Do you ever think about your heart? Have you ever considered all the different phrases in English which use the heart: “Eat your heart out!” “Have a heart!” “My heart bleeds” “Follow your heart” “A change of heart,” “Having a heart to heart” “Have your heart set” “In your heart of hearts” “Learnt something by heart” “Lose heart” “Pour your heart out” “Wear your heart on your sleeve” “A heavy heart”
It’s not that your heart makes decisions for you or remembers things – that’s your brain.
And you don’t misplace your heart or literally pour it out of your body like water, nor indeed have it strapped to your arm!
And your heart doesn’t actually gain weight.
But in our story we meet two people who have heavy hearts, sad hearts, slow hearts. But their encounter with Jesus leaves their hearts burning.
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 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.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 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?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
It starts with two dejected figures walking and talking. How much we miss being able to visit friends, to go for aimless walks to chat and catch up. Zoom conversations have replaced face-to-face heart-to-hearts. But do you notice that this couple are joined by a silent listening stranger.
Think back over the last few weeks, how does it feel to think that Jesus has been a silent stranger listening to your conversations? Does that bring comfort or discomfort?
What’s encouraging is the way Jesus comes to these two as they are. He doesn’t wait until they’re perfect, or have the right theology, or show more faith; he comes to them in their grief, confusion and disappointment. Jesus knows that we are all struggling with frustration, stress and anxiety at the moment. He has heard our frustrated arguments and bitter complaints – but he still comes.
But he doesn’t leave them in their sorrow, in fact he uses some strong language to encourage them to ‘take heart!’ Have you ever realised that the word ‘encourage’ simply means – “to put courage into,” and courage means ‘brave heart.’ So Jesus comes to them and wants to put a brave heart into them – and into us. And this he does, but pointing them to the truth in the Bible and the reality of his risen life.
Have you found time to read the Bible more during the shutdown? Could you put a bit more time aside for this valuable discipline, which gives us confidence and courage? If you don’t know where to start you could have a look at the Spring Harvest YouTube channel which is providing some material for homes https://www.youtube.com/user/SpringHarvest
Jesus is invited into their home – something we can all do. And once there, Jesus quickly takes the opportunity at mealtime to reveal his true nature. One of the sorrows in the shutdown is not sharing Communion together. But why don’t you share stories at meal times about faith and belief. Could you create a small act of remembrance at a meal using “bread” and “wine”?
Ultimately, the couple’s hearts are transformed – they are set ablaze by an encounter with Jesus. He meets them and walks with them as they are. He then encourages them by opening up the Bible, and revealing himself in worship. Ask for this same encounter with the risen Jesus.
Draw a small heart on your hand as a reminder of this story. Or keep a stone in your heart – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)