You fools! On the road to Emmaus

Jesus, on the day of His resurrection met two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The one disciple’s name was Cleopas; the other disciple’s name is not known. We meet two of Jesus’ disciples who embody the basic state of mind of the disciples on the day of the resurrection, of which they were ignorant. They were frightened and in despair. What a great disappointment it was to these disciples that the One they called Lord had become a public laughing stock nailed to a cross. All of them were ashamed of Him, had forsaken Him, had run away to hide. Here is a record of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on their journey to Emmaus:

Luke 24:13-28.

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.

15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

Let us read again the key verse 25: Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.

In the original Greek of the New Testament, there are different words for the English word “fool”, each with a different meaning, As a result, much of the richness of the original Greek is lost in the English translation of the NT.

Here are three examples: two from other parts of the Bible, and the third from our main text in Luke 24– the road to Emmaus text (v.25 above).

First example 1 Cor 4: 9:

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ.

Fools” for Christ in this context means that we are not fools in Jesus’ eyes but in the world’s eyes.

Second example: Math 5:22

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment….but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Here the word “fool” means morally worthless, dishonest , a crook. The Greek word for “fool” in this context is moros. If you call a person a moros in this context, you are pouring scorn on his heart and character, and according to Jesus, if you say this to somebody, you are in danger of hell fire.

Now let us go to the “fools” in our story in Luke 24.

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.

Fool” in the Emmaus story does not mean morally worthless, dishonest , a crook as in our previous example. “Fool” in the Emmaus story means, “unwise”, lacking in understanding. And one should add that this lack of understanding is self-created, that is, one only has oneself to blame for this lack of understanding.

To recap: we have looked at three different ways the word “fool” is used in the Bible”

  1. a fool for Christ, which is good in God’s eyes.

  2. calling someone a fool, which deserves hell fire, and

  3. a fool who lacks understanding, as is the case of our two disciples on the Emmaus road.

Let us see how Jesus deals with these two foolish disciples:

Let us now retrace the steps of Jesus and the disciples and accompany them on the walk to Emmaus. We go back to the beginning of the walk: Luke 24:13-14

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.

What were these two disciples talking about?

  1. Everything that had happened to Jesus, namely, His suffering and crucifixion.

  2. They were also talking about what they had heard in the upper room from the women who had been at the tomb of Jesus. These women had reported seeing two angels that told them that Jesus has risen from the dead.

These two disciples – as was the case with all the other disciples who were with them at the time – “did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11).

15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

God was content to keep them in ignorance for a little longer.

Jesus then asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (v.17a).

Was Jesus asking them to reveal their thoughts? Obviously not. He knew exactly what they were thinking. He wanted them to talk.

The disciples then 17b. stood still, their faces downcast. 18One 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?”

19a “What things?” Jesus, who is still in disguise, continues to pretend ignorance.

19b “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

They then tell the stranger (Jesus) how they had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel. But the saddest thing was that he was crucified instead. They also described how some of their women had been told by angels that Jesus was not dead but was alive. But when some of their companions went to verify their story, they didn’t see Jesus.

The Emmaus road

The Emmaus road

The disciples thought it ridiculous that Jesus could have risen from the dead.

The question is: “Why were the disciples so unbelieving that Jesus had risen from the dead?” Didn’t Jesus tell them very clearly before His crucifixion that he would suffer, die and rise again? Let us go to the relevant passage in Luke 9, where Jesus predicts His suffering, death and resurrection:

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life. 20 But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christof God. 21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Mark’s Gospel contains more detail than Luke’s account of Jesus’ prediction of His death and resurrection. In Chapter 8:9 of Mark, As the disciples were coming down from the mountain after the transfiguration of Jesus, “Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.”

One would think that these disciples were very familiar with people rising from the dead, for there were several occasions that Jesus had raised people from the dead, the most notable being the resurrection of Lazarus, who had been dead four days. One wonders what the disciples were thinking when these resurrections occurred. Did they also discuss on those occasions what rising form the dead meant, as they had done on this occasion we are referring to here, namely, after the transfiguration, when Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 8:9).

And then we read in Mark Chapter 9 that: Jesus “spoke clearly about this [His suffering, death and resurrection. Peter took Jesus to one side and began to scold him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples. He scolded Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You are not thinking about the things of God. Instead, you are thinking about human things” (Mark 9:32-33).

We see that Jesus “spoke clearly” to His disciples about His suffering, death and resurrection. Peter scolded Jesus for saying that He was going to die. Jesus, in turn, scolded Peter, and called him “Satan”. (Where else in Luke do we read “Get behind me, Satan!”? In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:8).

Jesus must have been very disappointed in all of His disciples. When He rose from the dead, they still stubbornly refused to believe Jesus? As for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus had to go back to start from the beginning This time, Jesus does not only have to explain clearly to the two disciples– as He did before His crucifixion – he has to take them by the hand and walk with them through chapter and verse.

