They were ashamed, afraid, and absent. Mere hours after they pledged never to leave Jesus—even to die with Him—the Eleven were nowhere near the cross as the sun began to set. But the Roman soldiers were still there, and pierced his side to prove Jesus was very, very dead. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were an unlikely duo show up at the cross. These two members of the Sanhedrin shed their secret discipleship and took responsibility for burying Jesus’ body. Wrapping Him in enough spices for a king, they laid him in a nearby tomb. Remembering Jesus’ words, the Jewish authorities and Pilate secured the tomb and posted a guard there to keep the 3-day resurrection story from gaining any traction.
Early Sunday morning, a small band of faithful women carrying spices approached His tomb, wondering who could remove the rock that sealed the entrance. Imagine their shock as an angel announced to them that Jesus was not there, “He is risen, just as He said!” Hearing the news, Peter and John sprinted to the tomb. They, too, found it empty. As Mary Magdalene remained there weeping, Jesus appeared to her.
Later the same day, an unrecognized Jesus approached two downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus. They said all of Jerusalem was abuzz with the events of the last three days, and the One whom they had trusted to redeem Israel had been crucified, and they were disappointed. Some silly women even had an unbelievable angelic vision, and the tomb was empty. With all these confusing stories, what’s a guy to do except head home to Emmaus? Jesus admonished the two for their unbelief, and then He used Moses and the Prophets to teach them about the Messiah. After eating with them, when their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, He disappeared from their sight. But they finally got it! With a lot of tutoring, they finally got it! So they headed back to Jerusalem at full speed to report their experience to the Eleven. Then Jesus appeared to them as well, and after assuring them He was not a ghost, He did the same thing again: He re-explained the Old Testament in light of all that had happened, and opened their minds so they too finally understood.
This brings us to our point: We’ve got to see the big picture.
What Jesus did, both for the disciples headed to Emmaus, and for the Eleven, was to tell them “The Story” – he put in perspective everything that had happened so they could understand the purpose for which he had died, and then raised. Because they had seen Jesus through the lens of the Messiah they wanted and expected, these events made no sense at all. A military or political Deliverer would never make his demise the point of his mission.
But Jesus took them to “hot-air balloon level” to see the big picture. He helped them see that Israel had never kept the Law very well even on their best days. And when they didn’t, they had this makeshift, stopgap mechanism to cleanse people of their sins, which had to be repeated over and over again. It never quite did the job, but it was a precursor to a once-for-all, permanent atonement. This one-time sacrifice wouldn’t just address the problem of sins over the last year, but would provide forgiveness prospectively, covering all the sins you would commit in the future, justifying the believer once for all time.
What he had done was to put everything they knew from Jewish historical writings into context and a frame of reference that made sense to them. As He told them “The Story”, the light bulbs over their heads started going off.
Chapter 27: Small group; Adult Sunday School Class (PDF); Family Pages; Audio; Little Ones/Preschool ( Take Home Page, Trading Card Poster, Activity Sheet); Early Elementary (Take Home Page, Trading Card Poster, Activity Sheet); Kids (Take Home Page, Activity Sheet)