Focus on the Risen Savior

 

Sunday School Lesson for April 20, 2003

 

Background Passage: Luke 24:1-53

 

Focal Teaching Passage: Luke 24:13-35

 

Note to Teachers: Given that we have recently covered the resurrection of Jesus during our study of John, this week’s lesson will focus on one of the post-resurrection appearances in Luke 24:13-35.

 

Giving Evidence of the Resurrection: The Appearance on the Road to Emmaus (24:13-35)

 

Verse 13

On the very day of Jesus’ resurrection, Luke records a post-resurrection appearance of the Lord involving two people, apparently part of the group referenced in verse 9 (“all the others”). These two were making their way toward the little known village of “Emmaus.” The exact location of this town is disputed among biblical authorities, but Luke notes that it was located about “seven miles from Jerusalem.” If these individuals were indeed included with those mentioned earlier, they would have also been among the other disciples who initially rejected the eyewitness testimony of the women who had visited Jesus’ empty tomb (24:1-3).

 

Verses 14-16

While they were walking along the road and apparently discussing the events that had recently occurred in Jerusalem, “Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them.”  Even more interesting is the fact that, though they presumably knew who Jesus was, they “were kept from recognizing him” at the time.  From one standpoint, this may be understood as a consequence of their obvious “grief and disappointment and even unbelief” given the public execution of Jesus which had occurred just three days earlier [Ray Summers, Luke, 323].  Yet, the language of this verse strongly implies that for some divine reason, they were prevented from immediately understanding that the stranger who had joined them on their journey was the resurrected Lord. As Leon Morris suggests, perhaps they and the readers of Luke’s gospel needed to appreciate the fact that unless Christ discloses Himself, no one can truly see Him [Morris, Luke, TNTC, 337].

 

Verses 17-24

As they journeyed along, Jesus questioned them about the nature and content of their discussions. Luke observes that they were apparently despondent—“their faces downcast”—over the crucifixion of the Lord. One of the travelers, “Cleopas,” vented his surprise that Jesus could ask such a question given the very public nature of Christ’s trial and death—“Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened . . .?

 

In answer to Jesus’ question in verse 19—“What things”—they proceeded to inform Him about the crucifixion of the “prophet” who was “powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” (v. 19). In this reply, they also spoke of their hope that He was going to be the one who would “redeem Israel” (v. 21). Interestingly, they placed the blame for the death of Jesus squarely upon the shoulders of the Jewish leaders (rather than the Romans)—the “chief priests and rulers”—who had Him sentenced to death and crucified (v. 20). The reference to the “third day since all this took place” (v. 22) indicates their utter amazement that such time could pass without the stranger at least hearing about the crucifixion.

 

Notice that the two disciples also related to Jesus how the women had “amazed” them with their incredible story of the empty tomb and the spectacular appearance of the angels (v. 23). They even admitted that the report of the women had been verified by some of their own “companions” (apparently referring to Peter and John) who also went to the place of Jesus’ burial.

 

Verses 25-27

In reply to these statements by the travelers, Jesus issued a sharp rebuke. First, He called them “foolish” and “slow of heart” for their obvious unwillingness to “believe all that the prophets have spoken” (v. 25).  Here, Jesus makes it clear that

 

the root of the trouble was their failure to accept what is taught in Bible prophecy. The prophets had spoken plainly enough, but the minds of Cleopas and his friend had not been quick enough to grasp what was meant . . . . They had no doubt seized on the prediction of the glory of the Messiah, but it was quite another thing to take to heart the prophecies that pointed to the darker side of His mission [Morris, 338].

 

At this point, according to Summers, Jesus engaged the two in a “systematic Bible study” [339]. He began with the books of “Moses,” the Pentateuch, and traced through “the Prophets” the unfolding plan of redemption. Note that Luke says that Jesus “explained,” or interpreted, “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (v. 27). Again Morris is helpful in noting that this does not mean that Jesus appealed to a select number of individual proof-texts, but demonstrated to them that “throughout the Old Testament a consistent divine purpose is worked out, a purpose that in the end meant and must mean the cross” [339].