And so: Luke 24: 27…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Let’s look at one of the scriptures that Jesus explained to the two disciples.

Isaiah 53. The title of this chapter is “The suffering servant”.

3 He was despised and rejected—

a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.

He was despised, and we did not care.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;

it was our sorrows that weighed him down.

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,

a punishment for his own sins!

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,

crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.

We have left God’s paths to follow our own.

Yet the Lord laid on him

the sins of us all.

I chose this passage, because it sums up what the scriptures are about – and is also a summary of what Jesus probably said to the two disciples – namely sin, the wrath of God, forgiveness, the suffering and love of God. It contains all the elements of the Gospel. What is missing is the name of the suffering servant – Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 53 is an accurate description of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. The staggering thing is that it was written several hundred years before the crucifixion. May we never cease to be astonished and thrilled by prophecy.

An interesting anecdote: The Jewish annual calendar of readings includes the whole of Isaiah except Isaiah 53.The Jews have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes to this devastating prophecy. They will say this is not true, and that the reason why they omitted Isaiah 53 is because the focus in that part of their readings is on consolation not desolation – not on suffering (servants). In Moshe Shulman’s http://judaismsanswer.com/haftorah.htm he argues:”There appears to be support for the view of the Rabbis, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Isaiah 53 does not relate to any consolations for the Jewish People. This is from the documents 4Q176, which is referred to as 4QTanhumin[5]. Scholars see this fragment as a collection of verses consoling Israel.”He says:… an examination of these(haftorah) passages we see that they give messages of comfort for the Jewish people in exile. However, no matter what the interpretation of Isaiah 53 one takes, there are no words of comfort for the Jewish people.(The desolation and consolation of Isaiah 53 in the Qumran scrolls).

If you are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to read Isaiah 53 to a Jew without telling him that it is from the OT, he’ll assume you’re talking about Jesus Christ, and that the passage is from the NT. (Most Jews, or anyone else, whether religious or not, know enough about the life and death of Christ to recognize Him in Isaiah 53).

What is our understanding of the resurrection of Christ? Owing to the fact that we have the New Testament scriptures, we should have far less excuse than the two disciples on the Emmaus road. With our NT in hand, we have much more information of the resurrection than these two disciples. For example, besides Christ’s own words, we also have the eyewitness accounts of the many who saw Christ after His resurrection. So, if we were to ignore this evidence, we would be more than thick-headed; we’d be hard-hearted as well. God has much more time for thickheads than for hard hearts.

Here are some of these eyewitness accounts of the resurrection:

Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.

Corinthians 15:3 What I received I passed on to you. And it is the most important of all. Here is what it is. Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would. 4 He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as Scripture said he would be. He appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than 500 believers at the same time. Most of them are still living. But some have died. 7 He appeared to James. Then he appeared to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, he also appeared to me.

In the light of all these eyewitness accounts, we have far less reason to be like the foolish disciples on the Emmaus road who had forgotten what Jesus had told them before his crucifixion, namely, that He would die and rise again: They just weren’t listening: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” Luke 8:8.

What Jesus means by “He who has ears, let him listen” is “let him listen with “all ears”, with total attention, and let it sink in. In other words, don’t just acknowledge His words but receive it – deep in your soul.

We think of Paul’s scolding of the Corinthians. Even after the many visitations of the resurrected Christ, Paul had to admonish some of the Corinthians for their unbelief in the resurrection.

Cor 15:12 We have preached that Christ has been raised from the dead. So how can some of you say that no one rises from the dead? 13 If no one rises from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, what we preach doesn’t mean anything. Your faith doesn’t mean anything either.

The evidence goes into the head but not into the heart. The Emmaus disciples were fools of the head, not of the heart. It is the foolishness of the heart that is the greater sin.

The Sword of the Word may draw blood but the Word may still not penetrate the heart. The reason is that many do not have the stomach for truth. Their question is: “How can I fit Christ’s life into my life?” rather than “How can I fit my life into Christ’s life?” They don’t want the whole body of truth. Where can we find the whole body of truth? It is to be found in and through the broken body of Christ.

We have completed the walk along the Emmaus road. Let’s go into the house of the two disciples. Luke 24: 30-31: As they sat down to eat,he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Only when the Body of Christ is broken, and our hearts with it, can blind eyes be opened – by God.

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9 thoughts on “You fools! On the road to Emmaus

  1. Hi Raph,

    A great article except the ending. Good use of Is. 53, though I would have used Gen. 3.15 and the sacrificial system (“starting with Moses”).

    What is your view of the “Lord’s Supper”? Does something significant happen when someone partakes of it? The last two paragraphs in your article seem to leave the door open to a plethora of undefined and potentially conflicting ideas. It seems you wanted to give an exhortation to end the article but introduced several new concepts: “whole body of truth”, “broken body of Christ” which you seemed to equate.

