No one expected it.Few believed it. Even when they had it on good authority. Even when they’d been forewarned and forearmed (see Mark 8:31; 9:30-32; 10:32-34).

But still it didn’t sink in. Not immediately. And it wouldn’t, would it. After all, dead men simply don’t rise. They just DON’T. OK?

Which is why I love this Rembrandt drama of the meal on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

Rembrandt - at Emmaus


It’s not as famous as his other images like his 1648 Christ at Emmaus. That one has the focus squarely on Christ himself, because the 2 disciples have their back to us.

But in this one, the focus is the other way around. Jesus is in shadows and in profile, while we see only one disciple – perhaps the other has just nipped off to the gents (or ladies – we don’t actually know anything about these two in Luke 24). You can see the empty bowl at an empty place setting. But the one who stays behind is in for the shock of his life.

This is a snapshot of a split second moment. The first instant of recognition: one of bewilderment, incomprehension, even fear. The repercussions of hope haven’t sunk in yet. But as the painting’s viewers, we know what is to come within seconds – a moment of revolutionary joy. But this picture reminds me a bit of another person who met the risen Jesus and found it terrifying: John in the earliest section of Revelation (Rev 1:18-19).

But the best thing about both John’s experience and the 2 on the road to Emmaus is that despite his risen, glorified grandeur, he’s still the same Jesus. He’s the one who says ‘Do Not Fear.’

That, believe it or not, is the Bible’s most common command. Presumably because when we first encounter God, there is a lot to be scared of. Until we come to know his purpose of grace and forgiveness…

So taking that command on board is the first step to resounding and confident Easter faith. I think Rembrandt just might have been on to something here…

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!


Just noticed that if you look carefully, the 2nd companion can just be made out in the shadowy foreground – prostrating himself before the Lord. So presumably he has a few seconds on his friend in recognising Jesus. Don’t you just love that paintings you thought you knew so well still have mysteries to uncover? Rather like the Scriptures…

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Joanna Dobson

    I love the way that ordinary household chores are carrying on in the background. Jesus appears in the midst of the everyday, and transforms it.

  2. Nancy

    The differential between the beholding the actual painting and a blog photo accompanying another’s viewpoint, is immeasurable!

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