 

Verses 28-29

Luke now indicates that as the threesome approached the village of Emmaus, it seemed that Jesus intended to travel on further down the road. However, at the bidding of the two disciples—“they urged him strongly”—He agreed to spend the night in one of their homes.  As to the motive for their desire to have Jesus remain with them in the village, one could certainly claim that the two travelers were concerned for Jesus’ safety—“for it is nearly evening” (v. 29). Yet, it seems more likely that they were simply captivated by His teachings and wanted to hear more about the nature of His messianic ministry and how He fulfilled the Scriptural promises.

 

 

 

Verses 30-32

Having agreed to stay the night, Jesus shared a meal with the two travelers. As was the common practice at a formal meal, Jesus performed the normal pre-meal ceremony (typically carried out by the host) common among the Jews—He “took bread, gave thanks, and broke it” and began to distribute it to them (v. 30). As they began to eat the bread, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him”(v. 31).  This stands in direct opposition to their earlier experience of being prevented from grasping Christ’s true identity (v. 16). Now, however, they were allowed to fully recognize Jesus as the resurrected Lord and Savior.  Just as Luke does not indicate how they were initially prevented from recognizing Jesus earlier, we are given no information regarding the nature of their sudden enlightenment.  Did they “see the marks of the nails in his hands? Was it the manner in which he broke the bread and gave it to them that opened their eyes? Or was it the way he spoke to the Father that refreshed their memories?” [William Hendriksen, Luke, NTC, 1067].

 

However, just as they came to understand Jesus’ identity  he disappeared from their sight”(v. 31). Note the dramatic contrast between the words “they recognized him” and “he disappeared.”  This type of sudden disappearance also characterized some of Jesus’ other post-resurrection appearances. As Ray Summers notes, these sudden disappearances help convey two essential truths regarding the resurrected body of the Lord. First, His body was in every way a real body. It was “tangible” [328].  Yet, the resurrected body of Jesus was also “transcendent.” That is, His body was not bound by the constraints of time and space. “He was there with them and suddenly he was not with them. Later experiences that evening would make those two matters even more clearly evident” [328]. 

 

Immediately following the Lord’s sudden departure from them, the two disciples noted how their “hearts” were literally “burning” inside them as Jesus “talked” with them and proceeded to “open the Scriptures” (v. 32).  That is, when the Lord spoke to them they were stirred very deeply in their souls and were magnetically drawn to the beauty and power of the Word.  That Christ opened the Word to them indicates, “the meaning hidden in the words of the Bible became clear to them” in a way unlike ever before in their lives [Morris, 340]. 

 

Verses 33-35

The immediate reaction of the two was to return “at once to Jerusalem” where they could share their incredible experience with “the Eleven” (v. 33). When they arrived, they heard how the Lord had “appeared to Simon” (v. 34). Then they added to the good news with their simple message that they, too, had encountered the risen Lord “on the way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Themes for Application and Reflection

 

One:  Faith and the Evidence for the Resurrection—How does the presentation of such evidence for Christ’s resurrection aid our faith?  Why do you think that belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is essential to salvation (see Romans 10:9 for example)?  What, in your mind, is the major purpose (or purposes) for these post-resurrection appearances?

 

 

 

 

 

Two:  The Self-revelation of God—What significant lesson is highlighted by the fact that the two travelers were unable initially to recognize Jesus?  How does this relate to or impact our evangelistic endeavors?

 

 

 

 

 

Three: The Ultimate Purpose of the Scriptures—Note that in this story the “Scriptures” clearly refers to the Old Testament.  Based upon vv. 25-27 what would you say is the main purpose of the Scriptures?  What, then, is the primary role of the Old Testament?  Why do you think believers (and many preachers!) today tend to neglect the Old Testament? 

 

 

 

 

 

Four: The Power of Personal Testimony—Look again at the reaction of the two disciples in vv. 33-35.  What practical application(s) may be drawn from this episode?