Luke 24:13-35 (cf. Mark 16:12-13)

Jesus walking with two disciples on road to Emmaus.

 "Jesus walking with two disciples on road to Emmaus." 
Reprinted from Icon: Visual Images for Every Sunday, copywrite© 2000 Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission.


This is Luke's first narrative of Jesus appearing to anyone. Ylvisaker says that these two had been in Jerusalem and had witnessed Jesus' trial and knew all about His death and burial. That makes sense. One is named Cleopas, verse 18. Whether that is the Clopas (note spelling) of John 19:25 is much debated. The other has been identified with Luke, but that is ruled out by Luke 1:1-4. Others have identified the second man with Simon Peter (since the days of Origen) but that is ruled out by the correct reading of verse 34.

In a word, we cannot identify these two beyond what the text says.

Bengel: The godly are mentioned not for their own sake, but for the sake of others.

Right. It's what we learn from this account that is important. One other thing: Morris makes the astounding observation that it cannot be proved conclusively from the Greek that both were men. Cleopas, of course, is a man. But the second person may have been his wife. It is clear that they were not of the Twelve. Neither are they called "disciples."  They were well acquainted with the Twelve and were disciples in the wider sense. What Morris says is worth pondering. In the final analysis, it makes little difference. We have been conditioned by tradition and art to consider both men, males.

Emmaus cannot now be identified. All our translations read the text of Nestle, sixty stades from Jerusalem. A "stade" is six hundred feet. Therefore, eight of our translations read: "about seven miles."  That's a walk of 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Luke 24:13 (NIV) Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.

"Now" attracts our attention to something noteworthy. It applies to the whole account, verses 13-35, a remarkable account, so very human but so very enlightening.

"Two of them," as Morris points out does not necessarily mean that both were males. Look at verse 33. They knew the disciples.

Note the periphrastic construction which indicates a slow walk.

Luke 24:14 (NIV) They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.

They were engaged in ordinary conversation. They were talking about the trial, crucifixion, the Sabbath, the report of the women, and the fear and misgivings of the disciples.

Luke 24:15 (NIV) As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;

"While they were conversing and debating."   "Jesus Himself."  The text indicates that He approached them from behind and unobtrusively joined them. Likely they considered Him another traveller and continued their discussion unabated.

Luke 24:16 (NIV) but they were kept from recognizing him.

"But" introduces a clause that lasts till end of verse 30. Here we have a passive verb. God is the agent. It's the antithesis to the verb in verse 31. God "held" their eyes. God "opened" their eyes. We are reminded of Luke 10:22. All synergism is gone. No man recognizes Jesus unless He causes and wills it.

By the way, this implies that they had seen Him before. You can't recognize someone unless you've seen Him before.

Luke 24:17 (NIV) He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast.

From what is said in this verse, it is clear that Jesus quietly listened for a while. His question shows that they were having an animated discussion.

 "They stood still," means "they stopped walking." It also means they stopped conversing.

"Downcast" is "sullen" denoting their sadness and their incredulity over Jesus' question.

Luke 24:18 (NIV) One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"

It's an exclamatory question. AAT: "Are you the only stranger living in Jerusalem who doesn't know what happened there these days?"  "Stranger" is used of an alien resident. "The things" denotes the things mentioned at end of verse 14. It is a very human touch. It amounts to: "Man, where have you been the last few days?"  This question implies that what happened to Jesus in Jerusalem caused such a stir that absolutely no one could be unaware of it.

Luke 24:19 (NIV) "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.

The resurrection did not make Jesus less human. He is not pretending. He wants them to state their problem so He can help them. He is causing them to state their need. He is causing them to pray.

"The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth" is explained in verses 20-24. Cleopas explains carefully for, evidently, he concludes that Jesus is totally ignorant of these affairs.

Now a problem. TEV: "This man was a prophet, and was considered by God and by all the people to be mighty in words and deeds."  But JB: "Who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people." Does it denote approval of God and the whole people or where He spoke and worked? We prefer the former.

And do they mean "prophet" in the sense of Deuteronomy 18:15 (Lenski) or as Morris says: "Their perception of His Person was limited. Yet, in their hope for redemption (verse 21) they must have seen Him as more. At any rate they had been impressed both by His deeds and His words and they characterized them alike as MIGHTY. They had seen the power of God in Jesus." In any case, they were confused.

