Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)
Last weekend, I rode 100 miles in the Tour de Braz through Brazoria County. After 70 miles, I started struggling; I was tired and every mile was becoming difficult. I could have quit and have been picked up, but I’m too stubborn for that.
About 70 miles in, I stopped at a rest stop to stay hydrated. A few minutes later, I resumed my ride, and some guy started coming up behind me. I moved a bit to the right to let him pass, but he moved up beside me and started talking. For the next 10 miles, he and I rode side-by-side and kept each other company. I never got the fella’s name, but he lives in Katy and works as the CFO with a big nonprofit in town. His companionship for those few miles helped push me to the finish line—I didn’t think about how my legs were screaming, I didn’t think about how many miles I still had to go, and I kept pushing myself to keep up with him so we could keep talking. I will probably never see that guy again nor know his name, but his company for 30-45 minutes made a huge impact on my finishing the ride.
Sometimes physical activity is easier with company. Do any of you enjoy taking a walk with your spouse? Have you ever been to the gym with a friend? Is it easier to work in the garden, around the house, or out in the yard if someone is beside you helping? Do you find it easier to fulfill your obligations at work if someone is helping you?
Imagine Jesus coming to help you with something physical. Two very heartbroken disciples were walking to Emmaus after the Passover, and Jesus came up to them and kept them company. God kept them from recognizing Jesus, but as they walked, these two disciples—perhaps friends or perhaps a husband and wife—told Jesus how their hearts had been shattered at his crucifixion and disappearance of his body. When Jesus finally revealed himself to them, these two disciples were overcome with joy and ran to tell the eleven that they had seen the Risen Christ. Jesus replaced their heartache with joy. The truth for today is: “Jesus turns heartache to joy.”
Scripture (Luke 24:13-35)
These events happened on the very day Jesus was raised. The two people walking to Emmaus were followers to Jesus, but they clearly weren’t apostles.
God kept the two from recognizing Jesus. The Lord asked them what they were discussing, and “they stood still.” The Greek means they stopped in their tracks; they were dumfounded someone didn’t know about all the uproar in Jerusalem over the past several days.
Notice, however, that “they stood still, looking sad.” These two people are heartbroken.
The two disciples explained why they were so sad. Jesus of Nazareth was a man “who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” They only recognized Jesus as a prophet, not the Son of God; their understanding was woefully inadequate.
The disciples hoped Jesus would redeem Israel. They didn’t trust in him as the Messiah; they simply hoped he would conquer Rome.
Some women had found the tomb empty and even saw a vision of angels saying that Jesus was alive. Some of the eleven then went to the tomb and found everything as the women had told them, but they did not find Jesus’s body.
Jesus called these disciples “foolish ones.” Throughout the Old Testament a foolish person didn’t believe the Scriptures, and these disciples have shown how little they believed. Thus, Jesus took these two disciples through the Old Testament and explained the prophetic word about the Messiah.
The disciples urged Jesus to stay with them. Ancient hospitality urged one to invite strangers into his home.
Jesus blessed bread, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. As he blessed the bread, the disciples recognized Jesus, and he vanished from their sight. They then reported to the eleven what had transpired.
“Jesus turns heartache to joy.” Because we know the rest of the story, it’s difficult for us to comprehend just how heartbroken these disciples were. They had heard Jesus teach and seen his great miracles and they pinned their hopes on him that maybe—just maybe—he was the Messiah. But the Messiah was to conquer Rome, not get himself killed. Their hopes had been dashed into a million pieces and they were bereft. That is until Jesus showed himself to them alive and replaced their heartache with joy.
This morning you’re not mourning the death of the One you thought was the Messiah, but you certainly have a heartache—a heart filled with grief or with sin or with worry. How can Jesus turn your heartache into joy?
Put yourself on that road to Emmaus. Surmise—imagine—a world where Jesus was never raised from the dead. Paul described that world: 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. If Jesus were never raised:
- The preaching of the apostles is a lie;
- Your faith has no purpose;
- Every sin you’ve ever committed still clings to your soul;
- Your departed loved ones are in torment this very moment;
- Christians deserve great pity for believing a fairy tale.
Surmise what a dark world means for you. If Jesus were never raised from the dead:
- When you sin, there’s guilt instead of forgiveness;
- When the doctor gives you no hope of survival, you have only hell to anticipate;
- When you weep at a grave, you have no hope that loved one rests in Jesus’s arms;
- When you resist temptation, you’re being foolish: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor 15:32);
- When you pray, God’s doesn’t hear.
Surmise a world where Jesus is rotting in his tomb!
You need to see Jesus. These disciples didn’t recognize Jesus; God restrained them from understanding who was walking with them. That’s not their fault.
These disciples, however, were responsible for failing to see Jesus for all who he truly is. The two people in our text had not yet fully grasped Jesus’s identity:
- They called Jesus a prophet (Lk 24:19). Sure, Jesus is a prophet, but he is more than simply a prophet.
- They “had hoped that [Jesus] was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). Their use of the past tense says they had given up that hope.
- They recounted the tale of the empty tomb (Lk 24:22-24), but they don’t understand Jesus lived.
No wonder Jesus called them fools!
You must understand all who Jesus is, not just bits and pieces. Take your time and read through the four Gospels and see Jesus as your Redeemer, your Savior, your Lord, and the Risen Christ who turns your heartache to joy.
You need to understand the Scriptures. Jesus didn’t just call these two disciples fools, but he began “with Moses and all the Prophets” and “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27). The Resurrected Christ didn’t simply say, “Look, folks, I had to die and be raised again.” Instead, he went to the Scriptures and explained the Scriptures to them.
Scripture should play a pivotal role in your life. “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps 19:8). “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps 119:130).
What’s your heartbreak? Do you want Jesus to turn your heartbreak into joy? Find Scriptures where the Spirit of God speaks about your struggle. Write those Scriptures on a post-it note to place in the front of your Bible. When you feel that heartache choking your heart, go to God’s unchanging truth and find great joy.
You need to state how Jesus has turned your heartbreak into joy. Once these disciples realized who had walked with them, “they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together. . . . Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of bread” (Lk 24:33, 35). Once their heartbreak had been turned into joy, these disciples stated what Jesus had done for them.
Once Jesus has turned your heartache into joy share your experience with others. There’s nothing like having someone who has experienced the same heartache as you telling you how God has turned that heartache into joy. God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:4).
With this truth, do one of two things:
- If, with the help of Almighty God, you have made it through your heartache to joy, seek out others whom you can help with their heartache.
- If you’re in the midst of heartache, find a brother or sister who can help bear your burden, comfort you, and who can teach you God’s goodness.
“Jesus turns heartache to joy.” The tomb is empty. Jesus showed himself alive to two disciples on the way to Emmaus, to his apostles, and to many others in the 40 days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. Jesus ascended to heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and he this very moment intercedes for you.
Don’t despair! No matter what life throws at you, “Jesus turns heartache to joy.” Do you need to claim the joy of forgiveness this very morning as we stand and sing?