Volume XXXVIII, #48: The Appearance That Wasn't About the Resurrection
“He appeared . . . to two of them as they walked and went into the country.” (Mark 16.12)
The Shepherd had been struck, and the sheep were scattering (Zech. 13.7). When Theudas was slain, “all who obeyed him were scattered and came of nothing” (Acts 5.36); the same happened with the followers of Judas of Galilee (Acts 5.37), and many thought the death of Jesus meant the end of His cause. As Maclaren noted, “The magnet withdrawn, the attracted particles fall apart,” but he then asks, “What arrested that process? Why did not the spokes fall asunder when the centre was removed?” The reason, of course, was the resurrection. Emmaus was a two-hour walk from Jerusalem, and Cleopas (nickname for the masculine form of Cleopatra) and an unnamed companion were going home thinking Christ’s death contradicted, rather than confirmed, His Messianic claims. Convinced they had lost their Lord, they had lost their hope. But on the way, they have an encounter with Christ that’s been heralded ever since. “Of all the appearances of the risen Christ,” wrote Morrison, “none has a stronger hold upon Christendom than the one along the road to Emmaus.” Expositors describes it as a picture peculiar to Luke that “lighted the Judaean hills with a soft after glow that was actually a new dawn. And why this fascination? Because it shows the risen Lord with common people” (Henry Burton, Luke, ch 24). The two going to Emmaus were not distinguished figures or celebrities; they weren’t prominent among the disciples, yet the Lord spent the better part of the afternoon with them. What grabs me, though, is not the ordinariness of the men but the extraordinariness of the discussion. Like Mary Magdalene earlier in the day (Jn. 20.14), they didn’t recognize Jesus; but instead of identifying Himself as He did with Mary, Christ spent the time expounding the Christology of the Old Testament.
The Testimony of Scripture
On the road to Emmaus, Christ focused on God’s word (Messianic prophecy) rather than God’s work (the resurrection). God foretold all that transpired, and because He cannot lie, the suffering and resurrection of Christ are spoken of as divine necessities. “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things?” (24.26); “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (24.46); “it was not possible that He should be held by” death (Acts 2.24). Even apart from eyewitness confirmation, God’s word gave Cleopas and friend all the reason they needed for believing the Christ would rise that day. So unbreakable is Scripture (Jn. 10.35) that we can die believing, even though we haven’t received the promises.
The Unbelief of Man
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! I wonder how much of our depression is due to our unbelief (24.17)? Cleopas reproached the unrecognized Christ for His ignorance (24.18), but Christ would show who was the truly ignorant one. To Cleopas’s credit, a Bible lesson taught by the Master Teacher was all it took to restore his hope (24.32). But as mighty as is God’s word, it is not mighty enough to overcome the unbelief of a closed mind. “If my brothers see Lazarus return from the dead, they’ll repent,” said a rich man. “If they will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead,” said Abraham.