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To Emmaus . . . and back again
Two disciples (Cleopas and one unnamed) of Jesus were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus (about 8 miles NW) on the day that Jesus rose from the dead. As they traveled, a man joined them—the resurrected Jesus, although they did not recognize Him. The man asked, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24:17).
The two disciples were surprised that the man had not heard of the recent events that had Jerusalem in turmoil. They proceeded to tell the stranger of Jesus’ crucifixion and the report of His empty tomb. Jesus responded, “‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27).
So, as they walked, Jesus taught what the Old Testament had predicted about Himself. When they arrived in Emmaus that evening, the two disciples stopped to eat, and they asked Jesus to join them. He did, and as He broke the bread and blessed the meal, “their eyes were opened” (verse 31), and they recognized Him. Jesus then vanished.
Their response? Luke reports, “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen’” (verses 33-34).
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus gave a lesson on the prophecies of the Old Testament which were fulfilled in His death and resurrection, making connections from Scripture to the events they had recently experienced.
The disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ lesson was one of deep conviction of the truth of what He was teaching. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked?” they ask each other (verse 32). Their physical eyes were blinded to the identity of Jesus, but their eyes of faith were being opened as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them.
Following this account, Jesus appears to His other disciples, removing all doubt that He was alive. Jesus had promised that He would show Himself to those who love Him (John 14:21), and this is exactly what He does on the road to Emmaus.
The story of the disciples on the Emmaus Road is important for several reasons. It provides an emphasis on the Old Testament prophecies related to Jesus, evidence regarding an additional appearance of Jesus, and a connection regarding the many eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus.
Luke 24 is often seen as a model of the journey that Jesus makes with many of us today, as He opens our eyes, points us to the Word, and reveals Himself along life’s walk as the resurrected Savior and Lord.
“the Holy Scriptures, . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:15-17
One aspect of the Road to Emmaus account stands out to me as a central part of this incident, Luke 24:27: “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
Alfred Edersheim (1825 – 1889) was a preeminent Biblical scholar who counted 456 Old Testament passages which are considered Messianic by the Rabbis before the time of Christ. These 456 contain the passages in the Old Testament applied to the Messiah or to Messianic times in the most ancient Jewish writings. They are distributed as 75 from The Pentateuch, 243 from The Prophets, and 138 from The Writings, and supported by more than 558 separate quotations from Rabbinic writings.
According to Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a modern day noted Biblical scholar, there are about 200 to 400 (depending on who’s counting) Old Testament Messianic prophesies.
Many things in the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah were not fully explained, and some predictions seem, but only seem, to contradict themselves. Some of the Jewish rabbis even thought there would be two Messiahs: Messiah ben Joseph, a humble, suffering Messiah and Messiah ben David, a conquering, reigning Messiah. No one thought the same Messiah would come twice, once to suffer and die, and once to reign.
At the time of Jesus, the expectation was for a Messiah who would rescue Israel from foreign domination. He would conquer and rule. When Jesus didn’t declare Himself as King and start to raise an army to restore Israel, many that followed Him departed.
Jesus as conquering King restoring Israel? That didn’t happen 2,000 years ago, but . . .
It’s all in God’s Word for those that have eyes to see, ears to hear and an open mind to understand.
More on Messianic prophesies . . . next week.