It was the first Easter Sunday. It was the first chance any religious person in Jerusalem had to make a trip after Sabbath. I'm sure that Cleopas and the other disciple had been yearning to get out of Jerusalem ever since the terrible events that started Thursday night. Their world was ripped apart as they heard about the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Their whole reason for being in Jerusalem faded away. All they could think of was going home. They wanted to get away, but they couldn't. They had to stay in Jerusalem, at least until the Sabbath was over. Maybe they woke up late, maybe they were waiting to see if anyone was going to schedule a proper funeral for Jesus, but they didn't set out for their journey until that afternoon. It gave them time to hear the crazy story the women were spreading—that Jesus wasn't in the tomb and that they had seen Him.
This story didn't make much sense to them, even after it was confirmed by Peter and John. They didn't know what to make of the whole ordeal, but one thing they knew for sure: it was getting late and Emmaus was a seven mile walk from Jerusalem. If they didn't leave immediately, they would need to wait until the next day. Off they went.
Their journey to Emmaus was approximately a three to four hour walk. Even though they were leaving town, they were not leaving the events that happened behind them. As they walked, they talked, trying to sort out how this horrible reality could have taken place when they had such hope. Suddenly they were joined by a stranger who appeared ignorant of the biggest news in Jerusalem. They shared their grief with this stranger and admitted their despair about the fact that they had hoped Jesus was the Messiah. They even told the women’s account, but confirmed that the men did not see Him.
That’s when Jesus, who was kept from being recognized by them, asked them, Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? (Luke 24:26) Jesus went on to give the greatest Old Testament lesson ever told. He explained the teaching of the prophets and the Psalms that this was the way God had planned it from the beginning.
We think of the cross as such a horrifying event in the life of Jesus, but in reality, it was the only way to save us. Christ had to suffer for us to be redeemed. There was no other way. Because God is holy, Jesus Christ’s death for sin (our sin) establishes the only way for us to be in right relationship with God. It was the only way. It had to happen this way, not only for Jesus to be glorified, but also for you to be saved.
The two disciples arrived at Emmaus just as Jesus was finished with His Old Testament Survey and they urged Jesus to come in and eat with them because it was too late to travel further. Jesus agreed and as He broke bread they suddenly recognized Him and He disappeared. These two disciples who started their journey downcast, got up right then and ran back to Jerusalem that very night. They were no longer worried about robbers on the way, they had just seen Jesus. It all made sense to them then, even the way their hearts burned inside of them when He spoke to them on their journey. They met up with their friends and told them how they had seen Jesus and how they knew it was Him when He broke bread at the table. Suddenly they understood that it had to be this way. You too must understand this. You must come to the place where you see no other way to reconcile yourself with a Holy God. When you accept Jesus as your Savior you are agreeing—it had to be this way.