Sermon for April 26, 2020, Third Sunday of Easter

Luke 24:13-32 (Third Sunday of Easter—Series A)

“Burning Hearts”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

April 26, 2020

 

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

Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 24:

13And behold, two of them on that same day were traveling to a village seven miles from Jerusalem which was named Emmaus. 14And they were talking to one another concerning all the things that had happened. 15And it happened while they were conversing and discussing that Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are these words which you are discussing with one another as you are traveling?” And they stood looking gloomy. 18Now one of them named Cleopas answered and said to him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened in this city in these days?” 19And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a man, a prophet powerful in work and word before God and all the people, 20and how the chief priests and our rulers handed him over to a decree of death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. At any rate, and in addition to all these things, it is the third day since these things happened. 22But what is more, some women from among  us amazed us, having been early in the morning at the tomb, 23and not having found his body, they came saying they had even seen a vision of angels, who say he lives. 24And some of those with us went away to the tomb and found it so, just as also the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25And he said to them, “O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all the things which the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 28And when they drew near to the village where they were going, he himself acted as if he were going farther. 29And they urged him saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent. And he entered to say with them. 30And it happened that while he was reclining at table with them, he took the bread, blessed it, and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he disappeared from them. 32And they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us on the way, as he opened to us the Scriptures?”

 

          The year was 1985. The movie was Rocky IV. In the film, the Communist East versus Capitalist West conflict was reflected by the fight in the boxing ring between Rocky and the Russian, Ivan Drago. The band Survivor captured the passion and intensity of this fight in their song, “Burning Heart.” The refrain:

In the burning heart,
Just about to burst
There’s a quest for answers,
An unquenchable thirst.
In the darkest night,
Rising like a spire,
In the burning heart
The unmistakable fire.

For some reason, these lyrics usually come to mind when I read the two disciples’ response to Jesus’ explanation to them on the road, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us on the way, as he opened to us the Scriptures?” So, using these lyrics as an outline, let’s unpack Jesus encounter with the two disciples on the Emmaus road.

In the burning heart,
Just about to burst
There’s a quest for answers,
An unquenchable thirst.

This can certainly apply to Cleopas and his traveling companion. As they walked the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus their hearts were full, about to burst with all their questions, their lack of understanding, their disbelief at the events of the past few days. These two conversed about the things that had happened in Jerusalem—the things concerning Jesus of Nazareth. They described Him as “a man, a prophet powerful in work and word before God and all the people.” They told the as yet unrecognized Jesus “how the chief priests and our rulers handed him over to a decree of death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. At any rate, and in addition to all these things, it is the third day since these things happened. But what is more, some women from among  us amazed us, having been early in the morning at the tomb, and not having found his body, they came saying they had even seen a vision of angels, who say he lives. And some of those with us went away to the tomb and found it so, just as also the women had said, but him they did not see.”

A search for answers. A desire to know what had happened, what had gone so wrong with the One in whom they trusted as a prophet from God, the One they had hoped would be Israel’s redeemer. But all of those hopes seemingly ended for them when Jesus was crucified. What good is a crucified Savior, a dead Redeemer? They couldn’t make sense of it. Nor could they figure out what had taken place that very morning, the third day after His death. Women going early in the morning to His grave, visions of angels announcing, “He lives!” Peter and John running to the tomb and verifying that Jesus’ body was not there.

The two disciples on the Emmaus road sought answers to the tough questions that they were facing—who really was this Jesus? Savior? Redeemer? Prophet? A fake? But these answers would continue to allude them because they were looking for them in the wrong place. They sought answers in answers in their hopes for Jesus and who they believed Him to be. They looked for answers in what had happened to Jesus, a prophet powerful in work and word, who was unjustly handed over to a decree of death. And the yet unrecognized Jesus calls them out on it. “O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all the things which the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

The things which the prophets spoke—Holy Scripture, what we call the Old Testament, or maybe better, the First Testament. These disciples looked outside the Word of God for answers to the very things of God. And we fall into that trap too, don’t we? We look for hope and help and comfort in all kinds of places, often forgetting that God’s Word is right there for us, pointing us to, and delivering to us Jesus, the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer—our true hope, help, and comfort. And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

The Bible is the book that gives us Jesus. He is the very heart and center of all of its pages. Jesus said in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” Just a few verses later, when the religious leaders boasted about their ritual rigor with regard to the Law of Moses, Jesus responded, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46 ESV). Jesus saw the story of Moses—from the Israelite exodus out of slavery in Egypt to their trek into the Promised Land—as a microcosm of His own work and ministry, for He came to lead all people out of their slavery to sin and into the promised land of eternity. So Moses’ story is really Jesus’ story. To clear away the theological cobwebs of these Emmaus road travelers, Jesus opened the Old Testament and “beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Everything in the Bible—from Moses to the Prophets, from the historical narratives of Samuel and Kings to the poetry of the Psalms, from the birth of the Church in Acts to the promise of a new creation in Revelation—points to Jesus. Martin Luther explained, “All stories in Holy Scripture refer to Christ.” And Christ alone is our hope, our help, our comfort. He is our Savior and Redeemer! In accordance with the Scriptures, Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He paid the price for the sins of all humanity in His death. Jesus shed His holy, precious blood to atone for our sins, to buy us back from sin, death, and the devil as our Redeemer. On the third day, He rose again from the dead, according to the Scriptures. Everything happened according to God’s divine plan of mercy and grace to save His fallen humanity from sin and hell.

No where else will you find Christ except in His Word and Sacrament (Word and Sign together). To read the Scriptures is to hear Christ. To pray the Psalms is to hear Christ. To meditate on the Gospels and Epistles is to hear Christ. He says to you, “I am the One about which all of these pages speak. I am the Son of God who took on human flesh so that I might fulfill the Commandments for you, suffer and die in your place, and purchase with My blood your forgiveness and eternal life with me in a new creation.”

Again, the lyrics to “Burning Heart,”

In the darkest night,
Rising like a spire,
In the burning heart
The unmistakable fire.

          For the two disciples, they had been through the darkness. Jesus had died in the cosmic darkness of Good Friday. He rested in the tomb. They mourned and grieved. They couldn’t understand why their hopes of a Redeemer had come to this. But Jesus Himself opened to them the Scriptures. Their response, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us on the way, as he opened to us the Scriptures?” Rising like a spire within their hearts, a renewed hope, an assurance of help and comfort. Jesus lives! They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. They saw with their eyes the Risen Christ! Their hearts burned with joy, with the wisdom of the Word that pointed them to the Christ who had to suffer, died, and rise again on the third day, bringing life and salvation to all people.

          As you read the Scriptures at home, especially during this time of separation from God’s House, you also know the unmistakable fire that burns within you as the Holy Spirit opens the pages of the Word and points you to Christ. The Gospel of your Savior continues to deliver to you the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting that He won for you on the cross as you read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Word of truth. This is the Word that speaks of Christ, your Savior and Redeemer. This is the Word that delivers the promises of God in Christ Jesus to you.

In the darkest night,
Rising like a spire,
In the burning heart
The unmistakable fire. . . .

of God’s Word, the Gospel . . . giving you Christ Himself along with saving faith, forgiveness, life, strength, hope, help, and comfort. May your hearts continue to burn within you as He opens the Scriptures to you through the power and grace of His Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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