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“And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him. And He said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto Him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And He said unto them, What things? And they said unto Him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him. But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not His body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but Him they saw not. Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and He made as though He would have gone further. But they constrained Him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread”—Luke 24:13-35.
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We turn now to Luke’s account of the appearance of Christ following- the resurrection. There is a delightful simplicity and straightforwardness about the various narratives of these great events as given in the four Gospels, which forbids all thought of untruthfulness or of an insane obsession. The writers knew whereof they spoke. They were assured, beyond any doubt, that Jesus, who had died on a malefactor’s cross and whose body lay entombed for three days, had risen in triumph and appeared to so many different witnesses that they could not question the reality of His resurrection. Luke evidently was not one of those who saw the Lord after He rose from the dead, but he was a scientific man, a physician of inquiring mind, who did not rest satisfied until he had examined all the evidence with meticulous care, as a result of which he was convinced of the truthfulness of the testimony given by those who declared they had seen and talked with the risen Saviour (Luke 1:1-3).
Among the many manifestations of our Lord to His disciples during the forty days between the resurrection and ascension is this incident, which I have always considered to be one of the most tender and interesting of all His appearances. It concerns two disciples, Cleopas and another. I believe this other was his wife. We do not know much about Cleopas; some think he is the same as Cleophas (John 19:25). Cleopas is a Hebrew name, however, and the other is Aramaic; but whether the two are identical we do not know. At any rate, these two disciples had loved Jesus; they believed He was the Messiah; and perhaps they were in that throng that watched Him die. Now, in deep perplexity, they were wondering whether their hope was in vain, and whether He was deceived or a deceiver in presenting Himself as the Messiah of Israel, which they had believed He was. They were walking along the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It is not a long distance. I have ridden over the road myself, and as I did so I thought of these two as they sauntered along the way speaking of those things which had happened so recently, and I felt as I know they must have felt when that blessed, wondrous Stranger drew near and interrupted their conversation in such a sweet way. “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them.” There is something very comforting about that: Jesus was there! But they did not know it; they did not realize it, and I think oftentimes the same is true with us. Sometimes we are going through trials, bewilderments, sorrow, disappointments, and we feel so utterly alone, we feel as though no one cares, but if our eyes could only be opened—like the eyes of that servant of Elisha in Dothan, so long ago, when he saw the angels of the Lord encamped around them to protect them from their enemies—we might have a similar experience. The eyes of these two disciples were holden so that they did not know who the Stranger was. They were not expecting Him, and did not recognize Him. That He was marvelously changed there can be no doubt. He was no longer the Man of Sorrows, but the triumphant Christ, every trace of care and grief having vanished from His face. They thought, perhaps, He was a visitor, a mysterious Stranger, walking close to them. Drawing nearer He put the question to them, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another?” He knew well, but He would draw them out, have them express themselves in order that He might open to them the truth of the Word of God in regard to the great matters of His death and resurrection. They had overlooked in the Bible the very things they were wondering about. The prophets had testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow His resurrection. Our Lord would have us bring to Him our griefs and our burdens; He delights to have us come to Him and tell Him everything that is on our hearts, and He is ever ready to comfort, lead, instruct, and help. Cleopas, who took the lead, inquired, “Art Thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?” As this was the season of the Passover and there were many visitors in Jerusalem, they supposed this Stranger might be one of them, and had not heard of what had taken place. It might be that He was not in that throng who gazed upon the three hanging on those crosses at Calvary; perhaps He had never heard of this Jesus, the supposed Messiah, who had performed such wondrous works, and so had never learned of His marvelous deeds and teaching. They supposed Jesus to be just a stranger, and indeed He was a Stranger in this world; yet He was the Central Figure in all that had happened in these days. He again put a question to them, “What things?” They answered, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him. But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not His body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive.” This news had spread among all who loved the name of Jesus; but they were not sure that what the women said was true. Perhaps they were misled; perhaps some optical illusion had dazzled their eyes, or perhaps they were excited and had been deceived into thinking that they had actually seen Him. “And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but Him they saw not.” “Certain of them” refers to Peter and John. They found the tomb empty, the linen clothes lying as they had been wrapped around the body, but they did not see Jesus; and they were not yet clear as to just what had taken place. Jesus undertook to answer them. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” The word rendered “fools” is not an opprobrious term. It means “simple ones.” They were like children who failed to understand, and so did not believe the prophetic declarations concerning Christ. In other words, there was nothing in all that they had related which was contrary to what was taught in the Word of God; there was nothing opposed to what was written by the prophets. If these two disciples had weighed carefully everything, and had studied the prophecies that speak of the Redeemer of Israel and of His glorious coming kingdom, they ought to have seen how definitely the Scriptures predicted the rejection of the Saviour, His crucifixion, His death and burial; yes, and His resurrection, for it is written in Isa. 53:10, “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days.”
