I have touched on this subject in Reflections on the Cross Part 5 but in this post I intend to look further into this incident in Scripture. This passage records an incident that happened after the Resurrection. “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.” Luke 24 v13-16. Lets pause here and consider what things. If we go back a few verses we find that the tomb had been found empty by the women who had gone there with spices, an angel had told them he was risen. But this had been met with disbelief by Peter and the other male disciples, except John who being younger than the others seems to have kept his belief in the Resurrection rather quiet. Now then when Jesus engaged these two people in conversation only Cleopas spoke with Jesus. This is consistent with the culture of the day if the other person was his wife and not another man. Mary the wife of Cleopas/Clopas is mentioned as being one of women who witnessed the crucifixion along with Mary Jesus’ mother. There have been many preachers over the years that I have heard state that these disciples were two men. Wrong, I fear that such an assumption is sexist, and if you are going to continue along that line of reasoning then as they were obviously cohabiting there is the danger of somebody concluding wrongly that they were a gay couple. When Jesus asked “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Their immediate reaction was to stop still and looked downcast another version says they looked grief-stricken. They would have been extremely wary, wondering what he might have overheard, just in case he might betray them to the authorities. Using my imagination I think that the conversation may have gone something like this:- Cleopas; “Now Dear, there must be a logical explanation for all this.” Mary:”Such as?” Cleopas: “I mean people just don’t rise from the dead everyday, do they? Somebody must have taken the body.” Mary: “That does not make sense as the Authorities sealed the tomb to make sure the body stayed there.” Cleopas: “They might have changed their minds?” Mary: “The angel said He has risen?” “Are you sure it was an angel?” etc. So when Jesus appeared along side them Cleopas would have been concerned that the stranger would think his wife mad for claiming to see an angel. Cleopas asked him if he was the only visitor to not know what had happened in the last few days. When Jesus gave the reply “What things?” Now I can imagine Cleopas giving his wife Mary a sideways glance and Mary giving him a gentle dig in the ribs to say “spit it out then.” Scripture says “they replied,” in my imagination I can see Cleopas starting the reply by saying “About Jesus of Nazareth.” But every time he hesitated to give some detail his wife would have chipped with her details, especially about the empty tomb because she had probably been there. They must been have shocked when he rebuked them for the foolishness of their unbelief. I suspect that Mary, though she had been to the tomb and may have believed in the Resurrection she still did not understand the why of the Crucifixion. She might have argued that she was closer to a full understanding of the truth than her husband, but Jesus’ rebuke did not differentiate between them. Therefore we should equally be wary of presuming that just because we are closer to a full understanding that we are beyond rebuke and criticism. All believers are on a journey and it is easy to criticise those who are in an earlier stage of the journey than yourself, especially if you have come from a theologically sound background.
One question that arises from this passage is as to they did not recognise him. Was it because the Crucifixion had so altered Jesus appearance that they failed to see who he really was or did he disguise his appearance in some way? It is a question I have asked myself over the decades and generally tend to the latter. If the former had been the case they might have too frightened by his wounds and disfigurement to engage in conversation.
When they arrived at their home Jesus made as if to go on. Jesus does not force himself upon us. He requires us to invite him into our lives. What would have happened if they had not invited him in to eat? We will never know, because they did.
And when they did Jesus revealed himself to them. Then even though it had been getting late they ran back to Jerusalem. Now Jerusalem was a walled city with gates. These would be closed at night. So they must have run pretty fast, unless they were given supernatural power, there in time. Now we know that among those the Lord appeared to were members of his family such as his brothers, therefore, they were probably related to Jesus’ family in some way. There is a tradition, whose authenticity I cannot vouch for, the Cleopas was the brother of Joseph the husband of Mary. If so, those depict Joseph as an old man (as in Old Masters) because he died before Jesus started his ministry, then they have to explain how Cleopas was able run all that way, in that time, some thirty years later when he would have been even older than Joseph was when Jesus was born? It seems unlikely.
When they arrive back with the other disciples Jesus appears as well shortly afterwards. Before he leaves he states to the disciples:- “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” If Cleopas or his wife had recognised Jesus they would never have listened to what he had to say and rushed back to others. One wonders how much of the teaching of the early church came from the original Emmaus Bible School. How much of Stephen’s speech before Sanhedrin, and Paul’s letters first saw the light of day on the road to Emmaus? Luke, in whose Gospel this passage occurs, was the companion of Paul might well have heard this story referred to time and time again as the source of teachings.
David Rose 2013.