Stories On the Road to Emmaus
Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. – Luke 24:27
“Daddy, tell me the story again. Please!” Children love stories. They do not mind if they are passed along by memory or in turning the pages of a book, just tell them a story. They will listen in wonder and ask for the same stories to be read over and over again. They cannot get enough. This is another example of why we, Christians of all ages, must become like children. We are to love and want to hear stories again and again.
I believe many of us have lost or not acquired a love for story because we, as one sage has said, “want to turn everything into math.” And, I might add, quick and easy math at that. We are not interested in lengthy story telling, or even theorems and postulates; we want sound bites. We just check the headlines and draw our conclusions, before moving on to the next interesting “fact.” The media has given the people what they want via the bubble-headed bleach blond who comes on at five, and we are content, even enthralled with this. Our view of history is shaped by this means of disseminating information. For many, history is just a collection of chronological but basically unrelated events — it is historical, not historic.
The Story Approach to Teaching the Bible
The church has condoned if not encouraged this approach to story and history by the way we read and teach the Bible. We do not understand history as we should because we have not entered into the story of it as we should. We have not entered into the story as we ought because we are busy firing off and responding to sound bites. We want math, proof texts, logic, syllogisms, but not story. Not that math and the rest are bad, but we must never forget that they are servants to the story, not the story itself. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Good things become bad things when they keep you from the best thing.”
Solutions On the Road to Emmaus
This is a problem we are facing in our day and, to use a phrase I sincerely dislike, “in our circles.” But let’s walk together for a moment to see if we can find a solution.
Imagine if you will, talking a long walk with me and discussing the latest big story on the most recent fair and balanced newscast. We are both distraught and wondering how such things could happen (or not happen, as it might be). Then imagine being joined by a stranger walking along the same road, apparently making the same journey. This stranger is, in our view anyway, extremely ignorant of the most recent news story of the day. We cannot believe anybody in these parts could not have heard the story covered around the clock and live, so we decide to fill him in on the latest headlines and bring him up to speed on all that has taken place. After giving him all the gory details, he says to us, “You are both fools, lacking in faith and hope.” That, I think, would get our attention. He then goes on, like Paul Harvey could only wish to do, to give us the rest of the story. This story moves us like none ever has, and like children we listen in wonder. When we stop for a bite to eat, we realize the man telling us the story is the story itself.
Jesus is the Greatest Storyteller
This is essentially what happened to the men on the road to Emmaus, and it needs to happen to us continually. We must hear the greatest storyteller explain the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures, and we must recline with Him at the table for He is recognized in the breaking of bread (vv. 30, 35). We must not be slow of heart to believe the story or fearful to enter fully into it. The men on the road to Emmaus failed to understand, as Luther would say, “the theology of the cross.” Christ said to them (v. 26), “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” For Christ, exaltation followed and was dependent upon humiliation. We need to joyfully embrace the truth that a slave is not greater than his Master. If we want to be conformed to Christ’s image and be with Him in glory, our part in His story includes humiliation as the way to exaltation, suffering to enter into glory.
The Story Explained on the Road to Emmaus isn’t Over
Also, we need to know that while the Bible alone is infallible and the final authority on all matters of faith and life, that it is normative history; His story did not end when the Holy Spirit stopped inspiring the revelation of Scripture. When we understand the story properly, we recognize that not only is God’s Word all about Christ, so is God’s world. Not only beginning with Moses and all the prophets, but also, In the beginning God … The story continues and each chapter of history has been decreed by God before history was. Let us rejoice with awe in such a wonderful story and such a gracious Lord.
We are too much like Martha, distracted with many things; we don’t have time for childish cares like stories. We need, like Mary, to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His story. We must, like children, love story time. We cannot, like the foolish builders, listen to the story but not continually enter into it by belief and obedience. To paraphrase the beloved disciple, “These things have been written to tell the greatest story ever told, the story of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, so that you may believe and rejoice in the story and have life in the Storyteller.”
Daddy, tell me the story again. Please! Amen.
This article was originally published in Every Thought Captive magazine, 2007.