“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
On that Friday nothing seemed good. Peter was disgraced and defeated after denying Jesus and fleeing. Most of the other Apostles were in hiding. The crowd that had hailed Him with "Hosannas" a mere few days ago had turned on Jesus and had demanded His blood. Tensions in the city of Jerusalem were so high, Pontius Pilate braced for an uprising, while the Jewish priests and rulers did everything they could to keep their people in line so as not to anger the occupying Roman forces. Even the faithful - Mary, John and the other women - were so stricken with grief they could not grasp what the future might hold.
All seemed lost. After miraculous healings, supernatural suppers, confounding resurrections, and a ministry that grew daily beyond their wildest imaginings, the man who was to become king of Israel and lead them to freedom and salvation was arrested, found guilty in a sham of a trial, and swiftly put to death in the course of a day. Hadn't He been the Messiah? Was everything they had seen and come to believe a hoax? Surely the authorities could not have defeated God's Anointed One.
I have found that many times, after what seemed to be a true personal, spiritual defeat, I have found great victory. Perhaps it is the difficulty of seeing clearly in the midst of a storm that makes the rainbow afterward so amazing. John Wesley had a similar experience after his mission trip to the new colony of Savannah, Georgia. Even as he headed home feeling defeated and far from God, his victory was just around the corner. Shortly after his return, he reluctantly went to a Bible meeting at Aldersgate where he felt for the first time the true, heart warming peace of God's grace and acceptance. It ignited a flame within him that launched the Methodist movement and a great revival.
So remember, when you are plodding down your "Emmaus Road", feeling defeated, perhaps feeling that God is far from you, ready to chuck it all in, give up hope, fly the white flag or worse, finding Satan's twisted taunts and temptations hard to resist -- WAIT. Just wait a little longer because your greatest victory, your most profound experience of God may be right around the corner.
The Apostles did not dare to imagine that 3 days later the tomb would be empty and Jesus would be with them, eating breakfast, breaking bread and ascending into Heaven with angels. They could not fathom the new ministry of Good News they were being called to, nor the impact it would have on not just Jerusalem, but on the entire world. They could not conceive that God was defeating Satan and sin and Death once and for all and reconciling Himself to all mankind in their very presence! But on that blessed Sunday, He was not there - He had risen, just as He said. And by His sacrifice we are saved.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”