After touching Jesus’ hands and side and believing, Jesus said to Thomas, “because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29). There is a particular blessing in hearing the good news that Jesus is risen from the dead and believing. In fact, while sight has a good function, it is not the controlling or foundational faculty. What you believe colors what you can or will be able to see. Living by faith doesn’t mean living in an imaginary world; it means living with the certain knowledge that some things are true even though you can’t see them and with that knowledge seeing everything more clearly.
“And behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus…” (Lk. 24:13-35)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Luke sets up this story by highlighting the uncertainty of the women and the disciples having found the tomb empty and hearing a message from angels (Lk. 24:1-12). With that uncertainty and unbelief lingering, two other disciples began walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus that same day, talking about everything that had happened, and Jesus joined them, but they didn’t recognize Him (Lk. 24:13-16). Jesus asked them what they were talking about and why they were sad, and they asked Him if He was the only pilgrim in town who didn’t know what had happened to Jesus of Nazareth (Lk. 24:17-24).
Jesus responds, chiding them for their unbelief, and proceeds to explain from Moses and all the prophets that the Messiah had to suffer before being glorified (Lk. 24:25-27). When the disciples drew near their destination, they urged Jesus to come with them, and when He sat down with them, and blessed and broke bread and gave it to them, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus, and He vanished (Lk. 24:28-31). Making sense of the glorious Bible study on the road, the two immediately returned to Jerusalem and told the others who had also heard that Peter had seen Jesus (Lk. 24:32-35).
THE BLIND ADAMSON FAMILY
Instead of grabbing the shoulders of Cleopas and the other disciple and looking them in the face and saying, “It’s me! It’s me!” or saying, “Oh fools and slow of heart to recognize that I’m standing right in front of you,” Jesus locates the foolishness and unbelief in their failure to remember and believe the Bible (Lk. 24:25). We have a hard time believing this, but one of the central messages of Scripture is that we cannot see or understand anything rightly apart from God and His Word. While the serpent promised a greater vision and wisdom, when the eyes of Adam and Eve were “opened,” they actually became blind and foolish (Gen. 3:5-7).
This doesn’t mean unbelievers can’t see or understand anything; nor does this mean that Christians magically see everything clearly. But it means that because of sin and separation from God everything is distorted, disoriented, and muddled. We desperately need the spectacles of Scripture and the Lasik surgery of the Spirit. Jesus says that having unconfessed sin is like having a log in your eye (Mt. 7:3-5). This is one of the reasons Jesus heals so many blind people during His ministry. He came to give sight to the blind Adamson family (Eph. 4:18).
MOSES, THE PROPHETS, AND RESURRECTION PROOF
So beginning with Moses, Jesus explains how the Scriptures teach that the Messiah had to suffer before coming into His glory. Jesus may have begun in the Garden with the Fall and promise of the seed of the woman and the skins that covered their shame: there needed to be blood shed by a substitute so that Adam and Eve could live. He may have talked about the covenant promises pictured in circumcision, barren wives conceiving, Isaac received back from the dead in a type, Joseph’s suffering and glory – all stories of human weakness and death turned to strength and life. He could have traced the same themes in the Exodus, the sacrifices, the bronze serpent, the story of Job, many of the Psalms (16, 22, 69, 116), and prophecies of the Messiah (e.g. Is. 53, Jer. 20, Zech. 3). The Old Testament is all about Jesus.
This story illustrates what Jesus taught in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, which is about the rich man’s greed blinding him until it was too late and he died and found himself in torment in Hades (Lk. 16). When the rich man asks if someone might be sent back to warn his five living brothers, Abraham says that they have “Moses and the prophets.” And when the rich man argues that they would be more likely to repent if someone rose from the dead, Abraham says, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Lk. 16:31). If you will not believe God’s Word, then you will not believe even if someone rises from the dead (cf. Jn. 11:43-53, Mt. 28:11-15). Believing is seeing.
Cleopas might be the same as “Clopas,” the husband of another Mary (Jn. 19:25), and they may be the two disciples going to Emmaus. Early tradition said that the two disciples may have been Clopas and his son Simeon, who was the second leader of the church in Jerusalem (after James). Another early tradition suggests that this Clopas was the brother of Joseph (father of Jesus), which would make the lack of recognition even more striking: not recognizing his own nephew.
Regardless, there’s a striking echo and reversal of Genesis 3 in this story: whereas two people ate food sinfully and their eyes were “opened” and they became ashamed of their nakedness and afraid (Gen. 3:6-7). Here, in Luke, we have two disciples filled with fear and shame, not seeing clearly, but in the breaking and eating of the bread with Jesus, their eyes are truly opened. While they only see Jesus for a moment, they suddenly see everything very clearly.
This story is one reason why the Reformation tradition has argued for the Word and Sacrament to go together and in that order. Hearing and believing the Word is the prerequisite for seeing and communing with Jesus rightly. But even then, the breaking of bread has a way of revealing what the Word says. What is it about the breaking of the bread? It’s receiving the gifts of God, giving thanks, and sharing them, and so seeing them by faith for what they really are.
Eyes are powerful gifts, but they are not simple mechanisms. Our eyes are loaded with biases and blind spots, prejudices and presuppositions. You need Jesus to show Himself to You in the Word and breaking of bread so that you can see Him crucified and risen, and by seeing Him, see your spouse, your family, your roommate, your neighbors, your job, your everything rightly.