A couple of you have asked me why I am calling the Two, Cleopas and his mate. Simply because we don’t know if it is Cleopas and another male or Cleopas and his wife. So I figure if I call them Cleopas and his mate then I cover both possibilities. That’s all, nothing deep. Another matter that has some of you puzzled is how Luke can say the Eleven were still gathered together? Either Luke or John can be accused of inaccuracies. You can’t have Thomas missing and still call them The Eleven. Twelve have become Eleven after Judas was taken from them. Now Thomas was missing according to John, so how can they be the Eleven? They are the Terrified Ten. How can we account for this inaccuracy? The Twelve was used as a set term referring to twelve disciples who were with Jesus. Whether they were all together or not they were referred to as The Twelve. Now it seems The Twelve have become The Eleven. The Eleven appears to be used as a term for the original disciples, minus Judas. It matters not whether all of the eleven are present; they are still referred to as The Eleven. Besides The Eleven are soon to be The Twelve again when Matthias is chosen as a replacement.
Now let’s turn our attention to the interaction between the two and the Eleven when Cleopas and his mate return. The Eleven and the others say, "The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” How can Mark say “no one believed them” when they say, "The Lord has really [ontos] risen”? Seemingly Jesus appeared to Peter in between the time Cleopas and his mate set off for Emmaus and before they returned again. The flow of the story through this final part of Luke’s Gospel is filled with doubt. It is doubt after doubt. From the Scriptures the disciples ought to have known what would happen at the end of the story. The Holy Word of God was filled with all the clues. Jesus spells out the details to Cleopas and his mate on the way to Emmaus. He ties everything together for them and explains how it all fits. They don’t think for a moment of the danger of going back to Jerusalem at that time of night, nor do they take time to finish their dinner. The moment Jesus disappears, the two Emmausites get back on the road to Jerusalem. They know they have an important task to do. They know the condition of the group of disciples in Jerusalem and they have been given the antedote via Jesus' explanation using the Scriptures to their hearts. So they head straight back to tell the group what they themselves know.
When the Two stand to tell what they know, their story contrasts with all that has gone before it. Interestingly the group of disciples tell them Jesus has INDEED risen, but Mark has told us no one believed. The disciples are saying the right words but it seems they are empty from what Mark tells us. Despite the fact that Jesus has appeared to Peter that is not enough to lift them over the hump of their doubt. We don’t
know any of the details concerning Jesus’ appearance to Peter except that it happened. However we can discern the difference between the disciples’ reaction to the appearance to Peter and Mark’s summation that no one believed after the Two tell what happened to them, which was after Jesus’ appearance to Peter. As I said yesterday there is something going on here that doesn’t ring true. Notice how Jesus appears once to the Two but keeps appearing to someone from the Jerusalem group. Mark tells us that after the report of the Two “no one believed them”. Yet before they started their report the response of the disciples indicated they knew for sure. How? Because Jesus had appeared to Peter. What is behind all of this doubt.
I left you in the previous Gem with the question: Where are you on this continuum of trust in Jesus? Does your actual position surprise you? If indeed you took the time to assess it. Do you understand what is going on here? Trust and belief in Jesus is very personal. It is not something that occurs in a group. Every soul must work through their faith and decide for themselves whether they can trust Jesus or not. That is what the purpose of the on going saga of the disciples belief is all about. Do you understand what you read in His Word? Do you trust what you read in His Word and believe that it is true? Or do you vacillate between faith and trust; doubt and unbelief? That is what Luke is leading us through in his gospel. John does the same thing. John’s gospel looks really honestly at whether we really do believe or not. As disciples we can make grand statements about our belief when in reality it is wavering. The disciples after they hear Peter’s testimony, seem to become strong again only to lose their grip on their faith a short time later.
We will combine Luke’s account with John’s account in a subsequent Gem. But bottom line the point of all this is where their faith is at in reality? You will see in John’s account of Thomas’ struggle that it comes down to Thomas wanting the proof before he will believe and John adds the discussion surrounding that. Notice that the appearances are for one person who then tells the others. But the overriding question is will they trust the witness of the one they know? The first is the testimony of the women in terms of what they saw. Then it is Mary Magdalene and her encounter with Jesus. Then it is Peter, but it is always reported encounters. People telling other people of what happened to them. Faith to be real has to be personal.
That is why confusion reigns. One minute they are up and the next minute they are down. I hear what they said at first that they are sure the Lord has risen because He appeared to Peter. But an appearance to Peter is not enough for me. For that reason I agree with Mark and figure there is still as yet unbelief among them. That is proved in that Mark says after hearing the report of the Two they still did not believe. But notice what Luke has done here after his careful research into all of this. He juxtaposes the report of the Two with the third appearance of Jesus. “As they were saying this . . . Jesus Himself was suddenly standing there among them.” Now for the first time Jesus appears to all of them together and says to them. "Why are you frightened?” "Why are your hearts filled with doubt?” As I said in the last Gem I agree with Mark and with Jesus summation of the situation. Despite their grand claims they are still frightened and devoid of trust. Trust in what they have heard Jesus say, trust in what they have heard the women say and trust in what they have heard from Peter. Given the position of women in Jewish society it is unlikely they would just accept what the women had to say. Even more so if it comes at first from Mary Magdalene. But from Peter, surely you can trust what he has to say and the factuality of Jesus' appearance to him. Ah but was it real or was it an apparition, born out by the use of the word “ghost”? Despite all this happening they are still floundering in faith. It is perfectly understandable that they were startled. That would be normal. What they are witnessing is not left brain evidence. This is from right brain perception. But they are more that just startled, they are frightened.
The construction of the sentence with both verbs working in tandem is a strong Greek statement of their fear. Oh it is watered down to read “startled” but let’s call a spade a spade and say they were scared witless. [Ptoeo] means terrified, frightened, alarmed and startled. [Emphobos] means to be terrified, frightened, consumed with fear, wrapped in fear or maybe we should say wracked with fear. The fact that these two verbs are put together makes a very strong statement as to the nature of their fear. Out of that fear comes the statement “The Lord has really risen. He has appeared to Peter.” You can almost hear the fear and doubt oozing out of the statement.
Jesus chooses the perfect moment to appear before them all - at the end of the report from Cleopas and his mate. It appears that these two have excitedly shared their report, much like the women did earlier in the day. But Mark tells us the group are still left with their doubt and fear. Notice I have called this Gem the perfect tell and show. Normally we say Show and Tell when it comes to kids' reports at school. In this case the Tell comes first and then the Show to back up the Tell. It is like what the Two have to say is so important that Jesus times the moment of His third appearance to all of them perfectly to add weight to what the Two have just finished telling them. The story is building precept upon precept, line upon line. Now we must move into the rest of what Luke has to serve up to us in the next Gem. In the meantime be pondering these things in your heart and assessing your progress along the road to faith at the same time. Do you realise that is what the Encounter on the Road to Emmaus is all about? The Emmaus Road is the Road to Faith.
Trust and belief in Jesus is very personal. It is not something that occurs in a group. Every soul must work through their faith and decide for themselves whether they can trust Jesus or not. Ian
You can’t learn to trust God by hearing how your friend trusts Him. Take the step of faith and trust for yourself.
Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. Martin Luther King, Jr
Want to worry less? Then pray more. Rather than look forward in fear, look upward in faith. Max Lucado
Every time your faith is put on trial, your character is placed on the witness stand. AR Bernard
When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn't solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.
Faith Is Not The Absence Of Fear. It's The Divine Confidence That Causes Me To Forget The Reason Why I Ever Thought I Would Never Make It. Robb Thompson