“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Luke 24:30-31
Read Luke 24:13-49.
Just about all of us have heard or said the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” When a president promises to do something — “I’ll believe it when I see it.” When you hear that someone has changed their notorious ways — “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
There is a person with whom I have had numerous conversations about becoming a follower of Jesus Christ who continues to tell me that he needs just one more proof to believe. In fact, the last time we spoke about it, he had just bought some lottery tickets. He said that if there was a God who loved him, he would win. Well do you know that this person won $500! Next time I saw him and reminded him about our conversation, he said, “Nah. That wasn’t God; that was just a lucky coincidence.” He claims that he just needs one more proof. But until he opens his heart to belief there will never be enough proof. For even if God out of his mercy continues to show proof after proof, this person will continue to reinterpret it as something other than God. He has a heart condition called unbelief.
Do you remember the devotional from table 3, the feeding of the 5,000? We discussed that even though Jesus’ disciples continued to follow him and witness miracles upon miracles, they still struggled with disbelief. Jesus even asked them once on a ship, “Where is your faith?” Now here we are 15 chapters later and the disciples are still struggling with belief. You would think that after three years of living with Jesus and after listening to Jesus prophesy about his death and resurrection, the disciples would have their Welcome Home banners and signs ready to greet Jesus outside the tomb. Instead, they are hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jerusalem religious leaders (cf. John 20:19). Where is their faith? Did they not believe who Jesus said he was and believe that he would do what he said he would do? If Jesus’ prophecies had come true concerning his own suffering, the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter, then isn’t there reason enough to believe that what he said concerning his resurrection would come true as well? Didn’t they believe that the same one who had power to bring back others from death would have that same power over his own life? Rather, when the women returned to share the news about the empty tomb, Luke tells us concerning the apostles that “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). Basically they were saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But would they?
Our passage begins with two men who were not part of the Twelve but were in the larger group of disciples of Jesus; they were leaving Jerusalem to go to Emmaus. We are then told that Jesus joins them. The Greek here is emphatic — it is Jesus himself! Did you notice the many references to sight and belief and recognition in this passage? I immediately think of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel who rebuked those who had eyes but could not see. “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears but hear not” (Jer. 5:21). Cf. Isaiah 6:10 and Ezekiel 12:2. What these prophets were saying was “even though you have eyes to see you cannot perceive or believe.” Metaphorically speaking, the eyes of their hearts were closed. You think you see, the prophets would say, but the truth is you are blind and unable to perceive the things of God.
In light of this, we read now in Luke 24:16 that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Did they physically see a man walking along with them? Yes. Did they recognize that it was Jesus come back from the dead? No. Why were their eyes kept from recognizing Jesus? I posit to you that it was their unbelief that kept them from perceiving. Did you catch the irony? The disciples wanted to see Jesus for proof or reason to believe, but when Jesus shows up it is their unbelief that keeps them from seeing him. Read that again. The disciples wanted to see Jesus for proof or reason to believe, but when Jesus shows up it is their unbelief that keeps them from seeing him. “I’ll have to see it to believe it.” But when they saw it, they couldn’t recognize it! Luke already told us that they did not believe the women. Then we are told that Jesus notices they were sad — grieving. And then there’s their testimony. Don’t miss this! These two men tell Jesus that some of the women disciples returned from the tomb to the larger group of disciples and told them they saw an empty tomb and angels who testified that Jesus was alive. (Proof #1) Then, “some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said.” (Proof #2) But, despite these two testimonies and proof of an empty tomb, they said, “but him they did not see.” These other disciples wanted proof. They wanted to see Jesus in order to believe. Now Jesus shows up but they cannot see him, meaning they cannot recognize him. Wow! Chew on that for a moment. Jesus says earlier in his ministry to those following him, “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe” (Jn. 6:36). Is perhaps the reason you cannot see the proof of God because you do not believe?
