13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles 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 recognising 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 only a visitor to Jerusalem and do 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 Him they did not see.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ 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 acted 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 recognised 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 together 34 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 recognised by them when He broke the bread.
For the past three or so years the followers of Jesus had seen some amazing things happen right in front of their eyes. The lame walked, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the dead lived – the list goes on. But in the words of that old song, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” The next 40 days between the resurrection and ascension were even more dramatic as the risen Jesus appeared to many of His disciples as the reality of His victory over death began to sink in.
Luke is the only gospel that records the story of Cleopas and his friend journeying to the village of Emmaus, but it is a wonderful story, as it not only gives us an historical record of what happened that day, but it also speaks of our own spiritual journey today.
As the risen Christ meets us on our travels through life, He takes our brokenness and confusion, and reveals Himself to us as He teaches us the truth of God. The result is a total transformation as the Spirit of God gives us a new purpose for living and a new burning desire to serve and worship Him.
This story teaches us not only about ourselves, but also how Jesus opens our eyes to see Him for who He is and about how we can come to know Him better.
So the journey to Emmaus is both a literal and a spiritual journey. For Cleopas and his friend it was a literal journey on that first Easter Sunday. We don’t know for sure, but Emmaus was probably their hometown. They were devastated by what had happened during the past few days, and Friday in particular, so now they had to pick up the pieces of their lives and carry on. This man Jesus had promised so much, and in their own words, “we had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” But it hadn’t worked out as they’d hoped. The Romans were still here, and Jesus was dead. They had not understood who He really was and what the real purpose of His life was, but they were soon to learn the truth on their journey home.
For us, we are on a similar journey. We don’t fully understand the purposes of God, and if the truth be told sometimes He is right there next to us, but because we’re so distracted by all the clutter in our lives we don’t even recognise Him. But as He walks with us on our spiritual journey to our spiritual home, He teaches us, reveals His purposes to us, and fills us with new hope.
The story of the Emmaus Road outlines for us the journey that we all take from not recognising Jesus, to understanding what the Bible teaches about Him, to recognising Him for who He is, and finally to being witnesses of what we have seen and experienced.
The first thing we’re able to learn today is that He seeks us first. In the words of Romans 5:8, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We don’t seek God – He seeks us. Cleopas and his friend were just going home, discussing what to do next, when Jesus joined them.
They knew who Jesus was, but they did not recognise Him. They knew a lot about Him. They had been witnesses to all those things that had happened in Jerusalem. They had heard on many occasions the things Jesus said about Himself. Yet, they were not able to recognise Jesus when He joined them.
Why is that? Why do we so often fail to recognise the presence of God?
The first problem is our weak faith. As Jesus said, “How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe.” Our sin and our weak faith will always hamper us, and this is why we need God to teach us about Himself, but in His grace, this is exactly what He does.
His gradual revelation of Himself allows us to learn lessons about trusting God and in His promises. Even though Jesus had told His disciples many times what was going to happen that weekend, they still struggled to believe it.
One of the main reasons for this is the same thing we battle with: We often have our own preconceived ideas of who God is and what He should be doing. As far as the followers of Jesus were concerned, He was meant to be the knight in shining armour that would get rid of the Roman oppressors once and for all. And when He didn’t do what they expected of Him, they were disillusioned, confused and felt that God had let them down.
How often are we disillusioned by God and left confused because He hasn’t done what we thought He should do for us?
Just like Jesus’ followers 2000 years ago, we find ourselves questioning God and His goodness, and sometimes we wonder if He is really there at all. Things do not happen as we expect, and our faith in God is weakened even further.
But God always has a plan – a plan that we very often cannot see or understand. Remember, He is God and we are not, so when things don’t quite turn out like we expect, instead of giving up and walking away from Him, maybe we should try to see things differently. Maybe we should try this prayer once in a while: “Lord, I don’t understand why this has or hasn’t happened, but I really want to seek your will for me. What is it you’re trying to teach me here?” Try it – you might be surprised at how He answers that prayer.
