The Messiah We Actually Got

st albans psalter road to emmaus

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:35)

On the way… Where? On the road to… Emmaus.

The two disciples moped along, downcast and directionless. Jesus had been crucified. His body had gone missing. And these two disciples did not understand. Then, on the road, they met a mysterious stranger who wanted to know what was eating them.

“We thought he would redeem Israel. But now our hopes are dashed.”

The stranger replied, “Seems to me you have missed something crucial here. Have you never read Isaiah 52 and 53? Psalm 22, 34, and 69? Exodus 12? Wisdom 2? Zechariah 12?

“What kind of Messiah did you think was going to come? Was the Messiah going to redeem Israel without uniting Himself with the suffering of His people? Without offering Himself as the truly pleasing sacrifice to the Father? Without establishing the religion of the new and eternal covenant?

“After all, the blood of bulls and goats does not atone for sins. Man, left to his own devices, stands helpless before inevitable death. Something that overcomes the separation between man and God had to happen.

“God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways not our ways. Human beings see crucifixion as the most shameful death imaginable. Human beings see what happened on Good Friday as discouraging, depressing, totally dispiriting. But God can turn a wooden cross into a gilded throne. God can turn heartbreak into triumph.”

tabgha loaves fishes multiplication mosaicThen the stranger proceeded to break bread with the disciples, and… Whoa! He has risen from the dead! And He’s right here! And what were we worried about?!

So the two disciples ran back to Jerusalem to tell everyone else. These two disciples, who had despaired only hours earlier, were probably saying things like, “The heavenly Father has turned the Master’s cross into a throne of glory. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The grave could not hold Him, and He can turn bread into His immortal flesh!”

The two probably went on and on like this, and St. Peter was saying, “Yes, I saw Him, too,” and the rest of them were like, “Sure, guys. Sure. Maybe you need to get your heads examined…” Then:

‘Peace be with you, my lads.’

OMG. It’s a ghost!

‘No. Touch the wounds. Touch the nail-marks.

“And, listen, give me some food. Getting crucified, and then rising from the dead, makes you hungry.”

What kind of savior do we think we want? Do we want some pure spirit who has nothing to do with the trials and tribulations of our human pilgrimage? Do we want an ideal for a savior? Or a theory?

Or do we want some kind of human “savior” that grows up in a mansion and goes to Harvard? The kind that wins lots of prizes during an illustrious career and then retires to Cabo San Lucas? The kind that everybody feels comfortable with? So comfortable that, when he is confronted by contradictions and threats, he backtracks in a heartbeat, saying “Oh, no, when I said the Pharisees were a hypocritical brood of vipers, I didn’t mean you…”


I think we want a Messiah Who grew up a carpenter, suffered heroically for His beloved friends, conquered death by dying for the truth, and reigns supreme in a realm too sublime for us even to imagine.

That’s the real Messiah, foretold by the prophets, attested to by the Apostles, who lives with us in the breaking of the bread. The Messiah we never could have foreseen. But Who–now that He has done what the prophecies declared He must do–certainly is the best Messiah possible, the only Messiah possible, our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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