Our church is seeking to grow in our understanding and effectiveness in evangelism so I am teaching an eight-week class on practical evangelism and discipleship. Among several other texts, I am using Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by J. Mack Stiles. I received the book from attending the Together for the Gospel conference this year. Each Monday (I’m a day late this week), I will be posting a short summary of that week’s class. I hope it is helpful.
I mentioned last week that I would be talking about the Engel’s scale this week. Well, sitting in service right before our class time on Sunday it hit me suddenly that I had left all of my handouts for the class at home on my desk, which meant I could not teach on Engel’s scale. That was what the majority of my notes were on for that class. I had planned on briefly covering the Road to Emmaus portion of Luke 24 next week, but apparently the Lord saw fit that we would spend the whole class on that passage this past week. Thankfully, I had just taught on Luke 24 to the men’s discipleship group I lead at work. What follows is what came out on Sunday from Luke 24 without any notes.
By Luke 24:13, Jesus had resurrected and the women had come to the tomb to find it empty. Two disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem, which was about a seven mile walk. One of them was named Cleopas, but the other is not named. We don’t know when these two became disciples or the amount of exposure they had to Jesus and his teachings previously. Jesus comes and begins to walk along with them on this rather long walk that would have taken probably around half a day or more. These men were on a journey and Jesus joins them. Of course, they don’t know that the man who joined them was Jesus.
There is a principle here in that Jesus took the time to journey along with people. He had just resurrected and the first thing Luke records is that He went on a long walk with just two men. Our own dealings in discipleship should include this willingness to journey along with people in the long haul. That “walk” could be a great deal more than a day, that journey with someone could last years or even a lifetime. We need to be open to joining people in the little parts of their lives and being present with them. In that presence, we can be intentional as Jesus was.
Jesus begins talking with the two disciples as they walked along. He asks them to explain all that has been going on in Jerusalem. The two men are startled that their travelling companion has not heard about what has happened. They talk about Jesus from their understandings. Notice that they don’t completely have Jesus figured out as can be seen in verse 19. In fact, they are a little off in how they talk about Him. They don’t say Messiah or Son of God, but merely “a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” (Luke 24:19, ESV). Jesus allows them to say what they think about Jesus. He gives them space to be wrong, but to hash out what they think.
We can do the same. We can ask open-ended questions asking those that we are discipling to tell us what they think about God, Jesus, church, faith and so on. They are probably going to be wrong, just like we were when we were first figuring things out. It is important, to let people say where they are at in order to know where we need to start (see last weeks post). If Jesus allowed these disciples space to say what they thought, surely we can.
Of course, Jesus’ response to their thoughts is, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25, ESV). I’m not sure that is how we should respond to people after they have said what they think about Jesus, but I’m pretty sure Jesus can get away with that since He is God. There is a sense that we are calling people fools indirectly by explaining the truth to them, but we may not want to lead with calling everyone a fool that we disciple. Nevertheless, I will let you work that out with the Spirit as He leads.
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27, ESV). There are two important things from this verse: Jesus explains himself to them from the scriptures and Jesus explains himself to them from the scriptures. If Jesus relies on the scriptures to give the truth to someone, so should we. And if Jesus points to Jesus when He shares truth, then so should we. This is how we bring correction to someone’s walk with the Lord. We do it with the scriptures and by focusing on Jesus.
After they had been walking and Jesus had worked through the scriptures with them, they invite Him to keep going with them. They feel drawn to Him through their encounter, I would say not just because He is Jesus incarnate, but because He showed them the Christ from the scriptures. In our own discipleship encounters, I think an invitation to keep going is important. There has to be a desire on both sides to keep going in a discipleship relationship. Essentially, Jesus met with them, heard where they were coming from and what they knew about God, and then responded to where they were at by showing them the Christ in the scriptures. It was at that point that they needed to decide if they wanted to keep going, which they of course do.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that they recognize Jesus when He blessed and broke the bread (v 30-31). These two disciples were not mentioned to have been at the Last Supper, but perhaps they knew about it or knew the significance of the event. We are not told particularly why they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread but just that they did. Of course for us as Christian readers we associate the breaking of the bread with communion, which is a part of our worship. It seems to me that through this experience these two disciples have with Jesus, that the rhythm of their discipleship with Him climaxed in worship. I say this both by their recognition of Him through the breaking of the bread and by their saying, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32, ESV). Isn’t that a response of worship?
We can integrate worship into our discipleship relationships by folding those people that we disciple into a local body of believers. It may not be our particular church, but they should be a part of a church. Also I think that worship can, does and should happen within discipleship relationships be it through prayer together, singing together and/or just proclaiming the goodness of God to one another. Like our lives should rise to worship each day and then through each week to the Lord’s day, so should our discipleship relationships.
Next week will be the final week of the class. I plan on covering Engel’s scale as long as I don’t forget the handouts. I will also be covering a few things on follow-up from Stiles and other concluding thoughts.