Jesus Encounters: Hope restored on the road to Emmaus!

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Jesus Encounters: Hope restored on the road to Emmaus!

by I Gordon

Luke chapter 24 contains one of the great short stories in the Bible. It is one of two disciples whose hope had been dashed. They had placed all their hope and trust in Jesus Christ to be who He said He was - the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God. Yet now, following His crucifixion and death, those hopes had been crushed and ripped apart. Yet, as the clouds of despondency settle over the heads, a stranger appears. And, as we shall see, this 'stranger' will radically change their outlook, understanding and entire life! Let's have a look. 

And you thought your week was tough?!?

Luke 24:13-14 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.

So we start with two men walking to a small village. This is the only mention of this village, called Emmaus, in the Bible. The word itself means 'people despised or obscure.' So they are not exactly travelling to the 'big smoke' here! But there was a lot to talk about on this trip. Do you know what day it was that these two were travelling? It was Sunday and they had just had one crazy week! The week started with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowds yelled 'Hosanna to the son of David!' What would you be thinking if you saw and heard that? You would have been thinking what everyone, including these two men here, were thinking - 'The kingdom is coming! The Messiah is here! Everything is going to change! We'll be delivered, we'll be free... the days of peace and prosperity are here.' And then you watch the week unfold as the events come fast and furious, before totally spinning out of control. First there is the confrontation with the religious leaders. You can see their hatred of Jesus. Then there is the betrayal - by one of Jesus' inner circle of men! This is quickly followed by corrupt trials before both Jews and Romans... and neither go well. As you struggle to process all that is happening, suddenly Jesus is being flogged and, unbelievably, crucified! But this was the Messiah? The hope of Israel! How could it all end this way? This wasn't meant to happen!

Talk about going from the greatest anticipated highs to the lowest of lows. If you think about how much we look forward to the Lord's return and the setting up of His kingdom on earth with the peace, justice and glory that that will bring, how would you feel if you were convinced that was about to happen and then have it all snatched from your grasp? How would you feel if some event occurred that threw everything you thought you knew about Jesus into question? That is something of what these two on the road to Emmaus experienced in the space of a few days. Crushed.

Queue the unexpected stranger from stage left... 

Luke 24:15-18 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 only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"

With their hope lost, Jesus Himself joins in the walk and conversation on the road to Emmaus! But they are prevented from recognizing Him. God can supernaturally do this. We see this in the Bible with other individuals following the resurrection such as Mary in John 20:14 and Jesus' disciples in John 21:4. But God can also do this on a wider scale. We read in Romans that the nation of Israel has been 'blinded in part' during this age (Rom 11:25) until the full number of Gentiles come in. And then, as Paul shows us, God will again remember the promises made to the nation of Israel and 'all Israel will be saved'. God has His purposes if He has to blind an individual or group from seeing Jesus for a season.

For the two on the road to Emmaus, this 'stranger' in their midst is not only a stranger to them... He must be a stranger to Israel in general for he doesn't even seem to know what has been going on. This seems odd. The events of the last week were the talk of the town. Everyone was speaking of these things. There were people from many nations for the Passover and everyone was talking about what had happened to Jesus. Yet, here was a 'stranger' who didn't seem to be aware of what had happened. This probably made the Lord secretly smile a bit! He had a pretty good understanding of what had happened, more than any of them, but for now it was necessary to first hear it from these two.

When hopes hang by a thread...

Luke 24:19-24 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 him they did not see."

We see that Jesus plays a little 'dumb' here - like He doesn't know what has happened! Why is this? He wanted them to express their hope and heart. And that is what they did saying 'we had hoped that He was the one.' They knew him as a prophet only it seems with the hope of him being the redeemer - the Messiah. Now there was only confusion... But a little ray of hope remained. It was now the third day since these things had occurred and they had heard some talk of what was meant to occur on the third day. On top of that, there was talk of an empty tomb and a message from angels that Jesus was alive! Oh what to think?

Let's just briefly discuss this thought of crushed hopes. No one likes to have their hopes come to naught. How can we have our hopes dashed? Those in the world place their hope in fame, fortune, career success, relationships... all of which will ultimately fail and let you down. A true hope in Jesus will not let you down. But a misplaced one can. Those in the name it and claim it crowd who think Jesus is there to fulfill our every desire will be let down. Those that think that God will make all the problems go away or that we won't suffer in this life will have their hopes shattered. This is not biblical hope but wishful thinking. These two had a biblical hope - but got the timing wrong. Those that think that things will get better before Jesus returns are not trusting in a biblical hope. Things will get better, but only after Jesus returns. But Christians also have hope for this life when they trust in the faithfulness of God to do what is right for His children according to His will and plans.

