Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?”
This is fast becoming one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It starts out as a tragic story of two heartbroken, grief-stricken, and confused followers of Jesus. We see them quickly getting out of town. While the trajectory of the Gospel of Luke is Jesus headed to Jerusalem and a cross, here are two of his disciples headed away from Jerusalem and a cross. They are on their way to Emmaus.
Then curiously, mysteriously, the risen Lord Jesus joins these fleeing men in a way that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Jesus falls right in step with them, listening to them, and connecting with them on their journey. As they talked with Jesus the body language of the two men says all that we need to know: “they stood still looking sad.” They explain to this “stranger” their dashed dreams and how they “had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21). But now all their hopes seem buried with Jesus in a tomb.
As the two men talk about the things that just happened in Jerusalem they are shocked that Jesus seems unaware of what took place. They exclaim to Him: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
It’s what Jesus says next that had long perplexed me. Jesus says something that at first read made little sense. Jesus asks them “What things?”
Now, if anyone should have known what happened in Jerusalem that weekend, it would have been Jesus! And yet Jesus asks them, “What things?” Is Jesus toying with these two heartbroken men? Is He playing games with them?
Then I lived enough of life, and had enough grief that I understood what Jesus is doing with His question. He wants them to put into words to Him the pain and confusion they are feeling. He wants them to tell Him all about it. With but a simple, open-ended question, “What things?”, Jesus is drawing from them all the pain they are experiencing.
“What things?” Tell me what’s happened to you? Tell me about your hurt. I want to listen.
I read this story on Easter Sunday and was moved at how Jesus asked such a question and then quietly, patiently listened as they told Him what had happened and how they felt about it. Yes, Jesus is the world’s greatest teacher, but He’s also the world’s greatest listener. Such is Jesus’ love and compassion for two men whose lives have seemingly come apart. He wants them to tell Him about it!
After Jesus listens to their pain and confusion He then “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (v. 27). He told them how it was “necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory” (v. 26). But first, Jesus listens to them. He wants them to tell them about their loss and their broken hearts. Explanations will come later.
This story of Jesus’ love and understanding leads me to ask about you: “What things?” What things are going on in your life that you need to tell Jesus? He’s listening. He longs for you to get it out.
The story also leads me to ask about the people around you and me. What about those who are going through loss and through trial? What are they feeling about it? What are they going through?
As we walk with Jesus He wants to listen to us. And He wants us to listen to each other.
Grace and peace,
Photo Credit: “Joseph von Führich 001” by Joseph von Führich – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.