Jesus’ Appearance on the Way to Emmaus

02 Sep
Jesus and the Two on the Way to Emmaus

from Google Images

Luke tells us that, on the same day in which Jesus rose from the dead, two of his disciples left Jerusalem and journeyed toward Emmaus (Luke 24:13). Josephus writes of an Emmaus, west of Jerusalem.[1] He says it is 60 furlongs from Jerusalem. Luke tells us that two men walked to and from Emmaus in 1 day, which was from Jerusalem three score or 60 stadia (G4712 – Luke 24:13; cf. Luke 24 33, 36; John 20:19).

According to Jewish Weights and Measures in Josephus’ Works (p.727):


1 stadia 1 furlong
1 cubit 21 inches or 1 foot, 9 inches
400 cubits 1 furlong or 1 stadia 700 feet
2000 cubits 5 furlongs or 5 stadia 3500 feet (Sabbath Days Journey)
4000 cubits 1 Jewish mile 7000 feet


In such a case, 60 furlongs (stadia) would be 24,000 cubits or 42,000 feet or 8 miles (7.95 American miles). Therefore, according to the above information Josephus’ Emmaus (60 furlongs) would be the same as Luke’s Emmaus (60 stadia).

Both of the disciples seem to be included in the rest of Luke 24:9 and had been with the Apostles in the Upper Room. One was named Cleopas,[2] who was probably the same as Cleophas (John 19:25), the husband of Mary who was the mother of James the Less (one of the Twelve) and Joseph (cf. Mark 15:40). The other disciple is named Simon (Luke 24:34). One theory is that this Simon is Peter (Luke 24:34; cf. 1Corinthians 15:5), but this couldn’t be so, since the two returned to the Eleven (Apostles) in Jerusalem (Luke 24:33), and Mark claims they weren’t believed by the Apostles (Mark 16:12-13). So, if Peter and Simon are the same person, why would he, as one of the Eleven, believe Jesus hadn’t risen?

As the two walked along, they were discussing **all** the events that occurred during the past few days (Luke 24:14), no doubt, seeking to make sense of them (cf. Luke 24:19-20). Luke tells us that Jesus joined them, as they walked, but he was in another form according to Mark, so they were unable to recognize him (Luke 24:15-16; cf. Mark 16:12).

How should we understand Mark’s phrase: another form (Mark 16:12)? The word is used by Mark only here. It is used elsewhere only in Philippians 2:6-7 for the form of God and the form of a servant, but this doesn’t tell us how Jesus may have looked to the two disciples in Luke. Perhaps it pertains to the posture Jesus took with them, that is, he approached them as a stranger. I don’t believe Mark means that Jesus changed his physical appearance, nor does he appear to be in a ‘glorified’ form as some believe.

The phrase is used seven times in the Septuagint, and from here we may obtain a better understanding of what Mark means. It is used, for example, in Daniel 4:36 for the appearance (G3444) Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed when he returned to his former glory, meaning his “excellent majesty” was returned to him. In Daniel 5:6, 9 and 10 the Greek is translated appearance (G3444) for the “kings countenance” being changed. In Daniel 7:28 it is used of Daniel’s own countenance (appearance – G3444) being changed after seeing the vision.

There is, therefore, no reason to believe that after his resurrection Jesus no longer looked like he did before his crucifixion. Rather, the two disciples weren’t expecting to see Jesus, and this, coupled with their own lack of faith in his resurrection, hid Jesus’ identity from them. If one’s worldview is challenged, one will believe almost anything, no matter how foolish, in order to support his own understanding of reality. Consider the fact that on several occasions Jesus clearly told his disciples of his coming crucifixion (Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:22), yet, because of the fact they were taught that Messiah doesn’t die (cf. John 12:34; 2Samuel 7:13; Daniel 2:44; 7:14), they had no place to categorize Jesus’ words. They simply didn’t know in what context they were true. Similarly, these two disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus, because they would not believe he was alive. After all, rising from the dead was pure nonsense (Luke 24:11). They simply had no context in which to believe this stranger was Jesus.


[1] See JOSEPHUS, Wars 7.6.6

[2] Also called Alphaeus (cf. Luke 6:15). Both Cleopas and Alphaeus are Greek variations of the same Hebrew name Chalpai, or Hhalpai.

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Posted by on September 2, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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