A selection from this week's resources to help you plan and run a Bible study.
Welcome and opening prayer (5 mins)
A prayer of approach
Risen Saviour, risen Lord,
we come to you today.
We come to share in your story.
We come to feast with you.
We approach your throne with the knowledge
that you died for us and rose again.
Hallelujah, risen Lord Jesus.
Read the text (10 mins)
Consider different ways to read the text. For example, sharing parts between several readers, or hearing it more than once using different versions, or using/adapting this suggestion.
Present the Gospel
Set up a table and chairs at one side of the front of the space, with some bread (ideally, flatbread) on a plate on the table.
While the passage is read, three actors mime the slow walk to Emmaus, beginning as far as possible from the table, and walking round or through the building (as appropriate) – they mime talking too!
At verse 28, they mime urging Jesus to stay, and then all sit down at the table. At verse 30, Jesus takes the bread, holds it up, breaks and shares it – then immediately and without any fuss, leaves.
The remaining two run back to where they started, wave their arms about, and mime talking excitedly to whoever is nearby.
Explore and respond to the text (30 mins)
Use the Bible notes as a way into Bible study. For example, you could read a section, then allow time for people to discuss issue raised and respond.
New Testament: Acts 2.14a,36-41
Peter concludes his open-air sermon with a strong statement about the identity of Jesus: ‘God has made him both Lord and Messiah’, and a hard-hitting accusation: ‘this Jesus whom you crucified’ (v.36). Events in Jerusalem before the Passover may have convinced members of this very crowd that Jesus was a rabble-rousing, blaspheming troublemaker who needed to be crucified to maintain peace with the Romans and a proper respect for their faith.
Jesus’ resurrection disproves this assessment: God raised Jesus from the dead, showing clearly that their whole understanding of God’s will had been wrong. How could they get it so wrong? They ask the anguished question, ‘What should we do?’ (v.37). Peter’s answer is surprising – he does not tell them to go away in sackcloth and ashes, but to be baptized and then they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a promise for all who hear God’s call. Peter gives them an urgent yet open invitation.
New Testament: 1 Peter 1.17-23
The writer continues to encourage his readers by changing their understanding of their sufferings. He evokes two aspects of Jewish culture and shared memory – the exile, and the practice of ritual sacrifice. ‘The time of your exile’ was originally the time in Babylon after Judah had been conquered (587/6–538 BC). ‘Exile’ thus becomes shorthand for living in a hostile environment while holding true to the faith (e.g. in the stories of Daniel).
So, the readers are being encouraged to understand their sufferings as caused by being God’s people in a hostile context, but also to have hope that, just like the original exile, theirs is temporary – they have an eternal home with God, and they are not living outside God’s care. They are secure because they have been ransomed with the blood of Christ, who can be pictured as resembling the perfect sacrificial animal. The cleansing he brings is not temporary but resembles a new birth. How are they to live in the light of this? With reverent fear for God, who judges all impartially and with genuine mutual love.
Gospel Luke 24.13-35
In Luke’s Gospel, the risen Jesus makes his first appearance during this 10 to 12 kilometre walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Two disappointed and heartsick disciples are making their way home when Jesus himself comes and walks beside them. Their eyes are kept (literally, ‘held back’) from recognising him. We are not told who or what prevents them from knowing – it could be God’s direct action, or the trauma they have experienced in witnessing his death, or a combination of both.
Jesus asks them what they have been talking about as they walked along, and there follows the almost comical scene of Cleopas and his companion recounting the story of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ to – Jesus of Nazareth! When he first asks them, though, they stand still ‘looking sad’, as if the horror of recent events has sapped all their energy. The word for ‘sad’ here could also be translated ‘angry’. Either way, they are overcome with deep emotion and say, ‘We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.’ ‘Redeeming Israel’ could mean freeing Israel from Roman rule, but it could also indicate more far-reaching hopes, such as the idea that the Messiah would end all wars or bring about the end of time. Whatever they were hoping for, it all seems lost now.
Then the unrecognised Jesus begins to reframe their experience by explaining to them, from the Scriptures, that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer; it was in God’s plan and not a terrible accident. It is as if this unknown teacher takes their isolated beads of knowledge and re-strings them into a different sequence revealing a new pattern. Their hearts burn within them as they listen to him. It is this new knowledge, plus their own generous hospitality, that paves the way for the moment when they recognise him in the breaking of the bread.
The links between the lectionary readings
These readings encourage us to consider that we might have got things wrong and jumped to false conclusions. The crowd in Jerusalem had previously assumed that Jesus was a troublemaker; the readers of 1 Peter perhaps felt alone in meaningless suffering; the disciples on the road had assumed that Jesus was finished. All these thoughts were overturned by the reality of the resurrection.
For more discussion ideas, and practical and active ways to explore and respond to the readings, choose from: Sermon ideas; Active worship; Picture pointers; or PostScript.
Pray together (10 mins)
Prayers of intercession
we bring to you the needs of the world.
We pray for those who consider themselves to be strangers
Help us always to welcome the stranger, whatever the cost,
not sitting comfortably and ignoring people we think
don’t fit in,
not taking the easy way.
May our homes and churches be places of welcome,
hospitality and love,
that all may have the chance to recognise and see you
in the warmth of those around them.
We pray for countries where food is in short supply.
May we farm sustainably and eat sensibly,
so there is enough to feed the whole planet.
May we not look only after ourselves but seek to offer
the same opportunities to all.
Help us not to be selfish, but always to consider others.
Lord, we long for the day when all in society will be equal.
May we be a part of making that happen.
We pray for those who are lonely and have no one
to eat with them.
May we open our doors to our neighbours, so that love
and friendship can flourish, and all can enjoy the feast.
We ask in Jesus’ name.
End the session (5 mins)
A sending out prayer
as you walked on the road to Emmaus,
walk with us on the roads we travel.
Help us to know your presence with us,
and to be your presence to others.
And, at the end of the day,
may we all enjoy your feast.
Live your faith
Look for the chance to spend time with someone you don’t know so well, and pray for an opportunity to share a story of what Jesus has done for you.