By Taylor MacHenry
How many of us are like the two disciples who walked along the road to Emmaus on the Sunday when Jesus rose from the grave? Some food for thought. It certainly stopped me as I read the 24th chapter of Luke to consider the possibility that I also may have met an Angel of God or even Jesus somewhere, and I didn’t recognize either the Angel or my Savior and Lord.
My morning Bible reading took me through the Book of Isaiah, chapters 65 and 66, the Book of Job, chapter 14, verses 11 through 22 and the Book of Luke, chapter 24. As I read from Luke and the event that Luke describes on the road to Emmaus, I recalled an experience a number of years ago when I believe that I met an Angel of the Lord, and I didn’t realize it at the time. But later, the idea of this person being an Angel grew in my heart with great confidence. It would explain many strange things about this young man.
At the time this happened, I taught a Thursday evening Bible study at my church. That evening, I arrived to meet a young man who joined our group for the night. He had a presence of peace about him, and he held a well-used Bible. He also knew the words of Scripture without looking, so I knew that he was no newcomer to God’s Word.
I do not recall the young man’s name, and it is not important for this story.
He said that he began his journey in Louisiana, where he lived, and that God had called him to go to California. Not by bus or train or even airplane, but on foot. Walking the entire distance with everything that he needed packed in a rucksack that he carried on his back.
Along his way, a coyote had joined him, walking at his side without a leash or any kind of controlling device, but devoted and friendly as any pet dog, and well-heeled and good mannered. The man told me that this was likely a mix of domestic dog and coyote but breed really wasn’t important. The animal was his companion and remained steadfastly at the fellow’s side.
The animal lay quietly under the table, where the man sat during our Bible study, and when we had finished and walked outside, the coyote came too, again at the man’s right side. The man had a length of rope that he could slip around the dog’s or coyote’s neck, if it being free to roam made people nervous, but with me as we walked and talked, the rope wasn’t necessary.
This fellow from Louisiana on mission for Christ told me that when he reached California, the Lord then sent the man eastward, down to Arizona, where he spent a few days in Tucson. Then God told him to pack up and go to Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas and deliver a message to the congregation of that infamous church. This man would only say that the message was specific and important.
I wanted to know more, given the reputation of this church that seemed bent on judgment against everyone except themselves. But the young man only smiled and shook his head, no.
After delivering his message to the congregation of Westboro Baptist Church, the young fellow said that he would then go to Pennsylvania, again trekking the distance on foot with the coyote at his side. God had a plan for him there too. Perhaps he would return to Louisiana after that.
He told me fascinating stories of his journey across the western half of the United States. People and events happened that we could only agree that God had put this young fellow there for God’s purposes in helping specific people in crisis events.
For example, on the road outside Tucson, a couple in a pickup truck had stopped with their engine overheated. They had gotten out of their truck and stood with this man and his dog, when out of nowhere a speeding semi-tractor trailer rig came careening around the curve, and slammed through the couple’s pickup truck, demolishing it.
“You saved our lives!” the people had said to him. But he only answered that God had saved their lives by putting him there on the outskirts of Tucson at exactly the right moment. They should praise God, not him. To me, it sounded like something an Angel of the Lord would say. We are all servants of the same Lord.
In that meeting with the couple at Tucson, he led them to Christ, sharing the Gospel of our Lord with them. He led them in praying the “Sinner’s Prayer.”
This man’s goodness and purpose, selflessly walking across the nation, brought to my mind the Scripture recorded in the Book of Matthew, chapter 25, and what Jesus had said to His disciples when He told them about The Final Judgment in verses 31 through 46. The Scripture says that we all will be held into account, the King dividing the righteous from the wicked, just as a shepherd will divide the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Christ said to His disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison, and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” [Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV)]
This young man had asked if we would allow him to pitch his tent on our grounds, and one of our members who took care of the buildings and church maintenance had told the fellow that it was too cold outside at night. He should come inside one of our Sunday School classroom buildings to sleep, and that he would turn on the heat for him. Which he did.
I sized the man up and down: his hair was dusty, and he had a week’s worth of stubble on his face. While I never noticed any smell about the man, he nonetheless looked like he could use a bath and wash his clothes. So, rather than have him sleep in a classroom, I invited him and his pet to come to my home, have a good meal, spend the night in a bed, take a shower and wash his clothes.
His face seemed to beam light as he smiled and said that he would certainly like that very much. So, I took him and his coyote home with me.
The fellow had a couple of changes of clothes in his rucksack, all of them dirty, and he emptied them out from the pack, atop which he carried his tent and a rolled up thin mat made of foam rubber. He and his pet coyote-dog headed upstairs where he got himself clean and my wife washed and dried all his clothes. He borrowed a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt to wear in the meantime and slept in them too.
Interestingly about the coyote that may have been half dog but looked all coyote to me, it had no smell and its fur felt clean to the touch as I pet him. The animal had perfect manners and got along with my German Shepherd dogs and Jack Russell Terrier too. The cats also seemed fine with him being here.
The next day, after spending more time talking about our faith in Jesus Christ and how serving Him trumped all other priorities in our lives, the fellow asked me directions toward US Highway 24. I shook my head, no, and told him to get in my pickup truck, with his dog and his kit, and I would simply take them to it.
He thanked me and said that it would be great, if it wasn’t too much trouble.
“No trouble at all,” I said.
By the time that I had gotten to the Peyton, Colorado post office on Highway 24, God had already put it on my heart to take this young fellow and his pet coyote one more measure.
“How about I just take you up the road to Calhan?” I said, already turning onto Highway 24 and heading east. It was a rhetorical question, and I would not accept anything but agreement.
