February 8, 2004
After Jesus had explained the “big picture” to the disciples, they urged Him to stop and stay with them—even though they didn’t recognize Him. Only after they spent more time in His presence did they suddenly realize He was the risen Christ. Alistair Begg helps us see ourselves in their story: when Jesus opens our eyes, we realize in hindsight why our understanding changed. This then compels us to share the good news of Christ’s redeeming work.
Sermon Transcript: Print
We’re going to read from the Bible now, first in the Old Testament in 2 Kings chapter 7, and then in the New Testament in Luke chapter 24. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. Two Kings. Second Kings, chapter 7. We would actually need to read from chapter 6 to set the context, but I don’t want to use all the time. You can go back and read this fascinating story at your leisure. It will reward you if you do. We’re going to read from 2 Kings 7:3:
“Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, ‘Why stay here until we die? If we say, “We’ll go into the city”—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die.’” So the options are not great: “We can go there and die or stay here and die.” That’s basically the issue. “‘So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, … we die.’” Tremendous clarity in this, isn’t there? I like this group. Very logical.
“At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!’ So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.
“The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.” This is going terrific! This is way better than anything they anticipate.
“Then they said to each other, ‘[What] we’re … doing [isn’t] right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. [Let us] go at once and report this to the royal palace.’”
Now, I leave the preceding section and the following section to you, and then we’ll go from there into Luke 24. Verse 28:
“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going [further]. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”
Now, you may want to keep your Bible open there at that section. Our pattern on Communion evening is to try and deal with the study before us with a little more brevity than is customary. It’s not always a successful venture, but it is a stated attempt at the venture. And those who were present this morning know that we are resuming the study that we began this morning and that we concluded at verse 27. Jesus had been explaining to these folks the big picture, all the things in the Scriptures concerning himself. And now, as they approach the village, it’s possible that their very arrival at their destination was going to be the cause of Jesus stopping the systematic Bible study that he’s been providing for them. Certainly, they want him to stay. It may be as well that with the oncoming darkness and with the nature of the climate in which they lived, they thought it simply best that Jesus might join them for the night rather than go on from there. Certainly, they had been warming to him. His initial encounter with them had been strange to say the least: he’d all of a sudden appeared; he began to ask questions; when he volunteered information, he suggested to them that they were a little bit dull, slow on the uptake. But as he had gone through this record of the Bible, their hearts had been stirred, and as he explained to them the big picture, they were concerned that he wouldn’t leave them.
And so, what they do, as Luke tells us here, is that they issue an invitation. They issue an invitation. I read this portion in The Living Bible; I think it gets the sense of it as good as any. The way the NIV does it, and most of the other translations, without any kind of paraphrase, creates the idea in our minds where it says, “Jesus acted as if he were going [further].” What does that make you feel? It makes you feel as if he was playacting—that he acted like he was going further, but he wasn’t really going further at all. Well, clearly that’s not the case. The best I could find was The Living Bible. You’d be surprised I could even find this Bible, and having found it, it’s questionable whether I can read it. Yeah. “By this time,” Kenneth Taylor paraphrases, “by this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. [And] Jesus would have gone on, but they begged him [strongly not to.]” Jesus would have just continued, but they urged him not to. In other words, without the invitation, Jesus would’ve kept going. That’s the point that Luke is making. And if Jesus had kept going, then they would’ve missed the wonderful privilege of realizing, recognizing, that their teacher on the road, who to this point they have not recognized, was none other than the risen Lord himself.
Actually, invitation, which is the word we’re using, is not a strong enough word. The phraseology in verse 29 makes that point for us, doesn’t it? “But they urged him strongly…” This word appears only twice in the New Testament. On both occasions, it is used by Luke, first of all here, and then again in his second book, in the Acts of the Apostles. It is one of those Greek jumbled-up words or words upon words. Parabiazomai is the word. Won’t mean very much to you, but that’s what it is. Parabiazomai. And the only other usage is in Acts chapter 16, in the record of the conversion of Lydia, who, when she was converted—and we looked at this a few Sundays ago, maybe at our last Communion service, if I remember correctly—it says that she said, “If you consider that what has taken place has really taken place, then I’d like you to stay in my house.” And the verb that she uses there is the exact same verb; that’s the word that she employs: “And she urged us”—again, The Living Bible—“and she urged us until we did.”
