It’s been fun for me to be working on our Luke commentary on chapter 24, about the resurrection of Jesus, on Easter Sunday. I didn’t plan it that way, but it worked out awfully well.
Can I just say how much I love how Jesus showed up to His disciples on the road to Emmaus? He could have shown up in a blaze of heavenly glory, knocking them to the ground a la Saul of Tarsus, and upbraided them for their unbelief. Yet He showed up in hiddenness — their eyes were divinely restrained, so as not to recognize Him — and He asked them questions. Questions that are really funny from an outside view. We, who have the benefit of knowing what’s going on, get to smile at watching two very well-meaning, confused disciples trying to tell the resurrected Lord all about His tragic death. What kind of God does this?
I mean, get this picture. Jesus walks up to His two disciples as they’re en route to Emmaus. Why were they going there? Perhaps they were giving up on the whole disciple thing, going back home to put the pieces of their old life back together. Unquestionably they were struggling with shattered hopes and significant emotional trauma. It wouldn’t have taken a psychologist to recognize that they were upset, or to deduce why. Yet Jesus walks up to them and asks, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad” (24:17)?
The two disciples look at one another, and then at the guy who has interrupted their conversation. Perhaps they are miffed that He’s interjecting. Definitely, they’re incredulous that He doesn’t seem to have a clue about the events of the last three days. Cleopas’ question is priceless. “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which happened there in these days” (24:18)? Talk about irony.
Jesus was the only One who did know what had happened. And He would have been perfectly justified at being a bit snippy with His disciples on that point. “What do you mean, ‘do You not know…’?? Don’t you realize who I am??” Instead, I can almost picture Him holding back a smile as He shrugs innocently and continues to play along as if He didn’t know. “What things?”
You’ve got to love that.
Instead of confronting them directly with a sermon, He sought to draw them out with beautifully simple questions. He wanted them to get out in the open what was happening in their hearts. They were battling some doubts and discouragement, rooted in some significant misunderstandings of the Messiah, and Jesus was about to set them straight in the coolest way imaginable.
Problem #1: “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word ebfore God and all the people.” This is partly true. Jesus did function as a prophet… but as so much more. Regular prophets just speak the word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. Several religions picture Jesus as a good prophet, but only one recognizes Him as truly God. Prophet was part of Jesus’ function, but it hardly summed up who He was.
Problem #2: “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel…” I’m sure Jesus was amused to discover from these guys that His plans had apparently gone haywire. The disciples were (rightly) expecting to see an earthly kingdom established with the nation of Israel. They were eagerly anticipating Isaiah 60-66 (the glorious kingdom), yet hadn’t quite banked on Isaiah 53 (Suffering Servant). Before Israel could become the Kingdom of God, they had to stop being yoked to unrighteousness. Hence, the cross needed to happen. Jesus was still totally on track for redeeming Israel.
Problem #3: “Besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company… came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive… [some of] us went to the tomb found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see.” Um… how many signs do you want, anyway?
I can picture Jesus laughing as He responds. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” It’s amazing what good perspective does. From where Jesus sat, it was an obvious conclusion (and He would know!). He proceeded to explain to the disciples, tracking with them through all the Scriptures, all of the prophecies that spoke about Him. Oh, to be able to eavesdrop on that conversation!
They got near to the village of destination, and Jesus kicks in with that wonderful sense of humor again. He acts like He’s going to keep on going. Well, guys, it’s been fun… The disciples, by this point, are hooked. This is no longer some random guy who crashed their conversation. This is a really wise Man who they don’t want to let go. However, they still haven’t quite connected the dots.
Jesus goes in to eat with them. He blesses the bread, breaks it — and suddenly the fog lifts. “Hey, wait! You’re….”
Just in time for Him to disappear.
I would love to see the disciples’ expressions. What a Kodak moment. But I thought He was… but that was Him, He’s alive… but where did He go?… and why did we not recognize Him… I wonder if He’s coming back… that was awesome… that was terrifying… oh my gosh, that was HIM. “Did not our hearts burn within us?”
You’ve got to love a God who is this cool.