Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Biblical Illustrator The Biblical Illustrator
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ luke-24.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
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Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre
The first Easter morning
The realm of nature a symbol of the realm of grace.
1. The gloomy night.
2. The much-promising dawn.
3. The breaking day. (Van Oosterzee.)
The first pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre
1. How mournful they go thither.
2. How joyful they return. (Van Oosterzee.)
How on Easter morning it began to be bright--
1. In the garden.
2. In human hearts.
3. Over the cross.
4. For the world.
5. In the realm of the dead. (Van Oosterzee.)
The first rays of the glory of Christ in the dawn of the Easter morning.
1. The stone rolled away.
2. The glittering angels.
3. The hastening women. (Arndt.)
The open grave
The open grave of the Risen One--
1. An arch of His triumph.
2. A bow of peace denoting heavenly favour and grace.
3. A door of life for the resurrection of our spirit and our body. (Hofacker.)
Easter among the graves
1. The stone of the curse Ye rolled away therefrom.
2. There dwell angels therein.
3. The dead are gone out therefrom. (Rantenberg.)
The Easter festival
A festival of--
1. The most glorious joy.
2. The most glorious victory.
3. The most glorious faith.
4. The most glorious hope. (Schmid.)
The Lord’s Day
Stations on the line of your journey are not your journey’s end, but each one brings you nearer. A haven is not home; but it is a place of quiet and rest, where the rough waves are stayed. A garden is a piece of common land, and yet it has ceased to be common land; it is an effort to regain paradise. A bud is not a flower, but it is the promise of a flower. Such are the Lord’s Days; the world’s week tempts you to sell your soul to the flesh and the world. The Lord’s Day calls you to remembrance, and begs you rather to sacrifice earth to heaven and time to eternity, than heaven to earth and eternity to time. The six days not only chain you as captives of the earth, but do their best to keep the prison doors shut, that you may forget the way out. The Lord’s Day sets before you an open door. Samson has carried the gates away. The Lord’s Day summons you to the threshold of your house of bondage to look forth into immortality--your immortality. The true Lord’s Day is the eternal life; but a type of it is given to you on earth, that you may be refreshed in the body with the anticipation of the great freedom wherewith the Lord will make you free. (J. Pulsford.)
Why seek ye the living among the dead?--
The living not among the dead
I. THE FACT ANNOUNCED BY THE ANGEL IS, AS WE CAN SEE WHEN WE LOOK BACK ON IT, AMONG THE BEST ATTESTED IN HUMAN HISTORY. For forty days the apostles continually saw Jesus Christ risen, touched Him, spoke with Him, ate add drank with Him as before His death. They staked everything upon this fact. It was to them a fact of experience. One or two people may be hallucinated, but not a multitude. A large number of people will not easily be so swayed by a single interest or a single passion as to believe simultaneously in a story that has no foundation in fact.
II. The fact of the resurrection is the ground of THE REMONSTRANCE of the angels with the holy women--“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” But is this question applicable only to them during that pause when they felt the shock of the empty tomb? Let us consider.
1. First of all, then, it would seem that we may literally seek the living among the dead if we seek Christ in a Christianity, so termed, which denies the resurrection. If Christ’s body never left the grave, if it has somewhere mingled with the dust of earth, then, however we may be attracted by His moral teaching, we have no ground for hoping in Him as our Redeemer: there is nothing to prove that He was the Son of God in the way He pointed out, or that He has established any new relation between earth and heaven.
2. But nearly the same thing may happen in cases where the resurrection is not denied, but, nevertheless, men fail to see what habits of thought about our Lord it involves. His life is continued on among us; only its conditions are changed. “Lo, I am with you alway,” etc. “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” To think of Him as only one of the great teachers of the world, who have come and disappeared, is to lose sight of the significance of His resurrection from the grave; it is to rank Him in thought with men whose eminence has not saved them from the lot of mortality, and whose dust has long since mouldered in the tomb. It is to lose sight of the line which parts the superhuman from the human. It is to seek the living among the dead.
3. Yet more literally do we seek the living among the dead, if without formally rejecting Christianity we give the best of our thought, of our heart, of our enthusiasm, to systems of thought, or to modes of feeling, which Jesus Christ has set aside.
4. We may not be tempted in these ways to seek the living among the dead teachers or dead elements of old or untrustworthy ways of thinking. But there is a risk of our doing so, certainly not less serious and very much more common, to which we are all exposed. As you know, our Lord’s resurrection is a moral as well as an intellectual power. While it convinces us of the truth of Christianity it creates in us the Christian life. We are risen with Christ. The moral resurrection of Christians is a fact of experience. Resurrection from the grip of bad habits, from the charnel-house of bad passions, resurrection from the enervation, corruption, and decay of bad thoughts, bad words, bad deeds, to a new life with Christ, to the life of warm and pure affections, the life of a ready and vigorous will, of a firm and buoyant hope, of a clear strong faith, of a wide and tender charity. But, as a matter of fact, how do we risen Christians really act? We fall back, willingly or wilfully, into the very habits we have renounced. Our repentance is too often like the Lent of Louis the Fourteenth; it is a paroxysm, followed, almost as a matter of course, by the relapse of Easter. To do the great French monarch justice, he did not expect to find Christ’s presence in sin and worldliness, as do they who complain of the intellectual difficulties of faith and prayer, while their lives are disposed of in such a manner, that it would be wonderful indeed if faith and prayer could escape suffocation in that chaos of everything save the things which suggest God. (Canon Liddon.)
Christ, a quickening Spirit
1. Observe how Christ’s resurrection harmonizes with the history of His birth. Others have all been born in sin, “after Adam’s own likeness, in his image,” and, being born in sin, they are heirs to corruption. But when the Word of Life was manifested in our flesh, the Holy Ghost displayed that creative hand by which, in the beginning, Eve was formed; and the Holy Child, thus conceived by the power of the Highest, was (as the history shows) immortal even in His mortal nature, clear from all infection of the forbidden fruit, so far aa to be sinless and incorruptible. Therefore, though He was liable to death, “it was impossible He should be holden” of it. Death might overpower, but it could not keep possession; “it had no dominion over Him.” He was, in the words of the text, “the Living among the dead.” And hence His rising from the dead may be said to have evinced His Divine origin. Such is the connection between Christ’s birth and resurrection; and more than this might be ventured concerning His incorrupt nature were it not better to avoid all risk of trespassing upon that reverence with which we are bound to regard it. Something might be said concerning His personal appearance, which seems to have borne the marks of one who was not tainted with birth-sin. Men could scarce keep from worshipping Him. When the Pharisees sent to seize Him, all the officers, on His merely acknowledging Himself to be Him whom they sought, fell backwards from His presence to the ground. They were scared as brutes are said to be by the voice of man. Thus, being created in God’s image, He was the second Adam: and much more than Adam in His secret nature, which beamed through His tabernacle of flesh with awful purity and brightness even in the days of His humiliation. “The first man was of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
2. And if such was His visible Majesty, while tie yet was subject to temptation, infirmity, and pain, much more abundant was the manifestation of His Godhead when He was risen from the dead. Then the Divine essence streamed forth (so to say) on every side, and environed His Manhood as in a cloud of glory.
3. He ascended into heaven, that He might plead our cause with the Father Hebrews 7:25). Yet we must not suppose that in leaving us He closed the gracious economy of His Incarnation, and withdrew the ministration of His incorruptible Manhood from His work of loving mercy towards us. “The Holy One of God” was ordained, not only to die for us, but also to be “the beginning” of a new “creation” unto holiness in our sinful race; to refashion soul and body after His own likeness, that they might be “raised up together, and sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Blessed for ever be His holy name! before He went away He remembered our necessity, and completed His work, bequeathing to us a special mode of approaching Him, a holy mystery, in which we receive (we know not how) the virtue of that heavenly body, which is the life of all that believe. This is the blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which “Christ is evidently set forth crucified among us”; that we, feasting upon the sacrifice, may be “partakers of the Divine nature.” (J. H. Newman, D. D.)
Easter good news
I. We take THE ANGEL’S DECLARATION first as the grand truth here--“He is risen!” Who is thus risen? Who was dead, and has thus sprung from the grave to life? It is Christ Jesus the Lord, who died for our sins, is risen for our justification. The Saviour is no more a sufferer; His sacrificial deed is done.
1. How deeply instructive and interesting is the Gospel history of this great resurrection miracle! Take this great truth away from the Church, all faith is then vain, all hope destroyed, and the whole majestic building of Christianity falls and crumbles into ruins for ever.
2. We delight, then, to go with these godly women to the tomb of Christ, and while, perhaps, we bring too some humble offering of pure hearts to Him, to find how little it is needed, while we hear some glad tidings of His power, and rejoice in His risen glory.
II. THE ANGELS’ EXPOSTULATION. This may be considered as twofold.
1. As a gentle reproof for want of faith. With all their praiseworthy affection for Christ, even when dead, these devout women, last at the cross, and first at the sepulchre, showed great forgetfulness of the Redeemer’s words, and their want of faith, as of the other disciples, appears thus gently reproved.
2. This is a faithful expostulation to Christians even now. True religion gives gladness, not deep gloom. (J. G. Angley, M. A.)
The Lord is risen indeed
I. CERTAIN INSTRUCTIVE MEMORIES which gather around the place where Jesus slept “with the rich in His death.” Though He is not there, He assuredly once was there, for “He was crucified, dead, and buried.”
1. He has left in the grave the spices. We will not start back with horror from the chambers of the dead, for the Lord Himself has traversed them, and where He goes no terror abides.
2. The Master also left His grave-clothes behind Him. What if I say He left them to be the hangings of the royal bedchamber, wherein His saints fall asleep? See how He has curtained our last bed!
3. He left in the tomb the napkin that was about His head. Let mourners use it to wipe away their tears.
4. He left angels behind Him in the grave. Angels are both the servitors of living saints and the custodians of their dust.
5. What else did our Well-beloved leave behind Him? He left an open passage from the tomb, for the stone was rolled away; doorless is that house of death. Our Samson has pulled up the posts and carried away the gates of the grave with all their bars. The key is taken from the girdle of death, and is held in the hand of the Prince of Life. As Peter, when he was visited by the angel, found his chains fall from off him, while iron gates opened to him of their own accord, so shall the saints find ready escape at the resurrection morning. One thing else I venture to mention as left by my Lord in His forsaken tomb. I visited some few months ago several of the large columbaria which are to be found outside the gates of Rome. You enter a large square building, sunk in the earth, and descend by many steps, and as you descend, you observe on the four sides of the great chamber innumerable little pigeon-holes, in which are the ashes of tens of thousands of departed persons. Usually in front of each compartment prepared for the reception of the ashes stands a lamp. I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of these lamps, but they are all unlit, and indeed do not appear ever to have carried light; they shed no ray upon the darkness of death. But now our Lord has gone into the tomb and illuminated it with His presence, “the lamp of His love is our guide through the gloom.” Jesus has brought life and immortality to light by the gospel; and now in the dove-cotes, where Christians nestle, there is light; yea, in every cemetery there is a light which shall burn through the watches of earth’s night till the day break and the shadows flee away, and the resurrection morn shall dawn. So then the empty tomb of the Saviour leaves us many sweet reflections, which we will treasure up for our instruction.
II. Our text expressly speaks of VAIN SEARCHES. “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” There are places where seekers after Jesus should not expect to find Him, however diligent may he their search, however sincere their desire. You cannot find a man where he is not, and there are some spots where Christ never will be discovered.
1. In the grave of ceremonialism.
2. Among the tombs of moral reformation.
3. In the law.
4. In human nature.
5. In philosophy.
III. We will again change our strain and consider, in the third place, UNSUITABLE ABODES. The angels said to the women, “He is not here, but is risen.” As much as to say--since He is alive He does not abide here. Ye are risen in Christ, ye ought not to dwell in the grave. I shall now speak to those who, to all intents and purposes, live in the sepulchre, though they are risen from the dead.
