6 April 2024

Revealed on the road

Lieutenant Jennifer Barker

Lieutenant Jennifer Barker uncovers how Jesus restores faith and hope.

Key text

The story of Jesus appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus is undoubtedly, indisputably and, above all else, one of revelation – an eye-opening, life-transforming encounter. However, the revelation in the encounter is not immediate. It’s gradual. We see Jesus peeling back the layers of their non-recognition until, finally, they understand who he is. Jesus’ identity is central, not only for the disciples in the story but for us too.

A wise officer once commented that this passage contains some of the saddest words in the Bible: ‘We had hoped’ (v21). Followers of Jesus had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel, a hope now gone following his crucifixion.

Cleopas and his companion explain that Jesus’ body is missing from the tomb: ‘Our women amazed us... They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive’ (vv22 and 23). Now that is a ‘ta-da’ revelation!

However, as far as they know, no one has actually seen Jesus. They don’t know what to think but, as they head away from Jerusalem, they clearly feel the situation is hopeless.

Pause and reflect

  • When have you been in a situation that felt hopeless?
  • Have you ever taken a different road because of a hopeless situation?
A photo of an eye reflected in a mirror

Luke 24:32

They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

Read Luke 24

It’s easy to enjoy the irony of these downcast disciples telling Jesus that no one has seen him, while looking right at him. We might ask how they could not recognise him. We might fail to realise that we, too, can walk a hopeless road without looking for – or even expecting
– Jesus to be at our side. 

We might think we can work it out on our own, or imagine that Jesus can only act within the limits of our imagination, fear or desire. Jesus, however, is above all these human failings and frailties. He sees us even if we don’t see him and, through his grace, he restores our sight and transforms our understanding of who he is.

Pause and reflect

  • What has prevented you from seeing Jesus in hopeless situations?
  • What can you do to ensure that you look up before looking down?

From the moment Jesus appears on the road, we – as privileged readers with the advantage of the Bible and 2,000 years of theological reflection – are waiting for the big reveal. Instead, it slowly unfolds and, because of the nature of revelation, continues to unfold. The Emmaus encounter is not an isolated, incidental encounter – it started a creation ago.

The disciples summarise the story as they have known it so far and it is full of revelation. Jesus, through his teaching and ministry had shown himself to be ‘a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people’ (v19). Then he had been arrested. After that, he was crucified, which was unthinkable and irreversible. Next came the revelation that his body had been moved. Now comes a report of a vision of angels saying that Jesus is alive. Yet there have been no actual sightings or encounters. All this makes no sense to them.

Of course, we know these disciples are mid-revelation. They, however, don’t. We, too, often experience God’s revelation in stages. If we were to have everything revealed to us at once, we would scarcely be able to take it in, never mind understand it. It is only after one thing that another makes sense or we understand why one thing had to happen for another to then take place – like a divine dot-to-dot.

At the end of our study passage, we see the disciples return to Jerusalem, joining the revelation dots for everyone else.

Pause and reflect

  • How have you experienced God’s unfolding revelation in your life?
  • Are you currently experiencing it?
  • What were some moments in your divine dot-to-dot that brought understanding into focus?

Revelation is not an easy process. For the disciples on the road to Emmaus it is a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. Imagine, Jesus jumping out at them and saying: ‘Ta-da! Here, I am!’ They would immediately recognise him and return to Jerusalem declaring: ‘Hallelujah! Jesus is alive! We have seen him!’

But it’s important to note that, through God’s gradual revelation of Jesus and his identity, there comes real understanding, growth and transformation within the disciples. They express this: ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ (v32). Something happens to them in their encounter with Jesus. The moment of confirmation, affirmation and understanding comes with the breaking of bread in his presence.

As we go through each moment of revelation – and grow in our own understanding, faith and knowledge – we are also transformed, affirmed and grown in wisdom. Ours is not a blind faith in a distant Lord and Saviour. It is one in which the apostle Paul says: ‘We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 New King James Version).

Pause and reflect

  • How has God’s revelation transformed you?
  • Think about growth points in your journey of faith. What revelation accompanied them?

Bible study by

A photo of Lieutenant Jennifer Barker

Lieutenant Jennifer Barker

Corps Officer, Kilburn

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