What we can learn from the men on the road to Emmaus.
As we all know there are innumerable prefigurations (types) in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale and we know that he prefigured Christ. (Matt 12:40) Isaac, the only son, who Abraham was to offer up as a sacrifice is a type of Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb and only Begotten Son of the Father. Here is another example of a “type” from the Gospel of John:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up”. (John 3:14)
Of course, as with any truth, we can take typology too far and get off the “straight and narrow”, but we shouldn’t miss them when they are clear and right in front of our eyes. I want to suggest to you that Jesus and the 2 men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) is more that just a historically accurate story. I believe it was left there for us to see ourselves in the story and ask ourselves how we measure up to understanding all the Scriptures. They were challenged to believe all that the prophets had written regarding the First Coming and ours will be regarding the Second Coming.
On The Road to Emmaus…
Jesus, on the day of His resurrection, was led by God to join up with two men (disciples) walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. (We are not told directly but I think it was at the beginning of their journey.) These men treated Jesus as a stranger, being prevented by the Holy Spirit from seeing Him as their Master.
As Jesus joined up with them, they were still shaking their heads at the fresh report by the women who said that angels had told them that “Jesus was alive”! Even Peter, they declared, one of the inner-circle, confirmed the fact by witnessing the empty tomb. It brought them no joy, however, but rather sadness, as they had not grasped all the teaching about the Messiah from the Old Testament (OT).
By this time, Jesus had heard enough and confronted (provoked) the two disciples,
“O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)
“O foolish men” seems to us rather mean-spirited, until we realize that with Scripture Jesus takes a strong stand. He also pointed to their hearts that were “slow to believe” all that the prophets had spoken. Did they not see the clear teaching of His suffering and death (Isa. 53; Ps. 22) and only cling to the “glory passages” of the King (Ps. 72, 95-97)?
I wonder if this scene is not one with a double meaning (like most of the OT). Is not this scene told to us in such minute detail so that we take it to heart. I think it is. I believe it is a good gauge to our minds and hearts regarding the next big event on the prophetic clock – the second coming.
If this sounds implausible to you, please read this quote by noted Bible teacher and scholar, C.H. Spurgeon”
“Those forty days were soon over. Very remarkable days they were, if you study them; so different from His former life. Nobody molested the Lord; no scribes or Pharisees contradicted him, no malicious Jews took up stones to stone Him. . . . I might almost say that those days were the prelude of His glory, a sort of anticipation of His reign of peace, when He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth, and “wars shall cease” unto the end of the earth.” (Spurgeon, Our Ascended Lord)
Can we personalize this scene on the road to Emmaus?
What would Jesus say to us if He suddenly caught up with us on the way to work or at the golf course? Would we get a rebuke or a blessing? Do we believe all that the prophets have spoken about His second coming? Worse, do we know anything other than “He’s coming back and we win”? Have we been “diligent to present ourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth?” (2 Tim 2)
What are we passing on to the next generation, our children and their children, who may actually see His coming?
All that the Prophets have Spoken
If we can, for a moment, I want to zero in on Jesus’ reply about being slow of heart to believe “all that the prophets have spoken”. Notice the word all. That must mean from Isaiah through to Malachi, 16 in all. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Admittedly, most Christians know little from these great men of God. When was the last time YOU read Zechariah? Or worked your way through Daniel and Isaiah, getting divine insights to the text? Undoubtedly, these books are hard to understand, “with the often unusual prophetic language and the seemingly constant warnings and condemnations”. (S. Michael Houdmann)
Yet that is such a paltry excuse! Are not Paul’s writings also “hard to understand”? (2 Peter 3) I fear that we will be told something similar to “O foolish men” by the resurrected Lord if He were to appear in our lives at this moment. We need to press in until we get the truth from the books of the Bible, especially from all the prophets.
“Inherent in the Lord’s statement here is the fact that, in order to know God’s teaching in any sector, it is mandatory to take account of “all that the prophets have spoken” on any given subject.” (Coffman’s)
We are not to just read the parts of the Bible that we like, like the Psalms and the gospels. We need to be students of the entire Word, from Genesis to Revelation. Please notice what Jesus did with the two men on the road, He took them “back to the beginning” and clearly pointed out to them each time it mentioned Him as suffering Servant or promised Messiah.
“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27)
What a learning experience for those two men! Jesus went back to the beginning to set the context. He took them, page by page, through the entire Old Testament. No wonder their hearts were “burning within” as He opened up the Scriptures to them. The word explained has a deeper meaning of “to expound thoroughly” or “translated”.
Oh, how we need that today. We, His disciples, need to have the Holy Spirit expound and translate until we get the meaning, not in our heads but in our hearts! We need that same burning in our hearts!
“Christ did not only put light into these his apostles’ heads, but heat also into their hearts, which burned all the while He communed with them.” (Burkitt’s Notes)
With the scriptures being “opened up” to them by their Master and their hearts ablaze with fresh revelation, the two men walked right back to Jerusalem, stopping for nothing, to meet up with the disciples and testify of Christ’s resurrection!
May we follow their example!