13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 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?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 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. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 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.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
On the first Easter the disciples learned they weren’t left with a memory of a dear and loving Lord. Their walk was one of intimate fellowship with the living Lord who had conquered death and the grave.
He was, and still is, all that he had been and even more. They discovered in his presence a warmth, graciousness and power superior to any they’d felt before his crucifixion.
Luke included the Emmaus road account because it was a powerful testimony to the resurrected Jesus by two credible eyewitnesses. (One of these, Cleopas, would likely have been known to many first generation Christians). Let’s look to see how Jesus chose to reveal himself to these sad, cynical disciples.
It was Sunday afternoon. Cleopas and his unnamed companion exited Jerusalem’s Western Gate, heading toward Emmaus. Even a casual observer could tell their discussion was intense as they walked along the road.
About fifteen minutes into the journey, a man they didn’t recognize caught up with them and with love, walked alongside them to quieten their fears, instruct their minds, increase their faith and restore their hope and confidence. Just as he can come alongside us today so we don’t walk the road of life alone.
Notice how he joins in their journey and conversation without breaking the thread of the moment.
“What’s this conversation you’re having with each other as you walk?”
They just stopped and looked at him, dumbfounded. Jesus’ execution was about the only thing people were talking about in Jerusalem. It had been the tragic climax to a week of controversy, confrontation, and political intrigue.
Perhaps “climax” was premature. A new twist had emerged that morning. Jesus’ body was missing. The Sanhedrin or the Romans hadn’t issued statements but there were rumours of a resurrection. The bush telegraph was abuzz.
Cleopas said, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s been happening here in the past few days?”
The man replied, “What things?”
“Issues concerning Jesus of Nazareth. A man who was a prophet. He was mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.”
Cleopas paused, clearly feeling this very deeply, then continued, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
He quickly wiped his eyes and started walking again. “Yes, and besides all this, it is now the three days since these things happened. Why, even this morning, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they didn’t find his body, came back saying they’d even seen a vision of angels, saying he was alive! Some of our friends who were with us went to the tomb and found it to be true. But they didn’t find Jesus”
They walked in silence for about a minute. Then the stranger said the last thing they expected: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Cleopas looked at the stranger, confused. Then the man looked right into Cleopas’s eyes and said, “Wasn’t it necessary the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
For the next two hours this strange man explained to Cleopas and his friend the entire Scriptures. Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he reminded them of the scriptures concerning himself.
As he did, the fire of their faith that had died out on Golgotha, came back to life and burned with that familiar hope. The hope that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Could it really be true? Jesus resurrected? How was this man, who at first had seemed clueless, able to make such clear sense of everything that had happened? And yet there was something familiar about this man.
How was this man, who at first had seemed clueless, able to make such clear sense of everything that had happened? And yet there was something familiar about this man.
As they reached Emmaus the sun was setting on the horizon. The stranger gave every indication he intended to continue his journey. The two revived disciples, average, ordinary believers to whom Christ had appeared and with whom he walked, most desperately pleaded with him to stay. At least for the night. They were overjoyed when he agreed.
For all of us, and particularly those on the edge exploring spirituality, it can be like that!
A close encounter in the presence of God, even lasting only a brief period, can be a God moment or a mountain top experience we want to last ‘forever’.
At dinner the man took some bread, pulled it apart, and gave them each a piece. As soon as the bread touched their hand’s they recognized who it was. Both gasped. And Jesus vanished.
With the memory of the ‘Last supper’ the two recognized who it was. Jesus is the bread which encourages us to come to the Table and gives meaning to the scriptures. It fulfils the scripture and helps us to recognise God as the God of Creation and Purpose.
Why do you suppose these two men were “kept from recognizing” Jesus for hours (v. 16)? The clue, I think, is in verse 25. Jesus called them “foolish” and “slow of heart to believe” the Scriptures. Their outward inability to recognize Jesus mirrored their inward unbelief of what the Scriptures revealed about him.
It was Jesus intention to help them see. But notice the priority of Jesus’ revelation: before he opened their physical eyes, he set about opening their heart-eyes.
Why? Because it was of utmost importance that they “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Jesus knew that between his resurrection and the full establishment of his kingdom would be his church on earth. His ascension was nearing. That meant these two men, all the other witnesses of the resurrection, and every generation of believers to come would not have his bodily presence for proof or guidance. They would have to rely on his “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12 12 Word) to “light [their] path” (Psalm 119:105
Because we are post-ascension, it is possible to see Jesus through the testimony recorded in the Scriptures.
One last observation. When God ordains things to happen contrary to our expectations (like Cleopas not expecting Jesus to die), those are times when we are tempted to doubt his word—lose faith—and as a result lose sight of him. But being unable to see him doesn’t mean that he isn’t there walking with us. Because we may not recognize him doesn’t mean it’s time to neglect the Word. Rather, these are the times to spend hours looking. It is where you will begin to recover your sight as you walk by faith.