Jesus’ death was a devastating blow to the disciples, for they had believed Him to be the Messiah. For three and a half years they heard His words, they saw His miracles, and they experienced His power. There was no question in their minds that He was the long-promised Redeemer, but now He’s dead. All their hopes and dreams were torn to pieces as they heard Him cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46, NKJV).
In this context, Luke 24:13 opens with the story of two disciples walking from Jerusalem to the little town of Emmaus, a village located approximately seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. Why did they get away from Jerusalem? Perhaps Jerusalem had too many reminders of their Master? Maybe they were afraid of their enemies? Whatever the reason, they were now on their way down the dusty, windy path to the obscure village of Emmaus. Interestingly enough, Emmaus means “hot baths,”* and perhaps this was a resort town where weary travelers could relax.
The barren hills along the countryside seemed to add to the sadness of these two disciples as they talked about the sad events of that weekend. In their deep sadness, they became unaware of their surroundings and were so absorbed in their conversation they didn’t notice the Stranger beside them.
Jesus walks with us
The first lesson we can learn from this story is that Jesus walked with them, and the same is true for us. Jesus walks with us in all of our lonely roads, in all our trials, in all our tears. Sometimes problems obscure our vision of God, and at times He seems absent and distant from our world. The fact is that He is here, regardless of how we feel. Jesus identifies fully with our human condition; He meets us where we are to bring us where He wants us to be.
Jesus talks with us
Jesus not only walked with the disciples but talked with them. He entered into their discussion by asking them a question: “ ‘What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?’ ” (Luke 24:17, NKJV). Jesus also enters our world of problems, longing to communicate with us and always taking the initiative to communicate. His question to the disciples was designed to elicit a response, and they began to lay out their problems. They told Him about their hopes. They told Him about the experience of the women who earlier that day went to the tomb and heard the message of the angels. Jesus listened and waited for the right moment to say something. God not only wants to speak with us, but He wants us to speak with Him. The good news: Heaven is open for business.
Jesus wants us to believe
The disciples’ problem was not a problem of the head but a problem of the heart.We call this faith. He addressed the disciples’ disbelief with surgical precision. “ ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ ” (Luke 24:25, 26, NKJV). He led them back to the written Word—the Word that testifi es about Him. Faith in the Word allowed them to move from fear to faith; faith in the Word allowed them to move from cowardness to confidence; faith in the Word allowed them to move from sadness to joy, from depression to victory. The lesson for us today remains the same—go to the Word.
Jesus wants to stay with us
The shadows of the evening began to cover the land as they reached Emmaus, and now Jesus was no longer a Stranger but a Friend. They felt irresistibly drawn to Him and invited Him to stay with them. At that moment, sitting across from Him, they recognized Him. He then vanished from their sight, but His image stayed etched in their minds. “ ‘Did not our heart,’ ” they said, “ ‘burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’ ” (Luke 24:32, NKJV). Jesus found joy as He walked with them. Jesus found joy in talking with them. Jesus found joy in opening the Word of God to them, but He found the greatest joy in staying with them.
Jesus wants to move from being a Stranger to being a Friend. Who is Jesus for you? Stranger or Friend? What do you face today? A difficult problem in your church? A personal struggle? Remember, Jesus walks with you. He talks with you. He opens the Word of God to you. He wants to stay with you. You will discover that He is not a Stranger but a Friend.
* M. G. Easton, M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Thomas Nelson, 1897). Public domain.