• Michael Van Dusen

The Emmaus Road Apr. 26, 2020

The gospel for the Third Sunday of Easter is Luke 24:13-35…. Jesus’ appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus.


On Easter Sunday afternoon two of Jesus’ followers were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 

Luke’s verb tense for talking indicates that the discussion was prolonged. In the next verse (below) he adds and discussing which suggests that the conversation also tried to sort out things that were inconsistent or complex. 

The content of their discussion, which they reveal subsequently, included Jesus’ passion and crucifixion, his teaching, prophecies, miracles and the women’s report of the empty tomb. It is also possible that the conversation included more personal aspects of their relationships …how he made them feel, how he elicited from them a sense of something greater. This idea arises because the gospel also says, twice in the following verses, that the disciples were looking sad, to emphasize both their state of mind and their appearance.  This sadness reflects both their personal affinity and distress at Jesus’ death.


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?” 

Luke used the verb recognize elsewhere in his gospel (1:4, 22, 5:22, 13:7) to mean more than physical recognition, but rather “to know deeply”, “to perceive in the hearts”, “to realize after much experience” or “to understand”.


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?” 

The answer to Jesus’ question, what are you discussing, seemed so obvious that the two stop abruptly, stunned. One can almost read their minds, “how could you not know!” 


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 handed him over to be … crucified.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. ... 

Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning and when they did not find his body, 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.” 

Luke quotes the disciples’ words about their hopes and astonishment, revealing that not only were they sad but confused by the reports of the women and the others who had gone and found the tomb empty. Other translations of the reaction to the women’s news use stunned instead of astounded to indicate the impact of their report.


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.

Some biblical scholars believe that looking for specific scriptural passages is futile. For them the central fact is that Christ rooted his death and resurrection in the Hebrew scriptures and the promise of Messiah. Others look to the broad scriptural history of how God feed the people from slavery in Egypt, returned the Israelites from exile in Babylon as the prophetic indications of Christ’s salvation. Still others have looked at passages which foreshadowed his life and death and curated a list, organized according to the sequence of Jesus’ life.

•  Isaiah 7:14, the virgin birth

•  Micah 5:2, the Messiah will come from Bethlehem

•  Exodus 16, the manna from heaven and the multiplication of the loaves

•  Malachi 3:1, the messenger (John the Baptist) will prepare the way

•  Zechariah 9:9, the Messiah’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem

•  Zechariah 13:7, Christ will be abandoned by his disciples

•  Isaiah 53:4-12, the Lord lays on Christ the iniquity of us 

*.  Isaiah 60: 3 the Lord will arise upon you and his glory will appear over you.


As they came near the village …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. 

Even though the disciples did not know this was Jesus, they had warmed to his presence and they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us…”’ 


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; 

The three verbs, took, blessed and broke are the same as those Luke used when he described how Jesus fed the five thousand in 9:16 and at the Last supper, 22:19. Something in Jesus’ manner of blessing the bread and sharing it was a personal signature. As the two followers later say when they reported their encounter with Jesus to the apostles, they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

It also seems that, although the two had invited Jesus to join them, Jesus had taken the lead role of blessing the bread and sharing it at the meal. His (super)natural leadership was clear. 

Suddenly they saw him as Jesus, the one they knew, the one who had been crucified and died. They may have responded with silent wide-eyed astonishment, or possibly with an exclamation, “Jesus!” or perhaps they jumped up and hugged him…or all three.


Shortly after they recognize him, 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?” 

Jesus’ vanishing, literally ‘becoming invisible to them’, reminds us that he had kept them from recognizing him when he first met up with them, possibly because he wanted them to pay attention to the prophetic telling of his death and resurrection. He did not want them to be overwhelmed by seeing that he had been raised until he had communicated to them the heart of scripture. He needed them to understand this as part of his resurrection.

The Greek verb burning is most often associated with an emotional warmth and pleasure associated with being in the presence of someone special. 


That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 

The good news that Jesus was alive demanded a wider telling so they returned to Jerusalem, abandoning whatever plans they had beforehand. 


They (the apostles) were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed (or truly), 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.

The word indeed or truly, shows that the apostles have left their incredulity behind and believe that the Lord has risen.

His appearance to Simon is not recorded elsewhere in Luke but in 1 Corinthians 15:3b-5 Paul wrote, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and was buried, and was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve.

In addition to this reference to Christ’s appearance to Peter, Paul also stressed in accordance with scripture twice, underlining the importance of the Messianic fulfillment of the prophecies. 


· Imagine what it was like for the two disciples to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Joy, confusion about how they could have missed seeing him, a surge of energy might have been the stew of responses? What wild possibilities did they experience?

· What do we make of the fact that Jesus appeared first (in Luke), not to his closest followers, the apostles, but to these two disciples? Is it that Christ establishes a personal relationship with each individual regardless of his or her status? Does it teach us that Christ can come into our lives at any time and in any circumstances but that we may not recognize him? 

· Would your life change if the risen Christ appeared to you? If so, how?




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