Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 24:13-35

Text in red are my additions.

13 And behold, two of them went, the same day, to a town which was sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, named Emmaus.

“And behold,” conveying, that the following was a sudden and unexpected manifestation.

“Two of them,” generally supposed to refer to two of the seventy-two disciples. Our Lord had several followers besides the seventy-two, of whom some, like Nicodemus, who came to Him by night, did not publicly profess their adherence and attachment to Him. That these two were of the seventy-two, is the more common opinion of the Fathers. That they were not of the Apostles, is clear from verse 33, where it is said, “they found the eleven gathered together.”

“Went the same day,” Easter Day, on which our Lord had risen.

“To a town.” St. Mark (16:12) has, “into the country.” The common opinion is, that St. Luke here, and St. Mark, refer to the same occurrence, which is fully detailed by St. Luke alone. The objection to this opinion, derived from the assertion of St. Mark, that those to whom they announced it, “did not believe;” whereas, St. Luke (v. 34) would seem to say the contrary, is of no weight; since it might be said that among those, of whom St. Mark speaks, some did not believe, while others did, and among the letter were the Apostles.

“Sixty furlongs,” or about seven and a half miles “from Jerusalem.” “Named Emmaus.” After the total subjugation of the Jews, it was called Nicopolis, as we are informed by Sozomen (Lib. 5, Hist. c. 21); St. Jerome (ad Eustoch. de Epitaph. Paulæ Ep. 27).

14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

The occurrences which took place in regard to our Lord, viz., His sufferings, death, and the announcement made by the holy women on that morning, formed the subject of their conversation.

15 And it came to pass that while they talked and reasoned with themselves, Jesus himself also, drawing near, went with them.

“And it came to pass,” seemingly by mere chance, so far as it concerned them, but not so, as regarded our Lord, by whom it was deliberately arranged beforehand.

“Talked and reasoned with themselves,” talked over the events that occurred, “and reasoned” about the conclusions to be deduced, as to whether He had really risen, as He had promised, and the consequences of His having risen or not risen, &c.

“Jesus Himself also”—the very person of whom they were speaking. This is the force of “also,” unexpectedly, His approach being unobserved till He actually joined them as a fellow-traveller, journeying the same way; thus illustrating His promise, as Ven. Bede, in hoc loco, observes—that “where two or three are assembled in His name, He is in the midst of them.”

16 But their eyes were held, that they should not know him.

“But their eyes were held,” &c. Our Lord did not wish to be recognised by them. St. Mark (16:12), says, “He appeared in a different shape.” Both may have happened. Whilst remaining substantially the same as He had been before in His mortal form, His glorious and immortal body presented in some features a different appearance, owing to the natural qualities of a glorified body, from what it had before presented, just as shall be the case with our bodies after the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:41, 42); and, as happened to our Lord Himself after His resurrection, when Magdalen took Him for the gardener, and the Apostles for a Spirit (v. 37), although it is not said that in either case their eyes were held. His glorious body may have assumed the appearance of a stranger travelling homewards. The eyes of the disciples were held so as not to recognize Him in His altered and glorified shape. So were their ears also in regard to His voice, which probably was changed as well as His outward appearance. Our Lord held their eyes by a supernatural influence, so that although seen, He might not be recognized by them, in order that their faith and testimony might be more firm, when after laying bare the wounds of unbelief, a suitable remedy might be more effectually and more abidingly applied—“ut ulcus suum (dubitationis et tristitiæ) discipuli aperirent ct pharmacum susciperent”—(Theophylact).

17 And he said to them: What are these discourses that you hold one with another as you walk and are sad?

“What are those discourses that you hold one with another?” The Greek for “hold,” conveys the idea of lossing backwards and forwards like a ball. Hence, it means, to interchange.

“And are sad,” show a sad and mournful countenance. Our Lord Himself well knew the subject of their conversation, and the cause of their sorrow—He may also have on His near approach, overheard what they were speaking about. He wishes, however, to ascertain it from themselves, in order to apply the remedy, of which their own admissions would be naturally suggestive. In some MSS.—the Vatican among the rest—after, “as you walk,” are inserted the words, “they stood still,”—εσταθησαν—“sad in countenance.”

18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to him: Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things that have been done there in these days?

“Cleophas,” probably, a native of Emmaus, as is inferred from the pressing invitation given to our Redeemer to receive hospitality from him (v. 29).

