Why did Jesus appear on the road to Emmaus?


I often find as I meditate on different aspects of our Lords life, often through the Holy Rosary, that questions pop into my mind on different events.

Lately, I have wanted to know- why did Jesus appear to the men on the road to Emmaus before he appeared to the 11 apostles? The disciples he appeared to was Cleopas and an unnamed companion and they just seem so insignificant. The Lord had already appeared to Mary Magdalen, and she had gone to tell the apostles he had been resurrected, and yet instead of then going to the apostles, the Lord appeared to Cleopas and his companion and they, too, went to tell the apostles.

It seems to me there must be some reason for this. I don’t believe anything the Lord did was ever random. But for the life of me, I cannot think of why He appeared to these two disciples, and despite multiple attempts at googling I haven’t found any articles. My study Bibles don’t have any commentary on why either.

Does anyone know?


The priest that is a Scripture scholar that married us said that his theory was that it was a married couple.
That it was an emphasis on the meal, the family, and the Real Presence.
In other words, that the average layperson could evangelize and experience Christ just as His disciples had for the rest of their lives in the Eucharistic meal. The “domestic Church”


Altho Jesus had not yet appeared to all the apostles, He had appeared to Peter.
Luke 24:32-34Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them
who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”


Perhaps they weren’t as insignificant as you think. Is it not possible that, being disciples of Jesus, they were devout, faithful people?


It has been suggested by some that the second person on the road to Emmaus was St. Luke. Compare the beautifully detailed scene in Luke’s gospel to the very brief aside in Mark.

The remarks in general on the episodes are that each of those three interactions share a common thread. Mary Magdalene was faithful enough to stand at the foot of the cross, and she did not let conversation with angels distract her from her grief and her search for her Master’s body. When she first saw Jesus, she didn’t recognize him-- but when he spoke to her, she did.

The next episode was Peter. Peter had betrayed Jesus, and was overwhelmed by his grief. But he was also the leader of the fledgling Church. These two things made it proper for him to have one of the first interactions with the Risen Christ-- and perhaps because of his rank, his is more private regarding the details of what happened. But Christ’s passion and death must have been foremost in his mind for several days, for sure.

The third episode was the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They, too, were contemplating Jesus’ passion and death. And again, Jesus didn’t reveal himself right off the bat— he needed to cultivate their hearts before revealing himself. How often does God do that for us! Jesus very rarely comes out of the sky like a lightning bolt. He gets us where we need to be in order to receive him properly. We can’t find that place without him; it requires deliberate effort on his part to cultivate our hearts, and our cooperation. That’s one of the things that was manifested on the road to Emmaus which we can apply to ourselves.


In my opinion the story gives hope to Christians who “believe in Jesus without seeing him”. This story is the blueprint for mass which comes in two parts. First, Jesus explained the fulfillment of scripture which is the first part of our mass. Second, Jesus celebrated the Eucharist which the disciples recognized Jesus through the breaking of bread which is the second part of our mass.

It gives us all hope that we too “find” Jesus through the mass.


Yep, there’s this theory that the other disciple aside from Cleopas is his wife (if we identify him with the “Clopas” in John 19, then this would be Mary, Clopas’ wife).

As an aside: there’s an early tradition that Cl(e)opas is actually St. Joseph’s brother (and thus, Jesus’ uncle); his son Simon became the second head (bishop) of the Jerusalem Church after James Jesus’ ‘brother’ was martyred. (There was in fact an early tradition that claims that the two travelers were actually Cleopas and a ‘Simon’. While a few people had tried to identify this ‘Simon’ with Peter - so the declaration of the disciples is v. 34 is not so much a sort of announcement but a sort of exclamation: “Wow! Jesus had appeared to you? He’s really alive then!” - who knows? Maybe the ‘Simon’ here is Cleopas’ son. Either way, it’s family.)

Someone made this suggestion that the Emmaus story functioned to sort of help consolidate the authoritative position of Jesus’ family in the Jerusalem Church. (“Hey, one of the first people Jesus appeared to was His uncle!”) But note how Luke ends the story: the eleven and the other disciples greet Cleopas with the news that Jesus had appeared to Simon. According to this idea, Luke does this to hint that while Jesus’ relatives may have positions of authority, Peter is ultimately the leader of the Church. If we’re going to base authority on whoever Jesus appeared to, Cleopas can’t really claim to have a unique experience, because He had also appeared to Peter.

