They didn’t even know they were walking with Jesus, as two disciples set out on the Road to Emmaus, discussing the grievous things that had just happened to the Lord following His horrendous crucifixion and death. Let’s look at that interesting walk as recorded in Luke 24:13-34 in the NLT…
That same day two of Jesus' followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles out of Jerusalem. As they walked along, they were talking about everything that had happened. Suddenly, Jesus himself came along and joined them and began walking beside them. But they didn't know who He was because God kept them from recognizing Him.
"You seem to be in a deep discussion about something," He said. "What are you so concerned about?"
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, "You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn't heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days."
"What things?" Jesus asked.
"The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth," they said. "He was a prophet who did wonderful miracles. He was a mighty teacher, highly regarded by both God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders arrested Him and handed Him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified Him. We had thought He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. That all happened three days ago. Then some women from our group of his followers were at His tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said His body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, Jesus' body was gone, just as the women had said."
Then Jesus said to them, "You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn't it clearly predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his time of glory?" Then Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all the Scriptures said about Himself.
By this time, they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus would have gone on, but they begged Him to stay the night with them since it was getting late. So He went home with them. As they sat down to eat, He took a small loaf of bread, asked God's blessing on it, broke it, then gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And at that moment, He disappeared!
They said to each other, "Didn't our hearts feel strangely warm as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?" And within the hour, they were on their way back to Jerusalem, where the eleven disciples and the other followers of Jesus were gathered. When they arrived, they were greeted with the report, "The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter!"
They didn't know who He was because God kept them from recognizing Him. How could they not recognize Jesus? They had been so close to Him as He taught them the scriptures and demonstrated His power to heal and deliver people. When we have close relationships with people, we naturally study them and learn what makes them “tick” --what foods they like, their favorite color, their interests, what bothers them, etc. We memorize their features—freckles, wrinkles, hair, eyes, smile. What happened here?
The same thing happened when Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus as she stood outside His empty tomb and had just finished talking to the angels there. She saw the resurrected Jesus but did not recognize Him until He spoke her name, “Mary.” That was the undeniable, familiar voice of her Teacher, her Master, her Lord. It was so very personal (John 20:11-18.)
Likewise, seven of Christ’s disciples did not recognize Him as He stood on the beach of the Sea of Galilee and asked if they’d caught any fish through the night (John 21:1-14). This, too, was the resurrected Jesus. John was first to recognize Jesus, followed by the other six, and they enjoyed breakfast on the beach with the One they knew and loved so intimately. How many meals must they have shared with Jesus before that breakfast? It was familiar and so very personal to each of them.
The scripture says of the two disciples walking on the Road to Emmaus, "God kept them from recognizing Him [Jesus].” Perhaps by keeping Jesus “undercover,” the Father knew the disciples would be more comfortable sharing what weighed so heavily on their hearts. Sometimes it’s easier to pour out our troubles to a stranger than to family or those closest to us. It can feel less intimidating, and the chances of being quickly judged seem less likely. How moving it must have been for Jesus to listen to His heartbroken friends recount the traumatic events they had just witnessed.
He broke His cover when He sat down to eat with the two disciples. Again, something so familiar and routine as eating a meal together opened their eyes to the One who had broken bread with them before. I wonder if it was in the way He picked up the loaf of bread and handed broken pieces to each of them? One could hardly forget the memory of being served a piece of bread by Jesus Christ Himself! Even when He quoted scriptures about Moses and the prophets, they still didn’t get it. Not until He did an old familiar thing—breaking bread—did He hit the “up close and personal” button with them.
He longs to be “up close and personal” with each of us, too. It happens the more we spend time with Him. His voice becomes recognizable. We find a familiar, comfortable spot to sit in and meditate on His Word, and His Presence comes. The more familiar we become with Him, the better we see Him in everyday life.
Who knew it was Jesus? Those with whom He’d shared regular, familiar, “up close and personal” times. Are you one of those disciples? Let our heart's cry be the words of a popular song by Michael W. Smith: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see You; I want to see You.
© 2023, Chris Custer Werre