the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Cleopas and His Companion
Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters
CLEOPAS and his companion were two men of Emmaus who had gone up the week before to Jerusalem to keep the passover. Cleopas and his companion were not exactly disciples of our Lord. That is to say, their names were not among the twelve; though the likelihood is that they were numbered and were well known among the seventy. And they had gone up to the feast in the hope that their Lord would be there, and that they would both see and hear Him as on former feast-days. It seemed to them like a year, like a lifetime, like another world, since last week they walked and talked together so full of hope and expectation, all the way up from Emmaus to Jerusalem. For Jesus had come up to the passover, as they had expected He would. And they had both seen Him, and had heard Him speak. They had followed Him about in the streets of Jerusalem as He preached His last sermons, so terrible to them to see and to hear. They were not among the twelve, and they had not been invited to the upper room, but they had done the next best thing to that, for they had eaten their passover supper out at Bethany with their friend Lazarus, and with Martha and Mary his sisters. The whole of Bethany was absolutely overwhelmed when the news came out at midnight that Jesus had been betrayed by one of His disciples, and was at that moment in the hands of His enemies. And with their loins girt, and with their passover-staff in their hands, Lazarus, and Cleopas, and his companion, were abroad in the streets of Jerusalem all that night, and till after the crucifixion was finished next morning. And now the third day of that tremendous overthrow and shipwreck had come, when, with a sickness of heart indescribable, Cleopas at last said to his companion, 'Rise, and let us shake the dust off our feet against this accursed city, and let us escape to our own home.' True; certain women of their company had rushed into the city that morning, saying that they had seen a vision of angels who told them that their crucified Master had risen and left His grave; but to Cleopas all that was so many idle tales. 'No, no!' Cleopas said to his companion, 'come away home. Believe me, we have seen the last of the redemption of Israel in our day, at any rate.' Why, you will ask, was Cleopas in such a hurry to get home? Might he not have gone out to see the empty grave for himself? Might he not have waited in Jerusalem till the end of "the third day" that his Master so often foretold about Himself? As it was, Cleopas, like Pliable in the Pilgrim's Progress, was making a desperate plunge through the Slough of Despond so as to get out on the side next his own house, when a man whose name was Help came and held out His hand to him, and to his companion, in the midst of the Slough.
Yes: Cleopas and his companion, like Mr. Fearing, had a perfect Slough of Despond in their own hearts that sunset as they walked down to Emmaus and reasoned together and were sad. 'Where did you see Him first? What was it that led you to think that He was the Christ? And, did you hear this sermon, and that? And this parable and that?' And then the arrest, and the trial, and the crucifixion. No wonder they reeled to and fro, and staggered under their load of sorrow, till the workers in the fields said they were two drunken men on their way home from the feast. When a stranger overtook them as they halted, and reasoned, and debated together in their sadness. 'Peace be with you both!' said the stranger with a pleasant voice as he joined himself to their company. But Cleopas was scarcely civil. Cleopas scarcely returned the salute of the stranger, so overwhelmed was he with his sadness. And they walked on in silence, Cleopas and his companion, and the stranger. Till the sympathising stranger broke the sad silence with these confiding words: "What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk and are sad?" 'Art thou such a stranger in Jerusalem,' answered Cleopas, 'as not to know the things which are come to pass there in these days? Where wert thou all last week? Where wert thou last Friday? Thou canst not have been in Jerusalem, surely, for all Jerusalem was out at Calvary that morning. And if thou hadst been out there thou wouldst not wonder at our sadness.' The stranger did not say whether he had been out at Calvary last Friday morning or no. "What things?" He asked, bowing, at it were, to Cleopas's reproof and reproach at such unaccountable ignorance at such a time. And then we have Cleopas's reply in his own very identical words. For Luke, you must know, when he was preparing himself for his Gospel, and when he had read Mark's meagre verses about the Emmaus meeting, said to himself, 'I must be at the bottom of this! I must have a much fuller record of all this in my Gospel. I wonder if Cleopas is still alive?' And thus it is that we have before us, verbatim et literatim, the exact answer that Cleopas gave to the stranger when he asked, "What things?" 'I remember, as if it were but yesterday,' said Cleopas to Luke, 'the whole scene, and every word that He said to us, and that we said to Him. How could I ever forget a single syllable of it? It was all so burned into my heart that I have told it a thousand times.' And Cleopas took the Evangelist out of Emmaus and showed him the very spot just where the stranger joined them, and just where He said, "What things?" 'And just where I said-these were my very words to Him-I said, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and in word before God and all the people. And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him. But we trusted, I went on in my folly, that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. And from that hour to this, I have never for an hour or may say never for a moment, forgotten the look He gave us when He said to us, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe!" ' And then Cleopas continued to relate to Luke the rest of that never-to-be-forgotten conversation concerning the true Christ in Moses and the prophets. What an hour that was to Cleopas and to his companion! They did not know where they were. They forgot themselves. They were carried captive with the stranger's amazing knowledge, and with His supreme authority, and with His burning words. And no wonder. Many learned, and earnest, and eloquent men have expounded Moses, and David, and Isaiah since that Emmaus afternoon; but human ears and human hearts have never heard such another exposition of Holy Scripture as Cleopas and his companion heard at that stranger's lips. For, this was an Interpreter, one among a thousand! When this Interpreter gave His first interpretation of Scripture in Nazareth three years before, there was delivered to Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. But they had no book to deliver Him on the way to Emmaus. Nor did He need a book. This stranger, whoever He was, seemed to Cleopas to have the whole book unrolled within Himself. He seemed to have Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, absolutely by heart. And the way He spake to them called to His two companions' remembrance all that they had ever heard or read in Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms. The seed of the woman; the brazen serpent; the paschal lamb; the scapegoat; the thirty pieces of silver. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. Reproach hath broken mine heart: I looked for some to take pity, but there was none: and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him: and with His stripes we are healed. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. 'O, fool that I was!' Cleopas cried out to Luke. 'I had seen it all fulfilled the week before with mine own eyes. But, that evening, our eyes were somehow holden that we did not know Him again! At the same time how our hearts did burn as He spake these things to us. And then He said to us, appealing to us to reply: May not Jesus of Nazareth be the true Christ of God, and your own Redeemer after all? After all, may not Jesus of Nazareth be He who was to come? Do not all your own prophets tell you that the true Christ must be denied of His own, and delivered up to Pilate to crucify? Must not the Prince of Life, when He comes, be killed and raised from the dead on the third day? What think ye? What say ye? And have you not just told me yourselves that certain women of your own company were early this very morning at the sepulchre, and that the angels of heaven were descended there to testify that Jesus of Nazareth was alive again?' And so on, till their hearts burned within them like two coals of juniper.
