Luke: Did Not Our Hearts Burn within Us?

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on January 15, 2012

Luke 24:13-35

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The Lord’s Day Morning

January 15, 2012

“Did Not Our Hearts Burn within Us?”

Luke 24:13-35

The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to the gospel of Luke,
the twenty-fourth chapter. We have
been in the gospel of Luke together since 2009, which is a good argument for
coming to Sunday evening worship so you can hear something other than Luke, but
you’ve almost made it to the end!
And we are in one of the great passages in all of the Scripture.
I never read this passage without being moved by some part of it.
We read part of it last week.
We really cut off in the middle of the story, and when we were looking at it
last week we emphasized Jesus saying to these two disconsolate disciples who
were walking to the little village of Emmaus that the source of their
hopelessness and their loss of joy and their lack of faith was that they did not
understand and believe the Scriptures.
And we talked about what that meant for our own Christian lives and the
importance of believing what God says in His Word.

Today we’re going to go back to this story again and understand what Luke is up
to. Luke is impressing upon his
original readers and you and me the details of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There are a number of narratives in the New Testament gospels that
recount what Jesus did after the resurrection.
This one is remarkable. And
Luke is giving us this detail so that we will have confidence in the reality of
the resurrection. That’s what he’s
up to, but he not only wants his original readers and you and me to believe in
the reality of the resurrection, this passage also has for us many, very
significant, experiential lessons — lesson for the living of the Christian life
— and I want us to give attention to those things today.

In particular, as we read through this passage, Jesus, through Luke, wants to
draw to our attention three things.
First of all, he wants to focus us on the person of the Redeemer, secondly, on
the cost of the redemption, and third, on the power of the resurrection.
Well let’s look to God in prayer before we read His Word.

Heavenly Father, this is Your Word and we ask that we would be able to
understand and believe it. We know
that this is not simply a matter of reading the words, but it is part of the
Spirit’s work to convince us and convict us and to enable us to embrace all the
fullness of the truth of Your Word.
So come, Holy Spirit, and open our eyes and our ears and our hearts to the
glorious truth of the Word and enable us to believe it, to our salvation and to
our everlasting good. In Jesus’
name, amen.

This is the Word of God. Hear it in
Luke 24 beginning in verse 13:

“That very day two of
them 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.
Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things
happened. Moreover, some women of
our company amazed us. They were at
the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find His body, they came
back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was
alive. Some 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.’ And He said to them, ‘O
foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter
into His glory?’ And beginning with
Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the
things concerning Himself.

So they drew near to
the village to which they were going.
He acted as if He were going farther, but they urged Him strongly,
saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’
So He went in to stay with them.
When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed and broke
it and gave it to them. And their
eyes were opened, and they recognized Him.
And He vanished from their sight.
They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He
talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?’
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.
And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,
saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’
Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to
them in the breaking of the bread.”

Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

This is a remarkably vivid account.
It is so vivid and rich with minute details that many critical scholars spend
much of their effort in attempting to account for its origin.
“Surely something so elaborate, so artistic, couldn’t have been composed
by Luke. He must have gotten it from
somewhere else.” However, many early
church fathers, when they read this passage, their reaction was different.
They read it and they said, “There is no way that Luke could have known
these things unless he was the unnamed disciple on the road!”
So they speculated that Luke himself was the other disciple on his way to
the village of Emmaus. We don’t
know, but what we do know is that Luke is giving us these details so that we
will be confident in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.
And he says things in this passage that he would not have written were
they not true. And so he attests to
us the reality, the historicity, of this event.

Let me just point a few of those things out.
One thing is he names the village that they’re going to and it’s a little
village called Emmaus. And guess
what? We don’t know where it is!
If you were going to make up a village in order to convince people of a
reality of a story, you would have come up with a bigger name for a town.
You would have come up with a name for a town that lots of people would
have known. The only reason why he
would have said that they went to a little nondescript village named Emmaus,
seven miles away or sixty stadia away from Jerusalem, is because they went
there. And then again in the
passage, notice how these disciples who clearly loved and respected Jesus were
not expecting for Him to be resurrected.
Have you ever wondered, “How much did the disciples understand before the
resurrection?” and “What exactly did they think about Jesus?”
Now early Christian scholars and New Testament scholars spend lots of
time thinking about that question, but here, if you’ll look in verses 19 all the
way down to verse 24 you will get very close to getting inside the head of what
early Christian disciples thought about Jesus based on His life and teaching
before His resurrection. And again,
because this is written years after the resurrection, you wouldn’t have said
this about Christian disciples unless that’s what they said, because after the
resurrection Christians came to believe more about Jesus than these disciples
describe in their response. You
wouldn’t make this up.

