Luke 24:13-35 (CEV)
13 That same day two of Jesus’ disciples were going to the village of Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they were talking and thinking about what had happened, 15 Jesus came near and started walking along beside them. 16 But they did not know who he was.
17 Jesus asked them, “What were you talking about as you walked along?”
The two of them stood there looking sad and gloomy. 18 Then the one named Cleopas asked Jesus, “Are you the only person from Jerusalem who didn’t know what was happening there these last few days?”
19 “What do you mean?” Jesus asked.
Those things that happened to Jesus from Nazareth. By what he did and said he showed that he was a powerful prophet, who pleased God and all the people. 20 Then the chief priests and our leaders had him arrested and sentenced to die on a cross. 21 We had hoped that he would be the one to set Israel free! But it has already been three days since all this happened.
22 Some women in our group surprised us. They had gone to the tomb early in the morning, 23 but did not find the body of Jesus. They came back, saying that they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. 24 Some men from our group went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said. But they didn’t see Jesus either.
25 Then Jesus asked the two disciples, “Why can’t you understand? How can you be so slow to believe all that the prophets said? 26 Didn’t you know that the Messiah would have to suffer before he was given his glory?” 27 Jesus then explained everything written about himself in the Scriptures, beginning with the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets.
28 When the two of them came near the village where they were going, Jesus seemed to be going farther. 29 They begged him, “Stay with us! It’s already late, and the sun is going down.” So Jesus went into the house to stay with them.
[The Big Reveal]
30 After Jesus sat down to eat, he took some bread. He blessed it and broke it. Then he gave it to them. 31 At once they knew who he was, but he disappeared. 32 They said to each other, “When he talked with us along the road and explained the Scriptures to us, didn’t it warm our hearts?” 33 So they got right up and returned to Jerusalem.
The two disciples found the eleven apostles and the others gathered together. 34 And they learned from the group that the Lord was really alive and had appeared to Peter. 35 Then the disciples from Emmaus told what happened on the road and how they knew he was the Lord when he broke the bread.
Jesus Reminds Them
One of the themes of the Old Testament is the idea of a Messiah who would come to save Israel. There are a number of references to this Messiah and who he will be, and what he will be like, but perhaps one of the most famous is found in Isaiah 53, which starts off with the line:
1Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
Because it is one of the most complete descriptions of the Messiah’s sacrifice in the Old Testament, it’s one that we came back to over and over again when I was growing up in church, and I loved it because it was tender and it was compassionate and it broke all the rules.
Here’s the thing – I think the reason why Jesus has to spell this out, step by step, word by word to Cleopas and his travelling companion is because what Jesus has done is to break every single rule the people had ever made in their heads about what the Messiah would do and be.
I think that these two disciples walking back to Emmaus are more than just grieving for a friend. I think they are deeply disappointed that their hero let them down – that the one they thought for sure was the real deal had allowed himself to be killed.
Maybe in their heads the Messiah was supposed to lead an army to a crushing revolt of the Roman overlords.
Perhaps in their heads the Messiah was supposed to oust Herod – the pretending ‘king of the Jews’ – to give them a real King of the Jews.
It’s possible that in their heads the Messiah was just supposed to be like one of the prophets from the Old Testament who lived a long life and was then taken to be with God without ever tasting death.
But no matter what, they are left utterly dejected by the events of the previous few days.
Until Jesus reminds them of who the Messiah was always meant to be.
Jesus reminds them that the Messiah was meant to experience pain and hurt and suffering.
He reminds them that the Messiah was meant to tortured.
And he reminds them that the Messiah was meant to die and get buried.
In fact, Jesus reminds them that this was the plan for the Messiah all along. That this was how healing and wholeness and restitution and shalom were going to be given a way in to this broken world we live in. That this was the plan all along to bring life, life and more life to the world. It might not have been our plan, but for whatever reason it was God’s plan.
Disappointment with God will happen. I guarantee it. Hard days will come and we will wonder what in the world God is doing! But when that happens, we need to remember this walk to Emmaus. That we remember how deeply distraught Cleopas and his companion were. That we remember how much of the story they were missing out on.
But I also think it’s important that we remember that Jesus shows up. He shows up in the midst of their disappointment with a story of hope and loving intention. And like Cleopas and his companion (who may well have been Luke himself!), I think it’s important that we look out for that warming in our hearts, to know when Jesus is near so that we can listen with care to all he has come to remind us and tell us.
- What do you think about this plan of God’s?
- How do you understand the surprising saving power of the Messiah?
- What do you make of a God who sets out to experience pain, hurt, suffering, torture and even death?
- How do you understand a God who says that this is the way to healing? The way to wholeness and restitution and shalom?
- Like Cleopas and his companion, does this warm your heart? Luke ended up writing an account of all that Jesus had said and done for his friend Theophilus. How might you respond?
This study is part of an entire journey through the book of Luke. If you’ve enjoyed it, please visit https://www.voxalliance.ca/category/devotionals/luke/ for the rest of this series.