Divine Irony on the Way to Emmaus

In Luke 24:13-35, Jesus takes a seven mile walk with a few disciples. The passage drips with irony. Irony, as a literary technique, occurs when the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character. In Luke 24, we readers get to eavesdrop on Jesus talking with a couple clueless disciples. Luke—and ultimately the Holy Spirit—wants to turn our attention to the blindness of the two disciples and the truth that spiritual sight only comes when we see the all the Scriptures as a testimony to Jesus.

  • Irony 1. Verse 18: Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus lived what happened.
  • Irony 2. Verse 19: And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” Jesus is more than a prophet; he is the Messiah.
  • Irony 3. Verse 21: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Jesus death did redeem Israel.
  • Irony 4. Verse 22: “Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” Jesus himself predicted he would die and rise after three days.
  • Irony 5. Verse 24: “Some 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.” They see—yet don’t see—Jesus who walks alongside them. 

The climax of this exchange is, of course, this:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (vv. 25-27). 

Only when Jesus interprets the Scriptures in light of himself are the ironies blown away. The disciples eyes are opened (v. 31) and their hearts burn within them (v. 32).

Why is irony so effective in getting our attention? Can you find other ironies in the passage that I missed?

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