The story from Luke 24 Andy read is a fascinating story in part because it’s filled with what we could call “underlying tension.” Part of the tension comes from the fact that we know the identity of Jesus and these two men don’t. But also, here are these two men (one of them was named Cleopas—the other we know nothing about). They’re walking on the road to Emmaus—a town about four miles west of Jerusalem. And as Luke records, these two are having a lively discussion about the dramatic events of recent days.
Then, in the midst of their conversation, appearing out of nowhere, Jesus makes his first post-resurrection appearance in Luke’s gospel. The angels at the tomb had revealed to the women there the fact of the resurrection, but this is the first time in Luke’s gospel that we meet the resurrected Christ. Very curiously, Jesus conceals his identity from these two men. We don’t know how long he kept them from recognizing him, but it could have been a few of hours depending on the length of their interaction.
That tension builds as we read that these men are clearly distraught over the events of the week. It says in verse 17 they were “looking sad.” We mustn’t miss the fact that Jesus allows these clearly distraught and perplexed people to remain in their deep grief. He listens to them pour out their hearts about the earth-shattering disappointments they and their friends had recently experienced with regard to the passion of Jesus. He hears them relate this strange report about an empty tomb and the appearance of angels, that clearly had not erased their gloom. And as they are pouring out their souls, Jesus, whose death is the cause of their anguish–is playing dumb. At any moment, he could have brought them enormous comfort, but, as he has proved to each of us many times, his main goal is NOT to take away their sadness to make them feel better…at this point.
At some point, Jesus even rebukes these grieving men for their unbelief and then takes them on a masterful, guided tour of the Old Testament. The tension increases even more as “…he acted as if he were going farther” [v.28] and was going to separate from them. He consents to remain with them only after they strongly urge him to stay. Then, just as the story climaxes and the tension is resolved as he finally opens their eyes to recognize him, he immediately vanishes. They had no chance to celebrate with him or worship him—he’s just gone. That leaves them both overjoyed and doubtless at least a bit confused.
Whenever you read a story in the bible, (especially when you’re reading a story like this one included only in Luke’s gospel), you need to ask, why? Why does Luke include this curious conversation between Jesus and these two unknown disciples in such a prominent place in his resurrection narrative? We know that, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God is revealing something very important about the resurrected Christ. But out of the hundreds of people to whom it would have made sense for Jesus to disclose himself, why does he appear to these two nondescript men we’ve never heard of before and never hear of again? From a purely PR point of view, this “reveal” makes absolutely no sense because we know from the rest of the story that this encounter did nothing to spread the news of the resurrection.
Their inclusion in the story would have made much more sense if, after meeting Jesus, they’d brought this final, definitive resurrection evidence back to the 12 apostles, but that’s not their role. When they rush back to Jerusalem to tell them they’d seen the risen Christ, they end up being scooped. Before they arrive, Simon had already seen Jesus alive from the grave.
Why? Why this story—why these people? Why this drama? This morning let’s look at three reasons from the text for the inclusion of this story with the goal being that we would more clearly see and worship the glory of the risen Christ—which is why we’re here. One reason for this story from the text is because: It glorifies the risen Christ by placing on display his sovereign, resurrection authority.
Many of the tensions in the story find resolution when you read it with that perspective. It’s clear that Luke is forcing us to see that–when the risen Christ makes his first resurrection appearance, he has made a decisive and dramatic break from his mission as the brutally victimized, silent Lamb who was at the complete mercy of his enemies. All the important details of this story reveal that this Jesus in Luke 24 is the risen King who is absolute Master of every circumstance and he is at the mercy of no one.
Luke wants us to see that Jesus has authority even over the precise moment when these two men recognize him. This is an impressive display of Jesus’ sovereign power. This is an amazing miracle because—if there were any two people in Israel who were absolutely likely to immediately recognize the risen Jesus, it was them. For a number of reasons, these two could not have been more ready to recognize Jesus and the ONLY explanation for their failure to do so is that they are being supernaturally kept from it.
One reason is, they desperately WANTED to see him. They’d been crushed by the events of the past three days. Second, they’d heard this strange but hopeful report from the women about angels and an empty tomb. They weren’t totally buying it because the one decisive piece of evidence had not yet appeared—the risen Christ himself. But they were surely hoping that he would make an appearance and confirm their newly revived hope.
Notice, Luke helps us to see their sense of growing anticipation by including in verse 21 their statement to Jesus, “Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” Third, we know from this remark that they remembered what Jesus had said about the third day. They remembered Jesus said he would rise on the third day. All of that produced two people who would be heavily predisposed to see and recognize the risen Jesus. But there’s at least one more reason why they should have recognized Jesus, had he not, in his sovereign authority, prevented this.
