Jesus died less than 24 hours after he celebrated a Passover meal with his disciples. His body was buried late on a Friday afternoon, before the arrival of the Sabbath that began at sundown (John 19:31). The stunned disciples stayed together (John 20:19), as they shared sadness and shock. There had been no proper funeral for their friend and teacher.
The next day, Sunday, some of Jesus’ disciples apparently started for home. Two set out for Emmaus, a village outside Jerusalem. The unexpected turn that this trip took is the subject of this week’s lesson.
Emmaus was a small village seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. The two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus were discouraged disciples who had no reason to be discouraged. They had heard the reports of the women that the tomb was empty and that Jesus was alive, but they did not believe them. They had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21), but their hopes had been shattered. We get the impression that these men were discouraged and disappointed because God did not do what they wanted Him to do. They saw the glory of the kingdom, but they failed to understand the suffering.
Places:Jerusalem and Emmaus
The Gospels highlight the role of the 12 apostles, but there were other followers of Jesus as well. We see this in the plurality of candidates available to replace Judas. The other, non-apostolic disciples included both men and women. About 120 of them were gathered together in Jerusalem sometime between Jesus’ resurrection and the Day of Pentecost.
Our story today concerns two such disciples. The name of one is given as Cleopas. We have no other confirmable information about this man. But one intriguing suggestion is that he is the same as the Clopas of John 19:25, mentioned as being the husband of one of the women named Mary who stood by the cross as Jesus died. That leads to the further theory that the other, unnamed disciple in today’s lesson could be that Mary. If these two are husband and wife walking back to their home village of Emmaus in Luke 24:13, that would throw a certain light on today’s story regarding the hospitality they offered to Jesus. But if (1) Mary the wife of Clopas is the same as “Mary the mother of James,” who had witnessed the empty tomb (Luke 24:10), and (2) Luke 24:22-24 establishes that the two disciples in today’s text had not witnessed the empty tomb, then (3) the unnamed disciple of today’s study would not be Mary the wife of Clopas.
Jerusalem was the largest city in the region, perhaps 30,000-50,000 in population. It was surrounded by many small villages of a few hundred people each. The residents of these villages tended vineyards, fields, orchards, flocks, and herds. The temple city of Jerusalem was fed economically by these villagers, who traveled to Jerusalem several times a year for festivals and to pay an annual temple tax. Emmaus was one such village. Today we are uncertain of its actual site, since the village was likely destroyed in the Roman military campaign that swept through Palestine in AD 66-70.
On the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-14)
1. What do you propose the two disciples were talking about as they traveled on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-14)?
Our story begins with “two of them” leaving Jerusalem for nearby Emmaus. The phrase of them refers back to “the Eleven and… all the others” of Luke 24:9; thus these two are followers of Jesus. Their walk of seven miles will take them approximately two hours. Luke does not say why the pair is going to Emmaus, but the likely reason is that they are returning home.
The two disciples are talking freely, unconstrained by the atmosphere of fear in Jerusalem (compare John 20:19). They have much to talk about, given recent events! These include the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the controversial cleansing of the temple, Jesus’ arrest and trials, the crucifixion and quick death of Jesus, His burial, and (especially) the reports of the empty tomb and angelic announcements of Jesus’ resurrection. There certainly is a lot to talk about!
Concealed Identity (Luke 24:15-16)
2. Who was it that joined these two disciples? Why were they not able to recognize who He was?
Luke pictures the two disciples engaged in heavy discussion. We are not told where Jesus comes from, and the two disciples seem too engrossed in conversation to notice. By the time they are aware of his presence, he is walking alongside them. It is not unusual in Jesus’ day for unacquainted travelers to walk together and talk. This would be something like talking with a fellow passenger during a plane flight today without expecting to see that person again.
The failure of the two disciples to recognize Jesus is attributable to the fact that “their eyes were holden that they should not know him,” which indicates a divine intervention until the proper time (compare Mark 16:12).
Responding to Jesus’ Questions (Luke 24:17-21)
3. What was the first question Jesus asked the two disciples (v. 17)?
As Jesus graciously walked with them He notices the sadness of the two disciples. Jesus then asks, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”
The question Jesus asks does not mean that he is trying to get information that he lacks. He already knows why they are sad. The question, rather, is intended to be a conversation starter.
The incredulous response (v. 18) of one of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”
With the city walls of Jerusalem perhaps still in sight, the two disciples know that this stranger has also come from Jerusalem. It is therefore difficult for them to understand how He can be unaware of the stunning events of the past week.
There is a touch of humor in Luke 24:19 when Jesus asked (His second question), "What things?" He had been at the heart of all that had happened in Jerusalem, and now He was asking them to tell Him what occurred! How patient our Lord is with us as He listens to us tell Him what He already knows (Rom. 8:34). But we may come "boldly" ("with freedom of speech") to His throne and pour out our hearts to Him, and He will help us (Ps. 62:8; Heb. 4:16).
