It was the first day of the week, the first day that people could travel home after the Sabbath holidays. Under Jewish law, two-thirds of a mile was the limit for Sabbath Day journeys and Emmaus was six miles from Jerusalem. Two men who were disciples of Jesus started off on the road to Emmaus, mourning over the tragic events that had transpired this particular Sabbath. They had just experienced the most bitter disappointment of their entire lives.
They had been disciples of Jesus for some time and life had been exciting and the future looked bright. How their hearts thrilled every time He touched a sick person and that person was healed. How their hearts thrilled every time one would cry out “I can see! I can see!” and they realized that He had opened blind eyes. They had seen Him raise the dead back to life. The joy and thrill of seeing the power of God demonstrated became overwhelming as they walked with Him, as they listened to Him and saw the works that He was doing. To these disciples came a growing conviction that indeed He was more than just a man.
They came to realize that He was the Son of God; that He was God’s Messiah and that He was to be the Saviour of the world. They realized that He came to bring man to God, to salvation and to life. As this hope grew, their hearts were burning with the anticipation of that day when He would exalt His position and His throne and He would begin to rule and reign on the earth.
This last week saw their anticipation and their dreams crumbling in ruins. Rather than seeing Him crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords, they saw Him mockingly proclaimed King of the Jews with a crown of thorns crushed onto His head and His body hanging on the cross. Even then, they probably harbored the hope, deep in their hearts, that He would perform a dramatic, last-minute miracle and demonstrate His power before these people by coming down off the cross and showing that He had triumphed; that He could triumph over even these adverse circumstances.
There was no last-minute miracle, however. They watched in despair as the crowd mocked and jeered Him as He hung there. They watched until finally His body went limp and His head fell forward, His chin resting on his chest. He was dead. With His death something died inside of them. All dreams were shattered and all hope swept away as they saw that limp body taken down from the cross, placed in the tomb and locked in as the stone rolled over the entrance. It was finished, they thought. He could not be crowned King now.
The two disciples trudged along the road to Emmaus, talking of these things and trying to sort out the tragedy in their minds. They tried to make some sense of these events as their hearts were overcome with sadness and disappointment. Jesus joined them on this journey, but they were so overwhelmed with despair that they failed to recognize Him.
When He asked them what they were discussing that caused them so much grief, they responded in amazement, “How could you be unaware of the things which have happened in Jerusalem the past few days?” As though He didn’t know, He said, “What things?” They told of what had happened to Jesus, saying He was mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people.
They still believed He was a prophet of God. They could not deny the miracles they had observed firsthand, but no longer did they believe that He was the Messiah, the Saviour. He was dead. They expressed their sorrow, declaring: “We hoped that in Him was the redemption of Israel.” But the fire had gone out with His death and now their hope was dead and their hearts were filled with despair. Even the reports from the women concerning the empty tomb failed to rekindle their belief and their hope.
Jesus said, “Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all the prophets have spoken!” Beginning with Moses, He explained, from the scriptures, everything concerning Him; how the Messiah would have to suffer and die and rise again and finally enter into His glory.
The Cure for Unbelief
In these two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we see the tragic consequence of unbelief. Unbelief is a blinding thing. Unbelief can keep you from seeing what is right in front of you. Unbelief kept them from recognizing Jesus Christ, even though He was right there with them. Unbelief can keep you from the joy God has for you. These two disciples should have been skipping back to Emmaus, whistling and singing and praising God for the victories. But unbelief had them walking back in tears and sadness.
Jesus joined these two because something vital and important had gone out of their lives. The fire of passion and love had gone out and He wanted to rekindle it. He wanted to fan the embers into flame and to fill their hearts once again with excitement and joy. He wanted them burning with love, hope and anticipation. So He taught them from the scriptures, starting with Moses and the prophets.
How exciting it would be to have a copy of that sermon! Jesus probably began in Genesis when man disobeyed the command of God and ate the forbidden fruit, then tried to cover his awareness of his guilt by sewing fig leaves to cover himself, but God provided for the skins of animals for his covering. God was showing even then that sin cannot be put away by man’s works, but only by a blood sacrifice.