Now, that is the context in which Jesus is urged to stay. He would’ve kept right on walking if they had not prevailed upon him to stay with them. Geldenhuys comments on this, “How often does [Jesus] address us also on life’s way. And He still desires to enter where He is invited.” I like that comment; that’s why I wrote it down, and that’s why I’ve shared it with you. How often does Jesus encounter us along life’s journey, and he still desires to enter where he is invited.
I wonder if it makes you think of a Christmas carol in the way that it did me? I could only think of the phrase, the line. I couldn’t think what the carol was. It took me ages, wasted a lot of my time, but eventually I got it:
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
[And] God imparts to human hearts
The blessing of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
If they had not invited him to stay, he would not have stayed. If you have not invited him to be your Savior, he is not your Savior. And for those of you—and I hope it is not an increasingly growing number—who find in this kind of thing agitation in relationship to the preordination or foreordination of God (“Oh, but wait a minute! After all, it had to happen this way; therefore, somehow, and so on,” and you have these discussions late into the night), may I remind you of what we have discovered when we have considered this subject together—namely, that the foreordination of God does not eliminate contingency, nor does it eliminate human freedom. And God foreordains our actions, but he foreordains them as free actions, as things that we do by our own personal volition. I hope you get that, because it is very, very important. Jesus stayed on because he was invited.
Using this little New Testament made me think of this on a number of levels. This New Testament I bought in 1972 in Leeds in Yorkshire—1972! Goodness gracious. Do you remember ’72? And this little Testament is in some measure a symbol to me of the keeping power of God. And it is in some measure a testimony to me of the fact that God hears the earnest, simple prayers of the meek and of the child, and that somehow or another, in his providence and in his mercy, when I, along with other children, would sing in Sunday school,
Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus;
Come in today,
[And] come in to stay,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus,
that along the journey of life he still responds to those invitations.
The invitation gave way to recognition. Recognition. Having urged him to stay and his agreement to it, they did what is perfectly natural after a seven-mile walk: they said, “Well, let’s have something to eat.” And they honored this stranger by asking him to perform the function of a host. Sometimes when you have a guest in your home that you know very well, especially if they have some kind of status within the family of faith, you may say to them, “I wonder if you would be good enough to say grace for us? We would like for you to give thanks before we eat.” It’s quite an interesting thing to do that with a stranger. Of course, the stranger had endeared himself to them by dint of the Bible study that he had provided, but nevertheless, it is quite striking. And essentially what they’re doing is they’re saying, “We would like you to say grace. Would you say grace for us? I wonder, would you break bread for us?”
Now, you need to understand that this was the normal beginning of a Jewish meal. This is how a Jewish meal formally began: with the blessing and thanking of God and with the breaking of bread. This ought to help us steer away from the idea that what we have in Luke chapter 24 is a Communion service, because clearly, we don’t. Any temptation to see the Lord’s Supper here should probably be tempered by a number of things. One, by the absence of any mention of wine. Also, by the awareness of the fact that as soon as Jesus has done what he’s asked, he vanishes. The thing would be completely truncated. It would be a strange Communion service, a strange Lord’s Supper, where he broke the bread and then he was gone. And I don’t think there is any real reason for us to find in this anything other than the routine of normal family life.
And furthermore, these two individuals were not present at the Last Supper. Because at the Last Supper we only had the Twelve. You know that from what the Gospel writers have already told us. It’s stated clearly in Mark 14:17. So there is no way that this great recognition that takes place is tied to the fact that they said, “Oh-ho! He’s doing what he just did at the Last Supper,” because they weren’t at the Last Supper.
So what, then? “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” Doesn’t say, “Then they opened their eyes.” It said, “Then their eyes were opened.” Do you remember this morning, it wasn’t that they didn’t recognize him; it was that “they were kept from recognizing him.” It is not now that they see him, but it is now that they are made to see him, that the wonder of this strange mystery that takes place, takes place. Now, perhaps the sight of the nails, the nail marks. Maybe the way in which he addressed his Father, with intimacy. Maybe there was something characteristic and immediately recognizable in the breaking of bread; after all, this was not the first occasion in which this would’ve happened. But we don’t need to worry ourselves with attempted explanations. All we need to see is what Luke tells us—namely, that God chose at this moment to make clear that this was his Son and that they were in the presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
And as soon as Jesus had accomplished that objective, as soon as they recognized him, “he disappeared from their sight.” There was no reason for him to stay any further. The whole reason for his being there was in order that they might know that he was alive. He came to declare himself to them. Their eyes were “kept from recognizing him.” In the journey, as the Scriptures unfolded and as they began to put the big picture together, they marveled at this stranger who could explain to them what they had so clearly missed in the prophetic journey. And then, as he acted as host, the lights went on, they recognized him, and he was gone.
