The Transitional Chapter (2) : Retelling The Story

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”.[1] 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[2].

 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.[3]   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[4]. 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/.)

[1] Luke 24:27

[2] Luke 24:29

[3] Ex 3:3

[4] Ex 3:4

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Margaret Hurford

    Hello Julia, Thank you for your insightful article. As always stirred up my spiritual reasoning.
    For many years I worked in the advertising industry and spend many hours in darkrooms developing photo images. As I was reading your comments it came to my mind that Paul’s blindness on the road to Damascus could have been a perfect “darkroom environment ” which was needed for a new and true image of the LORD to emerge in his heart.
    It may be possible that those dark periods in our lives are simply the darkroom moments which are there for the same reason, so we can really know Him.
    Shalom
    Margaret

  2. Elizabeth I. Seibel-Ross

    Dearest Julia, as always I love your words – they resonate in my heart: “incredible that, on the one hand the image is already there… in its entirety, perfectly imprinted… however,…” I hear the echo of “we are created in His image” – the latent image of Him that must reside within all that He has created. Don’t you think that the mystery of the need for a developer must reside in the fact that He wants us to choose Him. Since His Love is not coercive, He has given us all the generous gift of free will – the right to hear, but then to choose to respond or not. And, as you have said, when our hearing causes our hearts to burn, and we want Him to remain with us in this, our current reality, He sees, responds in kind – and it is then that He enables us to fully see His reality..

    1. Julia Blum

      Dear Lisa, it is such a beautiful idea – the latent image of Him in us that must be developed and revealed. I haven’t thought about it, it is an incredible rich image, thank you so much for this idea!

  3. Suliaman lbn Smith

    Dear Prof.,
    Shalom and todah for the Grace of Wisdom that the Lord has given to you.
    The Lord Richly Bless you and increase your Wisdom to inpart.
    Once again Todah.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you friends, for all your kind words. I am so happy you follow this blog and find my articles interesting and helpful. Blessings!

  4. Wesley Lewis

    Dr Julia!, as usual your writings are always so brilliantly challenging. They bring newness of horizon to biblical texts. I thank God for working in and through you, What a blessing!!

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your generous words Wesley! I am always glad to hear from you.

  5. Nick

    Love the parallels you note:Moses, Paul, and the disciples on the road. Thank you for offering your insight!
    Nick

  6. JOSUÉ DA SILVA ROSA

    I AM LOVING THESE INSIDES, FOR GOD HAS CONSENTED IT A WISDOM AND A MARVELOUS REVELATION, THAT HAS CALLED ME THE ATTENTION TO THE WORDS OF GOD, AND HAS CAUSED ME A GREAT LOVE, FOR THESE WRITTEN, THAT GOD CONTINUES TO BLESS YOU AND YOU AWARE OF WISDOM AND REVELATION ABOUT HIS WORD, BUT THAT ALSO BLESS YOUR NATION, ISRAEL, I LOVE ALL THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL, BECAUSE IT BELONGS TO THE HIGHEST GOD, AND IT WAS THROUGH THAT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO BORN CHRISTIANITY AND TO COME TO OUR DAYS SO THAT WE MAY ALSO LET US HELP HIM IN SO SUBLIME AND KINDLY, AS HE SAID BEFORE GOD BLESS YOU, MY FRATERNAL HUGGLES TO YOU.

  7. Abel David

    It is very significant that on this significant day the resurrected Christ chose to open up the scriptures concerning Himself in at least 2 separate sessions!!