The Best Kind of Heartburn
Heartburn is a condition that is uncomfortable and can produce a measure of fear. You wonder if the pain is a heart problem or a digestion problem. Heartburn can keep you awake, make you uncomfortable, and can be harmful to your health.
This morning we look at a story about two people who experienced a burning in their heart that was wonderful. It was the kind of heartburn we all would like to know. The account takes place on what we have come to know as Easter Sunday. It had been a long day. Early in the morning women went to the tomb to care for the body of Jesus only to find His tomb open and His body missing. Peter and John verified the absence of the body. Reports were out that Mary Magdalene actually talked Jesus. It was a day unlike any other. This is where we pick up our story.
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
We don’t know who these people were. One is identified as Cleopas but that is all we know. It is possible that the other person was the wife of Cleopas but that is just speculation. The travelers were heading home to Emmaus. Luke says it was about seven miles from Jerusalem. No one is sure of the location of this town but once again, it doesn’t really matter.
While walking home Jesus joins them. The text tells us that they were “kept from recognizing Him”. We don’t know if they were kept from recognizing Him by God or by their current mental state.
The Mindset of The Disciples
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
Luke takes great pains to show us that these disciples were not “expecting” the resurrection of Jesus. They were talking about the events of the weekend but Luke says their faces were downcast. They said, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Since he had died, they no longer had that hope. A dead man could not be the Messiah . . . at least that is what they thought. The events earlier in the day did not fill them with joy, only more confusion and angst.
The events in Jerusalem were so tragic that the travelers can’t believe that this traveler did not know the news about Jesus (note: Jesus never said He did not know about the events). Imagine talking to someone on the street on September 12, 2001 who had no idea about the terrorist attacks.
Why is this significant? It means this was no hallucination. These men did not see Jesus because they “wanted to see Jesus”. They saw Jesus because He was there!!!
The Best Sermon Ever
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Obviously, Jesus could have flashed a big smile said simply, “I’m baaaack!” But that is not what He does. He started with the first books of the Old Testament and went through to the last books and showed that the Bible pointed to everything that happened.
I Imagine Jesus began in Genesis, pointing out that the one who would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15) was going to be Jesus. Imagine Jesus pointing to the entire sacrificial system and showing that sin has to be paid for and it must be by a lamb without blemish. He would point out that the Messiah would be the perfect and final sacrifice. Perhaps Jesus turned to Psalm 22 and reminded them of the chilling similarity to the events that took place around the cross. He probably pointed to the prophetic passages that talk about a suffering servant and maybe even the closing words of Malachi that point to the coming of the forerunner, John the Baptist. It would have been an incredible sermon to hear as Jesus opened their eyes to the truth of God’s great plan from the beginning of creation.
In verse 32 the travelers reflected back on this teaching session and said “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us.” As Jesus talked to them, the Holy Spirit brought light and understanding to these travelers. That is the kind of heartburn we should all be looking for.
Notice two things. First, Jesus brought them to the Scriptures to understand who He was and what He came to do. He could have just talked to them but Jesus knew that God’s Word enlightens more than the words of men. It is God’s Word that will not return empty and it is His Word that is sharper than a two-edged sword. We must be people of the book!
Second, their faith grew because of what they heard. The Bible tells us, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes from the Word of God” (Romans 10:17) The more Jesus showed them the Scriptures, the more these men moved from discouragement to belief. Every verse that was shared was one more plank in the bridge of faith. Can you imagine the men nodding their heads saying, “Yes, that makes sense.” They came to see that His death was not the end of their hope of salvation . . . it was the means of their hope for salvation! For the first time they saw clearly.
This account reminds us that it is God’s Word that brings conviction, understanding and comfort. We need to read the Bible and we need to point others to the Bible. If you want to learn how to swim, it is not enough to just have someone tell you how or even to watch someone else swim. If you want to swim, you actually have to get in the water and kick and stroke. The same is true in our relationship with God. If we want to know Him, we can’t just listen to what others say or watch what others do—we actually have to dive into the Bible for ourselves.
The Great Realization
Following this great conversation they reach Emmaus. We are told,
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
We are told that Jesus was going to keep going but they urged him to stay with them (which may indicate this was a married couple). They expressed concern for Jesus but I believe their greater reason for asking Him to stay was their desire to hear Him teach some more.
Have you ever gotten together with an old friend after many years apart? There’s a good chance you stayed up late into the night because you are catching up on things. You aren’t tired. There are so many questions, memories, and stories that you didn’t even notice the time.
Perhaps you remember a Bible Study or small group meeting when the Holy Spirit seemed especially present. You didn’t notice the time. You didn’t want the time to end. This is what was happening here!
When Jesus entered their home they prepared some food. They were so impressed with the spiritual depth of their companion that they asked Jesus to pray. As Jesus said grace the men knew they were in the presence of God. I imagine there was such an intimacy in that moment that they knew they were standing on Holy Ground.
Suddenly it all came together. They saw with the eyes of faith and then they recognized that they had been talking to Jesus this whole time. Perhaps they saw the nail prints as He broke the bread. We don’t know how they knew it was Jesus, we just know they did. Just as quickly He disappeared. Imagine the overwhelming elation. They were speechless. They were excited. They were filled with life.
Remember, Emmaus was about seven miles from Jerusalem. It was already later in the day. They had encouraged Jesus to stay with them because it was getting too late to travel. Yet, what do these travelers do?
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
I am sure the trip back was much shorter than the trip home. They had to go back to Jerusalem! This news was too good to keep to themselves! They now understood the Scriptures. They were convinced Jesus was the Christ, the Lord of life. They had to tell everyone else. The darkness did not matter. There was no need to fear travel because Jesus is Alive!