That is–they hear this teacher of mysterious origin give an absolutely masterful exposition of the Old Testament on why the Messiah had to be crucified and how all of Scripture pointed to Jesus. It caused their hearts to burn within them. Who else could teach this? The apostles? They were as confused as anyone else. When they first heard the report of the resurrected Christ from the women, their incredibly “enlightened” response in verse 11 was, “…these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” So, the only human being who could have taught this was the risen Christ. BUT EVEN WITH ALL THAT to predispose them to see Jesus, Luke makes it clear that these two never connect the dots between their great Teacher, Jesus and this great Teacher on the road to Emmaus.
The point is–Luke clearly reveals two men who were fully able to make an instantaneous, positive identification of Jesus Christ if he showed up. And this teacher who appears to them behaved precisely as rabbi Yeshua would have acted—powerfully explaining from the Scriptures what had happened. But Jesus, in his sovereign majesty, overrides ALL of that and he allows them to discover his identity in only the precise moment that he sovereignly chooses to lift the veil from their eyes. Jesus is in total control of this situation and could not be further removed from the Suffering Servant who had been given over to the hands of sinners.
Luke wants us to see that a decisive break has occurred—a new chapter has begun in salvation history. Even how Jesus appeared and disappeared in this story reveal his newly acquired supernatural power. Luke reports that the way Jesus both appears and disappears is such that he can pass right through doors and walls. This man, who had been held captive in a closed tomb for three days, had now become impervious to any physical barrier. Luke wants us to see that the risen Christ is no longer even held by the natural laws that had held him all of his life.
No one is going to be nailing THIS Jesus to a cross! He can stand right in front of you, carry on a lengthy conversation and keep you from even recognizing who he is. And should he choose to reveal himself to you, he can at any moment vanish into thin air like a phantom. He’s not bound by space or walls–he does whatever he pleases. The physical laws of the universe that three days earlier had held him to the cross in agony are now completely irrelevant to him.
When the risen Jesus accomplishes what he wants to accomplish in one location—without warning or permission, he’s instantly gone. The point again is to communicate—this is the risen Christ. As we were reminded on Good Friday, he is finished with his redemptive work. He will never again submit himself to human authority—especially not to the point of death on a cross. That’s one reason the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to include this curious story.
A second reason Luke records these curious events is because: It powerfully displays the authority of the Scriptures. People who are not Christians would be shocked at how absolutely reliant Jesus was on the Old Testament for his life and ministry. Listen to some truths about Jesus’ view of the Old Testament that would surprise many people. First, Jesus saw the entire Old Testament as completely authoritative and he himself submitted to its authority. He said in Matthew chapter five . 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
In Jesus’ teaching in the gospels, he cites 14 Old Testament books. Jesus believed as being factual all the stories and all the people named in the Old Testament including the most controversial stories like Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and Jonah and the great fish. He believed all the Old Testament prophecies would be fulfilled. And a great truth this story in Luke reveals is that he believed that all the Old Testament comprehensively pointed to himself.
If you’re here today and think, as many people do today, “I admire Jesus—he’s a compelling figure to me, but when someone tries to tell me that the Bible—this ancient book is without errors and has absolute authority over my life—I can’t believe something like that.” If that’s the way you feel, it might be helpful to you to understand that in this account in Luke, Jesus gives what could scarcely be a more powerful testimony to the absolute truthfulness and authority of Scripture over all things, including his own life, death and resurrection.
We see a powerful example of this when these two men share their hearts about what’s recently happened and why they feel so sad and perplexed, and in response, Jesus harshly rebukes them. You remember what Jesus says to them, right? “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe the report of these reliable women who reported the resurrection to you.” No, that’s not what it says. Neither does he say, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe a report from sinless angels.” That’s not why Jesus rebukes these two. He says, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken!”
By the prophets, he means the prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament. Then, he delivers to these men this private lecture on the topic— “why the Messiah had to suffer and die according to the Scriptures.” He teaches them from Old Testament passages written hundreds of years before he was born. Luke says, “He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
It’s interesting when you combine the impact of this story with Luke’s earlier account of the angels’ testimony to the women at the empty tomb. You may remember that the angels rebuke the women for even being at the tomb. Earlier in Luke 24, the angels ask these women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” When the angels confront these women, they ground their rebuke of them in the fact that Jesus had told them of his resurrection on the third day. But when Jesus rebukes these two men for their unbelief, he grounds his rebuke in the fact that the Old Testament had prophesied all these things would happen.
