From broken Hearts to Burning Hearts
The Emmaus road experience is a well-known story…
This is such a gripping story
because it is in many ways our own story…
when we loose hope and the desire to move on
because our dreams have been crushed.
This story highlights the living hope
that we have in the Resurrection of Jesus.
Paul wrote to his friends at Corinth,
"If we have hope in Christ in this life only,
we are the most miserable of all men.
But now Christ is risen from the dead" (1 Cor 15:19,20).
But on that first Easter day
that living hope was all but snuffed out
for the two disciples on their way back home to Emmaus
Have you ever noticed that
some of the saddest words in our language
begin with the letter D?
For example, disappointment, doubt, disillusionment,
defeat, despair and death.
All of these are summed up
in the words of Cleopas and his companion
to the unrecognized stranger on the Emmaus road.
They had left the demoralized and confused group of disciples
with the events of Good Friday fresh in their memories.
We can understand their confusion, can’t we?
The Master they had loved and followed
had been horribly put to death on a Roman cross.
Death by crucifixion was the most shameful of deaths;
the victim was made a public spectacle,
exposed to the jeers of all that passed by.
Only a week before, on Palm Sunday,
the hopes of the disciples had risen to fever pitch
when the excited crowds had hailed their Master
as the longed-for deliverer
from the tyranny of Roman occupation…
but now he lay dead in a sealed tomb!
Their hopes were dashed…
the dream was over!
The followers of Jesus were without a leader
and they were falling apart quickly…
These two were already on their way home.
Last week we heard how Peter and his fishing partners
returned to their former life as fishermen.
What else was there left to do?
Life goes on…
Life must go on…
The reports that Christ’s tomb was empty
had only confused the disciples more.
Their entire world had come apart.
The two downhearted disciples summed up the situation
when they said,
"we had hoped that he was the one
who was going to redeem Israel."
Human hope is a fragile thing,
and when it withers it’s difficult to revive.
Have you ever experienced such total hopelessness?
There was no way out…
no matter what you tried…
there was nothing you could do to change the situation…
I often see that look of total helplessness
in the eyes of people who have given up…
“There is nothing they can do for me –
the cancer has spread too far.”
“My spouse has left me for another partner.”
“I’ve tried soo hard to give up smoking.”
“I am just not smart enough to become a doctor.”
“I feel so stuck in my job –
I hate the job
but, I can’t quit because my family needs the income
and I don’t know how to do anything else.”
“I’ve given up.
Nothing will ever change with my church.
The old guard will never give up power,
and a lot of spirit-led creativity is stifled
in order to maintain the status quo.”
Have you ever heard yourself or someone else
say these words?
Then you have a bit of an idea
what the Emmaus two were grappling with.
Hopelessness is desperately hard to cure.
When you see someone you love and care for
overtaken by an illness that goes on and on,
despair sets in.
It almost becomes impossible to hope for recovery…
you even become afraid to hope
because you don’t know if you can cope with another letdown.
And so, in our heart-break, like the Emmaus disciples,
we put up a wall of hopelessness around us,
and we become trapped in our misery.
"We had hoped ..."
“We had hoped…”
What they were saying – and what you may be saying is,
"We don’t expect it now anymore…
we know it’s not going to happen…
but once we did…
This hope we once had… it’s gone."
“Now there is nothing left to do.”
Do you know the heartbreaking disappointment
in your own life?
But, this isn’t the full story…
As the travellers made their weary way to Emmaus
a stranger fell alongside them.
It was going to be one of the most wonderful walks in history!
We know, of course, that it was the risen Jesus,
but somehow they didn’t recognize him.
In fact Luke tells us "they were kept from recognizing him."
Maybe they were too preoccupied to look him in the eye.
Maybe they didn’t care.
What difference did it make who was walking with them…
They were grieving a great loss in their lives!
And along comes a chatty stranger,
who hasn’t got a clue about
the things that happened in Jerusalem…
or so it seems.
The stranger asked them,
"What’s going on, fellows?"
And he listened as they poured out their hearts.
Jesus doesn’t dumb them down…
but rather, in his infinite consideration for their brokenness,
and their bewildered minds
he comes next to them and joins them on their journey…
he walks with them…
and he listens…
and then he fills their hearts with the promises
from God’s Word,
and ultimately with hope and understanding.
Jesus knew that downtrodden people
don’t need someone to tell them,
“you should have listened better.”
