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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Broken Bread, Opened Eyes, Burning Hearts
Text:Luke 24:30-32 (View)
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 145:1,2                                                                              

Ps 130:1,2

Reading – Luke 24:1-45

Ps 118:1,4,6

Sermon – Luke 24:30-32

Hy 48:1,2

Hy 37:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, many of us like to go for good walk. It’s refreshing to get outside and be in the sunshine! Going for a walk is also a good thing to do together with someone else. Maybe a friend. A neighbor. Your spouse. Because walking is a good time for talking. It’s a nice setting for having an open and honest discussion, side-by-side.

 Our Lord Jesus certainly knew the benefits of a good stroll. Not for getting exercise, for but for giving exhortation. If you read through the gospels, you’ll notice that Christ is often teaching at the same time as He’s traveling.

People would come up to him from the side streets and back alleys, join the crowd as they made their way to the next village, and the questions would start coming. Without missing a step, Jesus would provide answers. These were sermons on the go! Maybe He figured there was no time to waste. Or maybe He saw that a journey was a good time for focused conversation.

Our chapter is about one such walk, taken by our Lord. It’s a story of the resurrection, and it’s a lively and exciting episode—there’s the mystery that surrounds him, the slow unveiling of his identity, and the sudden realization of who He is.

We begin early in the chapter. This is the actual account of the resurrection: first day of the week, crack of dawn, stone rolled away, angels appearing—and shockwaves racing through the community of the disciples. There is surprise, wonderment… and uncertainty. That’s the first part of the chapter. It relates the reality of the resurrection. There’s actually no Christ, just an empty tomb. But now in our passage, the drama heightens. For now the risen Jesus appears!

Our stroll is on the way to Emmaus, which is a town several kilometres from Jerusalem. Two disciples are walking along, and it’s late afternoon. One is named Cleopas; we’re not told the name of the other. What we do know is these two had been part of the large group who followed Jesus during his ministry. They’d even been with the eleven when those first reports started coming in.

As they walk, these two men aren’t enjoying the cooler evening air, nor admiring the sun as it slips toward the horizon. This isn’t a walk that revives the spirits. For what day is it? It’s the first day after the Passover, the first day of the week. These men are heading home after a long and traumatic weekend. Their faces are downcast. Their hearts are heavy. You can hear their tired feet shuffling along that dusty road.

They’ve got a lot on their minds, and between the two of them they’re trying to work it out. “What’s happened?” they ask as they walk. “What has come of this man we believed in? And what’s going to come of us?”

It had seemed like such a sure thing. Jesus, a popular man, a man of undeniable power and wisdom, had been in the great city during Passover. This was the perfect occasion for a glorious triumph. Time to get rid of those hypocritical leaders, the Pharisees; and to chase out those Gentile dogs, the Romans! As they walked, these two mulled over the would’ves and the should’ves and the could’ves—because now it was too late. How suddenly it had all ended, how violently and uselessly!

This was what they were leaving behind at Jerusalem: a blood-stained cross, bearing that mocking title, “King of the Jews.” They were leaving behind his tomb that apparently had just been broken into, his corpse stolen away. And that’s it! Those were the only souvenirs of this man named Jesus. In a way, maybe it was good to put some distance between them and Jerusalem. It’d be good to put the disappointment behind them and try settle in again to normal life in Emmaus.

But as they walk along, deep in discussion about these things, a third man joins them. They don’t recognize him, but that’s not unusual. The roads were full of travelers, all heading from the Passover and back to their homes throughout the land.

If you join a conversation half-way through, then you want to know the topic that’s being talked about. That’s what this man wants to know too. And his question stops them short; they stand still, distress written all over their faces. His innocent request makes the reality hit home once more. Jesus is dead and gone. The adventure is over. God’s great promise of salvation is still not fulfilled.

Actually, it seems a bit odd that this third man hasn’t heard the latest. Didn’t He keep up with current events? Even if He was just an out-of-town visitor, how could He have missed it? The one traveler’s question is direct: “Don’t you know the things that happened in these days?” 

