Today’s Reading: Luke 24
It’s resurrection morning for Jesus. All of the Gospels highlight Jesus’ post-resurrection conversations with His disciples and followers, but only Luke highlights a conversation that happened seven miles outside of Jerusalem. To put it another way, a fire started seven miles outside of Jerusalem.
No building burst into flames.
No property was damaged.
No one was trapped.
No life was lost.
But two hearts caught on fire in a conversation with the resurrected Jesus. As someone once said, “Get on fire for God and men will come watch you burn.”
Fire needs no advertisement. When people hear the fire engines, people look for smoke. And seven miles outside of Jerusalem on a road heading toward Emmaus two hearts caught fire.
Let’s look at the story.
Two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” . . . And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.”
He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. . .
They urged him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” (Luke 24:13-17, 19-21, 25-27, 29-34)
I have been reading a sermon a day for almost thirty years. It’s a practice I picked up when I started pastoring. One of my favorite preachers is the great Baptist, Vance Havner. In one of his sermons based on this story, Havner gives four characteristics that happen to someone who has a genuine experience with God.
First, their experience is based on the Scriptures. As Luke 24:27 tells us, “He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Men who part company with the Old Testament also part company with Jesus. Moses wrote Genesis. Jesus promoted Genesis.
Second, it stirs their hearts. Luke 24:32: They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” A genuine experience with God has its foundation in the Bible, not in our feelings, although that does not mean our feelings aren’t affected. We are not saved because we feel saved, but being saved makes us happy. As Havner said, “There was never a real revival that did not produce heartburn and hallelujahs.”
Third, Jesus shows up at their house: “They urged Him, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.’ So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them” (Luke 24:29-30). Men stop at the Bible or they stop at feelings. If it’s real, it goes home with you. A genuine experience with God affects your home life, not your church life.
Fourth, it sends them back out to tell others. Read how the two men responded after Jesus disappeared: “They got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, ‘The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.’ They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:33-35).
And as they told the story, He showed up again: “While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be to you’” (Luke 24:36).
What a great grid for a genuine experience with Jesus:
• Scripture based
• Heart stirring
• Home-life affected
• Can’t stop talking about it
People need to experience Jesus, not church. As Havner said, “Sunday-morning Christianity is the greatest hindrance to true revival.”
I think it was all God’s plan that those two men’s hearts burned seven miles outside of Jerusalem. Not in the temple, not in a church, not in the mecca of Judaism and birthplace of Christianity. But seven miles outside a fire burned, meaning God can set us on fire anywhere.