Encounter on the Road to Emmaus

Encounter on the Road to Emmaus

Mark 16: 12-13, Luke 24:13-35

Last week on Easter Sunday, we compared the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection found in the four books of the Bible known as the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of the writers were tasked by God to give an account of the events that have been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Each do so and take a good bit of their letters (¼ to ½) to talk about everything that happened in just the last week of Jesus’ life – from Psalm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

Each writer tells the story in his own unique way, but by comparing their versions to one another, we can discover how each Gospel writer answers the question, “In a world of uncertainty, how can we be sure that the Resurrection is real?”

Each of the Gospel writers offer an answer to the uncertainty of God’s resurrection power.
In Matthew, the Resurrection power is found when we choose to live it, practice it, and follow God until we can fully believe it.

In Mark, the evidence for Resurrection power is found in the way God has worked in your past before you even realized it, how God is working in your present right in front of you here and now, and in your future where you have uncertainties and unknowns.

In Luke, the Resurrection power is found in remembrance, choosing to remember who God is, who you are to God, and what He has already done for you.

And in John, the Resurrection power is found in hearing God speak your name, and in realizing that God is always with you, despite all your uncertainties.

Each of the Easter stories in the Gospels, calls for our response to the resurrection of Jesus.

Many are far too skeptical to really believe that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened. But as people of faith, we believe not only that the Resurrection happened, but also that it is the central aspect of our Christian conviction. Without the Resurrection, there would be no Christianity.

Now, you might think that would be how the Gospel writers the end of their letters. Jesus is alive, He rose from the dead, what more could there be? But each of their stories go a little bit further. Jesus’ resurrection was certainly the climax of the story, but not the end. The writers go on to tell of people witnessing the Risen Christ, seeing Him firsthand, then they tell of Jesus giving the Great Commission to share the good news and make disciples, as well as Jesus’ ascension to Heaven.

In fact, within the 40 days from Jesus’ resurrection to His accession to Heaven, He appeared to people at least 10 different times (and that’s just what’s recorded).
To Mary Magdalene at the tomb.
To the other women as they ran from the tomb to tell the disciples the message they received from the angels.
To Peter by himself on the day of the resurrection (Luke 24:34).
To the two followers on the road to Emmaus also on the day of the resurrection.
To ten of the disciples (Thomas being absent) on the evening of the resurrection day.
To the disciples again (this time Thomas being present).
To the disciples when fishing at the Sea of Galilee.
To the more than 500 followers at one time as mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:6.
To James (Jesus’ half-brother) also mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:7.
To the apostles one more time as they accompanied him to Mount Olivet where they saw him ascend to Heaven.

And Luke implies in the book of Acts, that there may have been more times that are not recorded.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at some of these stories. These stories are the next part of Jesus’ story, which makes them the next part of our story. These accounts go on to show and prove that Jesus rose and actually is alive. We’ll start with the encounter on the road to Emmaus.

This encounter happens on the same day that Jesus was resurrected. Two of His followers are leaving Jerusalem walking to Emmaus, a town 7 miles outside of Jerusalem. These two are not of the twelve. They could have been of the 72 that Jesus sent out in Luke 10. Or they could be others who started following Jesus. What we do know is that they are not prominent men as Luke gives the name on only one of them, Cleopas (Cle-o-pas).

In this story, they’re discouraged, they’re frustrated, they’re sad about all that happened in the last few days. None of it makes any sense. They stuck around in Jerusalem for the Sabbath day and as soon as they can, they leave town. They think all is done and over. Even though they’ve heard about what the women saw, they don’t believe it. They’re frustrated, and at this point, they just want to go home.

As they are heading down the road recounting all that had happened, still trying to make sense of it, a man catches up to them and begins to walk alongside them. Spoiler alert, the man was Jesus, but God kept them from recognizing who it was, so they had no idea that it was Jesus. They just assumed He too was someone who had enough and just wanted to get out of town.

Yet, what is strange to them is that this man walking with them, in the same direction, appears to have no idea of what just happened in Jerusalem in the last few days.

Luke 24:17-35
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stop walking, look at Him stunned and with sadness written all over their faces and,

18 Then one of them, Cleopas replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

We could think Jesus is playing dumb here just to test them and hear what they say, but what I think He has something deeper up His sleeve. So listen closely. They begin to tell Him.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

A bit of the back story, most of the Jews believed that the Old Testament prophecies pointed to a military and political Messiah. They had been counting on Jesus to redeem Israel, to rescue the nation from its enemy, the Romans. They didn’t realize that the Messiah had come to redeem people from sin, something that would save not only them, but every generation to come. So when Jesus died, they lost all hope.

They were so caught up in the world’s political power and military might that they were blind to God’s Kingdom values, that life actually grows out of death. They didn’t understand that Jesus’ death offered the greatest hope possible.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

You can you hear their frustration. They were stunned that this man didn’t know what was going on. He’s walking away from the city too. Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t a small, insignificant event that only affected the disciples. This news about Jesus’ crucifixion had spread throughout all of Jerusalem. Great crowds of people gathered when He entered the city, more gathered to listen to Him preach in the Temple, a great crowd gathered to condemn Him and watch Him drag His cross to the hill where He would die. And on top of that, it was Passover week when thousands of Jews from all over the nation were visiting the city, and we all know it doesn’t take long for word to spread. The whole nation was interested.

These followers were disheartened, feeling terribly sad about what happened. Despite the women’s witness, which was verified by some of the disciples, and despite the biblical prophecies of this very event, they still didn’t believe.

