Encountering Christ At His Table

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Now that Halloween is officially upon us, it’s an appropriate time to talk about a phrase that gets tossed around this time of year. That phrase is hocus pocus.
So let’s take a fun quiz, ok? I’m going to give you five possibilities of what hocus pocus might mean. Raise your hand when you think I’m on the right answer.
Hocus pocus is:
A. A river in far southwestern Cleveland County
B. The name of a 1972 model Chevrolet
C. A chant or magical formula
D. A book of the Bible
E. The Lord’s Supper
Most people are going with letter C. We think of a zombie-like character standing over a magical brew stirring it and whispering hocus pocus. Or something like that. It’s usually used in reference to magical formulas or chants.
But as far as the origin of the phrase goes, the correct answer is E. Yes, the phrase hocus pocus comes from the Lord’s Supper.
In the Catholic church, centuries ago, the priests would conduct the service in Latin. And when they would read Matthew 26:26 where Jesus says “Take, eat, this is my body”, they read it in Latin. When you read “this is my body in Latin,” it sounds like this: hoc est corpus meum. This is what the priests would read and this is what the people would hear.
But they’re reading it in Latin. And by the middle ages, nobody spoke Latin. The people couldn’t understand what they were hearing. And over time, the people’s frustration with not being able to understand what the priests were saying kind of led to this half-mocking, half-serious attempt to say it themselves. So over many, many years, hoc est corpus meum became hocus pocus.
You can Google this to check me. It is just one theory. But here’s the point: for too long, ordinary Christians have not really understood what the Lord’s Supper is all about.
Our text this morning, Luke 24:13-35, shows us a very important, but forgotten, aspect of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus invites us to His table that we might know Him better.

