Easter 3A                                                 St. John, Galveston 4/26/20

“The Joy of Heartburn”

Luke 24:13-35

+ In Nomine Jesu +

The message this morning, on this 3rd Sunday of Easter, is based on the Gospel reading from Luke 24. The section is commonly referred to as The Emmaus disciples. It’s the story of two disciples who go from doubt and discouragement to a rather beneficial and salutary case of heartburn because of Jesus’ preaching of God’s Word. As the two said to one another in the latter part of the reading, “did not our hearts burn within us while he (that is, Jesus) talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Thus, this morning’s message is entitled “The Joy of Heartburn.” 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Last Sunday, in John’s Gospel, we jumped forward a week to the Sunday after Easter as we were introduced to Thomas, who doubted the women’s proclamation that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thomas was adamant that he had to see Jesus to believe that He was alive. Not only did he demand that he see Him, he also demanded that he be able to put his finger into the wounds in His hands and put his hand into His side. Jesus, as you know, gave Thomas what he wanted, but, at the same time, He said, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet, have believed.”  

In today’s Gospel reading, in this case, from Luke’s account, we go back again to the day of Jesus’ resurrection. The women had been at the tomb and found it empty. They went to the disciples and told them what they had found. Luke tells us, in verse 11 of this chapter, that when the women told the disciples what had happened, it “seemed to (the disciples) an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” Peter, in fact, ran back to the tomb to see for himself.

It is sometime during that period, that is, on the day of the resurrection, that Jesus met up with two disciples who were enroute to the town of Emmaus. It’s this account of the conversation between Jesus and these two disciples that is before us this morning in Luke 24. What is perhaps most significant about this section of Scripture is the impact God’s Word had on the disciples, how it took them from doubt and discouragement to great joy, a joy that had them declaring the resurrection of Jesus to the other disciples.

Like many of those who followed Jesus, the Emmaus disciples were quite disturbed by what had happened to Jesus just three days earlier. They were walking that road to Emmaus talking about it when Jesus appeared to them on the road. They didn’t recognize Him because, as the passage says, “they’re eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” We’ll come back to that in just a moment. But, their discouragement is evident about mid-way through the conversation when they said to Jesus, “our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” 

Clearly, their hopes were dashed, because they, like the other disciples who didn’t believe the testimony of the women and like Thomas, were caught up in a stupor of unbelief regarding Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. You can hear it in what they said to Jesus. “We had hoped!” “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel!” What’s it like to lose hope!? Have you been there!? Oh, I suspect we all have to one degree, or, another. “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel!”

“They’re eyes were kept from recognizing (Jesus).” As we walk the Emmaus road this morning with these disciples, a road that is thus far, one of discouragement and hopelessness, let’s be clear regarding a central truth of the Scriptures that begs for our attention in this passage. There is nothing about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that is discerned, understood, appreciated, or, confessed apart from the gracious working of God in the human heart. Perhaps I should repeat that, there is nothing about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which is to say, about the Gospel, that is discerned, understood, appreciated, or, confessed apart from the gracious working of God in the human heart.

The Emmaus disciples were discouraged and feeling hopeless. You’ve been there, as have I. They couldn’t even recognize Jesus as He stood among them! But, be that as it may, Jesus walked with them all the way to Emmaus. He does that, doesn’t He? He walks with us through our discouragement and hopelessness! He stays with us! The promise of our baptisms is always sure and certain. I have bought you with price (He says) and you are mine! I have washed you, cleansed you of your sin! I have made you an heir of the Kingdom of God! Jesus walks with us, with you, regardless of how long the road to Emmaus might be. Indeed, He has promised you, “I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”

As Jesus gathered with the disciples at the place where they were staying, He sat down at table to eat with them. And, as Luke tells us, “he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Now, this is where theologians argue over whether or not this was the Lord’s Supper. That point, however, doesn’t seem to be the most significant point to be made. Perhaps the greater thing to notice is that “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” There is nothing about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which is to say, about the Gospel, that is discerned, understood, appreciated, or, confessed apart from the gracious working of God in the human heart. Jesus blessed the Emmaus disciples by opening their eyes that they might see! That their hearts might go from being filled with discouragement and hopelessness to burning with the hope of the Gospel of His life, death and resurrection!

It was shortly before He broke bread with them, that Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Everything ever written in the Scriptures is about the Christ, the Messiah of God. It’s about the hope of His coming and the certainty of His having blessed the world by coming in the flesh, being made in the likeness of sinful men. Indeed, as the apostle says, “for whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  

The two disciples said, “did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” The disciple’s hearts burned within them, not in the sense that they were consumed, but in the sense of being ignited. Later, in his letter to the church at Rome, Paul says, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” As Jesus spoke the Scriptures to the disciples, His light pierced their hearts and awakened them to the hope of the crucifixion and the resurrection. As He told them, “it (was) necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” What they considered the cause of their great discouragement and distress was, in fact, the source of their greatest hope. Jesus had died for the sins of the world, including their sins. 

These two disciples, who were previously discouraged and grieved, became witnesses of everything Jesus said and did, including the hope of His resurrection from the dead. The change wasn’t because of them. It was because of Jesus and God’s Word. St. Paul calls it, that is the Word, or, the Gospel, “the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.” It is the power of that Word that is at work in you even now. It is the grace of God at work in your life every day, because there is nothing about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which is to say, about the Gospel, that is discerned, understood, appreciated, or, confessed apart from the gracious working of God in the human heart. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +