The Most Effective Kind of Spiritual Help: Lessons on the Road to Emmaus

There are many opportunities in your life to share gospel truth with others. Rarely, however, does someone just come to you and say “I don’t think I’m seeing this situation clearly. Can you help me?” Most often, others who really know and love us can see our blind spots long before we do. 

There’s an account in the New Testament about two men on the road to Emmaus who had an encounter with Jesus and didn’t even realize it (Luke 24:13-35). These men walk with Jesus for several miles, saddened by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, trying to understand it all. Can you imagine? Walking with Jesus, having Him question you about the gospel and ignorantly looking at Jesus like He’s the crazy one?

When you read the account in Luke, you can watch these men go from blind to seeing with the help of Jesus. There’s much to learn from Jesus’ approach in this account. He doesn’t bludgeon the men with the truth of Himself. Instead, He patiently brings them to reasoning.

Blinded by Human Intellect

At the first encounter with Jesus, the text tells us that their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him (Luke 24:16). There’s a great theological discussion within that one phrase, but for now, let’s just note the fact that they were blinded to the fact that they were talking to Jesus incarnate (in the flesh). 

The text goes on to further tell us that the men were having their own theological discussion. They were confused about what had taken place at Calvary. They had heard the full testimony from Jesus’ disciples of His crucifixion and resurrection and they didn’t know what to believe. 

The kindness of Jesus in this passage causes me to worship. Instead of jumping straight to criticism, Jesus spends time with the two asking good questions. In verse 17, He simply asks what they’ve been discussing (Luke 24:17). And then again in verse 19, He asks, “What things?” (Luke 24:19). Do you see how Jesus is asking good questions to bring the men to some conclusions about their own beliefs? Good counselors and teachers are highly skilled at asking good questions. 

The Whammy Question

After the men share more with Jesus, He becomes a bit frustrated with their lack of understanding. In Luke 24:25, He calls them foolish men and slow of heart to believe. Yet, He graciously begins in Genesis explaining all the things concerning Himself. 

Let it not go unnoticed the means Jesus uses to explain Himself. He used the Scriptures. These men were talking to God Made Flesh, the incarnate Messiah Himself. He could have used any means He wanted to show them the truth, but He chose the whole counsel of Scripture that was available at the time. The Scriptures have always been sufficient to teach us all truth. Good counselors understand that human reasoning is never as compelling as biblical truth

Notice also the patience Christ had to walk a long road with these two men so that He could show them the truth about Himself. The road to Emmaus was seven miles from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13) and they were walking. In sandals. In the heat. Jesus spent some significant time with the two disciples as they walked the distance together. Good counselors and teachers walk alongside as a guide. They don’t stand off at a distance and push. 

Supernatural Illumination

After they arrived at their destination, Jesus had one last lesson for the two disciples to help them see the truth they had not yet seen. Christ is invited in to stay overnight with the disciples and a beautiful scene unfolds. 

When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
— Luke 24:30-31

These men were already disciples, yet they were not seeing the truth clearly. They likely knew about the Last Supper (Luke 22:7-39). As His final evidence of the truth of Himself, He demonstrated for them the way to not only see Him as He really is but to remember all that He had shown them that day. It wasn’t until He shared a visible remembrance of His covenant relationship with them that they got it. Good counselors and teachers practice the behavior they want to see in others.

In His own timing, Christ revealed Himself to these men (Galatians 1:15-16). He let them come to reasonable conclusions through the teaching of the Scriptures, then He supernaturally opened their eyes to see Him for Who He really is. This is what Christ does for all of us. 

We must do the work of submitting ourselves to study and understand the Lord through His Word. But spiritual things are only seen with spiritual eyes (1 Corinthians 2:12-14). Without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we can’t see God for who He is. And if we don’t see God clearly, we will never see ourselves clearly.  Good counselors and teachers give room for the Holy Spirit to do the work of illumination while they consistently point to the truth of Scripture. 

The Most Effective Kind of Spiritual Help

It can be frustrating when others aren’t seeing their own sin. You want to help them, but you want to do it effectively in a way that motivates confession and change. How we help others is equally important as why we help them. It is very easy to deliver the right message at the wrong time or in the wrong way. We have all experienced this. 

We can take our cues from Jesus’ example on the road to Emmaus and be gracious and patient with one another, or we can be like the one who sings songs to a troubled heart at the wrong time (Proverbs 25:20). Don’t you long to be like Christ when you give counsel to others? I do. 

A Good Counselor and Teacher

We could ask for no better example than Christ. Here are five examples we have seen today:

A good counselor/teacher…

  1. Highly skilled at asking good questions.
  2. Understands that human reasoning is never as compelling as biblical truth.
  3. Walks alongside as a guide. They don’t stand at a distance and push.
  4. Practices the behavior she wants to see in others.
  5. Gives room for the Holy Spirit to illuminate, while consistently pointing to the truth of Scripture. 
Kim Wine