Scene 1: From Jerusalem to Emmaus

Scene one, from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
To break this down, notice with me first that the two disciples are going. They are going. Verse 13: “That very day” — what day? Easter. People are talking. There are rumors that Jesus has risen. On this day the women went to the tomb and said they found it empty. Jerusalem is about to be turned upside down because Jesus of Nazareth who on Friday was crucified today is risen.
Yet these two disciples are going away from Jerusalem. “That very day two of them” — two disciples, not two of the 12, but two other disciples whom we know nothing more about other than one of them is named Cleopas — “two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.”
Now Emmaus is seven miles from Jerusalem. That’s exactly the distance from here to Fallston.
But they aren’t just going. They are talking as they go. What about? Verse 14: “And they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.” All these things being the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth, his betrayal, his trial, his sentencing, his beatings, and finally His crucifixion.
The word Luke uses to describe their talking is a word that means “to throw back and forth”, like a game of catch [LN; NTGED]
“Why did Jesus die?” “Well, some say he didn’t die; some say he’s risen.”
“Well, if He’s risen, where is he?” “I don’t know, but the women said they found his tomb empty.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe the body was stolen.”
“I’d really like to believe that it means something, that it means He’s risen.”
“I get that, but where’s the evidence?” Back and forth and back and forth, and so on.
As they are going and as they are talking, they are suddenly visited. They’re walking along the path from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Someone catches up with them from behind, going faster than they were so he could reach them and converse with them.
The person is Jesus of Nazareth, the very One they are discussing. But there’s an important detail here. If you underline in your Bibles, verse 16 is the verse to underline. So verse 16 says “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” That’ll be important so keep that in your mind.
They are going, talking, visited and next the two disciples are questioned. They are questioned. Notice how Jesus draws them out. “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24:17 ESV). The two disciples immediately look past Him to each other. Is this guy for real? Does He really not know? Verse 18: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” His execution wasn’t private. It was very much a public event in the huge city of Jerusalem.
This would be like someone in New York City asking another New Yorker on September 12, 2001, “Hey, did something happen here yesterday?” [LGC p522]
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus simply says, “What things?”
Now at this point, Jesus could have revealed Himself. “Guys, it’s me. Just kidding!”Jesus is being very intentional. He knows His disciples are struggling. And rather than heal their wound quickly and superficially, he wants to draw them out and show them the root of their problem and help them to grow.
Jesus knows what He’s doing because as soon as He asks that question, no sooner have the words left His mouth and His disciples reveal the depth of their pain.
You can see the depth of their disappointment in two places.
First, they stop walking. Some emotions are so intense that they take over. They stop because they are overcome with emotion.
Second, they look like they are grieving. Talking about what has happened over the last three days — they want to talk about it, but it’s painful to dredge it up.
Sometimes we rush past the disciples’ grief because in the end we know Jesus is risen; in the end we know that their sorrow turns to joy.
But they had suffered a loss — to many of them Jesus had become their closest friend. They loved Him. They had come to trust Him. They were attempting to obey Him and follow Him and be like Him. All their hopes and dreams for this life and the next were in Him. And even though He warned them over and over that this would happen, still they weren’t ready for it and it took them by surprise.
But they regain their composure; they try to hold back their tears as they describe what happened: Look there with me at verses 19-24:
“What things?”, Jesus asked. “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed...”
[SLIDE: LUKE 24:19-24 ESV]
Luke 24:19–24 ESV
And 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, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But 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. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and 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. 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.”
Now here’s what we have to understand. When the disciples say, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel”, here’s what we are to hear them saying: “We had hoped that he was the one who would finally show us that God actually cares about us, that He has not forgotten about us. [Morris TCNT p357]
The Israelites had been under foreign occupation for centuries. First Babylon, then Persia, then Greece, now Rome. And God had not spoken to Israel for 400 years. “Whatever happened to God’s promises? Has He forgotten us?” “Where are you, God? Where is the promised Messiah? Is this all a joke? Are you there? Do you care about us?” All that is bound up in the statement “We had hoped that He was the One who was going to redeem Israel.”
Where are you, God? Have you ever asked that question?
You see, we know all the right facts about Jesus. We’re like these two disciples in that way. We might say that they have correct convictions. They can rattle off the bullet points in their sleep: Jesus came, He lived, He served, He was arrested, He was convicted then sentenced, beaten, crucified and buried.
Their doctrine is sound. So is ours. They have good theology. So do we. And still, they have no hope, and often, we don’t either.
But here’s where it really gets interesting. If Jesus had asked them, “What’s your main problem right now?”, they would probably say, “we just told you. It’s that Jesus is dead, although we hoped He would be the One to redeem us.” In other words, if you asked the disciples what is causing them pain on this particular day, they would point to their circumstances as the cause.
If you were to ask us on a day when we feel disappointed, “Hey, what’s your main problem? What is the source of your unhappiness?”, we would probably blame our circumstances. “Oh man, there’s just not enough money to pay the bills.” “My wife and I are fighting.” “Our kids are out of control.” “Our politicians have wrecked this country.” When we’re sad, we blame our circumstances.
But Jesus is the Great Physician. He sees straight through the pain to the root cause [Michael Wilcox, The Message of Luke, ed. John R. Stott, p208] — what is that cause? Verse 25: “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”
The two disciples were going, talking, visited, questioned, rebuked, and next, they are schooled. Here’s the most important verse in the whole text and one of the most important and in whole NT. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” And here it is, verse 26: “Was it not necessary” — note that word — it had to be — it couldn’t be otherwise — “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26 ESV).
Jesus is saying, “Guys, if you had read your Bibles, and believed what you saw there, if you read the Scriptures and accepted them by faith and accepted what they say about me, you would not be having this crisis. Because, after all, the Scriptures — the law and the prophets — they all point to me. I’m the main character of that book. And if you had looked closely, you would have seen that it was necessary that the Messiah had to suffer, and only then, only after that suffering, He would enter His glory.”
They are going, talking, visited, rebuked, schooled, and lastly, they are preached at! “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27 ESV).
He shows them how Adam points forward to Jesus, how Abraham and Moses point to Jesus, how the sacrifices and the temple point them to Jesus.
He shows them how David points forward to Jesus, and the same with Solomon and Hezekiah and Josiah — the righteous kings, the good kings who pointed forward to the better King.
He does the same with the bad kings, the terrible kings, like Ahab and Manasseh, how by their wickedness they created the longing for true and better King Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.
All of these things, all of these people, all of these institutions in the OT — all of them in their own unique way are roadsigns pointing us to the One who is to come.
That’s scene one. Now the lights go up on scene two.

Scene 2: With Jesus At His Table

What will the two disciples do with this knowledge? Has it had any impact on them? Will they be changed at all by it? How has it helped them?
There was a man by the name of James A. Pike. James A. Pike was a Bible historian and a pastor. He set out one day for Jerusalem with his wife. He was writing a book about Jesus and he wanted to go walk where Jesus walked. Unfortunately, he and his wife got lost in the desert of Judea, and the heat was too much for Mr. Pike and he died.
You know what irony is? That’s irony — a Bible scholar who traveled to Jerusalem because he was researching a book on Jesus not only walked where Jesus walked but ended up dying there too.
The irony was not lost on Time Magazine who wrote a story about him, the man who perished in the wilderness of the Judean desert, looking for Jesus.” Back in the US, a man reading the story in Time Magazine said, “Yes, and to think that he could have found him in California.” [G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, p170]
Well, the disciples in this story in Luke 24 don’t know that Jesus is right there with them, either. That’s by Jesus’ own doing, and He wants it to continue a little longer because He’s not quite finished with them yet. So when they get to Emmaus, finally, Jesus is invited to come in with them, and have dinner. The ancient world was big on hospitality.

