Notes on Luke 24:28-53

Luke 24:28‑53  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
A great lesson was taught during the walk to Emmaus. The accuracy and light of the scriptures showed, where men, and even believers, had overlooked much. The Jews had contented themselves with their general testimony to the hopes of the nation and the glory of the kingdom; but they had passed by, as the Lord proved, what was really deeper and now of the most essential importance—the sufferings of Christ, no less than the higher and heavenly part at any rate of the glories which should follow. The Lord condescended to draw the evidence from the written word of the Old Testament, rather than to take His stand upon present facts alone, or His own fresh revelations. But more was needed than the value of scripture thus proved, and this He supplies.
“And they drew near to the village where they were going, and he made as though he would go farther. And they forced him, saying, Abide with us, because it is towards evening and the day is sunk low. And he went in to abide with them. And it came to pass as he was at table with them, having taken the bread, he blessed, and, having broken, gave [it] to them. And their eyes were opened thoroughly, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from them.”
Not that the occasion was the Eucharist, but that He chose the act of breaking the bread, which He had previously made the symbol of His death for us, to be the moment and means of making Himself known to the two disciples. Thus was He to be known henceforward, no longer after the flesh, but dead and risen. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.
Hence, too, the moment He was recognized, He vanished from them. It is no longer a visible Messiah, any more than a living one. He is only rightly seen by the Christian when unseen, yet He must have come and accomplished the mighty work of redemption first. For this purpose He had died, having glorified His Father on the earth and finished the work given Him to do. But this done, He does not yet take His old and predicted place on the throne of David. This awaits the day when Israel shall be brought back repentant and blessed in their own land, under His glorious reign, and all the earth shall reap the fruits to the praise and glory of God the Father. But, for the present, new things have come in. The Redeemer is gone to heaven, not come to Zion, and on earth He is known by His own disciples in the breaking of bread, His presence being exclusively known to faith.
“And they said to one another, Was not our heart burning in us, as he spoke to us on the way, as he opened to us the scriptures? And having risen up that hour, they returned to Jerusalem and found assembled the eleven and those with them, saying, The Lord is indeed risen and hath appeared to Simon. And they related the things on the way, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.” (Ver. 32-35.) As the angel had expressly said, “Go tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark 16), so He appeared to Cephas (1 Cor. 15:55And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: (1 Corinthians 15:5)), then to the twelve. And so it is taught us here, “And while they were talking these things, he himself stood in their midst, and saith to them, Peace to you. But confounded and being frightened, they supposed they beheld a spirit. And he said to them, Why are ye troubled, and wherefore do reasonings rise in your heart? See my hands and my feet that it is I myself; handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones even as ye see me have. And having said this he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they were yet unbelieving for joy and wondering, he said to them, Have ye anything to eat here? And they gave him part of a broiled fish [and of a honeycomb]. And having taken, he ate before them.” It is the Lord Himself, risen from the dead but a real man, with hands and feet, capable of being handled and seen, not a spirit, but a spiritual body. Of this He gave the fullest proof, by proceeding to eat in their presence. As having a body He could eat; as having a spiritual body, He did not need to eat. Thus the resurrection of the body had its glorious attestation in His own person, the needed and weightiest possible support of their faith. Christianity gives an immensely enlarged scope to the body as well as the soul; for our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Ghost as surely as we are bought with a price, and exhortations to Christian holiness are founded on this one wondrous fact. Christ was the great exemplar as man; His body was the temple of God. We are only fitted for it through His redemption.
But, further, there is a message. “And he said unto them, These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while being yet with you, that all that must be fulfilled that is written in the law of Moses and prophets and psalms concerning me. Then he thoroughly opened their understanding to understand the scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and arise from [the] dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the Gentiles beginning at Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but do ye settle in the city, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Ver. 44-49.) It was no new thing for the Lord to disclose His death and resurrection. He had been intimating it from before the transfiguration with increasing plainness; but they had heeded little a truth the need of which they did not feel for themselves and the moral glory of which for God they could not yet see. It was impossible to affirm with truth that it was a surprise to Jesus, or that law, psalms, and prophets had overlooked it, for on this truth of His death and resurrection hang the types as a whole, and this is the deepest burden of the prophets and of the psalmist. But now the suffering Christ was risen from among the dead, and repentance and remission of sins must be preached in His name to all the nations with Jerusalem as the starting-point. What wondrous grace! The nations had slain Him at Jerusalem's instigation, but God is active in His love above all the evil of man or of His own people.
It is well to note however that repentance is preached with remission of sins; nor can we exaggerate its importance if we do not misuse it to depreciate God's work of grace by Jesus Christ our Lord. Many, no doubt, misuse it, and more misunderstand it; but repentance abides a necessity for every soul which looks out of its sins to the Savior. He has finished the work by which comes remission of sins to the believer; but it is not the faith of God's elect where the soul overlooks its sinfulness, where the Holy Spirit does not produce self-judgment by the word of God applied to the conscience. Faith, without such a recognition and self-loathing and confession of our sins and state, is only intellectual and will leave us to lie down in sorrow when we most need solid ground and peace with God. Repentance, on the other hand, is no preparation for faith, but the accompaniment of it, and is alone real where faith is of God. It is deepened too, as faith sees more clearly.
It is well to note also that the promise of the Father is distinct from repentance and remission of sins, as it is again from the opening of the understanding to understand the scriptures. These the disciples had already; they had to wait for the promise of the Father. Till the descent of the Spirit they were not endued with power from on high. Then the Holy Ghost, sent down from heaven, wrought variously to the glory of the Lord.
“And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. And it came to pass, while he was blessing them, he was separated from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they, having done him homage, returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.” (Ver. 50-53.) To that spot outside Jerusalem Jesus had often gone. There was the family that He loved; thither He leads the disciples for the last time on earth, and thence, in the act of blessing, with uplifted hands, departed from them and is borne up into heaven—the risen man, the Lord from heaven. What a contrast with him who fell and all the earth through him, transmitting the curse to his sad descendants! Here it is not the first Adam, but the Last; and as is the Heavenly, such are they also who are heavenly. Filled with peace and joy what could they do but continually praise and bless God, who had, in the second Man, accomplished His own will, though at infinite cost, and perfected them that were sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all? They were, and are, perfected in perpetuity: no less a result than this satisfies God's estimate of the sacrifice of His Son. But assuredly the promise of the Father, when fulfilled, did not make the joy less or the praise more scanty. For He is not only power for testimony, but also for the soul, the One who gives us now the full taste of fellowship and causes worship to ascend to our God and Father in spirit and in truth. But of this the sequel of Luke, commonly called the Acts of the Apostles, is the due and full witness, and there, if the Lord will, we may enter into the detailed account which the Spirit has given us of His work, whether in individuals or in the Church to the glory of the Lord Jesus. Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.