Road to Emmaus

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Rembrandt's painting of the Supper at Emmaus (1648).

The Road to Emmaus (pronounced "eh-MAY-uhs") is one of the most beautiful and piercing accounts in all of the Gospels. As set forth at Luke 24:13-35, it describes an encounter by two disciples of Jesus, only one of whom is identified (Cleopas), with an ostensible stranger who joins them on the walk. They walked together towards Emmaus, a distance of about 7 miles, until it was too dark to safely proceed further. It is likely that the Epistle to the Hebrews documents what the stranger said to the two disciples during this walk.[1]

The incident is so compelling that there have been many paintings, particularly from the Renaissance, which attempt to depict it. Rembrandt, for example, completed two paintings and two etchings of the incident, including his Supper at Emmaus in 1648 which is now at the Louvre. Caravaggio (1571-1610) also did multiple paintings of this incident, including his painting Supper at Emmaus in 1601.[2]

The encounter captures perfectly the startling sensation of surprise awareness that is so difficult to describe. This account is considered the most famous of the post-Resurrection encounters with Jesus.


This account is one of several places in the Bible which describes a physical effect caused by awareness: here, the inability to see Jesus once the observers became aware of his presence. Other passages where awareness had a physical impact is the walking on water by Peter (he sunk when he became aware of the challenges) and the calming of the storm by Jesus (it calmed when he observed it).

The tasting of the water that had become wine, a miracle in the Gospel of John, also utilizes awareness to attain a physical result. Similarly, the Fall in the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis is about the awareness of good and evil.

Nearly 2000 years later, modern quantum mechanics proved a similar astounding physical impact of human awareness.

Translating Luke 24:31

The pivotal verse is imprecisely translated. English Bible translations are evenly divided on whether to translate as "vanish" or "disappear" the departure of Jesus from the two disciples. A third, less common but perhaps more precise, approach is to translate Luke 24:31 as "became unseen."[3]

The Greek word ἄφαντος, which is used only once in the entire Bible, means "invisible". It implies that Jesus did not leave but became hidden. That is consistent with modern quantum mechanics and awareness, as Jesus reverted to a different physical state upon awareness of the observers. Hence the clause is properly translated as "This opened their eyes, and they recognized Him; whereupon his presence became hidden."

Old Testament

This encounter has similarities to a passage in the Book of Genesis when Jacob wrestles, unwittingly, with Yahweh who took on a human form.

See also