Condemnation or Compassion? Lessons from the Emmaus Road (From a Teacher’s Heart)

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

This is a re-blog from 2015 that returns to my heart today, Easter Sunday, 2018. The message is timeless.


Walk_to_EmmausNow that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast (sad). One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

 “What things?” he asked… (Luke 24:13-19, NIV).

So the two recounted what they knew of the “prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people,” as they put it, and the horrible things the high priests, rulers, and people had done to him (but how they and many others had so HOPED he was the one who was going to redeem the people from Roman rule!).

They explained to their new traveling companion how that Jesus of Nazareth had suffered and later died on Golgotha.

But—listen to this! (I can almost hear now the incredulity in their voices)—just this morning, they continued, some women had seen angels who said he was alive again!

“How foolish you are,” Jesus responded…”how slow of heart to believe…Did not the Christ…?”

And then, matching His stride with theirs on the dusty road to the holy city, the risen Christ began opening the prophecies to them, explaining Who He was, and answering the questions He posed to them (though they still did not recognize Him).

The two at length reached their destination and urged the rabbi, who appeared to be moving on, to stay with them that evening.

So He did.

Because there was more He had to teach them.

There was more to His lesson plan.


Fast forward.

“You know what Jesus was doing, there?” asked the preacher whose sermon on this passage I was listening to just then, his voice rising for The Point of his presentation.

(Immediately, my mind flashed on “downcast” students like those two students, if you will, on the Emmaus Road, that I have known through the years—even this term—who see but do not perceive, hear but do not comprehend. I think of myself, pondering matters…)

The preacher, his voice raised (and edged with frustration) answered his own question for us: “He was probing their unbelief!” He then continued about how they (read: we) should have, could have, would have known Who was talking with them.

After all, hadn’t they learned these things in Torah classes (hadn’t we, in Sunday School)?

Had they not learned all those things about the coming Messiah/Redeemer and yet had missed the greater truths bleeding out right in front of their eyes, literally and figuratively, these last few days?

Hadn’t they (we) paid attention?

And here the teacher in me rose.


Technically, the truth of what the preacher was suggesting cannot be denied. The words are scribed; the story is clear. Cleopas and his buddy were, as the Greek renders Jesus’ own descriptors, dense, slow, and dull of spirit. Not even a passing grade for them.

Jesus, as the preacher implied, may well have been frustrated with those, likely schooled, men who had not just read and heard about the Messiah, they had watched Him live out the centerfold prophecies: the spotless lamb who was slain for the sins of the people–a truth they had doubtless recounted Passover after Passover, year after year, in temple and out. Yet they remained, to date, dense of mind and of spirit.

In short, not only had they studied the metaphor they had seen The Man!

And yet they failed the test, failed to grasp the truth of the inferences and the references.

But was Jesus highlighting their failure so much as helping their faith?

From my own teaching experience, I believe the latter.

In my view, His was not a spirit of condemnation but of compassion: those two needed more instruction—and revelation.

His teaching vitae confirms this to me.

Consider how when Jesus asked the blind man whose sight He had just restored what he now saw (like a “mid-term” quiz), the man described “people looking like trees walking around” (Mark 8:24-25). Clearly, there was more to be done, and Jesus completed the miracle.

Think of the Apostle Thomas, the so-called doubter, who needed just one more “lesson,” that Jesus was truly alive again. Jesus provided that, too, in a literal “hands-on” demonstration: “Put your finger here; see my hands,” He told Thomas. “Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27).

He did not chide Thomas, rather even comforted him and the others, first. “Peace be with you,” Jesus had said when He came among them that night.

Jesus exposed the travelers’ lack of comprehension, to be sure, but in so doing I believe He was also examining them so that He could explain what else they needed to remember about the one they talked about and, more importantly, so that He could explain what they yet needed to comprehend.


Lesson 1:

As a teacher, I am suggesting that Jesus knew some important dots had not yet been connected, so to speak, some critical gaps of comprehension had yet to be filled in the minds of the two travelers though, admittedly, they ought to have known…

In my view, He was not administering a post-test of all they should know but a pre-test of all they could know, to see what He yet needed to teach them.

For what student of mind or of spirit hasn’t some “gaps” of knowledge to “fill”? What student has not missed an important connector, transition, or Point at times for myriad reason including but not limited to dullness, slowness, moving from school to school—experiencing teachers with agendas other than the truth—thus missing the full import of what might have been right in front of him/her all this time? Or perhaps a lesson was lost on them due to sheer laziness or bad attitude.

And what might be reasons for students like the two on the Road to be so downcast? One can hardly discern the cause among so many.

However, Jesus, like a good teacher, probed, listened, and, filled in the educational gaps not, I believe, to expose and condemn, rather, to explain and convict.

