Untitled Sermon (21)
Vers. 13–35.—The meeting with the risen Jesus on the way to Emmaus.
Ver. 13.—And, behold, two of them. This long piece, which relates in a singularly vivid and picturesque manner one of the earliest appearances of the Risen, is peculiar to St. Luke. St. Mark (16:12, 13) mentions it, but as it were only in passing. This Gospel, written probably after the Gospels of SS. Matthew and Mark, holds a middle place between the earliest apostolic memoirs represented by the first two Gospels and the last memoir, that of St. John, which was probably put out in its present form by the apostle “whom Jesus loved” some time in the last fifteen years of the first century. Writers of varied schools unite in expressions of admiration for this singularly beautiful “memory of the Lord.” Godet styles it one of the most admirable pieces in St. Luke’s Gospel. Renan, belonging to another, perhaps the most cheerless of all schools of religious thought, writes thus: “L’épisode des disciples d’Emmaus est un des récits les plus fins, les plus nuancés qu’il y ait dans aucune langue” (‘Les Evangiles,’ p. 282). Dean Plumptre speaks of “the long and singularly interesting narrative peculiar to St. Luke.” He says, “It must be looked upon as among the ‘gleaning of the grapes,’ which rewarded his researches even after the full vintage had apparently been gathered in by others” (i.e. SS. Matthew and Mark). The “two of them,” although doubtless well known in the apostolic age, seem to have held no distinguished place in early Christian history (see note on ver. 18, where Cleopas is mentioned). That same day. The first day of the week—the first Easter Day. The events of the early morning of the Resurrection have been already commented upon. To a village called Emmaus. This Emmaus, the narrative tells us, was about sixty furlongs—some six miles and a half—from the holy city. It was situated east-south-east from Jerusalem. The name is connected with the modern Arabic term Hammám (a bath), and indicates probably, like the Latin Aquæ, or the French Aix, and the English “Bath,” or “Wells,” the presence of medicinal springs; and this may possibly account for St. Luke the physician’s attention having in the first instance been drawn to the spot. This Emmaus is now called Kulonieh. A curious Talmudical reference, quoted by Godet, belongs to this place Emmaus, now Kulonieh: “At Maûza they go to gather the green boughs for the Feast of Tabernacles” (Talmud, ‘Succa,’ iv. 5). Elsewhere it is said that “Maûza is Kulonieh.”
Ver. 15.—While they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. One, if not the first, fulfilment of the comforting promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” Compare also the words of Malachi, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it” (3:16).
Ver. 16.—But their eyes were holden, that they should not know him. So Mary Magdalene looked on and failed to recognize at first the Person of her adored Master (John 20:15). So by the lake-shore, as he stood and spoke to the tired fishermen, they who had been so long with him knew him not. Some mysterious change had been wrought in the Person of the Lord. Between the Resurrection and the Ascension, men and women now looked on him without a gleam of recognition, now gazed on him knowing well that it was the Lord. “It is vain,” writes Dr. Westcott, “to give any simply natural explanation of the failure of the disciples to recognize Christ. After the Resurrection he was known as he pleased, and not necessarily at once.… Till they who gazed on him were placed in something of spiritual harmony with the Lord, they could not recognize him.” The two on their walk to Emmaus, and Mary Magdalene in the garden, were preoccupied with their sorrow. The fisher-disciples on the lake were preoccupied with their work, so that the vision of the Divine was obscured. The risen Christ will surely fulfil his own words, “The pure in heart, they shall see God”—but only the pure in heart.
Ver. 17.—What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? The older authorities make the question stop at “as ye walk,” and then add, “and they stood still, looking sad.” This change is, of course, of no great importance, but it considerably adds to the vividness of the picture.
Ver. 18.—And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas. This name is a Greek contraction of Cleopatros, and points to Alexandrian antecedents. Dean Plumptre suggests that this may in part, perhaps, account for this Cleopas, not improbably a Jew of Alexandria, imparting to St. Luke what had not found its way into the current oral teaching of the Hebrew Church at Jerusalem, as embodied in the narratives of SS. Matthew and Mark. Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem? better translated, dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem, and not know, etc.? That is to say, “Art thou the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know about the wonderful events which have just taken place in the holy city?”
