It was a dark, traumatic time. The recent shattering catastrophe in Jerusalem had stunned them. They had been expecting so much from the Nazarene, convinced He was the long-awaited Messiah; but now He was dead. How could this have happened? Beaten, tortured, humiliated, crucified with convicted criminals – and dead? Two men, trudging the seven weary miles to their home in Emmaus, were weighed down with the grief of it all, going over and over events with the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ that haunt us all when tragedy strikes. However, the Scriptures tell us that, “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, [Yahshua] himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him” [Luke 24:15-16].
Why didn’t they recognise Him? What ‘kept’ them from doing so? I’ve always wondered about this. Yahshua was recognised near the tomb [John 20:16-17] and later in the upper room [Luke 24:36]. J.B Phillips suggests that they would have been wearing the traditional ‘burnous’ [a long, hooded cloak] to give them “some shield from the fierce heat of the westering sun”, and to make “some little shelter from the reflected glare of the choking white dust at their feet”. This gave me a fresh picture of what the surrounding conditions would have been like. When added to their heart-breaking grief, the misery and probable sleeplessness of previous anxious days, and the dull heaviness which comes from trying to accept the unbelievable, I began to understand why they failed to recognise Him. Especially so, since at the beginning He seemed to know nothing about the events which consumed their thoughts. The eventual climax is very sweet, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him” [Luke 24:31].
There are times in all our lives when it would seem we, too, walk that ‘Emmaus Road’. Trouble happens, tragedy befalls, difficulties, disappointments or problems wind their way into our world. We are weighed down with the burden and we struggle to function; blinded by circumstances and pain, we cry, “Where is Yahshua?” How often we agonise that He is not there and not listening. In the darkness, however, He will have drawn comfortingly close; He is there, walking beside us!