That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 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. 18 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?” 19 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, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 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. 24 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.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
This text falls right after our Easter morning one.
The women have been to the tomb.
They’ve found it empty.
Angels have said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
The women have gone and told these things to the apostles.
The words have seemed to them an idle tale, as Luke says.
They haven’t believed it.
Peter (we know also, along with John) has run to the tomb, seeing the same things the women have described (though not the Jesus).
When St. Luke starts out this section saying that two of [the apostles from the last section] were talking with each other about all these things that had happened, he means these things we’ve just mentioned, but no doubt, also, the whole astonishing thing of Jesus arrested, and tried, and crucified. What else would anyone in Jerusalem be talking about; especially among any of the Jews who were there? This is front page news.
That’s why it’s so surprising for them to hear any fellow Jew say to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” Today, someone might say in response, have you been living under a rock, or something? What the one named Cleopas actually says is, Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Luke tells us, their eyes were kept from recognizing him. During this forty days after His Resurrection, Jesus is here and there. He’s appearing through a locked door in our Gospel lesson. He’s suddenly vanishing at the end of this text. And He’s unable to be immediately recognized in some circumstances - like to Mary outside of the tomb earlier in the day according to St. John’s account.
Jesus has very subtly joined these two apostles on their journey. He has asked the question that is sure to get them talking. They’re compelled to recount the whole thing about this Jesus, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. They mean by this, that Jesus is the real deal. What He has said and done are approved, evidently, by God and people. Of course, also they say the thing that really might surprise us: we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
It’s a little bit difficult to know exactly what they’re thinking in this moment. What is clear, is that they are disillusioned. What they have thought was going to happen regarding Jesus has not happened. He has been dead, now, three days. What kind of victory could this be? And now, there is all this confusion. The women have been to the tomb and have returned with a strange story. Others have gone too. No sign of Jesus.
And then this mysterious traveler who has joined their little group becomes presumptuously familiar, as it might seem. “O foolish ones,” he says, “and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Wow! They must have been thinking. A minute ago, this guy didn’t seem to know anything about anything. Now, he’s calling us foolish ones! Jesus, in fact, takes control of the conversation. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” They haven’t been mistaken. Nothing has run amuck. Jesus is the Christ, as they have thought. He is the one to redeem Israel. They just aren’t seeing in the Scriptures what would make everything clear. And then Luke writes: Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
We need to pause on that thought for a moment. Consider how important that is: Jesus pointing Himself out in the Old Testament Scriptures! Some people are only interested in the New Testament because they only really want to know about Jesus, and they think that the New Testament is the only place to find Him. How wrong that is! A text like this is a good opportunity to point it out. Jesus is using the Old Testament as evidence, here. It proves that the things that happened in regard to Him are the things that are supposed to have happened. They had been foretold. In fact, they were part of God’s eternal plan to save sinners. The peace of mind that has been alluding these apostles has been present the whole time for them in the Scriptures. Jesus calls them foolish, and slow of heart in so far as they have been neglecting the riches of Scripture that would have brought them joy in this moment. They have been neglecting Job’s statement in our Old Testament lesson: For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth (19:25). They have been neglecting the Psalms that say of the Christ, For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption (16:10), and God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me (49:15). Of course, everything that has been taking place over the past several days would have had a different feeling were they to consider the things that Jesus is now pointing out to them in the Old Testament Scriptures.
We’ve just sung in the first verse of our hymn, regarding this visit between Jesus and some of His followers on the road to Emmaus:
We read that Thou, O Lord, remaining,
Didst all their doubts and fears allay.
Incline thine ear, Thou king of grace,
When, praying thus, we seek Thy face.
Didst all their doubts and fears allay - Isn’t it true that the Lord could say also to us, “O foolish ones?” Couldn’t He say to us, [You] slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Aren’t we really asking in that line of the hymn for Jesus to make our hearts burn within us like He did for these apostles by [opening] up to us the Scriptures? It’s so easy for us to be lukewarm in our faith. It has happened so frequently that we have desired closeness with God, we have wanted, like these apostles, to be lit on fire for His kingdom, to be eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of the promises that He has made. But we have lingered around the weedy garden of this world - giving it most of our attention, the best of ourselves. The Lord has wanted us to say to Him, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” We have been off about other things.
But this perfect one, this risen Lord has continued to draw near to us as we walk life’s road in our doubts and fears. The One Who carried our burdens has encountered us here in a place like this. He has confronted us in our foolishness, in our slowness of heart to believe. Since we are by nature, slow to recognize Him, He has invited us in Baptism to know Him, and to be His people. He nourishes our souls with the Supper of His true body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, as the Catechism says. And He has opened the Scriptures to us here, connecting us to Him through faith, assuring us that the sin of our doubt and neglect of Him are among those for which He has been punished, and among those that are forgiven in His sacrificial death. Your sins are forgiven in His death.
Let us pray:
O Lord Jesus, as you brought comfort to the hearts of the Emmaus disciples by opening to them the Scriptures that testify of you, so comfort our hearts that we might live in confident faith that clings to you, our risen Lord, for forgiveness and salvation. Help this message to live in us daily, and to out from us like from the apostles, so that many more will come to share the same confidence. Amen.
Other Lessons for this week:
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
1 John 5:4-10
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.