On the first day of the week (a Sunday in the western calendar), Jesus’ followers realized that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb where he was buried. Yet, some of his followers couldn’t believe that he came back from the dead. Two of Jesus’ followers, Cleopas and an un-named disciple, left Jerusalem for the village of Emmaus, seven miles west of Jerusalem. Some Christian scholars and churches believe that Cleopas was Jesus’ uncle, a brother of Joseph; however, there is no biblical evidence to support this assertion.
Cleopas and his friend were talking about Jesus’ crucifixion, that he wasn’t in the tomb where he was buried, and that some women claimed they saw Jesus. The two men were joined by a third man who was Jesus; but, neither men recognized the risen Jesus.
As they walked along, Jesus explained to them all that was said about Messiah in the Holy Scriptures. When they approached Emmaus, the two men urged Jesus to stay and eat with them. He agreed to do so. As Jesus broke the bread and gave it to Cleopas and his companion, both realized that the man who joined them on the road was Jesus. Immediately, Jesus disappeared from their presence.Cleopas and his colleague got up and hurried the seven miles back to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, they found the eleven apostles and others who believed in Jesus. They told their story of seeing Jesus. The assembled apostles and disciples (including women) believed Cleopas and his friend because Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter as well as the women.
Most of us know this story; however, have you ever wondered why Cleopas and his friend left Jerusalem and were on their way to the small village of Emmaus? Was Emmaus their home and they needed to return home for work or to be with families? Alternatively, were they so traumatized by events surrounding Jesus’ death that they had to get away from all the grief and even some of the hope that Jesus lived? They just needed to go home.
I believe Cleopas doubted that Jesus was alive; thus, he returned to his home village to get on with his life. Verses 25-27 indicate that Jesus had to explain the Holy Scriptures to the two men; scriptures that showed that the Messiah had to suffer, to die, and then to rise into his glory. During the meal, when Cleopas recognized Jesus, he became so excited that he immediately wanted to tell others the good news. Cleopas and his friend, hurried—probably ran—most of the seven miles from Emmaus to Jerusalem to tell the other believers that they saw Jesus.
Reflection: Have you ever doubted that Jesus is alive?