Another theory (Arthur A. Just, The Ongoing Feast: Table Fellowship and Eschatology at Emmaus) is that Luke included the story to indicate that Jesus will soon attract a greater circle of followers beyond the Eleven. Note how the appearance to Simon is just referred to in passing; it is the appearance to Cleopas and the other guy (?) that takes center stage. The OP asks a very good question: “why did Jesus appear to the men on the road to Emmaus before he appeared to the 11 apostles?” As per this idea, this is intentional on the part of Luke. He focuses on a couple of disciples who are not part of the Twelve/Eleven, and focuses on Jesus’ explanation of the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread (an allusion to the Eucharist?) in order to show that the circle of Jesus’ followers will eventually grow beyond the Eleven, and these people will have access to His presence via “the breaking of the bread.”


I have a theory that, before revealing Himself to the Church (represented by the Eleven, being the foundation stones of the Church), He reveals the missions that the members of His Body must fulfill. These are Prophet (the women, who recognized Jesus through His word), Priest (the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who recognized Jesus through the Eucharist), and King (Simon Peter… we have no record of this meeting).

After these three meetings, He meets the Eleven and after establishing who He is, does the following, as recorded in John:

“[21] He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. [22] When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. [23] Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”

And after establishing who He is, does the following, as recorded by Luke:

“[44] And he said to them: These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. [45] Then he opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”

And in Matthew:

“[18] And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”

And again in Mark:

“[15] And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

In John, we see Jesus confer the Priestly power (forgiveness of sins) on the Eleven.

In Luke, we see Jesus confer the Prophetic power (knowledge of God) on the Eleven.

In Matthew, we see Jesus confer the Kingly power (administration - of Jesus’ prophethood–teach all nations, of Jesus’ priesthood–baptizing them in the power of the Trinity, and also of the Laws of God–teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded).

In Mark, we see Jesus command all of this in a kind of summarized form: “preach the gospel to every creature.” To preach isn’t simply to teach, though this is included, but it also implies a call to repentance and obedience. “To every creature” implies universal dominion.

Just my $0.02. :smiley:


Thanks everyone for sharing your viewpoints- much food for thought here. If anyone else has anything to contribute, I would be grateful.


To add another point, I think Jesus demonstrated a model to follow of how he wanted to be remembered - through communal fellowship.


I have some reasons: I believe that Cleopas was the younger brother of Jesus’ father Joseph and this appearance was an answer to Joseph’s prayers for his brother’s salvation. Remember Jesus was rejected by the people of Nazareth. The other man was I believe one of his son’s but not James, who told this story to Luke 3 decades later. The other disciple can’t be his wife, because they refer to their woman (likely a reference to their wives and the rest of the woman). Cleopas’ wife was the woman at the cross and burial with many different names (Mary of Clopas, the other Mary, Mary the mother of James and Joses, etc). Because they were relatives of Jesus they were at the last supper and privy to where the apostles were staying. But because there were from Nazareth they had a hard time coming to believe in Jesus because they knew Him too well. I think a main gist of Jesus’ talk was how Jesus was fulfilling every story in the Old Testament in His death and resurrection Ia very interesting topic). It is likely that Jesus appeared to Simon Peter while these disciples were returning to Jerusalem. Because they had been skeptics, their testimony would be somewhat more effective). (women and shepherds were not considered reliable/acceptable witnesses.
Grace and peace,


This is interesting: I’d add that Christ has a fourth “role title” (Priest, Prophet, King and Servant). So under your idea, maybe one could argue that was the revelation of the mission to the Eleven, as they would be preaching the Gospel as servants to the people ?


Well, I would argue that servanthood is a mission that we all participate in, and that the degree of power and authority that we receive, is correspondent to the degree of service we are called to perform.

Bishops encompass all three of these missions in an explicit way. Every Bishop is first a Baptized Lay person, and receives an explicit participation in Jesus’ mission of prophecy (the spreading of the Gospel). Every Bishop is second a Consecrated Priest, and receives an explicit participation in Jesus’ mission of priesthood (providing access of Sanctifying Grace to the Lay Faithful through the Sacraments). Every Bishop is third a Consecrated Bishop, and receives an explicit participation in Jesus’ mission of Kingship (administration of His Kingdom, including providing access of the Sanctifying Grace of the Priesthood to Ordained Priests as well as expounding true doctrine, and administering law to all the Faithful). The office of the Pope is the same as that of Bishop, but in a singular way, administering also to the other Bishops.

