One fine Sunday afternoon, a man went for a walk. After all, isn’t that what Sunday afternoons are made for? Taking walks? However, this was a very unique situation. This man shouldn’t have been taking a walk that Sunday afternoon. In fact, he shouldn’t have been taking a walk any Sunday afternoon. You see, just a few hours earlier that Sunday, he had been dead. As dead as Marley. As dead as the proverbial door nail. As dead as every human being who has ever lived has eventually been dead. His prior deadness wasn’t the unique thing. The unique thing was that he, having been dead just a few hours earlier, was now going for a walk on a Sunday afternoon.
As he walked along, he came upon two other men. These men had not been dead that morning. But, there was, in fact, a deadness inside them. They had placed all their hopes and dreams on the one who had been dead that morning. Except, as far as they were concerned, that person was still dead. So when this man came up alongside them, they had no idea he was the one on whom they had placed their hopes and dreams—that man, after all, was dead.
They related to this man how they had hoped that the one over whom they were now mourning would have proved to be the Messiah, the one who would have restored Israel to kingdom status again. But that wasn’t going to happen now, because that man was dead—crucified, dead, and buried. Oh, they had heard a report from some silly women who said that they had gone to the tomb that morning to put spices on the dead man’s corpse, and that they had encountered angels who told them that the dead man was now alive; but these two men didn’t really believe it.
So, at that point, the man who had been dead called his new walking companions, who had not been dead, slow and foolish. Then, over the course of the next few hours, he explained to them all the things that had been written in the Old Testament Scriptures about how the Messiah had to suffer before he entered into his glorious kingdom. He gave them a crash course in Old Testament hermeneutics.
The two men had their hearts warmed and their imaginations stirred. The deadness inside of them began to dissipate. As they approached their destination, the man who had been dead pretended like he was to going to go on further. But the two men asked him to stay with them. He agreed. A meal was served, and the man who had been dead pronounced a blessing over the bread, broke it, and began to give it to his dining companions. All of a sudden, they realized who he was. He was their Lord. He was the one on whom they placed all their hopes. He was the one who was crucified, dead, and buried. The women were right. The man who had been dead was alive. And, then, just like that, he was gone. He disappeared.
After he disappeared, the two men said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Now, this is very interesting. The two men did not say, “When we realized who he was, didn’t our hearts start to burn within us?” No, what they said was, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Maybe, this Sunday, or some Sunday afternoon down the road, you might go for a walk. Now, you can do the traditional things. Listen to the song of the birds. Gaze at the blue sky. Watch the movement and shapes of the clouds. Bask in the warmth of the sun. Occasionally, stop and smell the flowers. But, wouldn’t it be interesting if a man who had been dead earlier in the day came up alongside you and started to give you a lesson in Old Testament interpretation?
I don’t think it’s going to happen. That man has already left and gone to heaven. However, when he left, he sent his Spirit. That Spirit inspired the man’s followers to write gospels and epistles to help future generations of followers understand those Old Testament Scriptures, how the Messiah had to suffer and die, how he would rise from the dead, how he would enter his glory, and how he would give eternal life to all those who believed in him.
So, maybe, when you take that walk, you can spend some time thinking about these things. Perhaps your heart will begin to burn within you. Maybe you’ll develop an extreme case of hermeneutical heartburn, one given to you by Christ himself, by his Holy Spirit.
I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Third Sunday of Lent
March 23, 2014