read | Luke 24:13–35
“Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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 took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘
The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
“Do not be afraid. He is not here. He’s risen.” It suddenly dawned on the women, Peter, the disciples and 500 witnesses. Jesus had been raised from the dead. There are no restraints on God’s power. No situation is hopeless. God is in charge. Christ is risen!
Shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus, two followers of Jesus headed for home. Emmaus was just seven miles from Jerusalem. Were they fugitives? Jesus was executed on the charge of sedition. Death by crucifixion was horrific! These followers were caught in a storm of doubt and grief.
As they walked, Jesus appeared to them as a “stranger.” No, they did not recognize Him. Their hope was for a militant Messiah that would free them from that rotten Roman yoke. The stranger countered that with an explanation of spiritual freedom. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them the things about Himself in all the Scriptures.” (vs. 27)
When did they recognize this fellow Traveler as Jesus? After talking, questioning, and sharing a meal, the journeymen recognized Jesus.
Isn’t it fascinating, Jesus does not coerce us out of our skepticism, but rather gently guides? He meets our questions with reason, not force. There are truths the brain can discover but cannot defend. Having experienced the forgiveness of the Savior, suddenly proof is superfluous.
We do not explain the resurrection—the resurrection explains us. That stranger on the road to Emmaus described a new existence for them—a world drenched in beauty, justice, love, and peace. No wonder they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road while He was opening the scriptures to us?” (vs. 32) Their world was turned upside down.
Emboldened by their experience, the men rushed back to Jerusalem to tell their story to Jesus’ disciples. The Savior’s peaceful persuasion had captured them. These followers of the Messiah were every bit as pragmatic as we are.
Thank God, because of the Easter event, we too have a story to tell.
– Rev. Dr. Dave McKechnie