“Art thou only a stranger?” &c., that is, art thou the only stranger among the crowd of strangers, that came to Jerusalem on the occasion of the great Paschal solemnity, that is ignorant of these things, of which we are speaking? They took Him for one of the strangers who came to celebrate the Pasch at Jerusalem. “And hast not known,” &c. “And,” has the meaning of “who, knoweth not,” &c. “Only,” or rather “alone,” directly affects the verb, “knowest not,” in the meaning of the passage. These disciples are so full of their subject, that they can think of nothing else, and cannot conceive, how it could be supposed, that there was any thing else to engage the attention of any one in Jerusalem, save the great events they were discoursing about. Beelen (Gramm. Græcit, § 3) observes, that the finite verb, παροικεις (paroikeis = “living,” but in the sense of dwelling or residing temporarily), is put for παροικων (paroikeo), and one sentence expressed by two, connected by και, συ μονος παροικων Ιερουσαλημ, ουκ εγνως (“Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known”). Basically, the Greek structure noted by Beelen simply confirms the point MacEvilly is attempting to make. The following translation might help capture the meaning: “Are you the only person living  Jerusalem, that thou has not known the things that have come to pass in it in these days?”

19 To whom he said: What things? And they said: Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people.

Our Lord, without denying that He knew all the events, designedly conceals all cognizance of them, and, in order to ascertain from their own admission the thoughts of their minds, the weakness of their faith and their hesitancy, which He meant to remedy, asks, “what things?” What are the things you refer to as having happened? They reply, the things that happened, “concerning Jesus of Nazareth,” &c.

The disciples here refrain from expressing their belief in our Lord’s Divinity, if they had such belief, not knowing the stranger with whom they were conversing. It might be perilous to express such faith, on account of the persecution they might suffer from the Jews (Ven. Bede). Or, it may be, that being in a state of doubt and perplexity on account of recent events, they knew not what to call our Lord, beyond what was almost universally believed regarding Him, viz., that He was a distinguished Prophet, who, with miraculous wonders, united a doctrine all heavenly “before God” (Acts 2:22), “and all the people,” God and man testifying to His merits. The power and sanctity of God were wonderfully displayed in Him, and the whole people, the envious Pharisees excepted, always revered Him as a Prophet. They then convey to this stranger, that such a man should rather be treated with honour, than be ignominiously put to death.

20 And how our chief priests and princes delivered him to be condemned to death and crucified him.

“And crucified Him,” by the hands of the Romans, to whom they delivered Him for this purpose (see Acts 2:36; 4:10). The disciples prudently refrain from expressing their own convictions regarding the injustice of the treatment He received, as they were speaking to an unknown stranger, who might denounce them to the Jewish authorities.

21 But we hoped that it was he that should have redeemed Israel. And now besides all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done.

“We hoped that it was He who should have redeemed Israel”—the promised, long-expected Messiah, who would rescue the Jewish people from the odious yoke of the Romans. But, now recent events have considerably perplexed us, and served to lessen this hope. The disciples shared in the common error of their countrymen, who imagined that the Messiah would effect the temporal deliverance of the Jews. Even up to His ascension, they expected this (Acts 1:8). In this verse, is shown the perplexity or fluctuation between hope and fear, under which the disciples were now labouring.

“And besides all this,” besides the perplexity caused by His death and ignominious sufferings, our embarrassment and want of confidence and belief regarding Him, are still more increased, when we remember—what was calculated to raise our hopes still higher—that He promised to rise again on the third day, and now, “to-day is the third day since these things happened,” that is, since His betrayal and death; and still, there is no clear evidence of His having risen. Even if the disciples remembered our Lord’s promise, they did not clearly understand what it meant. The disciples probably remembered the promise and prediction regarding His resurrection on the third day, as is conveyed in the above explanation, but in their confusion and perplexity, they omit all allusion to such promise, and express themselves in an incoherent form, or, it may be, they purposely suppressed any distinct allusion to this prediction, when addressing a stranger whom they knew not, lest they might expose themselves to ridicule, for their credulity in attending to a promise, in which they were apparently disappointed.

22 Yea and certain women also of our company affrighted us who, before it was light, were at the sepulchre,

And even to add to our perplexity, and cause us to linger still between hope and doubt, “certain women also of our company, affrighted us,” threw us into an ecstasy, or threw us into amazement—such is the force of the Greek verb.

23 And not finding his body, came, saying that they had all seen a vision of angels, who say that he is alive.
24 And some of our people went to the sepulchre and found it so as the women had said: but him they found not.

“And some of our people.” Hence, more than one went, more than Peter (v. 12); John also is included, so that there is reference here to the visit made by Peter and John. (John 20:3, &c.) “But Him they found not.” Hence, between the disappearance of the body, and their ignorance as to where He is, our doubts and perplexity are further increased.

25 Then he said to them: O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all things, Which the prophets have spoken.