1. Some of these are excellent people, but their temperament, and perhaps their mistaken convictions of duty, lead them to be perpetually gloomy and desponding.
2. Another sort of people seem to dwell among the tombs: I mean Christians--and I trust real Christians--who are very, very worldly.
3. Once more on this point, a subject more grievous still, there are some professors who live in the dead.house of sin. Yet they say that they are Christ’s people. Nay, I will not say they live in it, but they do what, perhaps, is worse--they go to sin to find their pleasures.
IV. I want to warn you against UNREASONABLE SERVICES. Those good people to whom the angels said, “He is not here, but is risen,” were bearing a load, and what were they carrying? What is Joanna carrying, and her servants, and Mary, what are they carrying? Why, white linen, and what else? Pounds of spices, the most precious they could buy. What are they going to do? Ah, if an angel could laugh, I should think he must have smiled-as he found they were coming to embalm Christ. “Why, He is not here; and, what is more, He is not dead, He does not want any embalming, He is alive.” In other ways a great many fussy people do the same thing. See how they come forward in defence of the gospel. It has been discovered by geology and by arithmetic that Moses was wrong. Straightway many go out to defend Jesus Christ. They argue for the gospel, and apologize for it, as if it were now a little out of date, and we must try to bring it round to suit modern discoveries and the philosophies of the present period. That seems to me exactly like coming up with your linen and precious spices to wrap Him in. Take them away.
V. THE AMAZING NEWS which these good women received--“He is not here, but He is risen.” This was amazing news to His enemies. They said, “We have killed Him--we have put Him in the tomb; it is all over with Him.” A-ha! Scribe, Pharisee, priest, what have you done? Your work is all undone, for He is risen! It was amazing news for Satan. He no doubt dreamed that he had destroyed the Saviour, but He is risen! What a thrill went through all the regions of hell! What news it was for the grave! Now was it utterly destroyed, and death had lost his sting! What news it was for trembling saints. “He is risen indeed.” They plucked up courage, and they said, “The good cause is the right one still, and it will conquer, for our Christ is still alive at its head. It was good news for sinners. Ay, it is good news for every sinner here. Christ is alive; if you seek Him He will be found of you. He is not a dead Christ to whom I point you to-day. He is risen; and He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The resurrection of Christ
Let us consider, first, the evidences, and, second, the purposes of the second life of Jesus--the life after the crucifixion.
I. AS TO THE EVIDENCES OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION, THERE ARE BOTH EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL LINES OF PROOF WHICH GUARD THIS GREAT AND SUBLIME DOCTRINE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH.
1. Jesus Christ actually died. A million and a half of awe-stricken witnesses saw Him die.
2. The second fact in the series of proofs is that Christ was buried. Interment is not often granted to crucified criminals. But Providence overruled the sordidness of the cautious scribes and priests, in order to multiply the witnesses to the resurrection.
3. The next fact is that the sepulchre somehow or other was emptied on the third day. How came the sepulchre to be emptied? There are only two theories. The rulers said the body was stolen out of it. The disciples said the body had risen from it. It is manifest that the enemies would not steal the body of Christ, and how improbable it is that His disciples should have done it. How could it have been done by twelve men against sixty, when Jerusalem was filled with an excited crowd, when the moon shone clearly in a cloudless oriental sky? No; it cannot be believed, and we are driven back therefore to the theory that He actually rose.
4. The internal evidence is equally convincing. Consider the existence and the spread of persecution for the testimony as to the resurrection of Christ.
II. Consider THE PRACTICAL PURPOSES WHICH THE RESURRECTION IS INTENDED TO WORK OUT IN OURSELVES.
1. It is a manifestation, a vindication of ancient prophecy and of the personal character of the Messiah as well.
2. It is a seal of the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus, and by consequence of infinite moment to confirm the hopes of the world.
3. It is an earnest of our own rising, a pledge of immortality for the race for which the Second Adam died.
4. Look at the resurrection as an encouragement. There is a great error, brethren, in Christendom just now, and that is that we believe in a dead Christ. He is not dead, He is living--living to listen to your prayers, living to forgive your sins. (W. M. Punshon, D. D.)
The living Christ
I. A SURPRISING FACT. Jesus among the dead!
1. The Saviour’s perfect humanity.
2. The Saviour’s perfect identity with the cause of man.
II. A MORE SURPRISING FACT. Jesus no longer among the dead!
1. His mission to the tomb was accomplished.
2. His vision of immortality was realized.
3. The true object of faith was secured. (The Weekly Pulpit.)
An Easter sermon
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESURRECTION.
1. If Jesus really died and then rose from the dead, materialism is completely overthrown.
2. Pantheism receives its death-blow with the establishment of Christ’s resurrection.
3. All far-reaching scepticism is undermined.
II. THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION. Conclusion:
1. We should live less in tombs. The grave is not half as large as we think. No life is buried there. Everything Christ-like is risen. Let life, not death, be our companion.
2. We must trust Christ implicitly. The living way has been set before us. He who is the life of the world has lighted its highway from the cradle, not to, but through the tomb. (D. O. Clark.)
The living dead
I. THE DEAD ARE THE LIVING. Language, which is more accustomed and adapted to express the appearances than the realities of things, leads us astray very much when we use the phrase “the dead” as if it expressed the continuance of the condition into which men pass in the act of dissolution. It misleads us no less, when we use it as if it expressed in itself the whole truth even as to that act of dissolution. “The dead” and “the living” are not names of two classes which exclude each other. Much rather, there are none who are dead. Oh, how solemnly sometimes that thought comes up before us, that all those past generations which have stormed across this earth of ours, and then have fallen into still forgetfulness, live yet. Somewhere at this very instant, they now verily are! We say, they were, they have been. There are no have beens! Life is life for ever. To be is eternal being. Every man that has died is at this instant in the full possession of all his faculties, in the intensest exercise of all his capacities, standing somewhere in God’s great universe, ringed with the sense of God’s presence, and feeling in every fibre of his being that life, which comes after death, is not less real, but more real; not less great, but more great; not less full or intense, but more full and intense, than the mingled life which, lived here on earth, was a centre of life surrounded with a crust and circumference of mortality. The dead are the living. They lived whilst they died; and after they die, they live on for ever. And so we can look upon that ending of life, and say, “it is a very small thing; it only cuts off the fringes of my life, it does not touch me at all.” It only plays round about the husk, and does not get at the core. It only strips off the circumferential mortality, but the soul rises up untouched by it, and shakes the bands of death from off its immortal arms, and flutters the stain of death from off its budding wings, and rises fuller of life because of death, and mightier in its vitality in the very act of submitting the body to the law, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Touching but a part of the being, and touching that but for a moment, death is no state, it is an act. It is not a condition, it is a transition. Men speak about life as “a narrow neck of land, betwixt two unbounded seas”: they had better speak about death as that. It is an isthmus, narrow and almost impalpable, on which, for one brief instant, the soul poises itself; whilst behind it there lies the inland lake of past being, and before it the shoreless ocean of future life, all lighted with the glory of God, and making music as it breaks even upon these dark, rough rocks. Death is but a passage. It is not a house, it is only a vestibule. The grave has a door on its inner side. God has taken our dead to Himself, and we ought not to think (if we would think as the Bible speaks) of death as being anything else than the transitory thing which breaks down the brazen walls and lets us into liberty.
II. SINCE THEY HAVE DIED, THEY LIVE A BETTER LIFE THAN OURS. In what particulars is their life now higher than it was? First, they have close fellowship with Christ; then, they are separated from this present body of weakness, of dishonour, of corruption; then, they are withdrawn from all the trouble, and toil, and care of this present life; and then, and not least, surely, they have death behind them, not having that awful figure standing on their horizon waiting for them to come up with it I These are some of the elements of life of the sainted dead. What a wondrous advance on the life, of earth they reveal if we think of them I They who have died in Christ live a fuller and a nobler life, by the very dropping away of the body; a fuller and a nobler life by the very cessation of care, change, strife and struggle; and, above all, a fuller and nobler life, because they “sleep in Jesus,” and are gathered into His bosom, and wake with Him yonder beneath the altar, clothed in white robes, and with palms in their hands, “waiting the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.” For though death be a progress--a progress to the spiritual existence; though death be a birth to a higher and nobler state; though it be the gate of life, fuller and better than any which we possess; though the present state of the departed in Christ is a state of calm blessedness, a state of perfect communion, a state of rest and satisfaction; yet it is not the final and perfect state, either.
III. THE BETTER LIFE, WHICH THE DEAD IN CHRIST ARE LIVING NOW, LEADS ON TO A STILL FULLER LIFE when they get back their glorified bodies. The perfection of man is, body, soul, and spirit. That is man, as God made him. The spirit perfected, the soul perfected, without the bodily life, is but part of the whole. For the future world, in all its glory, we have the firm basis laid that it, too, is to be in a real sense a material world, where men once more are to possess bodies as they did before, only bodies through which the spirit shall work conscious of no disproportion, bodies which shall be fit servants and adequate organs of the immortal souls within, bodies which shall never break down, bodies which shall never hem in nor refuse to obey the spirits that dwell in them, but which shall add to their power, and deepen their blessedness, and draw them closer to the God whom they serve and the Christ after the likeness of whose glorious body they are fashioned and conformed. “Body, soul, and spirit,”--the old combination which was on earth is to be the perfect humanity of heaven. We have nothing to say, now and here, about what that bodily condition may be--about the differences and the identities between it and our present earthly house of this tabernacle. Only this we know--reverse all the weakness of flesh, and you get some faint notion of the glorious body. Why, then, seek the living among the dead? “God giveth His beloved sleep”; and in that peaceful sleep, realities, not dreams, come round their quiet rest, and fill their conscious spirits and their happy hearts with blessedness and fellowship. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
A present Christ
I. THE TENDENCY TO THINK OF CHRIST AS PAST RATHER THAN PRESENT.
1. In His work of redemption.
2. In His converting power.
3. In His Pentecostal influences.
4. In His administration of earthly affairs.
II. THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF THIS TENDENCY upon the Church, collectively and individually, when indulged.
1. It tends to the exaltation of the purely dogmatic over the practical and experimental confession of Christ.
2. It encourages the substitution of speculative theories of Christ’s atoning work, for the actual power and continuance of that work itself in its application to human needs.
3. It deprives the Church of its great incentive to an active co-operation in the saving work of the Redeemer.
III. THE GROUNDS AND THE CONCLUSIONS of the higher and absolutely true view of Jesus Christ as personally present at all times with His people, in the power and richness of His Divine life. His promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.” Observe therefore--
1. The necessity and comfort of habitually thinking of Christ as personally with us in the present varied needs and trials and duties of life.
2. The cheering prospect that death will only set us free, as it set Him free, from the restraints and limitations of this mixed world, and usher us into a state of boundless spiritual activity.
3. The uniqueness and authority of the gospel of Christ as the revelation of this life of the spirit, and as the power which can effectually save us from the fear and power of death. (H. R. Harris.)
Christ is risen
I. Christ is risen, and THE LAST OPPOSING MONARCHY HAS FALLEN. Death reigns no more. Sin has been vanquished by Christ’s Cross, and the empire of the Prince of Darkness has been for ever destroyed.
II. He has risen, and His OWN DIVINE WORDS HAVE BEEN FULFILLED. Christ claimed to be supernatural in every sphere of being. Easter substantiates His claim to mastery over death. If this promise has been fulfilled, so will all others be.
III. He has risen, and THE DEAD HAVE NOT PERISHED. Personal immortality for each of us, and reunion with the loved and lost.