On their way home their feet had shuffled from discouragement; they talked in discouraged tones. The trip back to Jerusalem was as different as darkness from light. Their pace was quick; their tone was animated and filled with excitement. They could not wait to share the news. I imagine that they almost jogged back to Jerusalem.
As they walked they recounted the things Jesus said. They relived those wonderful moments when their hearts burned because they were enlightened. They probably discussed how they were going to share such great news. Should they just blurt it out? Should they build up the suspense? “You’ll never guess who stopped by our house for dinner tonight!”
They arrived at the place where “the Eleven” were gathered. This was a name for the disciples not necessarily the number of disciples present (we know Judas and Thomas were both absent). They walked into the room to tell them the great news and someone beat them to the punch and said,“Have you heard the news? The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Talk about stealing your thunder! They had raced back to Jerusalem and the Eleven already knew! It must have been a little like going up to a friend after getting engaged and saying, “Guess what happened to me last night? Only to have them say, “I know. You got engaged!) You would be a little disappointed at not being able to share the news.
I bet there was little sleep that night! They were all too excited. They shared their stories and I’m sure they asked these men from Emmaus to recount every word they could remember of the teaching session they had with Jesus. They were starting to understand and they were more alive than they had ever been in their lives.
The Resurrection of Jesus does not create a new faith; it is the fulfillment of the Old. Some people think that Easter Sunday was the start of a new religion (Christianity). They are wrong. Jesus took great pains to show that the redemptive plan of God throughout the Old Testament was pointing to Him! This is the culmination of God’s plan from all eternity.
If you only embrace part of the story of Jesus you will find yourself unsatisfied. He was more than a martyr, He was more than a teacher; He was more than a great man. Jesus was the promised one of God who died to pay for our sin and rose again so that we might enter into a full and eternal relationship with Him. Movies like the Passion of the Christ are great for helping us to understand the depth of His suffering. However, without the resurrection we will not understand that suffering or experience the transforming power of His life. We need to see the whole picture!
We do well to study the Scriptures. God wants us to know Him. This is why He has revealed Himself in the Bible. If we want to know Him, we need to know the Bible.
Imagine that you make a purchase of some new product. After a few weeks you tell everyone that the product or device is a “rip-off”. The person who sold you the item hears you talking and asks, “What is the matter?” You say, “It is useless, it doesn’t work”. The salesperson asks if you charged the battery. You admit that you didn’t know you had to charge the battery. You are asked, “Did you read the instructions”. You say, “I already knew what they said.” The salesperson replies, “Apparently not.”
There are many people like this in the world. They tell everyone the Bible is boring, it is filled with contradictions, and it is outdated. We are right to ask, “Did you read the book?” Many of these people will respond, “I already know what is in the Bible”. To which we need to reply, “Apparently not.”
The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us. In others words, it is God’s message to us. We must expose ourselves to the Word of God
- We must read daily and systematically
- We must read carefully considering historical context and taking time to understand more difficult truths.
- We must be ready to listen. If we are willing to hear, God will speak. This is also true in times of worship. If you come here simply to fulfill an obligation you will probably be unchanged by the preaching of the Word. However, if you come here asking God to instruct you . . . His truth will burn in your heart.
- We must sit under solid teaching. We need to hunger for teaching that opens the Word to us. We do not need more of the opinions of men. We can find opinions in newspapers, blogs, news shows, and everywhere else you turn. What we need is the Word of God! If you are not hearing the Scriptures explained in worship . . . worship somewhere else!
- Apply what you are learning. The Christian life is a little like mathematics. You can’t learn to add until you understand the concept of numbers. You can’t learn to subtract until you have understood addition. You can’t multiply, divide, do fractions, algebra, Geometry, trigonometry or calculus until you have understood the preceding steps. Math skills grow as our proficiency increases. It is the same with the Christian life. We will mature in faith and in our knowledge of God only as we apply what we have learned. Every time we read the Bible we need to ask, “What behavior must I change?” “What new insight have I gained?” “What new discipline must I work on?” “What new questions do I need answered?” James says we are to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.” (James 1:21)
Finally, we are reminded that the good news is too good to keep to ourselves. I’ve said it often: You can claim that someone is your BFF (best friend forever), you can say you love someone, but if you do not tell them about Jesus and the way of salvation; You don’t really love them.
Suppose you and your friend were starving. In your desperate state you comment on how much you mean to each other. Now suppose you are out looking for food and you find a place where there is good, delicious, and abundant food. You eat and are satisfied and return to your friend. You reaffirm your devotion to your friend but tell them nothing about the food. Do you really care about that person?
Let’s say you meet Jesus and you surrender your life to Him. You experience forgiveness, peace, strength and new life. Yet you don’t tell your family members or friends because you are not sure how they will respond. You don’t want to rock the boat or seem like you are “holier than thou”. You hide your new faith. The question is: Do you really love your friends? Do you really love Jesus? The good news of Jesus is powerful. It is life-changing. It is meant to be shared with anyone who will listen.
Listen to the Words of Scripture. Hear the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Let the reality sink in. This truth changes EVERYTHING. It changes our approach to life and our view of death. It changes our priorities and our relationship with others. It is truth that should burn within us, excite us, and motivate us to live differently. If the news of Jesus doesn’t change the direction of your life . . . you have not understood the message.
May God open our eyes so that we can see clearly. May we experience the heartburn that testifies to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. And may God increase our love for others so we would be willing to share the news of Jesus with anyone who will listen.