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Sermon - April 12, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1207

April 12, 2015                                                                                                Luke 24:13-35

Dr. Ed Pettus


“Burning Hearts”



            One of my favorite motifs of the scripture is that of journey.  Today we consider the short journey on the road to Emmaus.  I suppose that one of the reasons I enjoy these kinds of journeys is because we are all on a journey – the journey of faith where God walks with us in our daily lives.  Journeys come in all sizes from the larger scope of history as we are a part fo the journey that began at creation.  We also have small seemingly to a few minutes of thought.  We could look at today’s story from beginning to end, verse 13-35 or break it into journey scenes.  I want to look generally at the various aspects but focus mainly on the move from slow of heart to burning hearts!  What happened to these two disciples between slow of heart and burning heart?


1.Resurrection Day


Let’s start with the reminder that this is the same day as the resurrection.  Have you ever watched a movie and at the end of the movie you wish they had just added 5-10 minutes to wrap up a few things?  I see that first credit roll up on the screen and I think, “Is that it?  Is that how it ends?”  Well, when Luke tells his story of the resurrection, he goes way beyond the climactic scene of Jesus raised from the tomb.  This story is the same day, Easter Sunday, and Luke tells of two disciples walking to another town after they had seen Jesus crucified.  And Luke is the one who tells much more continuing in Acts with the results of the resurrection and the birth of the church.  Of course, this is no movie because the story continues to this day.



2.Walking with the Risen Lord


If these guys were walking at a fairly normal pace, it would take about two hours to walk seven miles.  They arrive at Emmaus about evening time.  Two hours with Jesus.  Now granted, they had no idea during that two hour period that it was Jesus with whom they walked.  But something was indeed stirring up in them, just what, they did not know.  They did not realize Jesus was the one walking with them.  I wonder if we are often in the same situation, that we have no idea that Jesus is really with us.  If we really understood Jesus with us, would it change our behavior? 


3.“What things?”


The disciples are surprised that anyone could possibly not know what had happened in Jerusalem.  It is like the surprise we get when someone does not keep up with the same things we might follow.  “Did you see the game last night?”  And when they ask what game, we might be a bit taken back that someone does not follow football or baseball or something like that.  In this situation in Luke they are asked to repeat all the events of the weekend.  I wonder if it was troubling for them to go through it all.  Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet, mighty in word and deed.  He was our hope for Israel and he was crucified.  Their tone probably changed quite a bit when they moved on to describe that the women found an empty tomb.  They are upset by the things that had happened and might have even been a little upset that this guy they are walking with did not know these things. 


4.Slow of heart


Jesus patiently listened as they shared their version of the things that had happened.   But Jesus doesn’t come to them with niceties, “Oh fellas, it seems like you guys have forgotten a few things. That’s ok.  I don’t want to hurt your feelings or offend you, but let me take you through a few scripture references that might jog your memory. Is that ok with you?”  That’s not what he said.  Look at verse 25, “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”  Foolish and slow of heart.  Tell it like it is, Jesus!  Could you be any more dense?  Come on, guys, get your heads together.


5.Moses and the Prophets


These guys are Jews, they should have a vast knowledge of the Old Testament.  Jesus probably raised up passages they would have known, something every Jew would have learned from childhood.  It says he with Moses and the prophets, and later with the other disciples (Luke 24:44) he added the Psalms.  We don’t know the scriptures he shared; I wish we did.  He might have shared from Moses - Numbers 21:4-9,

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.


Jesus had already told them this text back in John’s gospel,

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (3:14-15).


            That is Moses, one among many he could have interpreted.  Next, the prophets.  In Isaiah 53, a suffering servant passage, we read a familiar word that relates to Jesus:

            “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by others;  a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities…”


            How quickly this could be interpreted for these two disciples that Jesus was crucified for our sins on the cross.  He is the one spoken of in Isaiah 53.


            It does not say he mentioned the Psalms until later, but he might have lifted up Psalm 22, a Psalm he quoted from the cross, but in this case he may have quoted verse 16,

            For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— (Psalm 22:16 ESV)


            Now, Jesus opened these or other Old Testament passages and as he was doing this their hearts were burning.  They knew those scriptures.  They heard the familiar words and something started to stir in their hearts.  The revelation of the scriptures burned within.



6.Breaking of Bread


The last scene for us this morning is at the table.  One of the reasons the reformed faith makes a strong connection between word and sacrament is due to this story.  Jesus opened the word to them and it was when they saw Jesus break bread that the words became reality; the words made complete sense in light of communion with Jesus.  Their eyes were opened! 



7.Burning Hearts – What happened from slow to burn?

a.Word opened


Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. (Psalm 119:18)  Make this your prayer for the week.  “Lord, open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”  Make this your prayer for others, “Lord, open their eyes that they might see awesome things in your word.”  Jesus is the one who opens eyes.  When the word gets into our heart it brings the heat! 


Jeremiah 23:29 says it this way:  “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” 

Later in Luke Jesus does the same kind of thing. 


Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)


If our hearts are slow to understand, Jesus begins by opening our minds and eyes and hearts.


b.Jesus with them


The second thing that I believe moved them from slow to burning was simply Jesus’ presence.  The more we understand the presence of Jesus, promised from his birth through to his ascension, the more we know that burning fire within for the things of faith. 




Breaking bread together brings the word to full maturity in our hearts and minds.  It is one of the reasons I believe we should receive communion on a regular basis.  Why not receive the sacrament that opened the eyes of the disciples? 


To sum:


  • If our hearts are slow, we get them burning by getting into the word through study, by being with Jesus through prayer, and by participation in His supper through worship.
  • We move from slow hearts to burning hearts by studying Scripture.  It is not just studying about Jesus in Scripture, but the whole of Scripture.  Jesus opened to them the words of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms.  What a great advantage we have to have all that as well as the words of Jesus Christ and his followers which has also become God’s word to us. 
  • We move from slow to burning by Jesus being with us and Jesus being with us.  He walks with us as he did with them, except that we know that through the Spirit of God. 
  • We move from slow hearts to burning hearts by sharing in His body and blood in the mystery of the Lord’s Supper. 


It is my prayer that we all move from slow hearts to hearts on fire.  Amen!