IV. Christ is risen, and NO LASTING CHRISTIAN CHURCH CAN REST ON A CLOSED TOMB. (W. M. Statham, B. A.)
The resurrection of Christ
As the resurrection of Christ is believed chiefly on the authority of His disciples, it is desirable to inquire respecting the circumstances in which they spoke.
I. THEY DID NOT EXPECT THAT HE WOULD RISE FROM THE DEAD, NOR BELIEVE THAT HE HAD RISEN, EVEN WHEN IT WAS TOLD TO THEM.
II. THEY COULD GAIN NOTHING BY ASSERTING IT, IF IT WERE UNTRUE. As a consequence of declaring His resurrection, they could foresee only affliction, reproach, and death.
III. THE DISCIPLES WERE AS WELL QUALIFIED AS ANY OTHER MEN, TO KNOW WHETHER THE THINGS WHICH THEY AFFIRMED WERE SO. The subjects respecting which they testified were cognizable by the senses. Had they been dark, abstruse principles--had they been some rare phenomena in the material world, but removed from inspection by the several senses, there would have been reason for suspecting their capacity to know, and fully to comprehend them.
IV. CHRIST APPEARED TO THEM MANY TIMES. Not once or twice only, but so often as to leave no room for doubt.
V. There is one more circumstance which gives weight to the evidence that He had risen. This relates to THE MANNER IN WHICH HE AT VARIOUS TIMES APPEARED to His disciples and others, who were associated with Him. The circumstances in which men’s imaginations are wrought into the belief that they have seen spirits, are very peculiar. Except in cases of disease, they are not infested with these unfounded notions in open day, and in the society of their friends. The regions of the dead, the burial places of our acquaintance, and the scenes of some tragical event, are the favoured retreats of these terrors. But never in the enjoyment of health, in open day, and amongst tried friends, have men been known to be afflicted by these creations of their own minds. Now, it was not in scenes like these that Christ appeared to His disciples. And in most of these circumstances it is utterly impossible for the imaginations of men to form images which they might mistake for living beings. Nothing but a living man could perform the various things which the disciples have attributed to Christ. In conclusion:
1. Christ’s resurrection must have been a matter of great joy to His disciples. Now, instead of looking forward only to days of shame, and years of disgrace, they began to anticipate glory, and honour, and immortality.
2. The resurrection of Christ establishes the truth of Christianity.
3. The resurrection of Christ is a victory over the power of death.
4. If our resurrection be demonstrably established by the resurrection of Christ, it becomes us to be cautious how we use these bodies in the present life. (J. Foot, D. D.)
1. In the fact of Christ’s resurrection we have the great proof of His Divine mission, and a call to submit to Him as our teacher and Lord.
2. Let us improve this event as a demonstration that Christ’s sacrifice was accepted, and an encouragement to trust in His righteousness for justification.
3. The resurrection of Christ is connected with the observance of the first day of the week as the Christian Sabbath.
4. Let us see that this event has its proper purifying effect on our heart and conduct. We are called to be conformed to the image of Christ in general, and we are particularly called to be conformed to Him in His death and resurrection.
5. The resurrection of Jesus Christ presents the pattern and pledge of the happy and glorious resurrection of all His followers. There will be a resurrection “both of the just and of the unjust.”
6. The resurrection of Christ should keep us in mind that we shall stand before Him as our judge. (James Foote, M. A.)
Angels as remembrancers
But now it should be more carefully observed that this reminding the women of what had been said to them by Christ is probably but an example of what continually occurs in the ministration of angels. The great object of our discourse is to illustrate this ministration, to give it something of a tangible character; and we gladly seize on the circumstance of the angels recalling to the minds of the women things which had been heard, because it seems to place under a practical point of view what is too generally considered mere useless speculation. And though we do not indeed look for any precise repetition of the scene given in our text, for angels do not now take visible shapes in order to commune with men, we know not why we should not ascribe to angelic ministration facts accurately similar, if not as palpable, proceeding from supernatural agency. We think that we shall be borne out by the experience of every believer in Christ when we affirm that texts of Scripture are often suddenly and mysteriously brought into the mind, texts which have not perhaps recently engaged our attention, but which are most nicely suited to our circumstances, or which furnish most precisely the material then needed by our wants. There will enter into the spirit of a Christian, on whom has fallen some unexpected temptation, a passage of the Bible which is just as a weapon wherewith to foil his assailant; or, if it be an unlookedfor difficulty into which he is plunged, the occurring verses will be those best adapted for counsel and guidance; or, if it be some fearful trouble with which he is visited, then will there pass through all the chambers of the sou] gracious declarations which the inspired writers will seem to have uttered and registered on purpose for himself. And it may be that the Christian will observe nothing peculiar in this; there may appear to him nothing but an effort of memory, roused and acted on by the circumstances in which he is placed; and he may consider it as natural that suitable passages should throng into his mind, as that he should remember an event at the place where he knows it to have happened. But let him ask himself whether he is not, on the other hand, often conscious of the intrusion into his soul of what is base and defiling? Whether, if he happen to have heard the jeer and the blasphemy, the parody on sacred things, or the insult upon moral, they will not be frequently recurring to his mind? recurring, too, at moments when there is least to provoke them, and when it had been most his endeavour to gather round him an atmosphere of what is sacred and pure. And we never scruple to give it as a matter of consolation to a Christian, harassed by these vile invasions of his soul, that he may justly ascribe them to the agency of the devil; wicked angels inject into the mind the foul and polluting quotation; and there is not necessarily any sin in receiving it, though there must be if we give it entertainment in place of casting it instantly out. But why should we be so ready to go for explanation to the power of memory, and the force of circumstances, when apposite texts occur to the mind, and then resolve into Satanic agency the profanation of the spirit with what is blasphemous and base. It were far more consistent to admit a spiritual influence in the one case as well as in the other; to suppose that, if evil angels syllable to the soul what may have been heard or read of revolting and impure, good angels breathe into its recesses the sacred words, not perhaps recently perused, but which apply most accurately to our existing condition. We do not wish to draw you away, in the least degree, from the truth that “the eternal uncreated Spirit of God alone, the Holy Ghost, is the author of our sanctification, the infuser into us of the principle of Divine life, and He only is able to overrule our wills, to penetrate the deepest secrets of our hearts, and to rectify our most inward faculties.” But surely it does not infringe the office of the Holy Ghost to suppose, with Bishop Bull, that “good angels may, and often do, as instruments of the Divine goodness, powerfully operate upon our fancies and imaginations, and thereby prompt us to pious thoughts, affections, and actions.” They were angels, as you will remember, which came and ministered to our Lord after He had been exposed in the wilderness to extraordinary assaults from the devil. He had the Spirit without measure; but, nevertheless, as though to mark to us the agency which this Spirit is often pleased to employ, it was in and through angels that consolation was imparted; even as, in the dread hour of His last conflict with the powers of darkness, “there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” Not only, therefore, can I regard it as credible that angels stir up our torpid memories and bring truths to our recollection, as they did to the women at the sepulchre of Christ--I can rejoice in it as fraught with consolation, because showing that a created instrumentality is used by the Holy Ghost in the renewing our nature. And surely it may well excite gladness that there is around the Christian the guardianship of heavenly hosts; that, whilst his pathway is thronged by malignant spirits, whose only effort is to involve him in their everlasting shame, it is also thronged by ministers of grace, who long to have him as their companion in the presence of God; for there is thus what we might almost dare to call a visible array of power on our side, and we may take all that confidence which should result from being actually permitted to look on the antagonists, and to see that there are more with us than there are against. But it is hardly possible to read these words of the angels and not to feel how reproachfully they must have fallen on the ears of the women! how they must have upbraided them with want of attention and of faith. For had they but listened heedfully to what Christ had said, and had they but given due credence to His words, they would have come in triumph to welcome the living, in place of mournfully with spices to embalm the dead. But God dealt more graciously with these women than their inattention, or want of faith, had deserved; He caused the words to be brought to their remembrance, whilst they might yet inspire confidence, though they could hardly fail also to excite bitter contrition. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
A rising Saviour demands a rising life. For remember, brethren, there are two laws. One law, by which all men gravitate, like a stone, to the earth--another law, equally strong, the law of grace, by which every renewed man is placed under the attractive influence of an ascending power, by which he must be always drawn higher and higher. For just as when a man, lying upon the ground, gets up and stands upright, his upright posture draws up with it all his limbs, so in the mystical body of Jesus Christ, the risen Head necessarily draws up all the mystical members. The process of elevation is one which, beginning at a man’s conversion to God, goes on day by day, hour by hour, in his tastes, in his judgments, in his affections, in his habits. First it is spiritual, then it is material. Now, in the rising spirit of the man, first he sees higher and higher elevations of being, and gradually fits for the fellowship of the saints and the presence of God. And presently, on that great Easter morning of the resurrection, in his restored body, when it shall wake up, and rise satisfied with its Redeemer’s likeness, made pure and ethereal enough to soar, and blend and co-operate with the spirit in all its holy and eternal exercises. But what I wish to impress upon you now is, that this series in the ever-ascending scale begins now; that there is, as every believer fee]s, a daily dying, so there is also, as our baptism tells us, a daily resurrection. It is always well to take advantage of particular seasons to do particular proper things. Now to-day the proper thing is to rise, to get up higher. This Easter day ought not to pass without every one of us beginning with some new affection, some new work. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus
The journey to Emmaus
WE SEE IN THIS APPEARANCE, AS IN THE OTHERS, SOMETHING VERY CHARACTERISTIC OF OUR LORD’S HABITS AND WAYS DURING HIS LIFETIME, His disciples and followers were always craving for publicity and display. He was always retiring from too much of that, carrying on His work as quietly as possible. And so here. Jesus rises alone--at the break of day. No mortal sees Him put on immortality. Bright angels stand as sentinels while He arrays Himself. It is enough that His disciples see the empty tomb, the grave-clothes, and “the place where the Lord lay.”
II. WE MAY SEE HOW EASILY STILL, IN THAT RISEN LIFE, HE ENTERS INTO COMMUNICATION WITH MEN; HOW LITTLE DIFFICULTY HE HAS IN JOINING ANY COMPANY, OR ANY TWO OR THREE WITH WHOM HE WISHES TO BE!
III. THIS APPEARANCE OF CHRIST IS LIKE A MESSAGE OF FRATERNITY AND DIVINE REGARD, ESPECIALLY TO PLAIN, SIMPLE, ORDINARY MEN--to what we may call common men, who wear no distinction and possess no advantage whatever over their fellows. For who were these two men? No one knows anything about them. In all probability there was not much to know, except that they were disciples, that they loved Him.
IV. WE HAVE AN INSTANCE HERE OF THE ATTRACTIVE POWER OF SORROW TO HIM. They walked, and talked, and were sad. And then He drew near and went With them.
V. THIS, HOWEVER, WE MUST OBSERVE, THAT IT IS NOT TO EVERY KIND OF TROUBLE AND SADNESS THAT HE GRANTS IMMEDIATE ASSUAGEMENT. Here you see He draws near at once to two sad men. But what are they saying? They are talking of Him “Why are they sorrowing? They are sorrowing about Him. So our sorrow, if it is to be sanctified and turned into joy, must have Christ in it.
VI. THERE IS A SORROW AND A DARKNESS EXPRESSLY SENT BY CHRIST, OR, AT ANY RATE, HELD BY HIM AROUND HIS PEOPLE. A sorrow kept, as it were, beyond the time when it might naturally be ended, kept for the accomplishment of some purposes of grace which could not be so well attained, perhaps not attained at all, if the darkness were melted away. To take the language of the passage, “Our eyes are holden that we should not know Him,” even when He is with us. So, oftentimes, our eyes are holden that we should not know Him. Strange things happen to us, and we think not that His hand is upon them all. All the instruction we get in the darkness is from Him; but we do not know that it is from Him directly, and immediately, until the darkness is over.
