Road to Emmaus – ‘did not our hearts burn when he opened the scriptures to us?’
A few weeks ago I was reading through the gospel accounts of Jesus after his resurrection. The famous interaction between Jesus and the disciples on their way to Emmaus in Luke 24 stuck out to me anew. If you’re unfamiliar, two men leaving Jerusalem are troubled by the events that have unfolded during the Passover, especially the gruesome crucifixion of the man they followed, Jesus. They encounter a stranger who walks with them along the way. Unbeknownst to them, this man is himself the risen Jesus. He begins to explain to them the scriptures regarding the Messiah and about the events that happened. They invite him to dinner and as Jesus breaks the bread, they suddenly recognize him and he disappears from their sight. They turn to each other in amazement and begin to run, AT NIGHT, back to Jerusalem to tell the others. Two things stick out to me from this amazing encounter. First, this verse – “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?”” (Luke 24:32) Second, their immediate response through obedience.
“Were not our hearts burning within us…”
Perhaps we can relate to these men. Buzzing after an encounter with the risen Savior they leave changed, uplifted, mesmerized. I sometimes can fall into the trap as a church staff member of wanting to create these moments for the congregation. I want them to experience that “heart-burning” sensation when they read the Word, or hear the Gospel, or in their prayer and reflective times. I cannot create these on my own. That’s a good thing – I’m not God.
However I can, hopefully, help foster receptive hearts and responsive wills to the word of God. Diving into the spiritual disciples myself can create a more attentive heart, and I can encourage those around me to do the same.
But… the disciples who encountered Jesus weren’t just suddenly “in-tune”. They didn’t just continue on their merry way home to prepare for the week ahead. They left and immediately went back to Jerusalem to share their news.
When we encounter Jesus, whether it’s a moment while reading scripture, a word from prayer or reflection, or in the serving of others – we must respond.
We must be aware that our culture desires us to limit our faith experiences to behind closed doors occurrences on Sunday mornings, and compartmentalize our worship – setting it aside for “real life” throughout the week. Too many times we may have an amazing encounter with Christ, only to say “wow,” and move on as if that’s it.
But that’s not what following Jesus looks like.
There must be a moment when our belief becomes reality. Where our knowledge becomes action. Where hearing becomes obedience.
Perhaps Jesus famous proclamation in Mark 1:15 of “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news” could be even further simplified as “hear the good news of the Kingdom and respond!” Listen and obey!
In Luke 6, drives this point home.
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”
[Luke 6:46ff – emphasis mine]
These words are strong, because they matter. The disciples along the road recognized this, and obeyed.
That’s actually another piece of this encounter that stands out. The disciples hear and respond in congruence – together. The best way to heed Jesus’ call on our lives is within a community. Whether it’s one or several hundred people. Our commitment to our brothers and sisters in Christ allows us to be a part of this community that stretches back two thousand years. We can’t do this alone!
The encounter along the road to Emmaus is a great passage of scripture that helps place us in that very real time Jesus walked around this earth resurrected. The text speaks to us just as Jesus did to the disciples – here I am! It’s really me! Now go and do!
What can we understand from this passage of scripture?
- Learn to recognize the “heart-burning.” Become adept at listening to the voice and seeing the movement of the Spirit in our midst.
- Respond with obedience – immediately. Don’t hesitate when we sense the need for a response.
- Respond together. Dive into a community of believers that can challenge, push, pull, and encourage you. And do the same for them. That’s why we emphasize over and over again the importance of small groups, Engage Groups, and programs like summer Leadership Training.
~Robbie Poff, NLCF Staff