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"From Heartbreak to Heartburn" (Luke 23:54-24:35)

54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

24:1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words.

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

13 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. 15 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?” 19 “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.”

25 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.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 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.

32 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. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Introduction

It is at this time of year, unfortunately, that the people of Dallas are reminded of a very tragic event—the assassination of President John Kennedy. If you are like me (and old enough), you probably can vividly remember just where you were and what you were doing at the time of his death. What you and I were doing was probably not that important, but because it occurred in close proximity to this national disaster, it has been indelibly etched in our minds.

The Lord’s table, or Communion, is a similar occurrence, I believe. It was deliberately associated with a very warm and wonderful event—the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus it was etched in the hearts of the disciples of our Lord. The “last supper,” so-called, was a very significant event, but not an altogether pleasant memory. The disciples were very sad because Jesus was talking about His own death, and about one of them being His betrayer, and even about Peter’s denial. In addition to all of this, the disciples argued among themselves as to which of them was regarded to be the greatest. One would hardly wish to re-enact the “last supper,” for one of these was enough. While the Lord’s appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus began on the road to this village, the realization that this man was Jesus did not come until the time when the Lord broke the bread at the table. It was this association of the realization of the Lord’s presence and the breaking of bread which created a very positive warmth to the breaking of bread, and specifically to the Lord’s table. We see in the Book of Acts that the breaking of bread was a daily experience in the early church (cf. Acts 2:42, 46).

Tensions of the Text

The story of the two men on the road to Emmaus is one of the heart-warming accounts of our Lord’s appearances to men after His resurrection. By virtue of the length of this account, one can see that Luke places a great deal of importance on this incident. It takes up much of his account of our Lord’s post-resurrection appearances. And yet, in spite of the length of this text and the warm reception the account has historically received, there are several “tensions of the text” to be dealt with, several difficulties which need to be explained.

First, there is the fact that these two “disciples” are never mentioned, either before or after. Why is Luke’s spotlight on these two unknown disciples, (Cleopas, of course, is named, but not really known139), when he has little to say about the eleven? Where are the eleven disciples? Another difficulty is why these two men are on their way to Emmaus in the first place. One would expect them either to be on their way to Galilee, as Jesus and the angels had instructed the disciples (Matthew 28:7, 10; Mark 16:7), or to remain in Jerusalem, at least until the “mystery” of the disappearance of Jesus’ body had been solved. Still another tension is this: Why did Jesus not reveal Himself to the disciples by simply appearing to them, rather than as He did here and elsewhere? How easy it would have been simply to appear, as He did later, and to show them His hands and side. Finally, I am puzzled by the sequence of events in this story. Why did Jesus not reveal Himself first, before He rebuked the two men,140 rather than to reveal Himself after all He said and did, and simultaneously with His “disappearance” or vanishing from sight? Why did Jesus not give these men any time with Him as the Lord Jesus? These tensions will be addressed as we proceed with our study.

Background
(23:54–24:12)

54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

24:1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words.

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

The women had no part in the burial of our Lord, which was done by Joseph of Arimathea (23:50-53), assisted by Nicodemus (John 20:38-39). They did manage to watch the burial of the body of Jesus and to mark in their minds the exact place where Jesus was placed. This was more than just knowing the correct tomb; it was knowing where the body lay in that tomb.141 In the providence of God, the women were not able to return to the tomb earlier than on the first day of the week, the “third day,” since the evening was rapidly approaching at the time of Jesus’ burial, and since the next day was the Sabbath. The women procured the necessary spices and had them on hand, but could do nothing with them until the day following the Sabbath. They waited until early in the morning, and then went out to the tomb. So that it could not be said that the women merely forgot the burial place of Jesus and went to the wrong tomb, Luke (along with the other gospel writers) reports that the angels informed the women that they had come to the right place, seeking Jesus, but that He was not there (Luke 24:5-7; cf. also Matthew 28:5-6; Mark 16:6). Matthew tells us that one angel invited the women to see the place where He once lay (28:6).

