Two disciples, on the way to Emmaus, escaping danger in Jerusalem and looking for a quiet, safe life. are joined by a third man, a stranger to them. What kept their eyes from recognising Jesus? We want to sympathise with them—but Jesus is quite stern with them. Their “Jesus-blindness” was not simply unfortunate and understandable; it was culpable and reprehensible. Grace is not treacly sympathy!
The unrecognised Jesus told them, after they had finished their sad tale of woe, that they were “foolish and slow of heart to believe…” Their sadness was inappropriate because they had not paid attention to their Scriptures, nor to the Lord who had pointed them often to these Scriptures throughout his ministry. Foolishness and slowness of heart to believe—these are moral issues, not intellectual or emotional ones. Jesus has no treacly sympathy for those who will not pay attention to his word. Grace has quite a sting to it.
Inability to see the truth is not a result of God’s hiding. In fact, in Jesus Christ, God the Father has opened to us His very heart. Our problem is not that God’s playing hard to get. Where there is blindness to the truth, it is because the evil enemy of God is using our slowness to believe, our foolishness to blind us. As Paul puts it in 2Corinthians 4:3-4, “…if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Unbelief comes before blindness, not as a result of it.
Grace is God’s action in Jesus Christ not to accept our foolishness and slowness, but to break through it, to make Himself known to us against all our reluctance and unbelief. As he interpreted the Scriptures to these two, their hearts started to burn with a new courage; and later when he broke the bread, they recognised him. No more safe, quiet life for them—they were off to tell who they could about the glory of Jesus Christ.
Through the Word of God, and through the gift of Holy Communion, Jesus continues to break apart our slowness and dullness and foolishness, and to renew us in the courage and confidence in his Gospel.