He scolds them because they didn’t believe the Old Testament prophets who predicted the necessity of a crucified Messiah 700 years earlier. When you combine the two accounts, they conspire to teach an important truth. That is: you’re just as guilty of unbelief if you fail to believe the prophecies in the Bible as you are if you fail to believe the personal testimony of Jesus. Luke places them on the exact same level of authority.
We see this same deference to the authority of Scripture from Jesus when he later appears before the twelve. Notice where Jesus grounds his authority when he explains to his apostles what has happened. Verse 44 says, “Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” What he’s saying is, “I told you that my life and ministry would be absolutely consistent with the prophecies in the Bible including my death and resurrection.”
Don’t miss what’s going on here—Jesus is here basing his authority in himself quoting the Old Testament. So, when we take Luke’s accounts as a whole, first the angels quote Jesus as the authority on the resurrection. Then, Jesus cites and teaches the Bible as his authority to these two on the road to Emmaus. Finally, to his apostles–Jesus cites as evidence himself quoting the Bible as authoritative.
The point is impossible to miss. One crystal clear implication of Luke’s account is that Jesus places the teachings of Scripture on the same level of authority as his own words. He says that the prophecies of the Old Testament provide the template of his entire life and ministry. Finally, notice the way Luke words verse 45. He tells us, “Then he [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” He doesn’t say, “Then he opened their minds to understand what he had earlier predicted to them.”
Do you see why it’s simply not consistent to say on the one hand, “I admire Jesus, but the Bible is an ancient book filled with fables and myths—it surely has no authority over me?” Those two statements are completely incoherent—they don’t cohere with one another because Jesus—the man so many today claim to admire, quoted the Bible like a fundamentalist preacher and cited it as an eternal authority for all things, even to the point that it decreed the events of his life, death, and resurrection. A second reason for this text is that it powerfully displays the authority of Scripture.
A final reason for this curious story in Luke’s gospel is: It glorifies the risen Christ by revealing the central place he occupies in God’s redemptive plan. One of the most important verses in all of Scripture for understanding the big-picture message of the Bible is verse 27. Jesus is proving to these two men on the road to Emmaus that the painful events of the past few days were absolutely necessary. Then Luke explains, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus gives what must have been a phenomenal survey of the Old Testament and teaches that the contents of the entire Old Testament—all of it—orbit around HIM—it all points to him. We must hear how utterly outlandish that claim is …unless it’s true. And in Jesus’ case, it happens to be true.
What’s more, he showed these men that the events they had witnessed in the past three days—his own death and resurrection–were the absolute climax—THE defining moments of ALL of salvation history. What they had seen in the past few days was more important that the call of Abraham. It was more important than the Exodus and the Mosaic Law. It was more important than David and all the Hebrew kings. To assert that you are at the very center of all Biblical revelation is an astronomical claim, but Jesus makes this seemingly ridiculous claim more than once. In John chapter five, Jesus is in dialogue with the crooked religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees, and he says to them, “39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” He reveals to these religious hypocrites the incredible irony of what they were doing as it related to him. He says in effect— “you’re turning your back on ME as the source of eternal life in favor of the Scriptures, but the Scriptures are all about me.”
Many people, even many followers of Christ, fail to understand that the Bible is NOT a collection of disconnected sacred writings. We must never forget this about the bible. It is absolutely unified in its message. The Bible is a miraculous book and here are just a few reasons we know that to be true. First, it was written by over 40 different authors of very diverse socio-economic backgrounds and religious education. Compare two Old Testament prophets. Isaiah was a highly trained priest of God but Amos was a farmer. Second, its written over a period of 1500 years. Third, it is made up of diverse literary forms including history, poetry, biography, drama, sermons, letters, and more.
Yet, this incredibly diverse book written by very different, multiple authors over more than 15 centuries has a single, ONE, absolutely unified, perfectly consistent, internally coherent message from cover to cover. And that message is—a revelation of God’s single, unified plan of redemption and his ultimate plan in redemption, to quote the apostle Paul is, “to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth…to the praise of his glory.” [Eph. 1:10, 12] And Jesus tells these men on the road to Emmaus that THE central work necessary to accomplish that eternal and cosmic goal …was performed… by him… these past three days in his death and resurrection. Everything in the Bible before these events–points forward to them in some way and everything in the Bible after it, looks back to them in some way. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the absolute epicenter of divine revelation around which everything else revolves.
