by Pat Lee
(Based on Luke 24:13-35;
see also Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-23)
Today’s story occurs on the afternoon of the resurrection.
On the 15th March 2019 we were all shocked by the horrific news of the shootings in two mosques in Christchurch. We were all appalled at this act of violence against people who had simply gathered to pray. It was something that we all talked about with family, friends and anyone else we met; we were all impacted one way or another by this senseless event.
And again, just over a year ago when we heard the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this became the topic of conversation with those we associated with. We all talk about these things and many other events that happen here in our town, country and the whole world. It’s what we do as human beings. We all have an opinion and we love to share them with others. These conversations are part of our ordinary, everyday lives.
Well, we’ve just heard the story of two men on their way to Emmaus. The Bible doesn’t tell us why they were going to Emmaus, but we can assume that these two, although not members of ‘the twelve’, were followers of Jesus, as inferred in v33.
On first look, this seems to a be an ordinary story about two men conversing about a current event as they walk along. However, as we take a closer look, it becomes obvious that this is no ordinary story, but an extraordinary experience these men would never forget.
They were joined by a ‘stranger’ who came and walked with them and wanted to know what they were discussing. They didn’t seem to be at all put out by this stranger. This seems odd to me as I’m sure I would have been thinking, Who is this cheeky fellow pushing his way into our private conversation? We know, but they didn’t, that it was Jesus, because “they were kept from recognizing him”.
They were amazed that he seemed not to know anything of the previous few days’ events. He wanted to know what had happened. They told him what had happened, finishing with the women who had been to the tomb early that morning to find it empty. They said that the women had come back to tell them that an angel had told them that Jesus was alive.
It is no surprise to us that the women were not believed, because back then women were not meant to have opinions! So, the men told the stranger that some of the men went to the tomb to see for themselves and found it to be as the women had said.
Now the stranger did something even more astonishing than just asking them about their conversation. He told them how foolish they were and “slow to believe what the prophets have spoken”. Then he explained all the things from the beginning, from what Moses and all the prophets said in the Scriptures about what the Christ would suffer.
When they reached Emmaus, the stranger appeared to be going further on, but they asked him to come and stay with them. It was almost evening, and in those days it was dangerous to walk the roads at night. So the stranger accepted the invitation.
These next few verses are the ones that jumped out to me. There are three main points that are noted. The first is the opening of their eyes in recognition of who it was that was with them when he broke the bread. This made me wonder if these two men had been present when Jesus fed the five thousand and saw him giving thanks and breaking that bread. Was there something about this act of Jesus which was unique and which they saw again now? Maybe this is what triggered their recognition.
The second is that now he suddenly disappeared from their sight. I would love to know what went through their minds when this happened. Who else could have done this but the risen Christ?
The third is when 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?”
Did your heart burn within you when you first became a Christian? Mine did. I was so excited I wanted to tell everyone what had happened to me. I think my husband and one of my closest friends, in particular, were amazed at the change they saw in me. But Michael was not convinced that it was real.
Lynne, my friend, gave her life to the Lord about three or four weeks later, but my husband took a few months longer. In fact, when he was transferred to another town for his job, he decided to find everything he could to disprove what had happened to me. But God had other ideas. I had stayed behind for our boys to finish the school year, so he had plenty of time without my interference. And, yes, he became a Christian too, and was ordained a few years later!
Verse 32 reminded me of a couple of songs. The first one Lynne had on a record which we played over and over and sang many times. The chorus says this: “So light up the fire and let the flame burn. Open the door, let Jesus return. Take seeds of the Spirit, let the fruit grow. Tell the people of Jesus, let his love show.” The second one has a verse which says, “O Lord, please light the fire that once burned bright and clear. Re-place the lamp of my first love that burns with holy fear!”
These two men’s hearts were burning inside them and they were so excited, they immediately set off for Jerusalem, even though it was night. They would have known the dangers of night travel but their enthusiasm overruled any thoughts of danger. When they arrived, they found the eleven disciples and others gathered together. The excitement was present there too, as these people were saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Can you imagine the scene after the two related their story?
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he commissioned the disciples to preach the Good News. That commission applies to us today as well. But we need that fire burning in our hearts. We are not all called to be evangelists, but we are all called to tell people about Jesus when an opportunity arises.
I had one such opportunity this week. A person said something to me that was not what we as Christians believe. After a slight hesitation, I felt led to say, but not quite as bluntly as this sounds, that I didn’t believe what she had said, and simply explained what my belief was, and just left it at that.
Let us all re-light the fire in our hearts so we can do what Jesus told us to do.
I’ll close with a quote I heard on Christian radio last week. The speaker said this: “We need to stoke the fire of our souls. If we don’t keep stoking it with fresh ‘wood’, the fire will go out.”
Think on it.