THE disciples are still downhearted. They do not comprehend the significance of the empty tomb, nor do they believe the reports of the women. So later on Sunday, Cleopas and another disciple leave Jerusalem for Emmaus, a distance of about seven miles [11 km].
En route, while they are discussing the events of the day, a stranger joins them. “What are these matters that you are debating between yourselves as you walk along?” he asks.
The disciples stop, their faces downcast, and Cleopas replies: “Are you dwelling as an alien by yourself in Jerusalem and so do not know the things that have occurred in her in these days?” He asks: “What things?”
“The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene,” they answer. “Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to the sentence of death and impaled him. But we were hoping that this man was the one destined to deliver Israel.”
Cleopas and his companion explain the astounding events of the day—the report about the supernatural sight of angels and the empty tomb—but then confess their bewilderment regarding the meaning of these things. The stranger reprimands them: “O senseless ones and slow in heart to believe on all the things the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?” He then interprets for them passages from the sacred text that pertain to the Christ.
Finally they arrive near Emmaus, and the stranger makes as if he is going on. Wanting to hear more, the disciples urge: “Stay with us, because it is toward evening.” So he stays for a meal. As he says a prayer and breaks bread and hands it to them, they recognize that he is really Jesus in a materialized human body. But then he disappears.
Now they understand how the stranger knew so much! “Were not our hearts burning,” they ask, “as he was speaking to us on the road, as he was fully opening up the Scriptures to us?” Without delay, they get up and hurry all the way back to Jerusalem, where they find the apostles and those assembled with them. Before Cleopas and his companion can say a thing, the others excitedly report: “For a fact the Lord was raised up and he appeared to Simon!” Then the two relate how Jesus also appeared to them. This makes four times during the day that he has appeared to different ones of his disciples.
Jesus suddenly makes a fifth appearance. Even though the doors are locked because the disciples are in fear of the Jews, he enters, standing right in their midst, and says: “May you have peace.” They are terrified, imagining that they are seeing a spirit. So, explaining that he is not an apparition, Jesus says: “Why are you troubled, and why is it doubts come up in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have.” Still, they are reluctant to believe.
To help them grasp that he really is Jesus, he asks: “Do you have something there to eat?” After accepting a piece of broiled fish and eating it, he says: “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you [before my death], that all the things written in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms about me must be fulfilled.”
Continuing what, in effect, amounts to a Bible study with them, Jesus teaches: “In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day, and on the basis of his name repentance for forgiveness of sins would be preached in all the nations—starting out from Jerusalem, you are to be witnesses of these things.”
For some reason Thomas is not present at this vital Sunday evening meeting. So during the days that follow, the others joyfully tell him: “We have seen the Lord!”
“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails,” Thomas protests, “and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.”
Well, eight days later the disciples are again meeting indoors. This time Thomas is with them. Although the doors are locked, Jesus once more stands in their midst and says: “May you have peace.” Then, turning to Thomas, he invites: “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop being unbelieving.”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaims.
▪ What inquiries does a stranger make of two disciples on the road to Emmaus?
▪ What does the stranger say that causes the hearts of the disciples to burn within them?
▪ How do the disciples discern who the stranger is?
▪ When Cleopas and his companion return to Jerusalem, what exciting report do they hear?
▪ What fifth appearance does Jesus make to his disciples, and what occurs during it?
▪ What happens eight days after Jesus’ fifth appearance, and how is Thomas finally convinced that Jesus is alive?