Do you remember sitting in math class in elementary school? Your teacher was trying to get you to learn how to divide. You weren’t in the mood. You wondered why you needed to learn all that junk anyway. Then…after school, you and your buds went pop bottle hunting. You found a variety of bottles along the road. Some were worth two cents and some were worth five cents (yeah, I know I am dating myself here- but it’s okay, I am old). You carried them up town to Black’s Carry Out (didn’t every little town have a Black’s store?). Well, the clerk would give you a sum of money equal to the value of all the bottles. Problem! There are three of you and one pile of money containing pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters. What to do? Did you have an “Aha!” moment? So that’s why my teacher was trying to get across a lesson about division.
Well, things like that have happened to me a bunch of times. They are “after” lessons…the things we only learn well afterwards. So it’s best to pay attention in the classroom where the concepts are shared because you never know when or where you will need to apply them. Isn’t it sometimes like that with our spiritual lessons also? Do you remember, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when two of His disciples were walking on the Emmaus road and Jesus fell in alongside them as they went? They did not recognize Him. Why? Maybe it was the Lord Who prevented them from knowing Him at first. I’m sure part of it was that the kind of death He died as well as the reasons involved and the glorious resurrection He experienced left Him changed in ways, don’t you think? But maybe the bigger reason they didn’t recognize Him was because they knew He was dead. There was no getting around it. Everyone knew Jesus had been executed. So whoever this was walking and talking with them, it couldn’t be Him. Their sadness was showing…so the Stranger inquires about their conversation. They tell Jesus about Jesus without knowing it. They tell of His death…of their dashed hopes…of the surprising announcement by the women who went to the tomb that very morning and found Jesus’ body missing. They were distraught over it all. Then the Stranger began to teach them the Scriptures about Jesus and what He would go through. Later, after the travelers had reached their destination, the Stranger was persuaded to accept their hospitality. At the mealtime when Jesus accepted the bread and blessed and broke it, His two disciples finally recognized Him. He then vanished from their view. As the two amazed men spoke with each other, they realized that when Jesus had been opening the Scriptures to them along their journey their hearts were burning inside them. Only later they realized this. It was an “after” lesson.
Do you remember when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet? He said to them, “You don’t really know what I am doing, but later you will understand.” And some of us were privileged as children to hear Jesus’ words that it is more blessed to give than to receive. But we couldn’t grasp that truth until we grew up a little bit. These are “after” lessons.
There may be a sense in which everything God teaches us in His Word has this “after” lesson aspect to it. We can agree with it when we read it. We can, on some level, appreciate its value and truthfulness. But when we apply it…or when we go through trials…or when we witness it in others…maybe it’s only then that the lesson really begins to be learned. I am grateful to God for the “after” lessons He teaches us. Do you have an “after” lesson that dawned on you…made your heart burn…caused you to realize His blessed Presence? If you can take the time, I promise to read it. Imagine…Jesus walking alongside us and us not knowing it!