Cleopas and his friend departed Jerusalem with devastated and perplexed hearts. The crowds had chosen a criminal to be released during Passover season instead of the innocent man who had healed and loved them. The Pharisees condemned a man who had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets that they studied and preserved. The Romans had executed a leader not of insurgency, but of peace.
In vain they tried to make sense of this chaos as they traveled on foot to Emmaus (a village with a name which means “warm spring”).
Suddenly, a stranger appeared and began traveling with them.
“What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” He asked.
Cleopas and his friend stopped for a moment and looked sad. How could someone not know about the tragedy that had just taken place? Everyone nearby surely knew the story of Jesus Christ by now.
“Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” asked Cleopas.
“What things?” the man responded; whether ignorant or Socratic, they couldn’t quite tell.
Cleopas proceeded to tell the stranger about a mighty prophet called Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had hoped was the promised Messiah. But suddenly He was crucified and buried, leaving them without hope.
Then Cleopas mentioned the bewildering plot twist: It was the third day since Jesus’ death, but just that morning some women found His tomb empty and received an angelic message that He was alive. Men confirmed that the tomb was empty, but Jesus was nowhere to be found.
The stranger finally interrupted with peculiar authority. “Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
He then recounted to them an epic. A spiritual enemy worked to sever humanity from God, yet as far back as Eden, God made a plan to be inseparably atoned and united with humankind. Through temptation, Nephilim, famine, and Pharaoh, the enemy sought to stop this plan of redemption from taking place while a few righteous believers sought to keep it alive. Then came the Torah through Moses, which shielded the family of the promised Messiah from as many corrupt influences as possible. The likes of heathen tribes, captivity, Babylonian bureaucrats, and Haman continued to target the nation of Israel throughout its tumultuous history with the aim of ending humanity’s reconciliation with God.
Kings and prophets, laws and songs predicted that the Messiah would be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, and would be called the Lamb of God – and He would be betrayed and slain, and then conquer death.
As evening drew near, the two travelers invited the stranger to lodge with them. Only when He reclined at the table and broke bread for them were their eyes opened and they realized He was Jesus Christ Himself. Suddenly, He vanished.
“Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” said the two men. Immediately they returned to Jerusalem to tell Jesus’ disciples that He had indeed risen from the dead.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a central, polarizing fact of world history. While not all historians believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead, most agree it is virtually indisputable that a couple of millennia ago, Jesus’ crucified body disappeared from a tomb in Jerusalem, and hundreds of different doubtful people certainly saw something afterward that convinced them He had risen.
Indeed, His initially skeptical disciples came to believe it strongly enough to endure torturous martyrdom for spreading the good news.
Does this historical saga stir your soul? Where are you on the Road to Emmaus?
The header image is the landscape Christ on the Road to Emmaus, painted by Roelant Roghman in Holland sometime between 1650 and 1660.