The Heart of the Matter
Post resurrection encounters with Christ

Week 1:  Burning Hearts.

Read:  Luke 24:13-32

Following on from the Lent and Easter teaching series, we’re going to spend the next 6 weeks looking at a number of post resurrection encounters with Jesus. 

They are:

Luke 24:13-32 – Burning Hearts.  Two people encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus
John 20:19-23 – Fearful Hearts.  The disciples encounter Jesus in a locked room
John 20:24-31 -  Unbelieving Hearts.  Thomas encounters Jesus
John 21:1-14 – Restored Hearts.  Seven disciples encounter Jesus on a fishing trip.
Matthew 28:16-20 – Commissioned Hearts.  Eleven disciples are commissioned by Jesus  
Acts 1:3-8 – Waiting Hearts.  The Apostles encounter the Holy Spirit
Each of these encounters tells a story about what it means to meet the risen Lord Jesus.  As you study Christ’s words and actions in these encounters and examine the responses of the people involved, you are invited to think about your own response to the risen Lord. 
Inevitably some stories may speak more directly to our current situation than others.  We may find that some challenge us, some encourage us, some help us to view a situation with new eyes, and some make us stop and think. 
So let’s begin by looking at our first encounter:  Cleopas and his companion meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus. 
Read:  Luke 24:13-32
The encounter takes place on the very same day on which Jesus has been raised.  The first day of the week. 
We meet Cleopas and his travelling companion (possibly his wife) as they walk North-west from Jerusalem to a small village called Emmaus.  Like everyone in Jerusalem they are talking about the events of the last 3 days. 
It is as they walk that they meet Jesus, although we learn that to begin with they didn’t recoginise him.  As they strike up a conversation Cleopas and his companion are shocked and astounded at this strangers ignorance asking “are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”  In response to Jesus asking “what things?” Cleopas recites the story of Jesus...
...he was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and people
...he was handed over by the chief priests to be crucified
...he carried our hopes that Israel could be redeemed
...he promised that on the third day something would happen
...he is no longer in his tomb
We get the impression that Cleopas and his companion are a little confused and perhaps disappointed.  They clearly know all about Jesus, they have clearly placed a degree of faith in him as the one who would redeem Israel, but now, on the third day after his death, all seems quiet...apart from the strange goings on around the tomb, which we sense may have given them a glimmer of hope.
It is interesting to note that although Cleopas was able to recount the story of Jesus, his ministry, his crucifixion, his resurrection, the hope of redemption, and the empty grace, something is still missing. 
In the words of commentator Michael Wilcox “There is everything [in Cleopas’ testimony] – everything excepta personal word fro the living Christ that would make the facts live!”  As of yet Cleopas has not encountered (at least not as far as he knows) the risen Lord – and this encounter is what breathes life into the facts, breathes life into the theology, and breathes life into faith. 
Q:  We see from this story that the bare facts, and even belief in the facts, is dead and lifeless without an encounter with the living Christ.  What does this mean to you?
Q:  Can you share anything of your encounter with Christ at the time of coming to faith and on an ongoing basis throughout your Christian life?
The next part of the reading finds Jesus being at least mildly rude.  He says to the couple “Oh how foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!”
Jesus goes on to explain that he was the fulfilment of all the prophetic words and actions in the OT, and that when correctly interpreted the prophets clearly point to the messiah suffering and only after suffering entering into his glory.  Later on in the passage we learn that it was at this point that their hearts ‘burned within them’. 
J.C Ryle says this:  “Christ was the substance of every old testament sacrifice ordained in the law of Moses.  Christ was the true deliverer and king of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types.  Christ was the coming prophet greater than Moses... ...Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpents head, the true shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered, the true lamb to which every daily offering pointed, the true High Priest of whom every descendent of Aaron was a figure.”
Ryle again:  “Let it be a settled principle in our minds when reading the bible that Christ is the central sum of all its books.  So long as we keep him in view we will never get lost in our search for spiritual knowledge.  The key to understanding the whole Bible is Jesus Christ.”
And thier hearts burned within them...As God speaks through his word and Spirit, we hear the voice of the risen Christ, and we find that our hearts also burn within us in the presence of the Lord. 
John Wesley, on May 24th 1738 had an Emmaus road encounter when his heart ‘burned within him’.  Writing in his journal he describes it like this:  “I went very reluctantly to a society in Aldersgate street, where someone was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  About a quarter to nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, i felt my heart strangely warmed.  I felt i did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for my salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Q:  Share your Emmaus road moment(s) – when your heart burned within you in the presence of the risen Christ? 
Eventually the travelling companions arrive at the village.  Jesus it seems is going to continue walking on but Cleopas invites him to stay as it’s getting late.  As was usual in the Ancient Near-East the strangers recline to share a meal together and it is at this point that thier eyes are opened. 

At supper Jesus does as he had done so many times before.  Taking ordinary day-to-day things (bread in this case) he blesses it and then shares it with them.  At last they see.  In this action, the blessing and sharing of food, Jesus is revealed to them. 

Q:  What does this say to us about sharing communion?  In what ways do we know the presence of Christ as we gather around the Lord’s table?
After Cleopas and his partner recognise Jesus Luke tells us that he simply disappeared from sight.  We don’t have any more detail than this stark phrase.  We don’t know why or how, and so we’re bound to conlude that these questions are not really important, even if we’re curious and would like to know the answers!  What this does say is that Jesus resurrection body was flesh and blood and recognisable – in this way a normal human body – it was at the same time different in some respects, able to move, appear, and disappear, in ways beyond our understanding. 
The pair immediately get up, even though it is now well into the evening, and set off back to Jerusalem.  It will take them several hours to retrace thier steps, but they know they must go back to the 11 apostles to report the news.  When they arrive they find Simon the Apostle speaking of Christ’s resurrection and Cleopas and his partner talk of thier recent encounter with Christ.  We can almost imagine the excitement in this small room – Jesus is risen, he has been seen, he has spoken to people, it’s all beginning to make sense. 
Although it’s conjecture, it seems fair to assume that as they met in that room there were many hearts burning with faith and passion for the risen Lord Jesus. 
Let’s close this session on a practical note. 
One commentator notes the importance of talking about the things of Jesus in this story.  He notes that it is as Cleopas and his partner are talking about Jesus that he appears, and that at the end of the story the pair go back to Jerusalem in order to be able to talk about Jesus with the 11.  He says ‘Let’s notice in these verses how encouraging it is for believers to talk to each other about Jesus...talking about spiritual things is important.   As iron sharpens iron, so does speaking about Christ sharpen the believers soul.’
Q:  How often do you speak about Jesus with other Christians to build faith and sharpen the soul?  
Q: what could you do to find more opportunities to speak with others about Jesus and build faith and sharpen the soul?

You might like to close by praying or worshipping together.

Simon Butler, 25/03/2013