I've been reading through the book of Isaiah, and there have been many moments where I've stopped and thought, Wow. You just cannot read the book of Isaiah without feeling awe for God's power, shame for humanity's foolishness and sin, and praise for the Messiah who, from our future perspective,...
Sooner or later, the unexpected—even the unthinkable—will rip through our lives like a Category 5 hurricane. Will our faith survive the gale-force winds?
That depends on whether we are sound of heart or slow of heart—whether we have cultivated a robust faith or merely scattered seeds of belief across the surface of our life.
Let’s consider how those who followed Jesus responded to the distressing news of his crucifixion. Learning from their experience can help us avoid a similar crisis of faith.
Slow of Heart
Cleopas and his companion were devastated. As they made the seven-mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they discussed the tragic events of Passover week and mourned the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
Then a stranger came alongside them and asked the reason for their sorrow. The travelers were shocked. How could this man be unaware of the events that had caused such an uproar in Jerusalem? Even so, since the man seemed eager to hear the story, they explained the treachery of the chief priests and rulers, the horror of the crucifixion, and the preposterous tales of the women who had visited the tomb earlier that morning.
But instead of offering condolences, the stranger said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25, NKJV). Although the Scriptures don’t tell us how Cleopas and his fellow traveler responded to Jesus’ words, they were probably surprised by his rebuke.
Why did Jesus react that way? Why didn’t he ooze sympathy or identify himself immediately? The answer is revealed in Jesus’s first sentence: Cleopas and his companion were “slow of heart.” This phrase implies that the seat of someone’s intellect is inactive or dull. We might say the person isn’t “connecting the dots.”
Connecting the Dots
What “dots” were Cleopas and his companion supposed to connect? Jesus said they had failed to understand all the prophets had spoken. Throughout his three years of ministry, Jesus emphasized that he came to earth to fulfill the prophecies recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures—the Mosaic Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (including Psalms). In the days before his death, he reminded his followers repeatedly that the time had come for him to fulfill those Scriptures:
- He told the twelve disciples he would die and rise again three days later (Luke 18:31-33).
- In Jerusalem, he reminded all who gathered around him that he’d be lifted up to die (John 12:32-33).
- During the Passover meal Jesus and his disciples shared on the eve of his crucifixion, he told them, “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee” (Mark 14:28).
- As they walked from the house where they’d eaten to the Mount of Olives, he told them several times he was going away, but also promised he’d return (see John 16:1-22).
Yet, not one of the twelve remembered any of those reassurances, so they were unable to pass them on to the dozens of other disciples who’d come to Jerusalem that week to celebrate Passover, who had witnessed or heard about Jesus’ crucifixion.
Even the angels who greeted the women at the tomb asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Then they added, “Remember how he told you…[that] on the third day [he would] be raised again?” (Luke 24:5-8, NIV).
The angels rebuked the women for the same reason Jesus rebuked the Emmaus Road disciples: They were all mourning when they should’ve been rejoicing. They were doubting when they should’ve been believing.
We also fail to connect the dots of Jesus’ teaching. We latch on to promises such as “if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” and conclude he will respond as we wish in every situation (John 14:14). Then we’re disappointed, sometimes devastated, when he doesn’t. We may dismiss other teachings such as “take up the cross” and “in the world you will have tribulation” (Mark 10:21; John 16:33). Either ignorance or stubbornness causes us to set aside a connect-the-dots passage such as Romans 5:3-4: “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
The Slow-of-Heart Remedy
If Jesus’ followers had listened carefully, they would have cultivated a sound heart rather than a slow heart. They would’ve been prepared, not only for the crucifixion, but also for the resurrection. Their sorrow on the day of Jesus’ death would’ve been alleviated by their confidence in his ultimate triumph over it.
Here’s the good news: When Jesus met with his followers after his resurrection, he gave them the slow-of-heart remedy.
- First, he opened the Scriptures to them (Luke 24:45). He revealed himself and his ways to them through the written Word. He longs to do the same for us.
- Second, he prayed with them and for them. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, the word translated “bless” in Luke 24:50 means “to consecrate with solemn prayers” and “to ask God’s blessing on a thing” or person. So Jesus prays for us. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf” (NLT). This truth assures us that no matter what circumstances challenge our faith, Jesus is praying for us to remain steadfast.
- Third, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who illuminated the Scriptures. He also guides us “into all truth” and enables us to bear the hardships and inexplicable circumstances that are impossible to withstand without his aid (John 16:7-13).
A Heart of Faith
Something or someone will inevitably wreak havoc in our lives. But we don’t have to dwell in the wreckage. Allow these three facts to restore order: Jesus will reveal his goodness and faithfulness to you if you ask; Jesus is praying for you 24/7 every day; and the Holy Spirit will guide you through whatever doubt-filled darkness you currently face.
The journey from “slow of heart” to “sound of heart” may be long. But just as Jesus came alongside the Emmaus Road duo, he’ll come alongside you and me. Will we watch for his arrival? And when he draws near, will we listen attentively to his illuminating truth?