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  • Writer's pictureSteve McAtee

Israel Unveiled Vol. 1: Emmaus

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

By Amir Tsarfati

Here we are standing at the ancient village of Emmaus. The name, Emmaus, originally comes from the Hebrew word, “hama”, and later on in the Greek, they always add the “us” like Antiochus. Therefore, that which started at Hama, which means hot springs that used to be in this area, eventually evolved into Emmaus.

This is the village to which the 2 disciples, according to Luke chapter 24, we're walking all the way from Jerusalem, the day of the resurrection of Jesus. This is the place that stands right at the edge of the Eilon Valley. The valley is where the moon stood still when Joshua commanded both the sun and the moon to stand still, so he could win the battle in Gibeon which is a few miles northeast from where we are standing, right now. Definitely an amazing place.

A place where we not only found ancient remains of houses and later on churches that were built to commemorate the events of Luke 24, but we also found here a set of Jewish tombs cut into the bedrock of this area. Tombs that easily remind us of what the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem would have looked like.

At the time of Jesus, people were buried in the tomb and, after 11 months, the body would be moved to a small bone box once the flesh was already decomposed. We found some of these bone boxes in Jerusalem’s Church of Dominus Flevit. The size of those little boxes, known as ossuaries, was the length of the longest bone of the man’s body. Nobody’s bones were broken in order to fit into the box. The box had to fit the longest bone of the person.

So, the tombs here, the remains here, the fact that churches were built here (starting from the Byzantine Era in the 5th and 6th century as well as a big Crusader church from the 12th century), and together with the finding of a bathhouse that was right on top of the hot springs, brings us to the understanding that we may be in the right location of where the 2 disciples were walking and Jesus, the resurrected Lord, revealed Himself to them.

I would like to read the account from Luke 24. It would only be appropriate to start from the very beginning in order to understand that which was in the minds of the 2 disciples as they walked down to this village. The Bible says that “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices, which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened as they were greatly perplexed about this that behold two men stood by them in shining garments. Then as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you see the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still alive in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’” And they remembered His words. Then, they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven, and all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe the words of the women. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.”

Bear in mind that at this point, neither Peter nor the women who came first to the tomb were greatly happy and parading for the fact that Jesus had resurrected. In fact, the resurrection did not even occur to them until the 2 angels appeared in the tomb and even when the angels were there telling them, Hey, don’t you remember that Jesus, while He was with you in Galilee, told you that He must be resurrected on the 3rd day?

Even then, when they remembered, there was no sign of joy, no sign of happiness, no sign of understanding what the resurrection is all about. They went back to their homes wondering at what they had just seen. The true understanding of the Messiah’s role, not only to come and die, but also to resurrect, and by doing so to defeat death, and to bring an end to all sin, that is still not registering in the minds of all of the disciples.

The Bible continues in verse 13 of chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke, “Now, behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened.” Now, it is about 15 minutes drive for us, but for them, it was almost a whole day walking. We are not sure if it is really, exactly, 7 miles, and from what exact point they started measuring it. But in some texts that were found on Mount Sinai “seven” was actually “seventeen”.

One thing is for sure, what we know, is that we are in the place where ancient hot springs used to be, a place where Jewish tombs were found, a place where ancient churches were built one on top of the other. It fits the description from the account and so we believe this is it.

It’s interesting because while they were walking on their way to this place, the Bible says that “it was while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.” (Luke 24:15-16) Their eyes were restrained. They did not know Jesus. In their minds, Jesus is dead. The resurrection didn’t really register. He is walking with them.

It is the same Jesus, yet they’re all perplexed at what had just happened in Jerusalem. “And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have one with another as you walk and are sad?” (Luke 24:17) Wow, the disciples, those 2 disciples, one of whom we know his name (his name is Cleopas) and the other one, we don’t even know his name, we're walking all the way from Jerusalem already knowing that the tomb is empty. Yet Jesus noticed that not only that they talked, but they were sad.

How sad it is that so many people still lament, and mourn, and cry over the death of Jesus. They dress in black all day long. They cry as they walk into churches looking at the crucifix. They are not understanding that Jesus is not there, Jesus is resurrected. In fact, the most amazing thing of the story of Jesus in His resurrection and that is still not registering in the minds of hundreds of millions of people who even claim to be Christians worldwide.

Jesus asked them, “What are you talking about and why are you so sad? Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18)

Everyone in Jerusalem heard about the event of that Passover of 32 AD. There was not even a single person who didn’t hear about: Jesus being mocked; being beaten and flagellated; Jesus being led to the cross; Jesus being crucified with two thieves on His two sides; Jesus dying on the cross just before the Sabbath entered; Jesus being taken into the tomb of a rich man called Joseph of Arimathea; Jesus, on the 3rd day, on Sunday morning, is no longer in that tomb. Everybody heard about it, but nobody really understood the meaning of it.

And Jesus answered and said, “What things?” So, they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.” Now look what they say next, “but we were hoping that it was He that would redeem Israel”.

We were hoping, past tense, that means a) they had different hopes; b) these hopes of Him being the Redeemer are no longer there. They exchanged their hopes with, actually, mourning and sorrow for His death. He really didn’t follow their plan. He didn’t fit the module. He didn’t fit that which, they understood, the Messiah should be doing. Jesus is dead and the death was not part of the script, according to their story, according to their plans, according to their hopes.

