Early Encounters in Jerusalem.

 

The Emmaeus Road.

Luke 24:13-35 records how two disciples, one called Cleopas, were leaving Jerusalem for Emmaeus, dispirited and perplexed over the report they had heard from the women. A man whom they took for a stranger started talking with them as they walked. On being told the reason for their perplexity, he begins to explain to them that the death and resurrection of the Messiah was foretold in the Scriptures. Greatly encouraged by the conversation, on reaching Emmaeus they invited him in for the night. But it was only when he broke bread at meal time that they finally recognised him: whereupon he vanished!

Interestingly, recent computer analysis of Greek texts from this period has shown a very unusual correlation between the vocabulary and word sequences in the early part of this account and those of the ‘Testimonium Flavianum’, written by Josephus. The correlation is not enough to indicate direct copying of one from the other, but appears much too high for mere coincidence. One suggested explanation is that a written account of this incident may have been circulated, possibly as an early Christian tract, before Luke wrote his gospel; and that copies of this were used as a reference source by both Luke and Josephus.

Back to main article.

Peter’s Private Audience.

Luke tells us that, when the two disciples arrived back at Jerusalem, they found the eleven saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Very little is known about this particular encounter, apart from its mention here by Luke, and again by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:5. We do not even know for sure whether it occurred before or after the meeting on the Emmaeus road.

This lack of detail may seem strange, until you consider the circumstances. On the night of his betrayal, Jesus had warned Peter that before cock crow he would deny knowing Jesus three times; a suggestion Peter vehemently rejected. But Peter’s last encounter with Jesus had been as he turned to look at him, just after he uttered the last of those fateful denials (Lk 22:61). This would have been a very difficult and intensely personal encounter for Peter. Small wonder if he never divulged exactly what took place.

Paul’s mention of this meeting in 1 Corinthians 15:5 is of particular interest. As has been mentioned previously, this letter, written about AD 55, predates the gospels. Not only that, but scholars point to the fact that Paul here uses a particular Rabbinic form of words, ‘For what I received, I passed on to you…’ that was used to indicate the onward transmission of an accepted tradition, and that verses 3 to 7 are actually phrased in the form of a simple creed. Put simply, this indicates that Paul is citing a verbal statement of doctrine that predates even his own letter. So we have strong evidence that this incident, and the others mentioned in these verses, were an accepted part of Christian belief well before the gospels were written.

Back to main article.

The Upper Room.

While the disciples were still discussing these earlier appearances, Jesus suddenly appeared amongst them. As has already been mentioned, Luke tells us their first reaction was one of fear, thinking this was a ghost. But the account is adamant that this was no apparition. Jesus encouraged them to touch him and examine his wounds. He even ate a piece of fish! (Lk 24:36-43.) Yet Jesus hadn’t just walked into the room. John (20:19-23) tells us that the doors had been locked when he appeared, because the disciples were afraid that the Jewish authorities would be after them next.

Back to main article.

Doubting Thomas.

John goes on to relate that Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not present when Jesus appeared. On being told what had happened he was frankly incredulous, declaring there was no way he would believe it unless he could put his own finger in the nail marks and his hand in the spear wound. A week later Jesus appeared again, and promptly quoted Thomas’ words back at him, inviting him to do as he had said. Again, the doors had been locked. Thomas’ resistance collapsed, and he fell at Jesus’ feet, acknowledging Him as Lord and God. (Jn 20:24-9.)

Back to main article.


Leave a Comment