From the Lord’s Day pulpit ministry of R.C. Sproul at Saint Andrew’s Chapel near Orlando, Florida. Used by special permission of Ligonier Ministries.
This morning, we will look again at the gospel according to Saint Luke. I will be reading from Luke 24:13–35, and I would ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God:
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13–35)
This is one of the most glorious passages that we read anywhere in the New Testament. Superintended and inspired by God the Holy Spirit, it is the veritable truth of God Himself, and I ask that this day you receive it as such. Please be seated. Let us pray.
Our Father and our God, we ask that You help us, because we are fragile in our understanding and feeble in our faith. We ask that You condescend and give to us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, that He may illumine for us the meaning of the text we have just heard. For we ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Do You Not Know What Happened?
Luke recounts the story of two men walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem, a short enough trip of about seven miles, but one that would take about an hour and a half at a normal pace. As they were walking together on their journey, they were discussing with each other when a stranger appeared behind them and listened in on their conversation.
Luke tells us that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. He asked them a question: “What is this conversation that you’re holding with each other as you walk?” This stopped them in their tracks. “What is this conversation that we’re having? Are you the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s been going on over the past few days?” It was as if they said to Him, “Where in the world have you been?”
Jesus did not answer either the specific or implied question precisely and directly, but had He answered that question, I think the answer would have been something like this. To their first question, He could have said to them, “I’m the one person on earth who understands comprehensively every single thing that has happened in the last few days.”
Where Have You Been?
Had Jesus answered the implied question of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, He could have said: “Well, let me start on Thursday night. I was with some of My friends, and we celebrated the Passover together. After that, I went into the darkness to the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, and I prayed so intensely that I was sweating drops of blood, begging My Father concerning the mission He had set before Me.
“When that prayer was finished, I went across the brook Kidron. There in the darkness of the night, I was met by a company of soldiers carrying torches and swords, led by a former friend who came up and gave Me the kiss of death, and they arrested Me.
“Then the soldiers took Me into the city, and they shuttled Me back and forth between the Jewish and Roman authorities, until finally I was put on trial before the Roman procurator. After My interrogation, he said to those standing by, ‘I find no fault in Him.’ He was about to release Me, but the screaming crowd began to cry for My blood, and they said, ‘Crucify Him.’
“Being a politician driven by expediency, Pontius Pilate surrendered to the voices of the crowd. He had Me scourged, beaten, and crowned with a crown of thorns, then led out of the city of Jerusalem, outside the camp, outside of Zion, to a barren hillside called Golgotha, where I was executed by crucifixion.
“I was not simply executed as a criminal to satisfy bloodthirsty men, but I was subjected to the unmitigated wrath of God, where before His face, I was forsaken. He placed upon Me His holy curse and counted Me as sin, as He placed upon Me the sins of My people, something no human being had ever been asked to endure in the history of the world. Finally, it ended. It was finished. I commended My soul and spirit to the care of My Father, and I died.
“They took Me down from the cross, and somebody interceded on My behalf so that, as God had promised, His servant would not suffer corruption. I was entrusted into the hands of a secret disciple whose name was Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who owned a marvelous sepulchre in which I was entombed.
“They took My dead body, wrapped it in grave clothes, anointed Me with spices, and posted a guard in front of the cave, also guarded by a huge stone rolled in front of it. There I was, a corpse in the tomb.
“Early this morning, a cosmic burst of creative power supernaturally came upon Me and returned My soul to My body. My brain waves began to operate anew. My heart began to beat and pulsate with blood driving through My veins and arteries and I opened My eyes. Alive, and by the power of God, I was able to escape from the binding grave cloths that held Me there. Angels came and rolled the stone away, and I walked out into the dawn alive. Where have you been for the last few days?”
Luke’s record, however, does not record anything like that.
Luke does not record Jesus answering the question that the disciples raised, but instead, He rebuked them. Listen to the rebuke: “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Listen carefully, dear ones, to the rebuke: “O foolish ones, slow to believe all that the Prophets have taught concerning the Messiah.” He did not call them stupid. He did not say that they were unintelligent or uneducated. He called them “foolish.”
In Jewish categories, the term “fool” does not describe somebody of low intelligence. It is not an intellectual assessment. It is a moral one. To be called a fool by God is to come under His judgment, because it is the fool who says in his heart there is no God. You know, we have a national holiday to celebrate what could be called “atheist day”—the first of April.
“You are foolish and slow of heart to believe.” Why? Because they had a poor teacher? No. God has revealed Himself clearly to every human being in His eternal power and deity. Everybody in the world knows without a doubt of the existence of God, even His eternal power and deity, because God Himself has manifested it to them. The word there in the Greek is phaneros. In Latin, it is manifestum. It is not some isolated esoteric, obscure, shadowy knowledge. It is plain. It is manifest. You do not even need the testimony of creation, because God has planted the knowledge of Himself in your very soul and conscience. You know who He is, but you are slow to acknowledge Him. Why? Because the Scriptures tell us, dear ones, that we do not want to have God in our thoughts or our knowledge. The biggest obstacle and barrier to what we perceive as our joy and happiness is the law of God, and we want to do away with it. We want autonomy. We want the freedom to do whatever we want to do, not what He commands us to do. So, the Scriptures tell us, we will not have Him in our thinking. The deepest and most pernicious bias of all human inclination is that bias against our blessed Creator Himself.
