This passage, given below, describes an encounter between Christ and two men who were travelling to the town of Emmaus (possibly derived from the Semitic word for “hot-spring”). One, Clopas or Cleopas is named, and it is traditionally understood that the unnamed man was St Luke the Evangelist himself. This article will answer a few questions which people may have about this passage.
13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”
19 And He said to them, “What things?”
So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.
21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.
22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.
23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.
24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”
25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”
27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther.
29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,
34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
Why did St Luke emphasise the fact that Cleopas and his companion were not fully convinced by the accounts of the empty sepulchre and the sightings of angels and why were the two men not permitted to immediately recognise Christ?
Blessed Theophylact of Ohrid, an important commentator with valuable insights on this passage, explains the purpose of the “holding back” of the two mens’ eyes. It was so as to prevent them from recognising Christ “so that they might reveal all of their doubting thoughts, and thus exposing the wound, be shown the medicine”. Thus, after having first been immersed in their own disheartening scepticism, “Christ’s revealing of Himself [was] made all the more sweet”. The two men needed to be able to find Christ for themselves. Christ will never seek to force us to believe in Him, and so in this situation He acted discreetly. He gently guided the two followers to the truth and the meaning of the Resurrection. Through this process, they were eventually able to see Christ acting when the bread was broken.
What is the significance of the opening of the eyes?
As soon as “their eyes were opened”, Christ vanished, and they turned to each other, stating in retrospect: “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”. The use of the verb “opened” in describing Christ’s explanation is of note. When we use this word, we’re often referring to opening our eyes, opening doors or opening ourselves up. These men, while it is written that their eyes “were opened”, had to be willing to have their eyes opened. Many of the Jews, witnessing the miracles of Christ performed with such regularity, harboured ill-will towards Christ because the eyes of their souls were still closed. Luke and Cleopas wanted to see the True Light, to open the door to the narrow path and to open their souls to Christ.
Did Christ appear to them in physical form, or as some kind of apparition? How was he able to ‘teleport’?
Christ was walking on the ground in the passage, and was able to physically touch and break bread. This makes clear that He has a physical form able to interact with the material world. Blessed Theophylact affirms that, though he possessed a corporeal form at this point in the narrative, he now had a spiritual and more divine body and the actions of His body were thus no longer strictly bound by the laws of nature. Christ himself said to the Sadducees before His Crucifixion that after the resurrection we will be “like angels of God in heaven”. And so, like the angels, Christ appeared and disappeared and seemingly “teleported”.
Upon his resurrection, why did Christ only appear to a small number of individuals with whom He was already well acquainted rather than appearing to all of mankind?
Upon his resurrection, it is of note that Christ only revealed himself to those whom He specifically chose, rather than the populace at large. In doing so, Christ granted them a great comfort – for He freed them from doubt. This is of note, for, as asserted by Blessed Theophylact, this appearance to the chosen few is in fact “a prototype of the resurrection to come, in which we will live like angels and sons of God”. Again, it is not God’s way to force people to believe. Each person has to choose of their own volition to come to Christ. What Christ has given to us is enough for each of us to find Him, and that is what we must do.