Now I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah, but it’s a common convention of our
fictional literature to make up things that will make the story more
convincing.” Yeah, I understand
that; they didn’t do that in ancient literature.
That is a modern convention that they did not have.
The only reason this would have been written this way is because it
happened, and Luke, as a faithful historian, is recounting it.
Or, look at the end of the passage.
There’s this interesting point where they’ve gotten to Emmaus and He acts
as if He’s going to go forward. And
some people say, “Well Jesus was deceiving them!
He was pretending to do something that —“
No, no, no. it would have
been impolite in that culture, just like it would be impolite in our culture, to
invite yourself to spend the night with somebody, to invite yourself to eat with
them. And Jesus, as a good, polite,
Middle Eastern occupant of Palestine, is waiting for His hosts to invite Him to
come to the house. And that’s what’s
going on there.

But there’s still something strange.
When He gets to the table, who’s breaking the bread and who’s praying the
blessing? Jesus!
Now isn’t that strange? He’s
not the host, He’s not the owner of the home, but He’s breaking the bread and
praying. Why is that happening?
Maybe because He was the oldest of the three and they were deferring to
His age. Age was a big deal in
Palestine in those days and you deferred to those who were older than you.
But again, why would Luke write that?
It’s not what you would expect.
The only reason he would write that is if it happened.
All of these details Luke is piling on to you and to his original readers
so that we will understand the reality of the resurrection because the
resurrection changes everything.

UNDERESTIMATING THE PERSON OF THE MESSIAH

But it’s three things in particular that I want us to see in the disciples’
response to Jesus’ question, “What things?” in verse 19.
The first of them is this — we saw last week that Jesus said to them that
at the bottom of their hopelessness and loss of faith in light of the events
that had happened in Jerusalem was that they did not understand and believe the
Scriptures. Well what exactly did
they not understand and believe in the Scriptures?
In this response Luke and Jesus point out three things.
First, they underestimated the person of the Messiah.
Look at what they say. “What
things?” He says. And they respond.
Look at verse 19. “Concerning
Jesus of Nazareth, a Man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God
and all the people,” and then look down to verse 21, “We had hoped that He was
the one to redeem Israel.” Now they
tell you that they believe that Jesus is a prophet, a prophet of God, and that
He was the Messiah. They believe
that He is a prophet; they believe that He’s Messiah.
Both of those things are true, but Jesus is more than that.
Jesus is more than a prophet and He’s more than the Messiah.
He is the Son of the living God.
He is God in the flesh. And
though they believed true things about Him, they underestimated the person of
the Messiah. The Jewish people had
been looking for a Messiah who would come and give them deliverance.
They underestimated that God Himself would come in the flesh to deliver
them! And so they underestimated the
person of the Messiah.

Before you pick on these disciples, let me just say, do you realize from their
reactions, they have clearly built their world around Jesus.
They believe that He is a prophet of God, they believe that He is the
Messiah, and their world has literally been shattered because of His crucifixion
and death. They had built their
world – their lives revolve around this Man.
Whereas your seven year old children know more about Jesus the Messiah
than they did before this walk on the road happened.
And do we build our world around Jesus?
They had built their world around Jesus even though Christians in every
generation since the New Testament was completed have known more fully who Jesus
is than they do at this moment.
They’d built their lives around Him.
Have you built your life around Jesus?
Does every beat of your heart and rise and fall of your chest, is it all
wrapped up in Jesus? It was for
them, even though they underestimated His person.
How much more should our life revolve around Jesus?

UNDERESTIMATING THE COST OF REDEMPTION

Secondly, they not only underestimated His person, they underestimated the cost
of redemption. Notice again what
they say. Go back to verse 21.
“We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.”
Now there again, by the way, is another testimony that this is authentic.
If this had been made up by someone forty years later in the Christian
era, you would not have found that focus on Israel.
This is an authentic indication of what a pious Jewish believer would
have hoped with regard to the Messiah.
He hoped that the Messiah would come and redeem Israel, the nation-state
of Israel, the social-political reality of Israel, probably by driving the
Romans out and reestablish a Davidic kingship or at least a Biblical kingship in
establishing the rule of God’s Law in the land.
That’s what pious Jews hoped for.
But it underestimated the cost of the redemption that God was going to
undertake. They did not understand
that God was going to come in the flesh and shed His own blood for the
redemption of His people. The cross
was not a part of their Messianic expectations.
They wanted a Messiah to come; they couldn’t conceive that Messiah was
going to come and in order to accomplish redemption, die on behalf of His
people. And that’s what God did.
He sent His beloved Son into the world and He died and they
underestimated the cost that God bore for the redemption of His people.
And consequently, they were hopeless and they lacked joy.

