Walk with Jesus: The Road to Emmaus as a Picture of Whole-Life Discipleship

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Daniel BonnellRoad to Emmaus I; 2011.

The story begins like this: Jesus was arrested and His followers fled. He was tried and killed by crucifixion. His body was taken from the Cross by Joseph of Arimathea, who was a wealthy, secret follower of Jesus. The disciples scattered at Jesus’ arrest, but returned to one another in a gathering place in Jerusalem. Some women went to the tomb to care for Jesus’ body, but the body wasn’t there. They talked about angelic presences that informed them Jesus had risen from the grave. But it seemed so hard to believe, most of the others remained skeptical. Later the same day on which the women visited the empty tomb, two disciples walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a town west by northwest from Jerusalem. 

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?”

Look again at that phrase: “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.” (Luke 24:15). If we look at this story as an image of discipleship it reminds us that discipleship is primarily walking with and in the way of Jesus.

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Discipleship means to apprentice to someone, or to take someone on as a teacher. Jewish rabbis often invited their disciples – or apprentices – to follow in their steps, or walk in their way. This was more about taking on the approach to life of their teacher or master. 

Because of that, discipleship in the New Testament is often described as walking. We see this in Ephesians, when several times, Paul writes things like “walk worthy of your calling” (Eph 4:1) or “walk in the good works that God commanded ahead of time” (2:10). The Greek word περιπατέω literally relates to walking, but became a metaphor for living life under a certain leader’s way of life and teaching. For Christians, this means experientially walking with the Risen Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit but also walking in the way of life that Jesus modeled and opened to us through His life, death, and resurrection.

As these two disciples walk on their way, Jesus comes to walk with them. The way of discipleship – growing as a follower of Jesus – is essentially learning the way of Jesus. We invite Him to walk with us in our lives; sometimes, even recognizing that He is walking with us when we didn’t realize it. Discipleship means letting the everyday context of our lives become a setting in which we increasingly walk with Him and walk like Him; that is, we live with Jesus and learn His ways.

When we say the word discipleship, it is not primarily about a curriculum or about a book or about certain activities. Rather, we learn in the ordinary context of our daily life to walk with Jesus and in the way of Jesus. When we go to the store, we learn to walk with and in the way Jesus. When we go to our workplace or school, we learn to walk with and in the way Jesus. When we enjoy conversations with others, we learn to walk with and in the way Jesus.  Day by day, we grow as disciples, not just in the religious sphere of our lives, but in the totality of our lives. Jesus is not that interested in one slice of the pie of our lives called “church,” but in revolutionizing all of our lives as we walk with Him and grow in His way of being truly human. This is what discipleship is all about.

Growing Disciples

As we continued our “Roots” series this past weekend at Eastbrook Church we looked at what it means to be a disciple, grow as a disciple, and invite others to discipleship. To do that, I walked through the memorable story of Jesus appearing to two disciples along the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. I discussed how disciples walk with Jesus, hear from Jesus, burn for Jesus, and speak about Jesus.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.

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God’s words falling into us

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In his book A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer relates an old Hasidic tale that examines the tension between the limitations within our current reality and the possibility of our hearts opening into a new reality.

He writes:

The pupil comes to the rebbe and asks, “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon your hearts’? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?” The rebbe answers, “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks, and the words fall in.”

I find this to be so true in my life. How often there come moments where God mysteriously opens my heart to receive transformationally in new ways truths of His word that I have known intellectually for quite some time.

It is valuable to store up God’s words in our heart, but sometimes, they may merely rest on top of our hearts. May God give us grace to have hearts open to His word in such a way that His word comes into the deep places of our souls, transforming us into the fellowship of the burning heart. We may say, as the disciples did after their walk with the risen Christ along the Emmaus road, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

The First Day: a poem

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On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. (Luke 24:1)

the first day:
walking with heavy loads and burdened hearts
to the place His breathless body lay.
every hour seemed so still
since that dark day.

but now, the first day:
their hesitating procession to the tomb
finds the place, but not Him;
and aching emptiness
meets anger’s anxiety.

yet, on the first day
two men send shivers of loud light
mingled with a message:
‘He’s alive like a new day’s dawning!’
and they remember His words.

this first day is the third day
that sends the dark day running.

[This is a poem I wrote as part of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]

Unbelievable Words

Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. (Luke 24:12a)

unbelievable words move me,
send my heart shivering.
could this be what He meant,
or is it the nonsense of grieving hearts?
in that reeling moment,
suddenly i am running to the tomb,
leaning in, and looking at the
empty linen strips.
His body gone, but no angels for me;
none for me who left Him to die.
i feel so alone and confused,
like a soul in exile from the world.
what can all this mean?
what did Jesus mean?
were these all unbelievable words?

[This is the eighth in a group of original poems composed for Holy Week.]

From Confusion to Understanding (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “From Confusion to Understanding,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the second part of our series “The Kingdom Life.” The text for this week is from Luke 24:13-35.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When did you have a spiritual breakthrough in your life of understanding who Jesus was? What happened?
  2. This weekend we continue “The Kingdom Life” series by looking at Luke 24:13-35. Begin your study in prayer and then read that passage aloud.
  3. How would you describe the situation of the two men traveling to Emmaus from Jerusalem (24:13-18)?
  4. How does Jesus engage in conversation with them (24:17, 19)? Why might this be important?
  5. What stands out to you about their summary of the situation of recent days (24:19-24)?
  6. Have you ever experienced doubt, grief, or confusion that lead you to question God’s work in your life? How did you deal with that?
  7. Jesus’ teaching takes them through the entire Hebrew Bible (‘Moses and all the Prophets’ was used as a summary term for all the Bible). Take a moment to reflect on passages from the Bible that draw attention to Jesus:
  • Genesis 49:8-12
  • Deuteronomy 18:14-22
  • 2 Samuel 7:11-16
  • Psalm 118
  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 53:1-12
  • Zechariah 9:9-17
  • Daniel 7:13-14
  1. Jesus agrees to stay with these two disciples for a meal, but things change drastically in this situation. What happens?
  2. Recognition is an important theme in this passage, both in 24:16 and 24:31. What do you think the purposes of God were in delaying the recognition of Jesus here?
  3. What is one way that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, discuss this together.

Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we arranged a weekday reading plan through this series. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Monday, Apr 24        Luke 24:13-35
Tuesday, Apr 25        Mark 16:1-14
Wednesday, Apr 26  John 20:10-18
Thursday, Apr 27      Luke 24:36-43
Friday, Apr 28            John 20:19-23

From Confusion to Understanding

This weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series, “The Kingdom Life,” which looks at some key teachings of Jesus in light of the resurrection.  This second message in the series, “From Confusion to Understanding,” explores the powerful and mysterious story of Jesus’ conversation with two disciples on the road to Emmaus from Luke 24:13-35.

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Also, you are welcome to join in with the daily reading plan for this series.

 

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