Luke 24:13-35 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. 24 “And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. 28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go farther. 29 And they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” And He went in to stay with them. 30 And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they arose that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.” 35 And they began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.
Our Lord assured His disciples that though He must leave them, He would not leave them comfortless or without enablement. He promised them that He would come to them through the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit for fellowship, guidance, comfort, and strength. He also promised that by abiding in Him they would experience His life to become fruitful disciples, men with a mission and purpose in life (see John 13:33-14:3, 16f, 15:4-8, and then, 16:12-13).
Included with these promises, He also gave them specific revelation regarding His death and resurrection, both of which were essential to these promises. Yet, after His death we find the disciples sad, gloomy, fearful, perplexed, scattered, defeated, and running in retreat with no sense of mission or purpose. They were men in desperate need of the Savior’s touch; they needed His comfort and direction.
As a follow-up to Easter, this study is designed to help us reflect on the most momentous event in human history—the resurrection. This event, which is so important to the Christian faith, has a tremendous amount of historical evidence to support its reality. One such evidence is the post resurrection appearances of Christ.
Let’s consider some of the reasons for the appearances of the risen Christ.
1. Certainly one of the Lord’s reasons for appearing to men after the resurrection was to show Himself alive to give evidence of His accomplished victory as the resurrected and glorified Savior.
2. But these various appearances did more than that. Through these appearances Lord taught his disciples and us a great deal about Himself and His relationship and ministry to all believers during His physical absence from the church.
3. Christ’s appearances also teach us the truth of His availability and companionship and how that works in and for us even though physically absent.
4. Christ’s appearances also teach us about ourselves, our needs, and tendencies. Here He shows us our need of His fellowship for an understanding of Scripture, for faithfulness as His disciples, and for the ability to handle the pressures of life.
Following the narrative about the resurrection in verses 1-12, which leaves us with Peter going home and marveling at all that had happened after finding the empty tomb, verse 13 begins with what I believe to be a very special word, one designed to catch our attention. Though some Bibles do not translate it, this section begins with the word “behold.” This is the Greek idou, an aorist imperative of the verb @oraw, “to discern.” It is a kind of demonstrative particle designed to focus our attention on an important lesson to be gleaned from what follows in the actions of the two disciples in retreat and the arrival of the risen Savior who came along side to minister to them.
Rather than proclaiming a message of a victorious and risen Savior, we find these two disciples in retreat, leaving Jerusalem, scared, dejected, and perplexed. Here was a walk of sadness and gloom, of frustration and doubt; a walk filled with deliberation and discussion, but without answers and understanding, and thereby, without comfort; going, but without sense of mission and purpose.
“They were conversing” is @omilew, “to company with, to consort together,” hence, “to converse together” (vs. 14). The tense is a descriptive imperfect and pictures the ongoing conversation between these two men as they walked along.
But the interesting point is what were they discussing. The text tells us they were conversing “about all that had taken place.” Their conversation was centered around the death, burial, and reports of the resurrection of Christ, a very wonderful topic of conversation and one which should have brought joy, hope, a sense of victory, and purpose. But instead, it brought sadness, retreat, and a sense of loss.
To further describe the nature of their conversation, Luke uses the word, discussing. “Discussing” in verse 15 is the Greek sunzhtew, “to search, examine together by discussion.” Quite clearly, in their disappointment and perplexity over the turn of events, they were looking for answers, they wanted to understand, they were searching. It is the same word used in Mark 9:10, “And they seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead might mean.”
Application: But let’s note a couple of things because this is so much like all of us.
1. Their conversation was woefully inadequate and their deliberations impotent because, as the passage will show in the verses that follow, they had been indifferent to the Word and as a result, they were ignorant of its truth. Their deliberations and discussions were not founded on the Scripture or on the what the Lord had taught them.
2. Aren’t we often just like this? We can get together and reason and discuss, but just being together to talk, share our experiences and ideas for the purpose of comforting one another cannot truly answer the main problems and questions of life or give us peace.
3. We need something more, much more. We often hear about support groups, and they can be helpful, but they will always be inadequate and without God’s answers unless founded on the Word of God and fellowship with the Savior.
What then was their need? Fellowship with the living Christ. So what happens next? Someone graciously and lovingly enters the scene. The Savior Himself comes along side.
