It is the first day of the week. The women have found the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to be empty. The angels have declared that Jesus is alive. Peter and John have run to the tomb and found the same evidence. But Luke takes us away from the tomb and tells us about a resurrection appearance that is not recorded in any of the other gospels. Luke tells us about two men who are walking a seven mile journey from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. Who are these two men that the scripture would record that it was “two of them?” The connection goes back to verse 9 that these two men were followers of Jesus. Verse 22 confirms this as they say that “some women of our company amazed us” because they saw the empty tomb. These two men are disciples of Jesus. As these two men walk they are discussing all the things that had happened the last three days. The person they had followed had just been betrayed by Judas, handed over by the Jewish authorities, killed by the Romans, and the women are telling people that the body is missing. There is a lot for them to discuss. As they are walking on the road, Jesus starts walking with them. However, their eyes are kept from recognizing that this person is Jesus. Rather than just appearing to them, Jesus seems to want to have a discussion with them first before revealing himself.
Have you ever asked the question or heard others ask, “Why doesn’t God just reveal himself to everyone? If he wants followers and believers, then why doesn’t God just show himself?” I believe the answer to that question is found in these resurrection appearances. As we read this discussion between Jesus and these two disciples, ask yourself why Jesus is concealing himself from these two men. What is Jesus trying to accomplish? Why not just show himself to them?
The Discussion (24:17-27)
So Jesus walks up to them and asks what they are talking about. Notice that the two men stop walking and look sad. These two men are filled with grief. Jesus is dead and they do not know what to make of what the women are saying. But they are not accepting the answer of resurrection. They are grieving over the loss of their teacher. Imagine if you had lost your loved one and about three days later someone comes up to you and asks you what is going on in your life! The pain of what had transpired comes rushing right back over you again. So one of the men says, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Everyone knows what has happened this weekend. Even people who were visitors in the city heard about this. Are you the only visitor of Jerusalem who has no idea what just happened? So Jesus says, “What things?” It is not like Jesus does not know. He wants to hear their discussion and see what answers they are coming up with for what they have just seen and heard about Jesus.
So the men recount the story of Jesus. Jesus was a man who was a prophet, mighty in deed and in word before God and all the people. But the chief priests delivered him up to be crucified. We had hoped that he as the one to redeem Israel. He was the one we had hoped to be our Messiah, Savior, and Deliverer. This hope is the same hope expressed by Zechariah in Luke 1:68-79. Besides all of these things, it is the third day since all these things had happened. The women went to the tomb in the morning and did not find his body. They saw angels and the angels told the women that Jesus was alive. Some of the disciples went to the tomb to see for themselves and found the tomb just like the women said. The body was not there.
Now, again, Jesus does not reveal himself and make everything okay. Nor does he reveal himself and then rebuke them. Here is this stranger that to these men has no idea what has happened in Jerusalem these past three days. This stranger turns on them and says, “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?” Notice that Jesus does not criticize them for being slow to believe the testimony of the women or the testimony of the disciples who went to the tomb and found it empty. They are criticized for not believing what the prophets had spoken! Instead of saying, “Look at me and believe,” Jesus calls them foolish and unwilling to believe the scriptures. All the prophets spoke of this event. The prophets declare that the Christ would suffer and then enter glory. How can you not believe when the scriptures spoke of all of this? Passages like Psalm 118, Isaiah 53, Psalm 31, Psalm 69, Psalm 22 and many others speak about these events. Judaism did not have an expectation of a suffering Messiah, but the prophets did.
Then notice what Jesus does. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27 ESV) To say “Moses and the Prophets” is the same as saying “The Law and the Prophets.” “Moses and the prophets” was a traditional way to speak of all of the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus went through the entire scriptures, from front to back, and interpreted all the things concerning himself. What Jesus is doing is showing that all of the scriptures were about him. All of the scriptures were pointing toward the Christ. The scriptures teach us about Jesus, and that does not mean the New Testament. There was not a New Testament yet when Jesus explained the scriptures concerning himself. Moses and prophets are foretelling and foreshadowing the coming of Christ. Consider this: here is the risen Jesus and rather than revealing himself to them, he reveals the scriptures to them to prove his resurrection.
The New Testament authors and teachers did the same thing.
