And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus ….Luke 24:13
In reading the accounts of all the different appearances of Christ after His resurrection, it becomes plain to us, that some change had taken place in the appearance of Jesus, enough to cause the disciples to hesitate to declare that it is He, yet not enough to leave any permanent doubt as to His identity. In the garden Mary Magdalene was so absorbed in her sorrow, that she failed at first to see who Jesus was. But when her name was spoken, and she turned and fixed her eye upon Christ, the recognition was complete. To the women by the way, to whom next he showed Himself, His very greeting revealed Him, and left no room for doubting that it was He. They held Him by the feet, too, for a moment, as they worshipped, and got the evidence of touch as well as sight to convince them of His bodily presence. That same evening, in the upper chamber, the disciples were assembled. They could not be taken by surprise. They were prepared by the report of Mary Magdalene, of the women, of Peter, of the two disciples from Emmaus, to believe that He was alive; yet when Jesus stood in their midst, they supposed that they had seen a spirit; so troubled were they at His sight, so doubtful were they even as they looked at Him, that He had to say to them, “Why are ye troubled and why do thoughts arise in your heart? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have and still further to remove all doubt, He asked them for some meat, and He took the piece of broiled fish and the honeycomb, and did eat them in their presence. It was, no doubt the sudden appearance of Christ in the midst of them, while the doors of the chamber remained unopened, which, in part, begot the belief that it was a spirit that stood before them. But there was also something in the changed appearance of Christ to sustain this belief. This is evident from what is told us of His next appearance by the lake side of Galilee. John recognized Him from the boat; but when they had all landed and gathered around Him, “None of them, “it is said, “durst ask Him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.” But the desire to put this question, arose from a passing doubt, and this doubt rose from some change in His appearance. The resurrection body of Christ had passed through a stage or two in its transition from the natural into the spiritual body; from its condition as nailed upon the cross, to its glorified condition as now upon the throne. The flesh and blood, which cannot inherit the kingdom, was still there, yet so modified as to be no longer subject to the material laws and conditions of the earthy.
There was something special in the instance of the two disciples travelling to Emmaus. Two or three hours were spent in close and earnest conversation, without their once suspecting that it was He. He purposely concealed Himself until the work of instruction was complete.
A stranger though Jesus is to them, they do not hesitate to confess their faith in Him as a prophet mighty in words and deed. But their hope that it was He who should have redeemed Israel had been blasted by His crucifixion. They had so hoped that it was He. For they loved God’s people and truly loved Jehovah and thus were yearning for new tokens of His mercy and favor—the redemption of their people. Their fancying that their hope had been vain tells us that they were ignorant respecting the true character of God’s kingdom and its King. Christ was not standing out in their minds as the Lamb of God that taketh away, that had taken away, the sin of the world. They understood not that He had to suffer these things, and to enter into His glory. The redemption which they in common with all God’s people were hoping for they contemplated as deliverance from the yoke of the oppressor, in this instance the Romans. Their ignorance can be explained but not excused. In the past Israel’s salvation had always assumed this form. When they forsook Him, His wrath would burn against them. Then the enemy would enter their borders to rob and kill. But as often as they would repent of their apostasy, He would forgive them and bring deliverance. This would again be to them the token that they again walked in the light of His countenance. The disciples had also a wrong conception of the kingdom that Christ had come to establish. Their conception of it was earthy. It was to be, so they imagined, a kingdom with an earthy appearance, thus with an appearance identical to that of the Israelitish state or commonwealth to which they belonged. They realized not that this commonwealth was but shadow—a shadow of the heavenly. Their ignorance finds its explanation, at least in part, in the circumstance that they had not yet the heavenly as the direct object of their vision. And they could not have, as the heavenly had not yet appeared. The view therefore that the expectation of the disciples of the Lord was indicative of sheer carnality is wrong. The disciples—all of them—were, as to the heart of their disposition, true believers. What they yearned for in the final instance is not the earthy but God. Hence, what they had need of knowing is that God loved them, loved His people. And because, so they thought, the fresh token of this love was to be His delivering His people from the yoke of an earthy oppressor, it was to this deliverance, and to the coming of the promised deliverer, that they were looking forward. And therefore they had so trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.
Now it is true, of course, that what they were expecting—the restoration of the kingdom of God as to its earthy form—also appealed to sinful flesh. In the kind of kingdom they were expecting their flesh could and did greatly interest itself. Having once attached themselves to Christ, the disciples were looking forward with carnal eagerness to their being raised to positions of prominence next to Him in His kingdom. And each had his heart set on the place of highest honor. Yet, they truly loved Him and therefore clave to Him, despite the fact that He was continually blasting their false messianic hopes through His instruction. They, the apostles, clave to Him, except the Judas who betrayed Him. But he was a child of the devil. He could not endure to be corrected, because he had all his affections set solely upon the things on earth.
To the two disciples that “went that same day to the village called Emmaus,” Christ Himself drew near, because, being true lovers of God and of Zion, they were sad, and therefore could be and had need of being instructed. Their erring was a matter not so much of the heart as of the head. They were interested not in maintaining themselves in their false conceptions, but in knowing the truth about Christ. They therefore could be corrected. By the mercy of God, they were susceptible to the truth. “And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Yet He did not spare them. “O fools and slow of heart to believe,” He says to them. Slow of heart, indeed, and difficult to convince had they been, who, after such clear declarations of His own beforehand, that He should be delivered upon to the rulers, and suffer many things at their hands, and be crucified and rise again the third day, had nevertheless remained so obstinate in their unbelief. Yet Christ wounds but to heal. He rebukes the unbelief, but instantly proceeds to remove its grounds. The one great, misleading prejudice of the disciples had been their belief that the path of the promised Messiah was only to be one of triumph and glory. To correct that error, it was only required that they should be made to see that the predicted triumph and glory were alone to be reached through the dark valley of suffering and death. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into glory?” And He expounded to them in all the Scriptures concerning Himself. And while He talked with them, their hearts burned within them, burned with the new hope and joy which the Scriptures which He opened to them and was applying to their heart, kindled in their heart.