“And it came about that while they were conversing” introduces us to a significant time element which shows us that right in the middle of their plight of perplexity, the Lord Himself came on the scene. The pronoun “Himself” is an intensive pronoun which meant it is emphatic drawing our attention to His personal involvement in their need. This fact plus the word, “approached,” the Greek engizw, “to draw near,” brings out the personal interest, availability and ministry that the Lord Himself always has in our lives.
Here, then, we see the love and desire of the Savior to draw near and to draw us to Himself, to make the things of Christ (or His life) dear and real to us. The purpose, of course, includes bringing comfort and change to our countenances, but more importantly, He wants to change our lives and make us like Him. Really, the issue is never a matter of His presence, but of our awareness of His presence.
Here we have two believers gathered in His name and we find the Savior personally drawing near to make their conversation meaningful, to turn their sadness into joy, their expectations into reality, and their futile lives into meaning.
The next verses, verses 16-24, draw our attention to their spiritual condition, one so typical of so many believers. In the process, it shows us how we so desperately need the companionship of the risen and living Savior.
We should note that what we see here is really the effect, the fruit of a deeper problem. This will become evident in the process of this exposition.
Mark 16:12 And after that, He appeared in a different form to two of them, while they were walking along on their way to the country.
John 20:15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
These verses suggest that their inability to recognize Christ was first of all a product and phenomenon of His glorified body. He could appear as a gardener or as just a traveler and withhold His true identity.
So the bigger question is why did the Lord do this? Perhaps to illustrate how the Lord comes to us in different ways and uses different people and events to teach us and reach us. He might work through a traveler or a simple gardener, but always, He is the sovereign, omniscient, and companionable Christ who is ever at work and always near and ready to come to our aid.
But perhaps this also illustrates how, if we are ignoring His Word and its careful application to the details of our lives, and so walking independently of His fellowship and guidance; if we are ignoring His answers to life and its questions as found for us in the Scripture, then we become filled with unbelief, blind, and insensitive to His presence and working in our lives.
Point: Their problem was one of perception: But what is perception? It is the ability to see below the surface and to understand what is not evident to the average mind. It means the ability to realize what is true. Even though He was standing in their presence, they were unable to perceive His presence.
Application: Christ is not in the grave. He is risen, but even as the risen Lord who has ascended, He is still never remote to us though we may not be relating to His love and presence. He is always near and interested in us wherever we go whether in the city, in the country, on the road, in the garden, in the church, in the home, at work, every place. He is always there, but do we perceive His presence? O how we need to remember and believe Matthew 28:20, “… Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
Now we see the root, the deeper problem and cause for their lack of perception. The Lord now speaks as the great and loving counselor. He asks, “What are these words . . .” This forms a mild rebuke and was a question designed to cause them and us to think about the nature of our speech, which so often reveals troubled hearts. Our speech is so indicative of the condition and comprehension of the heart. The Lord’s words to the religious Pharisees teaches us something that is true for all men. He said, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?” Then note what He said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34).
“Are exchanging” is from the Greek verb, antiballw, which, in this context carries the idea of “to throw back and forth like a ball as in a game.” The point is, when our words are not anchored in the Word, in the viewpoint of God, and do not stem from an awareness of His presence, the end result, regardless of how sincere we are, is that we often just play games with words like a ball we throw back and forth.
Like a lot of people, they were probably proud of their opinions and they were exchanging ideas, experiences, feelings, fears, and probably doing some grumbling as well. Their words simply could not comfort them and in essence, they were pooling their ignorance. As a result, “… they stood still, looking sad,” or lit., “with sad, sullen or gloomy faces (or expressions).” The content of their conversation is given in verses 18-24.
With Jesus Christ unrecognized He was not free to work in their lives and hearts and the dialog here becomes a picture of what the message of Christ’s death and resurrection would be, just theological information without seeing and trusting in the spiritual implications.
It is also an illustration of how we can muddy up the waters and fail to witness and make the issues clear when we are not consciously walking with Him as our resurrected Savior.
Point: Their problem was one of comprehension. Comprehension means an understanding of an object or subject of thought in its entire compass and extent. They lacked insight into Christ’s presence because they lacked comprehension of the person and work of Christ and its meaning to life.
