Understanding the Emmaus road encounter with Jesus

“While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him” (Luke 24:15-16)

This obviously is a very important text of Scripture.  For it reveals incredibly important truths to us about learning to relate to Christ in His resurrection glory.  At the outset it is important to get a little background information regarding the context.

  • These two disciples were clearly serious followers of Jesus. For later, after Jesus revealed Himself to them, they quickly went back to Jerusalem and were able to gain immediate access to Peter and the others (even though the apostles were all hiding for fear of the Jews.)  Hence they knew where to find the apostles and they were immediately known when they arrived.
  • The walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus was seven miles. Going at a leisurely pace, that would have allowed for deep conversation, the trip would have taken 4-5 hours.  This is clearly the longest post-resurrection encounter with the Lord that we have record of.
  • These two disciples had already heard direct testimony from witnesses that had found the tomb empty and who had seen angels who said that Jesus was alive from the dead.
  • In spite of all of this, the two disciples had given up hope and were deeply disillusioned with all that had happened. They were confused and trying to make sense of things.

This is where Jesus joins them on the road.  He gets them talking about why they were so disappointed.  And of course, it all had to do with the fact that they believed that Jesus had failed to accomplish the mission. Rome (and the disobedient Jews) had defeated Jesus by putting Him to death.  In the end, from their perspectives, nothing had changed. Things in Israel had only gotten worse.

There are some immense truths to learn from this passage, truths that have profound application for our lives today. In the next couple of posts we will continue in the story and glean a number of important things. But at the moment I will conclude this post with something that is evident early in this narrative:

Jesus could have immediately brought an end to their deep grief, by simply revealing Himself at the outset.  Then after their amazement began to subside, He could have explained everything to them from the Scriptures.  This would seem to most of us the far more compassionate approach.

Who allows someone who is in deep grief over the death of a loved one to go on grieving when they know that the loved one is actually NOT dead?   Obviously, Jesus would (and did)! This might not seem like the best approach to us.  But obviously it was the best approach.  I don’t pretend to understand fully why Jesus chose to lengthen (and not shorten) the time of grief for these disciples.  But one thing must be true:

There are some lessons that can only be deeply learned through the experiences of suffering and grief. 

As much as we want to avoid suffering; and as much as we’d prefer to never have to grieve over painful loss; the reality is that in the universe we live in (the only universe that exists!), suffering and grief have been calculated by a loving and sovereign God, to play an important role in bringing many sons and daughters to His glory.

We will pick up here in the next post.

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