Every story has an arc.
The arc begins with an introduction of the story’s characters, place, and time. As it curves upward, we discover hopes and desires and challenges to those hopes and desires. A conflict is created. The conflict rises to a climax, and then the story falls to a resolution.
Along the way are literary elements such as hyperbole, imagery, theme, and comic relief.
These are found in The Greatest Story Ever Told, the climax and resolution of which we remember every Easter.
Friday recalled the Crucifixion and agony Jesus suffered on the cross. There is grief. There is tension.
Saturday, we waited. There is questioning. How could this story possibly end well?
Sunday, He conquered Death and rose from the grave. There is rejoicing.
And then, later that day, the Conqueror, the Victor, meets two strangers on the road. And He talks with them.
“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
“He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’
“They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’
“’What things?’ he asked.”
~Luke 24:13-19, NIV
When this passage was read during a Sunday morning sermon a few years ago, I wanted to laugh, but in a crowded auditorium steeped in reverence and solemnity, I stifled it.
The very person to whom all of these things had been done was asking, “What things?” He knew. He knew exactly what had happened. He was the one who had met Death.
Yet, He asked them.
I could see it. All of Jerusalem stunned at what had happened, walking down the street, talking to their friends and family members, saying, “Did you see? The sky, it….it….”
“Yes! Dark in the middle of the day!”
A woman telling her daughter, “And the veil ripped!”
“What? No! That can’t be! What shall we do? How do we replace it?”
“Replace it? No. We don’t need to.”
A boy talking to his father.
“Did he actually do it?”
“Come back? No, that’s impossible.”
“But Jacob’s father, he guarded the tomb, and even though he has to tell people it didn’t happen, he said…”
“No, it’s not possible! Do not listen to any of that foolishness!”
Conversation rippled, words sailing to every corner.
And in comes a man who asked, “What things?”
“What things had happened?” the travelers asked. “What do you mean, what things? How do you not know?”
“‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’
“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'”
~Luke 24:19-32, NIV
There is so much relief now, Sunday, that we can laugh and say, “Yes, this is our Savior,” reveling in the lightness we feel now that the Fight has been won.
The Story really has arced well. We are moving toward the Resolution.