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The Road to Emmaus

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Mark 16:12–13; Luke 24:13–35

In His gracious providence, God assured Jesus’ followers of His bodily resurrection from the dead. Our assurance of the resurrection, like our faith, is grounded in the divinely inspired revelation we know as the Bible.


At this point in our Wisdom Journey, the Gospel accounts shift their attention away from Jerusalem and onto a pair of men walking down a dusty road toward a little village named Emmaus. For some three years, they had given their lives to Jesus, following in His footsteps. One of the men is named Cleopas, and the other disciple remains anonymous.

Luke’s Gospel gives us five scenes in this real-life drama; and by the way, this is taking place on resurrection Sunday, a little later in the day and just outside the city of Jerusalem.

The curtain goes up on scene one, revealing two disciples whose hearts are overwhelmed with sadness. Verse 13 says, “That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.”

These are not just two men but “two of them.” They are not part of the of the original Twelve but likely part of that larger group of seventy-two disciples whom the Lord had trained and sent out to preach and heal back in Luke 10. They had a tremendous ministry following the Lord during these days leading up to the crucifixion.

But now Jesus is dead. And as far as these disciples are concerned, three years have gone down the drain. Their dreams are dashed—the cross has punctured their plans. So, they have packed their bags, thrown away their sermon outlines and study notes, and are leaving Jerusalem to go try to pick their lives back up.

Scene two then opens in verse 15: “While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them,” apparently, overtaking them from behind. Here they are, sharing their disillusionment about Jesus, and Jesus joins them!

However, verse 16 says, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Jesus does not want them to recognize Him just yet.

As the Lord steps up to walk alongside them, He asks in verse 17, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” In other words, “What’s got you fellows so upset?”

 Cleopas says, with a little bit of sarcasm here in verse 18, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” He is effectively asking the Lord, “Don’t you ever get out?” Jesus could have said, “Yes, just this morning, and I left the door wide open!”

Jesus could have said a lot of things, but He patiently responds in verse 19, “What things?” He is a master teacher, and He wants to draw out His students’ innermost thoughts.

So, they begin to unload the details on this man they have just met who seems to be clueless about what has been going on:

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.” (verses 19-21)

They go on to tell Jesus that some women had found the tomb empty and even reported seeing angels who told them Jesus was alive.

Despite having all these pieces to the puzzle, these two men cannot put the pieces together; so, they have packed up and are heading home.

Now Jesus could reveal to them at this very moment who He is. But He doesn’t. And I believe it is because Jesus wants their faith to be tied, not to their sight, but to Scripture.

And with that, scene three begins with Jesus teaching them the Scriptures. He starts in verses 25-26:

“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?”

The cross was not the end; it was the beginning. It did not destroy the Messiah’s glory; it defeated the Messiah’s enemy. His death was not a dead end; it was a doorway into eternal glory for all His followers!

In verse 27 Jesus begins a Survey of Old Testament Studies 101. We read, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

What a moment! Jesus Christ is teaching a crash course through the entire Old Testament, showing how it all points to Him. Here is the living Word explaining the written Word.

We are never told what Jesus said in this survey class. This is the greatest lesson never recorded. But then again, even though we do not have the lesson, we have His lesson material—it is called the Bible.

Now in scene four, they arrive in the village of Emmaus, and these two disciples urge Jesus to stay with them and eat dinner. Jesus agrees, and then in verse 30-31 we read this:

[Jesus] took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

Reaching out to hand them bread undoubtedly exposes His nail-pierced hands, and the light suddenly dawns on them. Their eyes are now opened to recognize Jesus. Beloved, the Lord showed them His hands last because He wanted to show them the Scriptures first. This is the foundation of our hope—the Word of God.

So, to this day, the question is not, “What have you seen or experienced in order to believe in Jesus?” The question is, “What does the Bible say in order to believe Jesus is the Messiah?”

With His mission here now complete, Jesus suddenly, miraculously, disappears. And notice the disciples’ response in verse 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?”

Jesus pursued these men while they were heading in the wrong direction. Perhaps, He is pursuing you too! Stop and turn toward Him. Listen to His words recorded in the Bible.

Now scene five takes place in Jerusalem, to which these two revived men immediately return. Luke writes in verse 33, “And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.” In other words, they are saying, “Never mind that the day is over; never mind the hour is late. We are going to get on the road back to hope, back to the ministry, back to the other disciples. We have work to do!”

When they arrive, their testimony is added to even more good news. The disciples are all excited about yet another appearance. They are saying here in verse 34, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

This appearance to Simon (Peter) is not recorded in the Gospels, though it is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:5, where Peter is called Cephas.

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 15:4 that the Scriptures were written so that “we might have hope.” Well, these disciples had lost hope! They were going to Emmaus, and that road was taking them away from hope—it was taking them in the wrong direction!

The same can happen to you and me today. We can become disillusioned, discouraged at times, unable to put the pieces of life’s puzzle together. Here is the good news: Jesus Christ knows the road you are on. He knows where you are today—geographically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Go back to the Scriptures. Go back to God’s promises. Go back to the Bible. The Scriptures point us back to the Author, reminding us that He is walking down that dusty road. Even though for a little while we might not recognize it, He is with us—and He is everything we need.

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