Recognizing Our Traveling Companion
One week ago today, I pulled myself away from my 18 year-old son and left him “all alone” to begin his new life at college. Heart-wrenching!
I hardly had time to process my grief because two very beloved cousins whom I had not seen in years spontaneously flew in to visit. Joy! Twenty-four hours later, they zipped off with no assurance or plan for our ever being together again. Sorrow!
Note the events in one week: Sad separation, ecstatic reunion, sad separation. Picture water faucets being twisted one way full-force, then jerked back the other way, then the other way. The water works flowed.
But God is good. He had led me to re-read Luke 24 several times lately, and now I think I know why. Separations and reunions were about to happen all around me, and my loving Lord would prepare me, if I would recognize his voice, to receive his peace.
Luke 24:17 tell us that on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples’ faces were “downcast,” probably revealing confusion, fear of the future, disillusionment. Often the disciples forgot/didn’t understand Jesus’ mission, even though he told them exactly what to expect, and even though the angel at the tomb reminded them, “Remember how he told you ….” Still, I have compassion for these guys. It’s hard to be clear-headed when you’re grieving.
But--there was a reunion at dinnertime: as soon as Jesus broke bread with them, they recognized him with spiritual eyes and in their hearts. Immediately, they went back to their friends with renewed hope, vigor and joy!
This account shows that Jesus cares when our hearts are heavy. If we will recognize him in the midst of our pain, he will renew us, too.
John Piper notes that Jesus’ ascension is called the "Ascent of Joy."
He adds, “Ordinarily when our best beloved departs on a long journey we do not rejoice. We cry. In order for that crying to be turned into rejoicing we have to be deeply assured of two things.”
The first criterion is that we believe the separation is not final. The Lord gave us many promises about being reunited with him, but John 16:22 is very pointed: “You are now very sad. But later I will see you, and you will be so happy that no one will be able to change the way you feel.” He promised us, “There are many rooms in my Father's house. I wouldn't tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together” (John14:2-3).
The second criterion is that “we must be assured that the separation is best for us and best for our beloved.”
And here, of course, is the line that brought all of this together for me: “It has to be more like sending your nine-year-old off to camp or your 18-year-old off to college. And so it was. The ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven at God's right hand was an ‘ascent of joy’ because it meant that the greatest possible blessing would come to Jesus and to his people.”
The Son was returning to his glory with his Father, and we became the beneficiaries of eternal mediation between God and man, provided by the Spotless Lamb. He returned to his rightful place, and we received a blessing we had no right to receive.
This week, my Comforter met me on my own Emmaus walk. Now I’m ready to square my shoulders, turn around and carry on what I was about before, renewed and reminded of his faithfulness.
If you feel as though you’re walking alone today, look up, and recognize your traveling companion. “… For He [God] Himself has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake, nor let you down or relax my hold on you! Assuredly not!’” (Hebrews 13:5b, Amplified)
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