(Note: for a summary of the events of this chapter from the resurrection at dawn to Jesus’ first appearances to Mary Magdalene and the other women, please see post at this link. After the resurrection, Jesus – as He had told the disciples in Matthew 26:32 that He would meet them there – would be with them at the Sea of Galilee, and at a mountain there that He directs them to. But several other events occur before and after this, the details of which are interspersed throughout the gospels in Matthew 28 and John 20. And events in a single chapter are in some cases separated by days, and even weeks, as Jesus remained for forty days before the ascension.)
It is still Sunday, the day that Jesus rose; and two of His disciples were traveling to the village of Emmaus. One was named Cleopas, but we do not know the name of the other. We are told in verse 16 that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” when Jesus drew near. When He asks them about the conversation they are having, the two men proceed to tell him about Jesus of Nazareth. They speak of how great he was, how the chief priests and rulers condemned and crucified him. And now, they say, some women of their company had been to his tomb and found it empty – a fact which others confirmed! They are clearly distressed.
Jesus then gave them a mild rebuke for being slow to believe what the prophets had spoken. He then interpreted Scriptures from Moses and the prophets concerning the Christ. As they reached the village, they urged him to stay with them, as the evening would be coming soon. He blessed and broke bread with them, and it was at this point that their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Jesus then vanished from their sight.
That very hour, they went back to Jerusalem and found the eleven, who confirmed to the two traveler’s that yes, Jesus has risen (verse 34) and has appeared to Simon (Peter). No details here or in the other three gospels are given of that appearance to Peter (although Paul does speak of it in 1 Corinthians 15:5). But given Peter’s intense grief over his denial of Jesus, it was important to reach him quickly; and it was important to get to the rest of the eleven this day as well.
Jesus then entered while the men were talking, and they were frightened, as if He was a spirit. He had them touch him, and even ate some fish in front of them – spending some time to assure them both that he was a living man, and the same Jesus they had known. He then opened their minds to the Scriptures concerning Him. Jesus then tells them a bit about the witness they will bear to the world in the great commission, but he says they must stay in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with power from on high” (the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts). When He tells them to stay in Jerusalem, he means after he is gone. They will be with him at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1), and on a mountain in Galilee that He has directed them to (Matthew 28:16) before his ascension. Galilee is three days journey from Jerusalem.
Luke records Jesus’ ascension to heaven (at the end of forty days) in verses 50-53, as he leads them from Jerusalem to Bethany. We are told in verses 52-53 that they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”
Side note: Why did Jesus appear to them in Jerusalem, when He knew that they would meet Him in Galilee – and He had told Mary Magdalene and other disciples as well? Peter and the other apostles, as well as many other disciples (witness the “road to Emmaus account) were grief-stricken, traumatized, and even afraid for their own lives (John 20:19). Two very well-written articles that deal with this subject can be found here and here.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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