Text: Luke 24:13-35 Theme: Knowing matters: Jesus’ death and resurrection; God’s plan in those events; and knowing Jesus in person.
Richard Scarry’s busy books are beloved the world over. They’ve sold 100 million copies. The figures are endearing:Huckle the Cat; Sergeant Murphy; Bananas Gorilla; Lowly Worm. In every nook and cranny of each page, there is busy, busy activity.
We might say that the first Easter was the busiest day ever. God raising Jesus from the dead. The angel rolling back the stone from the tomb. The guards running off into town. The women visiting the grave early in the morning. Peter and John hustling to the tomb. The news spreading about.
Luke records one more event on this busy, busy day. Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. Scholars aren’t sure where Emmaus was located. But you could walk it in about two hours.
They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. They had heard of amazing, mind-boggling developments. So they were processing it.
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them… You can picture these two deep in conversation when Jesus overtakes them + falls in step.
And now a surprising twist: they were kept from recognizing him. These two were disciples of Jesus. They certainly knew what he looked like. But they were kept from recognizing him. How? Presumably by God’s hand.
Why? Luke doesn’t say. But from what follows this seems the most natural conclusion: God wanted them to recognize his salvation plan before they recognized Jesus, the Savior.
Now: in his usual way Jesus asks a leading question: What are you discussing together as you walk along? At this question, they stood still, their faces downcast. They actually stopped in their tracks; their gloomy feelings put a halt to their feet.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked him: Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days? You do not know? It seemed incredible that anyone was ignorant of the news that dominated their minds. In reply Jesus simply asks: What things? This simple question opens the floodgates. The two disciples pour out what’s on their minds and hearts.
They start with their beliefs: that Jesus was a prophet; he was powerful in word + deed. Next they reported what happened: the religious leaders handed Jesus over to be crucified. This was a huge blow; they had hoped Jesus was the messiah, who would redeem Israel.
But now their emotions are being jerked around by some rumors. A few women reported seeing angels at Jesus’ tomb who said he was alive. Then some men confirmed that the tomb was empty. But they didn’t see Jesus. The rumors just seemed too wild- too good to be true. So the two remained downcast.
Now Jesus moves from a good question to a gentle rebuke: How foolish you are + how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? You see, their view of Jesus’ death was all wrong; his suffering was part of God’s plan!
Then Jesus moves from a rebuke to masterful teaching. Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Imagine the thrill of having Jesus himself open scripture and interpret it for you! It’s a wonder the two disciples didn’t stand transfixed and never get to Emmaus. Amazing: to have the incarnate Word of God explain the written Word of God. One commentator writes with deep longing: We should give much for even a record of the passages he used, give more for his exegesis of those passages.
Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Here Luke provides an important insight into the nature of sacred scripture. The Old Testament promises Jesus; the coming of Jesus fulfills that promise. Reformed theology holds that promise + fulfillment is a key strand uniting the whole Bible.
What does this mean as we study the Bible? It doesn’t mean that we should manufacture allusions to Jesus in every OT chapter. But it does mean we should be alert to how the grand prophecies, the precious law, the central ceremonies and symbols, the key characters the great events all point to Jesus.
For example, Genesis 3 pledges that one day the offspring of Eve would crush the serpent, an evil agent of Satan. We should see that one day Jesus fulfilled that pledge- by his death and resurrection he crushed Satan and his power. In Genesis 22 Isaac submits to God’s command that he be placed on an altar as a sacrifice. There we should see that Isaac foreshadowed Jesus: who submitted to God’s plan for Jesus to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world- on that very mountain 2,000 years later.
In Exodus Moses help free God’s people from miserable slavery to Pharaoh. We should see that Jesus is the great Moses figure: freeing us from slavery to sin + death.
In Exodus 20 the fourth commandment calls for a Sabbath rest. We should see that Jesus fulfills the Sabbath by providing us eternal rest. Perhaps Jesus explained these very passages!
Here’s a wonderful irony in this encounter: when Jesus first came alongside them, the two were astonished by his seeming ignorance: you do not know? But it turns out they were the ones who didn’t know!
They didn’t know that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead. They didn’t know the significance of Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection. They didn’t know the law and the prophets all pointed to Jesus and God’s salvation plan. And they didn’t know that it was Jesus himself at their side. How much they didn’t know!
As they approached the village…, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly: Stay with us; it is nearly evening; the day is almost over. When we offer hospitality to a stranger, who knows what will come of it? They ended up hosting Jesus himself!
After their journey they naturally sit down for some food and refreshment. When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Wait a minute! Since when does the guest serve the host?
And wait another minute: this pattern seems mighty familiar. When Jesus fed the 5,000 he took the loaves and gave thanks and broke them + gave them to the disciples (Luke 9). In the upper room, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it + gave it to them (Luke 22).
This was a case of déjà vu. Aha! At last the lights came on in their minds. Then their eyes were opened + they recognized him + he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other:Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Here the two are symbolic. God’s Word says that sin blinds us. II Corinthians 4 pictures it like a veil over our eyes. Vs. 4: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ.
God’s people are called to witness to Jesus and the good news of his kingdom. But we should equally pray for the Spirit’s sovereign work: to remove the veil. Then and only then will people recognize Jesus for who he is, just like the two disciples.
Then they eagerly reflected: Were not our hearts burning within us? Burning hearts. One mark of God’s Spirit in us is that God’s Word makes our hearts burn within us. God’s Word becomes personal, penetrating, profoundly powerful and alive. I think of worship times, Bible studies, personal devotions where my heart has burned. I imagine that many of you can relate to that experience: your heart burning within you.
What are we to make of people in the church who are ho-hum about God’s Word? They don’t really study it seriously on their own. They don’t join Bible study groups. They don’t make it a high priority to attend to the preaching of the Word. I must say this: if the Word of God never causes your heart to burn within you, then you need to question whether you have the Spirit of God + truly are a child of God.
You do not know? In this passage we find three layers of knowing. First, we need to know what happened- about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Second, we need to know why these things happened- their significance. Third, we need to know Jesus himself. We need to know and recognize Jesus with us.
The church is called by Christ himself to promote all three layers of knowing. Sometimes missionaries must first explain the basics: what happened to Jesus. After all, some people have only read the book of nature which tells of a great Creator. They know nothing of Jesus: his life and death and resurrection.
Second, the church must teach good theology: why Jesus had to suffer these things. There are always voices that seek to strip away the true significance of Jesus’ life + death. We need to search all of scripture to find a full understanding of Jesus’ saving work.
Third, the mission of the church is to help people to know Jesus personally. Not just knowledge about the Lord. But knowing Jesus personally- who walks with us. With those two disciples may we come to know Jesus in the full sense: all three dimensions.