That very day two [men] were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 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?” 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, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
This encounter took place after Jesus was publicly seized, tried and crucified. These men were discussing the events that everyone was talking about – the death of Jesus.
Jesus had stirred up the hopes and dreams of the people in the region, including these two men, but that hope ended abruptly and shockingly just a couple of days ago.
Jesus was a controversial figure in the first century. He was born into a world that was ripe for his coming. The last of the Hebrew scriptures was written about 300 years prior, and the thrust of the last of those scriptures, the prophets, anticipated the coming of a Messiah.
The first century Palestinian Jews believed this Messiah would be a king that would rescue Israel from Roman rule and reestablish a Jewish Kingdom in the promised land, rekindling the glory of their heritage.
But Jesus defied the expectations.