What Do You Think?
If Jesus visited you this week, what would he most likely find you discussing?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Over lunch at work | With family in the evenings | While socializing with friends
With fellow Christians after Sunday worship | Other
4. What can we learn from the disciples’ response to Jesus’ question “What things” (v. 19)?
The disciples reply to His question What things? gives us a four-point perspective regarding what at least some followers of Jesus believe about Him.
First, Jesus’ background is known: He is from Nazareth, a village in Galilee (compare Luke 4:16). Jesus’ opponents also are aware of this (Luke 4:34; John 19:19). Second, Jesus is understood to be a prophet (compare Matthew 21:11). This means that the people see Jesus as having been appointed by God to speak for God.
Third, Jesus has been mighty in deed and word (compare Acts 7:22). Jesus’ reputation among the people has been built on both His miracles (Luke 7:21) and His powerful preaching (4:22). Fourth, Jesus’ ministry has been done in the presence of God and all the people. These were not secret things, but have been accomplished in public, widely known (compare Acts 26:26).
5. What had the disciples hoped for in regards to Jesus of Nazareth (vs. 20-21)?
The pair further noted that the religious leaders delivered Jesus to the civil authorities to be condemned to death and crucified (v. 20), The two, along with many others, previously held onto the hope that Jesus was the Messiah, that is, the person who “should have redeemed Israel” (v. 21), That aspiration, though, seemed to be shattered when Jesus died on the cross. The first half of this verse reveals the biggest reason for the disciples’ sadness. Above all, Jesus’ death seems to have signaled an end to their hope of Jesus being the one chosen by God to lead their nation out of bondage (compare Luke 1:68; 2:38).
In all of this, Luke wants us to understand that although these two disciples hold a very high estimate of Jesus that is correct in many ways, they have missed the central aspect of what He has been doing. He did not come to redeem Israel politically, but to save people from the bondage of sin.
If seen in a political or nationalistic sense, the death of Jesus is a tragic end to such hopes. If seen according to the plan of God, though, Jesus’ death is part of a strategy to bring salvation. It is necessary that Jesus’ death be followed by His resurrection to show God’s vindication (see Acts 2:31-36). The fact that today is “the third day” since these things were done ties this conversation to Luke 24:1, 46.
What Do You Think?
When was a time for you that dashed hopes eventually resulted in something unexpected and ultimately better?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Regarding a health issue | Regarding a family issue | Regarding a church issue
Regarding a relationship issue | Other
Luke 24:22-27 (not in today’s text)
The longer Cleopas talked, the more he indicted himself and his friend for their unbelief. What more evidence could they want? Witnesses (including Apostles) had seen the tomb empty. Angels had announced that Jesus was alive. Witnesses had seen Him alive and heard Him speak. The proof was there!
"Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). This explains why Jesus opened the Word to these two men as the three of them walked to Emmaus. Their real problem was not in their heads but in their hearts (see Luke 24:25 and 32, and note v. 38). They could have discussed the subject for days and never arrived at a satisfactory answer. What they needed was a fresh understanding of the Word of God, and Jesus (this mysterious stranger) gave that understanding to them.
Hospitality Extended (Luke 24:28-29)
6. Why did the two disciples urge this stranger to stay with them (Luke 24:28-29)?
When the trio arrives at Emmaus, the two disciples have reached their destination. It is late afternoon, but Jesus (whose identity is still hidden) seems as if he is continuing on. Although unaware of the identity of this stranger, the two disciples extend him hospitality. “Abide with us” is an invitation for a meal and a bed for the night.
We wonder what motivates the two to extend such hospitality (Judges 19:15-21). One clue may be found in the preceding verses of Luke 24:25-27 (not in today’s text, as mentioned above). There Luke tells us that this mysterious stranger has given the pair an in-depth lesson on the prophecies of Scripture concerning the Messiah. They want to hear more from this man, for their hearts were burning (see v. 32).
Jesus Reveals His Identity (Luke 24:30-32)
7. When did Jesus reveal Himself to the disciples (vs. 30-31)?
After the travelers reached the home of the two disciples, the latter most likely prepared a simple but adequate meal for themselves and their guest. While they reclined at the table, the stranger took some bread, blessed and broke it, and started to give the two disciples some of the bread (Luke 24:30). Instantly, they were enabled to recognize that the risen Lord was in their presence. As soon as the pair knew who Jesus was, He vanished out of their sight (v. 31). He does not merely duck into the shadows—He vanishes. Jesus’ postresurrection appearances and disappearances have an aura of “suddenness” about them (compare Matthew 28:9; John 20:19, 26; 21:4).