“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? and to enter into His glory?” The cross must come before the crown. There was no other way by which the divine plan of redemption for the individual soul and for the world at large could be carried out. The Lord proceeded to give them a running exposition of practically the whole Old Testament. How one would have delighted to have been in their company that day and heard the blessed Christ of God unfold the Scriptures, referring to His whole life, His rejection, His death on the cross, and resurrection, and even His ascension to God’s right hand, for in Ps. 110:1 we read, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” He went through the prophecies of the whole Old Testament, beginning with Moses. Our Lord never cast any doubt on the authorship of the first five books of the Bible. Unbelieving critics today may question it. They go so far as to deny that M,oses wrote those books, but our Lord had no such doubt. He said, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me” (John 5:46). He knew that Moses was the writer of the early books. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” What a Bible-reading that was! Their hearts were thrilled as the Lord Jesus showed how He was the theme of all phophecy, and so He gave them the key that opens up the Scriptures as nothing else can. Who has ever been able to expound the Word of God and give such a wondrous unfolding of divine truth as our Lord gave that day! If only we had a record of it, how it would enrich our lives; but He chose that we should not have such a record, in order that we might be stirred up to study the Word for ourselves, and search it daily in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We are to begin with Moses and go on through all the prophets, and with the light that the New Testament throws on these books, we can see the things which they have to teach us concerning Him, for Christ Himself is the theme of the entire Old Testament as truly as the New.
As our Lord walked on with these two, “they drew nigh unto the village whither they went.” They dwelt at Emmaus, and as they turned to go into their home “He made as though He would have gone further.” 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. “They constrained Him, saying, Abide with us.” So interested were they in what this heavenly Stranger had unfolded that they urged Him to become their Guest for the night. Thus pressed, He went in to tarry with them. Oh, how He appreciated their invitation! He loves to be welcomed; He never turns away when He is invited. He went in to tarry with them. They soon prepared the evening meal, and this wondrous Stranger was asked to recline at the table with them. It might have been a very simple meal; there might not have been very much variety, but they were prepared to share what they had with Him. He took His place at the table, but not simply as a guest; He took the place of the Host. Instead of waiting for Cleopas or the other disciples to ask the blessing, He took one of the wafers of bread and looked up to heaven and gave thanks. They thought they were inviting Him as their Guest, but they found that they were His guests, and He was the Host. Suddenly, as they looked upon His hands when He was about to break the bread, a revelation came to them. We read, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight.” How did they know Him? They told the disciples afterward in Jerusalem, “He was known of us in breaking of bread.” These two were not at the Lord’s Supper. At that time there were the eleven, the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. These two were but disciples who, otherwise, were unknown. So they did not recognize Him because of something they had seen Him do in the Upper Room. But as they gazed upon those hands, no doubt they saw the print of the nails, as Thomas was shortly afterward to see; and they said, “Oh, this is He! Look at those hands! This is the One who was nailed to that cross.” They recognized Him and they knew Him now to be the Christ, the Redeemer of Israel. But when they looked again, He was gone; He had vanished out of sight. His resurrection body was no longer subject to earthly order. A little later we find Him entering a room with the doors shut. He could manifest Himself and vanish from them at any time. “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” They had never heard Scripture unfolded like that. Now as they looked back they felt they might have known who He was who had revealed the truth in such a heart-warming manner. “And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them.” They knew just where to find the eleven. As these two disciples came to the door they heard someone say, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” Simon! the one who had denied Him, taken an oath that he did not even know Jesus; yet somewhere on that resurrection day the Lord had sought him out, and He had revealed Himself to him; and Simon knew that he was forgiven. Peter must have felt, of all the apostles, the most forlorn and wretched, as he recalled in bitterness of spirit his sad failure to stand the test in the hour of trial. What a relief to his heart when Jesus appeared to him alone, to restore his soul and console his spirit! It is but one sample of the grace He ever manifests toward His erring followers. A little later we find the Lord giving Peter the commission, “Feed My lambs… feed My sheep.”
“And they told what things were done in the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread.” And so the two disciples added their testimony. What an experience they had and what joy must have been theirs as they knew for certain that He who had died was alive again. And, thank God, He lives to die no more!
At the risk of some repetition let me emphasize the truth that apart from the physical resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church of God has no foundation upon which to rest, and there would be no basis for the gospel message. Therefore God has emphasized this great truth in a very remarkable way. In the Old Testament it was plainly predicted that the Saviour was to die for our sins and that He would rise from the dead and take His seat on the right hand of God in Heaven. For Him the path of life lay through the regions of death, but His soul was not to be left in Sheol, the unseen world, nor His body see corruption (Ps. 16:9-11). After His soul was made an offering for sin, He was to “see His seed,” and “prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord” should prosper in His hand (Isa. 53:10.) In the prophets we have prediction; in the Gospels, fulfilment. Christ is risen. He has “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). Through His name, the name of the One who was dead and is alive again (Rev. 1:18), mighty signs and wonders have been wrought during all the centuries since He vanquished death and “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).