The Lord's Day Morning
“Seven Miles with Jesus”
January 8, 2012
The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 24. We’ll begin today in the thirteenth verse. The story of the disciples walking to their homes in Emmaus is one of the great resurrection stories. Of the eleven resurrection stories, none is greater than this one. Luke alone recounts this story. We learn it from the good doctor as he tells us about these disciples who were almost inconsolable in their grief after the crucifixion and death and burial of Jesus Christ. And as they’re walking slowly on their way to the hometown of Emmaus, they are met by the risen Savior on that first Lord's Day. And what infuses is one of the great conversations ever had in the history of the world. It's filled with encouragement. We’ll only read part of it today; we’ll come back again next Lord's Day and consider it again from another angle, but there's something I want us to see in this passage which actually follows on a message that we started to look at last week.
If you’ll remember, last week, looking at verses 1 to 12, when the angels encountered the women who had come to the tomb to complete the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial that had not been able to be done, so close they were to the Sabbath on that Friday afternoon, the angels said to them, “Remember what He said,” in verse 6. And in just a couple of verses later, we're told that, verse 8, “The women remembered His words.” And we talked about how Luke was emphasizing the centrality of the words of Christ for His disciples. It's central to their faith. Well, in the passage we're going to study today, Jesus elaborates on that very point. So we're going to read verses 13 to 27 and I want you to be on the lookout for that great scene and message. Let's pray before we read God's Word.
Heavenly Father, this is Your Word and we ask that You would open our eyes by the Spirit to see what You have in store for our apprehension of Your glory and for the increase of our faith and for our growth in grace. Use the reading of Your Word and the preaching of Your Word as a means of grace to our hearts. Make us to believe, as we ought to believe, and to be, as we ought to be. In Jesus' name, amen.
This is God's Word. Hear it:
“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.”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
It's an extraordinary scene, isn't it? Can you imagine walking along talking with a dear friend about the Lord Jesus Christ one day and Jesus Himself joined in on the conversation? It's really extraordinary. These men, like the women, love the Lord Jesus Christ. These men not only knew much about the events that occurred in the last day, they had thought about them from a spiritual perspective. These men clearly understood much of the teaching of Jesus Christ and it's very clear that these are real disciples. They love Jesus; they trust Him, but like those women who went to the tomb in love to complete the preparation of Jesus’ body, so also these men, as much as they love Jesus and as much as they trust Him, they don't trust Him enough and they don't believe His Word enough. I mean, even as you read their description to Jesus, who they don't recognize as Jesus, of the events, you’re thinking, “Come on! Come on! Next step — one more link! You’re almost there! It is the third day and that means?! And the women don't find His body there and that means?!” But it doesn't come.
In fact, when Jesus asks them about their conversation, Luke conveys to you, and you get the feeling, not only in that verse but take a look at the way Luke says it at the end of verse 17, you get the feeling throughout the opening verses of the passage that a deep sadness pervades this passage to this point. And when Jesus said, “What's this conversation all about?” you can almost feel that they’re walking along and suddenly dead stop, long pause, deep sadness. Luke tells you, “They stood still, looking sad.” And the reason they looked sad is they were sad. They were almost inconsolably sad. They were disconsolate. And then they begin to describe all of the things that had happened. But the reason that they are almost inconsolably sad, the reason that they are disconsolate is because they had failed to believe the Word of God. Just like the women on their way to the tomb, went to the tomb in love and faith, but not in enough faith to believe that Jesus wasn't going to be there as He said. So also these disciples believed in Jesus but they failed to believe what the Word of God said about Him.
That is so clear from the passage. After they describe all the things that have happened in Jerusalem, what is the first thing Jesus says to them? Look at verse 25 and 26. “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?” So Jesus makes it clear that their failure is two-fold. They have failed to believe the Word of God. All that the prophets — Jesus has been His disciples what the prophets said about Him. He had been teaching His disciples about His crucifixion and about His resurrection, but it's very clear from all of this that they still haven't fully gotten it; they still haven't adequately comprehended it. And so isn't it interesting that in this passage Jesus does not come alongside them and suddenly open their eyes immediately to see that He is Jesus. No, we're told, we're not told what the agency was, what the means was, but we're told in verse 16 that “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” It's Jesus walking with them, but for whatever reason, through whatever means, they did not realize it was Jesus. And this is actually crucial to the whole story. It was crucial in God's plan an in Jesus’ design that they not recognize who it was that was talking to them so that He could take them where? To the Book.
Isn't it interesting — even the reports of the women from the tomb about the angels and the absence of Jesus’ body has not served to flip the light switch on for the disciples. But in this story, when Jesus takes them to the Book, then and only then do they get it. Why? Because the source of their disconsolation, the source of their sadness, the source of their almost inconsolable grief was their failing to believe the Word of God. And thus, the remedy, the remedy for that was the truth of the Word of God and its testimony to Jesus worked deep down into their hearts and bones. The source of their sadness and lack of comfort and hopelessness was their failure to believe what Jesus had been teaching them the Word of God said about Him. So the remedy to that was for them to see all that had occurred in light of the truth of the Word of God and to believe that Word of God to be true. The only thing that was going to heal them was to come to a full embrace of the truth of the Word of God about Jesus and that is exactly where He takes them. And it is only after He has done that, after that glorious Bible study as He opens up, as it were, with Genesis and He says, “Let me just take you through Genesis all the way to Chronicles,” that's the way the Hebrew Bible was organized, “Let me just take you all the way from beginning to end of your Hebrew Bible and I'm going to show you the Christ — suffering and raised, crucified and exalted, humiliated, exalted.” And it's only at the end of that long Bible study that their eyes are opened.
Why? The whole design of Jesus here is to draw their attention to, to restore their understanding of and confidence in the Word of God because that is essential to faith and hope and to joy. Isn't it interesting that we just read, Josh just read from 1 John 1 this morning, what? That John had written what he had written, why? “That your joy may be complete.” Their lack of joy was because they did not understand the Word of God and Jesus was determined that their joy would be restored. For it to be restored, where did He have to take them? To the Word of God; and He explained it to them again so that their joy may be complete. And by the way, anybody ever tell you that doctrine is boring and no fun, people that say that are killjoys because the doctrine of the Word of God is for you joy. And anybody who's against doctrine is against joy. All that doctrine in there, it's all for your joy. Anybody steal once piece of that doctrine from you, they’re robbing you of joy because God gave that truth to you for joy. And that's what Jesus is doing. He's taking them right back to the Word of God and He's showing them the truth about Himself in the Scriptures so that their attention is given to it and their faith is restored and their confidence is put in what the Word says and in the truth of that Word about the Christ and their joy is restored.
That's so important for us to remember today, my friends, because if you are lacking joy in the Christian life today — I don't belittle any circumstance that you may be in; you may be in very hard circumstances — but if you are lacking joy I can assure you of this. That lack of joy is rooted in not believing the Word of God about Christ. And what Jesus wants us to do is to go back to that Word and to attend to that Word and have confidence in that Word and understand that Word and understand what that Word says about Christ and believe and have joy that is complete. And if you’re an unbeliever today, no joy you have apart from this truth will last and no joy that you have apart from this truth will be real joy. The only real joy there is, the only lasting joy that there is comes from knowing the Christ who is spoken of in this Word.
So as believers today, come to the Lord's Table. If you are in a fight for joy and you are losing, victory begins when you go back to the Word again and you believe it. And if you’re an unbeliever today, here, and we're glad that you’re here in our midst, you will have none of the joy that Jesus comes to offer until you surrender the faux joy that you are pursuing or basking in and you repent of your sins and you put your faith in the only one that can give you real joy, the one spoken about in the Word, the one who was walking with these men on the road to Emmaus, the one who took them to the Book.
Heavenly Father, bless us now as we come to the Table, to see Christ, to commune with Him, by the Spirit to have our hearts lifted up to heaven and feed on Him by faith and have our hope strengthened and our confidence returned and our joy made full. In Jesus' name, amen.