VII. IT IS A BLESSED MOMENT IN LIFE WHEN WE KNOW HIM, COME WHEN, AND HOW, AND WHERE IT MAY--WHEN WE ARE SURE THAT HE IS NEAR! In those moments we are glad of the present, and we look to the future without a fear.
VIII. THEY ARE BRIEF, THEY ARE TRANSIENT AS THE GLOW OF THE MORNING--NOT SETTLED AS THE RADIANCE OF THE DAY. “They knew Him and”--what next? A long happy conversation, until the evening wore into the night, and the stars came out on high? A journey into Jerusalem again the next morning, with still more delightful discourse, to meet His surprised and rejoicing disciples there? Not so. “And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him, and He vanished out of their sight!” Such is the end of all high communion times, of all vision-hours in this life. They are but brief. They can but be brief; there is more work to do, and more sorrow to drink, and more time to travel through; and Jesus in His glory retires, that these things may be done, and that He may come again when need shall be! He comes down to lift us up, to intensify our longings for heaven, to entice us home. And of course He does not stay. He is always coming, and always “vanishing” out of our sight, that we may the more long for and labour after the place, the glory, the life in which He would have us for ever be. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
The walk to Emmaus
I. THE WAY.
1. To these two disciples that was the way of sadness and gloom.
2. The sadness of those two disciples sprang from doubt or unbelief.
3. Though that was the way of sadness and doubt to those two disciples, yet they communed and reasoned together on the best themes.
II. THE METHOD OF CHRIST’S COMMUNICATIONS BY THE WAY. “He talked with us,” “and opened to us the Scriptures.” The manner was simple, clear, and cogent. Two or three things about Christ’s method of communing with these disciples are worth a little attention.
1. It was sympathetic. He strikes a chord in their troubled hearts that vibrates at the touch of His matchless sympathy.
2. It was instructive. Seek instruction rather than rapture.
3. This talk by the way was animating. Not only did it relieve their gloom and sadness, it cheered, revived, and filled them with ardent icy, “for they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way?”
III. THE REST AND THE REVELATION WHICH AWAITED THE DISCIPLES AT THE END OF THE WAY.
1. A triumphant joy.
2. An intelligent faith in Him as the Redeemer of Israel.
3. The disclosure of Christ to those two disciples filled their hearts with confident hope. (J. T. Higgins.)
The disclosure at Emmaus
I. We note, in the beginning, THE NATURALNESS OF A POSTURE OF MIND AKIN TO DOUBT AND CONFUSION. Heavy providences bear us down under them. Sudden, almost inexplicable, depressions settle upon our souls. The devil watches always for these opportunities, and plies us with adroit attack.
II. Next, we see here THE POSITIVE VALUE OF FRATERNAL CONFERENCE AND EXCHANGE OF VIEWS. The larger part of our seasons of hypochondria are to be dispersed by a frank conversation with sympathetic friends in relation to the matters of supreme interest to us both.
III. THE ACTUAL NEARNESS OF CHRIST ALWAYS, TO THOSE WHO NEED HIM. Would it alarm us, if we suddenly discovered we had been talking with Him in person, instead of some boon companion we had met in our freedom?
IV. Then we have a fine lesson concerning THE DIVINE REMEDY FOR ALL DOUBTS AS TO OUR SAVIOUR AND OUR SALVATION. These bewildered disciples are led directly to the Divine Word (see Luke 24:25-27).
V. In the next place, we may note here THE PERSONAL INTEREST JESUS HAS IN EVERY TRUE BELIEVER WHO IS IN NEED OF HIS HELP. A whole afternoon did our Lord give of those forty days He had left to these disciples who were not known enough even to be described. Lot in life has nothing to do with the estimate which the Saviour forms of His followers. He came with those modest brethren to their destination.
VI. We have now a lesson from the story which might give a help to any Christian at the communion table; THE REAL JOY IN EVERY SPIRITUAL FEAST IS TO HAVE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST DISCLOSED TO US. “Jesus has kept coming again ever since He went away.”
VII. A single lesson more remains: we see THAT THE FIRST DELIGHTED IMPULSE OF A SOUL, REJOICING AT HAVING FOUND JESUS, IS TO GO AND TELL OTHERS OF HIS PRESENCE AT THE FEAST (see Luke 24:32-35). These happy disciples could not wait even till morning. The Lord had vanished, but His argument remained; “while they were musing the fire burned.” Now they began to remember peculiar experiences along the way. Oftentimes a new disclosure of Christ’s presence turns the believer back upon hours in which he now sees the Holy Spirit was dealing with him; why did he not recognize it sooner? Memories of communions are always precious, if the joy has remained. Life gathers a fresh impulse from the disclosure. We are sure that walk out to Emmaus with Jesus in companionship was wonderfully sweet; but the walk in back again over the same path was not without comfort. Every stone and bush would make them think of Him. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
I. NOTICE THE CHARACTERS BROUGHT TO VIEW. Two men. Devout Jews. Disciples of Jesus. They were in great perplexity and trouble of heart. Their faith had received a blow under which it greatly staggered. They reasoned the case with each other; but reason was too weak an instrument to give them relief. Mere earthly reason, when it comes to matters of faith and salvation, can do very little for us. They were moving through one of the most interesting and beautiful districts. Their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus lay by the tombs of the ancient Judges, by the old dwelling-place of Samuel, and through mountainous scenery as attractive as any in the Holy Land. But no charms of nature, however intermingled with sacred story, could soothe the trouble that was upon their souls. Those scenes of blood and murder which had been enacted at Jerusalem, and the sore disappointment which those scenes had entailed upon their most precious hopes, followed them, and clung to them, in spite of all the pleasant things around them. Nature, in all its loveliness, cannot supply the place of Christ, or give comfort to the soul that has lost Him. Yet the Saviour was with them, all unknown to themselves. In the form of a common traveller, journeying the same way, and after the same manner with themselves, He overtook them, and made one in their little company. There are many ways in which He comes to His people. He comes to them sometimes in the form of a plain gardener, or a servant. He comes sometimes in the form of a fellow-traveller. He comes sometimes in the form of a poor beggar. But, in some shape or other, He is never far from those who are in spiritual earnest, and devoutly struggling for the light. In our earthly way of looking at things, we do not always recognize the presence of our Saviour, and our eyes are holden that we do not know Him. It is the fault of our feeble faith, that we only think of Christ as far away--as hidden in the grave--or in some remote world to which the grave is the mysterious doorway. Hence so much of our trouble and doubtfulness. But it is an erroneous way of thinking of Him. He is not in the grave. He is not far off in some realm which separates Him for ever from all connection with this present world. He is risen. He is not far from every one of us. Wherever two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is. He is in the city, and He is in the country. He is in the garden among the flowers, and He is in the dusty highway. He is in our assemblies for devotion, and He journeys with us in our travels. He is with us, and speaking to us, even when we do not at all suspect that it is He.
II. NOTICE HOW THE RISEN JESUS DEALS WITH THESE PERPLEXED AND SORROWING ONES.
1. He “drew near, and went with them.” It is the will of our gracious Saviour to be near us, and to have us near Him. “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities” Hebrews 4:15). When grief and trouble are upon His disciples, He takes it to heart, and is drawn towards them in loving sympathy. But, in addition to their mental troubles, these pilgrims were earnestly engaged with each other, trying to solve and master them. Earnestness of spirit is never unnoticed in heaven.
2. He questioned them as to their troubles and sadness. “He said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another as ye walk? and why are ye sad? It was a call to review the character of their trouble, as the basis for the formation of a better judgment. They had not looked at matters rightly. They had not gone deep enough into the facts for the proper conclusions. The cure for their disturbance was in the very things that disturbed them, if they would only learn to see them in their true aspects and relations. Did Christian people but view their anxieties aright, they would find in them cause for joy rather than discomfiture. Desponding soul, Jesus asks thee, Why art thou sad? Canst thou give Him a reason for thy disheartenment at what has happened? Review thy ground, and come to a better mind.
3. Having drawn out their story, He directed them to the Bible. After all, there is nothing that can so settle, satisfy, and comfort our troubled hearts and anxious doubts, as the records of the holy prophets. There the portrait of the Christ is fully drawn, and all that concerneth Him is amply disclosed. From them these disciples might have fortified themselves against all such sorrowful perplexities over their Master’s death. The very first promise that was made of Him, told of a suffering as well as a triumphing Saviour. He was to be bruised, as well as to bruise. All the appointments of the law pointed to death and bloodshedding as the only possible way of remission of sins or recovery from condemnation. Precious indeed are these blessed Scriptures. Herein is light which giveth understanding to the simple, and which maketh wise unto salvation. Herein is balm for the troubled heart more than Gilead can furnish. Are we shaken in faith, and disturbed in our hopes? Jesus directs us to the Bible.
4. And having set them right in their reading of the Scriptures, the Saviour yielded to their entreaties, entered with them into their home, and made Himself known to them in the breaking of bread. Those who love the truth will be kindly disposed toward those who teach it; and those who admit Christ into their hearts will be anxious also to have Him abide in their homes. And those who in grateful consideration of His kindness receive Him into their houses, though they should not yet know with whom they are dealing, will soon have Him disclosed to them in all the certainties of an unmistakable faith. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
The walk to Emmaus
I. THE SORROWS AND DOUBTS OF THE TWO DISCIPLES.
II. THE SORROWS AND DOUBTS OF THE DISCIPLES ARE MET BY A DIVINE EXPLANATION.
1. He first rebukes their spiritual ignorance and unwillingness to believe.
2. They were, without being aware of it, mourning over the very things which formed Christ’s peculiar glory and their own redemption.
3. To show this, He began at Moses, and explained in regular succession what the prophets had foretold concerning Himself.
III. THE SORROWS AND DOUBTS OF THE DISCIPLES WERE LOST IN THE SUPREME JOY OF THE RISEN JESUS FULLY REVEALED. Lessons:
1. This narrative is an irrefragable proof of the reality of our Lord’s resurrection. He was not an apparition nor a subjective vision.
2. God is ever near us, if we only had the spiritual vision to discern His presence.
3. To talk of Jesus and the things of the kingdom, is wise. At such seasons He draws near, and by His Spirit communes with us until our hearts burn with new hopes, and our eyes are filled with a revelation of His presence.
4. The Old Testament prophecies, inclusive of everything relating to Christ’s Church, are, according to His own showing, an integral part of the Scriptures.
5. Failure to believe the Scriptures was the cause of the disciples’ blindness and sorrows.
6. How precious is a Christian’s company. (T. S. Doolittle, D. D.)
The walk to Emmaus
I. TWO REPRESENTATIVE DISCIPLES.
1. They were on a journey. So are we all.
2. They were in earnest conversation.
(1) To converse is natural.
(2) Our conversation should be wise, spiritual, helpful.
3. They were full of sadness.
(1) Their sadness was natural.
(a) Bright hopes were blasted.
(b) ,an awful tragedy had been enacted.
(2) But their sadness was sinful.
(a) Because it arose from their unbelief in the testimony of the prophets.
(b) Because it arose from their unbelief in the testimony of Christ Himself.
(c) Yet how common is such unbelief among Christians?
II. CHRIST IN HIS REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER.
1. As ever near His sorrowing disciples.
2. As ever entering into their experience.
3. As rebuking their unbelief.
4. As the opener up of the Scriptures.
(1) Christ ever honours the Scriptures.
(2) Christ ever testifies to the genuineness and inspiration of the Scriptures.
(3) Christ ever teaches that tie Himself is the central subject of the Scriptures.
5. As unexpectedly revealing Himself,
(1) While their hearts were full of doubts, “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.”
(2) The expounding of the Scripture restored them to a believing condition.
(3) Their quickened faith resulted in hearts that burned.