Jesus Interprets Scripture
After Jesus rebuked the men, we are told: “‘Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”—in about an hour to an hour and a half.
This was a tour de force of pedagogy. No instructor or professor has ever so eloquently, persuasively, convincingly, and rationally laid out the whole text of sacred Scripture and a summary of all redemptive history as in that hour on the road to Emmaus. Jesus Himself was the instructor: “Let Me tell you what the Scriptures say about Me.”
Jesus started with Moses. Luke does not tell us in which text He started in Moses’ writings, but I imagine it was early, when God pronounced the curse upon the serpent, saying that the seed of the woman would crush the head of that serpent while the seed of the serpent would bruise His heel.
Surely, He mentioned the covenant with Noah and the covenant with Abraham, how Abraham in Genesis 15 believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Where did that righteousness come from? Not from Abraham, but from the One who would come and fulfill all righteousness.
God had commanded His disciple Abraham to sacrifice his only son, the one whom he loved, Isaac, and sent him on a few days’ journey to Mount Moriah, where he was to offer his son as a living sacrifice. While they were walking, the boy looked at his father and said, “I see the firewood and the ropes, but where’s the lamb to sacrifice?” Abraham looked at his son—I think he crossed his fingers for a moment—and he answered, “Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide.”
When Abraham and Isaac reached the mountaintop, Isaac was tied in the ropes and placed upon the altar, and his father’s blade was above his chest. Just as Abraham was ready to plunge the blade into his son, a voice came from heaven saying, “Abraham, Abraham, lay not thy hand upon thy son, for now I know that you trust Me.”
Behold, there was a racket on the side, and Abraham turned, and there was a ram caught by his horns in the thicket. Jehovah-Jireh. The substitute was given. The ram was slain on Mount Moriah, on the exact location that two thousand years later was named Golgotha, where God took His Son, His only Son, the Son whom He loved, Jesus, and offered Him on a wooden cross, and nobody said, “Stop.”
Then Jesus continued to tell the disciples about Jacob and his sons, Joseph, the migration to Egypt, the enslavement of the people, and the appearance of God in the burning bush to Moses, saying: “Moses, Moses, put off your shoes from off your feet, for the ground that you’re standing on is holy ground. I have heard the cries of My people in Israel, and I want you to go to Pharaoh and say, ‘Let my people go,’” and Moses went.
Pharaoh resisted and fought against God through plague after plague, until finally came the night of Passover, when God dispatched the avenger, the angel of death, to destroy the firstborn of all the Egyptians. But He said to the Jewish people, “Take the blood of the lamb, sprinkle it on your doorpost, and when I see that blood, My angel will pass over.” Moses was instructed by God to set a memorial day that would be celebrated every year, so that the people would never forget the exodus from Egypt.
Then came the construction of the tabernacle, which was a symbolic description of the person and work of Jesus, who later was the living tabernacle, who became incarnate and dwelt and pitched His tent among us.
Jesus took the men through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, the valley of dry bones, Micah’s short prophecy about a tiny village that would be the exact location the Messiah would be born, the Sun of Righteousness that would appear, even to the last recorded prophecy in Malachi. From Genesis to Malachi, Jesus intellectually opened up the Scriptures to these men walking to Emmaus.
Notice that Jesus said that all these things happened by necessity. It was not an accident that Judas betrayed Jesus that night. It was not an accident that the bloodthirsty rulers of the Jews conspired to destroy Him. These things were ordained from the foundation of the world. They had to happen. God prepared two thousand years of prophecy for His people’s information, but how slow they were to believe all those things written in the Prophets and the Law.
Our Hearts Burn Within Us
Finally, the men came to the end of their journey. Jesus was going to move on, but they persuaded Him to stay for supper. We read, “When he was at table with them, He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them,” and suddenly their eyes were opened. They recognized Him, then just as suddenly, He vanished from their midst. Cleopas and his friend were left alone at the table, and one of them said to the other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Do not miss this. It was not simply a matter of intellectual conviction. It was not just the setting forth of the notitia, which is the necessary data of the content of our saving faith. There was more here than simply the engagement of the mind. It was visceral. The Spirit of God pierced their souls and hearts, and they said one to the other: “I know that my heart was burning inside, and I can’t believe that yours wasn’t, too. Did not our hearts burn within us as He spoke to us from His Word?”
I know exactly what these men were talking about. I know that the day I was converted to Christ, my heart was set on fire, and to this very day, I have fire in my bones that will not quit. I know there are people listening who are unconverted, and the Holy Spirit has never changed the disposition of their souls, and their hearts are frozen in a deadly coldness to the things of God.
I pray that before you go to bed this night, when you put your head on the pillow, that you will earnestly pray to God that He will light a match to your soul, so that you will know the joy of Easter, you will have that fire in your bones, and you can never again go to church in a casual or cavalier manner. Oh, that God would set fire to your soul.
Used by special permission of Ligonier Ministries. All rights reserved.