Be Confident of the Resurrection
Luke 24:15, 18-27, 30-35
Because this is Easter Sunday, we jump ahead to the last chapter of Luke in our study of the book. While many might be surprised that Luke 24:1-12 is not the passage being studied this week, I believe that you will see that the focal passage is indeed fitting for an Easter study. It does us no good to study the facts of the resurrected Jesus if we fail to understand and challenge ourselves and others to follow Him as our Lord and Savior.
Luke 24:13-35 (I suggest you examine the entire section and not skip verses) provides a common formula for how people come to have a relationship with the resurrected Christ. Now to be clear, not every relationship with Jesus begins in this way, but it is easy to see that many, if not most, people have an experience that resembles this outline in some way:
- The person has an encounter with Christ in some form. This could be a crisis or trial. It could be attending a church. It could be a friend sharing about Christ. However it happens, Jesus gets on this person’s radar.
- The person experiences emotional turmoil as he or she begins to be drawn to Christ but is reluctant to yield his or her life to Him.
- The person hears a full and accurate explanation of the gospel.
- The person responds to the gospel and the hunger to know Jesus increases.
- The person begins to hunger to be in community with other believers.
You should be able to move through the material at a comfortable pace this week and have a fun and meaningful discussion of each section as you do so.
I.) A Miraculous Encounter (13-16)
During Passover, the population of Jerusalem swelled way past its normal level. Now on Sunday, with the Passover completed, the crowds began to quickly drain out of Jerusalem returning the city to its usual population.
Most likely about late-morning or early-afternoon, two disciples of Jesus joined the vacating crowds and began their journey to a village named Emmaus which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Emmaus was probably home for the two, although we cannot be sure. We also cannot be sure of exactly where Emmaus was, although thankfully Luke, the detailed historian, gave us an approximate distance from Jerusalem. Neither can we be sure of who the two traveling disciples were. Later, in verse 18, we are told that one is named Cleopas, but the other is anonymous. Some believe that the second traveler was Cleopas’ wife because of the intimate expression of verse 32. If that is the case, and if others rightly associate Cleopas with Clopas mentioned in John 19:25, the wife would have been named Mary.
Whatever the case, we know that the disciples were not part of the inner core of disciples we most often associate with that term but they were indeed followers of Jesus to some degree. They clearly had communication with the inner core of disciples as their retelling of the resurrection facts requires.
As the two traveled toward Emmaus that Sunday, they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. It’s not surprising that the two would be rehearsing the amazing events of the past week. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. This is not the first time Jesus’ identity had been hidden from someone. Earlier in the garden we saw that He was hidden from Mary Magdalene (John 20:14). While Mary may not have known it was Jesus because of the early morning sun shining in her eyes, here on the road to Emmaus we clearly see that Jesus is supernaturally hiding Himself from the two. This affirms that the two were acquainted with Jesus on some level, and was necessary so that Jesus would have the opportunity to challenge their thinking.
While the two travelers had a miraculous encounter with Jesus, we have to be careful to devalue the encounter we first had with Jesus. I have often heard people lament their “unspectacular” story of faith. The thinking is that since they cannot tell some amazing tale of overcoming a major sin or adverse situation, their story is rather “mild.” The problem with that, and devaluing our first encounter with Jesus, is that ANY encounter with the God-Man is supernatural! Think about it. Can anyone rightly say that coming face-to-face with the living God is mundane? Of course not. Let’s strive to always be in a state of deep awe and reverence when we think of the first time we encountered Jesus.
II.) A Rollercoaster of Emotion (17-24)
At some point, seemingly soon after catching up to the pair, Jesus, no doubt stifling a huge smile, asked “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” Don’t miss their physical response. The next phrase indicates that they stood still, looking sad. Apparently that question brought their travel to a grinding halt! You’ve probably experienced a moment like that. Someone shares news with you or asks you a question that forces you to come to a complete stop as you process it. I wonder if their stop and their sad countenance was a result of their realization that they would have to explain all the gory and painful details of the last week to this stranger. Remember, the wounds were still fresh for these two. It’s not fun to share painful news, especially when it is still fresh.
At this point, Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” Or, according to my paraphrase, “Have you been living under a rock?”
Undeterred, Jesus presses on and asks “What things?” Again, in my mind’s eye I see Jesus biting His lip to keep from smiling.
At this point, the pair (notice Luke records that they retold the events) does a pretty solid job of retelling the key events of the final week of Jesus. (We can take an aside here if the need exists and time allows to point out that mental assent to the details of the life of Christ is not enough. We will see that Jesus does not praise their grasp of the facts, He rebukes their inability to connect the dots and reach the proper conclusion about His identity. How many people in Bible study groups this Sunday need similar rebuking?) As you scan through the pairs retelling, notice their rollercoaster of emotions expressed.
The pair begins sad.They then perk up as they recount how Jesus was mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people.They then somber up as they share how Jesus was crucified and how that apparently dashed their hopes that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.They then perk up again as they share how some women did not find His body and saw a vision of angels who said that He was alive.
That’s some rollercoaster of emotion and teeter-totter of hope and despair, isn’t it? Before we apply this, let me also point out one incredibly significant error they made in their narrative that explains Jesus’ somewhat harsh response to them. Notice how they referred to Jesus as a prophet. That is not correct. He was not a prophet, He is the Prophet. This, along with their admitted wavering in verse 21, proves that they didn’t fully understand who Jesus is and did not, at this point, accept Him as Messiah and the Son of God.
