In an essay on IRR’s website, “Did Not Our Heart Burn within Us: Luke 24:32 and the Mormon Testimony,” I have argued that the “burning” of the disciples’ hearts was not the means by which the disciples became convinced of the truth of the gospel. Rather, they had experienced that “burning” feeling while still in a state of disbelief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What convinced them that Jesus had risen from the dead was God’s gracious “opening” of their eyes to recognize that it was Jesus who had physically appeared to them, talked with them, and broken bread with them (Luke 24:30-31, 35). They knew because they saw—and they saw because God graciously allowed them to see what was right in front of their eyes.
This explanation of Luke 24 receives interesting confirmation and support from a new article by Dane C. Ortlund, a Bible editor at Crossway Books. The article, “‘And Their Eyes Were Opened, and They Knew’: An Inter-canonical Note on Luke 24:31,” appears in the new issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (Vol. 53, No. 4, Dec. 2010), pages 717-28. Ortlund shows that the quoted statement by Luke alludes to Genesis 3:7, where the same statement is made about Adam and Eve’s eyes being “opened” when they ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ortund’s conclusion is worth quoting:
“The first eye-opening with its attendant knowledge ushered humanity into a new moral universe of darkness, exile, sin, and death. The second eye-opening with its attendant knowledge pulled back the eschatological curtain to allow Jesus’ distraught disciples to perceive that he himself had inaugurated the long-awaited new world of hope, resurrection, restoration, and new creation” (728).
Christians know that the gospel is true, not because they have a “burning” feeling in their hearts (something they may or may not experience), but because they perceive the truth that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.