The angels gently rebuked the women for seeking the body of Jesus on the third day, when He had told them while still in Galilee that He would be rejected, put to death, and rise again on the third day (Luke 9:22). Jesus was alive. Why were they looking for the living among the dead? The angels’ words jogged the minds of the women, and they remembered that this was exactly what Jesus had told them, long before His death. They now saw that His death, as well as His resurrection, was a necessity, and also a prophecy which had to be fulfilled. For them to be seeking for His body was then an act of unbelief—a loving act of unbelief, but unbelief nonetheless.

In Matthew and Mark, the angels and Jesus both instructed the women to return to Jesus’ disciples to tell them that He was alive and that He would meet them in Galilee. Luke only tells us that they went to the disciples and when they told their story, the disciples refused to believe them, thinking that these “emotional women” were simply out of their heads, totally hysterical, and overcome with their grief. Peter did go out to the tomb (there seem to have been numerous trips to the tomb that day), and he found everything as the women had described it, but still he was not convinced. He simply went home puzzled.142

But the puzzling thing to me is that no disciple seems to have seen an angel in the tomb that day.143 The women saw the angel(s), but not the disciples. Even the guards who were posted at the tomb saw the angel who rolled away the stone and were frightened nearly to death (Matthew 28;2-4). But not so much as one disciple? Why not? Why did Jesus not make it easy for the disciples to believe He had risen from the dead? Why did He delay in revealing Himself to the men, when the women were privileged to see Him sooner? I believe the reason may be suggested by an earlier incident, which was the first realization of Jesus’ identity by His disciples at the time of His transfiguration. Jesus first asked His disciples who men thought Him to be. Then He asked them who they thought He was. Peter responded that He was the Christ, the Messiah, to which Jesus responded,

“Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17b).

Jesus did not want to hurry the process, to rush the conclusion as to who He was. He wanted His disciples to be absolutely convinced of His identity. Fundamental to this was an understanding from the Scriptures that His own prophecies about His rejection, death, and resurrection were consistent with the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets. Let us now turn to the account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus to observe more closely the way in which Jesus revealed not only His resurrection, but His personal presence.

The Risen Lord and
Two Downcast Disciples
(24:13-24)

13 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. 15 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?” 19 “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.”

In this section, the scene is set. The characters are Jesus and the two men, one of whom is named Cleopas. Let us look first at our Lord and then at the two men. The Lord appeared to these two men as a man. From His appearance one would have thought of Jesus as only a man. From Mark’s gospel (16:12) we learn that Jesus appeared to these two “in a different form.” This might only mean that Jesus appeared to the men in His resurrected body, but it seems to mean that He appeared to them in a body that was not immediately recognizable in appearance. Might this mean, for example, that the nail scars were not apparent, so that all the tell-tale indications of His identity would have been concealed?144

Not only did Jesus appear to these two as a man, He also appeared to them as one very much like them. He too was a traveler, it would have seemed. He was, like them, walking to Emmaus. To be more accurate, it appeared that He was walking further than Emmaus, for He acted as though He would go on when they stopped. Strangely, it would seem, Jesus even appeared as one slightly below those with whom He traveled. By this I mean that Jesus was perceived by these men either to be totally “unplugged,” totally aloof to what was going on, or somewhat slow on the uptake. The words of these two men to Jesus were a mild rebuke, as though as to say, “Come on, man, get with it!”

Now let us turn our attention to these two men. These men were disciples, men who were intimately acquainted with and associated with the eleven. Luke referred to them as “two of them” (verse 13), the “them” obviously referring back to the eleven apostles (Luke 24:9-11). From what they tell our Lord, they were privy to all that had taken place and to all that was reported to the apostles by the women. They were not numbered among the eleven, but they were closely associated with them. They were, in truth, disciples of our Lord.

These disciples were, however, very discouraged. They had, for all intents and purposes, given up all hope. Their faces were sad and downcast (verse 17). They had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah (verse 21), but due to His death they had concluded that He was only a prophet—a true prophet of God, a powerful prophet, but only a prophet, who died like many of the other prophets of old.

These two men told Jesus of other data which they had chosen to ignore, reject, or misinterpret. It was, they said, the “third day” since He had died. This must be a reference to Jesus’ words that He would rise again on the third day. What was more, some of the women, they told Jesus, had gone out to the tomb and found it empty. They further claimed to have seen angels, but alas they did not see Jesus.145 The very things which seemed to point to the resurrection of Jesus had no impact on these two men at all.