(4) Hearts that burn alone can see Jesus to know Him. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The walk to Emmaus
I. THIS WALK TO EMMAUS SUGGESTS THE STRANGE MINGLING OF UNBELIEF AND FAITH IN THE SAME BREAST.
1. The fact of their unbelief.
2. The unreasonableness of their unbelief.
3. The reality of their faith.
II. THIS WALK TO EMMAUS SUGGESTS THE LORD’S INTEREST IN HIS PERPLEXED BUT INQUIRING DISCIPLES.
III. THIS WALK TO EMMAUS SUGGESTS THE CHARACTER OF THE TRUE INQUIRER, THOUGH PERPLEXED.
1. He is ever interested in those who unfold the Scriptures.
2. He is ever open to conviction.
3. His heart is ever stirred by the truth.
4. When he learns the truth, he is ever anxious to proclaim it to others.
1. We learn that unbelief arises from the heart, and is an evidence of unwisdom.
2. That unbelief not only brings trouble to the heart, but blindness to the mind.
3. That perplexities are not solved by reasoning, but by the study of God’s Word.
4. If our Lord and His apostles found in Moses and the prophets evidences of His Messiahship, why may not we? (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The journey to Emmaus
After He has comforted the weeping, disconsolate Magdalene, and graciously restored the fallen Peter, He hastens to lay hold of those sad wanderers who have ignorantly turned away from where they might have found light and consolation. The first word He addressed to them, after He had drawn out their thoughts and feelings by two questions which He needed not to ask, but which it was well they should answer, was a word of rebuke--“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Thus do chiding and reproof oftentimes precede the most gracious manifestations. Our faults must be corrected before any real and lasting comfort can be administered. To remove all discomfort and distress, without touching the evil state of mind from which they spring, would be like relieving the patient’s pain at the expense of aggravating his disease; it would be to countenance and encourage us in the wrong thoughts and feelings which it behoves us to abandon. Not thus does the Great Physician deal with the souls whom He loves. Injudicious earthly teachers may try to minister relief to distempered minds, by simply soothing their sorrows without correcting their faults, making them believe that all their troubles spring from something without themselves which will shortly be put right, instead of leading them to look within that they may correct what is wrong there; pleasing them with flattery when they should first pain them by rebuke; and thus, for the sake of yielding them a little momentary pleasure, inflicting on them a permanent injury. Not so the Saviour. How prone we are all to close our eyes to the things which we dislike--to believe only in those we like! The disciples were ready enough to listen to what seemed to justify their hopes of a coming kingdom: when He spoke of His sufferings they were equally ready to say, “Be it far from Thee, Lord.” Whatever we may think of the manner in which the Old Testament writers were inspired--a question on which bold theorising is but a bold mistake, the conduct of our Lord on this occasion places the fact of their inspiration beyond all dispute among those who recognize His authority. “Abide with us,” they said, “for it is towards evening, and the day is far spent.” The reason of this request was the fascination of His speech--the effect it had produced on them in dispelling their doubts, reviving their drooping hopes, and quickening their languid affections. Such is the invariable consequence of converse with the Saviour. Such experience naturally awakens the desire that the fellowship may be prolonged. From souls who thus earnestly seek Him the Saviour will not withhold His gracious presence. “He went in to tarry with” these disciples, and “sat at meat with them”; thus condescending not only to become their guest, but to place Himself so much on an equality with them, as to sit at the same table and partake of the same meal. Be this as it may, this portion of the narrative is beautifully representative of what often takes place in the experience of believers. Where the Saviour’s presence is earnestly desired and prayed for, He not only grants the request, but enters into more intimate fellowship with the longing soul. But delightful as fellowship with Christ is to the truly Christian soul, the passage may very well remind us that there is something for us to do besides gratifying our desire, even for the highest spiritual enjoyment. Peter, on the Mount of Transfiguration, though he said, “It is good for us to be here,” was not permitted to build tabernacles as he desired, because at the foot of the mountain there were distresses to be relieved. The two disciples, though they would fain prolong their interview with the Lord, must, just when their gratification is at the highest, be deprived of His presence, and return to Jerusalem to share their joy with others. And so we, sometimes, when we might greatly prefer quiet meditation and devotion to active service, must nevertheless, because the world needs our ministrations, go forth from communion with our Master to do the Master’s work. I cannot conclude without calling attention to that which appears so conspicuously throughout the whole of the narrative--the marvellous condescension of our Lord. These are but weak disciples when He finds them--foolish, slow of heart to understand the Scriptures--their faith much clouded, though it does not relinquish its hold of Him. And how He condescends to their weakness, suits His instruction to their case, gradually leads them to a full preception of the truth and apprehension of Himself. Tenderly He deals with them, not breaking the bruised reed, nor quenching the smoking flax; but gathering the lambs in His arms, and carrying them in His bosom. (W. Landels.)
Communion with Christ
I. THIS CONVERSATION SHOWS WHAT LIFE WOULD BE WITHOUT CHRIST.
1. When we fail to discern the presence of Christ our hearts are overwhelmed with grief.
2. When we fail to discern the presence of Christ our minds are clouded with doubt.
II. THIS CONVERSATION SHOWS WHAT LIFE MAY BE WITH CHRIST.
1. We should never forget that Christ is near to His disciples in all their sorrow.
2. We should never forget that Christ instructs His disciples in all their sorrows.
III. THIS CONVERSATION SHOWS WHAT LIFE SHOULD BE FOR CHRIST.
1. What did these men do? “They rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem.” It was night, and the distance considerable, but they went immediately to proclaim the Saviour’s resurrection. If we have any word to speak, or any work to do for Christ, let us do it at once; for time is short, and life is uncertain.
2. What did these men find? “And found the eleven gathered together.” Men are drawn together by common sympathies and common beliefs. Why were they together? For counsel and prayer. Why together at midnight? For secrecy and security. Seasons of personal danger should be seasons of united communion with God.
3. What did these men hear? “The Lord hath risen indeed.” What joyful tidings these must have been! They not only heard of Christ’s resurrection from others, but they had seen Him themselves. This is love’s reward. The givers were receivers. Thus experience answers experience in the Divine life.
4. What did these men say? “Told what things were done in the way,” etc. Personal testimony to the fact of Christ’s resurrection. If Christ has appeared to you, rise up at once, and acknowledge Him before His people. It will cheer them, and confirm you. (J. T. Woodhouse.)
The absent Lord appears
I. THOUGH JESUS BE ABSENT, HIS DISCIPLES MAKE HIM THEIR THEME.
II. THE ABSENT JESUS COMES NEAR WHILE HIS DISCIPLES TALE OF HIM. Blessed sequel to their saintly converse. And so it is to-day. “Where two or three,” etc. It was a tender superstition which our fathers held--that to speak much of the absent or the dead brings them near. And the beautiful fiction becomes blessed fact, when we refer it to Jesus. He is the true Mentor whom Homer ignorantly celebrated. We have but to think of Jesus, talk of Jesus, wish for Jesus--and He is by our side. (A. A. Ramsey.)
Jesus near, but unrecognized
I. We shall note, first, REASONS WHY, IN THE VERY PRESENCE OF THEIR MASTER, SAINTS MAY NOT KNOW THAT HE IS NEAR. The first reason, then, why these good men did not perceive the presence of their Master was that “their eyes were holden.” There was a blinding cause in them. What was it?
1. By some mysterious operation, their eyes, which were able to see other things, were not able to detect the presence of their Master, but they thought Him to be some common traveller. Still we are permitted to say that in their case, and in the case of a great many disciples, eyes have been holden through sorrow.
2. Again, in their case, in addition to the mysterious operation which held their eyes, which we do not attempt to account for, we have no doubt their eyes were holden with unbelief. Had they been expecting to see Jesus, methinks they would have recognized Him.
3. Whatever may have been mysterious about the holding of the disciples’ eyes, they were also somewhat holden by ignorance. They had failed to see what is plain enough in Scripture, that the Messiah must suffer, bleed, and die. At other times they may not see Him, because of something in the Master. Mark, as I have told you, says He appeared unto them “in another form.” I suppose he means in a form in which they had not seen Him before. Perhaps you have only seen Jesus as your joy and consolation; under that aspect may you always see Him, but, remember, “He shall sit as a refiner; He shall purify the sons of Levi.” When you are in the furnace, suffering affliction and trial and depression of spirit, the refiner is Christ, the same loving Christ in a new character. Hitherto you have seen Christ as breaking the bread of life to you, and giving you to drink of the water of life, but you must yet learn that His fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge the floor of your heart. He is not another Christ, but He puts on another aspect, and exercises another office.
II. Secondly, let us speak of THE MANNERS OF THE SAINTS WHEN THEY ARE IN SUCH A CASE. When their Master is with them and they do not know Him, how do they conduct themselves? First, they are sad; because the presence of Christ, if Christ be unknown, is not comfortable, though it may be edifying. It may be for rebuke, as it was to them; but it certainly is not for consolation. For joy we must have a known Christ. Next, these disciples, though they did not know that their Master was there, conversed together--a good example for all Christians. Whether you are in the full joy of your faith or not, speak often one to another. He who is strong will help the weak brother; if two walk together, if one shall trip perhaps the other will not, and so he will have a hand to spare to support his friend. Even if both saints are unhappy, yet some good result will come from mutual sympathy. Note, again, that though they did not know their Master was there, yet they avowed their hopes concerning Him. I cannot commend all that they said, there was not much faith in it, but they did confess that they were followers of Jesus of Nazareth. “We trusted that it had been He which should deliver Israel. And, besides all this, to-day is the third day.” And they went on to let out the secret that they belonged to His disciples. “Certain women of our company made us astonished.” They were under a cloud and sad, but they were not so cowardly as to disown their connection with the Crucified. They still avowed their hope. And oh, beloved, when your comforts are at the lowest ebb, still cling to your Master. But, passing on--these poor people, though very sad, and without their Master as they thought, were very willing to bear rebukes. Although the word used by our Lord should not be rendered “fools,” yet it sounds somewhat bard even to call them inconsiderate and thoughtless: but we do not discover any resentment on their part because they were so severely chided. Souls that really love Jesus do not grow angry when faithfully rebuked. And then, they were willing to learn. Never better pupils, never a better Teacher, never a better school book, never a better explanation. Again, notice that while the two were willing to learn, they also wished to retain the Teacher and His instruction, and to treat Him kindly too. They said, “Abide with us; the day is far spent.” They had been benefited by Him, and therefore they wished to show their gratitude to Him. Have you learned so much that you are willing to learn more? And, once more, though they did not know that their Master was with them, they were well prepared to join in worship. Some have thought that the breaking of bread that night was only Christ’s ordinary way of offering a blessing before meat; it does not seem so to me, because they had already eaten and were in the middle of the meal when He took the bread and blessed it.
III. Lastly, let us try to set forth THE ACTIONS OF BELIEVERS WHEN THEY DISCOVER THEIR LORD. “Their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.” What then? Well, first, they discovered that there had been all along in their hearts evidences of His presence. “Did not our hearts burn within us while He spake with us by the way?” This heavenly heartburn never comes to any but through the presence of the Lord Jesus. The next thing they did was to compare notes. The one said to the other, “Did not our hearts burn within us?” It is always a good thing for believers to communicate their returning enjoyment. Somehow we are rather chary as to speaking of our joys. Ought we to be so? Once again. These disciples, when they saw the Master, hastened to tell others about it. I notice that while they told of their Lord’s appearing, they made mention of the ordinance which had been blest to them, for they especially said that He had been known to them in the breaking of bread. I like to see them mention that, for, though ordinances are nothing in themselves, and are not to be depended upon, they are blest to us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Present, but unknown
I. THE TIME WHEN THE WALK OCCURRED.
1. On the first of the forty days between resurrection and ascension.
2. Probably the longest period of intercourse with disciples between resurrection and ascension.
II. THE NEW METHODS ADOPTED BY OUR LORD TO OPERATE ON THE MINDS ON THESE TWO MEN. He makes them first define their grief, and then state their belief. Here are two of the most instructive lessons in the Scriptures of the human soul as well as the Holy Scriptures. The first lesson is: measure your sorrow, see its nature and extent, and know exactly its bearings on your happiness. The second is: if you are in doubt and apprehensions, if you are tempted to distrust God and Christ, if scepticism or the worst horror of infidelity threaten your heart, go back to what you do assuredly believe. Find honest footing for yourselves. Rest on the great fundamentals that lie imbedded in the instincts, the granite substratum of nature and the basis of all real characters. Let us learn from the walk toward Emmaus what Christ expects of us in hours of darkness and dismay, and then we may hope that, when we get to Emmaus, He will reveal His glory. (A. A. Lipscomb, LL. D.)
