Life Application Bible Notes
Notes for Verse 13ff
The two disciples returning to Emmaus at first missed the significance of history's greatest event because they were too focused on their disappointments and problems. In fact, they didn't recognize Jesus when he was walking beside them. To compound the problem, they were walking in the wrong direction -- away from the fellowship of believers in Jerusalem. We are likely to miss Jesus and withdraw from the strength found in other believers when we become preoccupied with our dashed hopes and frustrated plans. Only when we are looking for Jesus in our midst will we experience the power and help he can bring.
Notes for Verse 18
The news about Jesus' crucifixion had spread throughout Jerusalem. Because this was Passover week, Jewish pilgrims visiting the city from all over the Roman empire now knew about his death. This was not a small, insignificant event, affecting only the disciples -- the whole nation was interested.
Notes for Verse 21
The disciples from Emmaus were counting on Jesus to redeem Israel -- that is, to rescue the nation from its enemies. Most Jews believed that the Old Testament prophecies pointed to a military and political Messiah; they didn't realize that the Messiah had come to redeem people from slavery to sin. When Jesus died, therefore, they lost all hope. They didn't understand that Jesus' death offered the greatest hope possible.
Uncertainty, almost equal to that about the second traveller to Emmaus, rests on the identification of that place. [3 Not less than four localities have been identified with Emmaus. But some preliminary difficulties must be cleared. The name Emmaus is spelt in different ways in the Tulmud (comp. Neubauer, Geogr. d. Talm. p. 100, Note 3). Josephus (War iv. 1. 3; Ant. xviii. 2. 3) explains the meaning of the name as 'warm baths,' or thermal springs. We will not complicate the question by discussing the derivation of Emmaus. In another place (War vii. 6. 6) Josephus speaks of Vespasian having settled in an Emmaus, sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, a colony of soldiers.
There can be little doubt that the Emmaus of St. Luke and that of Josephus are identical. Lastly, we read in Mishnah (Sukk. iv. 5) of a Motsa whence they fetched the willow branches with which the altar was decorated at the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Talmud explains this Moza as Kolonieh, which again is identified by Christian writers with Vespasian's colony of Roman soldiers (Caspari, Chronol Geogr. Einl. p. 207; Quart. Rep. of the Pal Explor. Fund, July 1881, p. 237 [not without some slight inaccuracies]). But an examination of the passage in the Mishanah must lead us to dismiss this part of the theory.
No one could imagine that the worshippers would walk sixty stadia (seven or eight miles) for willow branches to decorate the altar, while the Mishah, besides, describes this Moza as below, or south of Jerusalem, whereas the modern Kolonieh (which is identified with the Colonia of Josephus) is northwest of Jerusalem. No doubt, the Talmud, knowing that there was an Emmaus which was 'Colonia,' blunderingly identified with it the Moza of the willow branches. This, however, it seems lawful to infer from it, that the Emmaus of Josephus bore popularly the name of Kolonieh.
We can now examine the four proposed identifications of Emmaus. The oldest and the youngest of these may be briefly dismissed. The most common, perhaps the earliest identification, was with the ancient nicopolis, the modern Amwas, which in Rabbinic writings also bears the name of Emmaus (Neubauer, u.s.). But this is impossible, as Nicopolis is twenty miles from Jerusalem. The latest proposed identification is that with Urtas, to the south of Bethlehem (Mrs. Finn, Quart. Rep. of Pal. Exlor. Fund, Jan. 1883, p. 53). It is impossible here to enter into the various reasons urged by the talented and accomplished proposer of this identification. Suffice it, in refutation, to note, that, admittedly, there were no natural hot-baths,' or thermal springs, here, only 'artificial Roman baths,' such as, no doubt, in many other places, and that 'this Emmaus was Emmaus only at the particular period when they (St. Luke and Josephus) were writing' (u.s. p. 62).
There now only remain two localities, the modern Kolonieh and Kubeibeh, for the strange proposed identification by Lieut. Conder in the Quarterly Rep. of the Pal. Explor. Fund, Oct. 1876 (pp. 172-175) seems now abandoned even by its author. Kolonieh would, of course, represent the Colonia of Josephus, according to the Talmud = Emmaus. But this is only 45 furlongs from Jerusalem. But at the head of the same valley, in the Wady Buwai, and at a distance of about three miles north, is Kubeibeh, the Emmaus of the Crusaders, just sixty furlongs from Jerusalem.
Between these places is Beit Mizza, or Hammoza, which I regard as the real Emmaus. It would be nearly 55 or 'about 60 furlongs' (St. Luke), sufficiently near to Kolonieh (Colonia) to account for the name, since the 'colony' would extend up the valley, and suffciently near to Kubeibeh to account for the tradition. The Palestine Exploration Fund has now apparently fixed on Kubeibeh as the site (see Q. Report, July, 1881, p. 237, and their N. T. map.] But such great probability attaches, if not to the exact spot, yet to the locality, or rather the valley, that we may in imagination follow the two companies on their road.