Who you were is who you are
Who you are is who you’ll always be, In Control
Who you were is who you are
Who you are, from Genesis to Revelations, is who you’ll always be
- Travis Greene, Who You Are
We can miss God’s story in the midst of our own.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked him(Jesus), “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:18-27; parenthetical use mine)
Jewish religious teachers at the time of Jesus often divided the Scriptures into two sections: Moses and the Prophets. Jesus explains that all of it points to him because Cleopas and his travel companion are saddened by their circumstances, and they do not recognize God’s story as they are in the midst of it.
God does not always appear in the ways we might expect. Throughout the Scriptures, God chooses to identify with those who have little to no power and influence. We see this choice clearly in how God sends his son in the world, which Cleopas describes when he says, “About Jesus of Nazareth.” God chose for his Son to be born a Jew, a small, conquered nation in a remote corner of the Roman world. Israel was nothing compared to the powerful and popular Rome. Even more surprising, Jesus was raised from a town with such a bad reputation that even Jesus’ disciples asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” God consistently chooses the underdog. He picks women and men from culturally undesirable spaces to display his glory.
Cleopas recounts about Jesus, “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” Jesus lived with meekness–with a controlled strength. . From the first words of the Bible, to when God says, “Let there be light,” to the splitting of the Red Sea, to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s story details how he changes things. Though, we must note that while God does change tangible aspects of our world, God’s unchanging character and depth of compassion for us remains a source of hope when our struggles appear permanent. He makes a way for hope where there was no way. Even as the disciples feel dejected and lost, Jesus appears to them to demonstrate his power and provide encouragement (Luke 24:36-49). He fed over 5,000 people with a child’s lunch. He healed the sick. He taught with authority regardless of the day’s religious leadership, and foretold his own death and resurrection. His power is without rival. Jesus lives with a controlled strength by the way he leverages his power on our behalf, showing our need for his goodness.
God identifies with the marginalized. He uses his power for them. But the tragic twist in God’s story is that he suffers for the very people he created and advocated for. God has always suffered because of the sin of his people. He mourns when sin covers the Earth during the time of Noah. He fumes when he sees the idolatry of the Israelites in the wilderness during the time of Moses and Aaron. When Jesus is at Lazarus’ tomb, he weeps, reminded again of the misery death afflicts (John 11:32-45). But this is all just a preview of the main event in human history. The cross is the definitive punctuation mark that tells us God is the one who suffers the most because of our sins, and is the only one who can make it right. He suffered the penalty for sin so we don’t have to.
The story doesn’t end there, thankfully! Hope is always part of the narrative. Cleopas tells this stranger (he didn’t recognize the man as Jesus yet), “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Many of Jesus’ followers believed that Israel would be rescued from Roman rule by the Messiah written about in Scripture. But the death of Jesus seemed, to Cleopas, to cancel out any expectation of rescue. However, God seeks a deeper liberation for his people than simply political freedom. He longs to redeem heart, soul, community and power dynamics.
In the aftermath of Jesus’ death, Cleopas and his companions talk amongst themselves as they walk, saying, “And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place,” (Luke 24:21). In Jewish tradition of the time, a soul hovered around the body until the third day. Many might have thought that Jesus would rise from the dead before the third day after his death, if he truly was the son of God. The death of Jesus now seemed final and permanent. At the same time, rumors of resurrection pour in from all sides. The women who bravely visit the tomb, see no corpse, but an angel who tells them Jesus is risen (Matthew 28:1-7). Other disciples report the same thing. As the risen Jesus walks with men, whose emotions and doubt cloud their thinking, Jesus rebukes their unbelief: “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Jesus reminds them of the story God’s been telling from the beginning. He tells us this story in our own lives, as well.
God chooses to make his story focused on Jesus–on hope. And Jesus chooses to invite us into his narrative so that as we get a greater glimpse of his grace and truth, power and love, justice and mercy, so that we are at once humbled and dignified. We recognize we are microscopically small, and yet exponentially worth more than we could have imagined. The story that God chooses to tell reveals him at the center, saving us. His story gives us more meaning and significance than any other story we embrace.
God loved us before we knew him. He gave us Jesus, whose name means “God saves”. When we believe in God’s story and God’s character, we are rescued through joyful restoration and we get to be a part of his story forever. Paul puts it this way:
He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16)
- In what ways can you relate to Cleopas’ difficulty seeing God’s story in the midst of his own circumstances?
- How does the way we read the Bible shift when we consider Jesus’ revelation that everything in the Old Testament (Moses and The Prophets) concerns him?
- If we look at the person and work of Jesus, what characteristics of God do we see vividly?
- How does God’s story give our own stories more significance?
Watch: What the Bible Is About (3 minutes).
Written by: Rasool Berry
Edited by: Christina Utley