The disciples had heard the reports of the women who went to the tomb. Others had been there and also seen the empty tomb, but still they just could not believe what had happened. For God to do something as miraculous as raising Jesus from the dead was simply too much for them – despite the fact that they had seen Him do it many times. After all they’d seen and heard for years, they still did not see Jesus for who He really was.
And we must guard against making the same mistake – to dismiss what God has done or is doing simply because we cannot explain it or understand it. While God often uses natural things to accomplish His will, He also does things we can neither explain nor understand. These two disciples knew something had happened, but it was beyond their level of faith to see things as they truly were.
Just because they knew about Jesus does not mean they knew Him. Just because they could see Him does not mean they could see who He was. Many people today know who Jesus is. They’ve heard about Him, they’ve read about Him, some have even read the Bible, but their eyes are blinded to the truth of who He really is. And as a result, they would not recognise Him if they saw Him. Their eyes have not been opened. Knowing about Him and knowing Him are two different things.
And that’s where every single Christian once was, but by His grace, Jesus opens our eyes to see Him. A couple of weeks ago we looked at how God speaks to us today, and you’ll remember that His prime means of speaking to us is through Scripture, which is precisely what He did on the road to Emmaus that day. Verse 27 says, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
We’re not told the specific passages Jesus used, but we do know He used Scripture to show them how what we know today as the Old Testament all points to Him. The entire Bible can be summarised in just one sentence: It points us to Jesus Christ.
And just as He used the prophecies and promises of Scripture to teach our two travellers that day, so He continues to do the same with us today.
The Bible taught them and teaches us who Jesus is, why He came, and why it was so necessary. Jesus wants us to see that if we would only believe what the Scriptures say about Him, we would understand why He came and why He had to suffer. That’s how we know who He really is, when we understand the reason He came.
The Bible is the written testimony of who Jesus is. And He still uses it today to open the eyes of those who do not know Him.
In Luke 16:31 He says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
And in John 5:46, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.”
Many people will try to tell you who Jesus is. They will tell you He is one of many ways to get to Heaven. They will tell you He was a good man, a great prophet, a good teacher, and a rebel who defied the Roman authorities. But take away what the Bible says about Him, and you will never have a proper understanding of who Jesus is. So long as the non-believing world disregards what the Word tells us about Jesus, He will remain a prophet and a good teacher, and nothing more.
That is one of the reasons why it is so important to believe the entire Bible. You either believe all of it, or none of it. If we are going to pick and choose the parts of the Bible that suit us and disregard the parts we don’t like or feel are no longer relevant in modern society, we might as well just throw the whole thing away. If we feel it cannot be trusted on just one point, then we cannot trust any of it.
It is either all of God’s Word or it is not His Word at all. When we get into the Bible and the truths it reveals, it builds our faith, and as it teaches us, we come to realise that it is only through faith that we come to Jesus in the first place. The truth of Scripture about Jesus leads to personal faith in Jesus.
There is a very good reason for what we are told in verse 16: “They were kept from recognising Him.”
God prevented these two disciples from recognising Jesus to teach us a deep truth: Even if we were to see Jesus, we might still not believe. We have to learn to trust the testimony of the Bible. This is why we disregard or tamper with God’s Word at our peril.
We need to get a grasp on Biblical truth in order to learn and understand who Jesus is. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”
Outside of Scripture there is no reliable witness to who Jesus really is, simply because the Bible tells us the truth about Jesus.
And so the journey of discovery continues, because in verse 30 and 31 we’re told that Jesus revealed Himself to them – and the setting was important too. They were sitting down to a meal with Him. It was only when they had fellowship with Jesus that He revealed Himself to them. Many of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus were while people were sharing a meal. Even in the secular world, sharing a meal is not just about consuming food to fuel our bodies. It is about connecting with people. You can grab a bite to eat on the run, you can balance a tray on your lap while you stare at a TV screen or you can sit down for a family meal. Physically it makes no difference – you have to eat to survive, but when you share a meal with people and talk to them, you are having fellowship. You are investing in each other’s lives. In much the same way you can give a nod of acknowledgement in God’s direction and carry on with your own busy life, or you can stop what you’re doing and have fellowship with Jesus. You can choose to invest your time and your efforts in Him, and when you learn to do that, He begins to reveal more and more of Himself to you.
