Sunday we experienced a glad Resurrection Day accompanied by glorious, triumphant music and bright celebrations of confidence that “He is risen indeed!”
But when we think about that first resurrection day,we realize that our experience is far different from that of Jesus' first followers. Luke’s record of the discovery of the empty tomb is followed immediately, not by a joyous celebration, but by a disheartened conversation:
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. (Luke 24:13-14)
After witnessing what happened to Jesus in Jerusalem they were confused and sad and disappointed that the One they thought had come to save them had been humiliated and crucified, and, in their estimation, soundly defeated by the political and religious establishment. “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel,” they said to the stranger who began walking with them (Luke 24:21) not recognizing that it was Jesus. They had heard Jesus teach and seen his miracles and they had believed him. And now, they didn’t know what to think. The one they thought would save them seemingly couldn’t save himself.
Slow to Learn
When we read how Jesus responded to these disciples, we perhaps detect a bit of frustration—the kind of frustration a parent has with a child who has been told something a thousand times but evidently he has never truly listened:
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)
To these followers who had spent years as children studying the Torah under the Rabbi and years in the temple listening as the scrolls were opened and read from, Jesus was saying that if they had really listened to what the prophets wrote, and if they had gone beyond listening to examining it, processing it, and truly believing it, they could have understood that the One God promised to send would save them through suffering, because that truth is interwoven into the entirety of the Old Testament.
Jesus’ Identity Confirmed
Jesus was saying that they should have understood that his crucifixion didn’t negate his identity as the Messiah but confirmed it, because the death of the Messiah was predicted and pictured and patterned throughout the Old Testament. In fact, each portion of the Old Testament anticipates Christ’s suffering and glory in its own way.
The very first promise in the Old Testament of an “offspring” or descendant of Eve, points directly to his suffering. God said that the serpent will, “bruise his heel.” So from the first time a Savior was promised in the Old Testament, it was clear that the promised one would suffer, but would emerge from that suffering as victor, putting an end to evil and suffering.
Perhaps this promise is where Jesus began when “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Perhaps he continued in Genesis 22’s account of Abraham preparing to offer up Isaac, helping them to see how it pictured his Father’s sacrifice of his beloved Son. Perhaps he pointed to Joseph and traced his downward spiral of suffering in slavery and imprisonment as well as his glorious exaltation to power and showed them how Joseph, who became the savior for the whole world through suffering and humiliation revealed the pattern for how he would become the Savior of the world. Perhaps Jesus worked his way through Exodus, pointing out the death of the paschal lamb, through Leviticus and its system of sacrifices, through the writings of David who described his own suffering and exaltation in stretched language that went beyond his own experience to that of his greater son.
An Obvious Order
It was there for them to see. Suffering precedes glory. Humiliation comes before exaltation. The suffering of the cross and the tomb gave way to the glory of resurrection! And for those followers, foolishness gave way to belief. Confusion dissolved into understanding. Broken hearts became burning hearts. Sorrow turned to joy.
Today our Resurrection Day is very different than it was for those followers on the road to Emmaus and those hiding behind locked doors in Jerusalem. We not only have the entire Old Testament that prepares us to understand the suffering and glory of Jesus, but also the entire New Testament to expand our grasp of it. The whole of the Bible invites us to share in the suffering as well as the glory of our Savior even as it instills in us a solid confidence that our suffering will one day give way to great glory.
Nancy Guthrie teaches at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, speaks at conferences around the country and internationally, and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Covenant Theological Seminary. She is the author of numerous books, including The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament and is the editor of O Love That Will Not Let Me Go and Be Still My Soul. Nancy is currently working on a five-book series of Christ-centered Old Testament Bible studies, the first of which will be released in July, The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis.