I want to begin by reminding you of something that I’m sure you know; but in this context, it suits our understanding of the text to refer to it. The most important reality in the world is truth, truth, God’s truth, the truth that saves from hell, the most important truth of all.
There’s only one place this truth is found and that is in the Scriptures, the Word of God, the Bible. Only those who understand the Bible can know the truth about salvation and be saved from hell. Only those who know the truth of the Bible can live fulfilled, obedient, blessed, effective, joyful lives. All matters of salvation and sanctification, and all understanding of future glorification is contained in the Bible. Therefore the greatest service that can ever be rendered to anyone is to explain to them the meaning of the Bible. We call that Bible exposition. That means to explain the meaning of Scripture.
To understand Scripture is to understand everything from God’s perspective, the one true view. All of the purposes of God for humanity, all of the purposes of God in history and eternity, all of the purposes of God from beginning to end and top to bottom, the comprehensive view of all things can be known only to those who understand the meaning of Scripture. Therefore, again I say, the greatest service you can render to anyone is to give them an understanding of Scripture.
Never is that more powerfully indicated or illustrated than in the passage that is before us this morning, where Jesus confronts two of His followers who are ignorant, who are in the darkness, who are filled with doubt, who are confused, who are distressed, and gives them the clarity of a true understanding of Scripture. He opens the Scripture, and shatters the darkness and confusion with the light of truth. In fact, verse 27 of Luke 24 sums it up, beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, “He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
Let me tell you, that is the greatest thing anyone could ever do for you. Verse 32 records their response: “They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?’”
They had a lack of understanding of the Scriptures, that’s why they couldn’t deal with the death of Christ. They had no place in their theology for the death of Messiah, and therefore they had no place in their theology for a resurrection. This is not because they rejected the Scripture. This is not because they never read the Scripture. This is not because they never went to the synagogue to hear the Scripture taught. This is not because they didn’t believe the Scripture. It is simply because they had a partial understanding of the Scripture. A partial understanding of the Scripture is not enough.
They were confused, struggling because of what had happened to the one they thought was the Messiah, because they didn’t know all that the prophets had spoken. And Jesus indicts them in verse 25: “O foolish men, and slow of heart, to believe in all” – and that’s the operative word you need to underline – “all that the prophets have spoken.”
In fact, I think you would understand, wouldn’t you, that just having part of the truth is always dangerous, always dangerous, and even damning. In fact, you can get it all right, and just miss on salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and you’ll go to hell with the rest of your theology in tact.
This is Luke’s first account of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and John tell us about Jesus’ appearance to the women. But Luke makes this the focal point of Christ’s appearance. It is a beautiful, beautiful story; one of my favorites in all the Bible. It is a beloved story to anyone whose ever read it. It is rich; it is instructive.
Probably the reason you have a name here in verse 18, Cleopas, which is the male form of Cleopatra, a kind of a shortened version of Cleopatras. The reason you have a name here is very possibly because he’s the source of this account to Luke. And while the writer was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write without error, they had human sources to tell them the story; and Cleopas was probably well known to the church by this time. Luke is writing in 60 or 61, which is nearly thirty years after these events had happened.
And Luke may well have heard the story from Cleopas, because I’m pretty confident that Cleopas and his unnamed companion on the road probably told this story every single day of their life to somebody. The greatest joy in their life would be to find somebody who hadn’t heard it and tell them: “One day we were walking to Emmaus and you will never know what happened.” So Cleopas – not to be confused with Clopas, which is a Hebrew Aramaic word, this one a Greek word, another person all together – probably told Luke his story, and that’s why his name is here, and he was known to the church when Luke wrote.
The story takes place Sunday afternoon, the first day of the week, third day since Jesus was crucified. We know it’s in the afternoon, fairly late in the afternoon, because verse 29 says, “They urged Him,” – that is they urged Jesus – “saying, ‘Stay with us, it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.’ And He went in to stay with them.” So by the time their conversation comes to its end, it’s about to be sundown.
So it’s late in the day; these two are heading home. They live in a little village called Emmaus, and they’re going home because it’s over, as far as they’re concerned, it’s gone. All their hopes, all their dreams, all their explanations attached to Jesus have been smashed, dashed, crushed. And there’s nothing to stay in Jerusalem for, the Passover is over. And they head home, gloomy, sad, confused. How could they have been so wrong? How could it turn out like this?
David Gooding sums it up with these words: “Death and resurrection form no part of their concept of Messiah’s office and program, which is why they had not really taken in what Jesus had said about His coming death. They were hoping for a Messiah who would break the imperialist’s domination of the Romans by force of arms, a Messiah who managed to allow Himself to be caught by Jewish authorities, handed over to the Romans, and crucified before He had even begun to organize any guerilla operations, popular uprisings, or open warfare. What use was He? If the Old Testament prophesied a liberator who should not die but be triumphant, Jesus was already disqualified because He had died. After that, it was almost irrelevant to talk about resurrection.” End quote.
And so they go along the way, believing that it’s all over. We don’t know how long they were with Jesus. We don’t know whether it was weeks or months, we have no idea. We don’t know how much they had heard, but they had heard a lot, seen a lot, enough to be convinced. And what happened in the end made no sense. Now with that, let’s turn to the story.
It’s probably been your experience somewhere along the way, to have a good teacher in school, church, somewhere. Good teachers ask provocative questions. And the reason good teachers ask provocative questions is because provocative questions solicit self-examination. They make you assess what you know. And so they raise the issue of what you know and what you don’t know. Asking the right questions can help the learner articulate the dilemma. Jesus is the best.
So in Luke’s gospel, there are about a dozen times when Jesus starts to teach by asking questions, because the learner then has to come to grips with what it is that he knows, what it is that he believes, and where the confusion lies, or where the ignorance is located. And so Jesus begins this encounter of instruction, explaining the Scriptures, by asking questions that elicit from these two their understanding and their confusion.
As we look at the story, we’re going to see it from three perspectives. One, the need for understanding; two, the source of understanding; and three, the result of understanding. The need for understanding, the source for understanding, the result of understanding. Let’s begin with the need for understanding. This is elicited by Jesus in simple questions.
Verse 13: “And behold,” – stop right there for a moment to tell you that little phrase, “and behold,” is used twenty-six times in Luke’s gospel always to mark a new section. It’s his favorite little transitional phrase, and he uses it eight times in the book of Acts. So we’re moving to a new section.
But we have to reach back as soon as we come to the word “two of them.” Two of whom? Well we don’t have to go very far. If you go back into verse 9, you remember that the women came back to the apostles and reported all these things. Verse 9, they returned from the tomb, they saw the open tomb, they heard the angelic revelation; they came back, they reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. By the way, verse 11 says they didn’t buy it. To them it was nonsense, and they wouldn’t believe them.
So here are two of the rest. They’re not apostles: Cleopas and a companion. They are part of the group that heard the testimony of the women and didn’t believe it and thought it was nonsense. And Jesus, in an amazing condescension, amazing post-resurrection condescension – you might think if we were planning His post-resurrection appearances that they would be a little more grand, right? Wouldn’t you have planned that He show up at the temple in front of the masses? Two plain, simple, humble, obscure followers on a dusty road to a village, the ruins of which don’t exist. We don’t even know where it was, except how far it was from Jerusalem. This is the magnificence of the condescension of Christ to the humblest.
They’ve heard it all: the testimony of the women, the whole thing. Not only had they seen the empty tomb, not only had they heard the angels tell them He was alive, but they had seen Jesus on the road. And these two, along with the rest, didn’t believe it. They are faithless. They are unconvinced followers of Jesus. And it is Sunday. It’s late in the afternoon. There’s nothing to stay for in the city of Jerusalem; Passover ended the day before. They go home heartsick, devastated, and utterly confused.
Seven miles away is their home. Literally in the Greek, 60 stadia. A stadia would be 607 feet. So if you do the math, it’s about seven miles. So they’ve got a walk of a couple of hours, maybe at the most. Verse 14 says, “And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place.” Of course. What else would be the topic of conversation? They can’t figure it out.
What do you mean, “all these things”? – by the way, which appears repeated times in the story: “these things, these things,” because it’s obvious what they’re talking about. All these things concerning Jesus that had happened that week: Monday the triumphal entry where the mass of hundreds of thousands of people converged on Him, and threw palm branches at His feet, and hailed Him as the Son of David, and sang hosannas to Him as the Messiah.
And then on Tuesday when He cleansed the temple. And then from then on through the rest of the week He dominated the temple, and all His teaching in the temple. And then His arrest. And then the series of mock trials. And then the walk to the cross, carrying His own cross. And then the crucifixion, and then His death, and then His burial. These are the things they’re talking about: “How could it be? How could it be?” Jesus had been killed. He’d literally had been executed by the leaders of Israel. Unimaginable.
While they were talking about all these things, and how could they have been so wrong, and for all the weeks or months that they were with Jesus, they saw so much. There was such convincing evidence that He was God’s Messiah. How could this be?
“It came about” – in verse 15 – “that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them.” Just out of nowhere He appeared. Common in the culture, by the way, to walk. Everybody walked. It was a walking culture. That’s how you went everywhere. And roads were traversed by many people. It wasn’t uncommon for a stranger to come up alongside and carry on a conversation; very common in the culture.
All of a sudden a stranger does that. I think what’s remarkable about this, first of all, is that He’s not dazzling like the angel. He’s not blazing. They don’t fall on their faces in a coma like the guard did. They’re not in shock.
This is Jesus in a resurrection, glorified form. And He was in a resurrection glorified form when Mary Magdalene saw Him, and she thought He was the gardener. I’ve seen a lot of gardeners, none of them were particularly spectacular. There was something really human about Him. He was human. His post-resurrected body was not dazzling; although, believe me, He turned it on when He got to heaven, because there’s no light in heaven, because the Lamb is the light of it. But He is human. And He just comes up alongside of them, because during the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension, He could move around like this. He walked through a wall, appeared to the disciples when the door was closed. He vanishes out of the house here when He’s finished revealing Himself to them. He appears in Galilee without traversing the space between Jerusalem and Galilee. He ascends into heaven.
So He is in form and face glorified, and yet He is not alien; He’s human. They’re not shocked. They’re not surprised by His form, by His appearance. This is a wonderful insight, dear friends, as to how it will be when we receive a body like unto the body of His glory when we go to heaven, we will be fully human without our fallenness, without our sinfulness.
And so He comes alongside of them and He’s listening to their conversation obviously, because it says, “Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, ‘What are these words you’re exchanging with one another as you’re walking?’” So He was listening to their conversation as He walked along with them. There was no shock. There was nothing stunning about it. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.
Had they seen Him before? Of course, they were followers of His. Had they been close to Him? Sure, He didn’t have that many followers. Why couldn’t they recognize Him? Well, you might say that though He was human, His glorified form had some, some reality that was different. You might say that they were so sure that He was dead that there was nothing in their minds to even make them think that this could be Jesus.
But there’s really more than that here. The verb ekratounto has been called by some a divine passive. It’s a passive verb in verse 16, “Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” It wasn’t that this was their own inability, it was that they were prevented from recognizing Him by Him.
This is consistent. Every time Jesus appeared, they didn’t know who He was. As I said, Mary Magdalene thought He was the gardener. Nobody knew who He was until He disclosed Himself to them. I think this is, in the physical sense, a demonstration of how it is in the spiritual sense, Luke 10:22, “No man can know the Son except the one to whom the Son reveals Himself. No one can know the Father except the one to whom the Son reveals Him.”
While they wouldn’t have expected it to be Jesus because they didn’t believe in a resurrection, and while it is true that His glorified form may have been different though it was not alien, the real reason is there was a restraint upon their ability to recognize Him divinely accomplished until God’s time for them to recognize Him. God’s design for these two was to hold back that recognition until the time He wanted them to see Him.
This is really important, remarkable. If He had said, “I’m Jesus,” and then explained to them the Scriptures, they would have bought it, they would have lit up, they would have been ecstatic and thrilled to hear from Him. But He didn’t do that, because I think He wanted to explain to them the Scriptures while they still thought He was just a stranger, so that they and all of us would understand that the power is in the explanation, not the person.
And then He revealed the person. And this is why in this story you not only have this amazing account of the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, but you have this incredible implication coming out of this story of the power of an explanation of the Scripture; and Christ is the model for that. That’s why I say, the most important thing is divine truth. The most important service anybody could ever render then is the meaning of Scripture. That’s what He does to them. Then He reveals who He is. But before the explanation, He has to ask the questions to create in them the need to know the truth.
“So He said to them,” – verse 17, and of course, He knew the answer to the question, He’s just eliciting their response – “What are these words that you’re exchanging with one another as you’re walking? What are you talking about?”
I don’t know how long He was walking with them, but certainly they were exchanging all kinds of things. And they stopped in their tracks. They stood still. Just pulled them up short, looking sad, skuthrōpos, translated “gloomy face,” “glum.” They just stopped with this sad, sad look. This is the emotion: they’re stunned, they’re sad, they’re heartbroken. This is just too sad.
But they’re also shocked at the stranger and His question. “And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, ‘Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?’” I find that so interesting. It’s another way of saying, “Everybody knows. Are you the only person who doesn’t know what everybody’s topic of conversation has been?”
From the triumphal entry on Monday, which was massively public; to the cleansing of the temple, which was equally public; to the daily teaching in the temple; to the trials of Jesus, which finally went public on the morning of Friday; to the crucifixion of Jesus after He was paraded to the cross; everybody knows. “Are you the only person visiting Jerusalem that doesn’t know?”
Visiting Jerusalem indicates that they didn’t think He was a resident. Thought He had to be a pilgrim, had to be from somewhere else; Passover pilgrim, no doubt, maybe showed up late in the week. Everybody knows. Everybody knows. This is absolutely common knowledge.
Listen to the testimony of the apostle Paul in Acts 26:19 to Agrippa: “Consequently, King Agrippa, I didn’t prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both of Damascus first, and at Jerusalem, throughout the region of Judea, even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple, tried to put me to death. And so having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the prophets and Moses said was going to take place, that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
And then this, verse 26: “For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I’m persuaded that none of these things escaped his notice; for this has not been done in a corner.” Everybody knows. Everybody knows. Everybody knew later in Paul’s life. Common knowledge. “How in the world, sir, can you not know what we’re talking about?”
Well, the Lord does know, but He’s probing to elicit the confession of their own knowledge and ignorance. The best of all learning devices is to create in the learner the need to know. And you do that by them affirming and articulating their dilemma.
So further He probes: “How could You be the only person visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here these days?” And He said to them, “What things? What things?” And here it comes: “They said to Him,” – here is a summary of their problem – ‘The things about Jesus the Nazarene’ – Jesus from Nazareth, He’s the One who dominates their thoughts; and they give a description of Jesus from their perspective – ‘who was a, who was a’ – .past tense, now that He’s dead – ‘who was a prophet.’” That’s right, by the way.
A prophet, that’s a preacher who speaks for God. And they knew that Messiah was to be a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:18 to 22 said that the Messiah would be a prophet like unto Moses. That prophet. He was a prophet. He spoke for God. In fact, He said repeatedly, according to John’s gospel, “I only speak what the Father tells Me to speak. I only show what the Father shows Me to say. I only say what the Father wills for Me to say. What I speak is not My own, but it’s from Him.”
It’s true, He was a prophet. It’s not the whole truth. He was more than a prophet, but not less than prophet. And He wasn’t just a prophet, not just a preacher who spoke for God; but unlike all the other preachers we’ve ever known, He was mighty in deed and word. He had a power the likes of which we never saw. His deeds were powerful.
Of course, the whole of the gospel of Luke is the record – right? – healing, after healing, after healing; miracle, after miracle, after miracle. Take Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and add it all up. That’s His life: giving sight to blind people, healing deaf people, giving a voice to the mute; healing people who were crippled in one way or another, or ill with a disease; raising the dead again. Mighty. Feeding multitudes by creating food, and so forth. He was mighty in deed. He substantiated His claim to be the spokesman for God by the power which could only be explained as divine.
He was also mighty in word. They recall the testimony of the soldiers who went to arrest Him and came back without Him and said, “Never a man spoke like that man.” They would know what it meant at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7, when they said He spoke as one who had authority, not like the rabbis. His deeds and His words were divine.
And then I love this: He was a prophet mighty in deed and Word in the sight of God. That’s simply a phrase that means “in a way that pleased God, in a way that pleased God.” Did they know that at the Baptism of Jesus the Father had said, “You’re My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” as recorded in Luke 3:22? Did they know at the transfiguration it’s recorded that the Father again spoke and said, “This is My Son, My chosen One, listen to Him,” Luke 9:35? Sure.
But more than that, they knew there that had been divine testimony to His integrity, divine testimony to the fact that He pleased God. But they saw His life; they walked with Him, they talked with Him. It was a 24/7 experience to be a follower of Jesus for many of them. And they knew that His life pleased God. They could see the holiness of His life, the virtue of His life, the purity of His life.
He is a speaker for God. He is one who speaks for God. He is one who substantiates the fact that He speaks for God, authenticates the fact that He speaks for God by demonstrating power that is divine, both in what He says and what He does. And His life backs it up. He pleases God, and God has affirmed that and all the people.
That last little phrase “and all the people” there in verse 19, lets us know that the populace view of Jesus was they admired Him. They saw Him as a good man. They saw Him as a great man. They saw Him as a prophet. They saw Him as powerful. They saw Him as powerful in what He said and what He did; there was no other way to see Him. That’s the populace view of Jesus. All the people clearly saw that. His power was displayed; His teaching displayed across the land of Israel for three years. The accumulative effect caused the people to believe in Him as a prophet.
In fact, after He gave sight to the blind man at Jericho, in Luke 18:43, it says, “All the people saw it, and gave praise to God,” which means they knew that His power came from God. That was the populist view. That’s what makes verse 20 so shocking. In contrast He was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people. But on the other hand, the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death and crucified Him.
And it needs to be said, that you’ll look at that verse and you do not see the word “Romans.” “Our chief priests, our rulers delivered,” – that’s the technical word for “arrest” – “delivered Him up to the sentence.” That’s the word krima in Greek meaning judgment, a legal term. They sentenced Him to the judgment of death by the means of crucifixion, contrary to the popular view.
You say, “But wait a minute. Didn’t the massive crowds on Friday scream, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him, crucify Him’?” Yes, manipulated and orchestrated by the chief priests and the Sanhedrin.
Was their populace view of Jesus a true faith? No. They admired Him as a prophet. They admired Him as a good and righteous man. They admired Him as the greatest teacher, the greatest miracle worker. But it was short of a saving faith. And they could be manipulated; and they were. “It was the chief priests and our rulers who delivered Him to the sentence of death and crucified Him.”
That’s exactly what Peter says in preaching in Acts 5, verse 30: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.” And he indicts the leaders of Israel again. These two don’t blame the Romans, the Romans were just the executioners.
So they tell the stranger the story in brief; and that’s the reason for their sadness. And it is profound, and it is deep. They cannot comprehend how one could possibly be the kind of person He was, and be hated and despised and murdered by the leaders of Israel who were the experts on the Old Testament, who were the representatives of God and the spiritual leaders of that nation, who of all people would recognize the Messiah, they thought.
And then in verse 21 you see their dilemma: “But we were hoping, we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” That’s what Zechariah said back in chapter 1 when he gave his Benedictus, when the angel came to him and said, “You and Elizabeth are going to have a son,” and John the Baptist was that son, the forerunner of Messiah, which means the Messiah is going to come.
And you remember Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest, and his response was this: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel. He has visited us, and accomplished redemption for His people. Now the Messiah is going to be a horn of salvation, or deliverance, bringing deliverance from our enemies in the hand of all who hate us.” So they looked at the Messiah as a liberator, a redeemer. That’s exactly what Simeon says in the second chapter of Luke’s gospel when the little baby Jesus is brought to the temple for a dedication ceremony, and Simeon says that, “This child is going to be the one who brings salvation and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
These two people on the road to Emmaus, these two people were a part of the followers of Jesus, which would include all the way back to Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, all the way back to Anna and Simeon in the temple. They were part of what we would call the believing remnant who were looking for the Messiah. They had come to believe that Jesus was that Messiah, that He was going to redeem Israel.
Now what they all expected was a kingdom redemption, a triumphant redemption, a royal redemption, a liberation from occupation by the Romans. They expected the glory of Messiah’s promised kingdom, fulfillment of all the promises given to Abraham and David that had to do with kingdom realization, covenant realization. But what they didn’t expect was the death of the Messiah. And so when Jesus died, He was immediately disqualified. And especially when He is sentenced to death by the leaders of Israel who of all people are the possessors of and purveyors of the law of God. Surely they must know. And then that He was actually killed by idolatrous enemies is beyond comprehension. The whole nation then has fallen away from considering Him as Messiah.
They used the word “redeemed.” By the way, only time it’s in the book of Luke, only this time. “Redemption” is used, the noun form, once as I told you in Luke 1, the words of Zechariah. It only appears one time. But appeared all over the Old Testament, at least 150 times in the Old Testament. Everybody knew that to redeem something you had to pay a price, buy it back.
So they should have known that there was a price. They should have known something about what that price was, because they were just finished with Passover. And they all knew that on the day of Passover, as a sacrifice you offered an animal whose life was given as a price for forgiveness. They should have understood the price of forgiveness. But until they really understood that Messiah was going to be the final sacrifice, they couldn’t process that. Redemption they surely knew had a price. But they were never taught that the price would be the Messiah Himself. They were shocked then when the Messiah was executed. They were sad; they were hopeless; they were confused. And back to verse 21, Cleopas speaking for them and for all the rest, probably said, “Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.”
Now what does he mean by that? Well, sometimes I think what he’s saying could be, “Well, look, this is three days. This is three days since He died, and nothing’s happened.” Some people suggest that maybe he’s saying, “How could You not know about this? Three days have gone by. It’s been the topic of conversation by everybody since it happened on Friday.” He could be simply marking the obvious chronology and saying, “It’s three days and He hasn’t appeared.”
But I think underlying that has to be, underlying that has to be the understanding that Jesus said on the third day He would rise. And it’s late in the third day; hadn’t showed up, which is like confirmation for their unbelief.
And by the way, they had heard the testimony of the women, which they thought was nonsense in which they didn’t believe. And part of the testimony of the women was they saw an angel. And what did the angel say? “Remember what He told you, that on the third day He would rise.”
So that must have been reintroduced into the conversation that Jesus had once, or twice, or three times, or a thousand times said that in the past – several are recorded, many more would not be recorded – and that the testimony of the women was the angel had said that. And so maybe it’s cynicism: “It’s the third day; where is He? It’s late in the third day, afternoon of the third day. Where is He?
And they add this: “But also,” – and this is a fair and accurate account – “also some women among us amazed us, when they were at the tomb early in the morning, and didn’t find His body.” And that’s the thing they were trying to press: “They didn’t find His body. They came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. And some of those who were with us” – namely Peter and John, you remember, the two apostles – “went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they didn’t see.” That is such a convoluted account, isn’t it?
“First of all, if those two disciples” – and it’s true they did, if the two apostles, Peter and John – “found what they could see exactly the way the women described it, they should have concluded that if they’re trustworthy on what we can verify, they’re probably trust worthy on what we haven’t yet verified.” But they had no belief in a resurrection. And even though there is confirming eyewitness testimony to some of the facts, they can’t make that transition to what they can’t see.
So the account really is, “Some silly women came and amazed us with this bizarre kind of story; but they didn’t find the body. And then two of us went to the tomb, but they did not see.” That’s their final cynicism. I mean they’re just like a couple of Thomases, aren’t they? “I don’t see, I’m not going to believe.”
And again the writers of the four Gospels make continually the point that none of these people believed in a resurrection, expected a resurrection. They didn’t even believe that Jesus the Messiah would die, let alone rise again. Therefore they wouldn’t have invented it, as some have suggested. They didn’t see Him, bottom line.
And look, if they were right, and He’s out of the grave at like six in the morning, and it’s like two in the afternoon, where is He? You see the certain incredulity at that point? “I mean if He’s out of there, where is He?” And wherever they had been before they started on the way home, maybe they thought, “Well, we’ll wait around a little while and see if what those women say has any merit.”
By now they’re convinced nobody that they’ve heard from initially, initially has seen Him. They’re reflecting really the testimony of Mary Magdalene who came back and just saw the open grave and didn’t see anything else. The other women came back with a further report that they indeed had seen the risen Christ. But this is just convincing proof to them that the whole thing has collapsed. Nobody’s seen Him, and it’s already late the third day.
Now they have just in their own minds clearly crystalized and articulated their dilemma, their problem. This is perfect. They have defined their need to know, their need to understand reality. They need to know that Jesus arose. They need to know that He is alive. They need to know that this is part of the plan. This is not a breach of the plan, or a violation of the plan, or the no plan as if God is just reacting to whatever may happen. They need to know the facts, they need to have their misunderstanding corrected, and so Christ is in the position now to give them all the answers they need. Good expositions are set up with questions that raise the issues so that Scripture can give the answer.
So we go from the need to understand, briefly, to the source of understanding. I’m just going to introduce this. The source of understanding, verse 25: “And He said to them,” – here comes the lesson – ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken.’”
You know what that tells me? If you have the Scriptures, you are accountable to know what they teach. If you have the Scripture, you are accountable to know what they teach. And if you don’t know what they teach, you are a – say it, class – fool, or you are slow in your heart to believe it. You are to know what the Scriptures teach, and you are to believe what the Scriptures teach. This is to say that the Scriptures are not obscure, they are clear. This is to say that the Scripture is revelation. This is to say that the Scripture is not ambiguous. God cannot hold you accountable to know and believe what you cannot know or believe. If you have the Scripture, you are accountable to know the Scripture, and you are a fool if you don’t examine it carefully enough to know it.
And so there’s this mild rebuke: “O foolish men and slow of heart.” By the way, “men” here could be “foolish ones.” And this could be Cleopas’ wife who’s with him. But we don’t know that. We’ve had so many women in the story already, let’s have two men at least. Is that okay?
“O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken.” Key word “all, all, all.” Listen, it wasn’t that they didn’t believe the Scripture, it’s that they didn’t believe the part of the Scripture they didn’t know. They needed to know it all. They had selective information.
They didn’t reject the Word of God, they didn’t reject the Scripture, they didn’t openly not believe the Scripture; they just didn’t believe what they didn’t know. They had not, I guess to borrow the words of Paul, “Study to show themselves approved of God, rightly dividing the Word.” They hadn’t really taken it all in. The problem, folks, was they had a selected, limited, partial understanding of Scripture, which is so very dangerous.
Were they right to expect Christ to reign in His glory? Absolutely. Does the Old Testament Scripture teach that Christ will reign, rule over Israel, fulfill all His promises, and rule over the world? Absolutely. All of that is promised in the Old Testament Scriptures; and they knew that, and they believed that. But like the rest of the Jews in their culture, they had fixed their expectation only on the partial truth of Messiah’s triumphant and glory, and had not believed all that was written in the prophets. They had not been taught all that is written in the prophets. Partial knowledge, as I said, is disastrous.
So the Lord Jesus becomes the living expositor to give them the whole truth regarding Messiah, all that the prophets have spoken. And part of that is verse 26: “Was it not necessary for the Messiah, the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Why was it necessary? Because in the plan of God it was necessary, and in the prophets of God it was so declared.
“How did you miss that? How did you miss Isaiah 53? He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.” So verse 27, beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, “He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
You know, of all the classes that have ever been held in the history of the world, I would have loved to have been in that class – wouldn’t you? – to have the Lord Jesus Christ give you a complete Old Testament survey course in a few miles? Wow.
He rebukes them for not knowing Scripture and its meaning. He rebukes them for not believing, because they are responsible. But the rebuke is gracious, and the rebuke is mild, and He immediately exposits the full range of Old Testament Scripture from Moses through all the prophets. It begins with Moses, the Pentateuch, and ends with all the prophets.
All the Scriptures concerning Himself, He is the theme of the whole Old Testament. He tied it all together. And again I remark, they didn’t know who He was. They didn’t know who He was. These two people on a dusty road on a Sunday afternoon with broken hearts, all their hopes smashed, get an exposition of the Old Testament story of redemption that centers on the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, from the beginning to the end of the whole Old Testament; and it’s given to them by the Messiah Himself.
As I said, I’d like to be at that class. Well, come back next week, I’ll take you with me. We’re going to find out what that class must have been like; and I can basically tell you what Jesus said, because I know what Moses and the prophets said about His death. That’s what we’re going to look at.
Father, again it’s beyond joy to open Your Word. We understand what it is to have our hearts burn within us while the Scripture is explained to us. So indescribably wonderful to know the truth. We thank You, Lord, for the fact that Jesus lives and that He still lives by His Holy Spirit, empowering faithful teachers who can take the Scripture and open it up and exposit it, giving us an understanding of its truth, an understanding which in saving and sanctifying and giving us the hope of glory produces joy, the joy of a burning heart.
O Lord, Your Word is so precious to us, and we want to be faithful to honor You in obedience in response to it. Make us willing, eager, obedient learners and proclaimers; for all of us are given the responsibility to “go into all the world and teach people all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Use us for that greatest of all services that can ever be rendered to anybody, and that is to explain the meaning of Scripture. Thank You, Lord, for this gift, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
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