Yet they still did not “know” Him.

How come?

The answer to that, I believe, was the Biggest Point.

There was a critical new piece of information to reveal, one heretofore incomprehensible not only to them but to all—one which Jesus was not going to merely lecture on, but demonstrate.

With a little help from A Friend.


Lesson 2:

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.  But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in with them.

 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together  and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. (28-35, emphasis mine)

“Then their eyes were opened…” (lightbulbs lit, synapses synced.)

(Cue the Hallelujah Chorus.)

Finally, class concluding, the Emmaus Road pupils understood:

Jesus—the same they sought—was not merely words in a text, but the Word(s) Made Flesh.

Jesus—the same they hungered to comprehend—was not just a series of prophecies scribed on dusty scrolls but the prophecies fulfilled.

Jesus—the subject of everybody’s conversations these past few days—was not merely a man of God, but God Made Man; not some spotless sacrificial sheep from the herd, but God’s one and only Lamb, the only Perfect One, suitable “payment” not just for the sins of the moment but for millennia.

And, lo, it was He supping with them here!


So how’d all that happen for this dense duo?


I believe they finally understood the truth suffused in the Scriptures, because at that famous post-Calvary supper, Jesus had one more lesson to not only remind them of, but to demonstrate (for hadn’t He prophesied of some mysterious “spirit” to come, just before He was crucified?).


I wonder if the two travelers had also heard the stories about the pre-Calvary supper Jesus shared with His disciples? About the odd things He had said to them, penned later by Gospel writer Matthew like this:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (26:26-29).

And I wonder if, in all the conversations fresh from the gore of Golgotha, they had also heard of Jesus’ prophecy, penned later by Gospel writer John like this:

“…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (14:25-26).

Whether or not they heard or pondered those “things,” too, the reality for them, I believe, was the lesson finale, the period at the end of the plan, the omega point  by the Alpha and Omega.

When Jesus explained (by demonstration) the last part of His lesson, He revealed—so the two could comprehend—the full import of what He did and Who He was, to whit, the (living) Bread of Life!

Not just a portion of wheat to ingest for a day’s needs, but spiritual nourishment for all time.

And there was one more point Jesus made by, at the same time, including the element of the wine. For the two are required.

What of the wine?


“Though   there   are   fewer   symbolic   references   to   the   Spirit   as   wine,   it   is   of   note   that   on   the   day   of  Pentecost,  those  in  the  upper  room  were  accused  of  being  drunk  on  ‘new  wine.’    A  close  analogy  is  also  given  when  Paul instructs  to  cease  being  drunk  with  wine,  but  rather  filled  with  the  Spirit” [1].

The “helper and teacher” Jesus had prophesied was now available, too. Another to reveal, guide, and comfort us…

What I think is this: those two heretofore dull Emmaus Road students got a foretaste of the Holy Spirit’s revelation power, and that made all the difference.


Previously, on the Emmaus Road, the two could have let Jesus pass on by. They had certainly been informed and inspired.

But there was something, just something…a certain prompting (burning, did they call it?) in their hearts when Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to them that compelled them to ask for more. More of what, they were not sure, I think. Even after all they’d heard, perhaps studied, seen…

They just wanted more.

And Jesus, the Plan Made Flesh, not only finished the lessons and filled their educational “gaps,” He opened their eyes, minds, and hearts to receive revelation, too, in a way only He could do for them, for us.


By the power of the Holy Spirit, noted. The Helper, Teacher, Guide sent by Him Who, by His sacrifice on the cross, purchased not only our redemption, but our comprehension as well.

If we so will…


And what of you, traveler?




There is One walking alongside you even now.

He knows your gaps, your lacks—and your longing heart. He has information and inspiration for you, too.

And salvation.

The classroom is still open, the feast, set…

And the lesson takeaway then—and now? I think it is this:

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him (Psalm 34:8) …for Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).


[1] “Scriptural Symbols of the Holy Spirit”

Emmaus Road image: Walk to Emmaus – http://www.wpclipart.c

Road image: http://www.doug’

RESOURCE: I invite you to read my sister’s tri-fold, here,, (also available on my free downloads page) on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are some differing opinions on this teaching, but see what you think.

This entry was posted in Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Commentaries, Easter/Good Friday themes, most recent posts, spiritual transformation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Condemnation or Compassion? Lessons from the Emmaus Road (From a Teacher’s Heart)

  1. Cathy says:

    BTW, when I was first Covicted by the Holy Spirit, I bought the movie of Emmaus. I kept watching it over and over, just to absorb its meaning!


  2. Cathy says:

    He is RISEN
    So that ALL that are In CHRIST shall have Eternal Life
    Happy Easter!


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