Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Discouraged or Delighted?
How do you respond to a tragedy that you simply cannot comprehend? Such was the dilemma for two disciples of Jesus who had witnessed the One they thought would lead them, instead be led to His death on a cross. The unimaginable grief, the pain, the confusion and utter hopelessness would descend like a dark cloud—obscuring thought, reason, and even senses. Cleopas and his companion decide that the only thing left for them after the crucifixion was to go home. They’d no doubt come to Jerusalem with great hope—witnessing the Triumphal entry and Jesus winning round after round with the religious leaders. Then on Thursday night that hope was dashed when they saw their Lord arrested, tied up like a common criminal, tried in several kangaroo courts and then taken to die in the greatest miscarriage of justice ever seen. All hope was lost when the Man they hoped would be King, turned out to be mortal after all—dying on that cross.
Cleopas was likely the husband of Mary (sometimes referred to as the other Mary). Mary had stood with Jesus’ mother Mary, Salome, and Mary Magdalene at the cross, weeping no doubt as Jesus lived His last moments. When it was all over, the group left, despondent and despairing. At some point Cleopas and his friend decide to head home. But as they journey they are met by Someone who at first seems clueless, but in the end turns out to have everything they need to turn their despair into delight.
What I really like about this story is that it’s the perfect metaphor for how we encounter the risen Savior.
13 – 15
What more was there to do? Jesus was dead. No reason to hang around with all the grieving men and women. Might as well just head home. But try as they might, Cleopas and his friend can’t help but talk about what happened—not only the crucifixion but the tall tale some of the women had communicated that Jesus was actually alive. But they were not just talking about it—communing together about the incidents of the last week (the Greek word “to discuss” comes from “to be in communion with”). They were also disputing about it. Perhaps one of them believed the women and other didn’t.
Whatever the case, a man joins them, walking along, as I’m sure was a common experience in a culture that often traversed by foot from one location to another. They don’t know that the Man is actually the very One they are arguing about.
16 – 19a
This to me is fascinating. The resurrected Jesus looks like an ordinary human, but apparently not exactly like He did before.
This reminds me of what Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, who were having a bit of a hard time understanding the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:5 35 “But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have when they come?” 36 Foolish one! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow — you are not sowing the future body, but only a seed, be perhaps of wheat or another grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He wants, and to each of the seeds its own body.”
Perhaps there is more going on here as well. Jesus in His resurrected body could probably easily hide His identity as He does here. For now, He is just an ordinary man. What we want to look for here is when Jesus speaks and acts. This is always when we begin to see just how special He is.
Jesus asks what the dispute is all about. Cleopas answers sarcastically “where have you been—the moon?” So Jesus wants them to tell the story of what they know. He will take it from there.
19b – 25
So there are some interesting things in this section:
- They recognized Jesus as a Prophet (not the Messiah)
- They knew that when He spoke and acted it was powerful and from God
- They saw Him crucified
- They’d “hoped” He was the Messiah (“the ‘One’”) who would “redeem” Israel. In other words, be the conquering King.
- The idea of a suffering Savior had not yet dawned on them
- They’d given up hope as three days had passed (though the Jews didn’t count all lost until Day 4).
- They left amidst the confusion (before Jesus appeared to Peter) and it almost seems like it was just too much for them to handle, so they took off.
26 – 27
Jesus rebukes them as “unwise” and “slow”. He wants to challenge them to engage their minds, not just give into the fog of confusion. He points them to a way out of the fog, and that is to focus on God’s Word.
The first thing He makes clear is that the role of the suffering Savior was in God’s plan from the beginning, if they’d just look at the Scriptures to find it.
So Jesus does just that. He goes through the Old Testament, what the Jews call The Tanach. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52 and 53 may well have been part of the discussion. What a Bible study, right? If anyone knows of a podcast of that study, I’d love to get it on my iPhone J.
And notice what Jesus does – and this is exactly what we need to do as well. He “interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Earlier to the religious leaders Jesus had said: “John 5:39 (HCSB) “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.”
We must interpret Moses in light of Jesus, not Jesus in light of Moses. Jesus is the focal point of the entire Bible.
28 – 32
So at this point they arrive at their destination and Jesus acts as if He’s going to keep going. They are so engaged at this point that they beg Him to come with them. And what has got to be the coolest capper to this story—as Jesus breaks bread their eyes open and they realize it is Jesus. The breaking of bread, of course, is such a great reminder of the Last Supper and Jesus breaking bread of the Passover to represent His body. Once it all makes sense to them and boom! He’s gone. One of the benefits of having a resurrected body, apparently, is the ability to move in and out of the visible dimension.
After He’s gone it’s like they are saying “no wonder our hearts were so thrilled as He spoke—it was Jesus” They go from dejection and depression to burning delight.
33 – 35
This was the first appearance of Jesus recorded in Luke’s gospel. These two guys realize the gift they’ve been given and the importance of this news, so they high-tail it back to Jerusalem right then, though the night was coming.
When they arrive they discover that the Lord also appeared to Peter in the meantime. This appearance isn’t recorded in the gospels, but Paul alludes to it in 1 Corinthians 5:5: “…and that He appeared to Cephas.”
So the two relate their story—emphasizing that Jesus revealed Himself to them during the breaking of bread.
So one of the things I love about this story is how it mirrors how we experience the risen Lord and react to the gospel message. Let’s parse that out:
Current state of confusion
The two men are really down in the dumps. Life has taken their joy and spit out tragedy. That’s how it is for many of us. They’d lost their hope. They are headed home to resume life as best they can. We think that is a bad thing, but in reality, seeing your lack puts you in just the frame of mind that is primed for meeting the Messiah.
A chance meeting
Jesus “happens” to be walking where they are and joins them. It all seems to “normal”; no explosions or pronouncements from on high; no angels or fire from heaven; just a guy starting a conversation. We sometimes expect to be hit over the head with revelation. But the gospel often enters into our life in a very normal way—a conversation, something we hear on the radio, or read or see on TV. It may not come with bells and whistles, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
I’m reminded of what the Lord told the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:7-9 “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Those words, the words of the gospel, are not just words. They are “God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
There are no real chance meetings when it comes to the gospel.
Recognizing a barrier
Jesus called out their unbelief. We need to be in a place where we engage; we realize that in our present state we’ve made a choice—and that is to not believe the gospel.
Jesus then explains that the entire Old Testament is really about Him and that His death, burial, and resurrection is all part of God’s grand plan of salvation. God’s Word, not our opinions, need to take first place when it comes to seriously considering the gospel.
Glimpsing the real Messiah
Finally, it is in the breaking of bread that the reality of who Jesus is dawns on these men. I believe that as we come to grips with the fact that Jesus was broken for our sins, and let the reality of the gospel sink in, that we too will be drawn to Him.