All the Pieces Start Falling Into Place
[Luke chapter 24, verses 17-35]
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Last week when we concluded our study, the apostle Luke was walking down the road with another of the Eleven, but Luke doesn’t tell us who the second person was until further down in this week’s lesson. This week as we take up where we left off, Jesus has caught up with the other men, but without being noticed at first. Since the two apostles were heavily involved in conversation, it must have been fairly easy for the Risen Savior to catch up with them. So this week as we begin our study, let’s get started at verse 17.
“He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ ‘What things?’, he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death,and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women have amazed us. They went to the tomb this morning, but did not find his body. They came and told us that they have seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’” (Luke 24, verses 17-24)
So the first thing we notice is the apostles are oblivious to who Jesus is after having spent the previous 3 ½ years living and working with him. To paraphrase Cleopas in verse 18, “You must be the only person around here who doesn’t know who Jesus was! They arrested our leader on some trumped-up charges and had him executed!” These people were far more than just disappointed; they were devastated at the loss of their Leader and Teacher, whom they were apparently misidentifying as being one of the major prophets in the footsteps of Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the other major prophets of the Old Testament. They were despondent at the loss of Jesus. They had stood at a distance and watched him slowly die, and had gone home in despair (see part 4 of chapter 23 from 3 weeks ago), with the women sobbing uncontrollably. So it’s clear that everyone involved with Jesus’ life and ministry were still in a deep state of mourning as this conversation is taking place. Luke and the others were all just trudging along, speculating among themselves as to the fate of their Lord and Christ.
But then comes the second part of this conversation. “….some of our women have amazed us. They went to the tomb this morning, but did not find his body. They came and told us that they have seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.” Once again, to paraphrase Cleopas, “As if what we’ve experienced hasn’t been bad enough, we just found out this morning that his body is missing. We’re afraid the Romans or the chief priests had his body moved to an unmarked grave so no one can go and pay their respects or visit him there.” I can visualize poor brother Cleopas brushing a teardrop out of the corner of his eye as he related these things to an as-yet-unrecognized Christ. All they knew was that they didn’t know what to think. It’s at this point that Jesus begins to explain everything from the beginning, starting at verse 25.
“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village where they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 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?’ They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” (Luke 24, verses 25-35)
To paraphrase Jesus, “Don’t you remember what you learned in school and from the man you call ‘Jesus’”? What our Risen Lord and Savior did then was to give a long and highly detailed Bible lesson, which back then comprised what we now call the Old Testament. Contrary to popular belief, the Old Testament is not a primarily Jewish document as some have asserted, it is for everyone. It is impossible to have a good grasp of the teachings of Jesus without having read the Old Testament beforehand, since Jesus was Jewish by birth. Moreover, the Books of Revelation and Hebrews in the New Testament become unintelligible without at least a basic knowledge of the old one. I would give anything to have been able to walk along with Jesus, the two apostles and Cleophas and listen in on that conversation. Keep in mind that Emmaus, the village where they were going, was about 7 miles, or 12 kilometers, from Jerusalem. Assuming they are ambling along at a conversational walking speed of 3 MPH, that would add up to approximately 2 ½ hours of walking. More than two hours of teaching from the most qualified Bible teacher on the planet – Jesus Christ! What a lesson that must have been!
To paraphrase the apostle Luke and the others, “You’ve walked all this way with us, sir, so why spend the night alone and defenseless? Come and say with us!” Back in those days, it was common for travelers of little means to find a secluded place to spend the night out in the elements, or in a barn or similar structure in inclement weather. So we can see why the apostles insisted that Jesus spend the night on their ‘couch’, so to speak. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” Does anyone know why it was only at this point that everyone finally recognized Jesus? Although I can’t say with 100% certainty, I think I know why. All these things took place in the Middle East, so people dressed in Middle Eastern flowing robes somewhat similar to what native Arabs wear today. Now hold that thought for a minute while I point out something about the crucifixion of our Lord and Kinsman Redeemer. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, the Roman soldiers did not drive the two upper nails into his hands – such as has been erroneously portrayed by mainstream Christianity – because those bones by themselves would not support the weight of an adult male. Those nails were driven into Jesus’ outer arms just behind the wrist, right in between the two bones in his outer arms, so his body – and that of all the countless others that Rome crucified – would stay up on the cross until they died. (nice people!!)
So all this time that Luke, the other still-unnamed apostle and Cleophas had been with the Lord – several hours by now – the robes and other clothing that they wore covered up their arms all the way down to the wrist. But when Jesus took the bread and broke it, his hands were raised, the sleeves of his robe slid back, and those ugly holes in his wrists were seen by everyone. It was at that exact electrifying moment that the identity of our risen Lord was revealed, there was no more room for error. The fact that Jesus vanished into thin air immediately afterward was visual verification that he was surely the Son of God! “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” This single sentence right here could be an entire Sunday morning sermon, if only there were more pastors who had the internal fortitude to speak the truth! But what are we stuck with instead in way too many “Christian” churches? We have ‘politically correct’ pastors who are careful not to offend their congregations out of their out-of-proportion consideration for the church’s bottom line. In other words, these reprobate ‘pastors’ are running their churches like businesses. Does anyone seriously believe that God will honor these reprobate pastors for their lives of service to Christ? On the contrary, every one of them is in danger of the eternal fires of hell!!
How about you? Do your hearts burn inside of you when you read these Bible studies I write? Not because anyone thinks I’m a good writer, although it’s nice when people tell me that and I really appreciate it. But does the Word of God beckon your hearts toward Him? Does the love of Christ cause you to love him in return? Because for anyone for whom it does not yet beckon and call, or makes them feel called but not motivated to serve, those individuals know who they are, and that they have their work cut out for them, to see what is holding them back or dampening the fire in their hearts. Never forget that our eternal destinies are utterly dependent on whether of not we put our faith into action while we still – collectively and individually – have the chance to do so.
“There they found the Eleven and those with them assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and appeared to Simon.’” At last we know the identity of the second apostle that was walking down the road to Emmaus! It was Simon (see Luke 6, verses 13-16) It was not Simon who was known as Peter (roughly translated into English as “Rocky” or “Rocker”), who had visited the empty tomb alone earlier that morning (see last week’s study), but Simon the Zealot! Simon was a devout Jew known for his enforcement of any and all non-kosher activity by the blade of a sword! Or, as we would say today, by the barrel of a gun. If you can imagine a gun-toting vigilante pastor or priest that always sided with the poor and oppressed, that is pretty close to what Simon the Zealot was like. So now you know how he got his nickname! I would also like to point out that the world needs a whole lot more Simon the Zealots out there, since we seem to be inundated with predators of all types these days. This is especially true for the ones who think they want to mess around with our children. Personally, I think it would make the police department’s job a little easier.
“…the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” Here it is again, people. They recognized Jesus when he raised his hands to break bread. When he did so and his sleeves slid partway down his arms, the scars on his wrists became quite evident indeed. At this point there was no mistaking that the man seated at the dinner table with them was the risen Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus the Son of God! And then Jesus simply vanishes! To find out what happens next, come on back next week when we will conclude chapter 24.