Luke 24:13–35 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions
Two Disciples Meet the Resurrected Jesus
The Lord’s table, Holy Communion, or last supper was deliberately associated with a very warm and wonderful event — the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it was etched in the hearts of our Lord's disciples. The so-called “last supper,” albeit a significant event, didn't leave a pleasant memory. The disciples were very sad because Jesus was talking about his own death, about one of them being his betrayer, and 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. Today we'll see that, while the Lord’s appearance to two men began as they walked on a road to the village of Emmaus, their realization that a third man who joined them was Jesus didn't happen until the Lord broke bread at the table. It was this association of the realization of the Lord’s presence and his breaking of bread that created a positive warmth at the Lord’s table.
Tension in the Text
The story of the two men on the road to Emmaus is one of several heart-warming accounts of our Lord’s appearances to men and women after his resurrection. By virtue of its length, we can see that Luke places a great deal of importance on this incident, which takes up much of his account of our Lord’s post-resurrection appearances. Yet, despite its length and the warm reception the account has received historically, there are a few “tensions in the text” to be dealt with first.
First, there's the fact that these two “disciples” aren't mentioned before or after. Why did Luke spotlight these two disciples, naming only Cleopas, when he said little about the eleven disciples? Where were the Eleven? Another difficulty is why these two men were on their way to Emmaus in the first place; one would have expected them either to be on their way to Galilee, as Jesus and the angels had instructed the disciples (Matthew 28:5–7, 10; Mark 16:7), or remain in Jerusalem, at least until the “mystery” of the disappearance of Jesus’ body had been solved. Still another tension: Why didn't Jesus reveal himself to the disciples when he joined them? How easy it would have been for him to simply appear, as he'd do later to show them his hands and side. Finally, this story's sequence of events might appear puzzling. Why didn't Jesus reveal himself first, before he rebuked the two men while simultaneously disappearing or vanishing from sight? And why didn't Jesus give both men a little more quality time with him as Lord Jesus? These tensions will be addressed as we proceed with our discussion.
The Risen Lord and Two Downcast Disciples (v. 13–24)
In this section, the scene is set. The characters are Jesus and the two men, one of whom is named Cleopas. The Lord appeared to the men as "only a man" traveling, much like them, to Emmaus. More than that, it appeared that he would walk beyond Emmaus, for he acted as though he'd go on when they stopped. Strangely, it would seem, Jesus appeared as slightly less than those with whom he begun to travel. That is, these men perceived Jesus to be totally “unplugged,” fully aloof of current events. To Jesus, the words of the men were a mild rebuke, as though as to say: Come on, man, get with it!
Turning our attention to the two men, they were disciples who were intimately acquainted and associated with the Eleven. Luke referred to them as “two of them” (v. 13), the “them” obviously referring back to the eleven apostles (vv. 9–11). From what the two told our Lord, they were privy to all that had taken place and been previously reported to the apostles by women. These two disciples were, however, very discouraged. They had, for all intents and purposes, given up all hope. Their faces were sad and downcast (v. 17); they'd hoped that Jesus was the Messiah (v. 21), but due to his death they'd concluded that he was only a prophet — a true prophet of God, a powerful prophet, but only a prophet who'd died as many other prophets of old had.
These men were on their way from Jerusalem to the small village of Emmaus, which was approximately seven miles from Jerusalem. What we do know is that they weren't going to Galilee, as the angels and Jesus had instructed them through the women's pronouncements. Where then should all of Jesus’ disciples have been going to if they'd believed in the Lord’s resurrection and obeyed his instructions? Sadly, Peter “went home” (24:12). In the face of much evidence to the contrary, the two disciples seemed determined to not believe in the Lord’s resurrection. The Eleven seem to have stayed in their Jerusalem safe-house, but in heart they were just as downcast, just as defeated, just as unbelieving. These two were a picture of complete defeat and despair. There was to them no hope left.
Jesus’ Correction and Instruction (vv. 25–27)
[Read vv. 25–27 now. . .] Jesus’ words to these two men weren't flattering but were a rebuke for the men's spiritual dullness and failure to believe all that the prophets had spoken. After all, the prophets accepted God’s Word as it was revealed, even though they didn't understand how it could be true. But most of the Israelites chose to reject the suffering side, focusing only on the glory dimension. They did this not only with respect to Messiah but also with respect to themselves. False prophets then were those who gave warm, reassuring promises of peace and prosperity, while the true prophets spoke of suffering and tribulation. Thus, people were inclined to listen mostly to false prophets while persecuting those who spoke for God.