That must’ve been a bit of a disappointment, don’t you think? Just when it all made sense, they couldn’t even talk to him about it. But of course, that was important too, wasn’t it? I think there’s a little touch of the “Don’t touch me” in this. Remember, in the garden? “Don’t touch me. Don’t lay hold of me.” Why? “Because you need to understand now that it’s not going to be like it was before the crucifixion. Before the crucifixion we were together all the time. We went in and out of buildings together. I was physically with you. I was visibly with you. I was permanently with you over a three-year period. But now, since my resurrection, you will only know me as the risen Christ, and you’re about to know me only as the ascended Christ.” And their recognition gives way to his departure.
Verse 32: “They asked each other”—it’s interesting, isn’t it?—“‘Were not our hearts burning within us?’” “Let me ask you,” the one said to the other. “You know when he was doing the Bible study? Did you have a kinda … going on? I mean, were you like, ‘Woo-oo-oo’?” This is a loose paraphrase, admittedly, but, “Were you?” And the other guy said, “That… I’m telling you, that’s exactly… I didn’t want to break in on him, and I didn’t want to start in on it at the time. I didn’t know… I mean, I was looking at you. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. But yes, absolutely! Our heart… Both… Your heart was… My heart was burning, were… Both our hearts were burning! What made them burn? When he talked to us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us. Opened the Scriptures to us. Opened the Scriptures to us!”
Do you know how much I long…? I personally long, when I put CDs in my car, when I put tapes in my car, when I sit under the preaching of somebody else, I long… I long! I’m telling you, it’s the truth! I long to have my heart stirred within me. I long to burn with enthusiasm for the Bible. I long for that. I don’t want to evaluate sermons. I don’t want to hear jokes. I don’t want to know if the guy was good, bad, or indifferent. I long for my heart to burn when the Scriptures are opened to me. I have known it. I do not always know it. But since I knew it, I long for it. And anything less is less than I desire. And I have discovered something too: that when I come to the listening of the Bible with that kind of expectation, it is amazing how my heart is stirred. But when I come as an adjudicator, when I come as a casual observer, when I come as an indifferent bystander, when I come as some come, to sleep on the front row, then there is little chance of a burning heart.
Now, my friends, look at this and look at it carefully. “Oh,” you say, “but it was Jesus.” Yes, of course it was Jesus, the best teacher ever. But the thing that caused the burning was the opening of the Scriptures. Now, if you will pray sincerely for everyone who mounts these stairs and stands behind this box, then I can guarantee you that the selfsame sermons will come home with far deeper conviction, and your heart will be out and on in a way that you’ve never known.
This little phrase, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” make me think now, as I’m speaking to you, of a young man that came here with Babcock & Wilcox. He showed up wearing a leather jacket one night back in the chapel on Fairmount Boulevard. First of all, I noticed his leather jacket. I thought, “That’s a pretty nice jacket.” And then I heard his voice, and he had a very Scottish accent, as it turned out. And in the course of conversation, I realized that he was here on a business trip from Glasgow, and I sat down with him, I said, “Come.” It had been so long since I’d had anyone from Glasgow, and we got together, and we talked, and I said, “Tell me your story.”
And he told me this wonderful story of how he had left his home in the Highlands, and he had gone down to work in Glasgow for Babcock & Wilcox. In the course of leaving his home and running away from a very strong and influential family of the faith, he had got into By-Path Meadow. He’d begun to go out and hang around and go places to meet people. And in the course of that, he met a very pretty girl. And as the time went by, they formed an affection for one another, and it became apparent that they really loved each other. But they had multiple problems. First of all, his own conscience wouldn’t let him alone. He knew that he was not only far from his father’s house—physically, his earthly dad—but he was far from his Father’s house too. And suddenly he discovered that this girl was a Roman Catholic, and he came from a bastion of Reformed Presbyterianism in the Highlands of Scotland, and neither of their families could cope with it. He thought that he understood. She knew she didn’t. In trying to work some kind of middle course, they began to go to the Roman Catholic Church in the morning and St George’s Tron Parish Church in the evening. Roman Catholic Church in the morning, short homily, out the door; it was all that they could do to make sure that they were present, but it did something for her family. In the evening they went to St George’s Tron and listened to Eric Alexander, who’s preached here from this pulpit.