These men were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were “on their way to the country” (Mark 16:12). We do not know the exact location of the small village of Emmaus, but only that it was approximately seven miles from Jerusalem. What we do know is this: they were not going to Galilee, as the angels and Jesus had given them instructions through the women. Both Matthew (28:7,10) and Mark (16:7) specifically state that the angels and Jesus told the disciples that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. Where then should all of Jesus’ disciples have been (or at least have been on their way to) if they had believed in the Lord’s resurrection and had obeyed His instructions? Peter “went home” (Luke 24:12), which I understand to mean that he went back to the place where he was staying in Jerusalem. The two men on the road to Emmaus may have been doing similarly. If they did not live in Emmaus, they may have been staying there, in the suburbs as it were, for the Passover celebration. The huge influx of people may have necessitated finding accommodations outside the city. They did not even stay in Jerusalem, until the mystery of the disappearance of Jesus’ body was solved. They certainly did not leave for Galilee.146

I see these men as utterly unbelieving, utterly defeated, throwing in the towel and going home. In the face of much evidence to the contrary, these two disciples seem determined not to believe in the Lord’s resurrection. They have absolutely no hope. Had Jesus not sought them out, one wonders what would have become of them. And these two men, I believe, are typical of all the rest, especially of the eleven. The eleven seem to have stayed in Jerusalem, but in heart they are just as downcast, just as defeated, just as unbelieving. These men are a picture of complete defeat and despair. There was to them no hope left. It was all over.

Jesus’ Correction and Instruction
(24:25-27)

25 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.

Jesus’ words to these two men were not flattering. They were a rebuke for their spiritual dullness and for their failure to believe all that the prophets had spoken. The word “all”147 is an important one. It indicates that the belief of the disciples was selective. They believed part of the prophets’ revelation, but not all. Which part did they believe, and which part did they not believe? Our Lord’s words in verse 26 give us the answer. The message of the prophets concerning the coming Messiah was a blending of suffering and glory. The prophets spoke in what appeared to be a contradiction in terms. They spoke of Messiah’s rejection and suffering, as we see in Isaiah 52 and 53, yet they also spoke of His triumph and glory (cf. Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 9,14).

There is a difference in the way the prophets dealt with the tension of the two truths of Christ’s suffering and of His glory. The prophets accepted both aspects of prophecy, even though they did not understand how they could be compatible. They searched the Scriptures to understand how both could be true. This is what Peter has written in his first epistle:

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow (1 Peter 1:10-11).

The prophets accepted God’s word as it was revealed, even though they did not understand how it could be true. But most of the Israelites chose to reject the suffering side and only to focus on the glory dimension. They did this not only with respect to the Messiah, but also with respect to themselves. The false prophets were those who gave warm, reassuring, promises of peace and prosperity, while the true prophets spoke of suffering and of tribulation. Thus, the people were inclined to listen to the false prophets and to persecute those who spoke for God (cf. Jeremiah 23, 26,28,32,38).

The disciples of our Lord did not wish to hear of Jesus’ sufferings, but only of His triumph. Thus, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him for speaking of His coming rejection and death (Luke 9:22; cp. Matthew 16:21-23). All of the disciples, including these two men on the road to Emmaus had so rigorously held to a non-suffering Messiah, a triumphant King, but not a suffering Servant, that they concluded Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah because He had suffered and died. In spite of a mountain of evidence, all of which pointed to His resurrection, they were solidly convinced it was all over, and that He, alas, was only a prophet.

Jesus first rebuked these two men for their spiritual dullness, and then He went on to show them from the whole Old Testament, beginning with Moses148 and culminating in the prophets, that the Messiah was prophesied to suffer and to be glorified. While it is not spelled out, I understand Jesus to be saying it was not enough to grant that Messiah’s suffering was somehow compatible with His glory; it was not enough to grant that suffering was a means to His glory; suffering was a part of His glory. Take careful note that the worship of the Messiah in Heaven is the worship of the One who was slain (cf. Revelation 1:17-18; 5:1-14, esp. vv. 6, 9, 12).

