How old stories can make new sense.

We all have stories. We have some stories in common. Sometimes, we don’t know what they really mean until someone shows us the thread running through our individual stories and our cultural stories.

On the day Jesus came back to life, he started walking down the road with a couple of his former followers. It’s not that they quit, it’s that they figured he had quit. That he was gone. That he was dead.

They were walking, talking about the previous week. Entry into Jerusalem, teaching in the temple, last supper, crucifixtion, rumors of resurrection. If you’ve ever lost a close friend, you know the conversation. If you’ve ever heard unbelievable news, you know the confusion.

Jesus started walking with them. They were preoccupied, and he was somehow disguised so they didn’t recognize him.

I’m interested that Jesus didn’t start with, “ta da!” That would have impressed them. But it wouldn’t have taught them. And teaching them the big story seemed to matter to him. So instead of a big reveal, Jesus started a walking seminar.

He started with Moses. He talked through the Prophets. That’s Exodus and Deuteronomy. That’s Isaiah and Amos and Jeremiah. He took the stories these two people knew intimately, had learned and talked about since childhood, and used a bright yellow highlighter to draw arrows pointing to the messiah. He took a red marker to underline the sentences that were about messiah suffering. He used purple and circled the ones about majesty.

They sensed that this was a remarkable teacher, that this was a once-in-a-lifetime explanation. All of the pieces were starting to make sense.

They arrived at home They asked him in, “Because it’s evening.” He stopped. He gave the thanks for the food.

Immediately, they knew who it was. Immediately, he was gone.

From Luke 24

16 thoughts on “How old stories can make new sense.

  1. Rich Dixon

    So I feel like the disciples after they heard a parable and knew it was important, but they also knew they didn’t really get it.

    I get the walking and story-telling parts. But the part about leaving as soon as they recognized Him…?


    1. Jon Swanson

      That’s just what happened in the text. They headed back to the rest of the disciples to talk about what had happened. But by the time they went back, they had way more information, way more understanding, than they would have had.


    2. Jon Swanson

      Okay, I replied quickly and then went to take my shower. Which is where I think best. So here’s a little more reflection.

      If Jesus had said “ta da”, he wouldn’t have had time to explain anything. They would have been so amazed, so “it IS true” and would have gone running to tell the others. In what happened, they heard all of what he wanted to explain. The extra time didn’t make Jesus any more alive, any more real, any more engaged. He was, as we can see, completely aware of what he was doing and the implications of it. And, looking down the road, five weeks later Peter is using this style of reviewing David and Joel when speaking to a crowd on Pentecost. Stephen uses it on the day that he is killed during his defense.

      Jesus is using the opportunity to teach a way to teach.

      As I was thinking in the shower, I also realized that often I want a “ta da” moment with Jesus. I want him to show up in the middle of my questions with a blinding flash. But often, he is leading me through understanding, through explanations, through the text. And at the end I understand more and then think, “didn’t I sense something?”

      As you know, Rich, a good teacher often leads through the material rather than just giving the answer. And Jesus is a remarkable teacher.

      Thanks for asking and making me dig more.

      On Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 7:32 AM, Jon Swanson wrote:

      > That’s just what happened in the text. They headed back to the rest of the > disciples to talk about what had happened. But by the time they went back, > they had way more information, way more understanding, than they would have > had. > >


    3. Rich Dixon

      Yeah, I figured it probably involved hard stuff like thinking and studying and asking better, deeper questions. My students always wanted the easy way out, too.

      Funny…when I wrote my initial comment I thought, “I should look up that story and read the context around it.” It was easier to say, “I don’t get it.”

      And Jesus says, “I never said it would be easy.”


  2. josephruizjr

    wow two posts in one today. Thanks for the additional comment insight this is helpful because I too want the “ta da” answer/insight whatever and God is more interested in having me absorb the material – so I need to move from “what’s on the test?” to transformation.
    Grace and Peace


    1. josephruizjr

      Jon most of the time the “test” is in my mind it’s a pass/fail way of thinking – it’s trying to give the right answer rather than integrating the material. At least that’s how I perceive it.


  3. josephruizjr

    I have been reflecting a little more on this post – seems like a “ta da!” moment for Jesus would have been more of a spectacular unveiling drawing attention to him, but as Jon explained Jesus was more interested in teaching and as a result there was “insight revelation” on the part of the disciples perhaps a delayed but internally driven “ta da!” 😉


  4. Jill

    I read this post at 5:00 am and then went back to sleep after getting hubby off to a second week at school…and then fell asleep again…which is probably why I’m only going to comment once…TA DA!

    Seriously though, I have NEVER thought of it like this…and it makes perfect sense…to me…because of the way He wrote His story in my life.

    Why why why?
    Why is it happening this way?
    Why does this chapter end this way?
    Why this antagonist?
    Why this setting…
    Wait, why do I have to retell this story of denial and pain…again.
    Oh, hello.
    You are hurting?
    You are wondering why?
    This is my story, it sounds similar to yours
    Oh, I know the pain is very real
    But this is how I dealt with the pain,
    This is how He helped me walk through it
    And look, this is what I found
    Old stories do make new sense.
    Thanks for giving a name to the concept.


    1. Jon Swanson

      Oh Jill, this is a better post than mine. At least that’s what I want to say. But it’s a different post, one that cuts deeper.

      Thank you for writing it. And I cannot say thank you for living it, because that sounds too flip, too harsh. But I can say thank you for showing following in the midst of it.


  5. Andrew Bernhardt

    Perhaps if Jesus started off with the Ta-Da! thing, they would have been too excited to listen to him. They would be doing the talking, asking questions, etc. instead of listening to what he had to say.

    I think Jesus’ approach can be useful today sometimes. How many non-believers have dormant seeds sown years or decades ago in Sunday School (or where ever). Rather than starting off with the obvious and working backwards, how about reminding them what they learned and working towards the risen Christ.


  6. Frank Reed

    Jon –

    For Jesus to do anything in a “ta da!” way would be Him acting like we do, say in social media. We do things to draw attention to ourselves because we look to feed our desire to be accepted, wanted and to feel as if people care. We have confused attention with relationship.

    Relationships take time. Serious time. Nothing is done in a “ta da!” moment in a true relationship. Sure, those moments may happen but they are part of a longer string of deeper moments that leads to true understanding and not what basically comes off as a performance.

    I have wanted Jesus to heal me with one fell swoop. I have wanted Him to do things quickly in the exact way I need them to happen. Thankfully He hasn’t because if He did I wouldn’t have a relationship with my Savior but rather a genie in a bottle. How shameful is that to reduce Jesus to a guy who only does parlor tricks.

    Thanks for making me think, as always.


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