The Road to Emmaus

13 That very day  two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven milesfrom Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was  a prophet  mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and  how our chief priests and  rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But 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 happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us.  They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and  when they did not find his body, they came back saying that  they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that  the Christ should suffer these things and enter into  his glory?” 27 And  beginning with  Moses and  all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going.  He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and  the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and  blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And  he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other,  “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he  opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they  found the eleven and  those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and  has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and  how he was known to them in  the breaking of the bread.

The history contained in these verses is not found in any other Gospel but that of Luke. Of all the eleven appearances of Christ after His resurrection, none perhaps is so interesting as the one described in this passage.

Let us mark, in these verses, what encouragement there is to believers to speak to one another about Christ. We are told of two disciples walking together to Emmaus, and talking of their Master’s crucifixion. And then come the remarkable words, “While they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them.”

Conference on spiritual subjects is a most important means of grace. As iron sharpens iron, so does exchange of thoughts with brethren sharpen a believer’s soul. It brings down a special blessing on all who make a practice of it. The striking words of Malachi were meant for the Church in every age –“Then those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another–and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine says the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels.” (Mal. 3:16, 17.)

What do we know ourselves of spiritual conversation with other Christians? Perhaps we read our Bibles, and pray in private, and use public means of grace. It is all well, very well. But if we stop short here we neglect a great privilege and have yet much to learn. We ought to “consider one another to provoke to love and good works.” We ought to “exhort” and “edify one another.” (Heb. 10:24; 1 Thess. 5:11.) Have we no time for spiritual conversation? Let us think again. The quantity of time wasted on frivolous, trifling, and unprofitable talk, is fearfully great. Do we find nothing to say on spiritual subjects? Do we feel tongue-tied and speechless on the things of Christ? Surely if this is the case, there must be something wrong within. A heart right in the sight of God will generally find words. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34.)

Let us learn a lesson from the two travelers to Emmaus. Let us speak of Jesus, when we are sitting in our houses and when we are walking by the way, whenever we can find a disciple to speak to. (Deut. 6:7.) If we believe we are journeying to a heaven where Christ will be the central object of every mind, let us begin to learn the manners of heaven, while we are yet upon earth. So doing we shall often have One with us whom our eyes will not see, but One who will make our hearts “burn within us” by blessing the conversation.

Let us mark, secondly, in these verses, how weak and imperfect was the knowledge of some of our Lord’s disciples. We are told that the two disciples confessed frankly that their expectations had been disappointed by the crucifixion of Christ. “We had hoped,” said they, “that it had been He who would have redeemed Israel.” A temporal redemption of the Jews by a conqueror appears to have been the redemption which they looked for. A spiritual redemption by a sacrificial death was an idea which their minds could not thoroughly take in.

Ignorance like this, at first sight, is truly astounding. We cannot be surprised at the sharp rebuke which fell from our Lord’s lips, “how foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe.” Yet ignorance like this is deeply instructive. It shows us how little cause we have to wonder at the spiritual darkness which obscures the minds of careless Christians. Myriads around us are just as ignorant of the meaning of Christ’s sufferings as these travelers to Emmaus. As long as the world stands the cross will seem foolishness to natural man.

Let us bless God that there may be true grace hidden under much intellectual ignorance. Clear and accurate knowledge is a most useful thing, but it is not absolutely needful to salvation, and may even be possessed without grace. A deep sense of sin, a humble willingness to be saved in God’s way, a teachable readiness to give up our own prejudices when a more excellent way is shown, these are the principal things. These things the two disciples possessed, and therefore our Lord “went with them” and guided them into all truth.

Let us mark, thirdly, in these verses, how full the Old Testament is of Christ. We are told that our Lord began “with Moses and all the prophets, and expounded in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

How shall we explain these words? In what way did our Lord show “things concerning himself,” in every part of the Old Testament field? The answer to these questions is short and simple. Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice, ordained in the law of Moses. Christ was the true Deliverer and King, of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, whose glorious advent filled the pages of prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent’s head–the true seed in whom all nations were to be blessed–the true Shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered, the true scape-goat–the true bronze serpent–the true Lamb to which every daily offering pointed–the true High Priest of whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure. These things, or something like them, we need not doubt, were some of the things which our Lord expounded in the way to Emmaus.

Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole book. So long as we keep Him in view, we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.

Let us mark, finally, in these verses, how much Christ loves to be entreated by His people. We are told, that when the disciples drew near to Emmaus, our Lord “made as though he would have gone further.” He desired to see if they were weary of His conversation. But it was not so. “They constrained Him, saying, abide with us–for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them.”

Cases like this are not uncommon in Scripture. Our Lord sees it good for us to prove our love, by withholding mercies until we ask for them. He does not always force His gifts upon us, unsought and unsolicited. He loves to draw out our desires, and to compel us to exercise our spiritual affections, by waiting for our prayers. He dealt so with Jacob at Peniel. “Let me go,” He said, “for the day breaks.” And then came the noble declaration from Jacob’s lips, “I will not let you go except you bless me.” (Gen. 32:26.) The story of the Canaanitish mother, the story of the healing of two blind men at Jericho, the story of the nobleman at Capernaum, the parables of the unjust judge and friend at midnight, are all meant to teach the same lesson. All show that our Lord loves to be entreated, and likes importunity.

Let us act on this principle in all our prayers, if we know anything of praying. Let us ask much, and ask often, and lose nothing for lack of asking. Let us not be like the Jewish king who smote three times on the ground, and then stopped his hand. (2 Kings 13:18.) Let us rather remember the words of David’s Psalm, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” (Psalm. 81:10.) It is the man who puts a holy constraint on Christ in prayer, who enjoys much of Christ’s manifested presence.

J.C. Ryle on Luke 24:13-35


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