The Road to Emmaus: Jesus's Love of Questions and Conversation
We're kicking off our first blog post with an introduction written by one of our partnering tutors, Megan DePaso!
We’ve gotten a lot of questions about why we chose the name Emmaus. We’re going to devote our first blog post to a concept that is at the heart of our work at Emmaus Classical Academy: conversations and questioning.
Have you ever stopped to think about how Jesus is unlike most of the teachers you’ve probably ever had? He explains things in difficult ways, wanders topically wherever He pleases, won’t stay in one physical place, and has this really annoying habit of never answering a direct question. This used to drive me crazy when I read the gospels. I spent most of my undergraduate years perplexed by how “un-teacherly” this alleged Rabbi appeared to be. But perhaps Jesus has more to teach us about being a teacher than we might think.
Now, I’m not here to try to get you to believe that Jesus was a conventional kind of dude. Read any of the gospels and you’ll get the sense pretty quickly that Jesus is kind of weird. But I am here to suggest that His teaching style is extremely intentional. I think we see this intentionality not only in the content of Jesus’ teaching, but also in His method.
While He does have some teacher-as-preacher moments (hat tip to the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus spends most of His time on earth hanging out with twelve “uneducated, common” dudes (Acts 4.13) having intentional conversations with them and simply living life with them. He chooses and invites each member, beckoning them to “Follow me” or “Come and see.” When the crowds are frustrated by His teachings, Jesus turns to the twelve and attempts to continue His teaching. He invites their questions, doubts, personalities, and interruptions. He’s more interested in discussion than monologuing. He saves space for their questions and misunderstandings and joyfully continues on with them.
And He’s not too keen on giving easy answers, but delights in drawing out deep understanding as his disciples hunger and search for it on their own.
In Matthew 16.13-20 there’s this interesting conversation between Jesus and His disciples:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus, with all His knowledge and godliness, knew the value of asking questions—that an answer one searches for, wrestles with, and chases after is more valuable than an answer easily given. Jesus knew that hunger and curiosity come from within, and He fostered this curiosity and hunger in His disciples by asking questions and having conversations.
Look at another conversation with Pontius Pilate towards the end of His earthly life and ministry in John 18.37:
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king…”
You might be frustrated by Jesus’ lack of direct answers, especially to questions that seem pretty important and straightforward. Why, in this passage and others, would Jesus not answer?
It seems there are a few possible motives we can imagine. Either He doesn’t know the answer, which seems false because of many other gospel passages that seem to support Jesus’s self-knowledge of His personhood and power; or He knows the answer and is withholding it for a bad reason (e.g. to lord it over those who don’t know it, to increase confusion and lead people away from the truth, etc.); or he knows the answer and is withholding it for a good reason.
Since we believe that Jesus is benevolent, that his intentions and actions are pure, and that he desires for all people to know and love him, we have to think that there is something essential about the pursuit of truth—the questioning, the conversing—that is more important than merely giving the answer on its own. The pursuit of truth, for Jesus, happens in conversation.
Look at Luke 24.13-35. In most Bibles this section is called the Road to Emmaus. It’s one of the few stories in the gospels that gives specifics about what Jesus was doing after the resurrection. And what does it show Him doing?
And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24.17)
Jesus interrupts a discussion that two of His disciples are having about His death and the words of the angels at the tomb, spoken to the disciples that very same day, that “He is not here, but has risen” (24.6). Instead of simply revealing Himself to them in a sudden flash of glory, Jesus prevents them from recognizing Him. He doesn’t just give them an easy answer, but instead walks seven miles with them on the road and discusses with them: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (24.27). Even after the resurrection, the way Jesus chose to reveal Himself was through conversation: conversation based on a great text, initiated by people filled with genuine wonder, and started by a question.
Jesus is the greatest of all teachers, then and now. We chose the name Emmaus in part as we look to Jesus as the Great Teacher. The road to Emmaus is the place where “Jesus Himself drew near and went with” these two disciples. It was on the road while Jesus walked and talked with them that the disciples’ hearts burned within them (32). When they actually reached Emmaus and convinced Jesus to come inside and eat with them, Jesus broke the bread, revealed himself to them, and vanished from their sight. Maybe Jesus just really enjoys a good practical joke. Or maybe the conversation on the road was the thing that prepared the disciples to recognize Him as He truly is. As the disciples hungered for the truth and begged for more of Jesus’s presence—even when He was still hidden from them—He drew near and revealed Himself, the only bread that would ever satisfy their hunger, the only answer that would ever satisfy their questions.
Jesus cares about great texts, wonder-filled people, and good questions, and so do we. Our great hope as we begin this new endeavor is that as we walk together with our students, reading great texts, seeking truth in fellowship, asking good questions, and conversing together, Jesus Himself will draw near to us in our wonder and make Himself known.
Join us for Fall 2020 and beyond, and grow with us.
Megan DePaso graduated from Biola University and the Torrey Honors Institute with a degree in psychology, focusing on the overlap between Christian spiritual formation, Aristotelian habit-forming, and cognitive behavioral therapy. She recently returned from living in the Dominican Republic for a year, and has settled for the time being in Brea. Within the last few months, she started her own floral design business. She drinks iced coffee regularly (usually from Philz Coffee) and her current favorite foods are either tonkotsu ramen or cinnamon rolls.