One of my very favorite sections of Scripture is Luke 24:13-35, about the two disciples encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus and the amazing table fellowship there. I especially like to return to this during the Easter season. As I was reading from there this morning, I found another interesting theme.
Arthur A. Just Jr. has written a fabulous book on the Emmaus encounter called The Ongoing Feast. I have written several reflections that I’ve had while reading it. This morning, I ruminated on this theme of knowing. Just reminds the reader of Luke’s intention for writing his gospel:
Knowledge of the kerygma is set forth as the purpose of the gospel in the prologue of Luke (“that you may know the truth concerning the things which you have been informed”)…The lack of knowledge or understanding is a problem continually confronted by the disciples (Luke 18:34—“they did not grasp what was said”…; and Luke 24:18—“does not know the things that have happened there in these days”…); and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Luke 19:42—“would that even today you knew the things that make for peace”…; and Luke 19:44—“because you did not know the time of your visitation”…; and the true knowledge of the presence of the risen Christ in their midst that comes to the Emmaus disciples through the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:35—“and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread”…). (82-83)
Obviously, we all are familiar with the fact that the two disciples, who were getting the heck out of Dodge, did not recognize Jesus when he approached them. He was considered a stranger. For a time their eyes were kept from identifying Jesus. He asks them about their conversation, and they really think he is an outsider for not knowing the recent events, saying, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (24:18, emphasis mine). When they explained how the One that they hoped would be their Redeemer was crucified, and was now reported missing and alive by angels, Christ condescends once more to explain to them how this Redeemer has fulfilled all Scripture.
Think about that! Jesus Christ was walking right beside these two unsuspecting men, telling them how all the Scriptures pointed to him!
As magnificent as it is to have the Sermon on the Mount recorded, I greedily wish I had these words spoken by Christ. I believe that is the job of our pastors every Sunday—to expound how a particular section of Scripture points directly to Christ and his redemptive work, to give us the gospel afresh in each passage of Scripture, revealing our great Savior within the sacred pages of his Word.
The disciples still do not recognize Jesus until they are at the table, where Jesus has now made the move from stranger to host, when he blesses the bread, breaks it, and gives it to them (24:30). Immediately thereafter, Jesus mysteriously vanishes, and the disciples look at one another saying, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (v.32). At this point they are booking it back to Jerusalem, they find the eleven, and share how the Christ was made known to them in the breaking of the bread (v.35).
This theme of knowing Christ in Luke also reminds me of the prayer of Jesus that we have recorded in John 17. In it, Jesus prays, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Knowing God is an eternal matter, and his Word testifies to the Son. Jesus reprimanded the two traveling disciples for not understanding the Scriptures. And yet he graciously condescended, not only in preaching the Word to them, but by ratifying it in the breaking of the bread. They see then that they were the strangers. In a sense, this means of grace is also a proleptic meal, the breaking of the bread representing the breaking in of the new creation, pointing to the eschatological meal that we will enjoy on that great Day of consummation. Our response should be the same as the disciples, being sent out with burning hearts, eager to share our knowledge, and invite others to the table.
Just illustrates how Luke’s theme of knowing reaches its climax in the breaking of the bread. There the eyes of the disciples were opened. This encourages me in anticipation for that Day when all believers will all be joined together at that great feast on the new heavens and new earth, with burning hearts, beholding the beatific vision of the Christ. In the meantime, Christ is opening eyes to see and ears to hear, changing hearts, by these ordinary means of the preached Word and the breaking of bread. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!