Application: Are we truly comprehending the meaning of the person and work of Christ, past, present, and future with all its implications? And are we living by faith in the light of what that means to us so that it impacts our hearts, minds, our faces, conversations, and actions? Compare Paul’s prayer in Eph. 1:15f.
These verses quickly show us a number of critical areas of need while also pointing out the divine remedy for our doubts, our fears, our grumbling, our sadness, and absence of experiencing God’s purpose and mission.
Their condition (the lack of perception and comprehension) was a product of their neglect of God’s truth in some way. This is evident from the following:
“Foolish” is the Greek anoetos, which literally means, “without understanding,” but it generally carries a sense of blame. It has a moral as well as an intellectual sense, and the use of this word suggests their condition was a product of their own indifference and self-reliance. Unlike the Bereans of Acts 17:11, they had failed to search the Scriptures regarding the things the Savior had taught them. In the Old Testament a fool is one who is not only without God’s wisdom, but he is one who is without it because he thinks he does not need it or because his values and priorities, being all wrong, cause him to neglect it. Proverbs 1:22-25 is helpful here.
22 “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge? 23 “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. 24 “Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention; 25 And you neglected all my counsel, And did not want my reproof;
Verse 25 shows us that being naive and a fool deal with a person’s chosen condition and outlook and not his mental equipment. This concept is further supported by the next statement of our Lord because He also addressed them as “slow of heart to believe all . . .” This brings out two pertinent points:
1. They were sluggish toward the God’s Word; there was no push, no desire to know it fully (cf. Heb. 5:11f). It revealed an attitude or priority problem toward the Scriptures.
2. They were sluggish to know and believe the whole counsel of God’s Word. They were quick to believe in the promises concerning the kingdom and the removal of the Roman yoke, but they were slow to believe the prophecies of a suffering Savior who must die for our sins. Perhaps there was reluctance here also because to believe in a suffering Savior brought with it a call on His disciples to likewise deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Him in a hostile world for whom the cross was a stigma. For the Greeks it was foolishness and to the Jews it was a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:188-23).
Application: Sluggishness to know the whole counsel of God’s Word can happen to any of us when we become what we might called ‘cafeteria believers,’ those who pick and choose from the Scripture according to what fits their own agendas and selfish desires. In our day where a false prosperity gospel is preached and where a consumer religion is promoted, people tend to choose churches like they choose a restaurant or a mall for what they have to offer by way of activities, entertainment, comforts, conveniences, rather than for the faithful and indepth proclamation of the Word of God. Sermonettes are just fine for these folks, but as someone has said, ‘sermonettes produce Christianettes.’ Thus, the Bible is too often NOT a means of knowing God and having intimate fellowship with Him. Instead, it is a means of selfish fulfillment—an experience, an emotional high, deliverance from a habit, and on the list goes. Packer correctly describes the problem when he writes about the man centeredness of our godliness:
Modern Christians tend to make satisfaction their religion. We show much more concern for self-fulfillment than for pleasing our God. Typical of Christianity today, at any rate in the English-speaking world, is its massive rash of how-to-books for believers, directing us to more successful relationships, more joy in sex, becoming more of a person, realizing our possibilities, getting more excitement each day, reducing our weight, improving our diet, managing our money, licking our families into happier shape, and whatnot. For people whose prime passion is to glorify God, these are doubtless legitimate concerns; but the how-to-books regularly explore them in a self-absorbed way that treats our enjoyment of life rather than the glory of God as the center of interest.1
The Bible is about the person and work of Christ. It is filled with him. He is the spirit of prophecy and the heart of the Bible. Scripture points us to Him as God’s answer and provision for man’s needs, questions, and problems. Through His precious Word God wants to point us to Christ and seeks to enhance our walk with Him because He is everyone’s need. We go then to the Word to see Jesus which in turn means to see God and man’s salvation and sanctification. But these men had failed to grasp the full message of the Old Testament regarding the person and work of the Savior as the suffering Servant who must die and be raised from the dead. They knew something about His glory, but not His sufferings.
Of the short forty days He had left on earth, the Lord Jesus spent an entire afternoon ministering the Word to these two men. Does this not show us that the concern and priority of the Savior is for us to know Him through the Scriptures?
