“From Marveling to Burning”: A Reflection on the Resurrection of Our Lord

27 03 2008

As we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord, I was asked to share a short message for the Easter Sunrise Service at a local park.  So I had a chance to meditate on the following passage as I prepared for the message:

Luke 24 (ESV)

12But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.  13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18Then 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?” 19And 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, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But 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. 22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and 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. 24 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.” 25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.  28So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures? 

This chapter provides an insight into what the Disciples thought and felt about Christ’s death and what the overriding responses were at the news of the empty tomb. “Marveling” is the word that seems to sum up the general feelings of Christ’s Disciples and other followers.  They were astonished and perplexed by the strange account of women who heard from angels telling them that Jesus has risen. Peter needed to see it for himself so he ran all the way to the grave only to find the tomb empty and the linen clothes used to wrap the Lord’s body.  While they marveled at these findings, judging from the Disciples’ reactions, they were more in “disbelief” rather than in celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. However in verse 32, the two disciples whom Jesus appeared to on their way to Emmaus confessed, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road..?” We see a radical transformation in their hearts. This narrative of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus provides a microcosmic view into what had happened to the Eleven Apostles and the others. Luke provides an account of two disciples who were most likely on their way back home to Emmaus. Though the narrative mentions the name Cleopas, these two are not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. They had an intimate knowledge into what the Apostles thought and what they were hoping in Christ as seen in verse 21. They also had the information about the women’s encounter with the angels earlier that morning. They too were marveled by what had happened and “discussed” everything that had happened among themselves as they walked. It was at this moment that Jesus appeared.  There are two steps that took place before their hearts burn within them:

  1. When God opened their eyes (v. 27 & 45)

There are two observations that we can make from this first step. First, our hearts are veiled and blinded. Yes, even the believers’ hearts are still blinded. When we were unbelievers, we were spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1) but after we accepted Christ, we came alive. However, this does not mean that all the blinding effects of our sinful flesh are taken away all at once. The process of sanctification will gradually purify our hearts to see the whole truth and the beauty of the Lord. Paul affirms this truth “2 Cor. 3:14~16 14But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. While this passage is specifically referring to the unsaved Jews, the veil over hearts’ applies to everyone. When we first accept Christ, our spiritual eyes are opened to the glory of God but it is only faint until our spiritual eyes are awakened gradually to the fullness of His glory.   The second observation is: Only God can remove the veil over our hearts. It is Jesus who removed the veil over the Disciples’ hearts. Man cannot will to remove the veil any more than a dead man make himself rise again from the dead. Verse 45 says that God opened their minds to understand. This is such an important truth. We must trust and rely on the Lord to understand and know Him. I used to think that it was God’s grace that allow me to be saved and that it’s up to me on how much I am sanctified thereafter. But as I study the Bible more closely, I began to realize that it’s the same grace that first saved me that will allow me to know and love Him. Just like the Amazing Grace that says, “His grace will lead me home.” God will get His glory for not only saving me but also sanctifying me.  

  1. When they see and savor the glory of Christ in the Whole Scripture and the Gospel in fullness…(v. 27 & 44)

This is such a precious truth. We often turn to the four gospels to read about Jesus and His teaching but these verse reveal that it is the whole Scripture that we need to see Jesus. He was not just an afterthought that God had when the human race fell and needed a savior. It was in fact His plan to center the whole human history around His Son. Christ is weaved in and out of the fabric of the OT history. OT is full of Christ’s shadow and image in the narratives, the laws, the ceremony rituals, prophecies, and even the Psalms. In fact, the full meaning of OT books cannot be grasped apart from Christ. Keep in mind that Jesus’ Jewish followers grew up studying and memorizing the OT Scriptures and yet they never saw the glory of Christ in them.  One of the main reasons that the Jews reject Christ as the Messiah is that “nothing” has changed for the Jews. Most of the Messianic passages in the OT portray him as someone with political power who will reign like a king, just like the way the two disciples on the way to Emmaus shared. They do not interpret the suffering servant in Isaiah 9 as the Messiah but as the image of Israel.   Paul writes in 2 Cor. 3:18, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. Our “beholding the glory of the Lord” leads to our lives being transformed into more sanctified and holier lives. How do we “behold” our Lord? We see Him most vividly in the Scriptures, although Paul says that we will see Him face to face in 1 Cor. 13.  Notice that I’ve added not only “see” but also “savor.” This is important because we have many knowledge and information which we do not treasure or value. I did not particularly jump for joy when I found out the fact that the Earth is round. I wonder how much the fact of our Lord’s resurrection affects our affection for Him. Knowing is not the same is treasuring because James tells us that even the demons know that God exists and shutter at the fact. They have the knowledge but it affects them exactly the opposite way. They hate it.The Burning Hearts

When our hearts burn, it is not just a warm and fuzzy feeling in the heart. The word, “burning” paints a picture of fire that consumes its object. We don’t simply say, “hmm…that’s interesting,” and go back to what we were doing. But it causes us to take a different course of action. The heart being the seat of our emotion, affection, and will, directs us to take a radical turn for Christ. The two disciples turned around and returned to the eleven Apostles and shared what had happened to them. Jesus then appeared to the rest and showed himself as the Risen Lord. We know that the lives of Jesus’ Apostles were no longer the same. A burning heart no longer fears men. The worldly appetite is replaced with godly appetite.

 May the Lord open our eyes and cause us to behold the beauty of our Lord in the Scriptures and cause our hearts to burn within us for His glory!

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