The Passion of Jesus (Luke 22:47-24:53)
Jesus’ work climaxes in his willing self-sacrifice on the cross, as with his last gasp he breathes out trust in God, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). By Jesus’ self-sacrifice and by the Father’s mighty deed of resurrection, Jesus passes fully into the position of eternal king foretold at his birth. “The Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32-33). This is truly God’s beloved Son, faithful unto death as he works on behalf of all who have fallen into the poverty of sin and death, in need of a redemption we cannot provide ourselves. In this light, we see that Jesus’ care for the poor and powerless is both an end in itself and a sign of his love for everyone who will follow him. We are all poor and powerless in the face of our sin and the world’s brokenness. In his resurrection we find ourselves transformed in every aspect of life, as we are caught up in this extravagant love of God.
The episode on the road to Emmaus is a fitting example of generosity for all Jesus’ followers. At first it seems to take Jesus’ death almost too lightly, or are we wrong to see something humorous in the two disciples instructing Jesus in the latest news? “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” they ask (Luke 24:18). One can almost imagine Cleopas adding, “Where have you been?” Jesus takes it in stride and lets them talk, but then turns the tide and makes them listen. Gradually, the light begins to dawn on them that perhaps the women’s story of the Messiah’s miraculous resurrection is not as crazy as they initially thought.
If this were all there was to the story, we might learn nothing more than that we are often “foolish…and…slow of heart to believe” (Luke 24:25) all that God has written. But the disciples do one thing right in this story — something so apparently insignificant it would be easy to miss. They offer hospitality to Jesus. “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over” (Luke 24:29). Jesus blesses this small act of generosity with the revelation of his presence. In the breaking of the bread they at last recognize him (Luke 24:32). When we offer hospitality, God uses it not only as a means of serving those in need of refreshment, but also as an invitation for us to experience Jesus’ presence ourselves.