An amazing story is recorded about one of Jesus’ first appearances after His resurrection. It gives us lessons for today.
[Darris McNeely] I have a good friend that I talk to about every week and this has been going on for the last 40 years. No, it’s not my wife. She’s my best friend. But I’m talking about my closest male friend. We share a lot, a calling, and a passion for God’s word. And when we discuss the Bible, it is what we sometimes call a renaissance conversation. What do you talk about with your friends? What kind of conversation brings you joy and satisfaction? Disciples must talk deeply and passionately about God and His Word. It’s how disciples walk together in agreement, in unity. Unity of purpose was a critical need for Christ disciples in the post-resurrection period. In the hours after the resurrection, Jesus found two disciples walking away from Jerusalem on the road leading to Emmaus, a small village about seven miles from Jerusalem. One of the men was named Cleopas and the other remains unknown. They had been with the main group of disciples in Jerusalem. They had heard that the stone was rolled back and the tomb empty.
Like the others, they didn’t understand what had occurred. What did the empty tomb mean? What did all the events of the week mean? While they talked about the events of the past days, a figure came alongside them. As they looked him over, they did not recognize that it was Jesus. Something clouded their eyes. Like Mary in the garden earlier that day, there was a blindness that came over these disciples and they were unable to see the Son of God. Jesus asked them, “What is this conversation about? You’re passionately talking about something that obviously you feel deeply about. You’re sad. Why is that?” Then Cleopas turned to Him and with a puzzled look and said, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened here in the last few days.” To which Jesus then asked, “What things?” The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth. He was a prophet who did powerful miracles. And He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people, but our leading priests and other religious leaders handed Him over to be condemned to death and they crucified Him.
We had hoped He was the Messiah, who had come to rescue Israel. All this happened three days ago. Then some women from our group were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said His body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive. Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, His body was gone, just as the women had said. What should have been a joyous event was clouded by bewildered uncertainty. None of the disciples who heard Jesus teach during those years immediately grasped the meaning of the empty tomb. Jesus had risen from the dead as He had foretold on several occasions. Even in the last hours of His life, he had told them He was going away and yet they would see Him again. The shock and the fear of the arrest and the crucifixion had frozen them into inaction. The doubt and uncertainty of what was next clouded their resolve and their courage. These disciples who had been with Jesus through the years were not men and women who lacked hope or conviction.
They had believed that He was the Messiah who would restore the kingdom to Israel, but they saw that happening in a manner completely different from what Jesus had shown by His teaching. As He had approached Jerusalem in that final week of his life, Jesus taught through a parable, that He would be going away and leaving them a mission. There would be time to work, time to take the gospel to the world but disciples were having difficulty recognizing the risen Jesus in part because they had not fully understood His teaching. It was not for lack of desire and hunger, they lacked understanding. These two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus were engaging in what we do regularly when we discuss and talk over the spiritual truths of life, Cleopas and the other person were working through their faith. They were doing it together on the road of their life. They were walking together and talking and reasoning the facts as they understood them. Jesus came among them unrecognized.
In exasperation, Jesus said to them, “You foolish people. You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets explaining from all the scriptures the things concerning Himself. Here, Jesus did something radical. He showed them how to apply the scriptures to what had happened. He began with the writings of Moses and pointed out key statements from those passages that foretold His work. He likely identified himself as the One who would bruise the head of the serpent, Satan the devil. He explained that He was the prophet, like Moses, that God would raise up. One by one He marched them through the prophecies of Isaiah and showed how they were fulfilled in Him. This was the meaning of the events of the recent days. This is what they had misunderstood. But still, they did not recognize who they were walking with.
The scripture tells us, by this time, they were nearing Emmaus in the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if He were going on, but they begged Him, “Stay the night with us since it’s getting late.” So He entered into their home. Now, hospitality is a trademark of a disciple. Here, the two we’re doing something that was natural for the time. There was no hotel lodging. It was expected to show kindness to strangers and share your place and your food with them. But this was no ordinary stranger. It was the risen Lord. Later Christ would give to John seven messages to deliver to churches in Western Asia. To the church in Laodicea Christ would say, “I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will share a meal together as friends.” That church had a problem with Christ. He was kept outside, away from their fellowship. He had to knock on the door to be let in.
That was not the case here on the road to Emmaus. Jesus was invited into their home. Together, the three sat at a table. And Jesus took the offered bread, blessed it, and when He broke it and gave a portion to the two suddenly their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. It was in the moment of the breaking of bread when they understood who they were hosting. It was not the first time Jesus had blessed broken and served bread among His followers. He had fed thousands in Galilee with the miracle of bread. And just a few days earlier, He had broken bread and told them it was symbolic of His body. The connection now for these two in Emmaus was clear and unmistakable. Now they understood. Now they knew face to face their Lord. Their eyes were open, and they recognized Him. And at that moment, He disappeared. He was gone. The two were left to conclude what had happened. A stunning moment of clarity while they sat at a meal with Jesus. What they then said to one another shows a quality needed for the disciples on the road to Pentecost.
They said to each other, “Didn’t our heart burn with us as He talked with us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?” They were working through a major challenge. Jesus had taught, for where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them. Do we consider when we talk of God with each other, that He is in our midst? That’s what He said would happen. If we believe this to be true, we may want to spend more time talking with each other about the things of God. Here’s the key to a close fellowship, a close walk with Christ. This is how we may be led by Him, by the Spirit. Christ appeared to these two disciples on the road to Emmaus as they talked about Him. He walked with them and talked with them about the scriptures. He opened their meaning. This is the model for us. This is one way we can strengthen and deepen our walk of faith. This was a vital lesson the disciples needed as they prepared for what would happen with Pentecost and the beginning of the church.
The church must recognize Christ as His head. The church is the body of Christ. Christ is at the heart, the center of the life of the church, and of each disciple. If the church does not invite Christ into its midst and actively seek His lead by the Spirit, it will not recognize what it is to do. It will not recognize what Christ is doing. Christ has said He would build His church, and it would prevail against the gates of hell. This was the purpose for which the church is built. All of its activities must be centered on that purpose. The Gospel it preaches is the announcement of the Kingdom of God, having broken into this age. Christ is preparing the church for this purpose. The two disciples in the road to Emmaus learned how Christ works. And we need to take this lesson and develop a life motivated by the burning fire of the Word in our heart. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, this is what we must have, nothing less. They realized they had to return to the other disciples and report this amazing story.
Within the hour, they were on their way back to Jerusalem. And there they found the 11 disciples and the others who had gathered with them who said, “The Lord has really risen. He appeared to Peter.” And 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. Even after they told their story of joy and recognition, the others still had doubt. It would take another appearance of Jesus to break through the unbelief.
We’ll look at what Jesus did and what He told them to do in the next episode of the Path To Pentecost.