By Peter Amsterdam
July 5, 2022
After seeing the resurrected Jesus, the women followed His instructions to go and tell the disciples that He was alive.1 The Gospel of Luke tells us that the disciples didn’t believe what the women had said, as these words seemed to them an idle tale.2
But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.3
Though the disciples didn’t believe, Peter went to the tomb anyway, looked at the situation, and simply returned home, which probably means where he was staying in Jerusalem at the time.
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.4
Two disciples, neither of whom was one of the eleven apostles, were traveling, possibly heading back to their homes. It is likely they were some of those who had considered the women’s testimony of seeing the risen Christ as being an idle tale.
This is the only mention of Emmaus within Scripture, so it is uncertain exactly where it was. Historians have a variety of theories about what town this was, but it seems to be inconclusive. All we know is that it was relatively close to Jerusalem (commentators say between 6.8 miles and 18.4 miles), and that two disciples were heading there. As they were on their way, they engaged in discussion about recent events. It had been a difficult time. Jesus had been arrested, condemned to death, hung on a cross, and was buried, but then three days later, His tomb was empty. They were probably rehashing everything that had transpired while trying to understand it all. Since they were leaving Jerusalem, perhaps they were heading home to return to their previous lives.
However, the unexpected happened. While they were talking together about all that occurred, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.5 In the Gospel of John we find a similar situation, where Jesus’ disciples didn’t recognize the risen Christ.
Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.6
Mary also didn’t initially recognize the risen Christ.
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.7
Jesus entered into a conversation with the two disciples who were walking along the road.
And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”8
This is the first and only reference to Cleopas, and the other disciple traveling with him is not named, though according to tradition the second disciple was Luke.
Cleopas was rather shocked at Jesus’ question. It was hard for him to believe that anyone coming out of Jerusalem could not know what had happened over the past days, as Jesus’ trial and crucifixion were so public.
And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.”9
When Jesus asked what they were discussing, they explained that they were speaking of Jesus, and called Him a prophet. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is referred to as a prophet:
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”10
Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.”11
Cleopas and the other disciple had believed in Jesus and had high hopes for Him and His ministry; however, after all that transpired with His arrest and crucifixion, they were disappointed. Though He did mighty things during His ministry, including raising the dead, He was rejected by the chief priests and rulers, who were responsible for His being condemned to death, as they had handed Him over to the Romans for crucifixion.
The two disciples expressed their disappointment, saying, we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. As one author explains: Undoubtedly they possessed a more political than religious understanding of how the Christ would redeem Israel. For them the redemption of Israel meant Israel’s liberation from their enemies, i.e., the Romans.12
Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. It had been three days since Jesus’ crucifixion—the three days He had predicted throughout the Gospels.
He strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”13
“Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.”14
After flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.15
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”16
The two disciples continued:
Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.17
The two disciples summarized what Luke wrote in the first part of this chapter about the women going to the tomb and finding that Jesus was not there.18 This included the empty tomb, the appearance of the angels, and the message that Jesus was alive. However, these two said that the disciples who had gone to the tomb found it empty; they did not see Jesus.
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”19
In referring to the two disciples walking with Him as foolish ones and slow of heart to believe, Jesus was making the point that they were being obtuse and weren’t understanding what was obvious. He went on to point out that they didn’t believe the prophets, which He would help them understand when He explained the Scriptures to the disciples later on in this chapter of Luke’s Gospel.
Jesus pointed out that there was much Old Testament teaching on this, as He spoke of “all” that the prophets had spoken. He stated what the two disciples should have known from Scripture, that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to come into His glory. As it says in the book of Isaiah:
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.20
Throughout the New Testament, it is made clear that Jesus’ death and His resurrection were necessary for salvation.
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.21
The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.22
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.23 Jesus continued to explain to Cleopas and the other unnamed disciple what all of Scripture (the Old Testament) had to say about the promised Messiah, Jesus.
(To be continued.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 John 20:18, Mark 16:10–11, Luke 24:10.
2 Luke 24:11.
3 Luke 24:12.
4 Luke 24:13–16.
5 Luke 24:15–16.
6 John 21:4.
7 John 20:14.
8 Luke 24:17–18.
9 Luke 24:19–21.
10 Luke 7:16.
11 Luke 9:18–19. See also Matthew 21:10–11, 45–46; Luke 4:24, 7:39, 9:7–8, 13:33; John 6:14, 7:40.
12 Stein, The New American Commentary: Luke, 611.
13 Luke 9:21–22.
14 Luke 13:32.
15 Luke 18:33.
16 Matthew 20:17–19.
17 Luke 24:22–24.
18 Luke 24:1–12
19 Luke 24:25–26.
20 Isaiah 53:5–7.
21 Mark 10:45.
22 Romans 3:21–25.
23 Luke 24:27.