April 20, 2014
There were two of them.
They were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village about seven miles away. It was Sunday, the first day of the week. As the two men walked together they puzzled over the tumultuous events that had occurred in Jerusalem over Passover.
Story-teller Luke makes clear the men’s destination (Emmaus), and the subject of their conversation, but he identifies the two travelers only as followers of Jesus. He does not tell us their names.
Then as the two walked toward Emmaus, a third man caught up with the Sunday travelers and walked along with them.
Luke at this point reveals to his readers that this Third Man is Jesus Himself, the newly resurrected Christ, but the two Sunday travelers did not recognize Him. They saw Him simply as a stranger, supposing, perhaps, he was a Passover pilgrim on his way home.
The Third Man entered into the conversation with a comment and a question.
“You seem to be in a deep discussion about something,” he said. “What are you so concerned about?” *
The two men could hardly believe their ears.
They stopped in astonishment.
“You must be the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has happened the last three days,” said Cleopas (here Luke identifies one, but only one, of the Sunday travelers by name).
“We’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet and a great teacher,” Cleopas explained, “and did wonderful miracles. We thought he was the Messiah. But the religious leaders and temple authorities turned him over to the Romans for execution, and they crucified him,” Cleopas concluded sadly.
“But listen to this!!” Cleopas continued. “Early this morning some of the women went to the tomb where Jesus was buried and it was empty!! Angels were there and they told the women that Jesus was alive!!
I know—I know. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
But here’s the puzzle: when the men went to investigate this empty tomb story the women were telling, sure enough: Jesus body was missing just like the women said. What do you think about that?”
Then Jesus told them what He thought.
He told them that He thought that they had been remarkably slow to understand what Scripture had taught about the Messiah, His sufferings and death, and His resurrection.
Jesus then explained the Messianic prophecies at such length and in such detail that the trio had reached Emmaus by the time His lecture was complete.
It was late, so when the Third Man acted as though he intended to walk on further, the two Sunday travelers protested, and took Him home with them to eat and rest and spend the night.
Then as they sat together at the table, the Third Man took a small loaf of bread, blessed, and broke it, and in that moment their eyes were opened to see what their hearts had already sensed: this was indeed Jesus, their blessed teacher, their maker of miracles, the Messiah they had welcomed until that terrible day when (they thought) that death had taken Him away. But in that moment of their recognition, Luke tells us, He disappeared.
Then, tired or not, the excited two, certain of their new data, started back to Jerusalem to report to the other disciples that they had seen Jesus, that He was alive!
When at long weary length they reached Jerusalem again (that’s a fourteen mile round trip), they found that others had also seen Jesus (“He came to Peter,” they reported excitedly). Then while the two Sunday travelers were reporting that Jesus had come to them too on their way to Emmaus, Jesus Himself appeared in the middle of the room.
Understandably, the disciples felt frightened, confused, overwhelmed with joy and filled with wonder all at once.
Meeting them where they were emotionally, Jesus said, “Here—touch me. I have a real body—I’m not a ghost. See my hands and feet.”
They hesitated. Jesus seeing their hesitation responded with understanding and compassion.
He asked simply, “Do you have anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of broiled fish, Luke tells us, and watched Him while he ate it.
Luke does not tell us what Jesus's followers thought then, or felt. But he tells us what happened. They sat together and Jesus explained again those Scriptures which had taught from the beginning that Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead.
Thinking with you this glorious Easter morning not only of the Christ, the risen, glorified Messiah of whom the Scriptures testify, but of that Messiah Who, risen, remained the compassionate Jesus of Nazareth who walked with His disciples and ate with them.
Like those Sunday travelers to Emmaus, I know He is risen—He has taught me on the journey, and I have seen Him in the breaking of the bread.
See you next week,
**I have paraphrased Luke 24:13-46, New Living Translation.