Application: Let us not miss the significance of this. Here the exalted and glorified Lord shows great enthusiasm and places great importance on the written Word. We might think that the exalted Lord would be independent of the Scripture, but no, He took them immediately to it. Does anything reveal the priority and importance of the Bible any more than this event? Surely this is a token, a mark of the Bible’s authority and indispensability to our life here on earth. How we need this attitude and priority! But we also need to note the method of Christ’s communication with these two of His disciples. What did the Savior do? He opened the Word and expounded, explained it to these two men as it concerned Himself.
In these verses we see the necessity of positive responses to the revelation of God’s Word. Here was a test for their hunger and response to the Lord and His to His Word. Verse 28, “… and He acted as though He would go farther,” suggests the Lord would have moved on if they had not urged Him to stay. And, please note, they would have remained unchanged: just two men exchanging words--but still depleted, depressed, and discouraged. The Bible is truly living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword with the power to penetrate and change our lives, but unless we respond and seek fellowship with the Savior through its pages, we remain unchanged. We may be religious and morally good in some ways as were the religious externalists, the Pharisees, but if we are ignorant of the message of Christ or without intimacy with Him in the Scripture or both, we will be unchanged from the inside out.
“Urged” is parabiazomai which means “to use force to accomplish something, to urge strongly, to prevail upon.” It is a strong word and demonstrated (1) the animating power of the Word (Heb. 4:12) and (2) their positive response to its message along with their hunger to know the Savior. In the papyri this word was used in connection with someone coming forward of their own free will (see its use in Acts 16:15, but see also Christ’s invitation in Rev. 3:20). The Lord Jesus seeks to come into our lives, He stands at the door and knocks, but He does not force Himself in. We must invite Him and respond to His plan and methods.
We then read that “He went in to stay with them.” It is interesting that the word “stay” is the Greek meno which is used in John 15 of the abiding life that results in bearing fruit for the glory of God. Then too, we might remember James’ exhortation, “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (Jam. 4:8).
“… He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it he began giving it to them.” How interesting! They had invited the Savior to come in to abide with them in their home, but as He did, in keeping with who He is, He assumed the position of host and not just a guest. It was He who took the bread, broke it, and gave it to them. You see, the Lord Jesus is not just the unseen guest in our homes. He is always to be much more. He comes in to be the unseen host. He comes in to take charge and to lead in our fellowship that He might minister, lead, feed and sustain. He leads, we follow. This was the same truth, though presented through a different figure, in Joshua 5:13-15. There Joshua was suddenly faced with a man with his sword drawn who was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ and who had come on the scene, not to take sides, but to take over as the Commander of the Lord’s Army.
Application: As we walk along the road of life, are we experiencing the Lord Jesus as our companion and fellow traveler? And are we allowing Him to come into our homes as the very real, though unseen Host who lives to lead and minister to our life? Or are we, like these two disciples on the road to Emmaus who know the news of the Savior, but are still walking in retreat without mission and purpose, with a sad and gloomy countenance, as those who are not really living in the reality of the Risen Christ?
I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-10? There he encouraged Timothy with regard to his ministry of multiplying his life in the lives of others by the strength of God’s grace (2 Tim. 2:1-2). He sought to motivate him through the illustrations of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer (2:3-7). But then he gave the exhortation, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” It is this message of the risen companionable Christ which formed the pinnacle of the exhortation. So Paul, based on this awesome truth of a risen Savior, went on to explain,
“for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason, I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:9-10)
If we are not experiencing the risen Christ as our companion, we have no one to blame but ourselves and our own foolish heart and sluggishness toward spiritual things. The Lord Jesus is our faithful companion in the road of our daily lives and He wants to come alongside to turn our sadness into joy and peace and give us mission and purpose.
A little boy was offered the opportunity to select a dog for his birthday present. At the pet store, he was shown a number of puppies and from them he picked one whose tail was wagging furiously. When he was asked why he selected that particular dog, the little boy said, “I wanted the one with the happy ending.”
If we want to reach out for a life with a happy ending (a life with significance and purpose), we have no choice but to accept the living Christ as our Lord and Savior. But we must also walk with Him as our present companion and dwell with Him as the Host of our homes and as the Commander who has enlisted us. Only then can we truly rejoice in the eternal life that we possess in the Savior who has conquered all our enemies.
