The Least Shall be First: Luke 24:13-34

Focus Passage: Luke 24:13-34 (NASB)

One thing that has fascinated me about the resurrection story is who Jesus appears to first, before appearing to the group of disciples. The passage in this post is one of these early appearances, but it is one that also summarizes many of the first people who Jesus appears to.

This passage’s event happens on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus. Jesus appears to two of the lesser known disciples, one named Cleopas and the other one is not given a name. It would seem that these two disciples were followers, but were not listed among the twelve.

However, these two disciples were not the first ones Jesus appeared to. In verses 22-24, we read a summary of what happened that morning: “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.

John’s gospel (John 20:11-18) describes Mary Magdalene as being the first to see Jesus. Luke’s gospel shares the message that the angels share through the first women visitors to the tomb. However, after they deliver the message, and then return with some of the twelve to see the evidence but no angels, everyone but Mary leaves. It is then that Mary encounters Jesus, and she is regarded as the first person to see Jesus following the resurrection.

The next appearance is either the one in this passage, or one that is directly referenced in this passage when it concludes by saying, “And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, ‘The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.’” (Luke 24:33-34)

Now Simon could be the other disciple with Cleopas, but with the way the passage is worded, it is less clear whether these two disciples arrive while the others are talking about how Jesus had appeared to Simon, or these two disciples arrive with the message that Jesus had appeared to Simon.

I am inclined to think that these two disciples were not carrying the message of an appearance to a single disciple, which means that at this point, there were three appearances on the day of the Resurrection.

Now for a question: Did Jesus appear first to those traveling on the road, or to Simon?

Emmaus was seven miles away from Jerusalem, so at the very least, if these disciples sprinted all the way back, it would have taken at least 30 minutes, if not 1-2 hours to make the return trip. If these disciples arrive just after the news of Jesus appearing to Simon, then it would seem that immediately upon disappearing from the house in Emmaus, Jesus reappears somewhere in Jerusalem, at the place where Simon is.

Now which Simon is it? There were two disciples who were known as Simon: Simon Peter, and Simon the Zealot.

Since we have a clear record of Jesus appearing to the fishermen a few days later, this most likely was Simon the Zealot, who is one of the twelve Jesus called, but not really known for much else except his past life.

This means that Jesus appeared first to a woman (the lowest position in that culture), and an not reputable one at that considering Mary’s past; He then appears to two of the least significant disciple followers, since one is unnamed and the other is not one of the twelve; and only then does Jesus appears to one of the least disciples of the twelve: Simon the Zealot. In a typical fashion for Jesus, He reverses the order of importance and begins showing Himself to the lowest, working His way up from there. If one was creating a legend, they probably would go from the top down, or name-drop themselves in the mix of people who were first, but none of the gospel writers do this, which makes their gospels all the more credible in the eyes of those throughout history.

If you feel too small or insignificant for Jesus to be interested in you, pay attention, because He may just surprise you! Jesus often likes working from the bottom upward.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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