It’s in the intimacy of fellowship Jesus in spending time in prayer and in reading His Word that He reveals Himself to us. His working in our lives becomes clearer, and His provision and protection come more into focus. Of course, we’ll never fully understand God and His purposes, and I’m very comfortable with that, but the more time we spend with Him, the more of Himself and His purposes for our lives He teaches us.
It’s also interesting that once the disciples recognised Jesus, He simply disappeared from sight. What does that teach us? Quite simply, our trusting Jesus does not depend on seeing Him all the time, as much as we might like that to be the case, but rather we learn to trust Him by taking Him at His word. Just before the ascension, He told His disciples, “Surely I will be you always, to the very end of the age.” So while we might not physically see Him, we know that He is with us, and that we can trust Him. In the person of the Holy Spirit, He is here in this place right now, and He is in our hearts too. Jesus is much closer to us than we’ll ever fully understand.
But of course, that is not the end of the story. Look what happened to Cleopas and his companion: When they finally recognised Jesus, they could not help but share Him. When we begin to understand just who Jesus is and what He has done for us, by His Spirit He moves us to share the good news of salvation with others. When our eyes have been opened, we will want others to have their eyes opened too.
It was already evening – we’re told that in verse 29, but verse 33 tells us that halfway through their dinner they got up and went straight back to Jerusalem to share the good news that Jesus was alive. By now it would have been dark and the roads were dangerous places to be in those days, especially at night, but that didn’t stop them. The lesson for us here is that for many people it is almost evening. Time is running out, and this should fill us with a new urgency to tell others about Jesus. There is no time to lose.
You can sense their excitement: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Are our hearts burning with excitement within us? Is your heart burning with excitement with you? If it isn’t, ask God to give you a new passion and a new blaze of energy to share the truth of Jesus.
Their encounter with Jesus had been an emotional one. It had stirred them on the inside and moved their hearts. And once moved they could not help but share. They went back to the people they knew and loved, and told them, “It is true. The Lord has risen.”
And for us today – those who have seen and experienced the risen Christ should be no different. We should not be able to contain it. In John 20 is the well-known account of Jesus appearing to Thomas and dealing with his doubts. The most important part of that account is where Jesus speaks to Thomas, but actually refers to every other believer through the ages: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Do you believe that Jesus conquered death and is alive today? Then you are blessed!
Do you know Jesus this morning? Have your eyes ever been opened to who He is and what He has done for you? Do you know that He walks with you and talks with you? Can you testify to His presence in your life? Do you have fellowship with Him? Has your experience with Him been so real, so moving, so life-changing that it has caused you to tell others about Him?
You are on your own Emmaus Road through life. If you feel that you cannot see Jesus with you and that you don’t understand what He is doing in your life, then ask Him. Trust me – He will answer you, because this is what His word tells us.
I close with a promise I’ve used often during the past couple of months, because it is so true: “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Luke 24:13-35
The journey of the two disciples to the village of Emmaus reflects our own walk with God at times.
At first they were confused and disillusioned with God as (in their eyes at least) Jesus had failed in His mission to free the Jews from Roman rule.
How have you felt disillusioned or even let down by God?
Why do we go through times like this – times when He doesn’t do what we feel He should do?
As we know, eventually the disciples realised just who the stranger was that joined them on their journey, but this did not happen immediately.
What is the significance of Jesus teaching them from the Scriptures first?
Why did He not reveal Himself immediately to them, and how does this apply to our lives today?
It is no coincidence that Jesus revealed Himself fully to them once they sat down for a meal.
What is the significance of this, and again, what does this mean to you?
We know from verses 29 and 33 that by now it would have been dark, but the two disciples, whose “hearts were burning within them” left immediately to tell the others that Jesus was alive.
What can we learn from this?
Close by praying that God would give each of us a burning desire to share the good news of salvation in Christ.