Later on Easter Sunday, there were two people walking down the road to Emmaus who didn’t know about the morning’s events and Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:13-35). They were talking about last week’s events in Jerusalem and what they all might mean. While they were talking Jesus came beside them and began talking to them. At first, Cleopas, one of the two travelers, must have wondered if Jesus was a spy who would report them and the hopes they had held regarding Jesus being the messiah, back to the Jerusalem religious leaders. But, that doesn’t stop him from revealing that they were followers of Jesus who regarded him as a prophet and believed that he was God’s chosen messiah who would redeem Israel from bondage to pagan domination. Now they are devastated by Jesus’ crucifixion because it seems to be the end of all their hopes. Their messiah is dead and gone. He did not defeat the pagan rulers. Instead, he was defeated by them.
“They crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…”
It won’t be long before that statement changes to “They crucified him, and that was how he redeemed Israel!” Jesus’ resurrection will change everything for them. They weren’t ready for the resurrection though, not yet. They were still looking at scripture through a lens that told them that God would redeem Israel from suffering, rather than through suffering, suffering born by the messiah. So Jesus unpacks all of scripture for these two, Genesis to Chronicles, the entire story of God’s people so far, and demonstrates how the entire story so far has pointed toward fulfillment through the suffering of God’s anointed Messiah who would take the suffering of the world upon himself, bear it to death on the cross, then rise again as the very beginning of the new beginning, God’s new creation.
These two disciples didn’t recognize Jesus until they shared a meal with him. That doesn’t seem to be just because Jesus didn’t want to be recognized. It seems that when Jesus was resurrected from death to life, his body was transformed. It was the same, yet it was different. It’s a mystery we probably won’t understand until we undergo the same transformation and fully share in Christ’s risen life.
Besides Jesus’ resurrected transformation, it seems these disciples couldn’t fully recognize him until they understood the story of God’s covenant with His people and how it could only have been fulfilled through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Luke seems to suggest that the same is true for us. Until we see Jesus within God’s great story of redemption, reconciliation and love, we do not truly see him. Only through his presence as we study the Bible will our own hearts “burn within us” and will we be able to truly recognize him as our covenant representative, savior, and messiah.