Road to Emmaus
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.3 0 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Compared to 100 years ago, people travel a lot. Back then many people never made it out of the state in which they lived because travel wasn’t easy and many couldn’t afford it. Most of here today have probably traveled not only out of state but to a number of states and even out of the country.
In your travels have you met some interesting people? One time in traveling to Alaska by plane I sat next to some people from Nome, AK. They talked about life there – long periods of darkness or daylight, extreme cold and snow in the winter, not being able to travel far because of lack of roads, and high cost of goods because everything has to be shipped in except for seafood and wildlife. I concluded, “I don’t think I want to live in Nome.”
Another time, while flying from Denver to Milwaukee, I ended up next to a very sad and troubled woman who was leaving her husband who had cheated on her, and was going to stay with her daughter and her family in Milwaukee. While I had hoped to finish a good book I was reading, I ended up witnessing to her about God’s love and forgiveness.
Jesus and the Emmaus Disciples
Jesus had a similar experience on the road to Emmaus, a town not far from Jerusalem that doesn’t seem to exist today. Jesus met two of his followers outside the circle of the 11 Apostles. They didn’t recognize Jesus because he didn’t want them to so he did something that prevented it. But these sad and confused. Not only had they hoped that Jesus would be the Savior, but that he would also be the restorer of Israel to the grandeur of days of Kings David and Solomon. But the leaders of the Jews had conspired to have him crucified, and now he was dead. At least that’s what they thought.
But they were not sure. As they spoke to Jesus they told him of reports from women of Jesus’ tomb being empty that Easter morning and angels telling them that Jesus had risen from the dead. Two of the apostles reported the same about the empty tomb. So these two disciples who met Jesus, didn’t know what to think. They had a problem.
What was the problem with those two disciples? Jesus diagnosed it right away according to our next reading. Jesus told them that they were foolish and slow of heart to believe the things that the prophets, in other words the Old Testament, had said.
Beginning already in Genesis 3:15 there was the first promise of the Savior. It was repeated again and again in the Old Testament. In the prophets there were references to Jesus’ birth. The psalmists and especially the Prophet Isaiah pictured Jesus’ Passion. In Job, Psalms and the Prophet Isaiah, there were prophecies of Jesus’ resurrection. It was all there.
The disciples had heard it. But in their heads they didn’t connect this with Jesus. In their hearts they didn’t use it to remedy their sadness. So they were still sad and confused.
The same spiritual disease that afflicted those Emmaus disciples afflicts us also. Sometimes we modern-day Christians can to be slow of heart to believe the things that are written in the Scriptures. We may know the Ten Commandments. But at times we may be slow to realize the consequences of not following them until we have broken them and then come to the realization that not only have we broken the commandments, but all kinds of other things as well – reputations, relationships, families, inner peace, one’s course in life, one’s faith in Jesus, or one’s eternal life.
On the other hand, we may know all about God loving the world and sending Jesus, but if we are slow to believe that Jesus lived, died, and rose again for us, we may live in sadness and confusion not enjoying the forgiveness and peace that he has provided but thinking we have a lot of work to do for our salvation. Or, there may be times where we are slow to believe that the God who loved us enough to give his Son as our Savior, loves us even when he takes us through tough times and that he will take care of us through the same. Yes, there can be times when we, like the Emmaus disciples, are “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”
They didn’t get it until Jesus helped them. Note now how Jesus remedied the problem of the Emmaus disciples.
Luke reports things this way: 25He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
What parts of the Old Testament did Jesus use? Did he start in the Garden with the first promise? Did he take the Emmaus disciples back to God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the promise that in their offspring would all the nations of the earth be blessed? Did he quote from King David’s or Isaiah’s prophecies of the suffering of the Savior such as in Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53? Did he refer to Job 19 or Psalm 18 or Isaiah 53 to show prophecies about the resurrection? Did he point to Leviticus 16 and the Feast of Atonement, Psalm 103, Jeremiah 31, or Micah 7 as promises of forgiveness sins? We don’t know.
But Jesus explained to them the connection between the Old Testament and what transpired in his life, death and resurrection. As Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, through those Scriptures the Holy Spirit opened their hearts to Jesus. The Spirit lit a fire in their souls that warmed, strengthened and comforted them. They found Jesus presence and words so comforting they wanted him stay with them which he did for a while – until he enabled them to recognize him. Then he disappeared.
When we struggle like those Emmaus disciples, we need what Jesus gave them – his word. We need to be reassured that he is the Son of God who is our Savior. Listen to examples of such reassurance.
- “The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him” – Ps. 32:10.
- “Great is his love toward us” – Ps. 117:2. “His love endures forever” – Ps 118:1.
- “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more” – Jeremiah 31:34.
- “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins…” – Ps.103:2,3.
- “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” – Isaiah 41:10.
- “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” – Matthew 6:25-33.
- “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” – John 11:26.
- “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” – Philippians 3:20-21.
As we hear of God’s love in Jesus and the life he brings; as we are assured of God’s forgiveness and his presence; as we are reminded that God faithfully provides for and protects us; and, as God speaks to us of life everlasting and the resurrection of the body through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit sets our souls on fire bringing us warmth, strength, peace and comfort. On fire, we want to tell others.
The Emmaus disciples did. 33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. (NIV)
Whom do you know who is sad and struggling in life? Pray for them. Take them some chicken soup or do for them whatever is needed. But look for ways to tell them about Jesus. Possibly share a time when you were sad and struggling and God helped you out of the pits of life. If it’s guilt with which they are dealing, tell them about how Peter felt so guilty after denying Jesus, but Jesus forgave and welcomed Peter back onto his ministry team. Be sure to tell them about how Jesus lived to keep the law for them and died to remove its curse. Assure them that forgiveness is for them too. To the person who fears death, share the news of forgiveness, eternal life, and the resurrection of the body. Be the Emmaus disciples of today.
Be on fire. Let the Holy Spirit set you on fire with the word of God. Then be on fire to tell others of their Risen Savior. Amen.