Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him
Luke 24:13-53 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. 29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. 30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.
36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them.
44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God.
When Jesus came and preached and ministered among the people, He was not recognized by many because He came in a different form than what they expected. They were looking for and expecting a military or political leader who would free them from the oppression of their enemies. They hoped to see the kingdom of Israel reestablished on earth. In today’s text, the men to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection said: We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed Jesus did come to redeem Israel, but not from the oppression of the Roman government or from any earthly power. Jesus came to redeem them from sin, to reconcile them to God and restore them to what God intended for them, that they would be His people. In Luke 19:41-44, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, before the crucifixion, it says: When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Because they did not recognize Jesus, not only would the kingdom of Israel not be restored, but it would fall even farther to its enemies. Jesus says: “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace!” Knowing Jesus, recognizing Him for who and what He is, the Redeemer and Savior, is what brings the knowledge of peace. In John 14:27 Jesus comforts His disciples, those who know Him saying: “ Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. ”
In today’s text we see that after the resurrection even those who knew Jesus, did not recognize Him. They had come to know Jesus a man of compassion, and as a great teacher, and although they knew Him as Lord, they did not recognize Him in the form He appeared after the resurrection. In today’s text it says: But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him… Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures… When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” Later when He appeared to the others it says: But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. I don’t know all the reasons why it was that they did not recognize Jesus, and I don’t care to speculate or theorize why it was. Scripture doesn’t explain why they did not recognize Jesus, it only shows us that Jesus needed to reveal Himself, to prove that it really was Him, even to His closest disciples. So, while it is unclear why they did not recognize Him, it is clear that He needed to reveal Himself to them. Jesus revealed Himself through the scriptures and through the things which He had done with them.
Many people today, looking back at how the religious leaders didn’t recognize Jesus in their day, believe that the church and Christians would also miss Him today. It may be true that Jesus would come in a form different than what we might expect. But here is what we do know about Jesus coming. When He came the first time Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19) "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32) When He appeared after the resurrection it was not to call to repentance, but rather to encourage His disciples and to commission them to continue His work. In Matthew 28:18-20 He says: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
It may be that when Jesus comes again some will not recognize Him. But if we are to believe that Jesus is revealed by scripture, then it may be those who expect Him to come again as a meek and mild man who do not recognize Him. That time, that visitation of Jesus was for when He first appeared. In Matthew 25:31-33 Jesus says: “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.” Jesus, when He comes again, will come as a righteous judge. He will come as a conquering king to establish God’s kingdom. It will be on earth as it is in heaven. In Revelation 19:11-16, John shares what he saw of the next time Jesus will come: I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Jesus says that we will not know the day or hour of His coming. (Matthew 24:36) But we do know the form He will come in so we should be ready and recognize Him.
2 Peter 3:9 says: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. We may not know the day or the hour that Jesus will come, but until that time we who know Him and have been encouraged and commissioned by Him should: “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” We are to be those who carry His message and fulfill His desire that all come to repentance.
May our prayer be the prayer of Revelation 22:20-21. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.