The passages which Jesus taught, and His interpretation of them, are not given to us. How wonderful it would have been to have had this message on tape or in print. Why, then, are we deprived of it? Let me suggest two possibilities. First, this presents us with the opportunity and the challenge to search the Scriptures for ourselves. We know from what Luke has told us, so to speak, that there is “gold in them thar’ hills,” that the Old Testament Scriptures are rich in prophecies pertaining to Christ, but it is for us to search it out. Second, we are given some helpful clues and some “starters” from the texts that the apostles used, as recorded in the Book of Acts. Thus, we have at least some of the passages revealed which Jesus must have brought to the attention of His disciples when He taught them.149 Among the texts that Jesus must have referred to would be these: Deut. 18:15-19; Psalm 2; Psalm 16; Psalm 22; Psalm 118:22; Cf. Exodus 20:11; Ps. 146:6; Daniel 9:24ff.150

We are not told until later what impact this teaching had on the disciples, but when we get to verse 32 we overhear them saying to each other,

“Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”

Here was the basis for the change, from “heartbreak” to “heartburn”: the Scriptures were taught and were “caught.” There was no more need for despair.

The Recognition of the Lord Jesus
(24:28-35)

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 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. 32 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. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus acted as though He would go on. Why? I think it was to provide the two men with the opportunity to respond to what He had been teaching. Jesus had begun with a rebuke, and His teaching had cast a whole new light on the Old Testament prophecies. How would they respond? Did they wish to reject it? If so, they would gladly have let Him go on His way. But they urged Him to stay with them. They wanted more. They desired to be with Him, even though they did not yet realize who He was. Humanly speaking, had they not urged Him to stay, they would not have had their eyes open to recognize who He was. What joy lay ahead for those who would sup with the Savior.

I have come to the conclusion that there was no mysterious or mystical revelation of Jesus in the breaking of the bread. I am not sure these men saw the “nail-scarred hands.” They surely do not say so, nor does Luke. The reason they recognized Jesus was because “their eyes were opened,” their blindness was removed. It was not that which Jesus did in the breaking of the bread which was so convincing, but the work of the Spirit, who convinced the men of the meaning of the Scriptures and thus enabled them to see Christ for who He was. Jesus did take the lead in the breaking of the bread, which would seem to be unusual, but this, in and of itself, is not the key to the opening of the eyes of these two men.

It was during the breaking of the bread that the identity of this “stranger” was made known to the two men. Jesus immediately disappeared. They immediately returned to Jerusalem to report to the rest what they had experienced, only to be told that they already knew Jesus was alive, because He had appeared to Peter in the time of their absence.151

Conclusion

As I understand our text, there are two major points of emphasis. These are: (1) the breaking of bread; and, (2) the Word of God. Let us consider each of these as we conclude the study of this text.

It was not some mystical, magical event which occurred here, as Jesus broke the bread, but rather the simple (but miraculous) opening of the eyes of these two men which enabled them to see Jesus as Jesus. The breaking of the bread was not the means of revealing Jesus, but rather the occasion for it. Thus, Luke tells us the means was the opening of their eyes (verse 31), something which I believe the Spirit of God did. And so too when the men looked back on the occasion, they spoke of the breaking of the bread with delight, but they also spoke of the “burning” in their hearts, produced by our Lord’s teaching of the Scriptures. The effect of linking the revelation of Christ with the breaking of bread was to create a very warm, a very positive attitude toward that institution which the church would regularly observe—the Lord’s table. It is no wonder the early Christians found such joy in daily breaking bread together.

There is a sense, I think, in which this breaking of bread with these two men was a prototype of heaven and of the joys which await the Christian. Jesus eagerly looked forward to the “last supper” even though it was a sad occasion in many respects (Luke 22:15). He spoke of the kingdom in terms of a banquet meal (Luke 22:24-30), at which time He would serve them (Luke 12:37). Jesus said that He would not eat the Passover again until it was fulfilled in the kingdom of God (Luke 22:16). The fellowship which the two men would have wished to have must wait until the kingdom. The Lord’s supper looks back, as it also looks forward, to that banquet. Jesus disappeared because that great day was yet ahead when they would fellowship at His table in the kingdom. But this meal made the joy and anticipation of that occasion even greater.

