As they were discussing this a stranger began walking alongside them. He asked what they were discussing, and they explained what had happened; they had hoped Jesus would redeem Israel, but the authorities put him to death. The death of Jesus had crushed their hopes. Unknown to them, this stranger was Jesus, risen from the dead. There was something about Jesus’ resurrection body that was both different and yet familiar. When Jesus appeared to Mary at the tomb she didn’t immediately recognise him. Similarly, on another occasion some of the disciples on the beach didn’t recognise Jesus straight away. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t realise who this stranger was.
They were losing hope, but Jesus didn’t abandon them to hopelessness. Rather he began to rekindle their hope. He did this by teaching them from the scriptures, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27) They had expected a Messiah who would immediately begin a glorious kingdom, but Jesus revealed the Messiah must first suffer and glory came later. Note the way the word of God and the resurrection are intertwined. The word of God makes sense of the resurrection, and the resurrection makes sense of the word of God.
It seemed to the disciples that the stranger would continue his journey, but they showed him kindness and invited him into their home. This reminds me of Jesus saying, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20) It seems to me that each point Jesus made as he walked with them was knocking at the door of their lives. Imagine their loss if they had not invited him in. In Hebrews we read, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2) Even more than an angel, these two by showing hospitality to a stranger, were showing kindness to Jesus without realising it.
Jesus took the time to recline at the table with them. He made himself at home. He relaxed with them, he ate with them. At some point in the meal he took the bread, broke it and gave it to them. His actions here are similar to the last supper, and there would have been many other times when Jesus had broken bread in the presence of his friends. In the breaking of bread, they recognised him. Part of our joy reading this story is that we have known all along who the stranger is, and we delight in their joy when they discover who he is. But straight away Jesus disappeared.
Inwardly, they had known something out of the ordinary was going on as they listened to the stranger on the road. “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32) Their initial lack of faith left them cold, hopeless, but as they listened to Jesus he rekindled their hope and they could feel the difference as their hearts burned within them. On fire for the Lord, they hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the others, but as they arrived the others blurted out, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ (Luke 24:34)
In this story we can be inspired to find increased confidence in: 1) the resurrection as the risen Jesus appears; 2) God’s word, as the ancient prophecies apply to Jesus and; 3) Jesus’ loving nature as he tenderly rekindles the smouldering hopes of the two disciples, so that their hearts burned within them.
Is your hope/faith waning or burning hot?
What helps to restore your hope?
Rev John Malcolm