On the Road to Emmaus

April 16, 2023

Lead Pastor Dr. Timothy Melton

Click here to watch the video

They were a young couple in their early 30s. They had been married for a couple of years when she was stricken by a rare illness that left her blind. It was not what they had planned for when they got married, but they both were committed to making the most of it. 

They learned new ways to live and her company even let her keep her job. It was difficult learning about braille, the use of a walking stick, and the use of a computer, but gradually she learned what she had to do. This also included having to learn about transportation. They lived in a big city in another part of the world and they had no car.

That first week he would come with her. They would walk from their apartment to the bus stop. They would go 8 stops and then she would exit and make her way into the building and up to her office. He spoke with the bus drivers so they would understand the situation and be able to “watch out for” her during her daily journey. They followed this same schedule each day that first week. She did well, but the next Monday would be the real test.

The next Monday was her first day on her own. She found her way to the bus stop. She got on the correct bus and exited after 8 stops. She found her building and her office just as they had practiced. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. She had done it!

As she was about to exit the bus on Friday the bus driver said to her, “Your husband must really love you.” A little confused she asked, “Why do you say that?” He answered, “You haven´t known it, but every day this week he has followed our bus on his bicycle. He has watched to make sure that you got on the right bus and got off at the right stop. He has been waiting for you at your bus stop every day after work. He has been there for you the whole time, even though you did not realize it. You were never out of his sight, even though he was never in yours.”

As God’s children that is often our story. Christ is present with us but because we aren’t looking or don’t know how to recognize Him we totally miss His presence. We struggle to believe, when He was faithfully with us the whole time. 

In today’s story we read of two of Christ’s followers who did not recognize Him even when He was standing right in front of them. Sadness had overtaken them after Christ’s death and their grief so blinded them that they failed to recognize that their risen Savior was the one walking alongside them in the road. As we consider these verses may we open our hearts to the scripture and ask God reveal Himself to us in a new way. 

The book of Luke is the only one of the gospels not written from the perspective of one of the apostles. Matthew was one of the 12, as was John. The gospel of Mark was written by John Mark but in reality it is the retelling of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life from the perspective of Peter. 

Because of this Luke gives us a different perspective than the apostles. 

Luke 1 tells us more about the perspective from which Luke wrote. Luke 1 begins with this introduction.

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

While the other gospels were written from the “inner circle” perspective, Luke gathered, investigated and recorded the stories from the larger group of eyewitnesses who followed Jesus. This gives Luke’s writing a broader perspective of Jesus seen through the eyes of various people. It might be similar to watching a video made with only one camera versus a video made coordinating the use of multiple cameras. Because of this Luke’s gospel has the potential of a fuller view of Jesus. 

We must also note that Luke was the only author of the New Testament who was not Jewish. He was a Gentile. He also did not actually walk with Jesus. Luke entered the story later on as a doctor who ministered alongside and at times cared for the apostle Paul. 

As we look at Luke 24:13-35 we need to keep in mind what had just happened leading up to these verses.

On Thursday night Jesus had been arrested and Jesus’ followers had scattered. Jesus was then tried, beaten and crucified on Friday. Saturday Jesus had lain dead in the tomb. Early Sunday morning the women had gone to the tomb to put spices on the body, but when they arrived they found the tomb open and were met by two angels who told them that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Luke then wrote how the women “returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.” To those who heard the report, “these words seemed to them like an idle tale, and they did not believe.” (Luke 24:11) Peter then had run to the tomb and found it empty. He then went home marveling at what had happened.

That had happened Sunday morning and it was now Sunday evening, when this next story was told in the very next verses, Luke 24:13-35. 

Luke wrote, 

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

These verses start out with the words, two of “them,” referring to the group mentioned in the previous verses. This shows us that these men had been with the disciples that morning. The two men were now walking together to Emmaus and talking about all the events of the recent days. It would have been about 2.5 or 3 hours walk to Emmaus from Jerusalem.

As they walked and talked Jesus came up alongside them and entered into the discussion, but they did not recognize Him. Jesus asked what they were talking about and they “stood still, looking sad.”

From the previous verses we know that earlier that morning these two men had heard the testimonies of the women seeing the angels and the testimony of a few of the apostles who had run down to the grave to confirm their story. But yet they were still sad. They then told Jesus, “it is now the third day.” That shows us that they were familiar with some prophecy that had to do with what would happen on the third day. 

They seemed to be sincere followers of Christ, but yet even with these different indicators of Christ´ resurrection they were still caught up in their sadness. 

Cleopas, one of the men, then told how Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in deed and in word, had been condemned to die and crucified by the chief priests and rulers in Jerusalem. Cleopas had hoped that this Jesus was the one to redeem Israel. 

From these words we see that eventhough Cleopas´ sadness was sincere his understanding was not correct. The word translated “redeemed” literally meant to set free. It was a word that still hinted towards the kind of Messiah that would come to set them free from the Roman occupation. That was not the kind of Deliverer that Christ had come to be. Cleopas also erroneously referred to Jesus as a prophet from God, and in some way Jesus was a prophet, but He was a whole lot more. He was God in the flesh. As Peter had proclaimed in Matthew 16:16, Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. 

Verse 16 says, “But their eyes were kept from recognizing him (Jesus).” It wasn’t just that Cleopas and the other person with him could not recognize Jesus, they were being kept from recognizing Him. But why would that be? Why would Jesus allow Cleopas to continue in His sadness when Jesus was standing right there?

We begin to see the answer to this question as we continue reading the following verses.

