“Hearts Aflame with Resurrection Joy”
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson KY
- Take your Bibles and open to Luke, chapter 24.
We are turning to the end of Luke’s Gospel to read one of the most heartwarming resurrection stories in the gospels. We read about two men who are on their way to a town called Emmaus. Apparently, they are on their way home from Jerusalem, about a 7-mile distance and, on the way, a mysterious person appears to them and talks with them.
- Stand in honor of the reading of the Word of God.
13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”
19 And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
20 “and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.
21 “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.
22 “Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.
23 “When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.
24 “And certain 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.”
25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
26 “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”
27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther.
29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,
34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
If a sermon needs an introduction, then the introduction is found in what we did together a few moments ago. By observing the Lord’s Supper we remember that Christ died and that He died for us. Christians today understand this fact far more clearly than did the first Christians of 2,000 years ago in the first few hours and days after Christ’s death.
We read this morning of two Christians on the first Easter Sunday who fell into that category. They did not understand the implications of Christ’s death. They are walking along the road and they are confused. In fact, if descriptive outlines help you, then let me give you this. We read this morning of three sign posts along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. You might think of these as three different points along the journey. Let me give you these three points as we journey again through the text and then, afterwards, I want to share with you some important principles that surface from our study of the text. But first here are three descriptive words that read to us like signs along the 7-mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The first sign reads:
I. Confusion (13-24)
These two journeymen are confused as they walk along the road out of Jerusalem and on to Emmaus. They are reflecting back on all that has happened in the previous days and they just don’t get it. So the Bible says in verse 15 that “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.” I love that! Jesus just appears and begins to walk with them. Now we would expect the two to be like, “Wow, it’s Jesus!” but that’s not how they respond and it’s not because they simply did not recognize Him. The text does not say merely that they did not recognize Him, but that—verse 16—“their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.” Other translations have, “They were kept from recognizing Him.” This is very important for us to grasp. The reason they did not recognize the resurrected Jesus was not because He was appearing to them in some unrecognizable form or even in His glorified, resurrected body, but because “their eyes were restrained” or “they were kept from recognizing Him.”
And I don’t want to press this, but Luke has taken care to measure his words here and to remind us that if we are to see the resurrected Christ at all it will be only because Christ chooses to reveal Himself to us. To be sure, there is a bit of mystery here. In His divine sovereignty, Jesus reveals Himself to us, but with our human responsibility, we must choose to believe Him. So His divine sovereignty and our human responsibility work together. And we also understand the inability to see Christ as the natural position of the unbeliever. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…should shine on them.” So if we see the resurrected Christ at all it will be only because Christ reveals Himself to us, removing the blinders from our eyes to see clearly by faith the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is.
Now I mention all of this because there is at least as much confusion about who Christ is today as there was confusion about who Christ was in the day of these two travelers walking to Emmaus. You need only to talk to just a few people this week and you will soon discover this before long.
A study by the Barna Group reveals that less than half of Americans link Easter to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While a majority mentioned religion or spirituality in describing what Easter meant to them on a personal level, only 42 percent specifically tied Easter Sunday to the biblical record of Christ’s rising from the grave.
A couple weeks ago when traveling to Richmond I picked up a copy of U.S. News & World Report to read on the flight. I read the entire magazine because it was a special collector’s edition and on the cover it read, “Secrets of Christianity.” If you do a search of popular magazines around springtime of every year, you find editions like these; mankind’s desperate attempt to somehow separate the Christ of faith is different from the Christ of history. And you will read liberal scholarship’s articles about “the real Jesus” or “the lost gospels,” and so forth. The articles are interesting and I read them because I feel it is important to stay up to date on what people are picking up in the newsstands. In reading these articles, however, it is important for us to understand that what we really have here at the end of the day is man’s attempt to redefine the Christ of history so that he need not bow before Him as the Christ of faith. Little wonder there is so much confusion even today about who Christ is.
So Jesus appears to these two and in verse 17 asks them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Their response, verse 18, “Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, ‘Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened here in these days?’” He’s like, “How can you ask such a question?! Where have you been?” Verse 19, “And He said to them, ‘What things?’ So they said to Him, ‘The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who as a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,—verse 20—and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.—verse 21—“But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.” Then they share how some had found the tomb empty and heard Jesus was alive.
So they share all this with this mysterious visitor who just shows up and walks with them and talks with them. Now it’s Jesus’ turn and we move from confusion to clarification.
