[Each week, I share some insights from my study of the Bible passage around which our congregation's weekend worship celebrations will be built. They're presented with the hope that they'll help people prepare for worship and get more out of the whole experience. Because we usually build our worship around the appointed lectionary for Lutherans, which is similar to the lesson plans used by Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, United Church of Christ, and others, folks from other churches may find these notes helpful.]
The Bible Lesson: Luke 24:13-35
13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
1. This is the most extensive account of one of Jesus' resurrection appearances that we have in the New Testament. Mark 16 appears to contain a conflated version of the incident.
2. Seeing/not seeing is a motif in Luke's two New Testament books, Luke and Acts. We find it in this passage. Of course, more is meant by seeing than physical sight. It stands for perception, understanding the reason for faith in Jesus Christ. The two disciples we meet here initially fail to see that: (a) the traveler they meet is the risen Jesus; (b) the fulfillment of both Jesus' promises and Old Testament prophecy about Him. But they move from blindness to sightedness.
(The first verse of Amazing Grace is a direct representation of the theology of Luke:
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.)
3. The New Interpreter's Bible (NIB) likens this passage to other Biblical incidents in which human beings unknowingly encounter heavenly ones, be they angels or God Himself. In most of them, fellowship around a meal is involved:
a. Hebrews 13:2 recalls Genesis 18 in which Abraham and Sarah entertain God, initially not recognizing Him.4. Joseph Fitzmyer divides this incident into four parts (according to NIB):
b. In God's call of Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, Moses at first doesn't know that he's talking with God.
c. In Judges 6:11-24, Gideon doesn't know that he's talking to an angel until they eat together. (By the way, like the incident in Genesis 18, this takes place under an oak.
d. In Judges 13, Samson's father, Manoah, doesn't initially recognize an angel. He asks for an opportunity to server dinner to the angel.
- the meeting (vv.13-16)
- the conversation en route (vv. 17-27)
- the Emmaus meal (vv. 28-32)
- the return to Jerusalem (vv.33-35)
6. This passage combines two other common motifs in Luke's Gospel: the journey and the meal.
All of Luke's grand inclusion from 9:51 to 19:28 talks about Jesus' purposeful journey to Jerusalem, for example.
An amazing number of significant things happen over meals in Luke's Gospel. It's a time of hospitality and fellowship.
I hope to post detailed verse-by-verse comments on this passage later in the week.