The Burning Heart
The women, including Mary Magdalene and some others listed in Luke 24:10, were the first to meet Jesus early Sunday morning after He had risen from the dead. Jesus’ twelve disciples had been known as “The Twelve”. With Judas now dead, they became known as “The Eleven”, as we see in Luke 24:9. Later on in the Book of Acts Matthias was added by lot to bring the number back up to twelve, and they were once again referred to as The Twelve.
Though referred to as “The Eleven” here in John 20, we learn from John 20 that of “The Eleven” only ten were gathered together Resurrection morning. Thomas was too discouraged and disheartened to be there that morning. He would meet Jesus a week later. That very emotional meeting with Jesus is described in John 20:26-29.
Note from Luke 24:9 that with “The Eleven” were some other followers of Christ and they are referred to in verse 9 as “all the rest”. These were gathered in a secret place together that first Easter morning, for fear of the Jews who had just crucified their Messiah.
Two of those listed in Luke 24:9, Cleopas and another, finally decided to leave Jerusalem and return to their home in Emmaus, about sixty furlongs, or seven miles northwest of the city. It would be about a two to three hour walk back home.
As the two began their walk back to Emmaus, discouraged and confused, they were suddenly joined by a stranger who overheard and observed their discouragement. He began to ask them some questions concerning their depressing demeaner. Basically, He was asking them why they were so sad and depressed.
The two were amazed by His seeming ignorance of all that had taken place the last few days: Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His violent, but controlled, cleansing of the temple and His trial and crucifixion.
Cleopas and his friend continued talking to the Stranger. You can read the full response to the Stranger’s question concerning their depression in Luke 24:13-24. Certainly by now, you are convinced that this stranger was none other than Jesus. But take note that Jesus did not identify Himself to the two disciples as they walked those seven miles. That would come later in Emmaus.
Note also that Jesus did not appear in His blazing glory, as He did earlier on the Mount of Transfiguration to Peter, James and John. Rather, He appeared as a very ordinary man. Earlier that morning, Mary Magdalene mistook Him for the gardener. Actually their eyes had been prevented from recognizing Jesus until He chose to reveal His identity.
At this time along the road to Emmaus, He had something much more important to teach them which could best be taught if they did not recognize Him. If they had recognized Him at this point, they would have been so star struck that they would have missed what He wanted to teach them.
From the Old Testament, beginning with the Pentateuch written by Moses under the inspiration of God, and continuing with all the Prophets, Jesus gave to Cleopas and his friend, a survey of the Old Testament, pointing out many of the prophecies concerning Himself, showing them from these Old Testament Scriptures the many references to His death by crucifixion and his bodily resurrection the third day. Two of those references He, no doubt, dwelt on were Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. But beyond that, He would have shown them that He is the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 and the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12 and 17. and the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant of II Samuel 7; as well as so many other Old Testament Messianic references.
By the time they arrived in Emmaus, their minds were swimming in their new-found knowledge of the Bible and their hearts were about bursting with joy in their new-found understanding and joy of seeing Christ prophesied in the Old Testament.
As they arrived in Emmaus, Jesus appeared to be continuing his journey. Cleopas and his friend, insisted that they stop at their home for supper and to sleep for the night. Jesus, seeing their desire and hunger for more Scriptural truth, accepted their invitation to enter their home.
At the dinner table, it tells us in Luke 24:30 that He took the initiative and broke bread and shared it with them. In so doing the light began to dawn. They recognized that their Bible teacher and companion was none other than Jesus Himself, alive from the dead. It doesn’t say so, but they, no doubt, noticed the nail holes from the crucifixion in His hands. Regardless, God now gave them a divine recognition of Jesus and with that recognition, Jesus, in His glorified resurrection body, disappeared from their sight.
Here’s the point I want you to see from verse 32. It was not the physical appearance of Jesus that thrilled their hearts, though I do not want to belittle that thrill. Rather, it was a recognition of Jesus throughout the Old Testament. This was something that they had never seen before.
Let me make an important point here. That which causes our hearts to burn with love and joy are not the dreams and visions we have of Christ. It’s not our emotional worship experiences. It’s not the super-star preachers who impress us with their presence. The burning heart experience has little or nothing to do with our feelings. Rather the reality that will cause our hearts to burn in love and joy will be our understanding and recognition of Jesus seen throughout the Old Testament as the prophesied and typified Messiah and Saviour.
This is something the nation Israel did not recognize two thousand years ago when they crucified Jesus. That spiritual blindness continues to this day; not only with Israel, but with people from all the nations of the world, including America.
Spiritual blindness continues in any heart that has not yet seen Jesus as the Son of God who was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead three days later for our justification.
Until we understand what David wrote in Psalm 40:7-8; the Bible will be a dry, boring book to us. Jesus will be just another religious man who died for his cause and that will never change our lives. But when we read in Psalm 40:7-8 “Lo, I come, in the volume of the book, (The Old Testament) it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God” and when we see that this was written of Jesus; our hearts will be set on fire with love and joy for Jesus our Saviour and Lord.
When this truth overwhelmed Cleopas and his friend, immediately after Jesus had disappeared, those two disciples turned around and walked those seven miles back to Jerusalem in the dark, for by now, the sun was setting. They headed back to that secret gathering place of the disciples to share with them the Good News.
What was that Good News? That Jesus Christ was alive and they had seen Him. But even more thrilling and life-changing than that, they rejoiced that since Jesus had opened the Old Testament Scriptures to them, that now it all made sense. Their hearts were burning with their understanding and recognition of Jesus throughout the Scriptures.
That’s what causes our hearts to burn and rejoice. It’s not that we experienced a feeling of excitement and worship in a worship concert. It’s not that we were wowed by seeing and hearing a famous preacher; but that we now have a recognition and understanding of Jesus who is God the Creator in a man, and that He died for our sins and was raised from the dead the third day and that He lives in Heaven. Our hearts burn with joy and excitement as we see Jesus who is the center and purpose of the whole Bible
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