Several years ago, I was asked to give the morning message at a local church assembly on Resurrection Sunday (“Easter”). Although I love teaching on God’s Word–and although to teach and speak go together–on this “special day”, I just didn’t know how to present something fresh.
I wanted something that would “stick” in people’s hearts. But which of the events of the Resurrection would I convey. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all relay the message of the life, death, burial, and RESURRECTION of Christ Jesus, but with a different emphasis. Was this idea the answer to my prayers concerning what I would speak about on THIS Sunday?
A BIBLICAL INTRODUCTION:
As I continued to READ & STUDY in God’s Word, I kept coming back to the account that Luke wrote about (Luke 24:13-32), about a disciple [follower of Jesus] by the name of Cleopas [(Ancient Greek) – KLEOPATROS; (Biblical Greek) – KLEOPAS; Pronounced in English; KLEE-a-pas]. I decided to just call him “Cleo”, for short.
An Empty Tomb Was Discovered–
The tomb was empty on the first day of the week, when early in the morning the women had gone to the tomb with spices in burial preparation as was the custom.
But when they arrived, they found the stone that was blocking the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. The tomb that their Master and Teacher had been placed three days ago…was now EMPTY!
And as they entered the tomb, perplexed and wondering what had happen to Jesus’ body, two men in dazzling raiment suddenly stood beside them (Luke 24:4).
The men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among those who are dead? He [JESUS] is not here, but has risen from the dead.”
Now On That Very Day…
“Two disciples were going to a village called Emmaus [which is] seven miles from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:13).
One of those DISCIPLES is directly known as Cleopas (Luke 24:18).
I discovered in my investigation that many Bible scholars assume that Cleopas is another spelling for Clopas. If so, his wife was Mary (John 19:25); he was the father of James and Joses (Mark 15:40); and he was also called Alphaeus (Mark 3:10). The other disciple walking with Cleopas isn’t named. Some Bible Detectives wonder if it might have been Luke, since there is a tendency for the Gospel writers not to refer to themselves by name in their own account.
All that said, I decided to give a dramatic reading of An Easter Sermon by Fred G. Zaspel, dressed in a period costume. So in keeping with Scripture and…with a modern take, the following is the presentation I entitled: “My Name is Cleo”.
I suppose I should begin by introducing myself. My name is Cleo. Cleo Davidson. You have probably heard of me on occasion–Luke mentions me once in his gospel account by my proper name, Cleopas. But I doubt that you know very much about me. I tell you what, though, when it comes to JESUS and His Resurrection, I have more to say than most anyone else you could want to meet.
Let me tell you a little about myself. Actually, you have read more about me than you probably know. Luke is not the only Biblical writer to mention my name. John also mentions me as the husband of one of the women named “Mary” standing near the cross. My given name was Chalphai in Aramaic. In Greek that can be translated as either Clopas or Halphaios–which in Latin is Alphaeus. That, you may remember, is the name given as the father of James in all four of the lists of 12 disciples in the NT–“James the Less/younger,” Mark 15:40; not to be confused with the older James of Zebedee, Jesus’ cousin on His mother’s side.
But you see, if people would just learn to read more closely to the details, they would find that I am not such an insignificant nobody after all! I am the father of one of the 12 apostles. I am the husband of one of the women who stood near the cross–and who went early that Sunday morning in Jesus’ tomb. My family was at the very heart of the circle of Jesus’ followers throughout his ministry and up to the very end.
In fact, you may be interested to know that my acquaintance with Jesus is much closer still. A few of you may have read Eusebius, the fourth century church historian. Why, neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, nor John record this, I’ll never know–but Eusebius preserves the information that I am the brother of Joseph of Nazareth–Jesus’ legal father. Jesus, you see, was my nephew–“Uncle Cleo” He used to call me. Mu acquaintance with Jesus goes back as far as His very birth–although then, I must admit, I had real questions as to why my brother Joseph would marry a pregnant woman–his sense of justice and all.
