The Road To Emmaus
Key Verse 24:26
“Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
The Road To Emmaus is told only by Luke, the author of the Gospel according to Luke. Luke was not a Jew as the other disciples and apostles. He was a Gentile, a Greek by origin and a Physician by trade. He later became the Apostle Paul’s personal physician and followed Paul wherever he went to preach the Gospel in the known world. During the time he served the Apostle Paul, Luke came to know Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and Luke accepted Jesus as his own Savior. Luke then wrote two eternal books, as directed and dictated by God the Holy Spirit. The first Book he wrote was the Gospel of Luke. In it he recorded the life and works of the Lord Jesus. the Gospel as Luke relates it, mainly extols Jesus as the “Son of Man” or “The Suffering Servant” who came to this world to save both Jews and Gentiles, that is, to be the Savior of all peoples of all nations. Jesus’ first words to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus were: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things…” they reflect Jesus “the Suffering Servant” who came to the world to suffer and die for the sins of the whole world, including Luke himself. The second book Luke wrote was the Book of Acts, in which he left us a record of the lives and works of mainly the Apostles of the Lord Jesus. The two books he left us came not only from factual accounts of the Lord life and works and after him his Apostles’ lives and works as relayed to Luke by eye witnesses, but they also came from his own personal relationship and experience with Christ Jesus. Why of all Gospel writers Luke alone told the story of the Road to Emmaus? Because it was a picture of his own journey from doubts and unbelief to faith and a personal encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus. As we listen to their story, may the Risen Christ who visited his two disciples on the Road to Emmaus also visit our hearts as well.
Most people know of the 12 disciples of Jesus. But only few are aware that Jesus had a larger circle of 72 disciples, and even a larger circle of 500 disciples during his 3 & ½ year ministry. We believe that the two disciples in this story belong to the larger circle of 72 disciples. They may not have been as intimate with Jesus as the 12, but they were most certainly as precious to Jesus as any of the disciples who followed him throughout his ministry and beyond. Until now, we hear nothing about them. But suddenly, their story begins to unfold when they decide to leave Jerusalem for Emmaus. But they are not just leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus. They’re running away! And when we read on in the passage, we get the feeling of why they were running away.
During his 3 & ½ year ministry, Jesus was constantly in conflict with the secular, and especially with the religious authorities. They hated him! They hated him for who he was— the Son of God and God’s emissary on earth. And they hated him for what he did— for preaching and teaching the Word of God. They hated him even more when Jesus revealed himself as the Good Shepherd and exposed them as nothing more than the hired hands that they were— wolves in shepherd’s clothing. They hated him the most when Jesus exposed their sins and revealed their hypocrisy, their spiritual pride and self righteousness. Instead of repenting of their sins as other more humble did, and accepting the Gospel message Jesus preached, they plotted to kill him. And when the time came they seduced one of his disciples called Judas with money and arrested Jesus in the middle of the night, condemned him to death and convinced the Roman governor to crucify Jesus for a crime he did not commit. And so he did. But the hatred of the religious leaders went beyond hating only Jesus. They hated his ministry and everything and everyone associated with the beautiful ministry. We know that the eleven disciples together with some of the women who followed Jesus were hiding from the authorities somewhere in Jerusalem. They were afraid of the persecution that might follow. But the rest— the larger circle of disciples— where were they? It’s not certain where they were. But we know of at least two of them. They were running away from Jerusalem and on their way to Emmaus.