Jesus drawing near
“He drew very near,” solemnly uttered a youthful believer within a few hours of death. “Who drew near?” anxiously inquired a friend who was present, fearful to hear her pronounce the word “death.” “Jesus,” she replied, with an unutterable earnestness of expression. “I felt just now as if He stood close beside me.” Soon after she was asked by her sister if she would like her to pray with her. She gladly assented. But while she prayed the countenance of the dying one changed, the expression of supplication was succeeded by one of adoring contemplation--it would have been rapture but for its perfect calm. A kind of glow suffused her features, then faded gradually away, and before that prayer was ended she was gone. Her “amen,” to it was her first hallelujah in heaven. Jesus had “come again” and received her unto Himself. (Clerical Library.)
I. CHRIST HIMSELF THE THEME OF HIS DISCIPLES’ CONVERSATION.
II. CHRIST HIMSELF THE EXPOSITOR OF HIS OWN SUFFERINGS.
III. CHRIST HIMSELF THE GUEST OF HIS OWN DISCIPLES.
IV. CHRIST HIMSELF THE OCCASION OF HIS OWN RECOGNITION. Practical lessons:
1. There is no teacher like Christ.
2. There is no friend like Christ. (J. R. Thomson.)
The walk to Emmaus
It may be asked, Why should not our Lord have declared Himself at once to these burdened friends? Why not with one word have assured them, as He did faithful Mary in the garden? The answer is suggestive. In them the stupendous miracle of the resurrection was to be established, not by one appearance, but by many; not by evidence of one kind, but of all kinds. Each fresh proof of the fact was to be a separate link in a chain of proofs, on which ages to come might hang their faith. The particular link to be wrought and welded on the road to Emmaus was the complete identity of the slain Jesus of Nazareth with the Messiah of Moses and Daniel, of David, Isaiah, and Malachi. Had He too soon revealed His personality to these oppressed disciples, they would have been unfitted, by their great joy, to receive this lesson and to witness its truth.
But now they take it in eagerly. Their ears thirst for knowledge. Such was the sacred drama of the Emmaus road, and from the whole story we may instruct and comfort ourselves in several ways:
1. It is good for disciples to be together. Every appearance of the Lord immediately after His resurrection, save one, was made to disciples in groups.
2. The Lord may be much nearer to doubting disciples than they dream.
3. The source of much modern doubt about Christ is ignorance of the Scriptures as a whole. The real cure of doubt, therefore, lies in a more comprehensive study of the Word of God, and the only study that can be a perfect cure is that which shall “begin with Moses,” and end with the Apocalypse. (J. B. Clark.)
The hidden Christ
No more picturesque and beautiful scene is depicted in the life of Christ, than this walk, after His resurrection, out to Emmaus. The innocent unconsciousness of the disciples pleases us like a scene in a drama. That trait, too, in the Lord, which led Him to keep in disguise, is peculiarly interesting. It interprets much of the Divine nature. One would have looked, according to the ordinary ideas of the Divine mind, and of its methods, for an open and prompt disclosure of Himself. But no. It was pleasant to Him, for some reason, to be with His disciples, to love them, to perceive their embarrassments, to instruct them, without letting them know that He was there. It was not deception. It was only a permitting them to have their own notions of Him undisturbed, while He exercised the full mission of love. This cannot be an unintended disclosure of the Divine nature. I will not call it mystic; and still less will I call it secretive; but there is a love of non-disclosure of personality during the operation of merciful grace, which has illustration in various other parts of the Gospel. One cannot but see that the Lord carried Himself to them just as in nature Divine providence is always carrying itself. Mercies move with wide-spread benefaction; set without interpreting themselves. Nature is blessing without saying, “I bless.” Messages are coming through the air, and through Divine providence, from God; and yet, they do not say “God.” God is present in a silent way always. A certain hidden element, or hiding element, there is in the Divine mind, God’s blessings steal into life noiselessly. They are neither self-proclaiming, nor even self-announcing.
I. THE LORD’S PRESENCE IN UNPERCEIVED WAYS IN THE DAILY WANTS OF HIS PEOPLE. He is to be found wherever the soul is ready to receive Him.
In some tender moment, amidst cares and toils and sorrows, often there starts up the thought of the Divine presence with such majesty and beauty as a thousand sabbaths could not shadow forth in the ordinary experience of Christians. Though they did not see the Saviour, yet they saw His messengers--His blessed angels. Travellers over wide spaces that are unpopulous, hide their food in what are called caches, that, returning, they may have it at fit and appropriate points for their necessities. God fills the world with these spots of hidden food; and we meet Him and His mercies not alone in appointed places, in houses of entertainment, but in the wilderness--everywhere. Christ may be found at the well, if you come there to draw. Christ may be found at the receipt of custom, where Matthew found Him. Christ may be found behind the bier, where the widow found Him. Christ may be found on the sea, where the disciples found Him when they were fishing. He is moving with world-filling presence everywhere. But notably we may mention that Hod comes to His people in an undisclosed and unrecognized form in the hours of their despondency, as in the text. Or, to put it in other words, that which seems to us to be a cloud and darkness, is, after all, but the garment in the midst of which Christ is walking. All right occupations likewise, all duties, all daily fidelities, bring along with them a Divine presence. We are never alone. We are never doing things that are merely secular, if we know how to make them Divine. The most menial callings, routine occupations, things not agreeable in themselves, but necessary, and things of duty, all of them have or may have with them a Christ.
II. THE FULL PRIVILEGE OF THE SOUL IN GOD’S PRESENCE AND PROVIDENCE DISCERNED WHEN THE GIFT IS VANISHING AWAY. “Man never is, but always to be blessed,” has become a motto. Our joys are seldom with us. They are either remembered or they are anticipated. When we come where they are, how few of us there are that are soundly happy; how few there are that are full of joy and know it. How few there are that have a power in them of blessing, in any hour or in any day, or, still less, series of days! How few there are that can pluck from fortune, or from providence, or from Divine grace itself, fruits that shall be sweet to the taste while they are walking along the road of life! It is trite, that, “Men do not know how to value health till they lose it.” It is the same with wealth. It is so of youth and age. For we take our measures as little children take snowflakes’ to examine them, and they are gone. They dissolve in the looking at them. Especially is this true of moral things--of moral treasures. Hours of religious peace, hours of spiritual delight, never seem so precious to us, hours of religious duty are never so dear to us, while we have them; and they are as it were, in their ministration, as when they are gone. In our religious life we are finding fault with our fare. In like manner is it in respect to our privileges in being workers together with God. While we have the privileges, how little we esteem them! and how much, often, we reluctate and begrudge both time and strength! Now it is an exceeding privilege for any one to be a worker together with Christ in the work of the Lord in this world. And so is it with the sanctuary. So is it with the blessings of the soul itself. Our inward thoughts, our inward strifes and resolutions, our very tears, our prayers, all that sacred history of the soul that is inherited upon earth, but is more heroic and more wonderful than the history of the battle-field or the history of empires--that lore unexpressed, that literature of eternity, the soul’s inward life--at the time how little is there to us in it! how little of Christ! Ah! what a pity, my Christian brethren, it is that Christ should vanish out of sight just at the moment when He discloses Himself! What a pity it is that just as our mercies are going beyond our reach, they should for the first time seem to be mercies! In view of these simple remarks, may you not derive a motive for the better use of the present in all the relations of your life than you have been accustomed to? And ought we not, bearing this in mind, to make more of one another; more of our children; more of our parents; more of our brothers and sisters; more of our neighbours; more of the Church; more of the Bible-class; more of the Sabbath-school; more of all works by which we cleanse the morals of men, and raise up the ignorant, and prosper those that are unfortunate? May not life be filled fuller of blessings, if only we know how to redeem the time, and appreciate the opportunity to perceive the God that is near us? (H. W. Beecher.)
The walk to Emmaus
I. And, first--the first truth taught us by narrative--see here the importance of searching and understanding the Scriptures, and how a neglected or perverted Bible will bring sin and sorrow into the soul.
II. As these two disciples pursue their melancholy journey--the deepening shadows of evening a feeble type of the gloom gathering on their souls--we have seen a third join them. LET US NOW TURN OUR ATTENTION TO THIS STRANGER. His fellow-travellers knew Him not, but we know Him. I have said that we know not the name of one of these disciples. But the name of this wayfaring man we know. He is “The Wonderful.” Wonderful was He in the glory which He had with the Father before the world was. Wonderful was He in His deep humiliation. But He is, above all, wonderful now, as He stands upon the earth, a mighty conqueror returned from His expedition into the territories of the King of Terrors--having “by death destroyed death,” and become the resurrection and the life. He might have entered the city in regal pomp and equipage, with a retinue of angelic legions; but He prefers to enter these desolate hearts, and to awaken festive joy and triumphal acclamations there. What I desire to mark in the conduct of the Redeemer is the manner in which He makes himself known to these two disciples. For observe, my brethren, in the first place, that He does not at once reveal Himself to them; and why not? For reasons most obvious. They had, as yet, no idea of the atonement. When He foretold His crucifixion, declaring that it was necessary, Peter was indignant, and said, “Be it far from Thee, Lord, this shall not be unto Thee.” Had He not instructed them before showing Himself, they would have been wholly unprepared rightly to welcome Him; they would, perhaps, like the apostles, have been “terrified and affrighted, supposing they had seen a spirit.” It is certain they could not have been filled with the intelligent joy which sprang up in their souls when He was made known to them. In the next place, see how He prepares them for the manifestation He is about to make. It is by opening the Scriptures to them. He will not let their faith rest on the testimony of men or of angels. Convincing as was the vision on Mount Tabor, Peter, who was there and beheld the glorified Jesus, says, “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.” And it is to this sure word that Jesus turns the minds of these disciples. He magnifies “His word above all His name.” He teaches them that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
III. WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THIS INTERVIEW UPON THESE TWO DISCIPLES? Their souls are first consoled, then warmed, then heated. While Jesus is speaking the fire kindles; His words fall upon train after train of memory and hope and love, until everything is in a glow, and their hearts are burning within them. A burning heart! what a noble expression; there is something contagious in the very words; we cannot utter them without feeling a sacred ardour in our own hearts. Do you ask me what emotions burned in the hearts of these disciples? I answer, first, love. In the whole account of the Saviour’s resurrection, we see the difference between the nature of women and of men. The former are less suspicious, more prompt, unhesitating, unquestioning in their confidence; and more true in their affection. Hence Jesus appeared first to women. It is to love that Jesus hastens to manifest Himself, and during the three days between the Saviour’s crucifixion and resurrection it was only in the hearts of women that love would know no abatement. These disciples, however, had never ceased to love. To me the very ground of their unbelief is a tender proof of their affection. “Him they saw not”--had they but seen Him; they saw a vision of angels, but saw ye Him whom our souls love? No, “Him they saw not”; and what if they saw thousands of angels, what if all the angels of heaven should appear, they cannot console us for our bereavement. They still loved, but their hearts bad been crushed by such a blow. The fire was almost extinguished; it is now fanned; the dying embers begin to glow, the smoking flax blazes up. They know not the stranger, but He speaks to them of One dearer to them than life; how much sweeter the memory of Him than the presence of all besides! Do you ask me what emotions burned in the hearts of these disciples? I answer, joy. “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” There is vouchsafed to them now a foretaste of the Pentecostal fire. Their hearts burn within them, burn with joy. In a word, and not to dwell too long upon this topic, the hearts of these disciples burned, not only with love and joy, but with the strangest, sweetest surprise. Their astonishment and rapture must have been overpowering an hour later, when “their eyes were opened and they knew Him, and He vanished out of their sight.” What a moment that! What ages crowded into that moment!
