The Road to Emmaus
You may wonder if there is a typo in the title: Should it not be the “Four Roads to Jerusalem?” In fact, we will be talking about roads from Jerusalem. Let me explain why.
In Bible times, Jerusalem was the location of the Temple. God’s presence resided there up until the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the veil of the Temple was torn in two. Old Testament believers came to Jerusalem to celebrate their appointed feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. For these reasons, Jerusalem was associated with the presence of God. Even today, Arabic-speaking Muslims called Jerusalem al-Quds, the Holy City.
Over the years, I have noticed at least four Bible narrations in which people were going away from Jerusalem. In each case, the person was going through some difficulty, so the symbolic imagery of going away from the presence of God could apply in each case. And in each case, God rescued or saved the person going away from Jerusalem. How great is the love of God!
This blog series will consider the qualities of the people going away from Jerusalem. While these characteristics are not unique to Muslims, as I have observed Muslims around me and throughout the world, I notice some of these qualities in their hearts. For these Muslims, we pray Jesus will reveal himself to them as their Savior, Rescuer, and Redeemer.
The Road to the West: Jesus Meets Spiritual but Disappointed People
Emmaus was a town located about seven miles to the west of Jerusalem. It was upon the Road to Emmaus that two disappointed disciples of Jesus walked after Jesus had been crucified. One was named Cleopas. Luke provides this narrative in his Gospel, Chapter 24:13-35. This encounter actually took place on Resurrection Sunday.
As these spiritual but disappointed disciples slowly walked back to Emmaus from Jerusalem, the resurrected Jesus came up to walk beside them. They were depressed and confused, and probably walking slowly, so it is easy to see how Jesus could overtake them. A full treatment of this wonderful passage is beyond the scope of this short blog, but a few verses stand out:
While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they came to a stop, looking sad. (Luke 24:15-17, emphasis added)
It seemed these disciples were among the many followers of Jesus who felt this was the time He would usher in a Messianic Kingdom upon the earth. They said: “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (v. 21). When Jesus was crucified, their hopes were dashed.
We know how the story ends. Jesus explained to them why the Messiah must suffer. Then he revealed himself to them as He broke bread. They went on to become key witnesses of His resurrection. They testified, “Were our hearts not burning within us when He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us” (v. 32)? What would any of us do to have watched all of this unfold, on the Road to the West!
When Jesus Meets Spiritual but Disappointed Muslims
Many Muslims in the world share this quality of being spiritual people who are disappointed. The current era of Islamic renaissance has featured leaders who made many promises, implicit and explicit. For example, in 1947, the nation of Pakistan was formed after the British withdrawal from the Indian Subcontinent. “Pak-istan” means “Land of the Pure.” The name of the nation set it apart from heathen, Hindu India.
In Iran, an Islamic revolution occurred in 1979. The mullahs specifically promised a “Pakkeh” society, based on this same word for pure upon which Pakistan was named. Once again, the result has been severe corruption. Daniel Shayesteh is an Iranian who participated in Khomeini’s revolution. He became greatly disappointed when the religious leaders did not keep their promises. He eventually had to flee the country. Jesus found him in Turkey and saved his soul! He writes of his testimony in his autobiography, The House I Left Behind: A Journey from Islam to Christ.
Still other young Muslim men and women left their homes and countries to join the “Islamic State” (aka ISIS). Here, they felt paradise on earth would occur. What disappointment! People joined ISIS for various reasons, but a subset were spiritual and idealistic people. Did they know they were entering a totalitarian regime that rejected any freedom of expression?
Beyond these national examples, we observe Muslims all over the world who are sincere people. Some pray five times per day and fast during Ramadan. How disappointed they will be on the Day of Judgment, Yom ad-Din, when neither their deeds nor their spirituality will be enough to save them.
Jesus is appearing to many of these Muslims today! Like He did on the Road to Emmaus, He is revealing himself to them in the Bible. Though Islam denies the crucifixion of Christ, many former Muslims are partaking of the broken bread of Jesus’ body as they have embraced the cross.
We live in a day of harvest. The opportunity is ours to share the love of Jesus with Muslims. Indeed, some will be disappointed people. Though their new life in Christ may include hardships, we can confidently proclaim: “Jesus Never Fails!”