Cleopas makes his one and only appearance in the New Testament in this record which takes place late on Resurrection Sunday. There are many ideas about who he may have been but let’s stick to who he is in this account.
The literal Greek-to-English reads, And behold two of them on the same day were traveling to a village being distant sixty stadia from Jerusalem. It is important to note when we read the first 12 verses of this chapter that none of the disciples, men or women, saw Jesus before this appearance to Cleopas and companion.
Last Sunday we looked at John who wrote about Mary seeing Jesus first and about Jesus appearing to ten of the Apostles. But that was John. Luke leaves the men and women in the city to ponder what his disappearance could mean.
Instead, Jesus finds two men from the outer circle of disciples walking along the road to Emmaus and talking about what they have heard.
A stadia is 608 modern feet (600 Roman feet) which equals 6.9 miles (7.2 Roman miles). It seems to be late afternoon and they seem to be perhaps five miles along. Jesus appears to catch up and the conversation includes him.
Now we know that Cleopas was part of the fellowship of Jesus called disciples—talmidim in Hebrew. We know he was in Jerusalem on Sunday morning and heard the talk about Jesus being missing. We know that he and his unknown companion decided they needed to go to Emmaus. We can only guess the reason. And we know he was important to Jesus or he would not have made the appearance. We know in fact that Cleopas was important enough to spend perhaps several hours with the two men.
Some of the early Fathers of the Church name the other man as Simon (not Peter). This Simon is the second Bishop of Jerusalem, replacing Jesus’ brother James. We learn this from Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea who wrote the first major history of the Church still available today. He cites his source as Hegisippus who wrote his history of the Church in 133 AD, the first since Luke some 60 years earlier. Sadly, his five-volume work was lost some time after Eusebius’ day.
Having brought in the name of Simon and added it to Cleopas—and making some assumptions—we see a strong reason for Jesus to spend time with them. The biggest assumption is that the two names in Scripture—Cleopas and Clopas—are the same person. If Simon is the son of Cleopas and if he was traveling with his father to Emmaus it is reasonable to assume Jesus might want Simon to get the word early. (I know, why not his own brother James?)
When we add the belief of Eusebius that Cleopas was related to Jesus, we end up with the first two Bishops being related to the Messiah. The first 15 Bishops were Jewish before the Latins took over.
One more important point in today’s reading. Again, from the literal translation.
And it came about while he was reclining at table with them having taken the bread he blessed and having broken he was giving to them. And of them were opened the eyes and they recognized him. And he became invisible from them. And they said to one another, not the heart of us burning within us as he was speaking to us on the road, as he was opening to us the scriptures?
The is something about sharing bread that brings Jesus to us. The key is the sharing. Jesus shared with them all the promises in the Scriptures about him. With their hearts and minds filled with the Word, Jesus broke the bread.
For Jews then and now, bread is life. We recite the prayer, ‘give us this day our daily bread,’ without thinking of the impact those words had on his disciples. Bread—mana—came from God. Could anything be more holy on earth?
Every day and at every meal, Jesus and his fellow Jews thanked God for His bread.
For Cleopas and his companion, both the Word and the broken bread came from God. Once they made the connection, Jesus no longer needed to be there.
Be righteous and do good.