When a person has a genuine encounter with Jesus, a mixture of emotion should follow. In fact, I would contend if there is not a mixture of emotion, the person probably doesn’t fully grasp who Jesus is and what He calls them to do. Let’s be honest. Following Jesus is not all chocolate and coffee (feel free to insert your preferred positive items). When we come to Christ, truly come to Him, it requires us to put to death a large part of who we are and what we desire. This is not easy. Therefore, a gamut of emotions should follow.
We should expect this range of emotions in our lives and allow it in others as we come to terms with the fullness of what it means to follow Jesus.
III.) A Full Explanation of the Gospel (25-27)
Before you examine Jesus’ response to the pair, remember their problem. They had all the information about Jesus necessary to conclude that He is the Son of God, yet they hadn’t reached that conclusion. In addition, the pair probably had a familiarity with the Old Testament because Jesus seems to hold them accountable for not grasping its teachings. And so, Jesus calls them foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. Jesus continues by asking was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?
I wish I could have been a fly on the wall (or, I guess, a fly flying next to them as they traveled on) to hear what happened next. Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Jesus led the pair on a Bible study through the entire Old Testament to show them where it spoke of Him! Can you imagine what it was like to hear Jesus teach about the Messianic prophecies concerning His birth, life, death, and resurrection?
There is a very important point to be made here. People will often hear fragments of the gospel, but we need to be prepared to provide a more detailed and thorough interaction with the full gospel. We must each train ourselves to be able to discuss, in a conversational manner, the fullness of the gospel. Giving bite-sized morsels of the gospel is a great pre-evangelism strategy, but when it comes down to guiding a person to make a decision for Christ, he or she must be directed to hear and respond to the full gospel message. This is more important than ever considering the false gospels that are so prevalent on television and in bookstores today.
IV.) A Hunger for More of Jesus (28-32)
It probably would have taken the travelers about three to four hours to make the trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus. We don’t know at what point Jesus joined the pair and how long his teaching lasted, but whatever the case, it clearly wasn’t enough for them. As they approached the village where they were going, Jesus acted as though He were going father. An interesting charade the say the least. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. We know that hospitality was extremely important in Jewish culture, but I don’t think that was the pair’s primary motivation for extending this invitation to Jesus. I say that because of verse 32 which we will examine momentarily.
When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. Later, in verse 35, we learn that it was the act of breaking the bread that caused the pair to recognize Jesus. This may have been because Jesus, the guest, took on the role of host by breaking the bread, or more likely, the pair recognized something in Jesus’ gestures that they had seen before.
At this point, the pair said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” As a discipleship pastor, this verse is incredibly significant to me in my ministry. I desire to teach God’s Word in such a way that it comes alive and connects with the hearts of those I teach with similar fervor. It pains me to see people who study the Bible with apathy or boredom, and I surely don’t want to teach it that way. God’s Word, and more precisely its Star, Jesus, should drive us to our knees in humility with hands raised high in praise. It should draw us to Jesus and create within us a hunger to know Him more. And that was precisely the effect it had on the pair that day. They didn’t want Jesus (even though they didn’t know it was Him at the time) to leave them because they wanted to hear more. Their hearts burned in their chests and they wanted the fire to burn more strongly.
When a person comes to Christ, this should be the expected result. Sure the timing may be stretched more thinly or condensed more tightly, but the trend should be the same: an increasing desire to know Christ more and an expanding love of Him.
V.) A Hunger for Community with the Church (33-35)
I’m a long-suffering Baltimore Orioles fan. As such, I feel an immediate connection with other Orioles fans. If I see someone wearing an O’s cap (an increasingly rare occurrence), I feel an instant kinship with him or her. This is just a small piece of evidence that we are wired for community. We crave it. It’s the way we were created.
Notice what the pair does after Jesus disappeared. They got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” Remember that the day was almost over, yet the pair felt compelled to make the three to four hour journey back to Jerusalem then. They couldn’t wait for the next day. Even though there was increased risk of traveling in the dark, they forsook the danger and went right back to the city they had left hours earlier. Why? Because people crave community. They wanted to be back with the other disciples and share this wonderful experience with them.
There are two important lessons here. First, and most apparent, we should expect true believers to be in consistent fellowship with other believers. I reject the notion that a believer can worship on his or her own as their normal rhythm of worship. I have heard people suggest that they don’t need to be part of a church because they can worship God just fine by themselves, or by watching or listening to preaching on television or the internet. I contend, that while there may situations that require this, the norm should be for believers to gather together, physically, to worship together in community. I suggest that the Christian who forsakes worshipping in a church has a heart issue or is not a true believer. After a person enters into relationship with Christ, they should hunger for Him, and His bride, the church, more and more. It’s that simple.
Second, we can use this passage as anecdotal support for our need to be evangelists from the moment of our conversion. If you have embraced the gospel, you have enough information, and prayerfully passion, to share it with someone else. Remember it is called “good news” for a reason. Who doesn’t like to share good news? We all do. Let’s encourage one another, even the newborn believer, to follow in the pair’s footsteps and waste no time of declaring the glory and riches of grace and Christ Jesus to all those around us.