Luke 24: 13-53.
The Emmaus Road.
IN the days of His flesh, the Lord Jesus was generally misunderstood, and not infrequently misjudged. There were, however, a few souls who discerned His greatness and who could confess with Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Those who thus recognized the promised Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth, had hopes—hopes for the redemption of Israel from the Roman yoke, and the establishment of the Messianic kingdom in great power and glory. He who could quiet tempests with a word; He who could rebuke diseases; He who could cast out demons; He who with a few loaves and fishes could feed a multitude; He who could speak the word and the dead lived again—He would make a wonderful Messiah.
But He had been crucified! Their fondest hopes were shattered, and their brightest dreams were gone. The redemption of Israel! Alas, He had been crucified.
Two of Them Went—In sorrow and perplexity, with hopes shattered, with hearts burdened with grief, two of them went to a village called Emmaus. One of the two was a man named Cleopas. The other presumably was his wife, since these two occupied the same home in Emmaus, and since Cleophas had a wife whose name was Mary (John 19: 25). So it was that as these two returned to their home, their hearts were filled with grief and despair. The events of the last few days had darkened their outlook on life.
The Emmaus Road—But Cleopas and his wife are not the only man and wife to walk together, the Emmaus Road. 'Tis the road we take when some severe disappointment, some great shock, some profound grief comes into our lives. It may be occasioned by unemployment or by business depression. It may be caused by the illness of a much loved husband, or wife, or child. It may come from an overwhelming sense of shame because some trusted and loved friend has grievously fallen. Then it is that with hopes crushed and hearts burdened, husband and wife walk together, the road to Emmaus. It may even be that bereavement may cause one of these life partners to walk that road alone.
What a lonely road it is! True to form, these two adopted a time-honored custom in such difficulties. They talked together; they communed together; and they reasoned. But that did not clear up their perplexities, for reason cannot interpret the Emmaus Road. It's not reasonable to the natural mind at all.
The Companion of the Emmaus Road—While they thus reasoned and communed together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. He had come to share their journey. The Man of Sorrows had come to share their sorrows. They were compelled by circumstances to walk that lonely road; He was constrained by love to catch their step and walk with them. What an indispensable Christ, with His ministry of sympathy is the Christ of the Emmaus Road, One who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 4: 15.)
But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him. Why did He not reveal Himself immediately? Such a revelation would have dispelled their grief and dispersed their sorrows. With unrestrained joy, they would have received Him back. Yes, but they would have received Him back as they already knew Him, as the Christ of the Cross, and they would have missed Him as He wished to reveal Himself, as the Christ of the Emmaus Road. 'Tis blessed knowledge indeed to know Him as the Christ of the Cross, for He is our Saviour, the One who bore our sins in His own body on the tree. But blessed as such knowledge is, it is but an introductory acquaintance with the Christ of God, an acquaintance that shall be life-long in its endurance, ever widening and enriching as it grows. What a pity then it would have been if they had immediately recognized Him, and received Him back as they already knew Him, as the Man of the Cross only, the One who takes away our sins, and missed Him as the Interpreter of the Emmaus Road, Who takes away our sorrows.
How tenderly He draws them out. They recount the strange happenings of the last few days. They explain their shattered hopes and confess their unbelief. Then He interprets it all.
The cause of their perplexity was unbelief. They were slow to believe all that the prophets had spoken (vs. 25). They had credited the prophecies that foretold His Kingdom and His glory; but they had passed over those prophecies that foretold His sufferings and death. How like these first century disciples are the followers of Christ in the twentieth century. We rejoice in Scriptures which cheer and comfort us, while we heed but little those Scriptures that rebuke and reprove us. So, the primary cause of their distress was unbelief.
He then proceeds to interpret the events of recent days that had so profoundly distressed them.
(1) His suffering was right. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?" His sufferings were essential to their salvation, although as yet, they had not grasped that truth. In a later day, Peter expressed it thus. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." So, then His suffering was right.
Moreover, suffering is right for the Christian as truly as for the Christ. "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps." If we drew the road maps for our own lives, we would omit the road to Emmaus entirely. But He who determines the road that we take, includes the trip to Emmaus, and permits of no detours. Yet how blessed that road is, for the trial of our faith is much more precious than perishing gold, and worketh for us an exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
(2) That suffering was for Christ's glory—"Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" Their difficulty in interpreting the cross had come not only from unbelief but also from selfishness. They were concerned with Israel's glory rather than with His glory. "We trusted that it had been He that should have redeemed Israel." They had been self-centered and not Christ-centered in their outlook. But in the economy of God, the sufferings of Christ preceded the glory that should follow. (See 1 Peter 1: 11.)
So it is, that one of the reasons that sorrow and perplexity come into a Christian's life is that it may bring glory to God. We read that when sickness invaded that peaceful home at Bethany, it was "not unto death," that is, death was not its purpose (for such is the significance of the construction)— although in the fulfilling of the purpose of God, Lazarus did die—but "for the glory of God." What a revenue of glory accrued to God and to His beloved Son through the death and resurrection of Lazarus.
(3) His suffering was scriptural—To prove His argument, He began at Moses and, proceeding through all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself. What a blessed exposition to have been privileged to hear. What richness of meaning the story of Ex. 12 must have taken on as He explained redemption by the blood of the Lamb. What depths of meaning were seen in the burnt offering and the sin offering as He explained their significance. What a colorful exposition He must have given of the scapegoat led into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement. How the blood sprinkled mercy-seat must have been enhanced in value when explained as "concerning Himself." How their hearts must have burned within them as they listened to His exposition of Ps. 22 and Isa. 53.