Apparently not. So these two give him the condensed version of events: “So there was this great prophet. But the leaders didn’t like him, you see, so they killed him. We hoped that He was the Saviour, but apparently He wasn’t.” Yes, how they had hoped! How they had longed for Israel’s redemption! Until Judas Iscariot, that betrayer, had to go and ruin everything—until that shameful cross shattered all their expectations.

There’s more that they need to tell, too: this whole thing about the empty tomb. It was like rubbing salt in the wound. Some women had reported it just this morning; a few of the others confirmed it; but these two didn’t believe it—no way! Seeing a couple shining angels sitting on a rock wasn’t enough for them. They will have to see the risen Christ himself!

At this, the third man speaks up. He’s been listening to their words, getting a sense of why these two are so down. But now He’ll contribute to the discussion. And He’s got some hard things to say. We’d call it a conversation-killer: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” (vv 25-26). A stinging rebuke, from out of nowhere!

But this stranger is not done yet. While they walk, He’s got a lesson to teach. It’s actually a survey of the entire Bible. Starting with Moses, and going right on through to the Prophets, He explains how all of Scripture points to the Christ. Text after text is brought forward. Quotation is piled upon quotation. Things these two disciples had doubtless heard many times before, passages they’d read from the time of their youth. But now this stranger weaves it all together into a unified whole.

For centuries, the Bible had been saying these things: the Saviour would be a prophet like Moses, a king like David, a Son of man… a Suffering Servant. “Take a look at the Psalms, and Isaiah, and Genesis, Deuteronomy, Micah, Zechariah, Hosea—it’s everywhere!” God always said that it’d be this way. The promised Saviour would have a ministry of glory and power, but also one of pain and rejection. It was written that the Messiah would even be killed, but his death would somehow be his path to glory!

It definitely wasn’t what everyone expected. But there it is: What these two men have just seen and heard in Jerusalem isn’t the end of all hope. Rather, it’s only the beginning. This stranger tells them there’s no reason to walk home feeling depressed, but there’s every reason to go on their way rejoicing! For God can turn the worst defeat into the greatest triumph!

Before they know it, these three have arrived at Emmaus. The sun has almost disappeared. These last hours of walking have flown by—and no wonder! These men have been in the company of a true teacher. Whoever this man is, He’s got some real insight. Maybe He will stay the night with them—surely He’s got more wisdom to share. And somehow, being with this nameless stranger, they don’t feel quite so discouraged as they did before.

So these three companions head inside to rest from their journey, and get some supper. It was probably a simple meal, as they hadn’t had much time to prepare it. Bread, some vegetables, a bit of meat, maybe a skin of wine.

Normally when you have someone over for dinner, everyone understands that it’s the hosts who are “in charge.” It’s their house, their table, their food. So of course the hosts will take care of dividing things into portions, then distributing the food to those present. The hosts will also take care of the opening prayer. But this stranger does something unusual: He takes charge. Sitting at their table, He offers the prayer, He takes the bread, He breaks it and hands it out!

And at that moment, the lights go on. For these two men, the surprise isn’t that this stranger has broken mealtime etiquette. No, the surprise is that this “stranger” is Jesus Christ! The one they walked with, the one they talked with—the one to whom they’d just complained about God’s purpose and moaned about the futility of the cross—this was none other than the man they had followed these past three years. It’s one and the same!

They had asked if He knew the things that’d happened, these last days at Jerusalem. Of course He did: they had happened to him! And all those things He’d said on the road about the Scriptures—that wasn’t an abstract, arms-length, theological lesson. That was his story. That was the record of his life, even before He had lived it. As God had said, He did suffer; He did rise again; He was going to enter his glory—and here He is! He’s not dead and stuck behind a stone. But He’s alive and well! So alive they can see him. So alive they can hear him. So alive that they can have a meal together, just like before.