Ver. 19.—And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. To the Stranger’s question, “What things have so lately excited Jerusalem?” they both probably burst out with “the Name,” then doubtless on all lips in the holy city, “Jesus of Nazareth,” the hated and adored Name. And then they went on with a further explanation to One who seemed a stranger just arrived: they explained who this Jesus was supposed to have been. “He was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” which Lange happily paraphrases “equally great in secret contemplative holiness and in public acts of beneficence.” But then the “two” explained, “This he was; for he is no more. Our chief priests and rulers have done him to death. They have crucified him.”
Ver. 21.—But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. And we who were his friends and followers, we thought we had found in him the Redeemer of Israel, King Messiah! Think! the Redeemer crucified! Although the Redeemer, in the sense they probably understood the word, was something very different to the sense we give to it, the idea was still something very lofty and sublime. It included, no doubt, much of earthly glory and dominion for Israel, but in some definite sense the Gentile world, too, would share in the blessings of Messiah. And to think of the shameful cross putting an end to all these hopes! And beside all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done. But yet terrible and despairing as was the story of Cleopas and his friend, their tone was not quite hopeless; for they went on, “And now we have come to the third day since they crucified him.” No doubt they dwelt a short space on the expression, “third day,” telling the Stranger how their dead Master, when alive, had bade his friends watch for the third day from his death. The third day, he had told them, would be the day of his triumphant return to them; and, strangely enough, on the early morning of this third day, something did happen which had stirred, excited, and perplexed them. Certain women of their company, who had been early to the grave of the Master, meaning to embalm the corpse, found the sepulchre empty, and they came back reporting how they had seen a vision of angels there, who told them their Master lived. What did it all mean?
Ver. 24.—And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Tholuck writes, “Does not their word sound as the language of those in whose heart the smoking flax yet glimmers, though nigh to extinction?”
Ver. 25.—Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! better translated, O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! The Stranger now replies to the confused story of sorrow and baffled hopes just lit up with one faint ray of hope, with a calm reference to that holy book so well known to, so deeply treasured by every Jew. “See,” he seems to say, “in the pages of our prophets all this, over which you now so bitterly mourn, is plainly predicted: yon must be blind and deaf not to have seen and heard this story of agony and patient suffering in those well-known, well-loved pages! When those great prophets spoke of the coming of Messiah, how came it about that you missed seeing that they pointed to days of suffering and death to be endured by him before his time of sovereignty and triumph could be entered on?”
Ver. 26.—Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? better translated, ought not the Christ, etc.? “St. Luke dwells on the Resurrection as a spiritual necessity; St. Mark, as a great fact; St. Matthew, as a glorious and majestic manifestation, and St. John, in its effects on the members of the Church.… If this suffering and death were a necessity (οὐχ ἔδει), if it was in accordance with the will of God that the Christ should suffer, and so enter into his glory, and if we can be enabled to see this necessity, and see also the noble issues which flow from it, then we can understand how the same necessity must in due measure be laid upon his brethren” (Westcott). And so we obtain a key to some of the darkest problems of humanity. Thus the Stranger led the “two” to see the true meaning of the “prophets,” whose burning words they had so often read and heard without grasping their real deep signification. Thus he led them to see that the Christ must be a suffering before he could be a triumphing Messiah; that the crucifixion of Jesus, over which they wailed with so bitter a wailing, was in fact an essential part of the counsels of God. Then he went on to show that, as his suffering is now fulfilled—for the Crucifixion and death were past—nothing remains of that which is written in the prophets, but the entering into his glory.