On one evening, as they sat and listened to him preach, he preached from the phrase “Almost you persuade me,” the word of the Roman to Paul. Was it Agrippa? I can’t remember for now. “Almost you persuade me.” And he dealt with the whole notion of being not very far from the kingdom of God.
Interestingly, as a side bar, Eric Alexander and I on another occasion were having coffee across the street from the church. And I asked him about some things that were happening in the church, and he told me, he said, “You know, about a few months ago, I was all ready to preach. I was in the vestry and prepared to go. And as I sat looking at my notes, I decided that I couldn’t preach on this passage.” I said, “What did you preach on?” He said, “I preached on the phrase ‘Almost you persuade me,’ at the drop of a hat.”
Back to the couple. They sit, they listen to the sermon. Eric Alexander urges upon them the necessity of response. They come out of the church. They walk up the Cannon Street. They’re heading for a bus stop at which they’re going to part company from one another. They’re not living together; they’re going to their own respective apartments. And as they get closer to the bus stop—and they have been in total silence since the benediction—the young man turned to the girl, and he said, “There’s something I need to tell you: when Mr. Alexander said that those who are not far from the kingdom need to trust in Christ and receive him, I trusted in Christ and received him.” And the girl said, “And there is something that I need to tell you: I did the exact same.” Both of them were soundly converted, and they stood at the bus stop and essentially said, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked with us and as he opened the Scriptures to us?”
See, this is nothing that a man can achieve. I look at the crowds come and go from this church. I stand in my study and I watch you leave. I said out loud in my study this morning, “What chance is there, God, in the whole universe that any of these people would be converted, apart from the sovereign moving of your Spirit?”
An invitation, a recognition, and finally, a celebration. Verse 33: “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.” Energized by the discovery that they had made, the seven-miles journey back apparently isn’t even a question. One of the reasons that they might have been urging Jesus to stay was, “Jesus, you know, it’s dark and it’s dangerous out there. You don’t want to go out there now, not at this time of night. Why don’t you just come and stay with us?” There would be practicality involved in that. And if that was true of Christ, it would certainly be true of them, but apparently no concern for personal safety or anything are able to diminish their zeal. “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.” How quickly the lovely feet that bring good news can skip across the surface of the pavement, kicking up dust on the road.
Incidentally, you know now why I read from 2 Kings 7. It’s a kind of Old Testament color commentary on this, isn’t it? “This is a day of good news. We shouldn’t be sittin’ in here, you know, filling up tents with stuff and having a picnic. This is a day of good news. What we’re doing isn’t right. We don’t have this so that we can sit around here for ourselves. We gotta go and find other people and tell them, ‘There’s a bounty here! There’s an opportunity here!’” And filled with joy, they go out from the tent. The lepers are transformed, and the people are amazed. It’s the same story: “This is a day of good news. We need to get back to Jerusalem, and we need to get there at once. Let’s go at once and report this.”
And following through on their resolve, we’re told that “there they found the Eleven.” Notice it’s capitalized here in the NIV, and purposefully so, because the Eleven weren’t there. Well, they weren’t all there. We know that Thomas wasn’t there. So “the Eleven” is a designation. They began to be known as the Eleven. They had been the Twelve, they’re down to eleven now, and they went and they “found the Eleven.” It points to the fact, I think, that there was a far greater interaction between the core group of the disciples of Jesus and the wider disciples that followed along with them. But anyway, they were able to go, and they were to find them, and they were able to enter their assembly.
Now, we’re almost through, but at this point I must admit to feeling a little sorry for this pair. I wonder, do you understand this? It’s not really very important, but I can’t help but point it out to you. I do feel dreadfully sorry for these two guys. Because think about it: They had been making the journey to Emmaus. They were dreadfully sad. A fellow had come, interrupted them, began to ask questions. He gave them a Bible study. They then invited him into the house. He broke the bread. He gave thanks. They realized who he was. He disappeared. They said, “Now we have the phenomenal opportunity to get back to Jerusalem and let the people know that Jesus is alive.” And they must’ve been almost beside themselves with excitement. I can imagine that when they were going down the road, they said to one another, “Now, look, who’s going to say what? I mean, are we just gonna burst right in and go, ‘He’s alive!’? Or do you think what we ought to do is just build up to it slowly so that we can say, ‘Hey! You know, we had someone over for dinner just earlier this evening,’ and so they can say like, ‘Oh, who was that?’ and then we can say, ‘Hey! Jesus of Nazareth.’” Or, “No,” he said, “don’t do that, it’ll take too long. Maybe…” and so on. That’s how I would’ve done it, myself and a friend. We’d try and figure it out, and I’d want a chance to get my, you know, spoke in early. There’s no surprise in that. And my friend would say, “No, no, no, you’re not going first! I’m going first!” And so it was.
