GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
It can be found in Luke 24:13 and following, and this is what the Gospel for this Sunday says:
That very day [meaning Easter Sunday] two of them were going to a village named Emma'us, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cle'opas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, "What things?"And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
Let’s pause there for just a second. So notice a couple aspects about this opening part of the account. Number one, the disciples are on the road to a village named Emmaus that is outside of Jerusalem. So they are leaving the city and while they are leaving the city they are talking about everything that happened. Obviously the main topic of conversation here is going to be the passion and the death, the crucifixion of Jesus. And while they're doing that he appears, he drew near and went with them. And it says, number two, that their eyes were kept from recognizing him. That is very important. Sometimes people will say that they didn't recognize him, but it cannot be that they had forgotten what Jesus looked like. He was only crucified a couple days before. So it's not that they had forgotten what he looked like or that he somehow looked different, it says their eyes were kept from recognizing him. So what it is revealing to us here is that Jesus in a sense veils his identity. He appears to them but he does not allow them to recognize that it's really him.
The third thing, notice what happens here, he asks them “so what are you all talking about, what is this conversation?” And they “stood still looking sad.” And it tells us that one of them was named Cleopas. Now who was Cleopas? Well, we know from the Gospel of John that Jesus had an uncle named Cleopas. John's Gospel tells us that at the foot of the cross was Mary and Mary’s sister, the wife of Cleopas. So Cleopas was Jesus's uncle, he was a relative. In fact, if we read the early Church Fathers, they are going to tell us that he was the father of James and Simon and Jude, the men who were called Jesus’ “brothers,” his cousins, who went on to be bishops of Jerusalem. So Cleopas was a pretty important figure in the early Church. It doesn't tell us who the other disciple is that he's walking with, but Cleopas is singled out here and he says to Jesus, “are you the only person who doesn't know what has happened in Jerusalem in these days.” Now this is almost hilarious here because there is a great irony. Jesus is the only person in Jerusalem who knows exactly what has happened, that he has in fact redeemed the world through his passion and his death and his resurrection, but he doesn't shy Cleopas for making such a foolish mistake. He says “what things, tell me about them.” And Cleopas goes on to say “well concerning Jesus of Nazareth” —and here is the other element that's really significant — he doesn't say concerning Jesus, the Messiah, or concerning Jesus, the son of God, or concerning Jesus, the one who is to come; he says concerning “Jesus, a prophet mighty in deed and word.”
Notice what has happened to Cleopas’ faith here. He's lost it, or at least he's reduced it to believing that Jesus was just a prophet, a mighty man sent from God performing signs and wonders, but not the Messiah. Why? Because he goes on to say “we had hoped [past tense] that he was the one to redeem Israel, but now it's the third day since he was put to death.” In other words, there's no hope of that anymore. Now if we pick up then in verse 22 the story continues. Cleopas goes on to say:
Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.”
So Pause here. Now Cleopas brings up another dimension. He brings up the fact of the empty tomb. He is leaving Jerusalem, turning his back on the place where Jesus had died, turning his back on the hopes that they had, and going to Emmaus even though he knows about the empty tomb. The message of the empty tomb had been brought to them, and even the fact that the women had seen a vision of the
angels saying that Jesus was alive, and he still didn't believe. Once he says that, now Jesus responds with some very important words in verse 25:
And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Pause there for just a second. There are a couple of aspects of what Jesus is doing here that are worth highlighting. Number one, notice he does upbraid them. He does rebuke them and he says “you foolish men, slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken.” Now I remember years ago when I was doing a video on this — like a lecture — on the road to Emmaus, I made a mistake. I said that Jesus upbraided them for not knowing the Scriptures. And somebody came up to me after the talk and said “Dr. Pitre, I don’t mean to be rude but I think you made a mistake. Jesus does not upbraid them for not knowing the Scriptures, he upbraids them for not believing the Scriptures.” And that's true. That's exactly what he said. They, as Jews, they would've known the prophets. The problem is they don't believe. They are lacking faith. Now after rebuking them, Jesus doesn't leave them there. He doesn't just say “you fools” and then walk off. He meets them where they are in their brokenness and in their lack of faith and in their doubt that they had after the crucifixion, and he starts basically a Bible study, going all the way back to Genesis. “Beginning with Moses and the prophets, he interpreted to them in the Scriptures all the things concerning himself.”
Now why is that so important? Well for me personally, one of the reasons this is important is because it gives me the model of how to do biblical studies, of how to to teach about the Scriptures, to teach the word of God; which is this, always go back to the Old Testament. Always go back to the beginning. Always start with Genesis and walk through the Scriptures looking for the signs and the shadows that point forward to what God is going to do in Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus' method of interpreting the Scripture is you start with the Old Testament and you interpret it (what’s called) typologically. Typology means the study of Old Testament prefigurations (events, realities, signs and things) that point forward to and are fulfilled in the New Testament, in the new covenant of Jesus — in his life, his, death and his resurrection.
That's how Jesus interpreted the Bible and one of the big problems we have today is that so many of us only read the New Testament. We start in the Gospels or we start in the New Testament and we never go back to the Old Testament. Because of that, we don't see the connections between the Old and the New Testament. We don’t see how the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New. That's what we need to see if we are going to have faith that Jesus isn't just one more messianic pretender, he isn't just one more religious leader making all kinds of wild claims about himself. His claims that he makes about himself are validated and vindicated by the prophecies of the Old Testament and the types of the Old Testament that he fulfills in himself — like being the new Adam or the new Moses or the new David — as we've seen in other Bible studies as we have gone through the liturgical year.
So this is something I am very passionate about, but I just wanted to highlight it for you. One of the reasons I pay attention to the Old Testament in my teaching is not just because I'm particularly interested in it, it is because that's how Jesus evangelized these disciples who had lost their faith in the face of the scandal of the cross.