The Bible is loaded with promises and Paul says all the promises in the Bible are fulfilled–they “find their yes” in Christ [2 Cor. 1:20]. What Paul means by that is seen in truths like these about the relationship between Jesus and the Old Testament. First, the truth that Jesus is the seed of the woman who, way back in the Garden of Eden, God promised would come and crush the head of the serpent, while bruising his heel. That mortal wound of the serpent was delivered by Jesus as he temporarily succumbed to death on the cross. Second, Jesus is the promised Seed or offspring God promised to Abraham who would come through him and his race of people, the Jews.
Third, Jesus is the ultimate Israel of God—God’s ultimate Son who makes a way for other sons to be adopted. Fourth, Jesus Christ is the Great Prophet Moses foretold and to whom all previous prophets pointed–he is the ultimate Word of God. Fifth, Jesus is the Great High Priest to whom Aaron and all the subsequent High Priests pointed. All the Old Testament system of worship drenched with the blood of all those animal sacrifices foreshadows the blood of Jesus on the cross.
Related to this and sixth, Jesus is THE Lamb of God whose blood cleanses his followers of all their sin. Seventh, Jesus is the Great Warrior King in whom David and all other Old Testament kings find their fulfillment. Eighth, Jesus is the temple of God who tabernacled among us as God. Ninth, Jesus is the Mediator of the new Covenant between God and Man to which Moses and the Old Covenant foreshadowed. Tenth, Jesus is the ultimate expression of the glory of God. In his life, death, and resurrection he is the consummate expression of God’s holiness, love, grace, mercy, and power. In his incarnation, Jesus is the ultimate and highest expression of humanity. Finally, 11th, Jesus is the Son of God who succeed where God’s first son, Adam, failed.
We would need a long time to review all the redemptive themes of the Old Testament that come together and are united in Jesus Christ. Those who have placed their trust in Christ will spend all eternity discovering his manifold glories from the Scriptures. But if you’re here today and have never placed your trust in Christ—you do not have a personal, intimate, life-transforming relationship with God, then let me just gently remind you of a 12th role Jesus fulfills. That is—he is also the Judge of the Universe. Jesus says that the Father has given all judgment into his hand.
God created us to live for him, not for ourselves. This is at the root of what sin is—our compulsive desire to live for ourselves instead of God and the Bible teaches that we come into this world drenched in sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Bible says our sin makes us enemies of God. Through our apathy and indifference to him, we’re rebelling against him and the purpose for which he created us. The Bible says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away.” Because he is a good and just Judge, Jesus must punish sin. He can do nothing else. Paul writes, “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. (2 Thess. 1:8-9)
Jesus is the just and holy Judge of sinners… but he also loves sinners. He loves people so much that he went to the cross where he died to receive the penalty we deserve for our sin. The Bible says, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Christ purchased his people out of their slavery to sin with his own blood. And we know God accepted Jesus’ death on the cross as full and complete payment for our sins because he raised him from the dead. That means the work of salvation has been done for us by God and that’s one of the main reasons why the resurrection we celebrate today is so important. Christ is risen—God accepted his death as payment for our sins!
To a Judge like Jesus, we could never be good enough for God by being a nice person or even by mentally believing the right things about him. His standard for heaven is… perfection. The apostle John tells us that only faith in Christ brings salvation to us and, apart from faith in Christ, the wrath of God remains on us. So, unless we place our trust in him, we stand condemned before our Judge. There is nothing we can do to earn eternal life. Our part is simply to place our trust in Christ and receive by faith his saving work for us. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on Him.”
It’s only when we stop living for ourselves and relying on our own efforts to be good enough and instead place our trust in Christ and what HE did for us on the cross, that we experience his cleansing, his forgiveness of all our sin and he gives us his own perfect standing before God as a gift. At the same time Jesus cleanses us, he gives us a new heart—a heart with a band-new passion to live for him and not ourselves—a heart that finds in Jesus an immeasurably higher joy than in anything else in this world.
I was speaking to a person several years ago—trying to share the gospel with her and she wasn’t the least bit interested. I sensed as we spoke that she wondered—why should I give up the great life I have now to be a Christian, duh? I felt sorry for her. She’d believed the lie that to be a Christian is to give up the best things in life when in fact—it’s receiving the best this life can offer. I lived the first two decades of my life without Christ and I would never go back to that life and anyone else here who is trusting in Christ would say the same.
If you haven’t done so, place your trust in Christ today so you can know for all eternity the joy of being in relationship with the risen Lord of the universe—to know and experience his perfect love forever. By faith today, turn from your sin and accept the loving reign of King Jesus over your life. May God give all of us the grace to do that and lovingly submit to his sovereign, resurrection authority for his glory and our joy.
 This information about Jesus and the Old Testament is taken or paraphrased from What Was Jesus’ View of the Old Testament? by Don Stewart (blueletterbible.org)