But anyway, they’re there, they’re ready to go, they’re here, it’s “Come on!” The door, open, the coat, the cloak, the sandals, and before they can say a word, somebody says, “It’s true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Peter!” Talk about stealing your thunder! I can imagine them looking at one another momentarily crestfallen: “That was our story! What’re you saying? That’s our news! Oh, man! You tellin’ me we came seven miles back down the road, and you already knew?”
Well, that would only have lasted for a moment, I hope, wouldn’t it? Because the news that Jesus is alive wasn’t their news or the Eleven’s news. The news that Jesus is alive is not Parkside’s news. The news that Jesus is alive belongs to all who are the Lord’s. And no matter what language we speak and what country we visit and what journey we take, we rejoice together in a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
What a night that must have been! Someone would’ve said for sure, “Let’s get a pizza.” I mean, not a… The first-century equivalent of a pizza. Someone said, “You want Domino’s? Is somebody gonna get it, or should we have it brought on the donkey?” “Not a donkey! I hate it when it comes on the donkey. It smells. No, we better go get it. But what we’re gonna to do, we’re going to stay up the whole night! Just the whole night. And we’re gonna have a celebration!”
Oh, what a time. I just… Fantastic. The women resisting the temptation, or maybe not resisting the temptation, to say every so often, “Well, we told you so. We were the first to see. We were there.” And the rehearsing of the events this way and that, and the two getting their story in: “Well, excuse me? Could we tell you what happened to us now?” “Uh, yeah. Okay, go ahead. Yeah, go on.” And how Jesus was recognized by them, and when they broke the bread, and the blissful, heartwarming, soul-stirring light that had shone into their darkness, and the life that had conquered death, and “We had hoped that he was, and now we’ve discovered he is,” that life is meaningful, and that meaning is found in Jesus, and this hope is not built on a fancy but on a fact, and all the apostles set out to proclaim the resurrection because there was nothing else they could do. The proof was far too compelling.
And here we are. Have we extended the invitation and welcomed Christ? Some of us have wandered away.
Where is the blessedness [that once] I knew
When first I [saw] the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his Word?
The risen Christ comes and stands at the door and knocks. It’s not an evangelistic text. When’s the last time that you extended an invitation to Jesus, who knows all about your troubles, all about your pains, all about your difficulties, all about the things that other people can’t know and can’t fix? Have you extended the invitation? Have you experienced the recognition? Are you enjoying the celebration? That’s really the test of whether we’re in Christ or not: invitation, recognition, celebration.
Well, let’s pray together.
Let’s just take a moment to respond to God’s Word in our own way. Some of us are young people here tonight, and we have actually never invited Jesus to come and take control of our lives, to forgive our sins, and to be our Savior and our friend. And we could do that even now, just where we’re seated. He hears our cries and he knows our hearts. He knows when we mean what we say.
Some of us have been longing to see Jesus in the humdrum affairs of our lives: in the laundry and in the journey to the office, in the conducting of our everyday routine. We pray, Lord, that our eyes might be opened and we might discover again that “birds with gladder songs o’erflow, and earth with a deeper beauty shines” when we are reminded again of who Jesus is and what he is to us.
And when we think of our gatherings and the things that we talk about that energize us and stir us, we have to confess that we often just sound like everybody else up the street: talking about our stuff, talking about our kids, talking about our vacations. Father, I pray that you will stir within us afresh as a church such an awareness of the presence of the risen Christ so that every time we gather, we will invite him to make himself known; that when the Word is preached, that we might come to recognize him in the opening up of Scripture; and in the reality of that, that we may celebrate all that it means to be born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. And this we pray for his name’s sake. Amen.
 Acts 16:15 (TLB).
 Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, New International Commentary on the New Testament (1950; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 635.
 Phillips Brooks, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (1867).
 Harry D. Clarke, “Into My Heart” (1924).
 Luke 24:16 (NIV 1984).
 John 20:17 (paraphrased).
 Acts 26:28 (paraphrased).
 See Isaiah 52:7.
 William Cowper, “Walking with God” (1772).
 See Revelation 3:20.
 George Wade Robinson, “I Am His, and He Is Mine” (1876). Lyrics lightly altered.
 See 1 Peter 1:3.
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.