It would take both decades and the conversion of some top calibre theologians, like Saul of Tarsus, before ‘The Way’ recognised some of the wider implications of the cross and became Christianity, as the Romans later called it. In the meantime, the church hit the ground running, with a solid theological foundation to guide them and the Spirit to give them wisdom. After Jesus’ ascension, the next predictable day of judgement was Pentecost and so, as in the time of Joel, an appointment with power from on high lay just down the track. When the power came, God poured out the Spirit to warn his people and Jesus disciples strove to snatch those they could from the fire. Peter laid the Law, as defined by Christ, before their nation. A great many priests turned to the new movement (Acts 6:7), providing an ideal audience for an original Hebrew version of Matthew’s Gospel, written by a Levite for other Levites. Then when the gentiles too began to embrace the gospel, it proved Christ’s sacrifice, based, as it was, upon the law of Eden, equally efficacious for any child of Adam.
A considerable body of scholarship has long argued that the awaited day of judgement for Jerusalem came in 70 C.E., and indeed there is merit in that analysis. Yet if this Emmaus journey has taught us nothing else, we should have learnt that such things repeat themselves. This may have been the last day for Herod’s temple but it was not the last day for all things. Forces beyond mere human control still stand ready to unleash chaos wherever God withdraws his blessing and the divine word remains eternal. Whenever circumstances dictate, the law will convict mankind and leave us in need of grace. The word of God will then proscribe the only way back. Between now and the end of all earthly things, the chances are that there will be many more days of judgement and cataclysms, whether national, corporate or personal. Yet, Christ’s perspective will always help us see them for what they are and survive amidst them. When they arrive, which could be at the time we least expect, then faithfulness in serving Christ will be what counts.
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