Were Not Our Hearts Burning? A dramatic reading of the Emmaus story

This dramatic reading of the Emmaus story from Luke's gospel is intended to be incorporated into an evening service on Easter Sunday, It requires the following voices:

Evangelist (Narrator)
A Woman
A Choir

This saipt follows the NTV text of Luke 24:13-35, and incorporates Old Testament passages, as indicated. Small changes were made in the biblical text to encourage greater clarity in this dramatic reading.

The Evangelist should stand at the pulpit, Jesus and the two disciples at a lectern; the woman and the choir should be in a balcony or side aisle (away from the other readers).

Evangelist: Now on that first Easter Sunday two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. Jesus asked them,

Jesus: What are you discussing together as you walk along?

Evangelist: They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him,

Cleopas: Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and therefore do not know the things that have happened there in these past days?

Jesus: What things?

Disciple: About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.

Cleopas: The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him.

Disciple (sings, without accompaniment):
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

[PsH 377 PH102, TH 260; verses 1-3 combined]

Cleopas: But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is now the third day since all this took place.

Disciple: And further, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.

Woman (sings, without accompaniment, from some distance):
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

[PsH 377, PH 102, TH 260; verse 4]

Cleopas: Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.

Jesus: How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?

Evangelist: And beginning with the books of Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

[The following references and quotations are from Leviticus 4-7; Numbers 21:8-9; Isaiah 53:4-7; Psalm 22:1,7-8; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Psalm 118:22-24; and Luke 24:44, respectively.]

Jesus: Did you not understand what you were doing each time you brought a sin offering or a guilt offering, in accord with what Moses commanded you? Did you not realize that your offerings pointed to the great sacrifice that the Christ would make once for all? And remember how Moses raised a bronze snake in the wilderness and the people were saved. That was another sign of what was to happen to the Christ. And Isaiah said of the Christ,

"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."

Cleopas: "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Disciple: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter ..."

Jesus: And thus the Christ cried out with words from the Psalms which you know so well,

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Everyone mocked him at his death, in fulfillment of what was pictured of him in that same Psalm,

"All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let the LORD deliver him since he delights in him.'"

What the prophet Jeremiah said many years ago has now come true:

"The days are coming when I will raise up to David a righteous branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land."

Disciple: "In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety."

Cleopas: "This is the name by which he will be called: the LORD Our Righteousness."

Jesus: But righteousness and salvation were only possible through the death of the Christ. He was, according to another Psalm,

"the stone the builders had rejected but became the cornerstone. The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; therefore let us rejoice and be glad in it."

Thus everything must be fulfilled that is written about the Christ in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.
[brief pause]

Evangelist: As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly,

Cleopas: Stay with us, for it is nearly evening.

Disciple: Stay with us, for the day is almost over.

Evangelist: So Jesus went in to stay with them.

[Evangelist pauses momentarily as the choir begins to hum the tune to "Eat This Bread' (PsH 322), without accompaniment; during the humming the reading continues]

Evangelist: When he was at the table with them, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them.

Choir (no longer humming, but now singing):

Eat this bread, drink this cup;
come to Christ and never be hungry.
Eat this bread, drink this cup;
trust in Christ and you will not thirst.

[the choir continues humming the tune, during which the Evangelist resumes the reading]

Evangelist: Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but Jesus disappeared from their sight.

[After the choir stops humming, the reading continues.]

Cleopas: Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?

Evangelist: They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way to Emmaus, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Disciple (sings, without accompaniment, the refrain to PsH 402):

Alleluia, alleluia! Give thanks to the risen Lord.
Alleluia, alleluia! Give praise to his name.

Choir (continues the same song):

Spread the good news o'er all the earth:
Jesus has died and has risen.
Alleluia, alleluia! Give thanks ...
We have been crucified with Christ;
now we shall live forever.
Alleluia, alleluia! Give thanks ...

[PsH 402, PH106; verses 2 and 3]

[If the Lord's Supper is served after the dramatic reading, an appropriate hymn to sing during the distribution would be "As We Walk Along Beside You" (PsH 299).]

This dramatic reading was scripted by Bert Polman, professor of music at Redeemer College, Ancaster, Ontario, and organist at Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Waterdown, Ontario. • The hymns in this service were selected from the most recent editions of the following hymnals: The Psalter Hymnal (PsH), The Presbyterian Hymnal (PH), and the Trinity Hymnal (TH).

Bert Polman was a hymnologist, professor and chair of the music department at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He passed away in July 2013. 

Reformed Worship 26 © December 1992, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.