Delivered By
Rev. Jonathan Gruen
Delivered On
February 9, 2014
Central Passage
Luke 24:13-35

Rev. Jonathan Gruen

February 9, 2014

Text: Luke 24:13-35, especially “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 


I recently read a blog written by a mother than went viral.  The post was filled with advice on how to get your newborn to sleep.  The reason it went viral is because so many could relate with the mother’s struggle.  You see, in a very serious tone (though you can sense the satire) she writes things like this: “You should start a routine and keep track of everything. Don’t watch the clock. Put them on a schedule. Scheduling will make your life impossible because they will constantly be thrown off of it and you will become a prisoner in your home.”  Parents can relate because there is so much conflicting advice out there it becomes difficult to sort it out.  And we all know that the difficulty in figuring it out extends really to every area of life.  And we are often left wondering.

It seems that the disciples traveling to Emmaus were struggling with the same thing: How do I sort it all out?  They didn’t know what to make of current events.  They didn’t know what to think about a very controversial figure, recently deposed.  They didn’t know what to believe anymore.  And they were heartbroken.  We know this because they tell us in their own words.  The two disciples, Cleopas and another, were traveling when a stranger came up and walked with them.  When the stranger asked them about the things they were discussing, Cleopas answered that they were speaking, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” 

He goes on to explain, “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” (v. 19-24).

Sometimes life befuddles us just as it did those disciples.  We are confused, wondering, at a loss for what to do next.  The ways of God are often hidden from our understanding.  Do you ever ask of God some of the questions of the Psalms, “Why, O Lord?” “How long, O Lord?”  Do you ever converse with your friends, “I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know what to say.”  Do you ever look at your recent past or current events and wonder what it is all supposed to mean, if God is trying to send you a message or steer you a certain direction?  Do you ever try to gaze into the foggy future and feel fear, or worry?  Do you?  I bet you do, because I know I do.

This yucky feeling of trying to sort it all out is caused in part by our human limitations.  We don’t know all things, past, present, or future.  We can’t completely control our environment.  And so we are often subject to outside events, people, matters, things that happen to us.  And because we live in a broken world, what happens to us is quite often bad.  In fact, it is all bad, except for the good which God brings into our lives.

But this awful trying-to-sort-it-all-out feeling is also caused by our own fallen human nature.  It is caused by what is in here, in the heart.  Out of the heart come so many sinful desires.  We are by nature wholly selfish, me-centered, self-serving.  Our personality—passionate or easy going—our own thoughts, feelings, wishes, our own efforts, actions, lifestyle—they are all naturally inclined toward evil.  This is why things never get better in this world.  Even if medicine improves, people don’t.  Even if technology makes huge progress, people don’t.  And everyone who sells you the idea of a future utopia through our human efforts is selling you a mirage.  And that’s why we too are heartbroken.

The disciples on the road certainly couldn’t sort it all out.  They were in no position to help themselves, let alone try to help others.  They are just as we are by nature: lost, confused, hopeless.  Notice that brokenhearted they say, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” – past tense!  Their hope was gone, the future was bleak, the present was confusing!  At least they recognize that people need redeeming, so I guess they are better off than most today.  But how could they sort it all out?

Enter: the stranger.  The stranger, unasked and uninvited, inserts himself into the depressing situation and begins to touch their broken hearts.  The stranger, the visitor, has come not just to listen, for he already knows the darkness of sin and the deepness of death.  He has experienced it more intimately than we will ever fathom.  No, he has come not just to listen, but to speak.  And so when they are done confessing their failed hopes and their blinding confusion, he opens his mouth.  “’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.”

I bet he started with the first day of creation, when God created light on the first day, and told them that it was necessary also for the Christ, the Light of the World, to rise from the dead on the first day of the week, to shine his Gospel light into the hearts of mankind.  I bet he told them that just as God rested on the 7th day, so also the Christ it was necessary for the Savior to rest in the tomb on the 7th day, having died to redeem mankind.  I bet he went on to Genesis 3, and told how the Christ was the offspring of woman who indeed came to crush Satan’s head.  And I bet he talked them through the history of God’s people—the promise given to Abraham, slavery in Egypt, freedom in the Passover, the exodus and journey to the Promised Land, the giving of the law, the covenant of God, the victory over the evil inhabitants of Canaan, eventually to David the king, the messianic psalms, the prophetic coronation songs, the promise spoken concerning the Son of David, the righteous branch of Jeremiah, the Immanuel of Isaiah, and Isaiah’s Servant Songs, then the people in exile but the remnant preserved, Micah’s mention of Bethlehem, and so on—he talked them through the history of God’s people and opened their minds to understand the prophecies concerning the Messiah.

Of course, this stranger who talked them through the Scriptures we know was the resurrected Jesus, hidden from their recognition for a time.  And he told them the things concerning himself.  He was the one who came to fulfill the Scriptures, the one to bear the sin of the world in his own body as he suffered on the cross, the one to make holy the graves of God’s people by his own rest in the tomb, the one to break the gates of death and hell and make a way for all people through the open doors of heaven.  Into our world of darkness and chaos, confusion and death, sin, sickness, suffering; and because of the blindness of mankind, our lost condition, our frailty, our wickedness, our inability to “sort it all out” Christ Jesus came for us.  For you.  For me.  For all who are near, and everyone far, for those past, for us now, for generations to come.  Christ is for the world.  And Christ came for me.  Christ came for me.  Say that with me, “Christ came for me.”

