The Emmaus Road experience is a story that Mark cut short, Matthew and John don't report but Luke captures with great detail. In Luke 24 beginning at verse 13, he paints a vivid picture of two men whom Jesus mysteriously joins on their way to Emmaus shortly after his resurrection. The Bible says that Jesus was not recognizable to the men. The way that it is worded, it's almost as if there was a hand being held over the eyes of these men. It is my belief that He hid His identity because their hearts were not prepared to receive Jesus and therefore He had to prepare them before He revealed Himself to them. Why am I saying this? It's obvious from the text that the men did not understand who the Son of Man really was and what He came to do. In Mark's gospel, Jesus prophesied His death and resurrection three times (See Mark 9:30-32; Mark 10:32-34 and Mark 14:8) so there was no mystery around His purpose. However, these men were looking for something different.
As Jesus was walking along with them, he asked them what they were discussing to which they replied (paraphrasing) "Are you the ONLY person here who has not heard what just happened?" With great incredulity they interrogated Jesus, sensing some ignorance on His part. Jesus pressed them further for an answer and they began recounting the entire scenario of His crucifixion. Here is how I know that they were not ready or had different aspirations for the Messiah. First of all, when Jesus asked them what happened, they were standing and looking sad. Secondly, Luke 24:21 gives us a view into their mindset:
Luke 24:21 ""But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened."
So these men's hope was dashed by the fact that Jesus was murdered on the cross and that nothing had happened by the third day. The third day is crucial because in Jewish culture, it was believed that after three days of being dead, there was no coming back from that. They did not understand the prophecies about Him or the Scriptures telling of His death, one for all. However, they also said something else that was crucial to our understanding but overlooked in their own assessment. They said that the women who went to the tomb told them that it was empty and that Jesus was alive! Therefore, whether they knew it or not, Israel had indeed been redeemed and their King was alive and well! The whole world had been redeemed for that matter. Death had been conquered by the Messiah! Why were they sad? I guess they did not believe what the women had said, not unlike the other disciples who also did not believe at first when they saw the resurrected Jesus.
What can we learn from these men and this experience?
1. When we have doubts about what God is doing, we should not seek an experience, we should search the scriptures and pray for understanding.
Verses 25-27 (NASB): "25And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26“Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures."
Jesus did not give them some ecstatic experience or some powerful new revelation from heaven, he took them back to the Word of God. The Word stands forever. The Word will remain even when the flower fades and the grass withers. It is the Word of God by which the universe was created(genesis 1:3) and upon which the universe holds together (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17). The Word of God is objective, honest and true and it has the answers that we seek. The Word of God shapes our worldview and therefore Jesus took them to the Scriptures and showed them WHY He had to die and WHAT His ministry was truly about. He did not come as a military conqueror, as they suspected that the Messiah would, He came as the Lamb without spot or blemish to take away the sins of the world. John the Baptist knew this when he said "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). Here is a great example of what we must do as Christians when we are in doubt about anything, we consult the Word of God and pray for the Spirit of God to explain or open the Word up to us!
2. We must invite Jesus into our personal lives.
Verses 28-29 "And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. 29But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them."
They wanted Jesus to stay with them. This is crucial to the profound occurrence that happened in the next verse. They urged (begged) Him to stay. This is the same attitude that we must have. We ought to be praying for Christ to dwell with us and we ought to be dwelling with Him. The Bible says that he acted as if He would go further. This was possibly a test to see if these men really wanted Him or if they were satisfied with what they had received already. They were taught the Scriptures on the road but was that enough or did they want more? Obviously, they wanted more. We cannot remain complacent or stagnant in our walk with Jesus. We must desire more of Him each and every day. They urged Him to stay and He went in to stay with them. Interestingly, the word used for stay is the same word Jesus used when He instructed His disciples in John 15:4 to abide in Him. This abiding is a long-lasting, fruitful and joyous interaction between God and man!
3. We must surrender to Jesus.
Verses 30-31 "30When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight."
Look at this verse carefully. Jesus comes in and dines with them. Revelation 3:20 says that Jesus is standing at the door knocking and if ANYONE opens the door, He will come in and dine with them. Dining is an intimate experience. It was even more intimate in this culture. This was not a traditional American meal where we sit separated in chairs around a table; reclining means that they were leaning on one elbow, lying on their sides. This was a way more relaxed and intimate setting. Consider also that there were no electric lights and it was getting towards evening so they probably had candles or lamps flickering in the background. Notice what happens, Jesus comes into their home and He is the one who breaks the bread! It was not customary for the guest to break the bread but in this case, when Jesus was the guest of honor, things were a little different! Here is the nugget from this: they surrendered their bread to Jesus! We must surrender our bread to Jesus. He can do more with it than we can! We must surrender totally to Him. Let Him into our lives, give Him charge over our bread, the rooms in our homes, cluttered or uncluttered must be turned over to Him! We have to show Him the parts of the house that we wouldn't normally show anyone and give Him free reign!
Look at what happened when they surrendered: verse 31 says that their eyes were opened! The verb is in the passive voice indicating that their eyes were opened by an external force operating on them. We know that it was God who opened their eyes! Once their eyes were opened they recognized Jesus for who He was. This verb, recognized, is in the active voice therefore it was their own action. However, this would not have happened had not God given them the understanding. Do you see the importance of surrender? If we surrender, if we make ourselves vulnerable to God, He will reveal things to us that we would otherwise not understand.
4. Do not reject the Holy Spirit's work in preparing our witness.
Verses 32-35 "32They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread."
The Bible says their hearts were burning while Jesus was teaching them. He was explaining or literally opening up the Scriptures to them. The word for explaining brings to mind a womb being opened or something being cut across. The verb for burning again in the passive voice. There was someone or something causing the burning while Jesus was teaching. That someone was the Spirit of God! He convicts us, He teaches us and He prepares us. They were now ready because they understood what was happening. They understood that Christ had to die but also that He would not stay dead. Here is the lesson for us: We cannot let our fire go down to a flicker! We must stay close to God through prayer and supplication, continually asking for the fire of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. They walked seven miles back to Jerusalem and told the disciples everything that had just happened! They were witnesses but they had to first be prepared by Jesus!
What we see is a glorious transformation of two men who were sad when they did not fully understand what they were experiencing but who became powerful witnesses for Jesus after He showed Himself to them. They were not ready but He made them ready. They were sad but Jesus filled them with joy! Let the Word of God dwell richly in each and every one of you so that you will be well equipped for every good work, able to give an answer to anyone for the hope that lies within you! We should not be sad, we should lift our heads up and know that our redemption draws near. Jesus is alive and well and He is still teaching us, by His Spirit, even from His seat in heaven. I pray that this was a blessing to you and that it edifies and nourishes you to the glory of God! Grace and peace be upon you!