Now here is a Bible study I would love to have heard!

Luke 24:25-27 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (26) Did not the Christ 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.

There is no playing dumb now for Jesus! The two on the road to Emmaus were the dumb ones! According to Jesus they should have known what was to occur because it was all foretold beforehand in the word of God. The Jews had the scriptures - they just had to read them! These two, while genuine, didn't have a good or right foundation. They had believed what was commonly held - and couldn't see past it. We can be like that. We need the right foundation as Christians. We cannot build on anything else. 1Cor 3:11 'For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.' Jesus couldn't explain the spiritual truth of the resurrection without having the right foundation laid. So that is what He did... He went back to the beginning and taught them through all the scriptures about Himself! 

Now this would have been the best Bible study ever! 'And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.' Jesus would have gone right back from the first chapters of Genesis and explained how He is foretold in prophecies and types throughout all scripture! He would have spoken of the prophecy concerning the 'seed of a woman' in Genesis 3:15. He would have shown how the offering of Isaac as the only son of his father pointed to His death. He would have mentioned how Joseph being rejected by his brothers and then exalted to the right hand of Pharaoh spoke of His rejection and then exaltation. He would have spoken of the Passover lamb, the Manna from Heaven, the Rock that was struck in the wilderness. Isaiah said he would be despised and rejected. Daniel said He would be cut off. Zechariah said He would be pierced. Oh how much we haven't even seen yet! What an amazing Bible study that would have been! It is awesome when God shows us Jesus in the Old Testament. All things were planned in advance and it is our pleasure to seek these things out. And God is still opening up the scriptures concerning Jesus through the Holy Spirit, our teacher, today.

The God who wants to be wanted

Luke 24:28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.

Here we see that Jesus wants to be wanted. After giving these two the greatest study ever, He 'acted' like He was carrying on past the village. He will test our desire to be with Him and learn from Him too. If he wets our appetite by showing us something, do we desire more? Do we seek more? Or are we just content with a little? He does sometimes act like he is going to go on by. One other example comes when the disciples are struggling in the boat and Jesus comes, but looks like He is going to pass them by too!

Mark 6:48 NKJV Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.

How many times have we missed out on things by not bothering to seek the Lord on something? Even with the nation of Israel, the Lord will not return until they ask for Him. H.A Ironside put it like this: 'The Lord Jesus never presses Himself upon anybody; He always waits for an invitation. He will pass on if we allow Him to do so. If He is not invited to come in we will be left without the spiritual help that we might have experienced.' Jacob had to wrestle with the angel and not let go until he was blessed. We too need to press on and lay hold of that which the Lord has for us.

Our need - the opening of our eyes

Luke 24:29-31 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. (30) 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.

These two disciples had tasted of the Lord's goodness and wanted more! They were not going to let Him go and so 'urged Him strongly' to stay. But what would they had missed out on had they not done this? Had they not urged Jesus to stay with them they would not have had their eyes open to see who He truly was. How instructive that is for us! We need our eyes opened - even as Christians. What things do you think Christians need to have their eyes opened to see? Paul prayed about this in Eph 1:15-19.

Ephesians 1:15-19 NIV For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (16) I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (17) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (18) I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (19) and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

The first mention of having our eyes opened in scripture is with Adam and Eve - they saw that they were naked - their eyes were opened to their condition after the fall. But Paul prays that we will have our eyes open to who we are in Christ. He wants us to know the Lord better and in doing so we will know the hope that we have, the glorious inheritance and the great power available to those who believe. These are things worth seeking and seeing!    

Luke 24:32-33 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..

Having now recognized who this 'stranger' actually was, they finally put two and two together. Now it makes sense why their hearts were burning as Jesus unfolded the scriptures to them. So they did a quick U-turn and take another 7 mile hike back to Jerusalem that same night. They must have been buzzing! Had they not taken the extra time with Him they would not have known that Jesus is risen. They wouldn't have known the Lord as the resurrected and living One. Many Christian's still don't unfortunately. They have come to the cross and know the Lord as the One crucified for them to have their sins forgiven. That is a blessed truth! But it is not all. We need to press on and go further, as the men on the road to Emmaus did, and see Him as the risen living Lord. Notice also that their eyes were opened in the breaking of bread. Here is a further clue for how our eyes are opened. The breaking of bread is communion. Not just the act of taking communion at church but the communion and fellowship that we have with the Lord each day. It is through this that our eyes are opened. May you be blessed too as you desire and spend more time with Him!