This weeks sermon is focusing on the reading from Luke in which Jesus explains the Scriptures to his disciples on the road to Emmaus. The preacher discusses how hearing God’s truth lights a flame in the hearts of people who love God, and the importance of the resurrection being not just an event, but a person.
Pastor Peg also talks about how when hearts are on fire, lives change, and encourages people to approach Jesus with a relationship that involves the heart as well as the mind. The sermon goes on to discuss the events on the road to Emmaus and how Jesus, who was not recognized by his disciples, explained to them all the things in the Old Testament that talked about himself, starting with Moses and moving on through all the prophets.
So today begins week three of Easter. And even though we still have a few more weeks left in the Easter season, this is the last week that our Scripture readings will actually be talking about Easter Sunday in the resurrection. Starting next week we get back into Jesus’ teachings and we’ll continue with that up until Ascension and Pentecost, when we kind of come back to the Easter themes briefly. But today I’d like to focus our reading, focus our attention on the reading from Luke, which we just heard, the story of the disciples’ conversation on the road to Emmaus.
And I particularly want to point out and shine light on what the disciples said about hearing Jesus talk about and explain the Scriptures. And they said in verse 32, “Our hearts were on fire.” Our hearts were on fire. Further on in the book of Acts, we will hear that this feeling of being on fire is related to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is something about hearing God’s truth that lights a flame in the hearts of people who love God.
And if we think about it, when have we had this feeling of our hearts being on fire before? I asked Google that question. Got a whole list of love songs. And maybe falling in love is the first experience that we have with our hearts being on fire in a sense. But it’s not quite the same thing that we feel about the Word of God.
I do remember back in the late 1960s, something that set people’s hearts on fire was watching the moon landing. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. And those words touched millions of hearts. And I knew a number of people, including my own brother, who chose careers in science because their hearts were so moved by these events.
When hearts are on fire, lives change. People get a sense of direction or maybe even a change in direction. You get a passion to live by. So where do we start with Jesus? Well, one contemporary theologian says, well, the resurrection is more than just an event. It’s a person.
And Jesus himself said, I am the resurrection and the life. And so our future in the kingdom of God will be with Jesus, not only because of what Jesus has done, but because of who Jesus is. Therefore, our response to Jesus needs to be in the form of a relationship, one that involves heart as well as mind. We need hearts full of praise.
As we heard in Psalm 116 this morning, I love the Lord because he has heard my voice. I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. So as we approach the events on the road to Emmaus, which is which by the way, this is still Easter day. They’re talking this road to Emmaus story is still that Easter Sunday.
Let this Easter touch our hearts deeply. So early Easter morning, Mary had gone to the tomb and found it empty and she saw an angel and spoke with Jesus briefly. And he sent her to the rest of the disciples to let them know that he was alive. And shortly after that, two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other one whose name we don’t know, decided who had been with the group that morning, decided to walk home to Emmaus, which was about seven miles, about a two hour walk. And these two disciples were probably two of the disciples, two of the seventy that Jesus had sent out to do ministry back in Luke chapter 10.
So these guys were they knew, they knew the disciples, they knew the group. So as they were walking along the road, they were talking about the events of the past three days. And the road that they were on was apparently not heavily traveled, but they were overheard by another traveler who came up and asked, what are you talking about? And the two disciples mistook this man for a visitor. The word in verse 18 says stranger, but it could also be translated visitor, somebody who was not from around here, basically.
And they asked him, are you the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened? And they went on to tell him all about Jesus, a prophet, mighty indeed, and word before God and all the people. They hoped he was the Messiah. They hoped he would be the Redeemer of Israel.
But he’d been crucified. And now three days later, Mary had come back from his tomb that morning saying he was alive. And the newcomer to the conversation replies with words that sound a bit harsh. How foolish you are and how slow to believe. I don’t remember exactly what the translation was, but all the translations just sound a little bit rough.
But on closer study, I think maybe a better translation into today’s language would be, boy, are you guys slow on the uptake. It wasn’t really meant to be insulting. It’s just kind of pay attention here. And then Jesus, who was still unrecognized at that point, proceeded to explain to them all the things in the Old Testament that talked about himself, starting with Moses and moving on through all the prophets.