Luke 24:20 (NIV) The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;

Here the "things concerning Jesus of Nazareth" are explained. The blame for Jesus' betrayal and crucifixion is put squarely on the Jewish authorities.

Luke 24:21 (NIV) but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.

"But" is emphatic. They dissociate themselves from the Jewish authorities. Their  "hope," as continued action which is leading to despair.

"Redeem" has caused much discussion. Does it mean "redeem" (RSV, TEV, NIV, NKJV, NASB); "liberate"  (NEB); or "free"  (JB and AAT)?  "Redeem" implies that they had true Messianic hopes.  "Liberate" or "free" might indicate that they shared false Messianic hopes, deliverance from Rome.

Arndt:The two disciples admit that they had entertained the hope Jesus would show Himself as the Messiah; this hope they imply was an illusion.

Luke 24:22 (NIV) In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning

These two are on the verge of giving up entirely.  "In addition" gives a further reason for their attitude. Note the animated speech indicated by the word order. They speak of the women who had gone early to the tomb. "Astonished," "amazed," or "astounded."  That's all they did, they say. The women didn't convince them. These two were there when the report was brought.

Luke 24:23 (NIV) but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.

In this verse we have the infinitive with subject accusative twice, a report by the women and a report by the angels.  "A vision of angels" means "a disclosure of the unseen world."  The whole point of this verse is the skepticism of the two.

Luke 24:24 (NIV) Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

This verse clearly describes the visit of Peter and John to the tomb, John 20:3-10. The situation is limited to the empty tomb as is clear from the final words.

"Him" is emphatic by position. By the way, note the use of "our," and "they," showing the disciples of Jesus and the larger group were a close-knit group. Verses 20-24 clearly show that these two were holding on only by their finger nails. They were really skeptical about the report of the women because Peter and John did not actually see Jesus. How do we analyze the condition of these two? That begins in the next verse.

Luke 24:25 (NIV) He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

The verse begins with an emphatic "He Himself."  He had listened to their whole problem. Now He takes over. It reminds one of the lengthy speeches in the book of Job. But finally the Lord Himself speaks.

The rest of this verse is an exclamation. There are four synonyms, translated "foolish" in the New Testament. Look at Galatians 3:1.3; Ephesians 5:15); Luke 11:40; 12:20; Matthew 5:22; 23:17. The latter two are much stronger than the first two.

Here Jesus means that the intellect was misled because faith in the ENTIRE Old Testament was lacking. They did not deny the Old Testament  per se,  but were oblivious to its most important content.  "The prophets" are "the inspired writers." 

Luke 24:26 (NIV) Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"

This verse introduces a question which demands an affirmative answer. "These things" are the things done to Jesus by Jews, Romans and all mankind.

There was a necessity caused by the plan of God and its recorded nature in the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

Jesus entered glory through suffering. That was the God ordained necessity, spelled out in the Old Testament. Jesus had repeatedly told His disciples that resurrection would be preceded by betrayal, suffering and death. That was necessary. Like the disciples, these two on the way to Emmaus hoped in the deliverance and the glory but were oblivious to the suffering.

Luke 24:27 (NIV) And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

He started with the Pentateuch but continued from there through the entire account of all the inspired writers. Note that forms of "all" are used twice in this verse.

"He explained for them."  He must have spoken of specific prophecies, very likely also Genesis 3:15, types, symbols, etc., from the whole Old Testament. What is the Old Testament except the story of man's sin and the account of God's love, which centers in Christ Jesus? Look at John 5:39; Acts 3:18; Acts 8:35. Christ is everywhere in the Old Testament.

Very likely Jesus spoke to these two for about two hours. What an exposition that must have been! And that's the way Christ expects His preachers to expound the Old Testament.

Luke 24:28 (NIV) As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.

First they're alone, next He joins them, here they're together. Our attention is rivetted on Jesus the Savior. He was not play-acting. If they had not asked Him, likely He would have gone on. He forces Himself on no one. By the way, the whole context clearly indicates that these two lived in Emmaus.

Luke 24:29 (NIV) But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

They strongly urged Him to stay. They urged Him by what they said. NIV, JB, NEB and NASB read:  "It is nearly evening and the day is almost over."  Night time was not a good time to travel in these days. This was a prayer proceeding from faith. From this text comes the "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide." 

By the way, did He stay with them? Yes. Where there is faith in Jesus and His Word, there is Jesus. He removed His visible presence later, but He stayed with them.

