Click here for an audio version of this blog post.
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some 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.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:13-27
Who knows…? The Shadow knows. [spoken in a low ominous voice!] The Shadow knows! “ In 1937, the young Orson Wells lent his voice to the radio show and helped to popularize this fighter of evil who was himself a dark and shadowy figure. The Shadow knew about darkness because he had lived it. It was his territory and his area of expertise. [Thanks Google, for that summary!]
I’ve been intrigued lately with the latest research on the human brain. Much of it that I’ve seen follows the path of evolutionary thought. We’ve got the reptilian brain, the paleomammalian complex (limbic system), and the neomammalian complex which is the frontal lobe where our reasoning and reflective thought processes take place. If we live only out of our reptilian brain, all we’ll want to do is survive. Let go of the evolutionary theory behind these names and you might have a good way of thinking about thinking and knowing.
But even the person with the most highly-developed neocortex has grave limitations when it comes to spiritual truths, ultimate knowledge, and reality. There is nothing said here in Luke’s account about whether these disciples on the road to Emmaus were smart or dumb. The size of their neocortices is not at issue. What is at issue was their ability to see and recognize Jesus, and their slowness to believe.
Sometimes our advanced mental abilities get in the way of spiritual sensitivity. We can easily outsmart ourselves and miss the God-factor of life and knowledge. Sometimes the simple faith of a child is more profound in its grasp of God’s presence and work than the most erudite theologian. And sometimes those erudite theologians can really open our eyes to new dimensions of God. But none of that happens apart from God’s work in our hearts.
Luke doesn’t say that God prevented these two from recognizing Jesus. But he does say that Jesus revealed the meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures that referred to him. And I get the idea that Luke is making a point that Paul will later express: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ apart from the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
I wonder what we’ll discover next about the workings of the Human brain. I wonder whether we’ll always keep in mind that it’s often the more we know the more we realize we don’t know. God has revealed himself in Jesus. It’s a remarkable revelation and one can spend a lifetime trying to grasp it all. Perhaps we can be careful about what we suppose we know that others do not.
How silly it was for these two to ask whether Jesus was the only one who did not know. Better we remember the saying by Francis Rossow, a professor at Concordia Seminary, “We know precious little about God. But the little we know is precious.”