13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.
I like this story. It’s a personal moment between Jesus and two of his followers. Now that the feast was over, now that Jesus was dead, they were going home. Jesus tags along, but they don’t recognize Him. It’s not the first time He’s walked incognito among us. I wonder how we would act if we were conscious that Jesus was there: in our friends, in our coworkers, in our children, in our parents, in our spouses, in the panhandler asking for change, in the hungry nameless child in a photo that was taken thousands of miles away.
But I digress… one of the reasons I like this story is the intimacy. Jesus is going after the sheep who were leaving the pack. The Good Shepherd making a personal appearance to find the lost lamb and bring it back to the fold.
He cares about them.
17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 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?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”
He asks them what’s wrong. That’s the first sign of caring about someone. You care about what they’re feeling. You offer to share their burden with them.
And then you listen. Jesus lets the disciple speak his mind without interruption.
They were disillusioned.
They had expectations for Jesus. They trusted in Him. They believed in Him. They thought he was going to free Israel from the Romans and lead them into a new kingdom of Israel. They were willing to leave home to follow Him.
And they were disappointed. He had let them down in their minds. He didn’t fulfill their expectations. He went off and died on a cross and now there was nothing and no one who looked remotely Messianic.
We’ve been there.
The unanswered prayer. Month after month of grinding trials: bodily, financial, family, work related. The feeling that God has let you down. That feeling that something truly miraculous was going to happen, and then the crushing disappointment when it didn’t. The feeling of betrayal. The feeling of misplaced trust. The doubts about God’s goodness or even existence.
That’s where they were. They felt betrayed and lied to. They believed in Jesus of Nazareth and now He was dead. Well, not really, but He was dead to them. Sure, some women said they saw angels saying He was still alive, but it wasn’t enough to keep them in Jerusalem. Not anymore. They were going home.
25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
How does Jesus deal with wounded and disappointed disciples? He takes the next couple of hours and gently corrects them. He shows them how their expectations were wrong. And then He shows them where they can find Him in the old scriptures. He gives them a thorough bible study in Messianic prophesy and by the time they reach their village, they’re begging Him to continue.
28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. 29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. 30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
They convince Him to come into their house and eat with them. During the blessing, as the Lord lifts up the bread and breaks it, they realize who He is. Something in His mannerisms, something in His speech. And then He’s gone. They’ve seen the Lord and they understand.
32 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?” 33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.
They’re response is to share what they’ve learned. They get up that moment and hurry back to Jerusalem to visit the disciples. They share everything they saw and heard. They were comforted, they now seek to comfort their fellow disciples. They must share the good news with everyone.
That’s the core of evangelism. It’s not to add notches to your bible. It’s not to pack in the pews. It’s not to get people to say a magic prayer. It’s about bringing comfort and peace to one another. The same comfort and peace that we find in the Lord.