Hidden in Plain Sight

"The Pilgrims of Emmaus" by Henry Ossawa Tanner
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“When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized [Jesus]. And He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:30–31).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Have you ever frantically looked around for something and not been able to find it? Maybe your car keys, or the TV remote, the book you were just reading, or some other object. You search and search again. Then, after you’ve given up all hope of ever seeing it again, you come across it in the exact place where you’ve been looking. It was there all the time, but for one reason or another, you just didn’t notice it. Somehow it was just hidden in plain sight.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus, had a similar experience that first Easter. Like the disciples back in the city, these two were struggling to make sense of recent events. They had a lot of facts, but they didn’t know how to interpret them. They had all the pieces of the puzzle, but couldn’t put them together.
As the original Greek indicates, theirs was a lively discussion. They were throwing their thoughts and words back and forth like a ball. They had heard the reports of Jesus’ resurrection—probably not only the “vision of angels” seen by the women and the empty tomb witnessed by Peter and John, but also Christ’s conversation with Mary Magdalene and the other women. Were the women imagining things? Or was it simply Jesus’ spirit they had seen? They wondered.
As they traveled along, a stranger suddenly joined them in their walk. It was, literally, a miracle that they did not recognize it was Jesus. He prevented them from knowing Him because He wanted to teach them where they could discover Him without seeing Him. And so, Jesus was hidden from them in plain sight.
Jesus’ question stopped them in their tracks: “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” He asked. We can imagine a long silence. They may have turned to look Him in the eye, dropped their heads, and then drawn a slow, deep breath at the prospect of telling the whole, sad story. How could this stranger have been in Jerusalem and not known? All the people had known Jesus of Nazareth to be a mighty prophet powerful in word and deed.
The Emmaus disciples hated to even think about it now. They had hoped He was the one who was going to redeem Israel from Roman rule. But He had been dead for three days. Rumors of some sort of vision or spiritual visitation by Jesus were no consolation. To redeem Israel would require a real, physical, earthly leader, not some spirit. In their despair, the two opened their hearts to this stranger. Their entire speech reflects the disconnected thoughts of people speaking under the stress of great excitement. They referred to important points, but didn’t explain them. They mixed up their own fears and hopes into the narrative. That confusion showed how pitifully weak their faith still was in many respects. If the truth be told, they were, in fact, only hanging on to faith by their fingernails.
And their experience is repeated in our days. We indeed believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. But our faith is often subject to doubts. Some days it seems we have the faith to move mountains. Other days, it makes a mustard seed look like a watermelon. But amid doubt and despair, Jesus comes to lead us back to faith. We realize He was there all along, just hidden in plain sight.
Perhaps for a moment, the two disciples were offended when the stranger seemed so at ease with their tragedy; when He actually upbraided them as “foolish” and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken (Luke 24:25). But they needed that bit of Law to jolt them to their senses. They had not properly listened to the description of the Messiah given by the prophets. Even worse, they had not listened to Jesus’ own predictions of His suffering and death.
Immediately, Jesus began to explain what those Old Testament prophets had always meant. Deliberately, beginning with the books of Moses and then continuing through the writings of the prophets, Jesus pointed out the true meaning of those familiar passages, which had been previously hidden from them: the entire Old Testament demonstrates that the Messiah had to first suffer death and then be raised in glory. The events of the last few days had been no setback, but were, in fact, a part of God’s plans. The disciples should have expected them.
Upon reaching Emmaus, the disciples urged this stranger to stay with them. So enthralled were they by His teaching, they could not bear the thought of His departure. He consented, then again surprised them. As the evening meal was served, the guest suddenly became the host. He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
At last their eyes were opened and they recognized Him! There was Jesus! He had been hidden in plain sight. This stranger was none other than their Friend and Master, the same man who had so often, in His capacity as head of the little band, performed this customary task. They had seen Him do this before! The disciples themselves later emphasized that they recognized Christ’s presence in this very act.
And just as suddenly as He had appeared, Jesus was gone. He vanished out of their sight without fanfare or even a farewell. Though He was still their Friend, they could no longer enjoy His company in the same way as they had done in the days before His suffering and death.
But that was good news! You see, Jesus’ disciples were no longer bound by His visible presence, but would learn to place their trust in the Word of the Gospel by which He bestows forgiveness and strengthens faith. To be with the resurrected Christ, Jesus’ disciples need only go to where He has promised to be—hidden in plain sight—in His Word and in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper.
The disciples were no longer sad. They were eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection. They had the words of Jesus that He had spoken to them on the way in their hearts and minds. Full of eager happiness they exchanged confidences on their experience: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened up to us the Scriptures?” The two men now realized that the prophecies of old had been to them a sealed and hidden book. The truth had been hidden in plain sight. But now it had been opened to them.
For us Christians, this is always the effect of the words of Christ. When we are sad and weak, when we are longing for consolation, and then hear the Word of the Lord with all eagerness, then our heart is warmed with the comfort of salvation and the forgiveness of sins. And our faith is strengthened.
The joy of these men did not permit them to rest in Emmaus. Though it was growing late, they arose from their meals at once. They had to return to the city and tell their friends—even if it meant stumbling the last steps in the dark.
The appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus is among the most vivid, detailed post-resurrection reports of the four Gospels. The emphasis in this story, though, is that God’s means of grace deliver all one needs to know to see Christ. There, in the words of Scripture and His Sacrament, we find the resurrected Christ hidden in plain sight.
The key to the Scriptures, meanwhile, is Jesus Himself. Every word of the Bible is not primarily a manual for a happy life, rather it is the story of God saving us in Christ. Each passage either shows us our need for Christ (the Law) or declares or applies what He has done to meet that need (the Gospel). Learning to look for Christ on every page of Scripture is a most precious lifelong skill. That’s why we encourage you to join us for one of our Bible studies. They help you learn to see Christ who is hidden in plain sight.
Looking for Christ on every page of Scripture enables you to tap into the faith-strengthening power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word. Recalling how God has fulfilled all His promises, leads you out of doubt and despair. Seeing God’s plan of salvation unfold despite the wiles of the devil and the sinfulness of us mortals gives you the assurance that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.
Looking for Christ on every page of Scripture enables you to interpret God’s Word with wisdom. Understanding that Christ is the very center and reason for Scripture helps you correctly understand and apply this life-giving Word to your life. It helps you properly understand some of the more difficult passages.
And as you look for Christ on every page of Scripture, you will be able to share God’s Word more effectively with others. You will be better able to answer the questions and doubts of those to whom you bring the Good News of Jesus Christ. You will be better prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. You, too, will be able to show them Jesus “hidden in plain sight.” What better gift can you share with someone than forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life found only in Jesus Christ?
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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