IV. In finishing this discourse, LET US EXTRACT FROM THIS HISTORY TWO LESSONS, and let the first be, The duty of living by faith, not by sight. When we open the sacred Volume we find that to faith nothing is impossible; but where is this omnipotent grace? Yet this entire narrative--the Saviour’s rebuke of these disciples--the manner in which He instructs them--His sudden vanishing--all teaches us that it is not by the senses, but by faith in revealed truth that we are to walk. He appears to convince them of His resurrection, and to assure them of His constant care and faithfulness. He disappears, to teach that, though they have known Him after the flesh, henceforth they are only to know Him and commune with Him spiritually. Another lesson. Let us seek burning hearts. Faith is a great word; but there is a greater, more imperial word, it is Love. The life of love is a truer, higher life than that of faith; its strength failed not amidst all the unbelief of these disciples; and it will be perpetuated and perfected in heaven, when faith shall cease for ever. Let us seek burning hearts. Intellect is good, and imagination is good; but a heart on fire, a heart inflamed with love, is best of all. (R. Fuller, D. D.)
What manner of communications are these?--
The Lord’s question was the language, not of reproof, but of sympathy. Something like reproof came later on: but as yet He can think only of their sadness. Their sadness was written, so the original word implies, in their countenances: but He, of course, saw deeper. And whether the allusion to the sadness formed part of His question, or belongs, as is probable, to the evangelist’s description, does not really matter: the drift of the early part of His question was plain enough.
I. WHAT WAS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SADNESS OF THE TWO DISCIPLES?
1. It was, first of all, the sadness of a bereavement. They had been with Jesus, we know not how long; they had seen and heard Him: He had conquered a great place in their hearts. They had seen Him arrested, insulted, crucified, dead, buried. So far their sadness was that of the Magdalene, when she asked the supposed gardener where they had laid the sacred body. We most of us know something of the heartache of a great bereavement.
2. But, then, secondly, the sadness of the disciples was also caused by mental perplexity. Here, as elsewhere in the Gospels, we see the different bearing of men and women in the hour of sorrow. A woman is most distressed when her heart has lost its accustomed object. A man is by no means insensible to this source of sorrow; but he commonly feels a distress, which a woman does not feel, at least equally, when his intelligence, his sense of truth, is perplexed.
3. Once more, theirs was the sadness of a forfeited object in life, of a shattered career. They had, as they thought, given themselves to Jesus, to His cause and work, for good and all. They had embarked all the energy and resolve of life in that service, in that companionship, so full, as it seemed, of coming blessing and triumph: when lo! as it appeared, all had collapsed.
II. IN OUR MODERN WORLD ARE TO BE SEEN, NOT SELDOM, DISCIPLES OF CHRIST IN NAME, DOWNCAST AND SADDENED, WHO ARE LEAVING JERUSALEM, AS IF ON THE POINT OF GIVING HIM UP. And He, as of old, joins them in “another form,” so that their eyes are holden, and they do not know Him. He comes to them in His Church, which is in their eyes only a human institution; or in His Scriptures, which seem to them but a human literature; or in His Sacraments, in which they can discern nothing more than outward ceremonies. Yet He has a question to put to them, and a word of comfort to address to them, if they will but listen. For they are sad; sad for nearly the same reasons as were the two disciples on the Emmaus road.
1. First of all, there is the sadness of mental perplexity. The understanding has its fashions as well as the heart; its fashions of distress as well as its fashions of enjoyment. In our day, many men, who have not wholly renounced the name of Christ, are oppressed by what they call, not unreasonably, the mystery of existence. They see around them a world of nature, and a human world too. Each in a thousand ways creates perplexity and disappointment. Whence comes the natural world? If we lose sight of what faith teaches as to the creation of all things out of nothing by God, all is at once wrapped in darkness. Our risen Lord offers us the true solution.
2. Next, there is the sadness of the conscience. Where distinct acts of wrong-doing are not constantly and vividly present to the memory, there is a moral cloud brooding over the soul, from whose shadow escape is rarely possible. Our risen Lord reveals Himself to those who are weighed down by sin, as pardoning and blotting it out. He bare our sins in His own body on the tree; and it is the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all sin. But what is it that gives His death this power? It is that the worth and merits of His Person are incalculable, since He is the everlasting Son of God. And what is the proof of this which He Himself offered to His disciples and to the world? It is His resurrection from the dead.
3. Thirdly, there is that sadness of the soul which arises from the want of an object in life; an object to be grasped by the affections, to be aimed at by the will. This is a kind of melancholy which is common enough among persons who have all the advantages which money and position can secure: they do not know what to do with themselves. They devote themselves to expedients for diminishing the lassitude of existence; they apply first to this excitement, then to that: they spend their lives in trying to “kill time.” What a disclosure of the hopeless misuse of life lies in that expression, “killing time”! To persons who are thus living without an object, Christ our Lord appears, once it may be at least; to teach them that there is something worth living for; the known will of the eternal God. (Canon Liddon.)
Our Lord’s question
1. This inquiry may be regarded as an instance of our Lord’s tenderness and compassion towards His disciples.
2. Our Lord’s question was an indication of His authority. He speaks not on]y as a friend, but as their Lord and Saviour.
3. The question might be proposed in order to teach both them and others the propriety of frequently putting a similar inquiry to themselves.
1. Is the general tenor of our conversation light and indifferent, or is it serious and edifying?
2. Does our conversation never border upon profaneness, even while it is free from the grosser expressions of it?
3. Is our conversation seasoned with salt, so as to minister edification to the hearers?
4. Are we careful as to the manner of our conversation, as well as to the matter of it; to see that the spirit of it corresponds with the subject of discourse?
As spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned, so they can be communicated only by such as are spiritually minded. When our tongues are fluent, are our hearts warm and lively? In order that our conversation may be as becometh the gospel of Christ, let us observe the following directions:
1. Get a good treasure in your hearts, and let them be well stored with Divine truth; for it is out of this that the good householder bringeth forth good things. If the truth dwell in us richly in all wisdom, it will be like a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life.
2. Meditate much upon Divine subjects. “Whilst I was musing,” says David, “the fire burned.” What God communicates to us by our thoughts, we shall be ready to communicate to others in our words.
3. Seek Divine direction, and say with the Psalmist, “Open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise.” If we were as full of matter as Elihu, yet what we utter would not tend to the glory of God, unless we are under the influence of His Holy Spirit (Psalms 51:15; Ephesians 5:18-19).
4. Carefully avoid whatever might prove an impediment to spiritual and edifying conversation. Shun carnal company, disregard the reproaches of ignorant and wicked men, and seek the society of experimental Christians. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20; Hosea 14:9). (B. Beddome, M. A.)
A wise method of dealing with mourners
Observe that, when the Saviour did come to these mourning ones, He acted very wisely towards them. He did not at once begin by saying, “I know why you are sad.” No; He waited for them to speak, and in His patience drew forth from them the items and particulars of their trouble. You that deal with mourners, learn hence the way of wisdom. Do not talk too much yourselves. Let the swelling heart relieve itself. Jeremiah derives a measure of help from his own lamentations; even Job feels a little the better from pouring out his complaint. Those griefs which are silent run very deep, and drown the soul in misery. It is good to let sorrow have a tongue where sympathy hath an ear. Allow those who are seeking the Lord to tell you their difficulties: do not discourse much with them till they have done so. You will be the better able to deal with them, and they will be the better prepared to receive your words of cheer. Often, by facing the disease of sorrow the cure is half effected; for many doubts and fears vanish when described. Mystery gives a tooth to misery, and when that mystery is extracted by a clear description, the sharpness of the woe is over. Learn, then, ye who would be comforters, to let mourners hold forth their wound before you pour in the oil and wine. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Samuel Rutherford used to say, “I wonder many times that ever a child of God should have a sad heart, considering what the Lord is preparing for him.” “When we shall come home, and enter into the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and suffering, then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory, and that our little inch of time-suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.”
Faith and fact
We naturally inquire, why did He ask this question? Not for His own sake, certainly. He not only knew, but was Himself the very subject of the narrative which He would obtain from their lips. “What things?” He asks.