Blindness and Change
K’hron Green was 15 years old when he lost his sight in May 2008 as a result of a car accident. He was sent to a rehabilitation facility in the Detroit area, where he was angry and defiant at first. But over the next three years, he became a mentor to others who had sustained traumatic brain injuries as he had. Green’s physical eyes were effectively closed, but the eyes of his heart were opened. His speech therapist describes the change in his outlook on life as “just shy of a miracle.”
Jesus’ disciples suffered great trauma in seeing their leader killed. But that trauma wasn’t what kept the disciples on the road to Emmaus from recognizing Jesus. Their “blindness” was from God, and it was He who lifted it.
The disciples’ temporary blindness in this regard was accompanied by a spiritual blindness of mistaken expectations of what the Messiah was to accomplish. Jesus had to contend with this kind of blindness right up until His ascension (see Acts 1:6). But the one who opened the eyes of the physically blind (Luke 7:21, 22) still works to correct spiritual blindness. As He does so in our lives, may we be mentors to those who still need to “see” Jesus.—C. R. B.
8. What did the disciples say caused their hearts to burn (v. 32)?
Not only do the two disciples understand that Jesus is risen, they also are better able to interpret their experiences on the road with Jesus. They now realize why they had experienced a sensation described as a burning in the heart. At the time, they probably could explain that sensation only in terms of the marvelous Scripture lesson they were receiving from the stranger. But now they realize the supernatural cause: the presence of the risen Lord. They have been getting information from the best possible source!
Can you imagine the greatest Teacher explaining the greatest themes from the greatest Book and bringing the greatest blessings to the lives of men, women, and children: eyes open to see Him, hearts open to receive the Word, and lips open to tell others what Jesus said to them!
What Do You Think?
What was an occasion when you had “a goose-bump moment” regarding a sudden realization about Jesus?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
During a time of personal Bible study | During a sermon | When sharing the gospel with another | Other
Risen Lord Proclaimed (Luke 24:33-35)
9. How excited were the two disciples to tell about the appearance of the risen Savior (vs. 33-35)?
The best evidence that we have understood the Bible and met the living Christ is that we have something exciting to share with others. These two disciples cannot wait until morning to share their experience. So they scurry back to Jerusalem, perhaps even arriving after dark. But when they arrived, the apostles and the others told them that Jesus was alive and had appeared to Peter (Simon), even before they share their own experience (v. 34). What a difference it would make in our church services if everybody who gathered came to tell about meeting the living Christ! We can... Jesus “said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23).
Now the two disciples from Emmaus tell their own story (v. 35). The fact that they relate the story from what things “were done in the way” to “how he was known of them in the breaking of bread”means that they do not leave anything out.
The resurrection of our Lord is the centerpiece of history and of our faith. When we grasp this transforming truth, live it, and share it… we will cause it transforms lives!
POINTS TO PONDER
1.Again, what would Jesus find you talking about at any given moment? (Luke 24:13-15).
2.Have you recognized Jesus as your Lord and Savior today? (Luke 24:16-17).
3.Jesus already knows about your troubles and misunderstandings. He just wants you to put your hope and trust in Him! (Luke 24:18-21).
4.God gave us several testimonies about His Son Jesus Christ! Believe “… in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Luke 24:22-27; Romans 10:9).
5.We have to desire to spend more time with Jesus if we really want to know who He is (Luke 24:28-32).
6.Jesus also said, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (Luke 24:33-35; John 20:9).
He Is Risen Indeed!
The early followers of the Messiah would have disappeared as insignificant footnotes to history had it not been for Jesus’ resurrection. Like many others who had trusted in false saviors, they would have been ridiculed and perhaps murdered. Instead, their Witness changed the course of history.
The Messiah’s resurrection and ascension remains the key to the proclamation of the Gospel, the spread of the church, and the spiritual growth of believers. The living Savior confronts the world of unbelief and demands repentance. Growing churches draw power from Him and declare the Gospel with boldness. And individual Christians find the strength and courage to tell others about their faith in the Lord.
By means of the Holy Spirit, Jesus changes lives and delivers people from sin, guilt, and despair. He helps the weak and discouraged. He meets people when they have given up hope. Because Jesus lives and reigns in heaven, people can find forgiveness from God.
The joy of Jesus’ presence ignites our praise and worship. Jesus was raised from the dead, returned to the Father, and abides in us and in His church forever (see John 15:4-5; Eph. 2:21-22). Therefore, we as believers are not ashamed of declaring to others the good news about the Savior!
Father, your Son is risen indeed! Help us to open eyes to see that fact. We pray this through the power of Jesus’ precious name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
When we truly encounter the Lord, we just have to tell others.