It was Sunday late afternoon that they made their way to Emmaus. They had had enough of all that had happened in the last few days. They had heard more than enough about empty tombs and missing bodies and visions of angels saying that Jesus was alive. They had seen him die. They had seen him buried. End of story. It was the end of a beautiful dream gone horribly sour. But tired as they were of talking about all that had happened; tired as they were at looking at the events of the betrayal, arrest, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus from every conceivable angle; And tired as they were from thoroughly discussing all that could have been— all that could have gone wrong after 3 & ½ years of almost nirvana; tired as they were from all this, they just couldn’t stop talking about it. Now as they ran away from Jerusalem and on to Emmaus, the conversations went on. In a way, it was a way to bring into the open the way they felt on the inside. In a way, it was a way to cover up the way they truly felt on the inside. They may have escaped Jerusalem— the city of recent painful events— but they couldn’t escape the feelings of helplessness and of despair; inner feelings of ruined hopes and of broken dreams and dashed expectations. They felt as if 3 & a ½ years of their lives had been lost in following a false trail of someone they had hoped was the Promised Messiah— who turned out to be not the One. [is there anyone here who can’t understand what they’re going through! Shattered hopes, broken dreams, expectations gone sour! Life— is like this. But it doesn’t have to be.]
Look at them walking on the Road to Emmaus. Downcast and defeated by the seemingly grim events of the past few days— mainly by the death of Jesus. When suddenly a stranger joins them along the road. But he was no stranger at all. Luke tells us that it was Jesus himself who had joined them. It wasn’t the ghost of Jesus, but Jesus himself, in the flesh. The Good Shepherd who had walked with them for 3 & ½ years; who had called them out of an empty and meaningless life into a life with him, the Good Shepherd who bore them— sinful and selfish as they were; the Good Shepherd who in an act of absolute love and selflessness embraced the pain of the cross for them; the Good Shepherd was now walking with them. After his resurrection, he should have ascended to his glorious throne in heaven. But he did not. He came to walk with them. He came to ease their sorrows. He came to rekindle their shattered hopes. He came to teach them the word of God all over again, until they could fully understand what they could not understand the first time— for they needed to understand something of vital importance. They needed to understand above all else, that his suffering and death were no accident, nor a tragedy— but that his suffering and death was crucial for their own salvation, and for the salvation of all mankind. They needed to understand that unless Jesus suffered and died for their sins, and unless they believed this and put their faith in him, they could never ever hope for salvation, nor eternal life nor ever enter the kingdom.
When Jesus pressed them to tell him what was troubling them, they blurted out the words in verses 19-24. Look at those verses. They knew everything about Jesus. They had been with Jesus for a long time. They had heard Jesus’ teaching. They had experienced his power and the power of his words. They had witnessed miracles that could not have been done other than by the hand of God. In Jesus they had seen and felt and spoken with God himself. (John 14:9) But they had not opened their hearts to really listen to what Jesus wanted to teach them the most. And what was that? Read verse 26. “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” “That the Christ had to suffer” is not a matter for intellectual discussion nor an option for the cynical heart and mind of people. “That the Christ had to suffer” is the absolute truth of God— neither these two disciples nor you and I, nor anyone else can afford not to accept and respond to.
On many occasions Jesus had taught them on that He— the Christ— had to suffer and die at the hands of sinners, and afterwards to rise from the dead. Many times, he had taught them this truth. Time and again he had spoken about this plainly to them. Not only to them but Jesus had also spoken and implied such things to many others as well. But none, neither his disciples nor the others would accept this from the heart. They may have processed it in their minds, but it never found a way into their hearts. But “The mind of sinful man is death”. (Romans 8:6) It can never comprehend the spiritual things of life. But the heart is different. The heart, as sinful as it may be, can fully comprehend its own sinfulness as well as its need for redemption. Though Jesus had spoken to them about his need to suffer and die, their hearts were not ready yet to comprehend nor to accept this truth. Sin living in men and women often cloud and conceal the most common and simple of truths. One time, a man named Nicodemus came to speak with Jesus at night. He was the kind of man who had made it big in the world. He had everything a man would want or expect form life. Power, honor, wealth, and the respect of all men. But there were two things he did not have. He had no peace in his heart and so was overwhelmed with the anxieties and worries of life. And he had no assurance of salvation. In other words, religious and seemingly righteous as he was, he had no meaningful relationship with God, nor was he sure that he would go to heaven when he died. [How many people are in the same shoes today. Even though they may not be rich and famous, they know in their hearts that they are far from God, and not worthy of him.] Nicodemus knew that much. So Jesus taught him the way of salvation. He told him plainly that he needed to be born again. And when he asked (in a sarcastic way) what that meant, Jesus again taught him that he would need to repent of his sins, and be baptized by the Spirit of God. It was simple, repent of your sins, even if it meant to put aside everything you think you know about spiritual things, and listen to what I— Jesus— am telling you. And then let God work his salvation in your heart, because no matter what you do as a human being is never enough to change your heart or cleanse you from sin. Simple as this truth was, Nicodemus resisted every attempt of Jesus to teach him the truth that he is a sinner and that only God’s grace can save him.