He no doubt reminded them about how Abraham promised his son Isaac, believing that God would provide Himself a sacrifice. Then He probably called to their attention that the crucifixion took place on Mt. Moriah, the same mountain where Abraham declared this prophecy. He then may have reminded them of the reason for the celebration of the Passover that they had just been through, as he recalled the time when the children of Israel were in Egypt and were commanded to kill a lamb and put the blood on the doorpost so that the life of the firstborn might be saved. Even then God was drawing a picture in their minds and hearts that would be fully comprehended when He sent His Lamb to die; so that through the shed blood, those who believe in Him might have everlasting life.
Then He probably noted the various sacrifices under the Mosaic Law by which a man comes from a sinful state into fellowship with God, and showed how those sacrifices were all pointing to Jesus Christ, the one perfect sacrifice that would put away sins once and for all, making fellowship with God possible for all men, for all time. Jesus must have pointed out the prophecies in Isaiah concerning the child that was to be born of the virgin�how the government would be upon His shoulders, and His name would be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace�but this Prince of Peace would first be despised and rejected by men. He would be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, and the iniquities of the world would be borne by Him and He would be numbered with the transgressors in His death.
Jesus probably reminded them of the cry in Psalm 22, “My God, My God why halt thou forsaken Me,” and then took them through that Psalm, pointing out the prophecy of the pierced hands and feet, the dividing of the garments among the soldiers, and the casting of lots for the vesture. He probably pointed to Daniel’s prophecy of the coming Messiah 483 years from the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, but that Daniel predicted by the Spirit that the Messiah would be cut off and receive nothing for Himself at that time.
In many other books such as Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, indeed throughout the scriptures, I am sure He showed them all the things they had failed to see. In Zechariah he must have shown them the passage, “Smite the Shepherd,” and “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced,” and pointed out how He had to suffer all of these things. God had declared it, but God declared also in Malachi that He was the Son of Righteousness which should rise with healing in His wings.
As they walked along, the words of Jesus were so exciting that the time passed rapidly. When they reached Emmaus it was getting dark and they invited Jesus in. As He took the bread and blessed it and as He broke the bread, their eyes were suddenly opened and they recognized Jesus. Perhaps they saw His pierced hands. With this recognition, He vanished, as His mission was accomplished. They exclaimed to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the way?” Their hearts were burning once again with that passion, with that love, with that desire to give all to Jesus Christ and to live completely for Him.
Burning hearts! I believe that is the supreme need of the Church today. The Church has become a marvelous organization. Today we have better programs than the Church has ever had in its history, but what lacks in much of the Church are hearts burning with a passionate love for Jesus Christ. The Word of God created that flame, that burning in the hearts of those disciples. Jesus took the scriptures and opened up the truth to them and the Word of God set hearts on fire for the Lord.
Many of you today have broken hearts. You can’t understand the circumstances of your life. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, you are confused. Your eyes are focused on those tragedies that beset you. It seems that everything is going to pieces around you and all you can see are your problems, your disappointments, your shattered dreams. Your heart has grown cold as you have begun to doubt the love of God. God desires to work in your heart and life today. He wants to work in you His eternal plan of love and grace. He wants to rekindle a fire in your heart, a blessed heartburn! Walking with Jesus Christ will give you a burning heart. Listening to the Word of God will give you a burning heart.
Jesus exhorted the men on the road to Emmaus about their hearts of unbelief. Unbelief is a choice as belief is a choice. You can choose to believe in Jesus or you can choose not to believe. You can pick out evidence in either direction. It is a choice. If you will choose to believe in Him today, all of the proof you will ever need, will be given to you and your heart will begin to burn with God’s love. Listen to the Word of God and your heart will burn with passion! One of the beautiful hymns of the church sums up the concept of the burning heart very well:
“Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The baptism of the Heav’n descended dove,
My heart an altar and Thy love the flame.”
(From the song, Spirit of God, Descend upon my Heart by Gorge Croly and Dredrick C. Atkinson).
This article “Burning Hearts” was excerpted from Answers for Today by Chuck Smith. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”