At 3:50 P.M. on the afternoon of 17 December 1927, the commandant of the Boston Navy Yard received a flash radio message from the U.S. Coast Guard Destroyer Paulding: “Rammed and sank unknown submarine off Wood End, Provincetown.” Within minutes, the worst fears of many were realized when it was confirmed that the submarine was the USS S-4. Though rescue efforts immediately began in earnest, it was too late for the 39 crewmen and a civilian observer aboard S-4. Most had already perished; six men trapped in the torpedo compartment would not be rescued in time.
Every effort was made to rescue the crew, but all ultimately failed. Near the end of the ordeal, a deep-sea diver, who was doing everything in his power to find a way for the crew’s release, thought he heard a tapping on the steel wall of the sunken sub. He placed his helmet up against the side of the vessel and he realized it was the Morse Code. He attached himself to the side and he spelled out in his mind the message being tapped from within. It was repeating the same question. The question, from within was: “Is…there…any…hope?”
Feeling hopeless reminds me of the two men whose story the gospel writer Luke shares for us in Luke 24. The setting is around two followers of Jesus who have not yet realized he has risen from the dead. They are walking to a little town called Emmaus which is about 7 miles from Jerusalem, and as they walk along Jesus joins them in the way, but they don’t realize it’s really Him. “And he said unto them, what manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which 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 have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done… And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
When Jesus finally revealed himself to them they said, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” WOW what a story! There they were one moment hopeless and tormented with their loss and the next filled with excitement and joy!
Have you ever had one those walks to Emmaus where, after a big event in your life, you find yourself thinking now what do I do?” Let’s just take a closer look at these two disciples and see what we can learn. We learn that often the greatest promise is right before our eyes, and we don’t even recognize it. These guys walked seven miles with Jesus and didn’t even realize he was with them. You may question, how could anyone not recognize Jesus? But many have walked more than seven miles in their lives and not seen Him either! We also learn there is a promise that was there whether we believed it or not. At this point all they believe was that Jesus had died and some had claimed he was alive again. Yet in their very presence the proof of the resurrection was walking right with them! This reminds me that the truth of the Bible, the truth of a God that is real, and the trust of a risen Savior is still a reality whether you or I believe it or not!
This leads me to my last thought. There remains a promise that when realized and embraced can change your life! When they realized who Jesus really was a few things changed. Broken and cold hearts were set ablaze through the experience of the Word of God becoming alive to them. They may have dragged their feet walking away from Jerusalem, but they were now high tailing it back down the road to tell the Disciples what they had experienced.
If you find yourself on an Emmaus Road, what will you do? Will you continue wondering along through life just getting by? Living in the past with regrets and questions? Or will you diligently look for Jesus in the middle of your season of challenge? The Resurrection is a reality and nothing on earth can diminish the hope and life that it brings. Whatever you do, don’t miss it!