Jesus continues in his kindness and patience and doesn’t abandon the disciples but continues to reveal himself. The first way he does this is by expositing Scripture. He starts in the beginning and works his way through showing how all of God’s Word finds its fulfillment and crown in Jesus Christ (Lk. 24:27). All of Scripture acts as one voice proclaiming the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus will do this again when he appears to those disciples who are still in unbelief in verse 44.
And now we approach our final table scenes. In verse 29, we are told that Jesus is invited in as a guest of honor, but as so often happens, the roles reverse and he becomes the host, seen in the breaking of bread. This mention of the breaking of bread should not, in my opinion, be interpreted as a eucharist meal, but rather a meal of fellowship like we see with the first two tables. Do you remember how I mentioned back in the feeding of the 5,000 that this sequence — took, blessed, broke and gave — though a common practice in first century Jewish antiquity is only used by Luke in three places? I suggested that this is a literary device to connect the three stories together — the feeding of the 5,000, the Passover meal and now the Emmaus meal. It is in the breaking of the bread (v. 31, 35) that the eyes of these two disciples are opened.
You might be asking yourself, Why was it in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened? Luke doesn’t tell us why but just that they were opened. I’ve heard said before that perhaps there was a unique characteristic trait of Jesus in how he broke the bread that made him different from others which then enabled these two men to recognize him. Likewise, I’ve heard it said that perhaps there was something magical or miraculous in the act of the breaking of the bread that caused their eyes to open. I’m not convinced of these two possibilities.
However, what I am more convinced of is that Jesus was gracious to his disciples, who had already found forgiveness of sins through repentance, to open the eyes of their hearts so that they could see him and believe. What Jesus does in this moment of opening their eyes is characteristic of how he has responded to his disciples throughout — with patience and love. At the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus responded to their lack of faith by proving again who he was and what he could do. Then at the Passover meal Jesus, over bread and wine, tells his disciples again about the events that are about to take place, reinterprets the bread and cup for them, and then says it is all “for you.” So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the moment that Jesus gave physical bread to these two men, they recognized for the first time the bread of life. In Jesus’ love and mercy, he made himself known again to them at the table.
Let me conclude with this. When Jesus appeared to the other disciples, he had them touch him to know that he was real. He then ate a piece of broiled fish. A spirit cannot eat; Jesus had a bodily resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). He then sums up one last time the message the apostles are to preach — Christ’s identity and mission. Jesus suffered (fully human) and rose from the dead (fully God), so that repentance and forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed to all people. Remember our first two tables? The theme for both of those tables was forgiveness of sins! Those first two tables were a precursor for what was to come. Forgiveness of sins finds it realization in the cross and resurrection. This is the good news we are to bring to all people.
Yes, we are also to love our enemies, to serve the least of these, to show others mercy (Good Samaritan), to not neglect the needs of others, and to welcome the lowly and most sinful to our tables. But these acts of love and mercy are only a mirror of and response to the love and mercy Christ has first shown us as we preach, “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Preach, teach, model, live out and embody this message in the name of Jesus Christ.
What about you? Are you just needing one more proof before believing Jesus is who he says he is and has done what he has said he will do? Or, is the testimony of these disciples and Scripture enough? If you had one more proof, would you even be able to see it? Maybe like the father in Mark 9 prayed, you too need to pray, “I believe; help my unbelief.” Perhaps you are a follower of Jesus, meaning you have found forgiveness of sins, but you still struggle with doubt and unbelief at times. You are not the first disciple nor the only one to struggle in this way. But take comfort. If you belong to Jesus, as his disciple, he will continue to reveal himself to you and to open your eyes. He will not abandon or forsake you as your faith is seeking understanding.
Wherever you are or whoever you are, you are invited to the table. Exclusions don’t apply; no particular dress attire required. Come as you are. Come and dine at the table of Jesus Christ this Easter; there you can find forgiveness of sins.
(The image was downloaded from kingofpeace.blogspot.com. Aspects of this devotional came from my Bible study for mymissionfulfilled.)
Thank you for following along with me in this #ComeDine devotional series. I hope that they’ve been a blessing to you as you prepare for Good Friday and Easter. With love, Kristen