The second area of emphasis is that of the Scriptures.152 In the upper room discourse (John 14-17), Jesus spoke a great deal about the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. He urged His disciples to abide in Him, which was linked with abiding in His Word (John 15:7, 10). Those who loved Him, Jesus said, would keep His Word (14:23-24) and His commandments (15:10, 14). When Jesus departed, the Holy Spirit would come (14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7ff.). The Holy Spirit would bring the words of Jesus to the disciples’ remembrance and would teach them all things (14:26). Jesus prayed that His disciples would be sanctified, and that this would happen by His Word (17:17). As they proclaimed the Word, the Holy Spirit would empower their message, convicting men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (16:8-11).

The angels rebuked the women for looking for the living one among the dead, or for forgetting the words of Jesus which He spoke to them while still in Galilee, that He would be rejected, put to death, and then rise again. These words of Jesus were the “living Word,” the “Word of God.” They should have believed the Word of God.

The two men on the road to Emmaus were rebuked for being slow to believe all that God’s Word taught about the coming of Messiah. They failed to understand or to believe that the Savior must both suffer and be glorified. Their failure was with respect to the Word of God, the Old Testament Scriptures. And so too Jesus turned the attention of the eleven disciples to the Scriptures, which spoke of Him, of His suffering, death, and resurrection (Luke 24:44-46).

The method which Jesus used was, at first, perplexing, but now it all makes sense. Why did Jesus simply not reveal Himself to the disciples as the risen Savior? Would that not have convinced them quickly and easily? Why did Jesus wait to reveal His identity until after He had rebuked and instructed the two men? Would they not have paid more attention to His words if they knew who it was who was speaking to them?

The first thing this text indicates to me is that the two disciples desperately needed the Word of God, just as all men need it. Apart from divine revelation, who would have ever conceived of God bringing about the salvation of man as He did, through the suffering of the Savior? Prophecy is needed by fallen and finite men because God’s ways are infinitely higher than ours, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Thus, if God did not make His thoughts known to us, through the Word of God, we would never know them. The reason these two men (and the other disciples too) viewed their circumstances with despair was because they did not view them from God’s point of view. They did not judge their circumstances spiritually. When viewed biblically, everything that had happened was a part of God’s plan, which included not only the suffering and death of Messiah, but also His resurrection. Finite, fallen men need the Word of God if they are to recognize the hand of God in history.

Fallen and finite men need not only the Word of God; they need the Spirit of God. While men would not know God’s ways apart from His Word, they would not know God’s ways from His Word, unless it were rightly understood. These disciples had the Scriptures, but their understanding of them was warped by their sin, their presuppositions, and their ambitions. It was only when our Lord explained the Scriptures to them, and when the Holy Spirit opened their eyes, that they understood the mind of God. This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2. No wonder the upper room discourse focused so much on the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

I believe you and I fall into the very same trap into which the disciples fell. We read and study the Scriptures through the grid of our own sin, of our own desires, our own ambitions and preferences. We arrive at our own idea of what God should be like, and what His kingdom should be, and then we rearrange the Scriptures, over-emphasizing some, and ignoring others, so that we have nicely (but wrongly) proof-texted our own thinking. How often we do this in those areas of tension, where two seemingly contradictory things are somehow linked; for example, in the biblical truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, or in the areas of suffering and glory (our own, I mean). We would rather have one of these areas (the pleasant, warm and fuzzy one, of course) and reject the other. This we cannot do. We may, like the prophets, have to hold two truths in tension, seeking and praying to understand their inter-relationship, but we dare not reject one and hold to the other exclusively. Let us give much thought to this.

Why did Jesus not reveal Himself to the disciples, rather than to teach them from the Old Testament? The reason has already been given in Luke. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man requested that Lazarus be sent to his Father’s house, to his five brothers, so that they can be warned (16:27-28). Jesus’ answer was that they had Moses and the prophets (16:29), to which the man protested that a warning from one who had risen from the grave would be more forceful, more convincing. To this Jesus replied,

“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31, NASB).

There is a very important principle taught here, and it is this: THOSE WHO REJECT THE WORD OF GOD WILL NOT BE CONVINCED BY HIS WORKS.

Is this not patently clear throughout the gospels? The scribes and Pharisees rejected Jesus’ teaching, and so too they rejected all of His works. Men who reject the Word of God will not be convinced by His works.

