One of the last stories Luke’s gospel records tells of two disciples’ encounter with the resurrected Jesus on the road to the village of Emmaus, a town unnamed elsewhere in Scripture (Luke 24:13-35). A man named Cleopas (Luke 24:18) and an unnamed companion were dejectedly discussing the events of the crucifixion and skeptically analyzing the reports of the empty tomb when Jesus joined the sad cynics. They were not privy to their new associate’s identity as “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him (Luke 24:16 NASB)”. En route, Jesus explained the correlations between the crucifixion and the messiah (Luke 24:26-37) and then at their request ate with them in Emmaus (Luke 24:29-30). It was whilst dining that “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him (Luke 24:31 NASB)”. This revelation made them reinterpret the facts and they went from seeing Jesus as “prophet” (Luke 24:19) to viewing him as “lord” (Luke 24:34).
Cleopas is an abbreviated form of Cleopatros, a common Hellenistic name meaning “son of a renowned father”. The name does not appear elsewhere in the New Testament as only Luke tells this story, but Cleopas is often linked with Clopas (John 19:25). If Cleopas and Clopas are synonymous, then Cleopas’ wife was one of the women present at the cross. That conclusion seems to be supported by a comment that Cleopas makes to Jesus - “some women among us amazed us (Luke 24:22 NASB).”
The fact that Cleopas is named indicates that he was likely known to the early church. Church historian Eusebius (263-339) states that Simeon, son of Clopas, succeeded James as bishop of Jerusalem. Early Christian Hegesippus (110-180) says that Cleopas was Joseph’s brother, making him Jesus’ uncle. Jesus’ own uncle may have failed to recognize him.
Have you ever not recognized a loved one when seeing them in an unexpected setting? What was it about Jesus that made him indistinguishable? Who or what prevented their eyes from seeing and likewise who opened their eyes? Aside from listening to “Take on Me”, have you ever had an A-ha moment where something came together for you?
The revelatory moment came not in the exposition of the Scriptures but during the breaking of bread. Whether it was the way that Jesus broke the bread, or the disciples seeing the nail prints in his hands, or it was simply God’s time for their eyes to be opened is unclear. Somehow, in eating with Jesus, the two travelers glean his identity. Many have made a connection between this and Christians taking the Lord’s Supper.
Cleopas and his friend hustled back to Jerusalem in the dark to share their good news with their fellow disciples (Luke 24:33-35). Theirs was a powerful testimony of the resurrected Jesus by two credible eyewitnesses.
Why did it take the breaking of bread to open their eyes? What was the advantage in the delayed recognition? If you have ever had a revelatory moment, did you share your revelation?
Be known to us in breaking bread,
But do not then depart;
Savior, abide with us, and spread
Thy table in our heart.
- James Montgomery (1771-1854), “Be Known to Us in Breaking Bread”.