What about our Priorities?
Howard Rutledge, a United States Air Force pilot, was shot down over North Vietnam during the early stages of the war. He spent several miserable years in the hands of his captors before being released at the war’s conclusion. In his book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, he reflects upon the resources he drew upon in those difficult days when life seemed so intolerable.
During those longer periods of enforced reflection it became so much easier to separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste. For example, in the past, I usually worked or played hard on Sundays and had no time for church. For years Phyllis (his wife) had encouraged me to join the family at church. She never nagged or scolded—she just kept hoping. But I was too busy, too preoccupied, to spend one or two short hours a week thinking about the really important things.
Now the sights and sounds and smells of death were all around me. My hunger for spiritual food soon out-did my hunger for a steak. Now I wanted to know about that part of me that will never die. Now I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. But in Heartbreak (the name POWs gave their prison camp) and in solitary confinement there was no pastor, no Sunday School teacher, no Bible, no hymnbook, no community of believers to guide and sustain me. I had completely neglected the spiritual dimension of my life. It took prison to show me how empty life is without God.2
We now come to the results—the amazing transformation that occurred in these two men as a result of their fellowship and submission to the presence of the Savior.
“And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him . . .” Their problem had been one of perception, but now in verse 31 we see the power of the Word to give light and spiritual sight. Suddenly they were able to perceive that this new companion and fellow traveler was the none other than the Lord Himself and they began to perceive and experience the reality of His presence.
Like a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12), the Word had not only cut through their callus and coldness, it had penetrated to comfort them as well. It gave them insight and understanding or perception and comprehension. As the Psalmist put it, “The entrance of Your word gives light.”
We then read that “He vanished from their sight.” Literally it is, “He became invisible.” This illustrates the Lord’s relationship with believers today. It is a spiritual fellowship with Christ in the Word by faith. But though physically invisible to us, He is nevertheless there with the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to God’s truth and the very real reality of His life and ministry in us and to us. He is the One who walks in the midst of the church as seen in Revelation, walking in the midst of the seven churches.
A passage that is significant here is John 20:15-18 which reads:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her (NET Bible).
What the Savior wanted to impress upon her, upon the disciples, and upon us was not that “I have ascended,” but that “I will ascend.” You see, the resurrection was clear enough as His appearances and the empty tomb made clear. The resurrection was the authentication to His person and work and thus the stepping stone to His ascension and exalted position in heaven as our forerunner and representative to open the way for us to God as Christ’s brethren and God’s children. He could not, therefore, remain with them as before. Not yet. And Mary and the disciples must not cling to Him as such—nor should we.
So what does this mean? It means our relationship to Him during the church age would not be physical, but spiritual. It would be a relationship with Him through the Word (2 Cor. 5:15-16; John. 4:23-24; 17:17). It means we must, therefore, cling to Him as the ascended Lord, but also as the One who is nevertheless our companion in the way through the Spirit and the Word.
“And they said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?’”
The three things they learned:
First, their comment, “while He talked with us on the road,” showed they learned He is our Companion in the Way. The disciples reflected on the fact that it was Christ Himself who talked to them as they traveled along the road. Who was speaking with them? The Christ of the cross? Yes, but more. It was Christ who had now entered His glorified state and body. One might fear remoteness, that He would be less human, less sympathetic with our needs and condition. But no! In His coming to them in their need and distress, even in their retreat, we learn a wonderful lesson, the lesson of His availability, of His pursuit of and sympathy with us as our kindred, as one made like unto His brethren. It showed He is our faithful High Priest who is intimately interested in us and interceding for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16).
No wonder the author of Hebrews spoke of our “so great salvation” (Heb. 2:3f). What love, what faithfulness! Do you have a problem? Christ cares and He wants to come alongside and minister to your life, to bring forgiveness, strength, purpose, and joy as the companionable Christ.
Where did Christ speak to them? Where did he meet with them? We are told, “While he was speaking to us on the road. How we need to capture the significance of these words “in the way” or “on the road.” He is not only the Christ of heaven at God’s right hand, but indeed, He is the Christ of the way, the Christ of our daily walk whether on the road, in the office, or at home, wherever. Indeed, we can’t do without Him in the heavenly sanctuary at God’s right hand, but how wonderful to know he is also the companionable Christ, the Christ of the way, the Christ of our everyday path, with all our trials, frustrations, sin and failures, victories and joys.
