“I can still hardly believe it,” said Cleo to his friend as they walked slowly together down a lonely country road.
His companion, gesturing emphatically, replied: “I’m shocked that this happened. After everything we’ve been through with Him—and seen and heard from Him! How could they have treated this good and honorable man so dreadfully? It doesn’t make sense. It seems so unreal.”
Looking down at the dusty road, Cleo said in response: “I’m really bummed-out. We believed He had the answers to the problems we’ve been dealing with. So, now what?”
As their conversation dwindled to mere silence, another man, a stranger who was walking briskly in the same direction, caught up to them. Having noticed how passionate their conversation had been, he said, “May I ask what you fellows are discussing so intensely?”
The two men stopped and stood still for a moment as they turned toward the stranger. The sadness on their faces turned to bewilderment. They could hardly believe that this stranger hadn’t heard about the dreadful events that had taken place in Jerusalem just days ago. They were astonished that he seemed unaware of the horrific suffering and brutal killing of the famous teacher and prophet, Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 24:18-20).
Let’s pause for a few moments in our paraphrased narrative to get the backstory about what happened only a little over three days prior to this conversation on the country road.
After the Sabbath, immediately following Jesus’ terrible death, a number of women disciples visited the tomb where He had been laid in order to anoint His body with spices and fragrant oils (Luke 24:1). But when they arrived at the tomb, they were perplexed to find the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body gone. Then two men stood near them in shining garments (Luke 24:2-3). Frightened, the women bowed their faces to the ground. The men, in fact angels, explained that Christ had risen from the dead (Luke 24:5-7). As they now recalled Jesus’ own words about this coming occurrence, the women returned quickly to where other disciples were gathered to tell them about what they had experienced (verses 9-10).
How did these disciples respond to the women’s report? “And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (verse 11). Yet there were two exceptions to this reaction. Peter and another disciple ran quickly to the tomb. When Peter reached it he “… saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened” (verse 12).
Then their eyes were opened
Now let’s return to the story about the two disappointed disciples, Cleopas and one unnamed. The unnamed one had been at the meeting with the women disciples (verse 13). We learn that later on that same day, they were walking northeastward on the road from Jerusalem to the small town of Emmaus. Being surprised that the stranger who had joined them seemed oblivious as to what had occurred in Jerusalem, they told him about Jesus’ crucifixion and the amazing report of His empty tomb (verses 18-20). They also explained why they were so sad and disillusioned since they thought that Jesus would lead a powerful revolt against the Roman oppressors to expel them from Israel and thus restore freedom to its beleaguered citizens (verse 21). But now that He was dead, their hopes and dreams were dashed.
What did this stranger say in response to their account? “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” (verses 25-26, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
As the disciples continued walking along with their new acquaintance, he further enlightened them regarding what the scriptures prophesied about the Messiah (verse 27). As they arrived in Emmaus near sundown, the disciples prevailed upon the man to remain with them overnight. “And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (verse 28-30).
What incredible event occurred next? “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight” (verse 31, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
At that very moment they understood miraculously that this stranger was none other than their teacher and friend, the resurrected Jesus Christ!
This astounding incident made an incredibly deep impression on these formerly-doubting disciples. “And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (verse 32).
Motivated to the very core of their being, they returned immediately to Jerusalem to where the other disciples were gathered. “And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread” (verse 35).
Following this event, Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, removing all doubt that He was fully alive from the dead (verses 36-50).
Considering this story, what can you and I learn from the event that occurred on the road to Emmaus? Indeed, the two disciples not only had their eyes opened spiritually about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but they also fully grasped the veracity of all His remarkable teachings throughout His 3½ year ministry. Similarly, as you and I journey down life’s road, God opens our spiritual understanding to the perfect reliability of the Holy Scriptures and the wonderful fact that Jesus Christ is alive, active and seeks a personal relationship with us (Jeremiah 10:10; Psalm 42:2).
Is God’s truth burning in our hearts?
It’s critically important to note that just having the knowledge of these vital truths is not enough. Just like the two disciples felt the intense fire of motivation regarding what they heard and experienced, we too must have God’s truth burning in our hearts!
The Bible’s teachings and our intimate relationship with our Creator must be our passionate, motivating force. This means we should take action daily to put into effect His spiritual priorities—meaning seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
So, the question is: are our hearts on fire for God and His truth? Are we truly following the admonition of Deuteronomy 4:29 which says: “Seek the Lord your God… with all your heart and with all your soul?”
Although you and I don’t have Jesus Christ in the flesh with us today as the disciples did then, we can communicate directly with Him and our heavenly Father through prayer. Plus, we have Jesus in the form of the Holy Bible (John 1:1, 14). And in a similar way to how He unlocked the scriptures to the disciples, we too have had our minds opened so that we can deeply comprehend them.
Therefore, are we intensely passionate about the “living and powerful” Word of God (Hebrews 4:12)? Do the Scriptures and what they portray fan the flames of fervor and joy in us when we read or hear them explained—just as it did in the hearts of the two disciples on that dusty country road so long ago? Do the words of the Bible kindle intense flames of faith, eagerness, belief and obedience in our minds and hearts? Does God’s Word increase our anticipation about the breathtaking future that lies ahead of us and all people in God’s coming Kingdom?
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus had their eyes opened fully to the fact that the “stranger” with them was actually Jesus Christ, and His teachings were utterly reliable. Those disciples’ enthusiastic words and actions after that momentous realization should also be ours throughout our Christian journey. Indeed, with God’s powerful help, let’s make sure our hearts burn within us!