They apparently also didn’t understand who Jesus was. By calling Him a prophet and teacher, not Messiah or Son of God, they revealed that they still did not understand who Jesus was. They saw Him only as a mighty prophet. So when Jesus died on the cross, all their hopes of rescue from the Roman opposition had died with Him. Because their hope was gone, they quickly discounted the testimony of the women at the empty tomb.

Jesus already knew what was in these followers’ hearts. He knew what they were talking about and how they were feeling. He didn’t have to ask. But He got them talking and for some reason the followers felt comfortable with this stranger and opened up to Him. And in the process of doing so, their disbelief and hopelessness came flying out.

The stranger, Jesus, was then able to give them some peace of mind. On their long seven-mile walk, Jesus took the time to reminded them of all the Old Testament scriptures that were about Him and foretold what would happen.

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Beginning with the promised offspring in Genesis, and going through the suffering servant in Isaiah, the pierced one in Zechariah, and the messenger of the covenant in Malachi, Jesus re-introduced these followers to the Old Testament scriptures that were all about Him. His very point for doing so is that He, Jesus Christ, is the thread woven through all the scriptures, the central theme that binds them all together. By reminding them of the scriptures, He was actually proving who He is.

Now if Jesus would have left them see who He was from the beginning, I’m not sure He would have had the opportunity to do that. At least not with the same affect.

During one of my Course of Study classes (a summer cram course), we were learning how to dissect scripture and see the story and meaning deeper. I thought I usually did that, but this class was taking me even deeper into God’s purpose for the scriptures.
It took me almost two full weeks to figure out exactly what the teacher was asking us to do. One day, we were partnered with other students to dig in to a particular scripture and report our findings which would go towards our final exam, and our assigned scripture was from Isaiah which I immediately dreaded because Isaiah was a book I struggled to understand. I also knew right away that God did this on purpose since I struggled with this book. But as our group worked together, the Holy Spirit did something and it finally clicked in me, and it all started coming together. It was like the blinders were off, and I understood.

That’s what Jesus is doing here with these two. These followers needed to look closer at the details in the scriptures and through those details, they could see that Jesus is the central theme of the entire Bible (which in their time was just the Old Testament). They could see that Jesus was God’s plan all along. He fulfilled every one of the prophesies up to that point. That proved God was in control, that God had a plan the whole time, and that all was better than okay.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” 35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.

There’s a little exam going on in this story. Jesus was going to continue on past Emmaus. But with the warm feelings, the support they felt from this stranger, the followers insisted that He to stay at their home. It was getting late and I’m sure for His safety, but they didn’t want to let Him go either. They were fascinated with Him. And it’s a good thing they did insist, or they would have totally missed the opportunity to see the Risen Christ right in front of them and completely understand who He is.

Take notice that Jesus did not invite Himself. That’s not His style. He doesn’t force Himself on us. He shows up, and we have to let Him in.

In this setting, Jesus the guest quickly became Jesus the host. In an Eastern setting, bread was not sliced but came as an entire loaf. To serve the bread, a person broke off a piece and gave it to another. Apparently, Jesus’ distinct way of doing this revealed His identity. Then instantly, Jesus vanished from their sight.
Now things are coming together in the minds of these followers. It’s makes sense how He knew the scriptures so well, how He could explain who the Messiah is and how all the prophesies had been fulfilled through Jesus, it makes sense as to why they were so comfortable with Him.

They said their hearts were burning or on fire while they listened to Him. Remember in the Bible, the heart is where one thinks and makes decisions. This is an image for how encountering the Risen Christ changes one’s manner of thoughts, like their minds were yearning, desiring for what He had to say.

And within the hour, remember now late in the day, they head back to Jerusalem because this news was so great that it had to be shared with the others right away.

This encounter is the longest exchange recorded between Jesus and any person regarding His resurrection. Jesus took His time through this, spending hours with these followers that very first day because He needed these followers to be strong, to rally together and become a great force. And that all started to fall together when they rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the others, and they find out that Peter too has seen Jesus. It was starting to make sense. The women weren’t so crazy.

At first, these two followers returning to Emmaus missed the significance of history’s greatest event because they were too focused on their disappointments and problems. Then to make matters worse, they had given up and were heading in the wrong direction…away from the support and fellowship of the other believers in Jerusalem.

We too can easily miss Jesus and withdraw from the strength found in other believers when we become preoccupied with our failed hopes and plans.

How many times have you felt encouragement and love from being around other believers? When you walk through those doors to worship or some other event? When you hear the testimonies during the People’s Prayer time? Doesn’t that show you love and support and keep reminding you of who God is?

It is only when we are looking for Jesus in our everyday lives that we will actually experience the power and help only He can bring. And it’s when we look at the bigger picture and not focus on our own plans and hopes, that we see and experience how amazing God truly works.

Acts 1:3
During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

John 20:30-31
30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

Jesus tested these followers, but even more He was reminding them of the scriptures and what He has done to fulfill those scriptures, once again proving that He is alive, that He is the true Messiah.

The world really hasn’t changed its values in the last 2,000 years. The suffering servant, Jesus, still isn’t very popular among many people. But we now, have not only the witnesses from the Old Testament, we also have the witnesses from the New Testament and the history of the Christian church testifying to who Jesus is.

And we have all of our own defining stories, and it’s up to us to tell our defining stories and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore. Because I live, you also shall live.” John 11:25-26, Revelation 22:13, Revelation 1:18, John 14:19