Chapter 42.1 Emmaus
Early Resurrection Morning (Easter Sunday) to Day of Ascension
(forty days), Judea and Galilee, spring A.D. 30
Supper at Emmaus, original oil painting on canvas by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1573-1610
Supper at Emmaus, original oil painting on canvas by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1573-1610
(CLICK on the image above for a LARGER version)

Appearance to Cleopas and Another Disciple

On Sunday afternoon of Resurrection Day, soon after the early meal in the upper room, Cleopas and another disciple were in utter bewilderment about the empty tomb and the absent body of Jesus. They had a dim hope of something to come, but the apostles had no explanation to offer them, and they decided to return home to Emmaus. When Cleopas and his traveling companion left through the city’s northwestern gate, they just missed Mary Magdalene returning from the garden tomb with her good news of having seen the risen Lord.

As they walked toward the village of Emmaus, seven miles northwest of Jerusalem, they passed Golgotha and began discussing everything that had happened. After a rapid progress of about twenty-five minutes, the two men reached the plateau’s edge. The city and upper room of Christ’s followers were far behind them, and with every step upward the air seemed fresher and freer with the scent of mountain greenery and breezes of the distant sea.

Where two roads met, a mysterious stranger appeared in their midst and began walking beside them, matching his stride to theirs. It seemed so natural to have him there that they didn’t recognize who he was, for God kept his identity hidden.

Jesus noticed their tired faces bore the marks of sadness over those events they had witnessed over the past few days. When there was a lull in the conversation, he entered into it, “You seem to be in a deep discussion about something. What are you so concerned about?”

They stopped short. Cleopas asked him, “Are you the only person staying in Jerusalem not to have heard the new about what has happened?”

“What news?” the stranger replied.

Unsympathetic as his question might seem, it was the key that unlocked their innermost hearts. Everything poured out in a flood, “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth; the Prophet who did wonderful miracles! He was a mighty teacher, highly regarded by both God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders arrested him, handed him over to be condemned to death—and they crucified him! It all happened three days ago.

“Then early this morning, women from our group of his followers were at his tomb, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and verified his body was gone just as the women had said; but none were unable to explain what happened or what it meant. We thought he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel, but how can he now?” Their words were almost childlike in their simplicity, deeply truthful, with pathos and earnest craving for guidance and comfort.

He listened to it all. When they had finished, he smiled and said, “Why do you find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures? It was clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his time of glory.”

As they walked along a lovely valley, Jesus explained it all, taking prophecies of the Messiah that were in the Scriptures one by one, and showing them exactly how the suffering and death of Christ had fulfilled them. Their hearts burned with love, joy, and faith while he taught them. It was all so clear now. Fresh hope sprang up in their hearts, new thoughts rose in their minds.

By this time Emmaus stood prominently before them on a hill. They walked beside a stream which rippled along the valley, watering scented orange and lemon gardens, olive groves, and luscious fruit trees. On that Easter Day it was a sweet spot to wander and find heavenly teaching.

Now they reached Cleopas’ home. It was getting late, but the wayfarer was going to continue his journey. Here again is that humility of God which breaks one’s heart. He would not ask to come in if they did not want him in their home. He would have gone away into the night, and they would never have known who he was.

But they were disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, and they knew better than to turn a traveler from their door. They could not part from him and said, “Stay with us, for evening approaches and the day is almost over.”

He went in with them as a guest. They sat by the fire and talked while supper was prepared. When it was ready, the three of them sat down together. No one asked or questioned as he took the bread and spoke the words of blessing. Then he broke it and gave it to them with that delight upon his face which was always there when he could give something to his children. In that moment it was as if an unfelt hand had been taken from their eyelids, as if suddenly the film had been cleared from their sight.

Suddenly they recognized him as their Savior and Lord. At that same moment he disappeared! They had seen that he was alive, and his bodily presence was no longer needed. He had completed his task.

They were unspeakably rich and happy now, and said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts feel strangely warm as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”

Without a moment’s delay, they left the uneaten meal and hastened back by the road they had traveled with the risen Christ—but with light hearts and steps. In the fading light, they returned to the upper room where ten apostles, Mary of Nazareth, other women, and followers were gathered.

