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The Emmaus Transformation

“And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32).

Usually it is easy to tell.

There are the telltale signs that readily reveal a person’s frame of mind. You watch the youngster out in the winter cold shoveling the sidewalk. From the slouch of his shoulders to the doing-as-little-as-possible attitude, it is easy to conclude that he would rather be anywhere other than where he is. His negative attitude radiates through his lackluster actions.

On the other hand you might witness the retiree out in the summertime flowerbed. You hear her humming, see the hint of a smile playing about the corners of her mouth, while her hands busily make quick work of removing those stubborn and unwelcome weeds among her petunias and roses. You easily surmise that she is happy to be improving the appearance of her property.

Yes, it is usually quite easy to tell. A downcast—perhaps guilty, sad, or disappointed—frame of mind will be as readily obvious as a mindset of joy, happiness, forgiveness, or new life.

So it is no surprise to hear Jesus greet the two Emmaus-bound travelers the way He does. “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”(Luke 24:17). Any passer-by could tell that there was something on their hearts and minds from the disheartened drag of their feet, their slow gait, their downcast faces.

But what a difference a few hours made! Later in the evening, those same two were on their joyful return to Jerusalem. It was impossible to miss the transformation—their hearts and no doubt very tired feet were now full of joy and new energy as they looked forward to sharing their good news.

What had changed? Initially they had been under the mistaken impression that Jesus was not the One they had been looking for. The One they had hoped was the Messiah obviously wasn’t, because His life had been brought to an abrupt end at the hands of the merciless Romans. He had died on the cruel cross and had been buried three days previous.

But under the guiding hand and Gospel-directing words of none other than Jesus Himself, they had been led to see that what He had endured had been prophesied in Scripture. And further, that He Himself was actually alive from the dead, just as they had heard (and not believed) from the early morning reports of the women who had seen the empty tomb and heard from angels that He was alive.

They had been changed from the inside out. The fear and frustration that had first filled their hearts gave way to joy that was rooted in the Gospel good news of God’s grace. And it showed in their lives!

What is it that others see when they look at you and me? Do they see someone whose life attracts them, or someone whose whole demeanor repels them?

Certainly we want to be among those whose good works others see, so that they then “glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

But at the same time, “life happens.” We find ourselves failing in the battle against temptation, and dealing with the results of sin in this doomed-to-destruction world.

Let’s make it our prayer that the Lord would give us His aid—that He would direct us to His Word to see both the answer to sin in the crucified Christ and His gift of life to us in the empty tomb. And then as we faith-fully realize the Gospel given to us, we will respond with living that reveals our joy in the resurrection!

Paul Krause is pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Watertown, South Dakota, and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hidewood Township, South Dakota.