On the Road Again

By Justin Rossow

Easter evening, as the day was coming to a close, two sorrowful and bewildered followers of Jesus found themselves on the road home. It wasn’t a long trip, only about seven miles, but they walked with heavy hearts and a heavy step. A man they didn’t recognize suddenly shows up and walks with them on that lonely road. As they begin to talk, it’s obvious the stranger has no concept of the current events causing such a stir. They have to tell this guy all about Jesus, the great prophet, and their hopes that he was the one to save Israel, and the devastating dashing of those hopes when their own religious leaders managed to get a Roman death sentence handed down.

They even mention their friends who made a confusing claim that very morning: they said Jesus’ body was missing and angels were seen at the tomb. That’s when this stranger calls them foolish—not because of the fanciful claims of heavenly messengers and missing corpses—but because they are so slow to believe it.

What follows is a micro-small group Bible study of three that I would give anything to be a part of. (I imagine, in eternity, we each get to pick a friend and walk with Jesus for seven miles while he opens the Scriptures for us. It might not happen that way; but I call dibs, just in case.)

You know the story. The stranger walking with them in their grief and confusion and misunderstanding and slow faith was none other than the resurrected Jesus himself. Jesus walks them through the Old Testament and shows them the necessity of his own suffering and death and rising to life: as the Christ, the Anointed One, these were the things he had to do.

Of course, the Emmaus Road disciples (for that is where they were headed: the town of Emmaus) don’t recognize the risen Christ until Jesus breaks the bread and gives it to them (wink, wink; nudge, nudge). Then Jesus suddenly disappears, and the Emmaus Road rings with the clatter of sandals once again—no longer a heavy death knell of plodding footsteps, but the rapid staccato of beautiful feet that bring good news: Jesus is alive!

No sooner have these two finished telling their story to a group of uncertain disciples crowded into a locked room than Jesus himself shows up among them. The one who was present in their conversation on the road makes himself present as they share his story with others. Jesus is met with skeptical joy. He even eats some leftovers so the disciples can see he has a real, physical body that can digest food and doesn’t float across the floor.

Before the risen Lord is off again (you can’t seem to keep Jesus in one place very long after the resurrection), Jesus commissions them as his witnesses and sends them out, even as Jesus was commissioned and sent by the Father.

In Luke’s account, Jesus promises to send the Spirit, and commands these followers to wait in Jerusalem until they have been clothed with power, the kind of power that only comes from above.

The way John paints the picture, Jesus breathes on that mixed-up, disbelieving, troubled group of followers right then and there and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

Of course, John doesn’t record the Day of Pentecost in his Gospel, and Luke still has Luke, Part II coming out. (The famous sequel to the Gospel of Luke is commonly known as the book of Acts.) Acts starts with the Ascension in Chapter 1 and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost in Chapter 2.

These two very different authors often record very different parts of the story of Jesus (which helps give us a bigger picture). But as different as they are in focus, Luke and John are intimately linked in purpose as well as in detail.

In John, Jesus breathes on his disciples as he pours out the Spirit. That exhaling not only calls to mind God breathing life into humanity at creation, but the word for “breath” in Hebrew as well as Greek is the same word as “wind” and “spirit.” So Jesus exhales the Holy Breath, or breathes out the Holy Wind, or spirits the Holy Spirit into his disciples.

In Luke: The Sequel (Acts 2), Peter says Jesus himself has poured out the Spirit. As you recall, that pouring came with a mighty wind (or mighty breath; or mighty Spirit) that shook the whole house. Both Luke and John are clear: Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit on his followers.

But check all of the Gospels and you’ll find that Jesus is only completing an action that began at the very beginning of his ministry. The Jesus who pours out the Spirit is the same Jesus who first received the Spirit. In fact, to be the Christ, or Messiah, or “Anointed One” is to be the one anointed with the Holy Spirit, who receives, and bears, and ultimately pours out the Spirit on others.

Jesus is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Jesus receives the Spirit in bodily form at his baptism (Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3). With toes still dripping wet from the Jordan River, Jesus is led (or even “driven”!) into the wilderness by the Spirit to face the Tempter (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4). Jesus returns from the wilderness temptation in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14) and preaches and teaches as the Anointed-with-the-Spirit-One (Luke 4:16–21). Jesus is filled with joy in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21), promises the Holy Spirit (John 14:16–17), and from the cross (John 19:30), in the Upper Room (John 20), and on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) gives, breathes, and pours out the Spirit.

Given the defining role the Spirit plays in the ministry of the Messiah, who by definition is anointed with the Spirit, we should read Jesus’ commission in John 20 like this:

“As the Father sent me
and gave me the Spirit to guide and empower the Father’s mission through me,
so I am sending you:
receive the Holy Spirit
to guide and empower my mission through you.”

The same Spirit who indwelt Jesus as the Christ dwells in you; the same Spirit who was poured out on Jesus at his baptism is poured out on you at yours. The same wind-breath-spirit that shook the house on Pentecost still blows where the Spirit wills; still fills and empowers and comforts and sends. The same Spirit who filled Jesus with joy fills your perpetual adventure of discipleship with holy curiosity and divine delight.

Jesus receives the Spirit, for you. Jesus bears the Spirit, for you. Jesus pours out the Spirit on you. And, just as the ministry of Jesus for you is tied to the work of the Spirit, so the work of the Spirit in you is tied to ministry of Jesus. You can’t separate the two. What Jesus did for you, the Spirit shapes in you. That’s what this faith journey is all about.

As you walk your own Emmaus Road, somewhat lost and burdened, you find a Traveling Companion who wants to know all about your dashed hopes and confused faith. You have Someone who walks with you, and opens Scripture, and sets your heart aflame. You recognize that Someone in the breaking of the bread. And, as you tell your story, that same Someone shows up to give you his own peace and to breathe out the Spirit once again.

Editor’s Note: This devotion comes from the Introduction of Come, Holy Spirit: A Daily Discipleship Travel Log for Easter to Pentecost by Justin Rossow, available from Next Step Press.

Join the Come, Holy Spirit Social Learning Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/comeholyspirit.nsp.

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