And the Bible says, “Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” (Luke 24:21b-24)

These disciples are walking and reporting the actual resurrection of Jesus, yet they are still in a state of sorrow and mourning. How sad it is that so many people know the account, the gospel account, yet they don’t get it. They don’t understand the meaning of the Resurrection. They don’t understand the true role of the Messiah. They don’t understand that the suffering of Jesus is not disqualifying Him from being the Messiah.

It is actually qualifying Him for being the Messiah. Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12, all these accounts were talking about the suffering Messiah, were talking about the fact that He had to die, we're talking about the fact that He bore the sin of all of us, we're talking about the fact that when He will return they will see Him whom they pierced. And then they will mourn, and then they will cry when they understand how foolish and how wrong they were.

Jesus did not fit the words of the scribes, the words of the rabbis, the words of the teachers. Jesus fit the words of the prophets, the Word of God and that is exactly the problem today in this world. People are following man’s teachings, man’s doctrines, man’s ideas, and they are getting away more, and more, and more from the actual Word of God. And when something happens, rather than going to the Word of God and checking it with the Word of God, they just ask the rabbi, they just ask the priest, they just ask any religious clerk.

They don’t know Him. They don’t know His Word. They don’t know His resurrection and, surely, they don’t have the power of that resurrection. Isn’t that amazing that once they did all of that, once they had that encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, once they told Him all of those things, He said to them, “Oh foolish ones and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25)

Jesus said, it’s okay, maybe you did not believe my words, or the words of my family and my friends, or the words of all the other apostles, but at least you should have believed the words of the prophets, at least believe the Word of God.

Then He said to them, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:26-27) Isn’t that beautiful that Jesus expounded throughout the entire Old Testament the things concerning Himself?

People ask me if Jesus is Catholic or Orthodox, and I always tell them that Jesus was not a Christian even. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus came to the world as a Jew yet He was the Son of God. Jesus came to deliver the entire world and Jesus never even quoted a verse from the New Testament.

Because people are saying, Oh, I cannot really evangelize or share the gospel with Jewish people. Why? Because they do not believe in the New Testament. Guys, you don’t need to believe in the New Testament or know the New Testament, to understand that Jesus is the Messiah. You, as a believer, can expound, can show and prove the Messiahship and Lordship of Jesus throughout the Old Testament as that is exactly what Jesus did to these 2 disciples. What a beautiful thing.

In fact, this is probably the sermon of Jesus that I wish I had the script of it. This is the one thing when I see Him in heaven, I would ask Him for the notes. Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it super beautiful to see that Jesus is actually asking all of us? It’s not about me and about my words. Maybe you didn’t take me seriously enough but at least believe the words of the prophets. I came to fulfill all the things that the prophets had said about me.

Jesus Himself before His ascension told His disciples in Luke 24:44, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” Jesus said, “don’t believe the traditions of man, don’t be heavy of heart, you have to believe the Word of God.”

He said that with love. He said that with compassion. He wanted them to understand. Jesus could have easily revealed Himself, Hey, I’m Jesus and skip this entire conversation. But He wanted them to understand, “I am the One of whom the prophets spoke. I am the fulfillment

of everything the prophets were talking about. I am He that was sent and that was promised to the people of Israel and to the whole world.”

There is no coincidence. There is a beautiful plan, an amazing, grand plan of salvation that God prescribed before the foundation of this world. Jesus is trying to get the attention of these disciples. It’s not the words of Him, or Peter, or John, or even Mary, it’s the words of the prophets.

We may not know God, but God doesn’t change. We may not know the Word of God, but that does not mean that the Word of God is changing, or that the Word of God should fit what we think. Unless you know the Word of God, unless you read the Word of God, unless you understand the Word of God, you will never be able to figure all of this out.

The Spirit of God can open your eyes and open your heart to understand that which the Spirit says. I want you to understand that Jesus revealed Himself to them throughout the Old Testament. Then they reached their destination, they sat down and Jesus raised the bread and broke it. Most likely they recognized the pierced hands that He had and immediately their eyes were opened.

The Bible says, “when they approached the village where they were going to, in verse 28, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:28-32)

See, when we read the Bible and the Spirit of God is within us, then our heart burns within us, as we understand all the things concerning Him. I would like you to consider that the road to Emmaus, the more they walked further away from Jerusalem, they actually walked further away from the truth.

They actually walked further away from Him, from the place where they should be. The minute they understood that which Jesus expounded to them, regardless of the fact that it was evening and that the journey might be dangerous, they could care less. The Bible says that right then and there, they turned around, and they walked back to Jerusalem.

You see, all of us have gone astray. But the minute the Spirit of God is touching you, the minute the truth of God is within you, then what you need to do is to repent which means to turn around and go back to God. Go back to God’s ways and not your ways.

Maybe you are on your road to Emmaus, maybe you are still blinded, maybe you don’t know Him, maybe you don’t know what the Bible is talking about Him, maybe you are still sad and depressed, but the minute you choose Jesus that sadness turns into joy, that depression turns into gladness, and then the danger is no longer a problem for you. You are going to walk that walk, “though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear not for you are with me,” says Psalm 23.

I would like to finish with the words of Job. What makes Jesus so different is that He is alive. What makes us different is that we do not believe in a dead Messiah. We do not believe that He tarries or that He never came. We know that our Redeemer came. We know that our Redeemer died for our sins as the prophets said. We know that He had to die. We know that He resurrected and we know that our Redeemer lives.

Job said that in the most beautiful way, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and He shall stand at last on the earth.” (Job 19:25) Jesus lives. Jesus is alive. Do you believe in Him?

If you are on your road to Emmaus, turn around, go back to your Jerusalem. Go back to your promise.


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