The two disciples on the Road to Emmaus were no different. They had seen and heard all that Jesus had taught in all the time they had been with him. But they didn’t take it to heart. That Jesus had to suffer and die for the sins of the world— its what Jesus had come to do. But Jesus was not discouraged by his two disciples’ slowness of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken, and all that he had already taught among them before his crucifixion. The Christian faith is like no other faith, religion or philosophy. Its origin is not of man, nor is it a man made story promulgated into a religion. The Christian faith is a faith like no other, for its origins are of old and of God. the Christian faith is rooted in prophesy and the promises of God. Look at verse 27. Patiently, the Good and Great Shepherd of the flock, Jesus, began to teach them the Gospel of his death and resurrection all over again. Beginning with Moses, and down through the prophets, Jesus explained something remarkable to these two disciples. He taught them that all Scripture is not only a historical account of God’s grace and truth, but that all Scripture is about Him. Moses spoke of Jesus when he said: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” (Deut. 18:15) Moses was talking about a leader and Savior, but also of a suffering servant. Isaiah the prophet spoke of Jesus when he said: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering… He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:2-5)
The prophets of old spoke of Jesus. They spoke of his suffering. They spoke of his death. They prophesied that Jesus would suffer and die. That he would do so not because of his own sins but because of ours. Regardless of who we are, good or evil, we are born sinful, live sinful lives, and must eventually face God’s condemnation. Regardless of who we are, religious or irreligious, good or bad, we cannot save ourselves from our own sins, and need a savior to save us. The world is full of self righteous people who think they are good enough for God. The world is full of religious people who think that their religious activities would be good enough to please God. But God is not pleased by anything we do. Isaiah the prophet does not surprise us when he says of his own heart’s condition reflecting the whole world’s heart condition, for he says to God: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.” (Isaiah 64:6-7) Indeed, the hearts of men were created by God to blossom like the blooms on a spring day. But instead we shrivel up like a leaf in the wind. Who can say, “I can save myself from my own sins?” Who can say, “I need no Savior?” We all do. After lamenting the condition of his own heart and the hearts of his people with these words, Isaiah wrote down the words of hope, for he also said; “Do not remember our sins forever.” (9) He was looking forward to the time when God our Father would send the Savior to blot our sins and remember them no more— in Jesus, and only in Jesus.
On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus taught his two blinded disciples the Gospel all over again. He taught them that the suffering and death of Jesus were no misfortune, but men’s greatest and most precious of hopes— that there is no greater hope to the sinful man than to hope in the forgiveness of his own sins before God— to have his heart cleansed from the stains of sin— to be made new in his inner man— and to be able to look upon his God without the overwhelming weight of guilt and shame that come from sinning. God sent his Son to become the sacrifice for our sins. He had to suffer and die in our place, in order to usher in the day of forgiveness and cleansing. And “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21)
But Jesus did not stop with the message of his suffering and death. Look at verse 26 again. Read it. “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory.” Jesus came to this world to suffer and die for the sins of the world. But his suffering and death would not be his end. After his suffering and death, it was also ordained and prophesied that he would enter his glory. As he had taught his disciples time and again, he would rise again on the third day, and return to his glorious place at the right hand of God the Father. That was imperative as well— that Jesus rise from the dead and enter his glory. In the shedding of Jesus’ blood, our sins are forgiven, our hearts cleansed, for God teaches us that “without the shedding of blood is no forgiveness”. (Hebrews 9:22) But his resurrection! That is a whole new teaching.
