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Cleopas – An Eyewitness Resurrection Encounter

Eyewitness statements carry significant weight both in ancient and modern law as well as in the eyes of God.[1] The Law of Moses handed down by God defined that two eyewitnesses were required to establish a fact.[3]

Luke’s investigative Gospel contains one of the greatest eyewitness statements of anyone who encountered Jesus.[3] The eyewitness statement of Cleopas is quoted in Luke chapter 24.

Cleopas and his traveling partner, possibly his wife, were walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday.[4] They were joined on the road by a stranger who asked what they were so intently discussing?

Incredulous, Cleopas asked, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”[5] The man asked, “What things?”[6]

Answering the question, Cleopas provided a succinct witness statement of events to the stranger. He began by identifying a man known as Jesus of Nazareth whose powers caused people to recognize him as a prophet. Summarizing the events that had transpired over the Passover weekend, Cleopas said:[7]

LK 24:19-23 “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” (NKJV)

Resurrection accounts of all four Gospels are corroborated by the statement of Cleopas – Matthew, Mark and Luke saying Jesus would rise again on the third day and of angels greeting Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna and Mary the mother of James at the empty tomb; and Luke and John descriptions of two Disciples, Peter and John, verifying that the tomb was empty as reported by the women from Galilee.[8]

Cleopas had expressed hope that Jesus would be the one who would redeem Israel. Now it was the third day after the crucifixion and his hope was renewed by the reliable reports of a resurrection. Yet, to his knowledge, no one had yet seen the resurrected Jesus.

Most translations of the Greek word anoetos quote the stranger responding to Cleopas by referring to him as a fool or foolish. Anoetos is derived from the Greek word noeo with the primary meaning “to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding.”[9] The actual primary definition of anoetos is an antonym, “not understood, unintelligent” while the secondary definition is “not understanding, unwise, foolish.”[10]

In essence, the response from the unidentified man was bemoaning the lack of understanding by people of the prophesies concerning the Messiah. The man continued by asking, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”[11]

Most significantly, the man did not dispute the statement of Cleopas indicating his acceptance that the account was accurate. Had the account been inaccurate, it would be expected that a man with full knowledge of the events would correct or dispute the statement if he knew it was incorrect – the statement of Cleopas was not disputed.

Instead, beginning with Moses and the prophets who followed, the stranger interpreted the prophecies written in the Scriptures.[12] Still, the couple still did not connect the dots that they were talking to the resurrected Jesus. Why should they?

Consider the circumstances – they were not one of the chosen Disciples; they were outside of Jerusalem; most of what they knew was second-hand information; and no one to their knowledge had seen the resurrected Jesus who had been crucified and buried. It was probably not even conceivable to them that the identity of the stranger who joined them was the resurrected Jesus.

Getting late in the day, the concerned pair invited the man to their home in Emmaus. He accepted their offer and stayed during supper preparations. When they sat down to eat the meal, the man blessed the food, broke the bread and served it. “At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight.”[13]

Something that the man said when he prayed caused the Cleopas pair to realize that the identity of the stranger in their midst was, in fact, the resurrected Jesus.[14] What did Jesus say? His words are not recorded in the Gospels; however, their recognition of Jesus was confirmed when he simply vanished right before their eyes.

Did the Cleopas pair believe they had just encountered Jesus? Their actions provide a very strong clue. The pair took on the challenges of an immediate walk back to Jerusalem – a 7-mile trek by foot near sunset on a hilly, unpaved road.[15]

Arriving back in Jerusalem at the location of the eleven Disciples and other followers, they learned “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!”[16] Cleopas told them about their encounter consistent with his previous statement that it was not until Jesus prayed before their meal that they recognized him.

Comparing and sharing their experiences, there was more to come… “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’”[17] Neither Cleopas nor his partner disputed that it was the same person they had encountered previously in Emmaus who was now standing before them again in the room in Jerusalem.

First Jesus showed the group the healed crucifixion wounds in his hands and feet suggesting they touch them to see that he was flesh and bone. Further, to prove he was real and not just an apparition, Jesus ate some fish.

Consistently with what he had told Cleopas and his partner on the road home to Emmaus, Jesus affirmed to the group that what had happened to him was predicted by Moses, the prophets and in the Psalms. “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day…” this time adding “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”[18]

Gospel accounts are in sync, consistent and corroborated by the Cleopas eyewitness statement. Does his eyewitness statement of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection events ring true?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] “Ketubah.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Sanhedrin 9a, 30a, 32a-b, 49b, 56a-b. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html> Foster, Brittany. LegalDepot. “Witnesses in a Legal Document.” 2018. <https://www.lawdepot.com/blog/witnesses-in-a-legal-document>  “A Notary Official Signature.” American Association of Notaries. 2019. <https://www.notarypublicstamps.com/articles/a-notary-official-signature>
[2] Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Numbers 35:30.
[3] “Cleopas, Why You Should Know Him.” Yeshua in Context. 2010. <http://www.yeshuaincontext.com/2010/10/cleopas-why-you-should-know-him>
[4] “Clopas.” Abarim Publications. 2021. <https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Clopas.html>  “Cleophas.” Catholic Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04048b.htm> Jones, Victoria Emily. “The Unnamed Emmaus Disciple:  Mary, wife of Cleopas?” Art & Theology. 2017. <https://artandtheology.org/2017/04/28/the-unnamed-emmaus-disciple-mary-wife-of-cleopas>
[5] Luke 24:18. NRSV.
[6] Luke 24:19.
[7] Luke 24:19-24, 31.
[8] Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:3. CR Matthew 27:62-63; Mark 8:31-32, 9:31; Luke 18:31.
[9] “noeo <3539>.” NetBible.org. 2021. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=3539> “G3539> Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/3539.html>
[10] Luke 24:25.  “anoetos <453>.” NetBible.org. 2021. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=453>  “G0453.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/0453.html>
[11] Luke 24:26. NASB.
[12] Luke 24:27, 32.
[13] Luke 24:31. NET.
[14] Luke 24:31, 35.
[15] Luke 24:33. “Topography of Jerusalem Looking from the South.” Generation Word. 2005. <http://www.generationword.com/nt_maps/136_topography_of_jerusalem.jpg>
[16] Luke 24:34.  NET, NASB.
[17] Luke 24:36. NKJV.
[18] Luke 24:46. NASB. Luke 24:47. NSRV.

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