Jesus could have appeared to His disciples as the risen Lord. But He deliberately restrained Himself, finding it necessary first of all to turn them to the Word of God. Once these men were enabled to understand the Scriptures, they were then free to see that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus would put first things first, and thus He laid the biblical foundation; He outlined the biblical necessity of His suffering, death, and resurrection, and then He revealed its fulfillment—in Him!

But wouldn’t Jesus’ words to these two men have been more forceful, would they not have had a greater impact, had the men known who was speaking to them? Strangely enough, I think the answer may be both “Yes” and “No.” Surely Jesus’ teaching would have had a great impact if they knew it was Jesus. On the other hand, the joy and emotion of knowing it was He would probably have distracted them from a serious consideration of the Old Testament passages.

There is a principle here which applied to Jesus’ teaching, just as it does to all teaching of the Scriptures. Consider it with me for a moment: THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES IS INDEPENDENT OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE SPEAKER.

God’s Word, as the writer to the Hebrews put it, has been communicated in various ways (Hebrews 1:1). At times, God has spoken through pious, godly, faithful men. He has often spoken through less than godly men. Jonah, for example, was in rebellion, but God’s message, spoken by him, converted the entire city of Nineveh. Balaam spoke for God, and even his donkey did. Paul spoke of those who proclaimed the message of the gospel from false motives, and yet the gospel was advanced (Philippians 1:12-18). It is not the proclaimer who gives power to the Word of God. The Word of God itself has power:

For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4;12-13, NASB).

Thus, when Paul taught, he avoided persuasive human techniques which would focus men’s attention on him, rather than on the Word of God itself. Paul did not seek to convince and persuade, but to speak in simplicity and clarity, looking to the Holy Spirit to convince men and to change them. Paul’s method of teaching was governed by his confidence in the Scriptures and the Spirit of God:

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32, NASB).

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5, NASB).

For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 2:17, NASB).

There are some versions of the Bible in which the words of our Lord are printed in red, as though they are more important than those other biblical words, spoken by prophets who were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote that all Scripture was inspired and thus profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In our text, Jesus’ actual words are not recorded. Our attention is turned to the Old Testament Scriptures and to its prophecies pertaining to Christ.

When you think about it, Jesus could have identified Himself as the Lord to these two men, and then proceeded to teach them on the basis of His authority. As it turns out, Jesus taught them on the basis of the authority of the Scriptures. Think of it, instead of teaching this lesson as the Christ, He taught this lesson about the Christ, but as a mere man, as a total stranger, even as a man who seemed poorly in tune and not in touch with what was going on. The two disciples rebuked Him for asking what things were going on in Jerusalem. They saw Him as one who was ill-informed, out of touch. And yet, as such, Jesus rebuked them and taught them the most marvelous survey of the Old Testament ever taught. The men later recognized the impact of Jesus’ teaching—it set their hearts afire, not just because Jesus taught them, but because the Scriptures were taught accurately, and thus with their own power and that of the Holy Spirit. It was the Scriptures, then, as explained by Jesus Himself and as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that opened the eyes of the disciples so that they were ready and able (in God’s timing) to discover who it was who was with them.

This text sharply underscores the importance of the Scriptures. The Word of God is authoritative; it is powerful, and it is also of the highest priority. How are men to live today? How is God’s plan and purpose to be known to fallen, finite, men? By the Word of God. How can we know the will of God for our lives? How can we rightly interpret our own circumstances? Only through the Word of God, interpreted and applied by His Spirit. In the closing verses of the Gospel of Luke, we are emphatically reminded of the priority which the Scriptures should and must have in our lives.

This text should provide us with the motivation to make the Word of God a priority in our lives. It should also teach us a method by which to study the Word. We should first study the Word of God recognizing our own fallenness, our own inclination to twist and distort the Scriptures to proof-text our own preferences and preconceived ideas. We must come to the Scriptures looking for God to change our lives, suspecting our temptation to change God’s Word to conform to our lives. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand the mind of God. And, we must read and study the Bible as a whole, not just in its parts. We must read and study the Bible in much bigger chunks, and not simply race through a couple of devotional thoughts on passages randomly selected. It is the whole counsel of God which we must learn. Our goal should be to learn all that God has taught us about Himself, ourselves, the gospel, and our mission, not just the parts we like to hear, that make us feel good. Let us go to the Word of God so that He can rearrange us, rather than to rearrange His Word.

