During a stay in Israel we visited one of the Emmaus sites. It was amazing to stand among the ruins there and to imagine the long walk the two disciples had from Jerusalem. On the way they communed and reasoned with one another. It was during this time that the risen Yeshua/Jesus drew near and walked with them. In the KJV it says in Luke 24:16, “But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.” In the NIV it says: “But they were kept from recognising Him.”
These three walked and talked with one another discussing the Crucifixion when Yeshua said, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Isn’t that interesting? We have seen that the disciples were kept from seeing. They didn’t recognise Yeshua because they were kept from recognising Him. Even after walking and talking, and Yeshua teaching them from Scripture from, Moses and the Prophets, all the way to Emmaus they still didn’t recognise the Lord.
Our own lives are like that. We walk with the Lord but we don’t see or understand. How often have you read a Scripture then one day you really “see” what it is saying, and God speaks into your life. This is revelation. This is Yeshua walking and talking with us; opening up His Word to us and giving us understanding. “… how slow of heart to believe….”
This is not the end of this amazing episode and walk with the Lord. Along with God’s Word we see God’s action – the signs following! At the strong request of the two disciples Yeshua remained with them. Yeshua sat at the table with them. He took the bread, and broke it, and began to give it to them. It was then that their eyes were opened and they recognised Him. The term “recognized” is the same term used in Luke 1:4 with respect to “knowing (epignos) the certainty of the things” taught.
There is so much in this wonderful story. Often even the simplest things in Scripture are closed to us until we receive revelation from God. We read the Law, the Prophets and the Writings; we read the Gospels and the letters, the whole of Scripture, but there is much that we don’t understand. It is when God opens His Word to us that we really see; and we have already noticed, Yeshua came into the presence of the two disciples, men that had known Him before the Crucifixion, but they didn’t recognise Him until their eyes were opened at a given time and moment. God’s place and timing is perfect.
“Here is My Body given for you…” The two disciples received their sight, the scales were lifted from their eyes if you like, and their hearts rejoiced as they understood that they had met with the risen Messiah! Hearing His word, looking on His Body the bread, watching how He broke it and blessed it they saw. The supernatural obscurity was replaced by supernatural illumination. They moved from “foolish” and “slow of heart to believe” (24:25), to burning hearts with understanding and recognition. (24:32).
When reading this account in Luke, how can we write off the Jewish nation as some are doing today? This is a very deep-seated spiritual problem that manifests itself as antisemitism. It dispossesses Scripture of this powerful interaction between the Lord and His people and all that we have just read in the Gospel of Luke.
Why has ethnic Israel been in this condition of being “slow of heart to believe” for two-thousand years? Why were the two disciples walking with Yeshua from Jerusalem to Emmaus slow to believe all that way? The words of Yeshua echo down the centuries: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter glory? Israel is what? Slow to what? Israel is slow to… “believe”. Why is Israel slow to believe? Just like the disciples, Israel has a veil over their eyes. They are “holden that they should not know Him.” God has a purpose in “blinding” Israel to this truth; but they will not remain blind. Jesus didn’t rebuke the two disciples for being in unbelief. He told them how slow they were to believe. In the right place and at the right time God will remove the scale from Israel’s eyes and they will see, and they will believe. It is God that reveals Himself to people. It is no good anyone accusing Israel of not seeing and believing in the Messiah when it is God that has chosen not to reveal Himself to them. But, you say, Yeshua walked among the Jews. Yes, you are right, He did. But He also walked to Emmaus with two of His disciples that had previously lived in close fellowship with Him, yet they failed to recognise Him. We have already seen why they didn’t recognise Him.
People speak and write about ethnic Israel returning to the land in unbelief. I prefer to think of their return being during this state of slow of heart to believe. As the people and the land have come together, seeing and believing will come together and the people will not only be united with their land but also with their God. He will be their God and they will be His people. (Jeremiah 32:28; Ezekiel 37:15, 27).
It is very sad indeed to hear the vitriolic and venomous condemnation of the nation of Israel and of the Jews by some that go by the name of Christian. This is a blindness Satan has put upon people; it does not come from God. Such “Christians” are blind to the purposes of God, and the only way they will ever see is to repent and turn to the Lord! My prayer is that they will see, even as Israel one day in God’s timing will see. Sometimes our theology can blind us to the truth. That the Messiah should suffer was not part of the general Jewish Messianic views for instance, and it is a hindrance to them. Christians have their own blindfold theologies.
A well-known saying among Christians, particularly when they are recognising their own vulnerability to sin is that “When God looks at me, He does not see me; He sees Jesus.” We like that don’t we? What does God see when He looks at Israel? He sees the apple of His eye! (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8; Psalm 17:8). If God looked at Israel the way some Christians do, Israel would not exist today. Would those Christians like God to judge their sin the way they judge Israel’s? I suspect not. Are Israeli/Jewish sinners more sinful than Christian sinners? God will judge us the way we judge others. If Christians stand on God’s Word concerning salvation, why don’t they stand on God’s Word concerning His revealed purposes for Israel? If His Word concerning Israel is not sure, is His Word concerning salvation any more sure? If your answer is yes, then I would suggest you are serving a god of confusion and not the God of the Bible.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).
In Romans Ch.11, Paul, the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles asked, “Did God reject His people?” He was referring to the Jews; and he goes on to answer his own question: “By no means!” The answer quite clearly is, No! God did not reject His people the Jews. Why do some Christians today reject Israel when God has not? “God did not reject His people whom He foreknew.” I reiterate, God did not, has not, and will not reject Israel.
Israel’s blindness – their slowness “of heart to believe all that the prophets said concerning Messiah” was and is a God induced blindness. God has used their blindness to bring richness to the Gentiles, because the Gospel has gone out to the Gentiles and is in the process of going into all the world, not just Israel. It is in the purposes of God that Israel is blind until the time and place God has chosen for them to see and to believe. Increasing numbers of Jews are believers already.
Paul, the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles continues with this teaching in Romans 11:25, where he says: “I do not want you to be ignorant…” Paul does not want us to be ignorant about God’s purposes for Israel; so why are we? He does not want us to be ignorant “of this mystery, so that you may not be conceited. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” Do we get the picture yet, or are our hearts still too hard for us to receive God’s revelation concerning Israel? Are we so conceited that we know better than Paul, and have better and greater understanding than God Himself?
“…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Did you understand the work of the Cross by working it out with your natural mind and logical understanding, or did you receive revelation by the Holy Spirit? Was there not a time when you were blind to Yeshua and salvation, but now you see? And while you were blind, did you live a holy and righteous lifestyle? Israel is experiencing a hardness in part, a blindness to Messiah – but it will pass, and they will see, and they will live in God’s presence for evermore.
“And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.” It will be finished – Israel will be vindicated by her God.
Redemption for the people of Israel, And the Land of Israel
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. “The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves. “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. “It will come about in that day,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.” (Zechariah 12:10 – 13:2).
[Parts 1 and 2 are adapted from an article of the same title that I wrote for Pointers Magazine in June 2006]
Blessings and shalom,