The two disciples trudged from Jerusalem to Emmaus, with heavy hearts, broken dreams and crushed hopes. No power on earth could lift their spirits up, nor encourage them, nor give them what they needed now more than life itself— a living hope in heaven— a living faith in God’s sovereignty— and a living love for all people, including those who had killed Jesus. None of these, neither hope nor faith nor love was within their grasp no matter how hard they tried to reach for them. What could bring a man or woman’s heart out of hopelessness and despair— a heart convinced that everything is meaningless and worthless— a heart that has grown cold to God and to everything around it because it has tasted the bitterness of betrayal many times? People are strange in the way they try to deal with life’s insoluble problems. Some deceive themselves that they have sons and daughters and life is worth living if only for them. others deceive themselves that life holds some meaning if you give it a meaning such as achievements and success and the like. Still others deceive themselves thinking that there is hope as long as you are alive there is hope. But in their hearts they feel the pangs of guilt, and the fear of death. 3 & ½ years with Jesus could not remove the sense of hopelessness these two felt at the sudden death of Jesus. No faith in God was powerful enough to convince them that life is worth living, that hope is still alive, that they could love as Jesus had taught them to love. What did they need more than life itself? They needed to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God was still sovereign, that he is still in control of life and death. They needed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that life is worth living for Jesus, and for serving Jesus with all their hearts. They needed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that after being forgiven for their sins, they could also mature in their inner person to overcome life’s temptations— all of them— and to do all that God had called them in life to do. They needed to know that Jesus did not only die. But that he was also Risen. That death had been defeated. That the stains of sin have been removed. That life is absolutely worth living when it is lived by faith in God who raised Jesus from the dead.
As Jesus talked with them and taught them again the Gospel of his death and resurrection, suddenly the impossible happened. They began to believe all that he was teaching them. It was as if scales were falling from their eyes, and the bright light of hope began to settle in. Suddenly faith was born in their hearts. They wanted to believe because all that this stranger was telling them was not his own wishful thinking but based on the living and active word of God. God had promised this kind of victory a long time ago, and men longed for the time when all this would come to pass so that they might no longer live in the shame of their sins nor the fear of their own failures, but live by faith in God who promised to redeem them from the grip of sin and raise them up to sit at God’s feet not as servants but as children of the resurrection. How their hearts burned within them as he spoke to them of all these things. Suddenly their despair turned to hope. Their unbelief and confusion turned to faith. And for the first time in their lives they could understand how God loved them so much that he gave his One and Only Son that they might not die in their sins but believe in him and live. They could also understand why Jesus had based his whole ministry on love, because it was the love of God for helpless sinners that crucified Jesus and Raised up again from the grave.
When Jesus had gone with them to their home, had sat down with them and broken bread with them, their eyes were opened to know who he had been the whole time. Jesus could have revealed himself to them from the start. But he did not, because it was not enough for them to believe all that he had said about the Gospel of his death and resurrection. They needed to understand why he had to die and rise again. They needed to trust the word of God spoken in the Bible. They needed to believe the promises God had made. They needed to experience the pangs of their own sins, and known in their hearts that nothing can rescue them from their own darkness but that which God had promised in and through his Son Jesus. And after they had believed, Jesus broke the bread and gave it them as an act of fellowship with God.
Jesus invites everyone to break bread with him. We are sinners who do not deserve to sit with Jesus and have fellowship with him. But he invites us to do so because this is why he had come. He came to save us from our sins. He came to forgive those who ask for his forgiveness. He also came to liberate us from our own sense of hopelessness and faithlessness, and invite us to live a life of faith in him— to hope in him— and to love and be loved by him. Jesus came for this. But you must believe his words: “Didn’t the Christ have to suffer these things and enter his glory” for you and for me. These may be the most important words to believe in our lives. They hold the grace to forgive us of our sins, and they hold the power to deliver us from our sins so that we no longer live condemned by our sins, but live in the triumph of the resurrection— the life God intended us to live for him and for his glory. May Jesus who visited his two disciples visit your hearts today and always. Amen.