The disciples of our Lord didn't want to hear of Jesus’ sufferings, only of his triumphs. Thus, Peter took Jesus aside, rebuking him for speaking of his upcoming rejection and death (Luke 9:22; Matthew 16:21–23). All of the disciples, including these two men walking to Emmaus, had so rigorously held to a non-suffering Messiah, a triumphant King — not a suffering Servant — that they concluded that Jesus couldn't possibly be the Messiah because he'd suffered and died. In spite of a mountain of evidence, all of which pointed to his resurrection, all were solidly convinced that it was all over and that Jesus, alas, was only a prophet.
Jesus rebuked the two men first for their spiritual dullness. He then went on to show them, from the entire Old Testament, beginning with Moses and culminating in the prophets, that the Messiah had been prophesied to suffer and to be glorified.
Recognizing Lord Jesus (vv. 28–35)
In v. 28, Jesus acted as though he'd go on, perhaps to provide the two men with the opportunity to respond to what he'd been teaching. He'd begun with a rebuke, and his teaching had cast new light on Old Testament prophecies. How would they respond? Did they wish to reject it? If so, they'd have gladly let him go on his way. But they urged him to stay; they wanted more; they wanted to stay with him, even though they hadn't yet realized who he was. Humanly speaking, had they not urged him to stay, they'd have missed having recognized who he was. What joy lay ahead for those who'd sup with the Savior.
We don't know if there was a mysterious or mystical revelation of Jesus' breaking of the bread. And Luke doesn't tell us if these men saw the “nail-scarred hands or wrists.” The reason they recognized Jesus was because “their eyes were opened,” their blindness was removed. It wasn't that which Jesus did in the breaking of the bread that was so convincing, but the work of the Spirit, who convinced the men of the meaning of the Scriptures, thus enabling them to see Christ for who he was. It was during the breaking of the bread that the identity of the “stranger” was made known to both men. Jesus immediately disappeared. The two promptly returned to Jerusalem to report to the rest what they'd experienced, only to be told by the Eleven and other disciples, men and women, that they already knew that Jesus was alive because he'd appeared to Peter during their absence.
Previously (see last week's summary of 24:1–12), we saw how angels rebuked a number of women for looking for the Living One among the dead, or for forgetting the words that Jesus spoke to them while still in Galilee, i.e., that he'd be rejected, put to death, and rise again. Those words of Jesus were the “living Word,” the “Word of God.” The women should have believed the Word of God.
Similarly, 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 believe that the Savior must suffer and be glorified. Their failure was with respect to the Word of God, the Old Testament Scriptures. As well, Jesus turned the attention of the eleven disciples to the Scriptures, which spoke of him and his suffering, death, and resurrection (in next week's study of 24:44–46).
In reality, fallen and finite men need more than the Word of God; they need the Spirit of God. 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. Jesus could have appeared to his disciples as the risen Lord. But he deliberately restrained himself, finding it necessary first to turn them to God's Word. Once these men became enabled to understand the Scriptures, they were then free to see that Jesus had risen from the dead. Putting first things first, Jesus laid the biblical foundation, outlined the biblical necessity of his suffering, death, and resurrection, and then revealed its fulfillment in him!
In our text, God’s Word was being perfectly fulfilled. . . but these downcast disciples didn’t know it. Although God’s risen Son was walking with them, they didn’t recognize him. How often is that true of us? Why might we think of Jesus as being far away, when, in fact, he's beside us, indeed within us, through his Spirit? The nearness of God, and our hearty enjoyment of him, comes from our being immersed in Scripture and illuminated by his Spirit. How immersed in his Word are you these days?
- Q. 1 What do you think or do to help you recognize Jesus when you're feeling down or troubled?
- Q. 2 Where is your "road to Emmaus"? It's the place where Jesus surprised you recently. What happened there?
- Q. 3 How well do you think you can explain the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the way a person can have a relationship with him?
New International Version (NIV) [To view it in a different version, click here; also listen to chapter 24.]
† Watch this passage-specific video clip from Jesus Film Project titled "Resurrected Jesus Appears."
On the Road to Emmaus
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him.
17He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does 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. 20The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but 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. 22In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29But 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.
30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.