    The Emmaus disciples were sharing a meal, they were not observing “The Lord’s Supper.” BTW, they were probably husband and wife.

    Yes, Christ is the Truth, but nowhere does it say that Christ is “the whole body of truth”. Embodied truth is what sanctifies us when we obey it: it is the written word of God. Jn.17.17: Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.

    The Lord’s Supper is an observance of remembrance by a disciple of when Jesus shed the blood of the eternal covenant. It is a time of worship for the disciple and a confession and stand when they partake the elements. This observance is also a proclamation of the death of Christ (1Cor.11.26) an invitation to those “outside” and an encouragement for those “inside”.

    • Hi Alex, thank you for your useful thoughts.

      Re: “It seems you wanted to give an exhortation to end the article but introduced several new concepts: “whole body of truth”, “broken body of Christ” which you seemed to equate.”

      Whole body of truth: if you have seen Christ you have “seen” the Father. Through Christ, for Christ, in Christ is the fullness of all truth, beauty, etc. Surely?

      “broken body of Christ” is a different concept. Through his broken body is God revealed to us in the most poignant (French “poignard” – dagger, thus impaled) way.

      The Eucharist – I’m with Calvin rather than with Zwingli. The former says that although the bread and wine don’t transubstantiate into the Physical body and blood, nevertheless when we partake of the bread and the wine (grape juice!) Christ is spiritually present in the believer in a unique way. One can’t know more. Zwingli holds that the “elements” are nothing more than a remembrance of the past event; your view, n’est-ce pas?r

      • Thanks for letting me comment.

        When Christ instituted the Last Supper, He said “this is my body” referring to the bread and the wine His blood . I should ask you if that particular bread and wine turned into Christ’s body and blood? No, of course not you would say. So why is it different when we remember Christ in this way symbolically? I suggest they are symbols and we identify with Christ by the picture the observance presents. It is giving testimony that we are trusting Christ. We are taking a stand, confessing our reliance on His shed blood.

        If I am right, then one can think how incongruous it would be to do this while drunk. This is why some in Corinth were judged because they didn’t give a proper testimony, they didn’t regard the elements correctly. It is no wonder they were disciplined. It doesn’t have to mean that something unseen is actually happening in the observance. No sin was taken away by the O.T. sacrifices yet serious judgement took place if these observances were not carried out correctly either. I view the ordinance it as a solemn symbol.

        • Alex what you say sounds sound to me. After all, every true Christian has Christ living in him or her in a sense (through the Holy Spirit). So one doesn’t have to go to “communion” – as in Roman Catholicism – to have Christ IN you. Also, there is a difference between being WITH Christ, which for Christians will only occur when our bodies bite the dust, and IN Christ, which Christians are while still shackled to their mortal coil. I wrote about IN and WITH Christ here. https://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/in-christ-and-with-christ-i-wanna-be-with-you-hoo-hoo-but-erm-not-yet/

          Baptism is both a sign and seal – once off – that the believer has died in Christ. There is also a sense in which Christians have to die regularly. The Lords supper – Calvin says regularly (at least once a week) – is also a sign and a seal; a continuous one.

    • Alex

      To return to your “Yes, Christ is the Truth, but nowhere does it say that Christ is “the whole body of truth”. Embodied truth is what sanctifies us when we obey it: it is the written word of God. Jn.17.17: Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.”

      When I say Christ is the whole “body” of truth, I don’t mean it in the sense of it being obeyed as well, which you equate with “embodied” truth.

      Here are are a few synonyms of “embodied” –
      Manifested, represented, materialized, epitomized, exemplified, expressed, mirrored.

      All the unsearchable riches of truth are embodied in Christ. You would agree: not merely through (the mediatorial function) Christ but in Christ.

      Ephesians 1:3
      Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

      • Yes, I would agree for the most part with what you are saying since Rom. 11.36 states: all things are from, through, and to Christ. He is the Creator who walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden.

        Col. 2.3 tells us that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ, God’ mystery. Yet there is the functioning of God’s Spirit who borne along holy men of God to give us a document with words to explain spiritual concepts: the disclosure of God to humans-the bible. This disclosure spoke about primarily about Christ (in the scroll it is written about Me). So the disclosed record acted as a witness to the Messiah who was not only King but would unite the priesthood with the Kingship as Zechariah prophesied: “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and dhe shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (6.12-13) Hopefully, I can write a post about it today or tomorrow.

  2. Wonderful post! I never noted the difference shade of meaning with the word fools before, makes me want to do further study of the word’s usage.
    I love Luke 24…and the running theme of Messianic prophecies. I wish more apologists would be exegetes and utilize Messianic prophecies, even among Presuppositionalists ironically.

  3. Pingback: The ear tastes words | daily meditation

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