On the Road to Emmaus

A Sunday Afternoon Walk (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35)

            Sometime later the same day, two disciples walked to Emmaus, a town about seven miles from Jerusalem. Emmaus has not been located in modern times, though numerous sites have been proposed as possibilities. One of the disciples is directly named as Cleopas (Luke 24:18). Many scholars assume that Cleopas is another spelling for Clopas. If so, his wife was Mary (John 19:25) and he was the father of James and Joses (Mark 15:40). He was also called Alphaeus (Mark 3:18). The other disciple is not named. Some scholars wonder it might have been Luke since there is a tendency for the gospel writers not to refer to themselves by name in their own accounts. Such would also explain the far greater detail of this event in Luke’s account than in Mark’s.

            As they walked, they talked about all the recent events. An apparent stranger, also walking along the road, joined up with them listening to their conversation. It was Jesus, but the disciples were prevented in some manner from recognizing him. Nothing miraculous is directly mentioned. It may have been as simple as that they were not expecting to met Jesus – recall that the disciples did not believe he was alive -- and so did not recognize him. Mark mentions that he appeared in another form, perhaps in a different manner of dress, than Jesus had typically appeared. The stranger asked them what they were discussing and why they looked so sad. A number of manuscripts vary in verse 17. These say that the stranger asked them what they were discussing and the disciples stopped and looked sad in response to the question. The newer translations tend to follow this reading.

            Cleopas asked in reply if he could be the only person in Jerusalem not to have heard about what had happened. When the stranger asked, “What things?” Cleopas talked about Jesus, a mighty prophet from God, who did wonders publically. Surely he had heard how the ruling Jews had turned him over to the Romans and had him crucified. The disciples had really hoped that Jesus was going to redeem Israel. He had to have heard since it only happened three days ago. What has them puzzled is that some women among the disciples had gone to the tomb early that day had astonished the disciples by reporting that the tomb was empty, that they had seen angels, and that they had seen Jesus alive. Some of the disciples had gone to the tomb and verified that it was empty, but they did not see Jesus.

            The stranger scolded the disciples for being slow in realizing what the prophets had been saying. Did the prophets not say the Christ had to suffer these things in order to enter heaven? So starting with Moses and working his way through all the prophets he covered all the passages concerning the Messiah.

            As they came to Emmaus, the stranger began to continue on, but the disciples asked him to stay with them because it was getting late, so he consented to stay. As they sat down to eat, Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and passed it to them. The action must have been nearly the same as what he had done at the last supper. And at that moment the disciples realized to whom they had been talking. And at that moment, Jesus disappeared.

            Looking back, they realized that it was a wonder that they had not recognized him earlier just from the conversation. As Jesus had showed them the truth in the Scriptures, their hearts had burned within just as it had when they walked with Jesus in the past (Psalm 39:3; Jeremiah 23:29).

            They couldn’t keep this news to themselves, but went straight back to Jerusalem to report what had happened to the apostles and the other disciples. But when they got there, the disciples were excited with the news that the Lord had appeared to Peter. The account of this is not recorded in the gospels, just the fact that it had happened (I Corinthians 15:5). These disciples then told the rest what happened to them, but Mark tells us that they were not believed. They believed that Jesus was risen because of Peter’s testimony, but they didn’t accept that he would have spent the afternoon with these men.