The Concealment of Joy


As the stranger drew up alongside the two travelers, He inquired, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” (Luke 24:17). The two disciples stopped on the road to face the stranger. They looked sorrowful and downcast.

Cleopas assumed that the stranger was a Passover pilgrim like himself who had been to Jerusalem for the festival and was now returning home. The stranger’s Galilean accent indicated he was not a Judean. Cleopas asked the stranger, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” (Luke 24:18). The question implies that news about the crucifixion of Yeshua had circulated widely in Jerusalem, especially among the Galileans. What other topic of conversation could they possibly be discussing?

The Master played ignorant. “What things?” He inquired.

The two disciples related the recent events. They explained that Yeshua the Nazarene “was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people” (Luke 24:19).

Their description of Yeshua reflects their disenchantment. After the traumatic crucifixion, they had abandoned their messianic hopes in Him. They demoted Him from Messiah to the status of a “prophet mighty in deed.” Talmudic language speaks of miracle workers as “men of deed, (anshei ma’aseh, אנשי מעשה).” A prophet mighty in deed was a miracle-working prophet like Elijah or Elisha. They also described Yeshua as a prophet mighty in “word in the sight of God and all the people,” an idiomatic description meaning that He was a powerful teacher of Torah and truth, both in the opinion of God and in the opinion of men. Then they retold the tragic events that had befallen Him. They explained, “The chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him” (Luke 24:20). The disciples had no illusions about where to place the blame. Though the Romans had carried out the brutal crucifixion, the disciples held the corrupt Sadducean party under Caiaphas and Annas responsible. The chief priests and political-religious leaders with them had delivered Yeshua to the Romans for the death sentence. The disciples expressed their dashed hopes, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). They had hoped He was the Messiah who would usher in the final redemption and the Messianic Era. Their disappointment echoes a passage from Lamentations that seems prophetic of the Master’s death:

The breath of our nostrils, the LORD’s anointed (i.e., Messiah), was captured in their pits, of whom we had said, “Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.” (Lamentations 4:20)

Disappointment and disillusionment are the real illusion. Joy is merely concealed, walking along with us in disguise.

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, and reposted with permission.

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First Fruits of Zion specializes in the study and teaching of Scripture from its historical, linguistic, and cultural context. Using the latest scholarship, ancient Jewish sources, and extra-biblical literature, we present a Messianic Jewish reading of the Bible and early Jewish-Christianity. We do this by publishing books, ebooks, magazines, journals, study programs, audio and audio-visual resources, and presenting new material through seminars, conferences, and guided Israel tours.