O ye men still of Emmaus, now sitting and hearing all that in this house! I implore you to open your heart also to your Lord's burning words about Himself. To speak plainly, I implore you to seek out in this city that expounder, that one of a thousand preachers, who makes your heart to burn. If by chance, so to call it, you enter a church in this city of churches on a Sabbath day, with your heart sad, with your hopes ashamed, with your expectations a complete shipwreck, like Cleopas and his desponding companion, and the preacher so opens God's word to you, so sets forth the redemption of Israel and your own redemption, so sets forth a suffering Redeemer and His suffering people, that your heart is in a flame all that day, then, that is the preacher in all this world for you. That is my servant for you, says your God to you. I have made his mouth like a sharp sword for you. I have made him a polished shaft for you. I have hid him in my quiver for you. Hear him, said the Father, concerning his preacher-Son. And that preacher you have just heard may be as great a stranger to you as our Lord was to Cleopas on that highway that afternoon; but, if I were you, I would find out his name, and where God has given him his pulpit. If I were you I would have him for my minister, and for my children's minister, at any cost. I would sell my present house and buy another to be near that preacher. And if you never hear such a preacher; if no preacher has ever made your heart to burn; if there is not in all the city a single heart-kindling, heart-commanding, heart-capturing preacher for yon, then, at any rate, there are not a few heart-kindling and heart-holding authors to be had. Authors, thanks be to God, that will make you all but independent of us lukewarm preachers. Do you know some of those authors' names? Do any of you almost owe your soul to some of them? Do you have a select shelf of them within reach of your chair and your bed? Could you say, if not of some spiritual preacher, then of some spiritual writer, what Crashaw says of Teresa: "The flame I took from reading thee." And what Cleopas said to Luke about this stranger's words, "Did not our heart burn within us?" I preached sin with great sense, says John Bunyan. And I warrant you that stranger preached the Messianic and the Atonement passages in David, and in Isaiah, and in Jeremiah, and in Zechariah, with great sense also, and for a very good reason.
Yea, this man's brow, like to a. title-leaf,
Foretells the nature of a tragic volume:
He trembles, and the whiteness in his check
Is apter than his tongue to tell his errand.
Never did threescore furlongs seem so short since furlongs were laid out on the face of the earth. 'Come and sup with us,' said the entranced Cleopas to this mysterious stranger who had so over-mastered him, and so set his heart on fire. "Abide with us, for the day is far spent." And when they had sat down to supper, Cleopas naturally asked the stranger, as you would have done, to say grace. What grace did that stranger say in that supper-room in Emmaus, I wonder? John Livingstone tells us that John Smith of Maxtown in Teviotdale had all the Psalms of David by heart, and that, instead of our curt and grudging grace before meat he always repeated to his attentive table a whole Psalm. Would it be at Emmaus the twenty-third Psalm. Would it be the twenty-seventh and the twenty-eighth verses of the hundred and fourth Psalm? Or, would it be Job's every Sabbath morning and every Sabbath evening grace and blessing? Or, would it be something that the stranger made up on the spot? Would it be this, at the hearing of which Cleopas's heart would kindle again? "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed." Whatever the grace was that He said, you may be quite sure he did not say it as we say our graces. He did not mumble it over so that nobody could hear it. He did not say it as if He was ashamed of it. He did not say, Amen! with His hand down already in the dish. Neither did Cleopas and his companion sit down and begin to eat before the grace was finished. No! for the truth is, the three men got no further than the grace that night. That sacred supper, with such a grace said over it, stands on that table to this day. It is not eaten to this day. For as the stranger handed to Cleopas and to his companion the bread He had blessed and broken, they could not but see His Hands! And the moment they saw His Hands, He had vanished out of their sight.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Cleopas and His Companion'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wbc/​c/cleopas-and-his-companion.html. 1901.