What You Can Learn on the Way to Nowhere
It seems that nobody thought Jesus was alive. The disciples thought the women’s report was crazy. Even the investigation by Peter and John of the empty tomb had mixed results. Jesus had told them when He was alive that he would suffer death. No one believed that either, until it happened.
Sunday, the first day of the week would be a busy day for Jesus. He would appear to Mary, the women, then Peter, then the eleven, then He would go out traveling on an eight mile hike to a small town called Emmaus. Let’s find out why He went there.
Exposition of the Text
Two disciples of Jesus had started out for home early. There was no reason any longer to stay in Jerusalem. The Lord they loved was dead and buried. Cleophas and another follower of Jesus were downcast and gloomy. Their hopes in Jesus had been crushed. It was dangerous for Jesus’ disciples to be seen in Jerusalem, and it was a long journey home. It would have seemed to have been the longest journey home they had ever taken.
As these two disciples trudged home with their heads down, they were met by whom they thought a stranger. He did not seem to be weighed down with sorrow and was making better progress on the road. If Emmaus was there home, they might have wondered why a stranger was making haste to go their little town out in the middle of nowhere. These two disciples had become nowhere people again on a journey to nowhere.
Luke lets us know that this supposed stranger was actually Jesus. Either the disciples were so lost in spirit that they did not recognize Him, or more likely, Jesus prevented them from recognizing Him. He takes notice of the forlorn look of these two disciples and asked them why they were so gloomy. Cleophas could not believe that this “stranger” on the Jerusalem road to nowhere did not know what had happened there. With all the commotion they thought, how could anyone not know what had happened to Jesus.
Jesus continued to play the role of a stranger to draw out what He wanted from them. They responded that they had believed that Jesus of Nazareth was going to be the Prophet who would deliver Israel from Roman bondage. Instead, Jesus had been crucified and was now dead and buried. They must have stayed in Jerusalem to hear the report from the hysterical women that Jesus was alive. But unlike Peter and John who went to investigate the matter, these two went home. Their hope was drowned in unbelief.
Jesus, who knows all things, already knew what was in their heart. He drew it out of them in order that He could deal with their unbelief. He did not chide them for not believing the women’s report. After all, the women had also been overtaken with the same grief. Their report could easily have been dismissed to extreme psychological stress which had caused them to hallucinate. Jesus does not even chide them for not believing what He had Himself told them about His death and resurrection. Instead, he chides them for not believing what Scripture said about the death and resurrection of Christ.
Luke then tells us that Jesus began to show them from all of Scripture the texts that spoke of both His passion and resurrection. We would certainly like to know ourselves the Scriptures He shared with them. We would think that Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and Genesis 22 would be at the top of that list. But there are many others as well which Jesus could have shared with them over what may have been as long as a three hour hike. In this Jesus demonstrated to them and us the absolute authority of Scripture, which at that time is what we call the Old Testament today. Jesus preaching the old Testament proofs to them caused their hearts to burn within them.
When they got to Emmaus, Jesus acted as He would travel further. What place could be beyond nowhere? The two disciples knew that travel at night was dangerous, especially if one was going to the nothing beyond nowhere. They also knew the requirements of hospitality to strangers that the Law of Moses commanded and bid this stranger to stay with them.
Jesus took food with them which is proof to us that He was no ghost. He was really alive. He could eat. He would do the same with the other disciples to prove to them that the resurrection of Scripture is not just that of a soul, but a body as well. This physical body had some characteristic that our current body does not possess as He could vanish and also appear suddenly from sight.
When Jesus broke the bread, they knew they had been had It was by the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened to the fact that Jesus had been with them all the time. It is interesting to see from Scripture how Jesus reveals Himself to His disciples. To Mary, it was be her hearing Jesus call out her name. To the ten disciples, it was by eating fish and honeycomb. To Thomas, it was the call to touch Him and His wounds. To John on Patmos who was terrified by the vision of the glorious Jesus, so much so that he fell as dead, it was the touch of Jesus that let John know that this majestic and terrifying figure was the same Jesus who had walked with John and the disciples in Galilee and Judea.
It is abundantly clear that Jesus wanted those who would soon go out and proclaim Him as the risen Lord that He had risen indeed, and that in body, not just in Spirit. This was another one of those “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3) that Luke offers us as well. Luke wants us to be as certain of the resurrection of Christ as these disciples were. We can see this by the great care and accuracy he used it depicting the events in the gospel as well as in Acts. He wanted Theophilus to be most accurately informed of these matters. We do not know who this mysterious Theophilus was, but in a way, he stands for all of us as well.
We cannot see, touch, or physically hear the voice of Jesus the way the apostles did. John in his epistle can only remind those who he was writing to of their personal eye, ear, and hand witness of Jesus. John like Luke, Paul, Peter, and the other writers of the New Testament want us to be as convinced as they had been. To those they wrote to, this was of utmost urgency as persecution was knocking at the door. Some of those who read these accounts laid their lives down for Jesus as martyrs, even as most if not all of the apostles themselves did.
It is important for us to realize from this passage how important the Scripture is as a foundation to our faith. Our faith cannot just be built upon experience alone. One can only go so far with “You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.” We remember that Jesus challenged these disciples here as well as in His appearances later with the Scripture, and this the Old Testament at that. We should be as foolish at the Emmaus disciples not to know what the old Testament says about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Yet the church today relegates the Old Testament for the most part to the past, to the Jews. It might have been the Word of God to the Jewish people. It might be the Word of God to the Jewish people today. But is it the Word of God for Christians as well? This is how some think on this matter.
Jesus answers with an emphatic yes. He opened up the Scripture as the proof He was alive, even before He physically revealed Himself to them. The fact that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament was central to the apostle’s proclamation of the risen Jesus. They quote Scripture time and time again. In a sense, this is a more infallible proof that Jesus was alive than His actual appearance to them. His resurrection appearances are the vindication of the record of Scripture itself.
So we need to be students of all the Word of God, both the Old and New Testament if we are going to have a faith that will stand the test of discouragement and trials. The proof of Scripture which is God breathed by the Holy Spirit and made understandable to God’s people by the same Holy Spirit is what has sustained the church during periods of bloody persecution and not some vague experience which seems to day to trump the authority of Scripture itself. The lack of grounding of the Scripture puts the church today at terrific risk. Because we do not know them, when times of trial come and our experience fails us, it is the promise of the Word which keeps us from going off to the gloom of nowhere.
God wants us to be on the road to glory. It is a road with a cross in it. No one gets there without passing through the cross. It isn’t a road to a small city in the middle of nowhere, but rather a city which has foundations and substance, whose builder and maker is God.
Let us remember that the promise of Scripture is the foundation of our hope. Some day we will appear in glory with Him which will be the final proof that our trust in the God who had revealed Himself in Jesus Christ through the Scripture had been justified.