Emmaus: context

he_qi_road_to_emmausLuke 24:13-35  13 Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 14 and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. 15 And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, 16 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. 21 But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. 22 Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. 24 Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”

25 And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. 29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. 31 With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. 32 Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

33 So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them 34 who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.


Jesus has been raised from the dead and the disciples have discovered the empty tomb. The first witnesses to the empty tomb are all women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them (Lk 24:10). They tell the news to the disciples, but such news was unexpected and “their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them” (v.11). In such confusion are sown the seeds of doubt.

As Joel Green notes (842), the Emmaus story fits into a large Lucan narrative about perception and response. From the initial witness of the women we have the possibility (vv.1-12) which gives way to the probability of Emmaus (vv.13-35), and probability to actuality in Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in the upper room (vv.36-49). All is finally resolved in vv.50-53 when after the Ascension the disciples return to Jerusalem ready for mission. While describing an event that all takes place on Sunday of the Resurrection, Luke also has crafted a narrative that has been recognized as metaphor for the movement of faith from what is almost simple evidentiary and proof to a faith that is trusting and which demands a response.

The structure of the Emmaus account follows this progression within the boundaries of its own narrative. Green (842) suggests the following chiastic structure:

A Chiastic Structure with the Road to Emmaus pericope:

The journey from Jerusalem (vv.14-15)

Appearance yet lack of recognition (v.16)

Interaction (vv.17-18)

Summary of the “things” (vv.19-21)

Empty tomb and vision (vv.22-23a)

Jesus is Alive (v.23b)

Empty tomb and no vision (v.24)

Interpretation of the “things” (vv.25-27)

Interaction (vv.28-30)

Opened eyes and recognition (vv.31-32)

The journey to Jerusalem (vv.33-35)

Within the context of the Emmaus story, Luke will also extend themes ever present in the gospel to this point: journey, table fellowship and fulfillment of Scripture.

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