For this is what Jesus had often done with his disciples. He had sat at table with them, because a table is a place of meeting and communion. At a table, family and friends will share food and drink—and more importantly, they will share company. Eating with others makes a statement: you eat with those you care about, with those you consider your equals, with those you welcome in love.

During his ministry, Jesus had sometimes got into trouble for eating with the wrong people. He would eat with prostitutes and tax collectors and other sinners. Yet these were his people, the ones He reached out to, and the ones He loved.

These two disciples remembered it well. Perhaps they’d even been with Jesus a couple years ago near Bethsaida, along with those thousands of others. There Jesus had fed them all, using only a bit of food. And there too, even out in the countryside, Jesus had taken on the role of the gracious host. These were his people, so He would feed them and care for them. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke them, and handed them out (Luke 9:16)—just like He did tonight in Emmaus.

And again, a few days ago—Thursday night, it was—Jesus had sat at table with the apostles, and together they shared a special meal. These two disciples hadn’t been there, but it was similar to what Jesus had so often done. That night too He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples—just like here in Emmaus. For Jesus had promised that He would always feed his disciples, and not just with bread and wine, meat and vegetables. He’d promised to feed them with himself!

That was already the lesson when He fed those thousands. The hungry crowds had been looking for someone who could fill their stomachs. But Jesus came to save their souls. Who could forget the powerful words He spoke that day? “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Seeing him break bread, these two disciples suddenly remember what kind of man they’d followed these past years. This is He who opens his table to everyone, regardless of their troubled background and bad reputation. This is He who welcomes all who hunger and thirst for God. This is the same one who gave his own body, and poured out his own blood, to nourish God’s people truly and eternally. This is the same one who once said, “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:55-56).

His flesh had been offered, three short days ago. His blood had splashed all over the ground, just last Friday. But this Jesus has come back to life. He’s come back, because these are his people. Jesus won’t ever forget his disciples. Jesus won’t ever let his followers walk home, wandering and despairing. Jesus won’t let his followers go hungry, but He’ll hand out heaping baskets of true spiritual food. Jesus will always be our gracious host, and He’ll always give us the gift of himself!      

But Jesus wants his disciples to understand this. That’s why He taught them so carefully, those last couple hours on the road. That’s why He opened the Scripture and related it directly to his life. In God’s perfect plan, the suffering and death of Christ had a vital purpose. It was no stomach-churning failure. No, the cross was the preparation of heavenly food and drink!                  

Before, these two disciples were kept from recognizing their Saviour. Now, in the breaking of bread, their eyes are opened. And how important is that opening! It’s important, because anyone can know the Scriptures. Anyone can know the old promises, like these disciples did, and can know what Jesus did on the cross. But have the eyes of our hearts been opened?

This story raises an unsettling possibility for us to ponder. Those two disciples walked with Christ for a couple hours; they listened to his words; they even looked at his face. It’s almost funny, that all along they didn’t know who it was. It’s almost funny, yet this ignorance could have been fatal! What if they hadn’t recognized him? What if God hadn’t opened their eyes? They would’ve stayed in Emmaus, stayed in the dark, stayed in their sorrow.

And what about us? Have our eyes been opened? It would be no less fatal if we failed to recognize our Lord—spent time near him, but didn’t really understand who He was, that He is Saviour and Lord and Master. It would be tragic if we read the Bible, but didn’t really notice its main character. Imagine that we listened to Christ’s words year after year, but we didn’t embrace what He was saying. It’d be tragic, if we had all this, but never had true fellowship with the risen Christ. What if we never enjoyed life-changing communion with the Saviour? How sad, and how fatal, that would be!

In his mercy God gave open eyes to Cleopas and his nameless friend. And God can give us open eyes also. Of course, the moment of “opening” isn’t always so dramatic as in our text. It can be as normal an event as reading the Bible in your devotions, as normal as sitting in church, as normal as thinking about the Scriptures and knowing that now you understand. 