1. Their eyes are opened at the Lord’s Table

And that’s where the disciples finally recognize Him. But notice where they recognize him and how. Their eyes are opened at the Lord’s table.
Verse 30: “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” Almost identical to the language of the Lord’s Supper. Notice what happens when Jesus breaks the bread and blesses it and gives it to them, verse 31: “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.” Now look down at verse 35: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Their eyes are opened at the Lord’s table — but that happens as they remember how His teaching kindled their hearts.

#2: They recall how His teaching kindled their hearts

With Jesus gone, now the two disciples can reflect. He vanishes, leaving the two disciples with whatever crowd in Emmaus they were visiting. You can see them looking at each other across the table. “What just happened?”
Finally one of them speaks. Verse 32: “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:32 ESV).
Look at that sentence again. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” What was their experience? Their hearts were burning. Call it passion, or emotion, or feelings, whatever. Their hearts were on fire spiritually. What they were hearing from Jesus was stirring their affections, satisfying their hunger to hear from God and at the same time causing them to want to know even more.
And what was it that caused the response? What was Jesus saying to them? What was the content of his speech? The disciples say it was the word. The Scriptures. “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Church, there is only one source of spiritual fire — the word of God, the Bible, the Scriptures.
Are you spiritually dry, walking through a spiritual desert? The answer is the preaching of the word.
Has your love for God grown cold? What you need is the preaching word.
Are you struggling with doubt? The answer is the preaching of the word.
Is our church apathetic? The answer is the preaching of the word.
Does our church need to grow spiritually, numerically? The answer is the preaching of the word.
And the apostle Paul says “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16 ESV). It is the gospel, the word itself, that carries power to save the sinner — it is not dependent on the skills of the preacher. God’s power will not be limited by any man. The word convicts, the word saves, the word sanctifies, the word challenges, the word comforts, the word clarifies and gives vision, the word illuminates, the word kindles our hearts.
So two things emerge from this story: our problem is not our circumstances, our problem is unbelief. The solution is have our hearts burning for Christ again. The means is the preached word of God, and attended with God’s own power to save us and change us.
There is one more tool that God has in his toolbox for kindling our hearts aflame, besides the preaching of the word of the Lord. And that is the table of the Lord. The word and the supper belong together. The word of the Lord and the table of the Lord belong together.
Did you notice when it was that the disciples finally recognized who it was that had been walking with them the whole time? I want you to see it for yourselves. Look with me at verses 30-31 again: “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”
We are supposed to read this and think, “He’s talking about the Lord’s Supper! Jesus will reveal Himself to us in a special way at the Supper.” He wants us to come to the table expectantly.
Their eyes are opened at the table as they remember how His teaching kindled their hearts.

Scene 3: To Jerusalem With Hope

They leave with hope restored. They call an Uber camel and travel back to Jerusalem. Three things happen when they get there.
First, they gather.

They gather

They gathered for the same reason we gather. They needed strength. They needed fellowship with each other. They gathered because they needed to know and be reassured that Jesus was alive and that this was all real. They gather.

They rejoice

If they left with hope restored, they arrive in Jerusalem with their hope confirmed. Others have seen Jesus since they’ve been gone. He has appeared to Simon.
They gather, they rejoice, they tell.

They tell

The two disciples sum up their life-changing experience. “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35 ESV).

Call for response

Our problem is not our circumstances, our problem is unbelief. The solution is have our hearts burning for Christ again. One way we do that is by the preached word of God. And other is the Lord’s Supper. The word and the supper belong together. Jesus makes Himself known to us in both.
Pastor Tony Evans says that his momma used to have a saying around the dinner table that warned him against misbehaving at dinner. “Don’t play at the table.” [Evans p66]
The Lord’s Supper is a serious thing. Don’t play at the table.
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, you should not participate in this Lord’s Supper.
You should confess your sins to God and seek His forgiveness as the elements are passed. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what you need to confess.
If you have ongoing conflict with someone in this room that is not resolved, you should not leave here today until you try to do what you can from your end to make it right. Not because God is angry with you — but because you love Him and you want to honor Him this morning.
Confess your sins, receive God’s forgiveness, ask for His help to live a life of holiness, commit to it again now, and then come to the table and encounter Christ. He is known in the breaking of the bread.
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