Luke 24: 13 – 35 On the road to Emmaus
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 recognising 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.
‘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 further. 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 table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised 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?’
They got up at once and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.
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This narrative describes the first physical appearance of Jesus after his resurrection. It has several interesting aspects.
One aspect is that this first appearance was not to the Eleven (although it may have been simultaneous with the appearance to Simon). The risen Jesus appeared first to two disciples, one named Cleopas, and the other unnamed.
The second is that these disciples didn’t, at first, recognise Jesus. They walked a significant distance with him – it was seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and, while the account doesn’t say Jesus walked all the way with them, it gives the impression that he walked the greater part of it. He certainly had plenty of time to expound the Scriptures to them.
The third is that they only recognised Jesus when he took bread, gave thanks and broke it. All of a sudden, they realised who was with them, but before they could greet him, he disappeared from their sight.
The fourth aspect is that they were so thrilled by the encounter that they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem – nearly three hours walking, in addition to the three hours they’d already walked that day.
The fifth interesting point is that when they arrived in Jerusalem, they discovered that Jesus had been there before them.
There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’
The risen Jesus seems to be no longer limited in time. His appearance to Simon seems to have happened simultaneously with his appearance to the Emmaus disciples.
Let’s consider first why the disciples didn’t immediately recognise Jesus.
After the event, they knew that they’d been aware of who was talking to them all the time: 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?’ They hadn’t recognised him in the sense of greeting a dearly beloved friend, but they had recognised the authority with which he spoke.
Why would God have wanted them not to recognise the risen Jesus immediately?
Perhaps it was because there were things that they had to know before they were fully ready to believe. If Jesus had walked up to them, and greeted them in his normal fashion, and they’d recognised him, what would they have done? I think there would have been a great deal of emotion, and incredulity, and – well, chatter. But they needed to know that this is the risen Jesus, who fulfils prophecy. It’s the lesson that Jesus tried to teach them in Luke 18: 31 – 34; only, now they’ve seen his death. Here, in glorious fulfilment of Jesus’ words, is the risen Lord. Now they can understand Jesus’ teaching, and they can see how it fits with the teaching of the Scriptures.
It’s of less importance, but still interesting, that Jesus first appeared to these obscure disciples. Perhaps one lesson we could learn is that God will speak to whoever is listening, however humble.
And what did they do when God made Jesus’ resurrection clear to them? They set off, in the dark, to walk seven miles back to Jerusalem. They were absolutely thrilled! I find that very moving. The joy felt by these two men drove them out of the house and onto the road, heedless of danger, discomfort and fatigue, because Jesus, their Lord whom they’d seen crucified, was alive!
JESUS IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!
Thank you that you raised Jesus from the dead, and revealed the risen Jesus physically to his disciples. Help us to come so close to Jesus that we too share the joy of knowing that he is risen.
In Jesus’ name, Amen