Hitherto, our Lord had patiently heard them out, and having fully ascertained from themselves the spiritual malady of religious doubt and hesitation, they were suffering from, He now prudently applies the proper remedy. “O foolish”—the Greek word, ανοητοι (anoetoi), means devoid of mind or intelligence—“and slow of heart to believe in all things,” or, to believe all things—“the prophets have spoken.” “All things.” They believed and fully appreciated what the prophets had said regarding the glories of the future Messiah; but the other things, that regarded His humiliations and sufferings, they were slow to believe, and could not be brought to comprehend.

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so, to enter into his glory?

“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?” “Ought not.” Looking to the predictions of the prophets, to His own voluntary, free action, arranging all beforehand, and to the decree of God, ordaining that His Son should redeem mankind, by His voluntary sufferings and ignominious death, it was necessary He should suffer. There was nothing about which the prophets and the Books of Moses were more explicit than regarding the sufferings and humiliations of the Messiah, therefore called “the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4). Hence, our Lord shows the disciples that the very thing that weakened their faith and made them lose all hope—for by saying, “we hoped,” they insinuate that such hope was lost at present—should be the very thing to increase their faith, and confirm their hope. For if He did not suffer, He would not be the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke.

“And so,” through the predicted ordeal of sufferings, and no other way—this being an indispensable condition—“enter into His glory,” viz., the glory of His resurrection, ascension—the exalted name He received in reward for His humiliation (Philip. 2:6). “His glory”—“His,” singly merited by Him—“His,” by the preordinating decrees of God (Heb. 2:9). This is His ordination regarding all His followers, “per multas tribulationes,” &c. (Acts 14, &c.)

27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things that were concerning him.

“Moses.” The Books of Moses, “and the writings of the prophets,” “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things that were concerning Him.” Commencing with the very beginning of Sacred Scripture, the Books of Moses, He fully explained the texts that chiefly regarded Him, and also the types that foreshadowed Him, the Brazen Serpent, the Paschal Lamb, the Sacrifice of Isaac, and the rest which are found in the several books of Sacred Scriptures regarding Him.

28 And they drew nigh to the town whither they were going: and he made as though he would go farther.

“The town” of Emmaus, “whither they were going”—“and He made as though He would go farther.” Although He wished to remain and reveal Himself, still in order to give them an opportunity of pressing Him to partake of their hospitality, and thus render them worthy of hearing more of His heavenly doctrines, He acted as if He meant to proceed farther. He only showed by act what He meant to do; He meant to go farther, if they did not press Him to remain. There is nothing, therefore, savouring of a practical falsehood in seeming to do what. He was about doing. His action, when seeming to proceed, was equivalent to the question, “shall we now part?” There was no more in this than in His appearing in the form of a stranger travelling homewards, and His apparent motion forwards was only carrying out this notion; or in His assuming the form of the gardener, when He first appeared to Magdalen. Although He knew, as God, they would press Him to remain; still, acting as man, He made an experiment of their hospitable feelings towards Him, whom they regarded as a stranger.

29 But they constrained him, saying: Stay with us, because it is towards evening and the day is now far spent. And he went in with them.

“They constrained Him, saying,” &c. They eagerly pressed Him, whose society and words had caused them such pleasure. “Because it is towards evening.” The sun had already passed the meridian. Some hours of day, however, still remained. For they returned that very day to Jerusalem, and announced to the Apostles, that they saw the Lord (v. 33). It is supposed by many that Cleophas lived at Emmaus, and entertained our Lord at his house, which, St. Jerome says (Ep. 27 Epis. ad Paulam, c. 3), our Lord made into a church, from which it is inferred, that St. Jerome held that our Lord administered the blessed Eucharist on this occasion. Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, there is a church.

30 And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread and blessed and brake and gave to them.

It is a subject of dispute among Commentators whether our Lord celebrated the blessed Eucharist on this occasion, or not. Some who hold the affirmative (St. Augustine, Sermo. 140, de Tempore; St. Jerome, Ep. 27; Theophylact, Bede, A. Lapide, Maldonatus, &c.), prove their view: first, from the words used here, “took bread,” “blessed,” “broke,” “gave to them,” which, being precisely the same as those in which the institution of the Eucharist is described (Matthew 26:26), would imply that the same thing took place in both cases. Again, the words of the disciples (v. 35), “the breaking of bread,” are the terms in which the blessed Eucharist was designated in the days of the Apostles (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16; panis quem frangimus); 2nd, from the effect produced. “This breaking of bread” had the miraculous effect of opening the eyes of the disciples, so as to know our Lord. It was, therefore, a very solemn, religious act. These disciples, probably, having heard from the Apostles of the ceremony observed by our Lord at the last supper, seeing it repeated here, and remembering His words a year before this (John 6), when He spoke of Himself as the Bread that came down from heaven—the Bread that gave life to the world—at once, owing to the miraculous effect of the Eucharist, recognised Him in this adorable mystery of His love; 3rd, the blessing here is different from the ordinary blessing at meals, for it was given, not at the commencement, but at the end of supper, “cum cænasset,” for our Lord immediately after vanished.

