Aha! Moments

A few weeks ago, my wife and I spent some time in Nashville. Looking for a place to grab dinner one night, we decided to try Paula Deen’s Family Restaurant – Southern-style cooking. If you aren’t familiar with Paula Deen’s recipes, people joke that she uses a stick of butter in everything. Wonderful, rich food that resulted in, unfortunately, heartburn!


During our time in Nashville, I was reflecting on Easter, circling back to one of my all-time favorite stories related to that first Easter. It’s often referred to as the Road to Emmaus story. If you have never read this story or haven’t read it recently, you ought to.  It can be found in Luke 24:13-35.  It’s a most fascinating story and well worth pondering.

It’s the story of two of Jesus’ followers (not part of the Twelve) as they traveled from Jerusalem to Emmaus on “that very day” – the day Jesus was resurrected, Anastasis.  As they walked the seven-mile trip, they had all kinds of time to talk through the events of the previous three days. As they walked, Jesus, whom they didn’t recognize (“their eyes kept from recognizing him”) came alongside them (it seemed like he just appeared) and asked a great question: “So, what were you guys talking about?”  As I write this, I have an episode of The Chosen playing in the background. I can picture Jesus asking the question with a twinkle in his eye…

“Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who certainly was a prophet, mighty in what he said and did before God and all the people.  Our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.  And besides all this, some of the women among us amazed us – they went to the tomb early this morning and found no body!  They claimed they saw angels or a vision of angels who said he was alive.  Others went to the tomb and they were right – there was no body.  And we don’t know what to think of all this.”  (My paraphrase and I added the last line because you know that’s likely what they were talking about as they walked!)

Then one of them, Cleopas, asked Jesus if he was the only person that hadn’t heard what went on in Jerusalem over the previous several days.  Jesus then asked the mother of all questions: “What things?”  Again, with a twinkle in his eye? 

Jesus followed with another question: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  And beginning with Moses [Genesis through Deuteronomy] and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

I wonder what he told them?  He might have reminded them that when God created the universe and all the things in it he said, “It is good.”  And after he created the first humans, he said, “It is VERY good.”

Then Adam and Eve ate the apple.

I suspect Jesus reminded them of God’s call on Abraham – that he and his descendants would become human agents to help Him restore creation, after the apple incident, to its right condition.  God’s words to Abraham: “I will bless you so that you can be a blessing to ALL the peoples of the earth” (Genesis 12:1-3).  The inauguration of God’s creation rescue mission.

And surely Jesus must have helped them understand, through the scriptures, that the one to redeem Israel, the Christ, would in fact be a suffering servant not a conquering hero.  And the redemption was not to re-establish Israel as a sovereign nation again, but to jump-start their original mission of being blessed to be a blessing for all peoples.

Whatever Jesus told them, they wanted more.  So they invited him to stay with them.  During supper, Jesus blessed and broke bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized him.  And Jesus vanished.

They said to each other “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” An “aha!” moment!!

We wish for those heartwarming moments when we sense Jesus’ presence that result in “aha!” moments, when something previously fuzzy comes into focus. Experience tells me that such encounters tend to happen when we least expect. For me, they seem to take place when I am in conversations with others as we figure out together how to follow Jesus well.

It was “while they were talking and discussing together” that Jesus showed up for Cleopas and his friend – an encouragement for us as we learn to follow Jesus. An encouragement to not forsake gathering with other pilgrims when “we don’t know what to think of all this,” whatever this happens to be. Who knows, Jesus just might show up and provide us with a sacred “aha!” moment.


Anastasis

Anastasis (not to be confused with Anastasia) is the Greek word for resurrection.  We just celebrated the Anastasis of Jesus.  We call it Easter (which is not a biblical term, by the way).

We understand Easter to be the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. However, I fear that the significance of the event gets lost as we focus on Good Friday and what Jesus did for us on the cross. Outside of the Easter season, we don’t talk much about the resurrection, but rather focus primarily on the Cross. Why the Cross? I’m guessing because of its implications related to our eternal destiny, that is, heaven. It’s the perspective that I had communicated for years.  And I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the only one with that perspective… 

The reality of the ubiquitousness of such a perspective was evidenced several years ago when I asked a group of young people (college-age) what Easter was about.  The consensus: Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.  “And?” was my follow-up questions, assuming the answer would be, “And then he was resurrected.” Instead, the automatic and almost unison response was, “And now we get to go to heaven.” 

Looking back, this perspective of Easter was the lens through which I viewed Jesus, read scripture, did ministry, etc., for a big chunk of my life.  In more recent years (understand that “more recent” for me is the past 15-20 years!), I began to see things differently, through a new lens – the lens of Jesus’ resurrection, the anastasis.  It was a huge shift for me!

How huge?  It changed everything! The lens through which we see life affects how we see God, ourselves, and the world around us.  Some refer to this as our worldview.  How important is our worldview?   Think of how life must have changed for Copernicus once the thought occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, the universe didn’t revolve around the earth.

If we are honest, when our view of Easter-time is more focused on the Cross than the Resurrection, the universe sort of revolves around us.  (As I type this, I realize that I can’t possibly have a worldview if I’m the focus, can I?)  Actually, it doesn’t sort of revolve around us, it mostly revolves around us.  Thus the response, “And now we get to go to heaven.”

When Jesus was resurrected, he didn’t tell his followers, “And now you get to go to heaven.”  He communicated to them that as King, his subjects (followers) had a job to do:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (sounds like a King!).  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (sounds like he is giving them a job to do!).”  Matthew 28:18-20

Before Jesus’ resurrection, his followers’ “worldview” was about themselves, personally and nationally.  The resurrected savior and King changed all that for them!  And for me!

Like Copernicus, once the thought occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the universe didn’t revolve around my getting to heaven, my worldview changed, never to be the same again, for which I am eternally grateful!