So we might ask, what exactly is our problem? We often react to conditions and circumstances without His companionship; we focus on and see only the problem and so we strike out like these two without spending time with the Savior in the Word. The result? We lack biblical perception and comprehension--the perception of His presence and comprehension of His life.
In recent years there has developed a rather new phenomena in the art world. You may have seen these, but they are special drawings in which all you see are hundreds of little pictures all scrambled together, but hidden within each of these is a picture of some object which cannot be seen without the right focus. One cannot see the picture by focusing on the details. You must look through and beyond the picture and then suddenly, there is the perception of the hidden object that comes into view.
No wonder our path so often becomes heavy and burdensome and filled with all the details of our problems without the perception of His presence. Why? Again, because, as He challenged these two, we are so often foolish and slow to focus on Him through His Word.
Next, note to whom He spoke. The disciples said, He spoke “to us . . .” Though the Lord seeks to draw all men to Himself and to bring them into a personal relationship with Him through faith in the gospel, life-changing, intimate fellowship with the Savior only occurs with believers (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). And moreover, these believers had been unfaithful, but the availability of His companionship is always there for each one of us no matter where we are. He is always willing to come alongside to minister to our hearts as His disciples. No matter what our failure or our condition.
The Issue is our response: His coming alongside these two men in their frustration and sadness beautifully illustrates how He takes our situations and uses them as opportunities for us to know the Word and thus to know Him if we will allow Him to come alongside. Again note the words in verse 29, “abide with us.” These men wanted His fellowship, though they didn’t know who He was. So, this companionship is available upon (1) confession, (2) faith, and (3) hunger (Ps. 107:9).
The second thing they learned is, He is our Communicator of the Word. They said “He was explaining (lit. was opening) to us the Scriptures.” First, let us again not miss the significance of this. Here the exalted Lord shows the importance to the written Word. As mentioned previously, we might think that the exalted Lord would be independent of the Scripture, but not so. Certainly, the priority and importance of the Bible is seen in the Savior’s actions in this passage. Truly, this is a token or mark of the Bible’s authority and indispensability. How we need to grasp this attitude and priority.
Let’s also note that the method of Christ’s communication with these two was through the Word. The text says literally that “He was opening the Scriptures.” The Bible needs opening for it is sealed until He opens it to our spiritual eyes. However, He has made perfect provision for this, but we must know that provision and appropriate it. God’s provision and means include the following principles and issues:
(1) Regeneration—Other than the basics of salvation, God’s truth is hidden from to the lost
“But a natural (unregenerate or unsaved) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14)
(2) Spirituality—Even for the regenerate, the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit through His control as the Spirit of truth is essential for grasping the Word through confession and faith. Thus, compare what Christ told His disciples in John 16:12 and what Paul told the carnal or flesh-controlled believers at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3:
"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3).
The work of the Spirit in understanding and applying God's truth does not mean that He gives some interpreters a "hidden" or "esoteric" meaning divergent from the normal, literal meaning, one based on the historical, grammatical, contextual, and lexical meaning of the words of a particular text.
(3) Disciplined Diligence—Bible study that is effective and truly rewarding is hard work and requires careful and disciplined diligence in the pursuit of God's truth as the objective standard in order to rule out personal prejudiced or preconceived ideas. Paul spoke to this end in his exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Spiritual discipline is needed to both understand the text (head apprehension) and apply the text (heart application). Jesus told the Jewish leaders of His day, "You diligently study the Scriptures" (John 5:39), but He quickly added that their disciplined study was useless because they would not come to Him that they might have life and because they did not have the love of God in themselves (John 5:40, 42).
(4) Growth and Maturity—While babes in Christ can begin to grasp the ABCs of Scripture, understanding the deeper things of the Word require growth and maturity through the skill developed by personal experience or practice of Bible study which enhances ones powers of spiritual perception (Heb. 5:11-6:1).
“Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. 1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Heb. 5:11-6:1).