So it is, that the Interpreter of the Emmaus Road, Who draws near to share our sorrows, not only rebukes our unbelief and unveils our selfishness, but He causes us to know that suffering is right, that it is according to the Scriptures, and that it adds to His glory. What an unspeakable tragedy it would be to walk this road without the companionship of its Interpreter. But praise His name, as two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
As the Master continued His exposition of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Emmaus travelers drew near to the village whither they went. He made as though He would have gone further. He doesn't force His company even upon His disciples. If we wish Him to have a place in our homes, we must bid Him enter. He comes readily then, for He desires to be there. "If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me." What a pity it would have been if they had let Him go on; how much they would have lost. How much we lose by not giving Him His place in our homes and in our home lives. But they constrained Him to enter. So He went in to tarry with them—gracious response to their proffered hospitality.
He Revealed Himself—Then they shared their humble supper with Him. As He broke a piece of bread, the palms of His hands turned outward, showing the print of the nails, and they recognized Him! He was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
Then He vanished out of their sight. How strange that as soon as they recognized Him, He vanished. No, not strange at all; there was purpose in His action.
His will for His disciples was that they should tarry at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high. So in Jerusalem, the eleven were gathered together. But these two were in Emmaus; they were in the wrong place. Had He remained there, they would have remained also. So He vanished from their sight.
How often sorrow and despair have driven the people of God from the company of His gathered saints. But the Interpreter of the Emmaus Road leads them back. So it was that when He vanished from their sight, they rose up the same hour and returned to Jerusalem. They knew where to find Him—in the midst of His gathered saints. So they went where the eleven were gathered together.
An Assembly Picture—What a beautiful picture of an assembly, this upper room gathering affords. There were eleven "gathered together.” Their hearts were so occupied with the risen Christ, that when the Emmaus disciples entered the room, they were greeted with these words, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon." Then they recounted their afternoon journey with its blessed exposition of the Scriptures from His own mouth, and of their supper together when He was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
While they narrated these wonderful events, Jesus Himself stood in their midst—Jesus in the midst of His gathered saints. What words of peace He spoke to these disciples. Then He showed them His nail-pierced hands and feet, for 'tis the memorials of the Cross that give an atmosphere of peace to the gatherings of His saints. As He ate with them, He again became the centre of their meditation, for He enlightened their understanding and explained to them from the Scriptures the necessity of His death and the value of His resurrection.
His Disciples as His Witnesses—It is one result of His atoning death that the gospel, carrying with it remission of sins, should go out from Jerusalem unto all nations. Moreover, it is these same disciples who have met together with Himself in their midst, these same disciples whose hearts are at peace because they have seen His pierced hands and feet, these same disciples who have seen Christ in the Scriptures and who have learned the meaning of His death and the value of His resurrection, it is these disciples that He sent forth to be His witnesses in the gospel.
The Man in the Glory—Then comes the climax of it all. There is one more place where He would have them see Him. So He led them out as far as to Bethany. While His hands were uplifted in blessing them, He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. Their last view of Him is as the Man in the Glory. This must be the climax of all our experiences with Himself—to see Him seated at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens, crowned with glory and with honor.
The Emmaus Road is a story with a sequel. Saints who know the Christ of the Cross, the Saviour of sinners, must walk the road of suffering that they may learn Him as the Comforter of saints, the One who shares the journey and interprets it, and the One who delights to reveal Himself in all the Scriptures to sorrowing and perplexed hearts. This is the story. What is the sequel?
He comes into our homes and transforms even our dinner table conversation. We meet Him in the midst of His gathered saints and find peace to our souls as the memorials of His crucifixion and the understanding of the Scriptures witness of His death and resurrection. Then we look up and we see Him on the throne; and we worship Him.
This is normal, healthy, Christian experience. Paul calls it knowing Him and the power of His resurrection, for the excellency of which knowledge he had renounced the things he once held so dear, the things that were behind and counted them as refuse. Then he pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. When as a Christian, one shares in this experience, then it is that—
He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I'm His own;
And the joy we share, as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
The Emmaus Road.
(Lines suggested on hearing the foregoing address)
"Two of them went"—And sad they went
Along the Emmaus Road,
For to reasoning hearts and holden eyes
Grief bringeth a heavy load.
They walk and they reason all unaware
That a stranger draweth near,
And now on that same Emmaus Road
Three travelers appear.
He asks of their talk, and unto Him
Their story of woe they confide—
Of the wondrous life of the Nazarene
And the awful death He died.
Then they tell the tale of their blighted hopes
Concerning Israel's King,
And at last, the report of the empty tomb
That had left them astonishing.
The Stranger listened, and thereupon
A sermon rare He preaches—
It was meant for them, but to every one
On the Emmaus Road it reaches.
He reveals to them that Christ's suffering
Was right, and for God's glory;
And then from the Scriptures concerning Himself
He unfolds His wondrous story.
The three-score furlongs are traversed now—
(His company shortens the way)—
And He makes as though He would further go
But Him they constrain to stay.
'Tis evening time—He enters their home,
And oh! What a gracious Guest—
For He sits at their board and breaks their bread
And thus with a Vision they're blest.
His hands reveal Him—the Crucified One,
But risen and living again,
His presence makes clear to their sorrowing hearts
What their reason could not explain.
He vanishes from them; and though 'tis night
Upon the Emmaus Road
The three-score furlongs are traversed again
But this time without a load.
Grief led them away from their fellow-saints—
(How often it does so still!)
But joy leads them back to the little flock
To share with their friends the thrill.
They find the Eleven, and as they converse
The Lord again appears;
"It is I Myself"—This still is the balm
For hearts crushed with unbelief fears.
A crucified, risen Jesus still
Can brighten th' Emmaus Road—
O suffering saint, let Him walk with thee,
His presence will banish thy load.
H. H. S.
“Our Record” 1931