By Steve Wyatt
His name was Cleopas—and he felt hopeless. So did his friend.
These two friends had gone to Jerusalem to join up with Israel’s latest, greatest world-changer—another prophet, this time from Nazareth, who was rumored to be the one who would forever end Rome’s tyrannical reign.
Although they had left hopeful, they were returning hopeless. Have you ever been there—hopeless?
• Yes, these guys were believers.
• Yes, they had grown to deeply love Jesus.
• Yes, they had dropped everything to follow him.
Here’s the problem: Jesus was trapped behind a huge stone, and these dreamers were left to question everything that they, just hours before, had passionately believed. So as they plodded back to an old life they thought was gone forever, they “talked and discussed these things” (Luke 24:15).
What things? Only that the source of all their hopes and dreams had been nailed to a tree and now was dead. Yeah . . . that thing. No wonder they felt “downcast” (v. 17).
These Two Were Down
Have you been there?
I have. This word downcast is way more ugly than grim or sad—even discouraged pales by comparison. See, downcast gives you the coordinates on someone’s heart right from the get-go. Downright miserable. Down in the mouth. Weighed down. Downhearted. Down and out. Down in the dumps. They all say it well—but downcast says it best.
Just days before, these disciples had walked to Jerusalem, fully convinced Jesus was the Christ. They’d waved palm branches and cried, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). Because finally Israel had a leader who offered more than cumbersome rules and high-minded platitudes. Finally a true man from God had come to set them free.
Except now these same two were walking from Jerusalem. Their hopes were dashed; their spirits, downcast. And as they walked, they talked “about everything that had happened” (24:14), including such troubling things as:
• “Why did everybody turn on him?”
• “Why didn’t he start the revolution we thought he would start?”
• But most of all, they wondered, “Now what do we do?”
Jesus was their last best hope. So save the psychobabble. Forget your well-rehearsed pep talk. These guys were down with no prospects for ever getting back up.
What they needed was a hope infusion. And that’s what God gave them, right in the middle of their hopeless hike back home. “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them” (v. 15).
They didn’t know it was him because his identity was concealed. But, true to form, Jesus came alongside the crushed in spirit. And as he spent time with them, he gave them hope. The kind of hope that completely transformed their hearts, redeemed their perspectives, and restored to them their very lives.
How did he do that?
I’m glad you asked.
Jesus Took to the Streets
The first thing Jesus did was met them where they were—and then lovingly lifted his downcast friends. Jesus showed up because that’s what every deeply crushed disciple needs.
What these two followers were feeling was more than just the blahs. It was not apathy or some ill-defined listlessness. This was a bone-chilling numbness! Perhaps they were convinced nothing was ever going to change. And the pain might never end.
Trust me, these two were far from weak. They’d left everything to follow Jesus. But the dream was dead. Those feet that once walked on water had been pierced. Those hands that hugged lepers were stiff and cold. And that voice which spoke such hope-infusing words? Silenced.
That’s why Jesus, knowing that they had no clue how to get to him, went to them.
“What are you discussing?” the sudden stranger asked Cleopas and friend (Luke 24:17).
They looked at him like: Seriously? Have you been under a rock or something? The same thing everybody’s talking about—Jesus!
“We had hoped he was the one . . .” (v. 21).
And that was the problem. These two had been hoping in the same way you and I typically hope:
“I had hoped that the PET scan would come back clean.”
“I had hoped this relationship would last.”
“I had hoped that my dream would come true.”
But only kind of hoping isn’t really HOPE! It’s barely wishing on a star. It’s a golly-gee-whillikers, I’d-like-it-to-happen-but-it-probably-won’t-happen kind of whine!
It’s not at all the kind of hope the Bible says is “an anchor for the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). True hope is a confident assurance that God is able and an abiding certainty that nothing can come my way that God and I together cannot handle.
But that’s not these guys. They’d bought into a dream that wasn’t God’s dream. They wanted Jesus to free Israel by kicking out the Romans. They wanted Pilate out and Jesus in. Instead? Pilate was large and in charge; but Jesus was dead.
Jesus Took Them to Scripture
So this stranger climbed down into that depressive pit and here’s what he did as he spent time with the friends: he showed them through Scripture that not even Jesus’ death could spell the end of hope!
He took them all the way back to the “beginning” and “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning . . . himself” (Luke 24:27). I’ve been to some great Bible studies, but can you imagine Jesus explaining phrases like: “a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7) or “thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:13) or even “disfigured beyond that of any human being” (Isaiah 52:14)?
But then he also must’ve taught them that it was foretold that God “will not abandon me to the realm of the dead” (Psalm 16:10). Which meant, clearly, that he would have to first go to a grave.
Now we don’t know exactly what Jesus taught them—but my point is: Jesus brought them hope by taking them to Scripture. He offered them the truth of God’s Word—and it both lifted their spirits and infused them with fresh hope.
Finally, they arrived at their village and their hearts were so encouraged that they “urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us’” (Luke 24:28, 29).
So he did. Except he didn’t just saunter in; Jesus came roaring in!
Jesus Took Over
Jesus was the guest, right?
But he took the bread, gave thanks, and then gave their bread to them! (v. 30).
Jesus taking over is exactly what happens whenever anybody makes a connection with Jesus. When you invite Jesus into your life, he’s not going to be satisfied with just being a submissive houseguest. He won’t sit in the corner and await further instructions. He will take over!
The Bible says that as he passed the bread, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (v. 31).
Maybe that’s when it happened because that’s when Jesus chose to reveal himself. Maybe as he passed the bread they noticed the fresh wounds in his hands. Or maybe their hearts were ablaze . . . again (v. 32).
However it happened, their hope had been rekindled and their hearts set on fire. So what did these two downcast disciples do?
They got up, that’s what they did. All of a sudden, they went from downcast to upbeat! Uplifted! Up and at ’em!
They “got up” (v. 33) and “returned . . . to Jerusalem.”
All because the resurrected Jesus went to where they were, he offered convincing biblical truth that spoke powerfully to their hearts, and then he took over.
Hope had arrived—in the person of Jesus. And everything [not just some things, not even most things—but everything] had radically and forever changed.
And what he did for them he can do for you. He wants to—and he will, if you let him—change absolutely everything about your downcast story.
Steve Wyatt is a minister and freelance writer in New River, Arizona.
Art and the Resurrection
Sometimes art can help the mind digest immense truths such as Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Watch the final scene from The Passion of the Christ or do an Internet image search for “resurrection of Jesus” and see how artists throughout history have depicted this pivotal moment.