I’m specifically referring to the “road to Emmaus” story. The story goes that a couple of guys who’d been hanging with Jesus are having a discussion about recent events while making their way to a village. Jesus joins them, but the two men are unaware it’s Him. Jesus asks them a series of questions, and then schools them on the Old Testament regarding how the prophets had made it pretty clear what would take place.
They make it into the village and insist Jesus stay the night. Jesus sits down to eat with them, and suddenly they realize it’s Him, just in time before He vanishes. They’re alarmed by how they completely missed Jesus’ identity, then decide on returning to Jerusalem.
At the start of the story (v. 16), Luke writes that their “eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him,” indicating they had the capability to see, but something was preventing them from doing so. The text does not elaborate on what caused this to occur, whether it was divine or otherwise, but Jesus was not recognizable to these guys.
Without adding to what the Scriptures say, we can create some comparisons to ourselves. Let’s look at the facts:
The two men are travelling somewhere when Jesus draws near. (v. 14)
We expect God to “show up” in church, at our bedside while we pray, and while we’re doing a good deed. But we’re on His time — to insist otherwise is pretentious.
The two men are reasoning together as Jesus draws near. (v. 15)
We — well-meaning Christians — spend plenty of time talking about Jesus. But we do not spend enough time talking to Him. We’re too busy arguing. Don’t forfeit doctrine, but squabbling about Chick-Fil-A is trivial, frivolous stuff.
The two men’s eyes were restrained. (v. 16)
What’s preventing you from seeing Jesus when He comes around? Are you too busy or distracted to even notice?
The two men are downhearted. (v. 17)
Jesus’ question is both introspective to their emotions and revealing of their character. It implies that He observes our emotional state and cares enough to address it, but at the core He concerns Himself with our intentions. The men are sad because they lost their teacher, even though they were told (albeit by a culturally unreliable source) that He lived. They’re more upset about the possible glory they lost than Jesus’ absence. (v. 21)
The two men believe the “stranger” has no idea what’s been happening. (v. 18)
Christians spend a lot of time arguing the point and not enough time listening. Jesus speaks directly to these men, and Cleopas responds before Jesus has a chance to elaborate.
The two men heard the women’s testimony who saw an empty tomb, but didn’t believe Jesus resurrected. (v. 11, 22-24)
How much evidence do you need? If you’re a Christians and you doubt the resurrection, read the Scriptures again. If that’s not enough, there are plenty of resources, both logical and historical, to help reinforce your understanding. Check out More Than A Carpenter or The Case For Christ to start. But never let a book take away from the power of the Bible.
Jesus calls them foolish for not knowing what the OT says. (v. 25-27)
There was a point in history when Christians led the pack in scientific, philosophical, and artistic contributions to society. Now we lead the pack (at least, by reputation) in being annoying, gay-bashing, and hyper-conservatism. What happened? We stopped doing our homework. We might be getting an A in being spiritual, but we’re flunking in being relevant and contributing to society.
Jesus intended to keep going, but the men asked Him to stay. (v. 28-29)
While it might have been arrogant to even suggest changing the Lord’s course (though unwittingly), their eagerness is admirable. There is something about Jesus that is compelling and attractive, which explains the longevity of Christianity and the devotion-til-death mentality that true followers of Jesus contain.
Jesus ate with the two men just as their vision returned. (v. 30-31)
It is while we are spending quality time and partaking with the Lord that our vision returns and we are no longer dissuaded from seeing Him for who He is. I think we have a distorted view of Jesus — Philip Yancey elaborates on this in “The Jesus I Never Knew”, if you’re interested — and we let ourselves, our flawed ambitions and chracter — get in the way of recognizing Him.
This story makes me question how I really see Jesus, and whether or not I’m paying attention to what He is saying to me directly. I hope it does the same for you.