About 15 years ago, my family took a wandering trip across the country. Somewhere in the middle of it all, we went to see my sister-in-law in New York City. After a lot of wrong turns, we finally found a parking garage in the neighborhood we needed. We parked. We walked to the stairwell.  My wife felt uneasy and said, “I don’t think we should go through that door”, but I said, “it’s okay”.

We walked down three flights of stairs, but the bottom door wouldn’t open.  We went up one flight.  That door was locked too. We started to become a little frantic and tried every door on every floor of the stairwell — including the one we had come through.  None of them would open. At this point, our wandering was no longer fun, but becoming a little bit scary. Jackhammers were banging right outside the stairwell. My wife and I feared that the whole thing was going to cave in on us and our three small children.

The Bible portrays many disappointing moments of people getting physically and spiritually lost. Luke especially uses a journalistic style that avoids candy-coating. He does not retreat from portraying human discouragement. In Luke chapter 24, we find a blunt portrayal of people questioning the identity of Jesus after his death. Jesus is actually talking to them, but they don’t recognize him. They are very sad because his death was not what they expected from a rescuing hero. Verse 17 says “they stood still, looking sad”. Verses 20-21 say, “our…rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to rescue Israel.” The phrase, “we had hoped”, implies that they are now without hope. To be human is to experience doubt and hopelessness. Fortunately, God does not leave people there.

Jesus (still unrecognized) challenges them to remember all that the Jewish prophets had already promised. He says their hearts are “slow to believe” and teaches them how the entire Old Testament is about Him! (Luke 24:25-27) This interaction implies that when we have doubts, we should investigate the Bible more seriously. How often do we back away from Scripture in our confusion, instead of pushing in to examine it more closely? Jesus reminds these followers that the Old Testament is a unified literary work that foreshadows and demands a sacrificial and immortal hero. It can stand up to our confusion. Only the story of Jesus makes sense of a world in which we long for justice and simultaneously long for grace. Two books that have helped me make sense of my own doubts are Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, and The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. Both help to show that the Jesus saga makes sense of all other stories. We should respect spiritual wanderers enough to challenge them to take Jesus seriously.

At the end of the interaction in Luke 24, Jesus is recognized when he breaks bread. This moment of recognition is still celebrated across all Christian traditions. We remember that Jesus was broken for us. He has become our true food and drink, echoing the Old Testament promises of Isaiah 55: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Will you pray for those who still search for spiritual food that satisfies? After several years of “de-churching” many who have doubts are beginning to give Christian churches another shot. We should take their questions seriously. God is not frightened by questions. We should not be surprised by doubt. Luke 15 clarifies that in love, God pursues and rescues those who are lost.

When my family got trapped in a New York City parking garage so many years ago, we did not just sit quietly in our existential angst. We cried out for help, banged on the doors, and finally a rescuer came. Christians are not the rescuers that people need, but we know the One   who is. People are crying out for answers. As a church, we love to engage those who are wandering. We love to take time to listen to and respect people’s spiritual questions. We enjoy every chance to have a real spiritual conversation. We would love for you to gather with us as we learn about the Jesus who finds us in our wandering.

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Dave McMurry

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