II. Clarification (25-27)
Verse 25, “Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!—verse 26—‘Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’—verse 27—‘And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.’”
How many of you would like to have been in on that Bible study?! This is like the first Easter Sunday school lesson in the Bible. Jesus lovingly rebukes them for their failure to understand the significance of His life, death, and resurrection. He says, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things?” In other words, “Don’t you realize that the death of Christ was not an accident, but a plan?” The death of Christ was not a tragic mistake or accident that caused God to wring His hands and come up with a “Plan B.” Jesus teaches in these verses that His death, burial, and resurrection are God’s will. There is no Plan B. Perhaps He reviewed with these two disciples the earlier times when He had explained these things, sometimes called “the passion texts” in the Bible, those times when Jesus said beforehand that the Son of Man would suffer and be turned over to men to be crucified, but on the third day He would rise.”
In any case, Jesus takes them through a systematic study of the Scriptures beginning in Genesis and going throughout the entire Bible. It says there in verse 27, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” I have often said that the Bible is a “Him” book; it is about Him. All Scripture points to Jesus Christ. So Jesus takes time on this 7 mile journey to help these two followers understand how all Scripture points to Jesus. So we move fromconfusion to clarification and then, thirdly, to:
III. Celebration (28-35)
It all comes together here at the end for these two men and it leads to joy and celebration of the Good News. Verse 28 says, “Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther—verse 29—but they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ And He went to stay with them.”
Jesus would have kept on going if the two had not invited Him in. This is so like Jesus. He does not force Himself upon us. We must choose to receive Him. But our choosing to receive Him never surprises the God who has declared the end from the beginning.
So Jesus comes in and we read that He has a meal with these two. He breaks bread with them and it is during this time of sharing a meal that, verse 31, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him.” It’s not so much the way He took the bread and broke it before them or even the fact that they may have seen the nail prints in His hand that caused them to realize who this was. It was that “their eyes were opened.” God had opened their eyes to see Christ for who He was. So now that the mission is accomplished, so to speak, Jesus “vanished from their sight (31)” and these two men could sing, “I once was blind but now I see.” And this is cause for celebration:
Verse 32, “And they said to one another, ‘Did not hour heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’—verse 33—So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem (7 mile journey, a total of 14, must have been in shape!), and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together—verse 34—saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’
So these two guys are all fired-up about being able to share this Good News of Christ’s resurrection with the 11 disciples back in Jerusalem, but before they can get it out, the disciples steal their thunder by telling them first, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Only now can they share what happened to them, verse 35, “And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.”
Like three sign posts or markers along the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus are these three points: confusion, clarification, and celebration.
We have talked about what this text says and what this text means, but how does it apply? What is the significance of this passage of Scripture? What is the meaningfulness of the resurrection story? I like this phrase in verse 32 when these two said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked to us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
So in the remainder of our time let me share with you some ways that our hearts may burn with resurrection joy. I wrote these statements down in my study this week. My heart burns with joy when…
- I Remember that Jesus is with me in the Ordinary
Sometimes we expect to see Jesus only in the extraordinary, in a powerful worship service, in an awesome time of public revival, in a miraculous occurrence of some kind or other, but Jesus is with us in the ordinary, too. Jesus appeared to these two men while they’re just walking along the road; the ordinary. While it’s not Luke’s main point here, it is interesting that it is because of the spiritual blindness of these two men that they fail to see Christ.
I wonder whether Jesus may be right there with us in the ordinary things of life but we cannot see Him because of our spiritual blindness. He is the God who never leaves us and who never forsakes us, with us in the ordinary humdrum of our workaday world.
Jesus is with you in the ordinary of your daily commute to work. Jesus is with you in the ordinary of your walk to school. Jesus is with you in the ordinary of your laundry work and when you feel like no one appreciates your separating whites from darks and turning clothes right-side out, Jesus is there. Do you realize that? Do you talk to Him? He is with you in the ordinary. My heart burns with joy when I remember that Jesus is with me in the ordinary. Secondly, my heart burns with joy when:
- I Share my Life with other Believers
One of Luke’s themes in this Gospel is the power and necessity of relationships. You see Luke stressing again the need for our communion and getting together with other believers. Imagine these two guys walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, encouraging one another, spurring one another on. One says, “Man, what do you think that was all about back in Jerusalem?” The other says, “I don’t know, what do you think?” And back and forth like two friends playing tennis they volley the conversation from one side of the net to the other. It’s so important to have friends and persons with whom we can share and talk theology and application.