But we need to ask for open eyes. We should pray daily for the presence and testimony of the Holy Spirit. We need to welcome times of instruction in the Word—to sit there, to take it in, and then to chew on the message when we go home. We need to seek those opportunities when we can enjoy being near Christ through worship and meditation and prayer. It’s only then that we’ll start to “make the connections.” When his Word is open before us, we truly recognize our Lord, and that God always does what He says. 

In the moment that these two see Jesus, He disappears. Gone again! But this time it’s different. For now they know; they know beyond any doubt that He’s alive. And so the two companions are alone again. Sitting at the table, still chewing the broken bread, hearing his words re-echo, they probably ask themselves once again, “What just happened?” And it’s like the light is still coming on, still getting brighter! For now they look back: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (v 32). Sitting there, they don’t so much compare notes as compare hearts. They see how all along, the Word of God had an effect.

For there had begun inside them the burning of a divine heat. Even as they were walking all those kilometres, they’d been moved. That long walk was good for them! For something deep within was being kindled, fanned into flame. Dull despair was giving way to a living hope. Doubt was giving way to faith. For that’s what the risen Christ can do.

By now their hearts are burning fiercely. And the thing with fire is that, whether small or large, it’s always active. Fire gives off heat, fire gives off light, fire affects whatever it touches. You can see that in these disciples. For with their hearts burning, they don’t sit back and wait for things to cool down a bit. No, they get up and return at once to Jerusalem. It’s late, but they’re not done walking yet!

What a different trip this was from the first! The shuffling feet have been replaced by skips of joy. Arriving in Jerusalem, they find the eleven and the others, and they announce the good news of the risen Jesus Christ. Beloved, this is always the power of a burning heart: you want to share what you know! It’s too good to keep to yourself, so you want to tell others about the good news of Christ.

And the fire in these two disciples keeps on burning. For a few weeks later, they were probably part of that Pentecost event. Then the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of fire—fire that came and rested on each one of them. The gift of the Spirit would keep their zeal hot, keep their hearts ablaze. This would fire them up to do great things for the risen Christ!         

Now, thinking about our story, we might feel jealous. It must have been great, we think, to see the resurrected Saviour. It must have been nice, to walk beside him, to sit at table with him, to hear his voice. The Christian lives we lead aren’t nearly so exciting as all this.

But then we have to ask why we’re told this story. Why does the Holy Spirit allow us to eavesdrop on this conversation, to tag along on this walk? The point is, the followers of Christ aren’t ever that different from each other, anytime or anywhere. For we too, get to see the broken bread of our Lord. We too, get to read and hear the Word. And we too, need to have opened eyes. And our hearts too, must be burning. We must have hearts that are alive with the gospel, alive with the good news of the cross and the empty tomb.

No wonder Paul exhorts us also in 1 Thessalonians, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (5:19, NIV). He says don’t let your faith be smothered by the disappointments of life. Don’t let your faith be stifled by your sinful habits, or by evil ways of thinking. Don’t let your zeal grow cold as the years pass, but keep your spiritual fervour. Don’t be lukewarm in your service of God, but be hot. Have a heart that is burning for Jesus Christ!

Anyone who’s ever tended a campfire, or a backyard fire pit, knows that a fire needs attention. It won’t keep going by itself! If you’re not watching, a fire might even die down to the smallest of embers—giving no heat, giving no light. The same is true for our hearts. A zeal for God doesn’t come out of nowhere. A strong faith in the Lord doesn’t spontaneously appear. Days without proper, diligent attention means that the Spirit’s fire will start to smoulder and go out.

So how can you keep your heart burning for God, like those two disciples? How do you stay ablaze in your zeal? You’ve got to put fuel on the fire. Lots of fuel! And keep it coming, day after day, year after year! “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”

More than anything, it was being close to Christ that made the hearts of these disciples burn. They talked to him. They listened to him. They welcomed his company. So do what they did: Walk daily with the risen Christ! Walk with him, every day of your life. May Jesus not be a stranger to you, but may He be a brother to you, a Lord, and a Saviour.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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