Burning Hearts (Luke 24:13-25)

Journey with Jesus to ... the Resurrection! (Easter Monday, April 18)
Read Luke 24:13-25

In some ways it seems unfair. After all, in the first century they actually saw the resurrected Jesus. They touched him. They heard him. They knew first-hand that he was not a ghost or an apparition, but rather, a remade flesh and blood body. Of course they believed.

But what about the rest of us? We don't get to see the resurrected Jesus. We don't get to touch him. How are we supposed to believe? Are we just to take in on faith? How do we develop the same faith that these people had?

Actually, this has been an issue right from the beginning. By the time Luke wrote this gospel, several decades had passed since Jesus’ resurrection. The original eyewitnesses were only 500 or so in number (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). By far, the vast majority of people in the first century believed in the resurrected Jesus without ever actually seeing him. 

The beautiful story of Jesus’ encounter with the pair on the road to Emmaus gives us a case study in how we can experience the resurrected Jesus for ourselves. Luke probably chose to tell it in part to encourage future witnesses to be confident in their faith in the resurrection.

It’s a masterful story, beautifully crafted, powerful and poignant. And, it offers profound encouragement for later generations of believes who must believe in Jesus without seeing him.  

For in this story,  they recognized Jesus in three ways: through the teaching of the Scriptures, through the Breaking of the Bread, and through the fellowship of the believers.

The Teaching of the Scriptures
As Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, they were able to see past their preconceived notions and understand more clearly what the Bible really said about the coming Messiah. The truth of this began to settle in and their hearts “burned” as they reflected on it.

Similarly, as we sit under the gifted teaching of the Scriptures, we become more and more convinced of the truth of the biblical witness. We find ourselves drawn in by the Jesus story. We begin to see Jesus for ourselves.

The Breaking of Bread
In addition, when Jesus broke bread with them, a profound change occurred in their hearts and minds. This is the moment they recognized the resurrected Jesus among them. And when did it happen? “In the breaking of the bread,” an obvious reference to the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper.

In the same way, throughout history followers of Jesus have been able to experience the real presence of Jesus in the sharing of the bread and cup. As we take in these symbols of Jesus body and blood, the living Christ becomes real to us.

The Fellowship of Believers
Finally, as soon as Cleopas and his companion (very likely his wife; perhaps her name was Mary — see John 19:25) recognized Jesus, he vanished from their sight. What did they do? They hurried back to Jerusalem so they could add their story to the others that were growing among them. As they did this, once again, the resurrected Jesus appeared among them.

Likewise, generations of believers have gathered together in cathedrals and catacombs to hear and tell the stories of their experience of the resurrected Christ. In these gatherings the stories of Jesus’ interaction in our lives builds our faith and the faith of others who hear and share these stories.

So it is that the reality of the risen Jesus continues to be experienced in every generation of believers. As we sit under the teaching of Scripture, share in the Breaking of Bread, and participate in the life of the community our hearts burn hot with faith, our eyes are opened to the truth, and our Risen Lord continues to reveal himself to us.