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Dead or Alive

Based on Luke 24:13-40; John 20:1-10 & 24-28; 21:1-17

Dismayed by the death of Jesus, two of his disciples leave Jerusalem for the village of Emmaus. On the way they meet a stranger who explains to them from the Scriptures why Jesus had to die. Realsing who the man is, the two men return to Jerusalem to tell their friends the news, Jesus is alive!

Copyright Gavin Owen 2006

It was Sunday, it was definitely Sunday. I remember cos the women had waited until Sunday to go to the graveyard cos the law said you couldn't work on Saturday. They came back with some story about the grave being empty, about seeing an angel who told them that Jesus was alive. Well nobody knew what to make of it, so old Peter, he went off to check it out for himself, and John went after him. When they came back they said it was true about the grave being empty, nothing in it 'cept the cloth that the body had been wrapped in, but no sign of any angel. None of us were sure what to believe. Was Jesus dead or alive? We were confused ... and scared.

Well me and my mate Cleopas, we decided to get out of the city, so after lunch we headed off down the road to Emmaus, a little village, about seven miles from Jerusalem. As we walked we talked about everything. I was wondering what had happened to the men who'd been guarding the grave. Cleopas said he'd heard that the chief priests, the ones who'd sent Jesus to be crucified, had paid the guards to say that the body had been stolen in the middle of the night. “Stolen by who?” I asked. “By us,” says Cleopas. Well I knew none of us had taken the body and if the chief priests were paying the guards to tell a lie then it meant that they didn't want anyone to know what had really happened.

Me and Cleopas were so caught up in our conversation that we didn't notice the stranger coming up the road behind us until he spoke. “What are you two so busy talking about?” he asks. “You what?” says Cleopas, “You can't have been in Jerusalem long if you don't know what's been going on there.” “Tell me about it,” he says. So we told him, about Jesus, about all the amazing stuff he said and did, how he ended up getting crucified, how that didn't make no sense to us, cos we thought God had sent Jesus to save us and now he was dead. We told him what the women said they'd seen at the graveyard that morning and what Peter and John found when they got there. Well when we'd finished the stranger looks at us funny like and he says, “Are you daft or what? Have you forgotten what the scriptures say? Can't you see that the saving one had to go through all of this to get the job done?” And then as we walked along the road he started at the very beginning of the scriptures and he explained everything they said about Jesus. It was amazing, like someone had switched on a light and instead of wandering around in the dark trying to find our way, now we could see and everything was clear. Suddenly it was all so obvious, we couldn't believe we hadn't seen it before.

Anyway, he had great timing this bloke, cos he finished teaching us just as we got to the edge of the village. As we turned into Emmaus the stranger started to carry on down the road. “Hang on,” says Cleopas, “it's getting late, you don't want to walk any further today, stay with us.” He took a bit of persuading but in the end he agreed and soon we was all sitting down for supper. You won't believe what happened next. This man, he picks up some bread from the table, he says thanks to God then he tears up the bread and shares it out. Well, it's like me and Cleopas have had our eyes closed all the way to Emmaus and have just opened them, cos right there and then we realise that the man who's been talking to us all afternoon ain't no stranger, it's Jesus! And as soon as we recognise him ... he disappears ... right in front of our very eyes. You could have knocked me down with a feather.

“We've got to tell the others,” says Cleopas. So it's back out onto the road and off to Jerusalem. It's no joke walking seven miles in the dark I can tell you. Well when we got back to town we had to hammer on the door to get in – the others had locked themselves in the house, they were that afraid of what the chief priests might do to anyone who was a friend of Jesus. They let us in and locked the door behind us and we started to tell everyone what had happened when suddenly he's there, Jesus, just appears out of thin air. “Peace be with you,” he says. It was what we always said when we met each other, it was like nothing unusual was going on, like people are always coming back to life and appearing in your house. Well me and Cleopas, we were sure it was him, I mean we'd spent all afternoon talking to him, but the others, they thought it was a ghost. “Don't be afraid,” Jesus tells them, “touch me, a ghost isn't made of flesh and bones.” Then he told them what he'd told me and Cleopas that afternoon, everything the scriptures said about him, and they all understood just like we did. Then in the blink of an eye, he was gone again!

Before we could say a word, there was a knocking at the door. It was Thomas, one of our gang. When we told him we'd all seen Jesus he wouldn't have it, said he wouldn't believe it unless he saw Jesus for himself, unless he felt the holes in his hands where the nails had been. Silly lad, you'd think he'd have believed it when we were all telling him the same thing. Mind you, we didn't believe the women when they said they'd seen an angel. Anyway, poor old Thomas, he has to wait a whole week before Jesus appears again. Same thing, all of us together, doors locked and all of a sudden, there he is, from nowhere. “Come on then, Thomas,” says Jesus, “take a look at me, feel the holes in my hands.” But that's enough for our Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” he says. Couldn't have put it better myself.

A few days go by and we don't see any more of Jesus so Peter suggests we try a spot of fishing. A lot of the lads was fishermen before Jesus came along. So we head for the lake and when we get there we wait until evening, cos the fish come up to feed at night, then we get in Peter's boat, sail out and chuck our nets into the water. All night long we sit there and what do we catch – not so much as a minnow! Well as it starts to get light we can see there's a bloke standing on the shore. “Caught much?” he shouts to us. “Not a thing,” we shout back. “Try throwing your nets over the other side of the boat,” he tells us. Well we reckon it's worth a go so we pull the nets in and chuck ‘em over the other side. Next thing we know they start to bulge and when we try to haul them in there's so many big fat fish in there that we can't get them over the side of the boat. Then John points at the stranger and says to Peter, “It's Jesus!” and before anyone can stop him Pete's in the water and swimming to the shore.

By the time we brought the boat in they had a fire going, ready to cook us all a nice fish breakfast. When we'd all eaten, Jesus looks at Peter and he says to him, “Peter, do you love me more than these guys do?” We was all quiet – you see Peter had told Jesus he would never leave him even if the rest of us did, but then after Jesus was arrested, Peter had said three times that he didn't even know him. Pete's face was red and we could see he was full of guilt. “Yes Lord,” says Peter to Jesus, “you know I love you.” “Peter,” says Jesus, “do you truly love me?” “Yes Lord,” says Peter, “you know I do.” “Peter,” says Jesus for a third time, “do you love me?” “You know everything Lord,” says Peter, “You know I love you.” Then Jesus smiles and he says to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” Well we knew that when Jesus talked about his sheep he meant all the people who believed in him. And we knew what he'd just done – three times Peter had said he didn't know Jesus, now three times he'd said he loved him – it was like it sort of balanced out and Peter knew that Jesus had forgiven him. You should have seen the smile on his face!

After that we saw Jesus loads of times, ‘til the day came for him to go back up to heaven. But of course by then we understood – Jesus had been dead, but now he was alive!