In our text, God’s Word was being perfectly fulfilled, but these depressed disciples didn’t know it. God’s risen Son was walking with them, but they didn’t recognize Him. How often is that true of us? How do we think of Jesus as far away, when He is beside us, indeed, through His Spirit, is within us? The nearness of God, and the enjoyment of Him, comes from being immersed in His Word, and being illuminated by His Spirit.


139 There are a number of attempts to identify this man, but all of these lack proof, and thus all must be seen as highly speculative.

140 It has been pointed out that the wording of the text does not really demand that it be two men, but that it could conceivably be two people, even a husband and wife. I am nevertheless inclined to view it as two men.

141 Since the tomb was hewn out of the rock, there would have been no mound of fresh earth, as we might expect, to give away the location. It would also seem that this tomb was a “family tomb,” a burial place not just for Joseph, but for other family members as well. This would explain the statement that it was a tomb in which no one had yet been laid. It could have been a tomb where the bodies of others already lay. There must have been shelves carved out of the stone, so that the women observed the exact place where Jesus was laid. This was the place that was now empty, except for the burial cloths, still remaining.

142 John, you will recall (John 20:2-10), accompanied Peter to the tomb. Unlike Peter, John was convinced by the evidence at the tomb alone (the way that the burial garments were found, perhaps?) that Jesus had risen, but without seeing this as a biblical, prophetic necessity. Since he did not yet understand the Scriptures to teach that Jesus must rise from the dead, he did not believe out of necessity, but out of the weight of the evidence and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

143 I take it from the account that the angels “appeared” to the women, that is, that they were not just sitting there waiting, nor that they walked up, but that they were there, unseen, and then, at the right time, revealed themselves to the women (cf. Luke 24:4). I believe the angels were also present when Peter (and John) arrived, but that they did not reveal their presence to them.

144 I have, in the past, held that the two men recognized Jesus as he was breaking the bread, because they saw the nail prints in His hands. The text does not tell us this. The text only tells us that the disciples recognized Jesus while He was breaking the bread, not necessarily that they recognized Him because He broke the bread.

145 We know that Jesus did appear to some of the women on their way home from the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10), but this must have been on some later trip to the tomb. These men left the city of Jerusalem before this later report came in.

146 It is my personal opinion that had Jesus not sought out some of the men disciples in Jerusalem, none of them would have gone to Galilee to meet the Lord there. Jesus therefore appeared to Peter (cf. Luke 24:34), causing the others to finally be convinced of the truth of the account given earlier by the women.

147 Note the two “all’s” in verse 27—”all the prophets,” and “all the Scriptures.” Jesus was very thorough in His exposition. He taught the “whole counsel of God pertaining to Messiah’s suffering and glory, and He did so from all the Old Testament.

148 I take it that “Moses” means “the books of Moses,” that is, the Pentateuch. In other words, Jesus led them through the Old Testament, from Genesis to Zechariah, showing them that suffering and glory could not be separated in the prophecies pertaining to Messiah.

149 I am inclined to think that Stephen’s message in Acts 7 is similar, in many ways, to Jesus’ teaching of the two on the road to Emmaus. Stephen emphasized the hardness of heart that kept the Jews from understanding that suffering was a part of God’s promise to give them a kingdom, and because of this, they rejected and persecuted the prophets, culminating in the crucifixion of Christ. Note how much suffering is a part of Stephen’s message.

150 Some of the passages in Acts which supply us with the preaching of the apostles and the texts to which they referred are: Acts 2:22-36 (The resurrection of Christ); Acts 3:11-26 (esp. v. 18); Acts 7—Stephen’s sermon which summarized the history of Israel; Acts 17:1-3; Acts 26:22-23

151 One almost gets the impression that Jesus was in more than one place at one time, as all of these appearances are compressed into a relatively short period of time.

152 There might well be a connection between the first area of emphasis—the breaking of the bread—and the second area—the Word of God. If the Scriptures are the “bread of life,” then it was in the breaking of the bread of God’s Word that the Lord made known to the two men. Is this not true for men today? Jesus is made known as the bread of His Word is broken.

Related Topics: Resurrection