Have you ever heard something that sounded so crazy that you figured it couldn’t possibly be true?
The disciples on the road to Emmaus probably felt this way about Jesus’ teachings surrounding his death and resurrection.
We find them leaving Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus. They were discouraged because Jesus, the one they thought would have redeemed Israel, had died. The irony is that Jesus meets them on their journey and begins a conversation with them but they do not recognize him.
They begin to share their explanation of the things that happened in Jerusalem. After they finish, Jesus chides them, and remarks that they are foolish and slow to believe. He didn’t think that they should have been as discouraged as they were.
Keep reading and I’ll explain the significance of the road to Emmaus and why Jesus responded as he did; then I’ll share two key takeaways from the passage that can encourage Christians walking through hard times.
The Story of the Road to Emmaus
The Journey to Emmaus (vv. 13-14)
As I shared previously, verses 13 and 14 mention that two disciples were going to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem.
This is significant because as disciples of Christ, and likely Jewish men, they would have observed Passover. Passover is observed for seven days. Yet, they were leaving Jerusalem four days early. Pablo T. Gadenz thinks that the disciples saw no reason to stay in Jerusalem because of what happened to Jesus, and were on their way home. 
They were sad as they left Jerusalem. They thought Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. As far as they knew, he didn’t. “How could death bring redemption?” they probably wondered to themselves.
Encountering Jesus on the Road to Emmaus (v. 15-24)
As they walked and talked, Jesus came up to them and began to walk with them. The key to remember is that they didn’t recognize Jesus. He casually asks them what they were talking about, and with sadness in his face, Cleopas responds, “Are you the only one who doesn’t know?” Although he did indeed know, Jesus asks, “What?” and prompts them to share what they believed about his death.
They explained that Jesus of Nazareth was a powerful prophet. But he was arrested and sentenced to death by the chief priests and the Jewish rulers. They told him that they hoped Jesus was going to redeem Israel.
Their sadness and despair is so obvious in this short section.
Their words reveal what was in their hearts. They once had faith that Jesus could redeem Israel, but when things got really bad, they no longer believed. Their faith was based on what they could see not based on the truth Jesus spoke to them.
Related: An Open Letter to the Weary Christian Woman: Keep Holding On to Jesus
Foolish and Slow of Heart (v. 25-27)
Jesus responded and said to them,
While the word “foolish” would cause one to think that Jesus is speaking about their intellectual ability, the second part of the sentence makes it clear that he isn’t. 
The NIV, like many other English translations, uses the phrase “slow to believe” in this verse. However, this isn’t exactly what the phrase says in Greek.
In Greek, it reads literally reads “slow of heart to believe.”
It’s not that they didn’t believe because they intellectually couldn’t, they didn’t believe because of something going on with their hearts.
Even if it was difficult for them to understand from the Old Testament that Jesus was meant to suffer, they should have understood it from Jesus’ own words before his death. He told his disciples what would happen.
In their minds, the message was too crazy to be true. Their hearts were closed off from believing that Jesus would redeem Israel by first suffering.
However, Jesus was kind to them and explained everything that the scriptures said about himself.
Breaking Bread with Jesus (vv. 28-35)
They were so intrigued by Jesus’ words that they invited him to stay with them. Remember, at this point they still didn’t know who he was.
He sat with them, took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to them. Then at this point, their eyes were opened and they recognized him. They reflected on the conversation they had on the road and realized that their hearts were stirred as Jesus spoke. Then, as quickly as they could, they left Emmaus and returned to Jerusalem to tell the others.
Related: Surrendering to the God of Hope When All Seems Lost
Two Key Takeaways for Christians from the Road to Emmaus
#1 We Need Faith that is Firm in Suffering
Remember how I previously mentioned the disciples’ sadness and despair? Their emotions were valid. But the level of discouragement they felt didn’t match the truth they had been told about the Messiah. They would have stayed in Jerusalem if they had believed Jesus’ words.
You and I are not so different from the Emmaus Disciples. We might have also missed the point of Jesus’ message. If we were in Jerusalem during those days, we probably would have begun our own journeys home.
Like these two disciples, we can often be “slow of heart.” We don’t always believe Jesus’ words and when trouble comes, we fall into despair.
The Messiah had to suffer and then enter his glory. Likewise, the Christian has to suffer and then enter into glory with Christ.
If you are experiencing unexpected hard times, don’t turn away from Christ. Remember his words and allow them to bring you hope.
Instead of a faith that says “we had hoped” when hardship strikes, may we have faith that still remains firm in suffering.
#2 God is Gracious Even When We Struggle to Believe
But thankfully, God was gracious to these disciples who struggled to believe.
Notice two things: in the beginning of this section (v. 16), Luke tells us that “they were kept from recognizing him.” And at the end (v. 31), Luke explains that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
These verses are worded like this for a reason. It’s meant to highlight the fact that God, through his divine agency, kept them from recognizing Jesus at the beginning of the journey, and allowed them to recognize him at the end.
Related: How Grace Helps Us to Thrive With Thorns in Our Flesh
Technically, they should have believed in the Resurrection because of the faith they had in Jesus and the words he spoke before he died.
However, God was gracious enough to open their eyes so that they could see for themselves that Christ had resurrected.
Similarly, God is gracious to us. He doesn’t walk away when we struggle to believe. He opens our eyes by sitting with us, feeding us, and compassionately telling us the truth.
 Gadenz, Pablo T. The Gospel of Luke (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018.
 See Chen, Diane G.. Luke : A New Covenant Commentary. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2017.