After the resurrection, two of those who had been following Jesus for some time were on their way from Jerusalem back to their home in Emmaus. They weren’t part of the inner circle of twelve, but they were readily identified as “disciples” of Jesus (Luke 24:13–35)
They knew some things about Jesus. They knew of his public ministry and the power of God evident in His life. They knew that He had been delivered over to the religious leaders and had been crucified. They knew that He had said something about being raised from the dead on the third day. But they were having trouble putting the pieces together. They had heard the report that Jesus was alive, but they couldn’t quite make sense of those reports.
Luke tells us they were talking together about what they had heard (24:14). But there was more. Luke uses another word to say that they were even debating the issue (“discussing;” 24:15 NASB). It’s in that moment of conversation that a marvelous thing occurred–Jesus showed up. He met up with them while they were walking and talking (but kept them from recognizing Him). They were “exchanging words” (24:17)–the expression suggests they were “throwing words back and forth.” And Jesus joined them in their walking and their talking.
Apparently, these two disciples just didn’t know how to make sense of what it meant to say that Jesus was alive. (Remember, this kind of thing hadn’t ever happened. We may think, “They should have understood!” But it was harder for them to get their minds around these events than we might imagine.)
So we have discouraged and confused disciples of Jesus who had questions about what it meant to say that Jesus was alive. They weren’t sure about the resurrection. What do you think they needed? They needed certainty about the resurrection! They needed to know Jesus had conquered death and the grave! What is so surprising is that Jesus–walking along with them–didn’t simply show Himself to them. He didn’t merely offer them that proof, although He could have.
Jesus spent time with them looking to and reflecting on the Scriptures.
Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, [Jesus] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27)
Jesus did ultimately open the eyes of these disciples for them to recognize Him; they did get to see that He really was alive. But Jesus wanted to help them anchor their understanding about the reality of resurrection in the Scriptures.
Many people will attend a church on Easter Sunday morning. Many will sing the songs and greet others with “He is risen.” Many will want to have some experience that confirms, for their own souls, that Jesus really is alive–that it’s not just a “nice idea” that shapes the way people relate to one another.
It’s right and healthy and appropriate for people to want to have personal, experiential life with Jesus. That is where we taste life. But the tracks on which that life runs is the Scripture. To make sense of our experiences with Jesus, we need the truth of Scripture. We see the resurrection rightly by hearing and reading what the Word of God declares.