Contending With Narratives (Luke 24:13-31)

The world of gaming has expanded to so many genres that you can hardly have a conversation with another gamer about the title you are playing without qualifying it with a comparison to a similar title.  Gone are the days of the simple explanation that you enjoy video games… now the culture within gaming compels us to identify ourselves into substrata such as first-person shooter fans, RPG buffs, sports enthusiasts, or the truly hardcore among us that choose to play Dark Souls because they enjoy breaking their controllers.  But within all of these distinct genres there are a few constants that we tend to appreciate in a great game, and chief among those is typically a compelling story.  And the story can make up for so many other shortcomings… just ask titles like the Last Guardian or even a sacred cow like the first Mass Effect.   I mean c’mon… you drove that stupid Mako.  Don’t act like it EVER went where you where trying to go.  It was like pushing a slab of pudding across a slick table… it went where it WANTED to go.  But I digress.

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When you connect with the narrative, complaints can be overlooked and even game-breaking bugs can be ignored in favor of the story that you have fallen in love with and the characters that compel you to complete their journey.  But while this is a wonderful way to overlook the fact that maybe you don’t enjoy quick-time events in your games (yet you still love Uncharted), there is also a clear and present danger in the real world when we fall for the narrative and fail to recognize the reality that surrounds us.  And as we will find in the text below, the worst part of believing the narrative is that it blinds us to the spiritual truth that is often right beside us.

The execution of Jesus was not simply an eternal life-altering event for everyone who has ever existed on this planet, it was also a historical moment that those living at the time had to endure.  It was a confusing time for those who had followed Christ but had not truly understood His message and His destiny, and two of those followers found themselves in a position where they couldn’t see beyond the story that they had convinced themselves was true.  Let’s peek in on their conversation… I don’t think they will mind…

Luke 24:13-21  Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.  And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”  Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”  And He said to them, “What things?  So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 

So we find Cleopas and his unnamed friend walking down the boulevard of broken dreams, trying to make sense of the death of the Lord.  And the tone of this conversation is far from hopeful, as evidenced by their use of “past tense” statements in how they describe Jesus.  He “was” a prophet mighty in deed and word.  We “were” hoping that He would redeem Israel.  The narrative they were discussing was the one that the enemy was trying to project into their minds … that God had lost, evil had prevailed, and everything they believed in was wishful thinking at best or a complete subterfuge at worst.  And the irony of this is that the proof of God’s victory and provision was LITERALLY standing right next to them, walking the very same road that they were certain they were walking alone.

Jesus, with his impeccable sense of humor, prompts them to unload their hearts by acting as if He has no idea what events they are referring to.  I absolutely LOVE His response to their “Chicken Little/The sky is falling” routine.  In our finite view of the world it can be so easy to believe that everything is over, God’s promises have fallen short, and we have deluded ourselves into following a lie.  But then God walks up to us right in the middle of our pity party, full of omniscient knowledge and coyly asks, “What’s wrong?”, knowing full well every thought you have had or ever will have.

Emmaus

I am going to challenge you today to look deeply at the narratives you have told yourself or allowed yourself to be convinced of.  Unworthy… unwanted… forgotten… alone.  It is our belief in the story that we have committed ourselves to that keeps that narrative in greater focus than the truth of God’s love and presence that is right beside us.  In Luke it says that their eyes were restrained so that they could not tell it was Jesus that they were speaking to.  But if they had their eyes on Jesus, instead of their problems and the story they had convinced themselves of, they would have had a much better walk.

We cannot recognize that it is Jesus walking with you if your vision is too firmly entrenched and focused on all of the problems we face and our hopes that have been dashed.  This story didn’t turn out the way Cleopas and his comrade had wanted… it was messier, bloodier, and full of more hurt and pain than they would have ever imagined occurring.  But it was the ONLY way Jesus could achieve His destiny and save the world.  And similarly for us, if we allow a myopic view of our cross to cloud our ability to see Christ walking alongside us we will also fall prey to listening to the narrative instead of the one true Narrator.

Your story is not what you think it is.  The story you tell yourself when walking alone is not what He has in mind.  Just like with these two broken disciples, He has already overcome the very thing you are worried about.  They were bent out of shape about Jesus being dead and He was standing right there.  And your solution already exists as well, even if it is currently transparent to you.  He fulfills all His promises and one of those is that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us.  Deny the narrative the power over your mind that it craves, and instead focus on the truth of the Lord walking with you each and every day.  Your story was not written by your family, your friends, your enemies, or even you.  It was written by Him… before you ever existed.  And He will see you through to the end of the road.

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