In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. This passage tells the story of two disciples of Jesus who walked for miles with him without recognizing him.
LUKE 24: 13 – 17, 28-32 (CEB) – HEARTS ON FIRE!
On that same day [the day of Christ’s resurrection], two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him. He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast. . . .
When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
Cleopas and a friend are walking the 7 miles from Jerusalem to their home. (Some commentators posit that this duo could be Clopas and Mary, a married couple mentioned in John 19:25). They had waited with other disciples for the return of Christ in three days. When he did not appear, they headed for home. They are despondent, deeply disappointed, and confused.
They are joined by a traveler they do not recognize. When he asks what they are talking about, they pour out their hearts, describing Jesus’ death three days ago and the puzzling experience of the women who found the tomb empty. They, probably bitterly, say, “We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel.” Jesus then calls them “foolish people” with “dull minds.” He proceeds to interpret all the scripture passages that speak about him. His teaching must have been powerful because after he disappears, they remember that their hearts were “on fire” as he talked.
Here is a story about the power of the presence of Jesus, both when he is recognized and when he is not. It also speaks to the blessing of offering hospitality to strangers and to the fellowship of breaking bread together. It isn’t until they share a meal (and their lives) that they recognize this stranger to be their Lord.
It is interesting to note that Jesus didn’t immediately remove his fellow travelers’ bad feelings. He walks with them through their broken dreams and “the broken hearts become hearts that burn” (Murray Andrew Pura in the Spiritual Formation Bible).
♥ These disciples had loved Jesus and believed in a future with him. But now he is gone. Their dreams are dead and their hopes are cold. Then Jesus catches up to them and walks with them. But he remains hidden as they suffer. This is a common human experience. We lose our passion, mistrust our own experiences with Jesus, and go cold – even though we may continue to read Scripture and pray. It feels as if Jesus is hidden. Why don’t we recognize him? Have you had an experience like that? What did it feel like? How did you get past it? Do you remember feeling your “heart on fire” when you finally recognized Jesus walking next to you?
♥ Who do you know whose hearts are broken? Who do you need “break bread” with so they can see Jesus? What can you give? How can you care? What gift has God given with you to share with people who are so downtrodden or alienated (emotionally, physically or spiritually) that they can’t see Jesus.
♥ Cleopas and his companion do a lot of talking on their way home, sharing their misery. We also seem to talk endlessly in the church about theological differences and the necessity of our rules and traditions. We also talk about other people. We also share constantly through social media. At times our talking does not lift our sadness or bring light or joy to the world. Is it time for you to stop talking and listen, as the travelers on the road to Emmaus did? Is it time to use different words – words not of judgment and condemnation but of possibility and hope?
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“‘Were not our hearts on fire?’ the two disciples of Jesus are reported by Luke to have said to each other as they hurried back to Jesus to relate to their friends what had happened to them in the village of Emmaus. What the disciples told their companions about their experience and what they in turn heard from their friends from their own encounters with the resurrected Jesus deepened their faith and enabled them to carry on with renewed energy and hope. Those who ponder Scripture know that what these disciples experienced can happen to any Christian who searches for a closer relationship with the Lord. When a person explores his or her deepest desires or questions – and talks about them with someone else who is on a similar journey – each person in the conversation receives new understanding, new insight” (Michael Harter SJ in Hearts on Fire, Praying with Jesus).
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“It is God’s way to come cloaked, and for his greatest promises to become cloaked. It is his way to come when the storm is peaking or fear deepest or when hope is almost gone, or, if we are honest, utterly gone. It has always been his way. No resurrection without Golgotha. No freedom without Gethsemane. No Christmas Eve without a Good Friday. . . . Our task is not to figure everything out or to imagine every angle God might come at us from, but to stay on the roads of our years, plodding on, encouraging one another with the voices and the mysteries of heaven. It is only that. To stay on the road until God in disguise joins us and eventually comes to sit at our table. Or we at his” (Murray Andrew Pura in the Spiritual Formation Bible.)