"That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.”
“That very day…” is Easter Sunday. The women went to visit the tomb in the early morning and returned all out of breath with their incredible story about the missing body and the angels and THEY SAW HIM and HE SPOKE TO THEM and Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves and returned with their report. AND NO ONE KNEW WHAT TO THINK. What would you have thought?
Two of them headed off for a village called Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem. It was most likely where they lived, as we’ll see.
“And they were talking with each other about all the things that had happened.”
I sometimes wonder what you talk about on your way home from church. Do you “talk about all the things that happened” here? Do you talk about the Adult Bible Study? Do you ask the kids what Sunday School was about? Do you talk about the sermon – ‘I didn’t get it – do you? What was his point?’ ‘What’d you think of that closing hymn?” Or don’t you talk about “all the things that happened” because you’re already off to whatever is coming next?
“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. And He said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’”
Just try to picture it. You’re driving home from church, talking about ALL THE THINGS THAT HAPPENED, and suddenly you realize that there’s someone in the back seat of the car. And He says, “what are you talking about?” And you wonder, ‘who is this guy’ and ‘where did he come from?’
“They’re eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” We’ll come back to that.
Luke tells us that one of the two is named Cleopas, which means that Cleopas is someone whom those who initially read Luke’s gospel will recognize. “Hey, I know him. He’s the pastor of the church in Emmaus,” or something like that.
Cleopas asks this stranger who joined the journey from ‘who-knows-where,’ “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?” Can you imagine the congregation who now knows who this stranger is, saying to Cleopas, “You said WHAT?” It’s almost hard just to read this with a straight face.
“[Jesus] said to them, ‘What things?’” He’s going to make them recite the story again – which they do.
And it’s a good confession of faith which includes many of the essential details of the 2nd Article of the Creed that we confess today – His humanity, his suffering, death and crucifixion at the hands of the religious and civil authorities, and His resurrection on the 3rd day. Of course they didn’t confess His ascension or 2nd coming because it hadn’t happened yet. But it’s all a very good confession of THE FAITH.
The only problem is, it’s not THEIR FAITH. Mingled into their confession of THE FAITH is that nasty little word about THEIR FAITH, “ailpidzomen” – “we had hoped.” “We had hoped He was the one to redeem Israel.” That’s ‘hope’ in the past tense. That’s ‘hope’ that’s no longer ‘present.’
They could have confessed the Christian Creed except for that little phrase, that most important little phrase, I BELIEVE…”
THAT they could not say because things didn’t go the way they expected they should go. THEIR FAITH was based on a set of criteria that this Jesus, sadly, didn’t live up to. For a while, things looked promising. He was “mighty in deed and word before God and all the people…” But then “our chief priest and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death and crucified him.” And then there’s that bit about His body not being where it should be and the woman’s strange report…
It was all so sad, so disappointing. “We had hoped He was the one to redeem Israel…” This may very well be one of the deepest, darkest, most depressing verses in all the bible. Where do go from here? What do you do now? Talk about being lost.
There are lots of people whose confession of THE FAITH is like this one. They know the facts and the points of doctrine that make this FAITH the CHRISTIAN FAITH – but it’s really not THEIR FAITH – at least, not anymore. There was a time when they had “hoped that this Jesus was the one to redeem…” them. But then something happened that didn’t jive with their expectations of the way THEY THOUGHT things should go if He really was the one. And now they say, ‘we had hoped…”
Or maybe it wasn’t that something went wrong as much as the whole importance of LIVING BY FAITH IN JESUS just became less and less IMPORTANT, less and less RELEVANT. College, marriage, career, children, hobbies, life … just sort of became EVERYTHING… and LIVING BY FAITH IN JESUS got lost in the shuffle… And now they say, “we had hoped…”
I think that these two men are probably pretty typical of all of us. Sometimes our faith ON THIS JOURNEY is strong and we’re filled with hope and we’re riding high and we can say with the psalmist, “though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam…” “the Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Ps.46).