Today Christ Jesus, inserts himself into your depressing situation and begins to touch your broken hearts.  And after we confess our failed hopes and our blinding confusion, he assures us that he already knows the darkness of our sin and deepness of our death more intimately than we can ever fathom.  He assures us that it is for us that he suffered all these things and entered into his glory.  And he instructs you never to forget it.

You see, the news of his death and resurrection, we are taught today, is key.  And I mean that in the most comprehensive way possible.  His death and resurrection is the key to understanding Scripture.  Without it, the book is closed and locked to you.  It is the key to understanding the entirety of the Christian faith.  As Paul would say, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.   But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:17-21).”

So yes, it is the key to understanding Scripture, and understanding the Christian faith, but it is also more than that.  It is the key that opens heaven to you.  It is the key that makes a doorway for God to come into your stone-cold, dead, locked up hearts.  It is the key to making sense of your life.  It is the key to sorting it all out.

You see, those disciples had broken hearts.  But after Jesus left them, you can see that have been given new life, hope, salvation, a future, great understanding, great joy, and a desire to share what they knew.  And what was it that caused the change?  They would confess themselves that it was through the breaking of the bread and the burning of the Word of God within them.  You see, when this man they thought was a stranger took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it, and right then, in the giving of the Sacrament, they knew it was Jesus.  The transcendent, almighty Son of God, became imminent, tangible, and recognizable to them in the Sacrament.  And they also at that moment recognize what was happening inside of them through the Word of the Savior.  They say, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”  And then they immediately run to tell the other disciples.

Their hearts burned within them.  They had been heartbroken, but now they have heartburn.  This isn’t the kind of heartburn that moves you to take a Pepcid.  This is the kind of heartburn that sets your life ablaze with a holy fire.  This is the fire of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised.  This is the warming of our frozen hearts.  And we’re not talking primarily about an emotion.  Emotions will be a part of it, but they can come and go.  We are talking about the fire of a living and active faith.  This Word from Christ is the spark that enlivens the spiritually dead.  This is the work of God in his people that is nothing short of the gift of everlasting life.  This is the kind of heartburn that moves you to rejoice and go tell someone.  Christ is alive!  He has risen!  He has defeated death!  He has conquered the devil, crushing his head!  He has paid for sin!  He freely gives new life!  And he has come for you!  Christ has come for you!  Turn to your neighbor and say that with me, “Christ has come for you!”

Now, this teaches us also what we are to do when we feel cold again.  When you feel cold, dead, apathetic, crushed, beaten, broken, return to the Sacrament where Christ is made known to you again.  Hear and read and take to your broken hearts the Word that will make your heart burn with holy fervor again.  And Christ, crucified and raised for you, will help you make sense of it all again.

And that’s the point of this Ignite Student Ministries Sunday.  There’s nothing more important than instructing our young people in the Word of God, giving them that key of the cross and empty tomb that makes their hearts burn for God, preparing them to face the world, and training them to continue to return to those gifts of God that will forgive, strengthen, and enliven them again.  At Beautiful Savior, we have always sought to do that, and we always will.  But it is a difficult task.  Our world today promises to empower young people and help them discover themselves.  But it proves to be a red cape that is quickly pulled away when young people charge at it.  So they charge again.  But the satanic matador seeks to elude, sidestep, and spear all he can.

It is a confusing and dangerous world out there for our young people, just as it always has been.  And that’s why we want to ignite the hearts of the young in this church with the Word of God.  That’s why we want to help them to discover their identity in Christ, their purpose to live for him, and their continual forgiveness and strength from God that’s going to see them through.  That’s why we point them to the bloody cross and the open tomb of Jesus, who has sorted out this world of pain for us, and is helping us to trust and live for him day by day by day.

As we continue to fine-tune how it is that we go about training our young people and all ages to be students of the Word, we rejoice that we have the best tools on the planet with which to set about this task.  We have the key that opens the Scriptures and unlocks closed hearts.  We have the fire of the Spirit so that we might work with zeal and determination.  We have Christ’s love that joins us, so that we might work together, as a team, parents, church workers, and all members in this holy task.

So, pray for our “Ignite Student Ministries.”  Pray for our DCE Korey Danley who is committed to teaching and training youth and children in the Word of God.  Pray for Pam Williams who assists in that work, and assists the pastors too, in so many ways.  Pray for all who help in Sr. High ministry, Jr, High ministry, all who teach confirmation, midweek, Sunday School, all who have the job of instruction or supporting the young people of this church.  Pray for them all, help, and support as you are able.  The task has never been more difficult nor more important than it is today.

We want the young of this church, and the young people out there, and all people near and far, young and old, to have heartburn, a good, spiritual, holy fire because of the Gospel.  And may God, who has taken away your sin, who has warmed your cold heart, and who has opened heaven to you, make you to burn brightly with a holy fire everyday.  May God grant it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.