(5) Prayerful dependence
“Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law” (Psalm 119:18)
Then, we should note that the Savior was “opening the Scriptures.” Today we have the Bible in all sizes, colors, translations and versions, yet sadly, believers are often lacking in (1) their understanding of its truth and (2) in its igniting or animating power. There has never been a time in the history of America (which was founded on the truth of the Bible) when the people of this country (including Christians) were more biblically illiterate than they are today.
What’s the Problem? Very often, believers read their Bibles or a devotional booklet much like some people within Roman Catholicism recite the rosary. It becomes a mere religious ritual. As believers we need to learn the truth of counting on the unseen but very real presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to the Word to give us insight into the person of Christ and to ourselves. So again, it’s a matter of fellowship and faith and attitude. It is not a problem of His presence, but of taking the time and effort to listen.
The third thing the two disciples learned is found for us in verse 32 in their comment, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, . . .” They learned that He is the Enkindler or Igniter of our Hearts.
These men had known the Old Testament Scriptures, Moses and the prophets. Yet, they were sad, downtrodden, in retreat, and sorely perplexed about the turn of events, and in part, unbelieving. We should noted that they did not say, “Did not our hearts burn within us as we talked about this truth or that truth,” but as “He talked with us.” It is the Lord who teaches us truth and part of the goal of Bible study is personal fellowship with Christ in the Word. Using sound principles of careful Bible study, we must study to know the facts of Scripture; our faith stands and acts on those facts, but never apart from intimacy with the living Christ. So often, rather than intimacy with Christ, we find ourselves studying to prove our point and prove someone else wrong. We need to check our motives.
We might, in this light, compare John 15:7, “my words,” and Eph. 6:17, “the word of God.” These passages use the Greek rhema rather than logos. In contrast to logos, which speaks of “the word, the Bible as God’s inspired revelation to us,” rhema seems to refer to the specific words or lessons or truth He speaks to us from the Word (the logos). It is this that ignites in our understanding and that transforms lives (cf. Col. 1:9 “. . . spirit taught understanding and wisdom.”)
The Results: Now having encountered Christ as their Companion in the way, as the Communicator who made the Word real and who opened their understanding to its truth, their hearts were kindled, indeed, ignited into hope, joy, happiness, and commitment to the living Savior.
Coolness gave way to heat and devotion.
Despair to hope and confidence.
Uncertainty to certainty.
Dissatisfaction to satisfaction
Gloom to joy and enthusiasm
Fear to courage
Retreating to returning and faithfulness.
Now with verses 33-35 we see a further result of the transforming power of fellowship with Christ in the Word.
The choice of verbs here and the nature of their action teach us this encounter with Christ and the Savior’s instruction in the Word left its impact upon these two disciples in a number of significant ways:
(1) Restoration (v. 33a) “They arose” points to a decisive act which demonstrated their restored spiritual condition. Remember Psalm 19:7, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.”
(2) Association (v. 33b) “and found gathered together the eleven . . .” They returned and began to relate, minister, and enjoy the fellowship of other believers. This is such an important ingredient of our life as believers for support, growth, encouragement, direction, and motivation.
(3) Attestation (v. 34) These men with the others began giving testimony to the risen Savior.
(4) Explanation (v. 35) They were explaining what had happened to them and what He had taught them—passing on the good news and the Word for the benefit of others. They were able to build up and encourage one another because they had been with the risen Christ and listening to the Word. They were no longer simply throwing words about in the expression of their own opinions
Application: So, how about it? Are we open to the Word and God’s plan for learning and interacting with the living Christ? Are we allowing Bible study to be a personal encounter with the living Savior?
Jerusalem is not to become for us a Mecca—a place we go to worship the founder of Christianity who lies smoldering in a musty old tomb as is the case with other religions. Our Savior is not there, He is risen and He appeared to men to teach them and us that He is with us and wants to be our companion in the way.
We have a risen and an ascended Savior and, unlike the founders of the religions of the world, He has not left us with merely a moral code of ethics by which we are to try to live by the futility of our own weakness. Nor has He left us with a mystical philosophy through which we try to transcend this material world through meditation or some form of mysticism as in the New Age movement.
Instead, the appearances of Jesus Christ, the conqueror of death, sin and Satan, teach us we have a risen Savior, one who personally:
Let us, therefore, with the perception of His presence, walk with Him, talk with Him, depend on Him, worship Him, and go, tell, and teach others about Him.