These Commentators, therefore, hold that our Lord gave Himself to these two disciples under one species, in the form of bread only, as we have no account of the chalice, our Lord having suddenly disappeared on being recognised in the breaking of bread. Others, however (Jansenius, Estius, Calmet), are of a different opinion, whilst Bellarmine, Natalis, Alexander, &c., give no positive opinion on the subject either way.

31 And their eyes were opened: and they knew him. And he vanished out of their sight.

“Their eyes were opened.” The following words explain what this means, not that they were blind before, but that some veil, some obstacle, supernaturally impeded their clear vision, so that they could not see Him. Hence, it is added, “and they knew Him.” This was the miraculous effect of “the breaking of the bread,” as they themselves afterwards explain (v. 35). They were opened in the same way as were those of our fallen first parents (Genesis 3), of Agar (Genesis 21:19).

“And He vanished out of their sight.” He rendered Himself invisible to them, by an effect of His Divine power, and passed away from them, after He had shown Himself visibly to them in His glorious body, and after He had been recognised by them. This circumstance of suddenly rendering Himself invisible and disappearing, was of itself calculated to confirm their faith and belief that it was Christ, and Christ only, they saw.

32 And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in the way and opened to us the scriptures?

“Was not our heart burning,” &c. These words are understood by some to mean, that they reproached themselves for not having known Him before, owing to the fire which His conversation kindled in their hearts. Others understand the words to be confirmatory of their assured recognition of our Lord, just seen by them, as if to say, surely it must be He, for we could not account otherwise for the burning heat we felt during the entire time He was expounding the Scriptures, and conversing with us on the way. The effect of God’s Word properly received is, to enlighten us and inflame us with Divine love, “ignitum eloquium tuum vehementer.” (Psalm 119:140; Proverbs 30:5; Deut. 32:2; Luke 12:42; Ezechiel 1:13, &c.) No wonder that the pious reading of, and meditation on, the Word of God, should stimulate and inflame us to advance more and more in the road of perfection. If it fail, the fault is entirely our own.

33 And rising up, the same hour, they went back to Jerusalem: and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were with them,

“The same hour,” without a moment’s delay. Although now it was “towards evening,” &c., they rose up, at once, from table, in their anxiety to impart to the Apostles and other disciples the glad tidings regarding our Lord’s resurrection and appearance to themselves. Probably, they meant before this occurrence to spend the night at Emmaus; but now, they make no delay in returning in haste to Jerusalem.

“The eleven.” It is thus the Apostolic College is styled subsequent to our Lord’s death. Thomas was absent on this occasion (v. 36), hic, when the two approached, and being incredulous, left before our Lord spoke to the eleven (John 20:19–24). It may be, Thomas was present. “And those that were with them,” viz., the holy women and the other disciples—our Lord’s disciples of either sex—who then stopped at Jerusalem, and were assembled together in the same house with the Apostles, conversing about the wonderful manifestations both to the women and Peter regarding His resurrection.

34 Saying: The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon.

“Saying,” that is, the eleven, and the others, first informed the two disciples, who imagined they were the first to announce the glad tidings of our Lord’s resurrection, so that when the two announced the apparition vouchsafed to themselves, they had nothing new to impart, that the others had not already known.

“The Lord is risen indeed,” that is, truly and undoubtedly.

“And hath appeared to Simon.” It would seem that our Lord appeared to Peter first, before He manifested Himself to any other man, out of regard for his ardent love, to console him for his fall—as He appeared first to the fallen, loving Magdalen before other women—and as a privilege intended for the head of His Church (1 Cor. 15:5). When He appeared to Peter we cannot ascertain. But it is commonly believed He appeared to him, before He appeared to the two disciples referred to here. It would seem the Apostles and disciples placed more reliance on the declaration of Peter than they did on that of the women; although still some among them doubted (Mark 16:13).

35 And they told what things were done in the way: and how they knew him in the breaking of bread.

After hearing from the assembled Apostles and disciples of our Lord’s apparition, the two disciples relate in turn what occurred to themselves on the road and at table, and furnished further evidence, to an audience already prepared to believe, of the truth of our Lord’s resurrection.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 24:13-35

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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