So Jesus comes up and joins the conversation and then they all end up sharing a meal together. Again, I don’t want to press this beyond what is natural, but I think we see this theme again and again in the Gospel of Luke, the power and necessity of relationships. Those of you who have read John Bunyan’s Christian classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, will understand how this theme pervades that book. The main character, Christian, is walking along and various people come up and join him on the journey and walk with him awhile and talk with him awhile.
We were created for relationship, relationship with God and relationship with others. This is one reason why Jesus could summarize the Law and the Prophets with these two great commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The church is not some static organization that we join in the same way we may join a club or some popular cause or movement. The church is a body of believers who need one another and rely upon one another and help one another and encourage one another and pray for one another and love one another. Easter Sunday is a reminder that no person is an island unto himself. We are created in the image of God for relationship with Him and relationship with others.
If you have been out of the habit of coming to church and being with others and using your gifts and talents to bless others, now is a wonderful time to start afresh. God has blessed you with a unique personality and toolbox of gifts and talents. The New Testament takes for granted that every follower of Christ is an active church member. There are folks walking along the journey of life who need your encouragement. Share your life with them. See how your heart burns with resurrection joy when you share your life with other believers.
My heart burns with joy, resurrection joy, when I remember that Jesus is with me in the ordinary, when I share my life with other believers and, thirdly:
- I Understand the Bible’s Intended Meaning
This fact is an inescapable conclusion of our study of this text. Jesus mildly and lovingly rebukes these two men for their failure to believe “all that the prophets have spoken” concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. So verse 27 says that Jesus, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
The two men are not rebuked for not knowing something of the Scriptures, nor even of not believing the Scriptures. They are rebuked—verse 25—for their not believing “all the prophets have spoken,” and therefore Jesus schools them in “all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
One of the reasons we are committed to expository preaching through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse wherever possible, is because we believe it is the best way to teach all the Scriptures the things concerning Jesus. It is the best way to get at the Bible’s intended meaning.
Far too many professing Christians know only bits and parts of the Bible. They have a few favorite verses here and there that are near and dear. Topical preaching and teaching on only a few verses here and there in the Scriptures engenders a kind of partial knowledge of the works and ways of God. It is, therefore, not insignificant that Jesus takes an expositional approach here in straightening out these two. The Bible says in verse 27 that “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” This is exposition, the explaining of the Scripture.
What reveals the Bible to be alive and powerful is the finding of some unique twist or insight. Nor is it found in the speaker. Rather, the life-transforming power is found in the plain, straightforward expounding or explaining of Scripture. Note it here in the text: the thing that causes the burning of their hearts is not the speaker, but His opening of the Scriptures and of their coming to understand the Bible’s intended meaning.
My heart burns with resurrection joy when I remember that Jesus is with me in the ordinary, when I share my life with others, when I understand the Bible’s intended meaning and, fourthly:
- I Realize Christ has met my Greatest Need
There’s an ironic statement here that will kind of make you laugh when you think about it. Back in verse 17, Jesus comes up to these two and asks, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” And after one of them gets over the shock of this apparent stranger’s not knowing about the death of Jesus of Nazareth says in verse 21, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.”
The word “redeem” conveys the idea of being delivered from slavery. The two men were concerned about their need to be delivered from Roman oppression. They were looking at the Messiah as merely a political redeemer, kind of like a general or something, to deliver them from the unhappy stuff of their lives. So Jesus explains that their greatest need is not deliverance from stuff, but deliverance from sin.
So do you see the irony? Jesus asks, “Why are you sad?” They say, “Because we were hoping Jesus would redeem us, would deliver us.” And Jesus is like, “Hello?! That’s precisely what I have done.”
See, they were sad because they were looking at life without a resurrection. If you look to Jesus merely as someone who will get you ought of your fix, to make you healthy, to get you a mate, to give you money, to make you happy, to repair your marriage, you may be happy for awhile, but you’ll be sad again soon because you are looking at life without a resurrection.
Your greatest need is not to be delivered from the stuff of your life, but your greatest need is to be delivered from your sin. Jesus condemns our self-centered, misunderstanding: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe.” Jesus has come to meet our greatest need, to be delivered from the penalty, the power, and one day the very presence of sin. My heart burns with resurrection joy when I realize Christ has met my greatest need!
- Stand for prayer.
COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.