But then there are those times when we have our doubts and our faith becomes very dry and lifeless and we’re not so sure of anything and we swear that the prophet was talking about us when he says, “Behold they say, ‘our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are indeed cut off.” (Ez.37:11)
Isn’t this what happens when, like them, our “eyes are kept from recognizing Him” – recognizing Jesus, who is present right alongside of us as we walk this journey – but we don’t see Him.
The good news here is that Jesus comes to them in their hopelessness. Not waiting until they COME AROUND or REDESCOVER THEIR FAITH, we read, “Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” After having them repeat the details of the faith – he now explains things to them.
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
In other words, Jesus goes to the Old Testament and shows them how it all pointed to His incarnation, His suffering and death, His crucifixion and His resurrection from the dead. We can only suppose what He must have pointed to.
• Remember how God put His Adam into a deep sleep and opened his side for his bride and what a scar that must have left on him. Recognize anything?
• Remember how Isaac carried the wood that he himself would be sacrificed by his own father on? Sound familiar?
• Remember how Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers and then forgave them because it was all God’s will? Ring any bells?
• Remember how Israel sacrificed the Passover lamb – a male without blemish – and its blood caused death to pass over them? See any connection?
• Remember how David prayed in his distress – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me… A company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet… they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots…” How’s your heart feeling?
• Remember what Isaiah said, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” Are you feeling any heart-burn?
It’s all about Jesus Christ and the redemption He has won for us by the very suffering and death that you witnessed in Jerusalem and by His rising again on the 3rd day. It is because these things happened EXACTLY AS THEY DID that WE HAVE HOPE. As Peter preached to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, “this Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…” (Acts 2:23)
“So they drew near to the village to which they were going. Jesus acted as if he were going farther, but they URGED HIM STRONGLY, saying ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.”
This is how BURNING HEARTS that are longing for a reason to HOPE respond to Jesus. ‘PLEASE, DON’T LEAVE US. NOT WHEN WE’RE JUST STARTING TO FEEL ALIVE AGAIN.’
“So He went to stay with them.” And once in their house, the guest becomes the host. “When He was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them.” Sound familiar?
I promised we’d get back to that part about “they’re eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” And here it comes. In the beginning, Adam and his wife sat down to a meal in a garden called Eden. And the serpent offered them food to eat. And he promised them, “in the day that you eat of it your eyes will be opened…” But when they ate, they became blind and “they were kept from recognizing” the presence of God. And in NOT SEEING, they lost all HOPE that this God Created them was really the One who whom they were to put all of their HOPE and TRUST.
Now, this Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen from the dead, is redeeming all of His Adams and Eves just as God promised He would. He opens their eyes in a meal that COUNTERACTS the meal that the serpent fed them. “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” And in ‘seeing Him’ in the meal, they are filled once again with great HOPE.
It is here in this Emmaus encounter with His blind and hopeless disciples, that Jesus re-establishes the same pattern for His New Testament people as had been established for His Old Testament people. First He instructs us with His Word as recorded by the Prophets and the Apostles. And then He opens our eyes in His Supper. First the Service of the Word and then the Service of the Supper.
It is in the meal of His body and His blood that our eyes are opened and we recognize Him too. What does that mean? It certainly doesn’t mean that “we see Him AS HE IS,” as John tells us we will see Him in heaven. Nor does it mean that we CAN SEE HOW everything is working together for the good of those who love Him or what it all means.
What it does mean is that in the eating of His body and blood, our eyes are opened and we recognize that He is WITH US. We RECOGNIZE Him as the one who has conquered the devil and our sin and our death. And THIS ONE, this CRUCIFIED AND RISEN Jesus of Nazareth, is walking right beside us on this journey through life. And with that, our HOPE is restored and our faith is strengthened.
And then we read, “And He vanished from their sight.” “And they said to each other, did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while he opened the scriptures to us?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.”
How different was this journey back to Jerusalem – than the one they had taken just a few hours earlier? How different will our own journey home from here today be – than the one we took just a few hours earlier?