Ver. 27.—And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. The three divisions, the Pentateuch (Moses), the prophets, and all the Scriptures, cover the whole Old Testament received then in the same words as we possess them now. The Lord’s proofs of what he asserted he drew from the whole series of writings, rapidly glancing over the long many-coloured roll called the Old Testament. “Jesus had before him a grand field, from the Protevangelium, the first great Gospel of Genesis, down to Malachi. In studying the Scriptures for himself, he had found himself in them everywhere (John 5:39, 40)” (Godet). The things concerning himself. The Scriptures which the Lord probably referred to specially were the promise to Eve (Gen. 3:15); the promise to Abraham (Gen. 22:18); the Paschal lamb (Exod. 12.); the scapegoat (Lev. 16:1–34); the brazen serpent (Numb. 21:9); the greater Prophet (Deut. 18:15); the star and sceptre (Numb. 24:17); the smitten rock (Numb. 20:11; 1 Cor. 10:4), etc.; Immanuel (Isa. 7:14); “Unto us a Child is born,” etc. (Isa. 9:6, 7); the good Shepherd (Isa. 40:10, 11); the meek Sufferer (Isa. 50:6); he who bore our griefs (Isa. 53:4, 5); the Branch (Jer. 23:5; 33:14, 15); the Heir of David (Ezek. 34:23); the Ruler from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); the Branch (Zech. 6:12); the lowly King (Zech. 9:9); the pierced Victim (Zech. 12:10); the smitten Shepherd (Zech. 13:7); the messenger of the covenant (Mal. 3:1); the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2); and no doubt many other passages. Dr. Davison, in his book on prophecy, pp. 266–287, shows that there is not one of the prophets without some distinct reference to Christ, except Nahum, Jonah (who was himself a type and prophetic sign), and Habakkuk, who, however, uses the memorable words quoted in Rom. 1:17. To these we must add references to several of the psalms, notably to the sixteenth and twenty-second, where sufferings and death are spoken of as belonging to the perfect picture of the Servant of the Lord and the ideal King. His hearers would know well how strangely the agony of Calvary was foreshadowed in those vivid word-pictures he called before their memories in the course of that six-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
Ver. 28.—And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. This was no feint or deception. The Lord would have left them then to themselves had they not prayed him with real earnestness to abide with them. “How many are there,” says Stier, “to whom he has drawn near, but with whom he has not tarried, because they have suffered him to ‘go away again,’ in his living and heart-moving words! How comparatively rare is it for men to reach the full blessing they might receive (see, for example, the striking historical instance, 2 Kings 13:14, 19)!” But these were not content to let the unknown Teacher pass on, and see no more of him, and hear no more of his strange powerful teaching. It is the words of, and the thought contained in, this verse which suggested the idea of the well-known hymn—“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.”
Ver. 29.—And he went in to tarry with them. Some have supposed that one at least of the two had a dwelling at Emmaus; but the position which the strange Teacher assumed as “Master of the household,” in the solemn act recorded in ver. 30, seems to indicate that it was an inn where they sojourned.
Ver. 30.—And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. There was a deep significance in the concluding act of this memorable appearance of the risen Lord. This taking the bread, and blessing it, and breaking it, and then giving it to them, was no ordinary act of courtesy, or welcome, or friendship, which, from a master or teacher might be shown to his disciples. It resembles too closely the great sacramental act in the upper room, when Jesus was alone with his apostles, for us to mistake its solemn sacramental character. The great teachers of the Church in different ages have generally so understood it. So Chrysostom in the Eastern, and Augustine in the Western Church; so Theophylact, and later Beza the Reformer all affirm that this meal was the sacrament. It taught men generally, even more plainly than did the first sacred institution teach the twelve, that in this solemn breaking of bread the Church would recognize their Master’s presence. So generally, in fact, has this Emmaus “breaking of bread” been recognized by the Catholic Church as the sacrament, that later Romanist divines have even pressed it as a scriptural demonstration for the abuse which administered the elements under one form (compare, for instance, the “Refutation of the Confession of Augsberg,” quoted by Stier, in his comment on this passage of Luke, ‘Words of the Lord Jesus’). How unnecessary and forced such a construction is, Bishop Wordsworth points out in his note on ch. 24:30, “It may be remembered that bread (ἄρτος) was to the Jews a general name for food, including drink as well as meat.… Thus bread became spiritually an expressive term for all the blessings received from communion in Christ’s body and blood, and the κλάσις ἄρτου, or ‘breaking of bread,’ was suggestive of the source from which these blessings flow, (viz.) Christ’s body (κλώμενον) broken (1 Cor. 11:24); hence κλάσις ἄρτου in Acts 2:42 is a general term for the Holy Eucharist.”
Ver. 31.—He vanished out of their sight. Not here, not now, can we hope to understand the nature of the resurrection-body of the Lord; it is and must remain to us, in our present condition, a mystery. Certain facts have, however, been revealed to us: (1) The Resurrection was a reality, not an appearance; for on more than one occasion the Lord permitted the test of touch. He also ate before his disciples of their ordinary food. (2) Yet there was a manifest exemption from the common conditions of bodily (corporeal) existence; for he comes through a closed door; he could withdraw himself when he would from touch as well as from sight; he could vanish in a moment from those looking on him; he could, as men gazed on him, rise by the exertion of his own will into the clouds of heaven. (3) He was known just as he pleased and when he pleased; for at times during the “forty days” men and women looked on him without a gleam of recognition, at times they gazed at him, knowing well that it was the Lord. On the words, “he vanished out of their sight,” Godet writes, “It must be remembered that Jesus, strictly speaking, was already no more with them (ver. 44), and that the miracle consisted rather in his appearing than in his disappearing.” Dr. Westcott expresses the same truth in different language, “What was natural to him before was now miraculous, what was before miraculous is now natural.”
