warn of God’s judgment. Abraham replies: ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’ (16:31). In other words, God’s word is enough. God’s word is all we need. Nothing else will persuade us if God’s word does not persuade us – not even apparitions of the dead.
When we get to Luke 24 we read of someone who has come back from the dead – just as the rich man requested (16:30). But what he does is proclaim the word of God. Look at verse 31: ‘Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.’ Jesus disappears, but his word remains. This is Luke’s message to us.
How do we make Christ known? Through the Bible.