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Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem?

ON THE first Easter morning, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking along the dusty road to Emmaus. They were completely absorbed by what happened in Jerusalem in the past few days.

As they were discussing the events leading to the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem, a stranger drew near to them. While still shocked by their Master’s death and perplexed by His reported resurrection, they could not recognise that the stranger was the risen Christ.

Seeing their downcast, forlorn faces, Jesus asked them: “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17 NIV)

Cleopas, one of the two disciples, responded to Jesus: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?” (Lk 24:19 NKJ).

What a strange and ironic question that was. Being followers of Jesus and close to the disciples (Lk 24:33), Cleopas and his travelling companion must have a good knowledge about the life and ministry of Jesus.
And yet with all the knowledge they had about Jesus, Cleopas and his fellow traveller failed to recognise that the “stranger” who walked with them on that dusty road was their risen Lord.

How many of us believers do really recognise Jesus should He draw near to us? Do we truly recognise and know the risen Christ in our hearts?

Look at the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in the town of Sychar. When she went to the well to draw water, Jesus, seated by the well, exhausted and thirsty, asked her for water to quench His thirst. Instead of recognising Jesus to be the Messiah, she regarded Him as only an ordinary Jew: “You are a Jew … ” (John 4:9 NIV).

And the irony is that the Samaritan woman was anticipating the coming of the promised Messiah: “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25 NIV). It was only when Jesus revealed Himself to her did she recognise Him as the Messiah (John 4:26 NIV). And that is the difference between knowing about Jesus in the head and knowing Jesus in the heart.

Recognising Jesus to be the Christ entails more than mere head or intellectual knowledge. A person with an extensive knowledge about Jesus may not really know Him personally. That is, he does not acknowledge Jesus to be the Christ, the Saviour of his soul.

How we do really know Jesus to be the Christ?

As believers, we sometimes still have the “slowness of heart to believe” what the Word of God says. Only in humbling ourselves and letting the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds can our spiritual eyes be opened to the truth about the Christ in the Scriptures.

The Jewish rulers were unable to see the promised Messiah in Jesus because of their spiritual blindness. And the Pharisees rejected Jesus’ Messianic claim because of their spiritual pride and intellectual arrogance. They thought that with their knowledge about the Messianic prophecies, they could recognise the Messiah when He appeared. But they could not. And that was why Jesus chided the Jews: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.

These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40 NIV).

How about us? Is the risen Christ a “stranger” in our hearts?

We may diligently study the Bible and memorise the verses. We may read all the prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah. We may read every word in the New Testament about the life and ministry of Jesus, from His virgin birth to His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to heaven.

And yet with all this head knowledge about Jesus, we may still echo the words of the two disciples on the Emmaus road: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem … ?”

Ultimately, without the heart, the mind alone, albeit saturated with facts about Jesus, may not recognise Him as the resurrected Christ. Thus, for us to know that the “stranger in Jerusalem” is indeed our risen Lord, we must let the Holy Spirit transform our head knowledge into heart knowledge, through a deep, intimate, personal relationship with the risen Christ.

Ng Kwee Choo is a Local Preacher at Wesley Methodist Church.

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