How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?

The Great Shepherd Looking Out for His Sheep

Summary of the last blog to bring you up to date:

In my last blog dated May 31 about the narrative often referred to as “The Road to Emmaus” as portrayed in Luke 24: 13-35, I discussed the disciples Cleopas and another disciple (spouse, sibling, friend – identity unknown) leaving the group of grieving, puzzled disciples in Jerusalem. In summary, Jesus had been arrested just three days before, given a sham trial and executed on the cross. He died on that cross on Friday and his body was laid that same day in an unused tomb. Nothing more could be done as it was the Sabbath (Saturday), a day of rest in the Jewish tradition. Very early Sunday morning the women went to the tomb to prepare the body for a permanent burial using spices and perfumes. However, they discovered that the body wasn’t there. When the women reported what they found – or didn’t find – to the other disciples, the disciples didn’t believe the women. Then Peter ran to the tomb and discovered the same thing. That very same day that all this happened, these two disciples decided to leave the group in Jerusalem and head home to their hometown of Emmaus.

If you’ll recall, Jesus caught up to them on the road as the two disciples were thoughtfully walking in no particular hurry and discussing the events of the last three days. The result is that Jesus taught them about himself as revealed in scripture. Jesus went into their home, broke bread and promptly disappeared when they recognized him. What happened then? The two disciples immediately left Emmaus and returned to the larger group of disciples in Jerusalem. Now you are up-to-date.

After writing about this narrative, I began to think further about it. Jesus needed all the disciples in one place in Jerusalem. He couldn’t have various disciples heading home or wandering around the countryside. Jesus, the Great Shepherd, personally went after these two wandering sheep of Cleopas and the fellow disciple to bring them back together with the others. It is to their credit that when Jesus suddenly disappeared, they immediately headed the seven miles back to Jerusalem rather than waiting until the next day. The disciples were now in one place in Jerusalem.

With everyone finally together that same evening, Jesus appeared to ALL of them. The Shepherd had gathered them together in safety. Yes, John recounts the story of Thomas in John 20: 24, who apparently was not with the larger group. Thomas didn’t believe what the larger group said about Jesus appearing. However, when Thomas encountered the risen Jesus, Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” While Jesus invited him to do so, the narrative does not indicate that Thomas had to actually touch Jesus to believe. Just seeing the risen Jesus – and his appearing suddenly in a locked room – was enough for him.

Perhaps Thomas was supposed to have special treatment to enable Jesus to have a teaching moment. Jesus finished the encounter by saying to Thomas, “. . .’Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” [John 20: 29. NIV] Yes, Jesus is referring to all those who became believers from the time he ascended into heaven to today. It is by faith and not what you have physically seen to cause you to respond in faith to the call and guidance of the Great Shepherd.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

[Psalm 23. Combination of translations.]

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