Believing Isn’t Always Seeing

Things can change in an instant.

When Jesus died at Calvary, so too did the disciples’ hope for a Messiah. With no reason to stay in Jerusalem, a heavyhearted pair sets out for Emmaus. Unbeknownst to them, the journey is about to become a guided tour through God’s Word, led by none other than the Word. But not until they reach their destination and break bread together are their eyes finally opened.

 

Read

First, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth available in this passage. Give yourself permission to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. Above all, trust the Lord. He’s the best teacher.

Key Passage: Luke 24:1-53

 

Background

The disciples’ hopes are crushed when Jesus, mutilated and mocked, takes His last breath on the cross. Fear of being implicated by association adds to their despondency, and they spend that bleak weekend shut away in the upper room (John 20:19).

 

Reflect

Even before dawn on the third day, the two Marys, Joanna, and others dash to the tomb, only to be intercepted by supernatural visitors.

  • What does the women’s presence at the tomb, with burial spices in hand, indicate about their intentions and expectations? Or put another way: How do their actions convey what they’ve put their faith in?

  • Consider how the angels subtly confront the group’s unbelief with a rhetorical question: “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). Now think about your own life—in what ways do your actions line up with what God has promised? Do you typically find yourself acting on the basis of your hopes or your fears?

  • In that culture, women had very little power and even less respect—legally, for example, the testimony of a woman was inadmissible in court. So it’s not exactly surprising that the male disciples dismiss the women’s story as “nonsense” (Luke 24:11). How might this apply to your personal experience—in other words, what kind of people are you prone to disregard? Considering that the women’s story turns out to be not simply good news but the Good News, what messages from God might you potentially be ignoring because the messengers don’t seem credible?

 

Continuing the Story

That same day, two disciples leave Jerusalem for Emmaus and along the way are joined by an unexpected companion.

What messages from God might you potentially be ignoring because the messengers don’t seem credible?

  • Why do you think Jesus keeps the two men from recognizing Him?

  • Of the trio, who is in control of the conversation? Considering that the exchange doesn’t open the men’s eyes, why do you suppose Jesus takes so much time to explain Scripture (Luke 24:27)?

  • The two disciples have apparently been intending to spend the night in Emmaus (Luke 24:28-29), but after the Lord reveals Himself, they abruptly rush back to Jerusalem that same night. How is this sudden about-face following their encounter with Jesus a metaphor for repentance?

  • These disciples were likely in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and it’s possible their walk to Emmaus was part of a journey home. Think about how Jesus’ return to life impacted your own salvation experience—if His body had remained in the tomb, would you have gone back to your old life and way of living? How did His resurrection change your course?

 

Reflect

Invigorated by the divine encounter, the two disciples hurry back to Jerusalem to tell the others. As they all excitedly exchange stories, Jesus appears in their midst.

  • Keep in mind this group has just declared that Jesus appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34), so for the third time in 24 hours they have received confirmation of the resurrection. Why, then, do you suppose they are still in disbelief when Jesus appears (Luke 24:38; Luke 24:40)?

  • For the third time in 24 hours they have received confirmation of the resurrection.

  • Notice how Luke specifies that the disciples believe they are seeing a spirit (Luke 24:37). How does Jesus seek to correct their assumption (Luke 24:39-42)?

  • Consider the importance of this moment in light of what the apostle John later wrote: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 1:7). How does this scripture illuminate the Lord’s insistence that the disciples experience His resurrected body?

  • Compare this later encounter with the one in Emmaus. How are they similar? Different? In terms of faith in Jesus, what do the two incidents show you about the connection between scriptural exposition and intimate experience?

  • Faith isn’t just a mental exercise in connecting the dots. Because Christ has risen, we delight not in religious principles, but in a real person.

 

Revisit

Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.

Walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a journey of about 7 miles, would have taken the disciples around three hours—plenty of time for deep discussion about the events that had recently transpired. And they would need a good amount of time, considering who joined them and how much He had to share.

Our love doesn’t have to be urgent or demanding. Follow Jesus’ lead and relax.

  • Think about these two disciples’ journey in terms of direction and decision—they headed to Emmaus of their own volition. When Jesus joined them on the path they had already chosen, did He attempt to change their destination? And what about when they abruptly rushed back to Jerusalem—was that the result of their choice or His command?

  • How does this inform your view on what it means to accompany someone on his or her faith journey? Have you ever found yourself trying to compel people to change direction? Or are you comfortable taking the long way around with them?

  • Reread Luke 24:17 and Luke 24:21. How would you describe the disciples’ emotional state? In what way do you think their grief shaped their conversation with Jesus on the road? Consider that even though the Messiah Himself explained the entire arc of Scripture to them, it wasn’t enough to open their eyes to the reality of His resurrection. While it’s unclear what exactly lifted the veil from their eyes, there’s one thing we know for sure: It happened at a table. What does that tell you about the significance of connection and hospitality when it comes to sharing the good news?

  • Being zealous for the truth or concerned for people’s salvation can rush our interactions with them. But look at Jesus—our love doesn’t have to be urgent or demanding. Follow His lead and relax. You’ve got time for a divine detour.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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What happens to my notes

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.

2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,

3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing;

5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, Why do you seek the living One among the dead?

6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,

7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."

8 And they remembered His words,

9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.

11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.

12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.

13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.

14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place.

15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.

16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.

17 And He said to them, What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad.

18 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?"

19 And He said to them, What things?" And they said to Him, The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people,

20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.

21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.

22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning,

23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.

24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see."

25 And He said to them, O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!

26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?"

27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther.

29 But they urged Him, saying, Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over." So He went in to stay with them.

30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.

31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.

32 They said to one another, Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?"

33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them,

34 saying, The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon."

35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, Peace be to you."

37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.

38 And He said to them, Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."

40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, Have you anything here to eat?"

42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish;

43 and He took it and ate it before them.

44 Now He said to them, These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."

45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

46 and He said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,

47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

48 You are witnesses of these things.

49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."

50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.

51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

53 and were continually in the temple praising God.

19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, Peace be with you."

5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, Why do you seek the living One among the dead?

11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.

27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther.

29 But they urged Him, saying, Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over." So He went in to stay with them.

34 saying, The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon."

38 And He said to them, Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.

39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."

40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, Have you anything here to eat?"

42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish;

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

17 And He said to them, What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad.

21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.

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