By the time we reached Calhan, a 14-mile jaunt from Peyton, I already knew that we needed to just go the distance to Limon, Colorado, where US Highway 24 meets Interstate Highway-70, the main expressway to and across Kansas. I just kept driving through the town and said nothing. The young fellow smiled.
I told him as Calhan grew small in my rearview mirror, “It’s not that much further to Limon.”
When we reached Limon, God had already put it on my heart that I needed to take this young man to the grocery store and get him some food for the road. Which I did, and the fellow thanked me even more. He had no money.
Then God also reminded me that I needed to give the young fellow a hundred dollars, for the road. So, I went to an automated teller machine, and got a hundred dollars cash, and just handed it to the fellow.
“What’s this for?” the young fellow asked as I laid the five $20-dollar bills in his hand.
“I believe you will need it for the road,” I said. “God put it on my heart to give it to you.”
By that time, it was late in the day as we pulled up to the place where US Highway 24 meets Interstate-70. I looked nearby and saw a KOA campground with a string of cabins alongside the many spaces for camper hookup.
“Will you try to travel this evening?” I asked him.
“No,” he said. “I’ll pitch my tent over here somewhere and take off at dawn.”
“How about I rent you one of those KOA cabins, and we pick up some hamburgers?” I suggested.
“You’ve done too much already,” he said.
“God says otherwise to me, son,” I told him.
So, we concluded our time together with hamburgers and French fries eaten at a picnic table by the rented cabin at the KOA campground in Limon, Colorado.
When I got up to leave, he came and embraced me, and then prayed with me. He asked our Lord to bless me, and I felt humbled to my knees.
As I drove homeward, bidding this very special person farewell, I felt a great joy not only in my heart but throughout my whole being. I had no doubt that God had used me to help His servant and knowing that was reward of its own.
Jesus through His Holy Spirit had gone with us that day, this traveler for God and his well-mannered coyote companion.
I have enjoyed other times in my life when the Lord has gone with me and used me for His purposes. As a member of Gideons International, taking the Gospel of Christ to the nations, to show people the way of Salvation. A simple matter of anyone believing in Jesus as God’s only begotten Son, who sacrificed his life as the Son of Man, to die on the cross and carry the weight of all the sins of humankind on His shoulders, because He so loved us. Then lain dead in a grave, Christ rose on the third day, demonstrating for all of us that this life may end with the death of the body, but that every person’s eternal soul can be saved by the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ and will live with Him in His Father’s Kingdom for all time. A very simple matter of believing in Jesus, as a child will believe. We are born again in Him, as Jesus told Nicodemus. Our trusting in Jesus and receiving His eternal grace justifies all of us from our sins. It is a joyous event in which all the angels in Heaven celebrate when even one person comes to Christ as his or her Savior and Lord.
I have knelt on a busy street in New York City, prayed with and tended to a homeless man, an African American US Air Force veteran, mentally ill, who I knew as Carl Blue, and he was a child of God despite his mental illness and alcoholism. I knelt there in my Marine Corps green service “Alpha” uniform as people frowned at me walking past, and I washed his filthy, badly infected feet. Cleansed them with hydrogen-peroxide and rubbed healing ointment on the boils that festered across both of his swollen ankles and arches. Clearly a result of alcohol and diabetes. And I gave him vitamins and other things he needed as time went forward, until I left New York City.
Carl Blue lived in a hovel outside my office building, and God put it on my heart to love this man, a beggar but a child of God, and the Lord asked me to tend to him.
It is not about me doing good for anyone. This is about God using you and me for His purposes! We give God the praise and glory that He sends us as His vessels to carry out His plans and will.
Our Father in Heaven’s Holy Spirit, who is the Holy Spirit of Christ and is the third Person of God is with us constantly. God walks with us through His presence indwelled in all who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
We never know who the next stranger that we encounter might be, but we serve that person, that child of God, whether or not that person believes, because our Lord loves that child and sends us to him or her unconditionally.
Sometimes, that stranger that we encounter on our figurative journeys to Emmaus just might be an Angel of the Lord, or that person might be Jesus Himself, as He appeared to Abraham and Jacob and others in Biblical history, not simply as the Messiah sent by the Father to save humanity from our sins.
While Christ promises to come as lightning in the east and thunder in the west and will take up His church one day; as He will also do one day at the End Times when He returns with His saints and will crush the grapes of His wrath in His winepress, Jesus can also come to us quietly as a stranger in need in the meantime too.
And Christ or His Angel might be that person that we meet along our own road to Emmaus, where Jesus met two of His disciples walking, oblivious that our Lord and Savior had risen from the grave that morning and that He now walked alongside them.
The possibility is well worth pondering as we encounter the next person on our daily goings and comings, and something tugs at our souls and points us to that person.
So, gather your confidence and do not worry, just do as your heart urges you. The Holy Spirit is here and God will take care of everything.
Luke 24:1-53 (Christian Standard Bible)
24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered his words.
9 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths., So he went away, amazed at what had happened.
THE EMMAUS DISCIPLES
13 Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles, from Jerusalem. 14 Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. 15 And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them. 16 But they were prevented from recognizing him. 17 Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.
18 The one named Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked them.
So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21 But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, 23 and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.
28 They came near the village where they were going, and he gave the impression that he was going farther. 29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 It was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 That very hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and those with them gathered together, 34 who said, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they began to describe what had happened on the road and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
THE REALITY OF THE RISEN JESUS
36 As they were saying these things, he himself stood in their midst. He said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. 38 “Why are you troubled?” he asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 Having said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 But while they still were amazed and in disbelief because of their joy, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered, from on high.”
THE ASCENSION OF JESUS
50 Then he led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 And while he was blessing them, he left them and was carried up into heaven. 52 After worshiping him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they were continually in the temple praising God.