13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. Luke 24:13–16
The two men were followers of Christ, visiting Jerusalem with many others for the Passover. They are assumed to reside in Emmaus, but were familiar enough with the disciples to have been with them in what was a time of crisis. One was named Cleopas. They left the eleven and others huddled together, perhaps in the Upper Room, to return home to their families.
It had been three days since the crucifixion and things had suddenly become chaotic amongst the followers, with some of the women saying his body wasn’t in the tomb when they went there earlier in the morning to add spices, also excitedly claiming they’d seen angels there pronouncing he had risen.
Two of the apostles (Peter and John) had run quickly to the tomb to see for themselves, and what the women said was true, but they saw no angels. Peter, who had gone home from there (Luke 24:12), perhaps to tell his wife the news, may have seen the risen Christ himself on the way (Luke 24:34), but some of the disciples were still doubting (Luke 24:38).
Emmaus was some seven miles away from Jerusalem, reachable in a little over two hours walking at a normal pace. The two men were engrossed in animated conversation. The text says “talking and discussing.” The Greek word for “discussing” alludes to a bit of a debate or dispute between them when Jesus slipped in unrecognized. Hearing the back-and-forth, he finally said,
“What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” Luke 24:17
They stopped dead in their tracks and stared at him with bewilderment. Christ, on the other hand, noted that they looked saddened and emotionally drained. The Greek word for “sad” is translated here as “sullen” and “gloomy.”
Then Cleopas lectured Jesus, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” Luke 24:18
And Jesus replied, “What things?” Luke 24:19
This response is comical to us, but strategic. It was designed to elicit a response from which he could teach the good news. It was his version of the Socratic method boiled down to a two-word question.
And then both the men chimed in (“And they said to Him”), taking turns, stepping on each other’s sentences, recounting all that had happened in the past three days.
“The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also 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 exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” Luke 24:19-24
Jesus’ response is unexpected. We might tend to want him to go easy on these men, given the emotional rollercoaster they’d been on.
25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Luke 24:25–26
It’s not hard to pick up a tinge of frustration in the Lord’s words. What would he have to do or say for all this to sink in? The Greek word anoetos translated “foolish” here means to not apply your mind, to be unintelligent! But he quickly took yet another run at it, starting from the very beginning with his now captive audience. Depending on when the Lord joined them on the road, this was going to be one moving sermon on the road to understanding!
27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:27
At the very least, like these men, we need to begin to be aware of all the prophecies in scripture, connect these prophecies with their past fulfillments, and know what has yet to be fulfilled (2 Peter 3:2). We can no longer be ignorant and unaware, especially in these trying days. And like me, just as Jesus walked along with these two men without being recognized, you can read a story all your life and miss its key points. We all need to wise up!