I grew up in Bethlehem, but for some years my wife and I had made our home in Emmaus, a quiet, little village about seven miles from Jerusalem. As Jesus grew, we of course were very interested in His progress and development. He was a perfect child, always so obedient to His parents. He never did anything to show them any disrespect whatever. Although He would puzzle them at times–like that time when He was about 12 up at the Temple in Jerusalem–telling them that He did not go along with them (his parents) because He had to be about “His father’s business.” Those kind of things were always very puzzling. But under Joseph’s instruction we saw Him develop His skills as a Carpenter. He was a good one–always accurate to the mark and ever creative. No dresser drawer of His making ever hung. And no table ever wobbled. And He could make yoke for oxen which fit so comfortably and so well. In fact He became know in the area as “the carpenter.” Joseph was proud of Him–and so were we.
From His birth onward, it became increasingly evident that Jesus was different. Oh, I don’t mean He looked any different or that He played any different as a child or would have stood out as any different on the playground–not at all. It was just that He was perfectly exceptional. And when as a man He began to teach it was evident that He Himself believed that He was more than just a man among others.
To verify that very point Jesus went about working all kinds of miracles. He healed more people than I can count–some of whom, in fact, were people whose illnesses were congenital. He freed people who long had been possessed of demons. He even raised the dead! There was simply no limit to His abilities–and everyone who watched Him recognized it.
One day–it was the Sabbath–Jesus sat in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. By now there was considerable talk about Him all over the region. And as He sat to teach in the Synagogue that day, He took the Isaiah scroll and rolled it until He came to what you call chapter 61. Everyone’s eyes were fastened on Him as He read: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.
Then He added, “This day this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
I wasn’t there to hear Him that day myself, but everyone was talking about it–the atmosphere was absolutely electric. Here He claimed in unequivocal terms that He was Israel’s Messiah–sent of God to bring blessing to His people.
And in His preaching He turned the accepted religious of the day on its head. He spoke of a Pharisee & Publican, for example–a model of virtue vs. the epitome of vice. Yet at the end of the story it was that Publican and not the Pharisee who simply casting himself on God’s mercy went to his house justified–and that without any righteousness of his own to show thru keeping the law.
He spoke of Laborers in a Vineyard who all received the same wage–a denarius–however long they had worked–whether 12 hours or one. His point seemed to be that God’s love is not parceled out in quantities proportionate to individual merit. There is a 12th part of denarius–a pondion we called it. But what He emphasized is that there is no such thing as a 12th part of God’s love, and that salvation is as full as it is free.
He spoke of Two Debtors–one who owed a large sum of money and the other a relatively small amount. But in that neither could pay their debt, the creditor frankly forgave them both. And again we were left with the clear impression that the Salvation He had come to bring was not sufficient only for so many sins or for some kind of sins–but that by Him we could receive full pardon for all our sins, and that without cost to us!
He spoke of the Prodigal Son who defied his father and disgraced his family. And coming home he begins that carefully prepared speech that a wandering son feels that he must make–asking if he could just become his father’s servant. But the father would hear nothing of it. He didn’t say, “OK, but from here on you must prove yourself by…” Not at all–rather than putting him on probation to see how he would turn out the father went to pains to assure his returning son of his complete acceptance–that in perfect grace he could be accepted and enjoy all the benefits of family life.
And at times His teaching was more direct still. On one occasion He simply said boldly that if there was anyone at all who was burdened with sin and chafing under its sense of guilt, if they would but come to Him He would give them rest in a peaceful assurance of Divine favor.
Throughout His entire ministry there was that theme–that announcement that God’s salvation was freely available thru Him. That God demanded precisely nothing but that the sinner recognize his need of grace and to find it go to Jesus. The law, He taught, while it was entirely righteous and good, could not do by itself–it merely showed what was required and wherein the sinner had failed. It made no provision for the sinners rescue. But over and over again, He insisted that He was the bread of life, the water of life, the light of the world, the way, the truth, the life. That He had come to graciously provide for sinners what they could never do on their own.
And in His preaching He turned the accepted religious thinking of the day on its head. He spoke of a Pharisee & Publican, for example–a model of virtue vs. the epitome of vice. Yet at the end of the story it was that Publican and not the Pharisee who simply casting Himself on God’s mercy went to his house justified–and that without any righteousness of his own to show thru keeping the law.