Ver. 32.—And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way? better rendered, was not our heart burning within us, while, etc.?
Vers. 33, 34.—And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem. “They fear no longer the night-journey from which they had dissuaded their unknown Companion” (Bengel). And found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. Late that evening Cleopas and his friend arrived from Emmaus at Jerusalem. Hastening to the accustomed meeting-place of the disciples of Jesus, to tell their wondrous story of the meeting with the risen Master, they find the eleven together full of joy. Peter had seen and had no doubt conversed with his Master. What a meeting must that have been! The once eager and devoted apostle had probably not gazed on that form in life since he caught the sorrowful look bent on him in the courtyard, when Jesus, bound, passed through and heard his servant denying him with oaths and curses. This appearance to Peter is not recorded in the Gospels. It is, however, placed first of all by St. Paul in his records of the manifestation of the Risen (1 Cor. 15:4–8).
Ver. 35.—And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. The two travellers now relate to the eleven their wondrous story. The words used by Cleopas and his friend in their narration, ἐν τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου, which should be rendered, “in the breaking of the bread,” are significant. It is an expression which, at the time when St. Luke wrote his Gospel, had acquired a definite meaning in the language of the Christian Church, and was applied to breaking bread in the “Supper of the Lord” (see Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Cor. 10:16). While they were speaking together, the personal appearance of the Lord was vouchsafed to them; for, of a sudden, he stood in the midst and spoke to them!
The Emmaus Dialogue (24:13–35)* This resurrection account is one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible. Part of what makes it such an enjoyable story is that the reader knows more about what is taking place than the two disciples who unknowingly encounter Jesus. The British would call such a story “cheeky,” because it pokes fun boldly at the doubting of resurrection. The reversal of emotion within the account shows how powerful a truth resurrection is. If God has power over Jesus’ life and death, he also has power over all life and death. God is the Creator of life and is sovereign over death. If he points an endorsing finger at Jesus, how can humanity doubt him?
This meeting occurs as two disciples journey to Emmaus. They are sixty stadia, or about seven miles, from Jerusalem (the exact location of ancient Emmaus is not known today). The recent events have given them plenty to discuss, just as a major political event does among us today. In fact, the text portrays their discussion as rather intense, since syzēteō can refer to debating (Mk 8:11; Lk 22:23; Acts 6:9).
As they journey, a man joins them. Now Luke cleverly notes that it is Jesus, but he also mentions that the men cannot recognize him as Jesus. For once the joke is not on the reader but on the participants. Jesus is not being cruel here, but his gradual revelation of himself allows them to learn certain lessons about trusting God’s promises. The disciples had been told about these events many times, but they cannot conceive how they could come to pass. The gradual revelation drives the point home vividly and calls on them to remember God’s Word while trusting that what he says will come to pass. As we remember God’s promise, we should rest in it (vv. 5–7). Luke’s detailed account gives the reader an inside glimpse at how events were understood by disciples before they became aware that Jesus had risen from the dead. In all of these encounters, God shows himself to be in total control (note also v. 31).
So Jesus asks the two men about their conversation. Their countenance says it all: they stood still, their faces downcast. For these disciples, hope had been buried in the tomb provided by Joseph. In fact, one of them, Cleopas, is shocked that their new companion is unaware of recent events. His question’s irony can hardly be overstated: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (so correctly RSV). If anyone knows, it is the One they are speaking to! But to draw them out, he asks them about their discussion.
Reviewing the story of Jesus of Nazareth, they refer to him as a prophet, a popular conception of who Jesus was (4:16–30; 7:16; 9:7–9, 18; 13:31–35). In fact, this view of Jesus, when comparing him to a prophet like Moses, correctly reflects an aspect of his ministry (Acts 3:14–26; 10:38–39). This Jesus was powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. But the leadership, chief priests and rulers, handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him (23:13). The disciples’ hope had been different: “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” For them, Jesus’ death had spelled a seeming end to that hope. The leaders had handed the promise over to Rome, and their persistence had extinguished its flame. Where these disciples place responsibility for Jesus’ death is clear, and so is their disappointment.