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Jesus is not using “foolish” as a way to humiliate or ridicule. He is merely stating the fact that they are ignorant of the scriptures. They had likely grown up as good Jewish children reading the scriptures and heard Jesus teach many times, but they somehow still wore blinders or filters received from their religious bias that allowed them to read but not see and hear but not understand. Because of this their hearts were slow to believe ALL that the prophets had spoken. They were looking for the King who would sit on the throne of David forever but were blind to the Old Testament picture of the Passover Lamb and the Suffering Servant. God was not doing what they wanted or expected so their hearts were slow to believe. 

We are tempted to do the same. It is easier to think about blessing, love and abundance and leave out the surrender, sacrifice and repentance, but if we only believe the convenient parts of the scripture then we, too, will be ignorant of the truth and be slow of heart to believe ALL that God’s Word has to say. 

In response to their unbelief and misdirected sadness Jesus took them on a journey through the Old Testament, through centuries and centuries of stories, prophecies, and promises, revealing to them from the scriptures all that the Messiah would be. Jesus must have explained to them from the Old Testament all the prophecies that showed who the Messiah would be and how to recognize Him. In scripture He showed them how God works and how the crucifixion and resurrection made perfect sense and the type of Servant/King the Messiah would be. Jesus helped show the purpose, person and plan of the Messiah to these two followers who had been made teachable by the sadness that now filled their hearts. 

Jesus was living out Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

The Bible is a story of how mankind sinned and broke its relationship with God. How when mankind had no hope for restoration, God reconciled mankind to Himself through Jesus Christ. Because of this, the central point of the scripture is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All of the Old Testament points forward towards Christ and all of the New Testament points back to Him. Christ is the central and essential part of all life. 

As we read so clearly in Colossians 1:15-20, 

15 He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Scripture tells us that Jesus is the “Alpha and Omega, the Author and Perfecter of Our faith, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, our Great High Priest, Immanuel “God With Us”, King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World, the Lord of All, the Messiah, Our Rock, Our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.”

In the words of British author H.G. Wells, “I am a historian. I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in history.”[1]

In the words of Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola in their book, Jesus Manifesto

“when Christ is not central and supreme in our lives, everything about life shifts out of orbit and moves out of kilter. So for Christians, our first task is to know Jesus.”[2]

That was Jesus’ goal that evening as they walked along the road when He accepted the invitation to stop at Cleopas’ house in Emmaus. That these two companions would put their faith in the true Messiah. 

It was then as they shared the meal and as Jesus broke the bread that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. Like Peter’s proclamation of the Christ that had been revealed to him by the Father or Lydia’s salvation that came as God opened her heart, it was a work of God. The veil was removed. Blind eyes could see. There, sitting at the small table in their home, they suddenly recognized Him and Jesus then vanished before their eyes.

Physical proof had not been enough. Eyewitness testimony was not enough. A walk through the Bible was not enough. It was only as the Spirit of God revealed Christ to them that they finally saw Him and believed,and that made all the difference. 

If they had recognized Jesus immediately when He first joined them on the road they probably would have clung to their incorrect beliefs of who Christ was, and their self-serving belief. But as they waited in veiled sadness all the other necessary conditions came into place so they could fully experience everything that was found in Christ. 

Now for them everything was different. The sadness was gone. They believed rightly and clearly. They both agreed that their “hearts had burned within them while Christ had be talking to them on the road, while He opened the scripture.”

They got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the apostles and others gathered with them now declaring that, “The Lord has risen indeed! And has appeared to Simon!” This group who had counted the women’s testimony as an idle tale that morning now proclaimed that Christ was alive. Cleopas and his companion then shared the great news of all that happened on the road to Emmaus and joined in the certainty that Jesus was alive!

That is the story of the Road to Emmaus, but what can these words mean to us today?

Jesus pursues us with compassion. He sought out those who doubted and patiently showed them the way of faith. They were ignorant and misled but still they were a priority to Him, even this first day after His resurrection.

God uses the struggle to draw us to Himself. God, at times, uses our sadness and doubt, to work something greater in us. His love is great enough to allow the struggle if it will result in us knowing Christ more. 

Our spiritual life is hindered if we believe only parts of scripture. May we not be slow of heart, but may God continue to grant us a courageous faith, pre-committed to total obedience.

A Christian’s life is to revolve around Christ. Our thoughts, our priorities, our desires, our words and our actions. As He becomes Lord of our entire lives we will come to know Him as He truly is. 

During the 1800s there was a simple man named Dwight L Moody. He was a shoe salesman. He was just an ordinary man. He was educated only until the fifth grade. He could not spell. His grammar was not good. His manners were non-existent and he was at times crude. Moody’s Sunday School teacher once said that he had never seen anyone whose mind was as spiritually dark as Moody’s.

Moody eventually surrendered his life to serve Christ and in the years ahead God did extraordinary works in and through his life. It is estimated that Dwight L Moody led several hundred thousand people to Jesus Christ in his lifetime.

Once, when an evangelistic campaign was being planned in England, an elderly pastor was reported to have protested, “Why do we need this ‘Mr. Moody’? He’s uneducated, inexperienced, etc. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” A younger, wiser pastor rose and responded, “No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody.” [3]

It was this full surrender that opened the way for God to do extraordinary things in his life. “D.L. Moody tells of how he once heard someone say that “The world has not yet seen what God could do with one man who would be totally surrendered to Him.” In response D.L. Moody said, “I want to be that man.”

May we as individuals and as a church follow Moody’s example. May we never be slow of heart, only believing part of God’s Word, as were those on the road to Emmaus, but as we surrender all that we are, to all that Christ is, may we recognize His presence and make Christ the center of our lives.

[1] Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola in their book, Jesus Manifesto, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2010), 1.

[2]Ibid, 2.

[3] http://revivalhut.com/tag/dwight-l-moody/ Dec. 10, 2015