Luke 24:30 (NIV) When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.

At this point guest becomes host and there is no objection. Note two circumstantial participles, each followed by a verb, the first aorist, the second the imperfect of ingressive action: "He began giving it to them." 

That is important because His action was interrupted. Augustine and Theophylact thought that this was the Eucharist. Rome, in its teaching of the Eucharist under one kind only, picked up this idea. And as Ylvisaker points out, unfortunately Melanchthon granted Rome too much.

Apology,  Art. XXII, Two Kinds, Tappert 237: They (Rome) quote passages that mention bread, like Luke 24:35, which says that the disciples recognized Christ in the breaking of the bread. We do not seriously object if someone take these passages as referring to the sacrament. Still it does not follow that only one part was given; for by the ordinary usage of language, naming one part also signifies the other.

Melanchthon is implying that wine was offered in this case. But Arndt, Lenski, Morris and Plummer argue against this view. Wine is not mentioned. And would Jesus have interrupted the Lord's Supper? It is unthinkable. The context calls for an evening meal after a walk of 2-3 hours.

Luke 24:31 (NIV) Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

"And as a result."  They did not recognize Jesus by commitment or a decision. No synergism here. God Himself was the agent. Both this verse and 16 clearly indicate that they had seen Jesus before. Read Mark 16:12.13 at this point. There it is said that "He appeared in a different form," a form which they did not recognize. He became invisible. We think of the genus maiestaticum. In the glorified state Jesus' human nature fully uses the qualities of the divine nature, a great mystery to us.

At first when He was with them visibly they were sullen, sad, skeptical. But now when He removes His visible presence, faith supports them and they are glad. What made the difference? The Word. They now believed Romans 4:25. It's as simple as that.

Luke 24:32 (NIV) They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Their hearts had been full of anxiety and gloom but here they are full of reciprocal joy. From a heavy, unbelieving heart to a burning one. For the metaphor look at Psalm 39:3 and Jeremiah 20:9. Clearly the burning in their heart was caused by His exegesis of the Old Testament. A model for all preachers.

Luke 24:33 (NIV) They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together

"At once" means "without a moment's delay"  They returned to Jerusalem, a remarkable thing to do after dark in those days. They went right back to the disciples whom they had left earlier in the day.

The eleven and those with them gathered together for the reason given in verse 34. By the way, this must be the same gathering mentioned at John 20:19-23. Thomas was not present but don't let the word "eleven" here bother you. This verse uses "eleven" as 1 Corinthians 15:5 uses "twelve." 

Luke 24:34 (NIV) and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."

On the basis of the inferior reading, some commentators have assumed that Simon Peter was the second of the two disciples going to Emmaus. This is direct discourse. The second clause explains the first. Their proof of Jesus' resurrection was on the fact that Jesus had appeared to Peter. Paul mentions this as one of the proofs of Jesus' resurrection at 1 Corinthians 15:5. It must have happened after the two Emmaus disciples left Jerusalem in the afternoon.

Luke 24:35 (NIV) Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

"The two" means the Emmaus disciples.  "Told" is translated as  "were explaining." This is the word from which "exegesis" is derived. Their report involved two matters:

  1. What happened on the way, and

  2. How He became known to them when they sat down to eat.

God caused the recognition, not they. Synergism is eliminated.

"When" is variously translated "in, as, when, at" by the translations. But none take it as "by means of."  That is important. There are those who claim that they celebrated the Lord's Supper and that they recognized Him "by means of" this. No. The term "when" is simply temporal.

Luther is quoted in  Formula of Concord,  Solid Declaration, Art. VIII, Person of Christ, par. 39-40, Tappert 598:

Zwingli calls that an alloeosis when something is said about the deity of Christ which after all belongs to the humanity, or vice versa--for example 'Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' Luke 24:26. Here Zwingli performs a sleight-of-hand trick and substitutes the human nature for Christ. Beware, beware, of this alloeosis, for it is the devil's mask since it will finally construct a kind of Christ after whom I would not want to be called a Christian, that is, a Christ who is and does no more in his passion and death then any other ordinary saint. But if I believe that only the human nature suffered for me, then Christ would be a poor Saviour for me, in fact, he himself would need a Saviour. In short, it is indescribable what the devil attempts with this alloeosis.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1980, pp. 90-94. Used with permission.

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