24 A Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was powerful in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 18:24, 28 HCSB) Apollos demonstrated Jesus is the Messiah from the scriptures. Again, these scriptures are what we would call “the Old Testament.” But what about the apostles? Surely they just went around saying that they saw Jesus.
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2–3 ESV) The apostle Paul does not merely say, “I saw him!” He said, “Read your Bibles!”
How dare anyone ever say that the Hebrew scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, is irrelevant, not applicable to us, or worse, boring! Not only must we never say or think something like this because these are God’s holy words, but also because these words speak about Jesus. These words proved Jesus to be the Christ. These words foretold and foreshadowed God’s plan in Christ for the world. To be bored with reading Leviticus or studying Zephaniah only shows we have missed everything in the scriptures. We have missed Jesus in the scriptures. We have not seen him in God’s word. Jesus showed these two disciples that you can find him in the Law and the Prophets.
Now, let us get to the heart of the matter. The scriptures are not about you or me. Too often I have heard people declare that the scriptures are about us. The scriptures are not about us. They are all about the Christ. The scriptures are preparing the world from the Christ to come. The scriptures are foreshadowing what the Christ will do when he arrives. The scriptures teach what kind of people the Christ will have for his followers. The scriptures teach the need for salvation and forgiveness that only comes through Christ. The scriptures are all about the Christ. Jesus is the Christ. We do not read the scriptures to find out God’s plan for us. We read the scriptures to find out how we can fit into God’s plan.
Let’s go back to the question we had at the start of the lesson. Why does Jesus do this? Why doesn’t Jesus just appear to these men? Faith is to be built, not on seeing Jesus, but the scriptures. These two disciples had not seen the risen Jesus when Jesus told them that they were slow to believe and foolish. We are foolish if we think we need God to reveal himself directly to us to have faith. Our Lord wants to see if we will have faith in him because he has given us all that we need. He does not need to appear to every person. Remember in Luke 16 when the rich man who was in Hades asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to his five brothers so that they would not come to this place. What did Abraham answer the rich man? “They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). The scriptures are sufficient. Not only are they sufficient, they are better than a resurrection appearance. The rich man argues that if someone from the dead goes to them then they will repent. Listen to Abraham again: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). God wants faith in him. That faith is supposed to come from the scriptures. In fact, if they won’t believe the scriptures, then they will not believe even if God showed himself to every single person. We have a hard time with that thought, but we know it is true. When Lazarus was raised from the dead, some people tried to kill him. God showed himself through Jesus for years and yet thousands of people rejected him. If the scriptures will not convince you, then nothing will.
Jesus Revealed (24:28-35)
Returning to the story, Jesus and the two disciples arrive at Emmaus. But Jesus acted like he was going on. So the two disciples urged Jesus to say with them. So Jesus went into their home and ate and drank with them. Please notice that he ate and drank like a normal human. There is nothing unusual about this risen body of Jesus. They think they are keeping this stranger in their home for the night. But then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Jesus wanted their faith to be grounded in the scriptures, not on his appearance. Once their faith was rooted in God’s word, he revealed himself to them and then vanished. Now they look back at the past few hours as they had walked with Jesus. Jesus had opened the scriptures to them and their hearts had burned within them. This is a beautiful image. I do not believe this is describing something supernatural. This is what is supposed to happen when our hearts are open to receive God’s word. The exposition of the scriptures is to cause our hearts to be moved and our minds to comprehend the will and love of God. There is excitement in hearing the word of the Lord expounded upon and explained. So the two men leave that hour and go back to Jerusalem. They find the apostles and the other disciples gathered. The group tells these two men that Jesus has indeed risen and has also appeared to Simon, who we know as Peter. Then the two men tell the group all that had happened to them. They did not need to hear that Jesus had appeared to Simon. The Lord Jesus had already appeared to them in the scriptures. And their hearts burned from the faith and knowledge of God’s powerful word.
Jesus speaks to me every day. Does he speak to you every day? Are our hearts and minds moved as we read and examine God’s holy words? What a blessing that Jesus speaks to you and me every day when we pick up these scriptures and read them. These are the powerful words of God that we hold in these Bibles. These words are the basis for your faith. Your faith will be great if you will let Jesus teach you from his scriptures. The scriptures are all about Jesus. Will you be all about getting to know Jesus? Long for the pure, spiritual milk of the word so that you may grow by it (1 Peter 2:2).