UNDERESTIMATING THE POWER OF GOD AT WORK IN THE RESSURECTION

But there’s a third thing too. Not
only did they underestimate His person, not only did they underestimate the cost
of the redemption that God was working through Jesus Christ, they underestimated
the power of God at work in the resurrection.
It is clear that they know that something significant is supposed to
happen on the third day. Luke draws
your attention to that before you even get into the conversation by telling you
— what does he say back in verse 13?
“That very day” — what day? What we
call Sunday morning, the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, that very day
they’re walking on the road to Emmaus.
So he’s already drawn attention to the fact that this is resurrection
day. And then, as they’re responding
to Him and telling Him all the things that have happened in Jerusalem, look at
what they say. Verse 21 — “Yes, and
besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.”
They know something significant attaches itself to this day, but they
don’t expect the resurrection. By
the way, there’s another testimony from Luke that this is authentic.
Can you imagine making up a story about early Christians not expecting
the resurrection? You’d never do
that. They didn’t expect the
resurrection. They underestimated
the power of God. They looked at
this event and they thought the world had come to an end.
They’d put their hope in this Man as a prophet and as Messiah and He had
died. And as far as they were
concerned, their hopes had died with Him, and in so doing, they underestimated
the power of God in His redemption through the resurrection.
Now Luke is telling us this because he wants us to understand and be
assured of and convinced of the reality of the resurrection.

Now let me tell you, my friends, there is a very significant life experience
lesson that we need to learn from this and it’s this — when we are in
circumstances in our lives which tempt us to think that God has thrown us a
curve ball, that the rug has been pulled out from under us, that there is no
hope, that we have been consigned to a misery that we do not deserve, that
somehow God’s plan has failed, we are exactly where these disciples were.
All the lights have gone out for them.
When you’re in a circumstance that you did not want but you have, or if
there is a circumstance that you have longed for with all your heart and you do
not have it, and you think that God has thrown you a curve ball, you are right
where these disciples are. They
looked at these events, they look at the death of the prophet and Messiah that
they loved and they think, “God, You’ve thrown us a curve ball,” not realizing
the only curve ball thrown has been thrown at sin and death and hell and Satan.
In this very event which they see as the end of the world, God has
revealed His power in using it as His stratagem to display His glory in His
redemption.

And it is always like that in our own lives.
When you are in the place where you are tempted to say, “This is too
hard. This is not how it’s supposed
to be. My plan would be better if I
were in charge” you are doubting the power of God in His redemption and
resurrection. When you are there, He
has you right where He wants you and you have no idea of the joy that He is
capable of giving you when you believe it, when you trust it.
No rug can be pulled out from under you when your confidence is in the
power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now circumstance can rob that from you.
And my friends, the beautiful thing is, these men got it!
He breaks bread, He prays, He gives them the loaf — suddenly their eyes
are opened and they go, “It’s Jesus!” and He’s gone.
But when they get back to see the eleven, they say what?
“The Lord has risen indeed!”
They get it! They believe; they
embrace the person of the Messiah, the cost of the redemption, and the power of
the resurrection, and it changes their lives.

Believers, there may be some, many of you, who need to know that today, who need
to believe that today. And if you’re
an unbeliever here, let me just say this, there is no sure and certain hope in
life built on anything but Him — Jesus, and the power of His resurrection.
If your hope is built, if your joy is dependent on anything else, it will
not, it cannot last. And may God
grant to all of us belief in the power of His resurrection.

Let’s pray.

Our heavenly Father, our dead eyes are only opened by Your Spirit, so it’s my
prayer that You would do that, for unbelievers and for faltering believers
alike. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Now if you would take your hymnals in hand and turn to number 286 we’re going to
sing a song about the resurrection.
And pay attention to the words because it will help you through the truth of
this passage.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus the
Messiah. Amen.

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