Each level of power and authority, indicated here, corresponds also to a required level of servitude. Remember, the primary title of the Pope is “The Servant of the Servants of God” or simply “Servant of Servants,” indicating that, within the structure of the Church, the Papal Office holds the highest authority, or at least one more power than any other office in the Church, and thus the holder of that office is called to the greatest amount or level of service.

That’s how I see it anyway. Not sure if that’s really orthodox or not.


It was the first Eucharist after the Last Supper.

***Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. *(Luke 24:35)

The whole episode is Eucharistic.



I imagine Cleopas would have been in his late 30s-early 40s. He was the father of James the younger.


What was amazing was that they didnt recognise Him, even after walking along & talking to them for quite a while. How is that possible? & yet it was Him, under the appearance of a perfect stranger. He’s showing us how He lives in our brothers & sisters & in others.
& that we will be brought together in Him via the Eucharist.
Let us see God in others!
‘God is dwelling in my heart
He & I are one
All the good He gives to me
From Jesus Christ His Son’


Thank you for reminding us of this passage. When we have to deal with so many that doubt that Jesus intended for us to have the Eucharist, you bring up this jem.

Regular people. Traveling. God desires to be with them. God initiates the interaction. God is ready to move on. We ask him to come stay with us. God gives us the Eucharist. We slowly recognize God’s presence through the breaking of the bread.


The various posts above that identify Cleopas as Clopas [Joseph’s brother] are correct. However, the other disciple was probably James, the Lord’s brother. In 1st Cor, Paul mentions an appearance to James.

Not stating that James was the other disciple was probably meant to lessen James importance as compared to Peter.

Not only did Simon [James’ brother] become the head of the Jerusalem church, all the leaders of the Jerusalem church up to the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine about 35 AD were related to Jesus.


Thank you to everyone for the input so far. I find it fascinating that there doesn’t appear to be a general consensus, and that people see different things. It seems like for such a quick passage in scripture, this one has a very deep and broad meaning.


+I heard a wonderful homily by a devout and quite marvelously wise . . . teaching priest . . . who had a very clear take on the purpose of this passage . . . being that as the Good Shepherd . . . Jesus . . . the Blessed Christ of God . . . God the Son . . . saw two of his beloved sheep straying** AWAY ** because of unbelief from Jerusalem . . . where He was going to meet with His disciples . . . these two were steadily distancing themselves from Jerusalem and Peter and the other disciples . . . so our LORD as the Good Shepherd sought these wandering ones and brought them close to Himself. . . and following the encounter with their LORD . . . they RETURNED to the Jerusalem sheepfold of disciples . . .* seeking lost sheep who have strayed away from the flock being one of the holy and constant missions of our LORD . . . both before and following His death, burial and resurrection . . . *
[INDENT][INDENT][13] And behold, two of them went, the same day, to a town which was sixty furlongs FROM Jerusalem, named Emmaus. [14] And they talked together of all these things which had happened. [15] And it came to pass, that while they talked and reasoned with themselves,*** Jesus*** himself also drawing near, went with them.

[16] But their eyes were held, that they should not know him. [17] And he said to them: What are these discourses that you hold one with another as you walk, and are sad? [18] And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to him: Art thou only a stranger to Jerusalem, and hast not known the things that have been done there 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; [20] And how our chief priests and princes delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him.

[21] But we hoped, that it was he that should have redeemed Israel: and now besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done. [22] Yea and certain women also of our company affrighted us, who before it was light, were at the sepulchre, [23] And not finding his body, came, saying, that they had also 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.

[25] Then he said to them:** O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. [26] Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?** [27] And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him. [28] And they drew nigh to the town, whither they were going: and he made as though he would go farther. [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. [30] And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them.

[31] And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. [32] And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in this way, and opened to us the scriptures? [33] And rising up, the same hour,** they went BACK to Jerusalem**: and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were staying with them, [34] Saying: The LORD is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. [35] And they told what things were done in the way; and how they knew him in the breaking of the bread.
[RIGHT]Luke 24:13-35 [/RIGHT]
[RIGHT]. . . all for Jesus+
. . . thank You Blessed LORD+

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