But the story is not over. Three days have passed, and new events have caused a stir. Some of the female disciples journeyed to the tomb, only to find no body inside. They claimed to have seen a vision of angels. They claimed that he was alive. Still others went to the tomb and found it empty, but they did not see Jesus. This empirical note seems to be key for the two, since it seems they are not yet convinced that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Thomas gets all the contemporary press as a doubter of the resurrection, but Luke 24 makes it clear that he was merely one of a crowd, including these two followers. Like modern people in their skepticism, they will be persuaded only if they actually see Jesus. As readers we almost want to yell at the two, “Take a close look!”
Here is the major lesson of the Emmaus Road experience. Though resurrection is hard to believe, be assured that it took place. Its reality means that Jesus’ claims are true. He was more than a teacher and more than a prophet. He was the promised, anointed one of God. A host of skeptics saw that this was so, and they believed. Do not be skeptical as these men were. Remember what God required of his Messiah: suffering, then vindication in exaltation.
Jesus starts to break their misconceptions with a rebuke: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” For the second time in the chapter, Luke notes how these events were necessary (dei; compare v. 7). Jesus reviews the rest of the story from the book that reveals it. Events and Scripture together raise the issue of faith in God’s promises. The disciples have been slow to believe. They have not read Isaiah 52–53 or Psalm 16 with understanding, not to mention Deuteronomy 18:15, Psalm 2:7, Psalm 110:1, Psalm 118 or Daniel 7:13–14. No doubt when beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself, Jesus used many of the texts that show up in other places in Luke and Acts. By taking them back to the Scripture, Jesus is noting that what took place was part of God’s plan and promise. Luke highlights the point by speaking about all the Prophets and interpreting all the Scripture. Scripture’s promise centers on Jesus. This text is a primary witness to Jesus. We can rest assured that Jesus is who he claims to be.
The lesson has not ended, but it is getting late. So as they draw near to Emmaus, Jesus pretends (NIV acted as if; Greek prosepoiēsato) he would journey on, but the men prevail upon him to stay with them. Since he has revealed the plan, now it is time to reveal the person.
It is in the intimacy of fellowship that Jesus is recognized. This setting is no mistake; it is a major Lukan theme. Many of the resurrection appearances he describes are associated with table fellowship (Lk 24:41–43; Acts 1:4; 10:41; also Jn 21:9–15). As Jesus sits at the table, takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them, their eyes were opened. In a situation that recalls the feeding of the five thousand and the Last Supper, the disciples realize that they have been talking with the Lord himself (Lk 9:22; 22:19). Though not a reenactment of the Last Supper, this meal does show that Jesus is present and is known when his disciples remain close to him. The lack of recognition of verse 16 is reversed. Their perplexity over recent events is removed. It is through sitting with Jesus and listening to him that we get to know him.
After his recognition by the disciples, Jesus disappears. That Jesus is alive is all the disciples need to understand. They can now appreciate that he is with them. All of a sudden the entire discussion on the road makes sense. Like a lost key found or a huge mystery solved, the direction of recent events becomes clear and the way to understand life anew is opened up. Because of this new awareness, the disciples recall their recent scriptural review in a new light: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Their words point to how emotional the exposition had been for them, like a message being sown into the soul.
With a flame relit in their hearts, they return to the gathering of disciples in Jerusalem. The news is too good to keep to themselves. To know Jesus is to be thrilled at the prospect of sharing news of him with others.
Good news travels fast, and news of the verification of the resurrection was no exception. Jesus has, in effect, been everywhere. The two returning disciples are greeted with a report like their own: “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon!” This is a new detail in chapter 24, since earlier all Luke had reported was the empty tomb Peter saw (v. 12). So the message of the Emmaus disciples is preempted. Jesus is among all of them. It is becoming clear to all in the community that the women were right after all. Jesus is alive, and their hope remains as firmly in place as ever. The Emmaus report follows. Luke stresses that Jesus revealed himself to the two disciples during the breaking of the bread. In the quietness of the table Jesus is especially revealed.
We can imagine the flood of emotion in the room as these stories of Jesus’ appearances flowed in. It must have been like a newsroom full of reporters collecting facts on a breaking story. The room was probably abuzz.
What is more, though it is late and much has already happened, Jesus’ appearances are not over quite yet. Despite his “physical” absence, he has actually been with all of them all along through resurrection—a very crucial message for the disciples to learn about how Jesus will be with them in the future. To say Jesus is risen is to say that he is with us.