Upon arrival, the two from Emmaus told their wondrous story. Others in the room gave their report, “The Lord has truly risen! And he appeared to Peter!” That same afternoon, in circumstances and manner unknown, Jesus had appeared to the anxious heart of the tall fisherman.

Jesus Appears in Upper Room

As they were telling about it, Christ suddenly appeared in the room and stood before them with a heavenly greeting, “Peace be with you.”

The doors were locked, and the whole group was stunned and terribly frightened that someone had entered. They reasoned he was a ghost, since only ghosts could pass through locked doors and enter so silently. But Jesus always had that same power. He was able to disappear before the cross, and appearing was no more difficult than walking on water or raising the dead. It was God’s plan for him to appear in the same body after his resurrection as a sign, and to fulfill his promise to rise in the same body. However, they remembered none of this.

“Why are you troubled?” he asked, “and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet. It is I. Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

While they stood there doubting, yet filled with joy and wonder, he asked them, “Do you have anything to eat?”

Then he shared their supper with them: poor man’s feast of broiled fish, bread, and honey which he ate before their eyes.

Again he spoke, with his first commission after the resurrection, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

By doing this, he illustrated the forthcoming Holy Spirit who would actually be given at Pentecost. Before the crucifixion, he had used the bread and wine to symbolize his body and blood; now before Pentecost he breathed into their faces to symbolize their receiving of the Spirit. Both were the connecting link with, and the qualification for, the authority that would be given to them when the Spirit came.

Then Jesus disappeared from their midst.

When the Savior appeared that evening, one of the apostles, Thomas, was not with the others. After he returned, they all told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Long into the night, they did their best to persuade him they had actually seen the risen Christ.

He continued to doubt, needing more evidence, “I won’t believe unless I see the nail wounds in his hands and put my fingers into them; and place my hand into the wound in his side.” There was nothing more they could do or say to convince him. It would take a higher power.

Passover holidays continued for the rest of the week, and the group of believers spent time in prayer and planned for their return to Galilee. However, Thomas was still unsettled in his faith, and they were reluctant to depart until he was confirmed in his apostleship.

Convincing of Thomas

On the next Sunday evening, the disciples were again gathered under circumstances similar to those of Easter, except Thomas was also with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly as before, Jesus was standing among them. Once more he spoke, “Peace be with you.” But now it was not an occasion of fear, but the well-known greeting of their Lord and Master.

Christ had immediate knowledge of the attitude of Thomas, and this appearance was specifically for his benefit. It would be a hindrance to the Lord’s plans for the church to have one disciple lagging behind in faith. With loving irony, Jesus accepted Thomas’ demands, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Do not be faithless any longer. Believe!”

It was the Savior’s divine humility that shattered the apostle’s composure, even more than the feel of the wounds against his trembling fingers. From the doubter and unbeliever broke the great cry of faith, “My Lord and my God!”

The Teacher replied, “Because you have seen me, you have become settled in your faith.” Then he spoke his last and greatest Beatitude as a parting gift to the church, “Blessed are they who are equally settled in faith, and yet have never seen me.”

The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread had ended, and the disciples must return to Galilee.

Leaving for Galilee

At dawn the next morning, the eleven apostles, Mary mother of Jesus, and other believers who were from Galilee said goodbye to those who remained. Aaron assured them, “The upper room is large enough for a meeting place when you stay in Jerusalem. We will keep it as a safe haven for our new brothers and sisters in the Lord.”

Peter spoke for all of them, “God bless you for your kindness. When we know what the Lord wants us to do we’ll send word. We expect to return for Pentecost.”

Then they left the upper room and headed for Bethany where friends and family were waiting. From there they would make the trip back north, taking the same route by which they had come.

As Peter led his group out of the city gate, he shouted joyously, “Jesus is about to open the gates of a vast and endless spiritual kingdom—and we are in on its beginning!” Christ's followers didn’t know what lay ahead, but walking with their risen Savior, they knew it would be exciting.

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