Wouldn’t you have loved to listen in on that conversation? I need to do a side note here at this point. These two disciples had spent months with Jesus. So why did they not recognize him? It seems, going by all the stories that we have of Easter Sunday and the post-Easter stories in the New Testament, it seems that Jesus’ resurrected body was somehow different than his original body. In all of the resurrection events in the New Testament, Jesus is not immediately recognized, even by the people who knew him best.
Mary, in the garden on Easter morning, mistook him for the gardener. When the disciples met Jesus in Galilee, they didn’t recognize him right away. There was something about this resurrection body that was different. His body still carried the scars and the nails, and that’s how most of the disciples recognized him. Jesus’ resurrected body, though, was also able to walk through locked doors and into locked rooms without opening the door. So how does this resurrection body, how is this not the same? What is the change here?
Well, as a lifelong science fiction fan, my imagination goes crazy with, “There’s so many things you could do with a body that does this.” Imagine the possibilities, right? But bringing it down to reality, there is definitely something different, something not entirely of earth about Jesus’ resurrection body.
Jesus says in John 12, 24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” And those of us who are planting gardens right about now understand this. The seed that is planted doesn’t look like the plant that grows. It’s the same thing, but not.
Human bodies that we see and live in, in a lot of ways, are like seeds, I figure. And what Jesus has become is the plant that grows from the seed. And we will share that future someday. But on the road to Emmaus, when the full-grown resurrected plant meets up with a couple of unreserected seeds, so to speak, it’s understandable that they didn’t recognize him.
There is that difference for the time being. End of side note. So at the end of the journey to Emmaus, they went into the home of one of the disciples and invited this visitor to stay because it was getting dark. Middle Eastern hospitality would have required that, that you invite a stranger who is traveling alone to stay with you at night
so they’re not in danger out there alone in the darkness. And so as everybody settles down to dinner, they recline at table, and Jesus takes bread and breaks it, just like he did on Passover three nights before. And then they recognized him. And then he vanished.
Now they didn’t know this, but a few moments later, Jesus actually showed up in Jerusalem. He was meeting with some other people. These resurrection bodies, they have some really cool features, don’t they? See a pop over in Jerusalem? Yeah. Meanwhile, the two disciples look at each other and say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?”
And they immediately got up and walked back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples that they had seen Jesus. And the others said, “Yeah, we know Simon has seen him too, and there was much rejoicing.” I want to go back to that moment though when they said, “Were not our hearts burning when he opened the Scriptures?” If only they’d written down what Jesus had said. But taking what we have from the Old Testament, here’s a small attempt to reconstruct what might have been said. And I won’t use chapter verse because they didn’t have chapter verse back then, and this certainly is not the comprehensive list that Jesus could have used. But Jesus would have begun at the beginning.
God promises Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” And years later, Abraham prophesies, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.” A few years after that, the prophet named Balaam prophesies over Israel, “I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near. A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” In the book of Psalms, we find these words.
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession.’ The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind. You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” Also in the Psalms, we can find descriptions of the crucifixion, written a thousand years before crucifixion was invented.
For example, the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax. It is melted within my breast. All who see me mock at me. They make mouths at me. They shake their heads. They divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
Years after that, the prophet Isaiah writes, “In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way by the sea, the land beyond the Jordan Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them has the light shined. The Lord himself will give you a sign.
Look, a young woman is with child and will bear a son, and will name him Emmanuel. For the child has been born to us, a son given to us, authority rests upon his shoulders, and his name is wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
And Isaiah also foresaw a violent death. He wrote, “I gave my back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard. I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich.” “The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot with him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors. Yet he bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors.”
And finally, the end result of all this suffering from the prophet Daniel. As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven, and he came to the ancient one and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all peoples and nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingdom is one that shall never be destroyed. Who could hear all these words and not be moved?
In our reading from Acts today, the apostle Peter preached a sermon based on these prophecies, and he ended with the words, “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him, both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” And the people who heard Peter believed and were baptized that same day, and around 3,000 were added to the church on that day.
Now, 2,000 years later, this is still our message. This is still the story of Jesus. This is still the word that he has given us. This is our calling to carry these words to all who will listen. May God bless our hearts and our understanding and our sharing. Amen.