We are continuing our journey through the transitional chapter of Luke’s Gospel – the journey on the Emmaus road, along with two sad disciples and the mysterious stranger who joined them on the way. We remember that their eyes were restrained and they did not recognize Jesus in this Stranger. The story then goes on to tell us that, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself”. We have to realize, however, that His explanation was not only concerning Himself—it was not only His story: He took them through the Scriptures, through Tanach, through the story of Israel, and in this sense He took them through their own story. Before they recognized Him – and in order to enable them to recognize Him – He retold to them their own story. We read afterwards that their hearts started to burn while they were listening to Him. What was happening there?
Maybe even today, in the age of digital cameras, some of you still remember how ordinary, non-digital photographs were developed. The film was placed in a special solution—the developer—and sometime later a picture would begin to emerge. At first the contours would appear, then the finer details of the image, and after a while the whole picture would be clearly visible. In fact, this was the purpose of the developer —to make the latent image visible.
To me, this entire process has always seemed like some sort of mysterious, almost mystical process. It seems completely incredible that, on the one hand, the image is already there—it already exists in its entirety, perfectly imprinted on the film—the complex chemical process changes nothing about this image and adds nothing to it, it merely develops, puts on display, reveals what is already there. However, on the other hand, although only this one step separates us from seeing what is imprinted on the photograph, without this step, without developing the film, we would never discover what is embedded in it—until the developer does its job, the latent image remains invisible.
Think of the Apostle Paul, for example. We know that he had studied the Torah and Scripture his whole life, but until these scriptures were “developed” he had not seen Jesus in them. What happened to Shaul (Paul) after his Damascus Road experience? Have you ever considered what went on within him during those three days that he spent, shocked and blinded, in fasting and prayer in Damascus, on Straight Street, before Ananias was sent to him? What did he think about during his imposed standstill, while rethinking—straightening out—his life and his convictions, deprived of the ability to read physically and therefore paging mentally through the Scriptures on which he had been nurtured? He didn’t get any new texts, no scrolls fell on him from heaven, these were the same Scriptures that he had read his entire life—they were simply beginning to be “developed,” seen, understood and read in a completely new light. They had always been his life, the meaning and the foundation for his existence, but to his incredible bewilderment, that same Jesus whom, three days ago he had been perfectly confident was not there, simply could not be there, was now appearing on these pages—revealed before his inner gaze.
The similar “development” process is happening to our disciples on the road to Emmaus. The very same Tanach, the same Scriptures they had read their entire lives are being “developed,” seen and understood in a completely new light. And, according to Luke, once He had taken them through the Scriptures, once the Scriptures had been “developed,” everything had been changed in their hearts: their hearts were burning now and while their physical eyes were still restrained, their inner eyes, the eyes of faith were being opened. It was only a matter of time (and timing) before their physical eyes would be opened as well. And that is why, when they arrived to the place and Jesus made as though he would go further, they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening and the day is far spent.
They constrained Him— and please understand: this is the only thing in this whole story that they actually chose to do by their own free will. Their eyes were still restrained, they still didn’t know who He was, and at first glance, it was just a natural human concern: it was toward evening, and the day was far spent. However, we know that by this point their hearts had been burning, they had a sense that their meeting with this ‘stranger’ was not yet over, and they acted upon their hearts, not their eyes. It is crucial for us to understand that first, they constrained Him, they asked Him to remain with them, and only then, and only for that reason, He went in to stay with them.
This dynamic, between the disposition of the heart and the opening of the eyes, is very important in the Bible. When the Lord revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, Moses said upon seeing this bush: I will now turn aside and see this great sight. Rashi comments: “Let me turn away from here to draw near to there”. Remarkably, it is written that the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, and only then God called to him from the midst of the bush. Only when Moses “turned away from here to draw near to there”, only when he started to walk in the direction of God—and only when God saw that—only then did He speak to him. The sovereign Lord Himself chooses when to reveal Himself to a man; He Himself intervenes and makes the hearts burn; He Himself calls a man to listen and respond. But whether He remains to unfold the purpose of His intervention depends on the response of this man: whether he constrains Him to stay – whether he is willing “to turn away from here to draw near to there”. It is always our decision whether we act upon our eyes or our hearts.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy also my book As Though Hiding His Face, discussing in depth the issue of the Hidden Messiah. You can get this and my other books through my page on this blog, https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/.)
 Luke 24:27
 Luke 24:29
 Ex 3:3
 Ex 3:4