Preparing for a God Encounter this Lent

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

Lent, the penitential season of prayer, self-examination, and repentance prepares us for the celebration of Easter and our heart’s deepest desire: an encounter with the risen Lord. Few songs convey that longing like Paul Baloche’s Open the Eyes of My Heart. Over half of the lyrics consist of the title appeal, followed by the reason: “I want to see you.” The relentless repetition of those phrases expresses a desire, bordering on desperation, for a life-giving encounter with our Lord and Savior.

The good news is that Christ does have a habit of showing up in the lives of his people, sometimes in unexpected ways. To Saul, he came in laser-bright intensity on his murderous march to Damascus. To Mary Magdalene, he came whispering her name in her frenzied search at the garden tomb. And to two confused and crestfallen disciples, he pulled alongside them as they traveled a dusty road in Judea.

The Emmaus Road
On Resurrection Sunday, Cleopas and another disciple were making their way to Emmaus, a seven-mile hike from Jerusalem. Embroiled in discussion over the events of Passion Week, they are joined by another traveler who, unbeknownst to them, is Jesus. Luke describes the disciples as downcast, as their remarks to their companion make clear.

They reference their crucified Lord as a “prophet,” the one hoped “to redeem Israel,” indicating that they had expected him to be the conquering Messiah, not the suffering Servant. Even the early reports of Peter and John and Mary Magdalene about the not-so empty tomb—containing only grave clothes in a collapsed, cocoon-like condition—had not helped them put the puzzle pieces together.

Jesus chides them for their ignorance of Scripture (“Those I love, I rebuke and discipline”), then proceeds to connect the dots for them.

Tracing the thread from Moses to the Cross, Jesus likely began with Genesis 3:15 where, in the aftermath of the fall, God informed the Serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman … he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” From there, Jesus probably reminded them of the animal skins given to Adam and Eve to cover their “nakedness”—coverings provided by God at the cost of innocent life—a divine initiative that foreshadowed the sacrificial system culminated on the Cross.

Exhausting the Pentateuch, Jesus moved to the Psalms and Prophets pausing, in all likelihood, on Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Daniel 9. When he reached Zechariah, his two companions would have been particularly stung by the prophet’s warning, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,” given their quick exit from Jerusalem,

But whatever discomfort they may have felt, they were so stirred by what Jesus said that when they arrived home they pressed him to come inside for food and fellowship. Jesus graciously obliged them, entering and eating before vanishing before his breathless hosts (“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”)

Seeking and finding
When Cleopas and his companion set out that day, the hope that they would meet their crucified Master was as far from their thoughts as the idea that they would meet Abraham. But their hospitality to a stranger and hunger for Scripture led to a high voltage encounter that energized them to make the seven-mile journey back to Jerusalem (the same day!) to share the good news.

For those who long for a similar God encounter, these two disciples have much to teach us. Read more.

Originally published February 13, 2018.

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