On the Road to Emmaus
That same day, Sunday, two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles out of Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking of Jesus’ death, when suddenly Jesus himself came along and joined them and began walking beside them. But they didn’t recognize him, for God kept them from it.
“You seem to be in a deep discussion about something,” he said. “What are you so concerned about?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. And one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about the terrible things that happened there last week.”
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the Man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a Prophet who did incredible miracles and was a mighty Teacher, highly regarded by both God and man. But the chief priests and our religious leaders arrested him and handed him over to the Roman government to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had thought he was the glorious Messiah and that he had come to rescue Israel.
“And now, besides all this—which happened three days ago—some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning and came back with an amazing report that his body was missing, and that they had seen some angels there who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, Jesus’ body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You are such foolish, foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures! Wasn’t it clearly predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his time of glory?”
Then Jesus quoted them passage after passage from the writings of the prophets, beginning with the book of Genesis and going right on through the Scriptures, explaining what the passages meant and what they said about himself.
By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus would have gone on, but they begged him to stay the night with them, as it was getting late. So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he asked God’s blessing on the food and then took a small loaf of bread and broke it and was passing it over to them, when suddenly—it was as though their eyes were opened—they recognized him! And at that moment he disappeared!
They began telling each other how their hearts had felt strangely warm as he talked with them and explained the Scriptures during the walk down the road. Within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem, where the eleven disciples and the other followers of Jesus greeted them with these words, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter!”
Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.
The disciples from Emmaus were counting on Jesus to redeem Israel—that is, to rescue the nation from its enemies. Most Jews believed that the Old Testament prophecies pointed to a military and political Messiah; they didn’t realize that the Messiah had come to redeem people from slavery to sin. When Jesus died, therefore, they lost all hope. They didn’t understand that Jesus’ death offered the greatest hope possible.
Step of Faith
Why did Jesus call these disciples foolish? Even though they well knew the biblical prophecies, they failed to understand that Christ’s suffering was his path to glory. They could not understand why God did not intervene to save Jesus from the cross. The world has not changed its values: A suffering servant is no more popular today than two thousand years ago. But we have not only the witness of the Old Testament prophets, but also the witness of the New Testament apostles and the history of the Christian church all pointing to Jesus’ victory over death. Will we step outside the values of our culture and put our faith in Jesus? Or will we foolishly continue to be baffled by his Good News?