They need companionship.
They need a listening ear before a stream of good advice.
The last thing they need is a brisk "cheering up" talk
or being told to "snap out of it".
Instead, Jesus joins us on our journey…
he spends time with us…
sometimes unrecognized in the person of a stranger…
Jesus enters their pain,
and allows them to share their story of disappointment.
And as they tell the stranger what they thought
the man of Galilee was all about
Jesus unpacks for them
the full mystery of God’s plan of salvation.
He fills their broken hearts with a lesson in faith and hope.
Starting right with the story of the fall of man,
and how God deals with our human failure…
Jesus told them about God’s plan of salvation in the OT…
… the thread of God’s activity in the lives of His people…
Abraham, Isaac & Jacob,
Moses and the prophets…
the Exodus out of Egypt…
the Suffering Servant in the book of Isaiah…
And then he said,
"Did not the Christ have to suffer these things ..."
that’s the one thing they hadn’t factored in…
Like many of us,
the disciples were counting on a Messiah
who would rule with Power
and crush the enemies of Israel
and establish the Kingdom of God on earth once and for all.
They could not conceive of the idea
of a Messiah who would suffer
and die on a roman cross.
And maybe today
Jesus says to us what he said to the disciples,
"How foolish you are,
and how slow of heart to believe
all that the prophets have spoken."
Their two-hour journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus
must have seemed like just a few minutes.
They were so wrapped up in this conversation
with the Lord whom they had not yet recognized.
Luke informs us that,
"As they approached the village to which they were going,
Jesus acted as if he was going further."
And they invited him to come in,
because the evening had fallen,
and it was dangerous to travel alone after dark.
They didn’t have to asked him in;
he was ready to move on.
their hearts had been strangely warmed
during the course of the conversation.
So, they set the table for three...
There was bread on the table
and the stranger took the bread and gave thanks…
And in the act of breaking bread
they recognized him for who he was.
"He took bread, gave thanks,
broke it and began to give it to them."
They saw his hands –
they were different from when he had broken bread
at the Feeding of the Five Thousand,
and at the Last Supper.
They were the nail-pierced hands of Jesus.
In an instant they knew him.
And in an instant, he’s gone.
Why did Jesus have to disappear?
Couldn’t he have stayed longer?
I can imagine Cleopas and his friend standing in amazement;
asking each other,
"Were not our hearts burning within us
while he talked with us on the road
and opened the Scriptures to us?"
They suddenly realized that
Christ is risen from the dead!
And the two disciples lost no time
in retracing their steps to Jerusalem
to share the Good News.
A simple two hour walk
turned into a life-transforming experience.
Now their hearts were burning with passion
to share with everyone
what they had seen and experienced.
ILL.: The noted conductor Reichel
was taking his choir and orchestra
through their final rehearsal of Handel's beautiful
and inspiring "Messiah".
When the soprano soloist came in with the refrain,
"I know that my Redeemer liveth,"
she sang it with flawless technique,
perfect breathing, and clear enunciation.
After she completed her part,
everyone looked at the conductor
expecting to see his responses of approval.
With a motion from his baton for silence,
he walked over to the soloist and said, almost sorrowfully,
you do not really know that your Redeemer lives, do you?"
Embarrassed, she answered,
"Why, yes, I think I do."
"Then sing it!", cried Reichel.
"Tell it to me so that I'll know
you have experienced the joy and power of it."
Then he motioned for the orchestra to begin,
and she sang the truth with a fervor
that testified of her personal relationship to the risen Lord.
Those who listened wept and the old master,
eyes wet with tears, said to her,
"You do know, for this time you have told me."
I am almost certain that the two-hour journey back to Jerusalem
took the disciples a mere 45 minutes.
They were on a Mission!
Their hearts were burning!
They had some Good News to share!
They couldn’t keep it to themselves…
Their broken hearts had been transformed
into hearts that were on fire for their Lord!
You see, Hope has that powerful effect on us.
It transforms ordinary people,
like the Emmaus Disciples…
like you and me..
into passionate witnesses of the risen Lord!
As we journey along
and as we experience defeat, despair and disappointment
in our daily life
let us welcome the stranger
that joins us on our journey.
May our hearts also be warmed by His company
and may our lives be ignited with passion
to share with all
that we have seen the risen Lord!
Let us sing it, so that they will know
that our Redeemer lives!