On the road to Emmaus, Jesus chastised two disciples for their “dull minds.” How can we allow God to sharpen our dull minds?
Exodus, chapters 9-11; Luke, chapter 24
The Things About Jesus
On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him. He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast.
The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place over the last few days?” He said to them, “What things?” They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago.
But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”
“Your Dull Minds”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.”
When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So, he went it to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
(Note: the boldface headings are not part of the text)
Explaining the Scriptures
Only Luke’s gospel includes this account. Two disciples – one named Cleopas, the other unnamed – are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of Jesus’s resurrection. None of the lists of the Twelve include the name “Cleopas.” Unless “Cleopas” is a nickname (like “Peter” for Simon, or “Sons of Thunder” for James and John), Cleopas is not one of the Twelve. Because Luke doesn’t name the other disciple, it seems reasonable to assume that these two were followers of Jesus, but not part of the Twelve.
I think that’s important for several reasons. First, the story of the early church was not limited to the work of the Twelve. Throughout his gospel, Luke has pointed to other followers of Jesus. For example, in chapter 8, he says that “some women” were traveling with Jesus and the Twelve. And earlier in chapter 24, the angels said to the women who were at the tomb, “Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee” (24:6).
Second, the fact that Jesus appeared to these two disciples and “explained the scriptures for us” (verse 32) shows us that understanding Scripture was not only for the Twelve. That means that it’s not only for pastors and teachers today. When we remember that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, who leads us into the truth (John 16:13), we understand that the Scriptures are explained for us as well.
“Your Dull Minds”
With all the things that have happened over the last few days, we might think it excusable that these disciples didn’t immediately recognize Jesus. And Jesus doesn’t chastise them for not recognizing him. He does, however, rebuke them for not understanding what those events meant. Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?
The angels had reminded the women about what Jesus told them back in Galilee. Now, Jesus reminds these disciples of what the Scriptures had prophesied about the Messiah. They referenced “Jesus of Nazareth”; he talks about “the Christ.” They said, “We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel.” Jesus showed them that he is the One – not only to redeem Israel, but to redeem all mankind. And after he explained these things, and he blessed and broke the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
Application: Dull Minds
How many times do we fail to recognize Jesus at work because of our dull minds? And why are our minds “dull”? We need to keep our minds “sharp” by reading Scripture, and by allowing the Spirit of truth to lead us into the truth. It’s easy for us to think we understand everything we need to know. But how could we ever know everything there is to know about the Almighty Creator God? How could we completely understand his ways, and his purposes?
We have two possible responses to this. We can say, “I can never understand everything, so I might as well not try. What’s the point?” That’s why some people have dull minds. The other response is to say, “I can never understand everything, but God can help me to understand what I need to know today.” The difference is a matter of trust. If we don’t trust God to show us what we need to know, we rely on ourselves. When that happens, despair is bound to set in – because deep down we know we can’t understand it all.
But when we trust God to lead us, we continue to listen, to read, and to learn. We can’t know everything, but we can know enough for today. And we trust God that as we learn what we need to know today, he is preparing us for tomorrow. The Spirit of truth, whom God has given to us, will explain the scriptures for us, just as Jesus did for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Father, thank you for reminding us that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Just as Jesus “explained the scriptures” for these two disciples, the Spirit explains them for us. As we open your Word each day, help us to open our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s leading. Sharpen our dull minds each day as we embrace your Word and your way. Help us to know your will, and do your will, that your kingdom may come in ever greater measure. Amen.