Imagine the scene in real time. Not like we understand it now with a complete picture…a succinct story we’ve made into books and movies. But imagine it as it was.
All the people had been following him, hearing him teach about the kingdom, the one reality that would make hundreds of years of oppression right. Each person who bought into his teaching was eagerly expecting for him to bring justice and peace. And then in a moment, he is seized and is sentenced to death. He dies. Right in their midst. This revolutionary, their hoped for king…killed. Right there. Right as they were going along with him. Dead.
How could this even be?
Days of confusion follow.
A few of them meet a stranger on the road and tell him their story:
…but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.*
The stranger (who is actually him, their king, now fully alive again) explains it all to them, opening their minds to understand what had been talked about for so long.
The making everything right was for far more than their singular moment in human history. It was for far more than ushering in a tangible kingdom. It was for the opportunity of rescue and redemption for all people of all time. Rescue and redemption beyond the physical world and on into the spiritual. Rescue and redemption of not just a nation in the tangible realm, but rescue and redemption of souls for all time and eternity.
The stranger went on to tell them: “It is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” **
His rescue was for far more than their moment or their physical world. His rescue was so much bigger than the earthly kingdom they were hoping He’d create. Yet, for so many of his followers, the deep, eternal, and spiritual rescue and Kingdom He ushered looked so different than what they’d imagined.
They had imagined a world where the Messiah (Jesus) would come and start an earthly kingdom. A kingdom where his followers would live a life that had been made right for them on this earth. I imagine they envisioned a life with him as the ruling king and them free from oppression, struggle, and pain. A life on this earth filled with peace and justice.
But that’s not what he came to usher in. He (Jesus) came to set people fully free. Not just free for their short time on earth, but free for all eternity. He set up an intangible Kingdom that can be seen in the lives of his followers even today. People who truly follow Jesus, who have turned to him to rescue their very souls and engage with him to set them free…those people experience a level of freedom, transformation, hope, healing, and peace that is an expression of the reality of the spiritual Kingdom Jesus began that day when he came back to life.
Only, so many of us who follow him find ourselves in very similar realities as his first followers. We come to Jesus and follow Him and begin to dream up how He’ll work out His restoration and healing in our lives. It looks so nice and pretty and pain-free in our minds. Yet, often, His greatest works of restoration and healing do not look anything like what we had in mind. Our ideas of nice and pretty healing and restoration are often so incredibly inferior to his full healing and restoration.
Just like his first followers who thought he’d come and sit on a throne here on earth, making this tangible existence right, we often think he’ll just touch a little part of our heart and we can have a nice little experience of healing. Just as his actual plan for his Kingdom was so far beyond that picture of a physical kingdom, so it is in our lives that his plan for full healing and restoration is so far beyond our nice little self-made pictures of being restored.
Much like his followers’ needed rescue from more than just their physical reality, we, too, need rescue from so much more than we realize. Often the full picture of restoration is a result of Jesus changing so much more in our soul, digging down so much deeper to set free things we didn’t even know were there, sometimes causing struggle that we never planned on. Struggle because we aren’t sure we want to hand it all over to him. Struggle because we thought it would be so much easier than this. Struggle because those deep places are familiar and we aren’t familiar with what his full healing and freedom will be like. Yet, he continues to work in our hearts because he knows he has so much more for us than we what we would settle for on our own.
Too often in our American churched culture, we get that idea that after we start following Jesus, everything should just work out great for us. That we should be healthy, wealthy, and wise. But what if instead of just making us happy, Jesus wanted to set us free. What if instead of just giving us everything we ever wanted, he wanted to give us everything he has. Freedom. Life. Healing. Restoration. Wholeness.
This is where we can get confused about what it means to follow Jesus if all we see is our idea of what he’ll do for us, when all he can do for us is so much more than we can ever imagine. Just like his rescue of his followers 2,000 years ago was so much more than what they envisioned, his rescue of us still now is so much more than what we envision.
What if you let go of your idea of what he’ll do for you and began to embrace the more that he possess and is actually offering you?
* Luke 24:21
** Luke 24:46-48