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May 24, 2022

Did Not Our Hearts Burn?

A compilation

Audio length: 11:08
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“And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’”—Luke 24:31–321

It is one of the most stirring episodes in the Bible. In the hours following the resurrection, a couple of disciples were walking along a road outside of Jerusalem. They were still reeling from the crucifixion. A stranger came alongside them as they were on the way and struck up a conversation. For his own reasons, God kept them from recognizing that the stranger was Jesus. When he finally did reveal his identity to them, while they were sharing a meal, he immediately disappeared. And then they asked themselves the rhetorical question, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road?” Of course they did! The risen Christ was talking to them and walking with them.

My emotions well up whenever I read that account in Luke 24:13–35. Maybe what’s so special about it is that I imagine it was me. I think about how awesome it would be to have that happen. To stroll along with Jesus, hear Him tell me things, to feel that what I’m hearing is otherworldly, but not know why and not know it is Jesus until after He’s gone. That would warrant the biggest face-palm of all time. How could we have missed that?!

In fact, the account points us to the reality of how we ought to be living our lives as believers and the certainty that we should have about Jesus walking with us and speaking to us on our journey. It is awesome to think about!

We should be certain of who He is, what He has done and what He has taught us. We should have that certainty because of His presence, what we know about His mission to redeem us, what we read in the Word of God, what we see of His power and His work in the lives of people around us. There’s no doubt that He’s right there with us every step of the way.—Todd Dugard2

We were hoping

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were having a very difficult day. They were part of “the group,” the followers of Jesus, and they were coming from Jerusalem after the crucifixion. It was terrible. Now, three days later, there were rumors that His body was gone. Some of the women from their group and some of the apostles had gone out to look, and it was true. What does this all mean?

They were so filled with their own pain, disappointment, and confusion that they didn’t recognize Jesus as He caught up with them on the road. He asked them what was wrong. “They stopped, looking downcast.” In their disillusionment and despair, they did not even look at Him closely. They just wanted to tell him the story of their pain. “We were hoping,” they said. …

So many times in our lives, we get caught up in our own sorrows and we don’t recognize Jesus standing there with us. “We were hoping” … that our lives would not be so messy. Instead, our loved ones are ill; our marriages are not what we had hoped for; or perhaps our children disappoint us. We or someone we love struggles with an addiction.

They tell Him their stories, and something in Jesus draws them to Him: His warmth, His understanding. He tells them about the suffering servant of Israel. He says suffering is part of the story. He touches their hearts as they begin to see the scriptures in a new way, though they don’t fully make the connection.

When it comes time to separate on the road, they urge Him to stay with them. … As they gather around the table for dinner, there is warmth and prayer, and then Jesus takes the customary bread, blesses it and breaks it. It hits them both at once. Jesus! Suddenly, everything makes sense and Jesus is here!

Then He vanishes. Astonished, the two friends stare across the table at each other. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way?” They had felt it, but they had not recognized Him. Now, the scriptures and this breaking of bread come together in their hearts. …

The two disciples, recognizing that burning in their hearts, “set out at once” despite the dangers of night travel. This time they probably did not walk with downcast eyes, but ran, laughing and hugging each other on the road as they realized what had happened. They were now spreading the good news. …

Jesus vanished from the table in Emmaus but He remained with the disciples in their burning hearts. And, He remains present with us. ... If we open our hearts and feel them burn, we become disciples, running in joy to spread the good news of His love and mercy.—Creighton’s Online Ministries3

Opening of the Scriptures

Before the resurrection, the disciples didn’t fully understand the things Jesus had told them about His death and resurrection. However, after He rose, during the forty days before He ascended into heaven, He explained the Scriptures to them and they then understood.4

Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself… They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”5

The realization that through Jesus’ Incarnation, death, and resurrection, salvation was available to all, was the reason the apostles preached about the resurrected Christ throughout the book of Acts. It’s why the New Testament writers wrote about the significance of the resurrection, stating that it proved He was the Son of God, that we are born again, that we have assurance of our salvation, and that without it our faith would be in vain.

[Jesus is] “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead.”6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”7

The resurrection was proof that God had indeed entered into the world in a new way, through His Incarnate Son. Fifty days later, after Jesus had ascended, the Holy Spirit also entered the world in a new way by dwelling within believers. These events motivated the disciples and the early church to spread that news throughout the world of their day. They shared the news that through Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, humanity could become reconciled with God.—Peter Amsterdam

God’s truth in our hearts

It’s critically important to note that just having the knowledge of these vital truths is not enough. Just like the two disciples [on the road to Emmaus] felt the intense fire of motivation regarding what they heard and experienced, we too must have God’s truth burning in our hearts!

The Bible’s teachings and our intimate relationship with our Creator must be our passionate, motivating force. This means we should take action daily to put into effect His spiritual priorities—meaning seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.8

So, the question is: Are our hearts on fire for God and His truth? Are we truly following the admonition of Deuteronomy 4:29 which says: “Seek the Lord your God … with all your heart and with all your soul”?

Although you and I don’t have Jesus Christ in the flesh with us today as the disciples did then, we can communicate directly with Him and our heavenly Father through prayer. Plus, we have Jesus in the form of the Holy Bible.9 And in a similar way to how He unlocked the scriptures to the disciples, we too have had our minds opened so that we can deeply comprehend them…

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus had their eyes opened fully to the fact that the “stranger” with them was actually Jesus Christ, and His teachings were utterly reliable. Those disciples’ enthusiastic words and actions after that momentous realization should also be ours throughout our Christian journey. Indeed, with God’s powerful help, let’s make sure our hearts burn within us!—John LaBissoniere10

Published on Anchor May 2022. Read by Jerry Paladino. Music by John Listen.