8 May 2011

Luke 24:13-35

"And he said to them, 'What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?' They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, 'Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place in these days?'" (vv. 17-18)


Everyone faces grief in different ways. Some need to be in the company of people and stay indoors. Others, such as Cleopas and his unnamed companion needed to get out and do something. It appears that Friday's crucifixion had all but crushed their spirits as they walked to Emmaus. On the journey they met an enigmatic stranger who asked a series of significant questions. Their response was to treat him with a degree of scorn and surprise (verse 18) and to emphasise the point, Luke the Gospel writer says, "they stood still". They were literally stopped in their tracks by this stranger.

In response he asked a two word question: "What things?" (verse 19). This elicited a statement of their beliefs, aspirations, crushing loss and the rumour of an empty tomb. Now it is the turn of the stranger to describe them as "foolish" and "slow" (verse 25). The tables are reversed. He offered a shift in their understanding of the Jewish Messiah. Contemporary hopes anticipated a Messiah in the mould of King David who would lead them to military and political independence. Through a reinterpretation of Scripture the two disciples had to redefine their theology.

The crucial point of the story turns on their insistence that he should stay the night. Is Luke saying that faith came from the individuals' articulated desire? What is clear is that their insistence was crucial. Then words gave way to action. Jesus was eventually recognized in the four-fold action of 'taking, giving, breaking and sharing'.

Cleopas and his companion experienced three topsy-turvy moments:

  • their understanding of messiahship
  • their return to Jerusalem
  • their emotions changed from despair to joy.

It would seem that on that first Easter Day encountering Jesus turned everything around.


To Ponder

Jesus used questions to engage the two disciples. Are you engaged by questions?

What is there in your life that God needs to turn topsy-turvy?

How do you react to grief and how does that differ from your friends or family?

Bible notes author

The Revd Tony Morling

Tony ministers in the Methodist Forest Circuit of London. He has a particular interest in making connections between faith and contemporary culture.