I. Notice, first of all, the important circumstance that HE CALLS THEIR ATTENTION TO FACTS. It is an important circumstance. In the world, fact is our master; the truth is, after all, that which we need, and which controls us. No alchemy of logic, no splendour of fancy, can dissolve this. A man may live in an ideal world while he dreams, but waking brings him to solid earth, and to the slow and real steps of daily life. The ultimate question for us, with reference to everything that demands our allegiance or assent, is this: Is it fact? Christianity must submit to this test, as all other things. Men fancy that it does not meet the requirement. The impression is widely prevalent. We may not stop to enumerate all the circumstances that lead to this impression, and yet a few may be referred to. First of all, those circumstances that have existed in connection with widely-spread revivals of religion have impressed upon the minds of many critical observers the conclusion that Christianity is all a romance, a dream. It may be impossible, by any mere human criteria, to discriminate between that which is passional and earthly and that which is the work of the Spirit. God knoweth His own. It is not necessary for me to know whether my neighbour be a Christian; it is necessary for me to know that I am in communion with God. I am not bound to anatomize, dissect, and understand the working of his heart. I must deal with my own heart. A second circumstance that leads to this impression is the wide disparity between the profession of Christians and the manifestation of the power of the gospel in their lives. They cannot probe nor understand hidden life. Christianity seems unreal to them, because it is still and unobtrusive. A third cause of the impression is the persistent and earnest efforts, often reiterated, and especially prominent in our day, to do away with the historic basis of Christianity, and to construct a God out of human consciousness. They tell us that Christianity, after all, is only the religion of nature: it found a temporary manifestation here; but it existed before, and exists now, without revelation. That it is, indeed, the religion which nature demands, the outcry of the soul among all nations, civilized and barbaric, affirms; but that it is the religion that nature offers, the agony of the crucified, and the wail of the philosopher in the early ages, and the burden of those who in heathenism to-day cry out for light and confess their despair, all these deny. And yet we have those who placidly tell us that “religion is storax, and chlorine, and rosemary; a mountain air, and the silent song of the stars is it.” A “mountain air,” indeed, is such religion--very thin and very cold, where men soon gasp and die. Not thus did Christ and His apostles deal with the historic facts of Christianity. Here, you observe, He appeals to certain “things,” upon the reality of which all His further dealings with these men, and all their hopes, are based. If these “things” have not occurred--if these “things” are not brought back vividly to their memory--if upon these “things” and their actuality He cannot build His subsequent words, they are deluded and defrauded, and their hopes are vain. The Gospels themselves are a compend of almost naked facts. Men now, as well as then, have to deal with concrete actualities in Christianity and its attendant evidences. Let me refer to two or three. You remember that famous answer to the king who demanded a visible miracle: “Your Majesty--the Jews.” They are an anomaly, a perpetual miracle among the nations. Living in every country, yet having no country; intermixed in trade, yet not in blood, with other nations; preserving their distinct identity; a people with a memory and a hope, who look longingly and passionately back to empty Jerusalem, and claim it still as their own, though for hundreds of years they have been only permitted to touch the precious stones of the foundation of their temple. How shall we explain their presence in the world? How are we to account for the circumstances which environ them? I see upon them the brand of blood, and I remember how, at the transaction in Jerusalem, they said, “His blood be upon us.” If this Bible gives the true history of the Jews, their condition is explained; if not, no theorist, no philosopher, no student of the science of history can explain it to me. I look to the Church of God--and, that I may be more specific, to a single Church--not to the Church universal, whose outlines are not clearly visible. I look to a single Church, as an existing institution, as a fact in the community. I put it alongside of earthly institutions--of those various organizations which men have framed for benevolent, social, and literary purposes. I point to the perpetuity of the individual Church. I come to individuals. It is sufficient if there be a single man who realizes, in any considerable degree, that which the gospel promises concerning the restoration of man to ideal perfectness. Read over that wonderful catalogue which Paul gives us of the Christian virtues, in the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Think of a man who is wise, and patient, and pure, and long-suffering, and charitable, and unenvious, and hopeful, and truthful--all the virtues that you can catalogue. But he tells you all this is built upon his companionship with Christ--upon the power of faith in actual redemption through Christ. Is not such a case a fact in life, and has not such a fact come within your reach? But take another case. Let it be a woman, who, in her early womanhood, has given her heart, full of overflowing affection, to the one she trusted as her husband. He has deceived her. The world has dealt coldly with her. She has no longer a home or a husband, and her children look despair into her eyes as she turns to them. Yet there is a Book she clings to, and a sacred place of comfort; and the heart does not burst with agony. Alone! She declares she is not alone. That which no human sympathy could give--that which no human wisdom could teach--has been given and taught; strength has been put into that dismayed soul that makes her master of herself and of the world, notwithstanding its crushing power. Is not this a fact? And now I insist that these facts of which I have spoken have no significance, except they relate back to the facts to which these two men referred. The Lord’s Supper, celebrated month by month, would have no explanation in facts, and no meaning as a ceremony, if it had not been an uninterrupted and perpetual memorial of an event that transpired. The Church has no foundation, if it be not founded on a real Christ and His authentic work among men. You will find that this monument of fact in the world rests upon Calvary; and Calvary itself thrusts its deep roots down to the earlier world. A solid basis of history is given us, such as no other religion has. Christianity gives us a historic record from the foundation of the world; and the New Testament is knit upon the Old as the subsequent history of the Church is knit upon it. Now I say that, if it be not literal truth, as these men reiterated it, that Christ was crucified; if it be not a fact, as revealed to them, that Christ is risen; if this basis for our faith be swept away, then the Church is dissolved like the fabric of a vision. I look back through the centuries to Paul, and hear him say: “If Christ be not risen, your hope is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” I hear the army of martyrs cry: “Our blood is spilt in vain.” I hear Luther lifting up his voice, crying: “I have deceived the nations, declaring that the just shall live by faith.” But, admitting the need that these facts should exist, why does He ask these men to recount them? Why does He bid them go back again over those painful, thorny steps which they have just trod, and view again those agonizing scenes, and recall the mournful words? Before we answer the question, let us ask another: Why did these facts, so momentous, influence so few? Why was not Palestine convulsed morally as well as physically by the mighty earthquake when Christ died? “What things?” And, first of all, I recognize the fact that He would fix their attention upon the events that have been transpiring. We must distinguish between the mere open eye upon which passing objects paint their unnoticed outline, and the observing eye. We must distinguish between things which are just seen and then dismissed, and those which are retained by voluntary effort. These men are about to dismiss the subject of their thoughts. He calls it back. “What things?” They have fallen into mere musing, mere droning over the past. He brings them back to active memory and active study again.
I. In the second place, He asks them, “What things?” that, in recounting, they may PERCEIVE THE RELATIONS OF THE EVENTS NARRATED. This is the greater part of knowledge. The mere mob of motley transactions that are flowing before us in the world, cannot, as such, be of service to us. He who would learn from nature, must study the order of nature--must bind up like with like, and, study the dissimilarities of things that differ. He who will fairly study Christianity in the earth, must take the dominant facts of Christianity, and impartially weigh them in their relations. Christianity must be contrasted with error, in the whole breadth of each. Things that are alike must be noticed and marked out, as the algebraist strikes out, from the two sides of an equation, elements that correspond, retaining only those that differ. The accidental must be distinguished from the necessary, the formal from the essential; and so a broad and impartial vision must measure the outlines. Compare the godly man with the ungodly, and when you have sifted the two, and so reached radical character, how much is left in the godly man, and how much is left in the ungodly? These are the inquiries with which you have to do. In the history of Christianity as a force among nations--socially and governmentally--in the historic development of doctrine, and its bearings on life--in the history of individual Churches--it is the question for men fairly to consider: What are the facts, the residuary facts? So comes the “conclusion of the whole matter.” These disciples had not forgotten, but remembered confusedly and in fragments. They must pass the whole in review, in broad vision see the relation of part with part, lest they lose the benefit of the lesson which has been given them. There are two difficulties in attempting fairly to weigh facts. One is, the disposition to prejudge--to test history by theory. These men had a theory. It was perfectly clear to them. God had not given it to them; intuition had not disclosed it; but they had concluded it--they were sure that, when the Messiah should come, He would be a triumphant Saviour; that He would march boldly into Jerusalem, lay His hand upon the sceptre and throne, and the Roman power dissolve before Him. This had not been. They had seen Him hang pale and lifeless upon the cross, and consigned to the tomb stark and dead. How could He be the Messiah? The matter was disposed of in their minds. A second difficulty that lay in their way is a common one. With half glimpses, and a confused idea of facts, they had begun “reasoning together.” This is almost instinctive. Men get two facts of a ease, and presume a third; and, upon the two facts and a presumption, go to work to build a conclusion. Here is a surveyor who wishes to measure the height of yonder tree. He measures the base-line; he knows the tree is perpendicular, and so has a right-angle; now, he guesses at the angle from here to the top of the tree, and on these data seeks to find the height of the tree. Will he ever get it? Science offers to us two or three data; to these known, we add certain unknown quantities, counting them as also known, and so set off to map out the heavenly spaces. These men had a part only of the facts, and they had begun at once to draw general conclusions. There was a fairer way. They remembered Christ’s words--they alluded to them. They remembered the event of the crucifixion, and that three days had transpired, and they had heard the words of the women, that He was gone from the tomb. Did they count this a mere vision of enthusiasts, who, by reason of their femininity, might be supposed to be peculiarly imaginative? Still, it was confirmed by their calmer brethren. So far as the testimony went, it was all in the direction of fulfilment of His word. It was no time to deny or surmise, but rather to hope and wait and watch. Philip said to Nathaniel, when he asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” “Come and see.” So far as the facts you have seen go, do they point to the truth of Christianity? Do not pause at that point to argue, much less to deny, but, if you would have confirmation, “come and see.” It is God’s own method. Once more. It was NOT SUFFICIENT FOR THEM SIMPLY TO THINK OVER the facts--they must also SPEAK them. Now, this may at first seem strange to us; but consider how vital is the relation of human speech to the development of character, and to self-acquaintance. We see now the process by which Christ leads these men out of their bewilderment into perfect light. The facts were all accessible, but, though within reach, they were not grasped, and would soon have been swallowed up in forgetfulness. He calls up again these flitting forms and sets them in array; and beside them sets a prophecy uttered four hundred years before, and shows them how, item by item, it corresponds with these. He goes farther back, from Malachi to Isaiah, and from Isaiah to David, and from David to Moses. He sets a torchlight on every hill, until their wondering eyes look back along the pathway to the gateway of Eden, and they see the glowing words, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head”; “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” They understand now the gigantic conflict which has transpired, and that from it the Messiah must come forth, “having trodden the wine-press alone,” with garments blood-red, to lift His sceptre over a redeemed universe, His bruised heel upon the crushed head of the monster. Their hearts burn within them; they longed for the truth, and now, the truth being come to them, their hearts are aglow, and they constrain Him to abide with them. They have learned the lesson--their faith is confirmed. He is known to them, and vanishes from their sight. This method in the revelation of Himself to a soul, commends itself to reasonable men; proceeding from facts to conclusions--from the known to the unknown--from the natural to the supernatural. (Jesse B. Thomas, D. D.)
But we trusted
A mistaken here
I. THEIR PREVIOUS CONFIDENCE.
1. The object of that confidence. They had formed defective views as to the
(1) needful atonement, and
(2) attendant benefits.
2. The ground of that confidence. In part substantially and in part visionary. They were misled by prevailing misconceptions.
II. THEIR PRESENT DESPONDENCY.
1. Its extent. Heartfelt dejection.
2. The occasion of it (see Luke 24:20).
1. To shame our low distrust. The things we fear are for us
2. To confirm our highest hope. Sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus established. (F. Fitch, M. A.)
Sunset sorrow and lost hopes
Here we have an illustration of men who had hoped great things, and God had disappointed them. But we learn that God had disappointed them by making His fulfilment larger than their hope. They hoped too little. It is so yet with many whom sunset sorrow overshadows. It is not easy for us to realize that the world of God is larger than our world. In ancient times the imperfect knowledge of men reduced the world to a mere fraction of its actual size and contents. The entire globe rested on the shoulders of Atlas then; the Mediterranean was the “Great Sea”; the Straits of Gibraltar formed the world’s end. But with the advance of knowledge the earth widened; Atlas lost the honour of being the supporter of the globe; an Atlantic was discovered beyond the pillars of Hercules at Gibraltar, stretching immeasurable and unknown towards the west. Religious geography has fared no better. The gods of ancient days were mostly lords, with uncertain divinity and still more uncertain morality.
Theology was superstition. Life was an idle dream. But are we sure that our religious geography, even in the present day, is so advanced as to be as broad as God’s world? Councils, and synods, and creeds have eagerly striven to keep enterprising voyagers from passing beyond settled limits. Men have ever been frightened of God’s open seas. They prefer a tideless Mediterranean to the broad swell and shoreless ranges of an Atlantic. “We hoped”--what? That God was much less than He has turned out to be; that His kingdom would fall peacefully within the limits we had ordained for it! A child, brought up in a deep and narrow glen, never having ventured out of it, has reduced the sum of visible things to a very insignificant item tie has seen the sun rise over the hill, the wheel of its chariot evidently grazing the summit before mounting higher; he hopes to touch the sun some day, and put his hand to hide its face. And the stars that look down upon him at night--such little things, so near and so many--they would be charming to play with. And the blue summer sky--whatexquisite joy it would be to place his cheek for a moment close to the cool sweet surface! The day arrives; the child stands on the hill, with all the pretty dreams of childhood vanished for ever in the painful and overwhelming surprise of new thoughts. The sun has climbed very high, and the summer sky is very far off. Creation has widened, but it has spoilt many a pleasant hope. His former world is judged; it is a very little place! This is only a special case that is typical of a great deal in universal human history. In the star-guesses of ancient days the earth was made out to be a planet of the first order--it was the centre of the universe, having sun and moon and stars under its command. It was the earth--and the rest of creation. We have changed all that. The earth has slowly and quietly sunk into its proper position, a little orb of light and shade in the midst of a thousand orbs much larger than it. But, let it be remembered, it is not the earth that has grown smaller, but the conception of the creation that has widened. The same is true with regard to our spiritual attainments. Thoughts of God and of His kingdom that we had cherished long have to be given up--not because they are too great, but because they are too little. He does away with our hopes by outshining them. “We hoped” that we might touch the sun and stars and eternal sky; hut God lifts them very high and makes the world very large. It is thus that God, in loving wisdom, disappoints the hopes of men, lest they should satisfy themselves too soon. The hand that breaks our fondest wishes is full of larger mercies than we had expected ever to see. God sends us the pain of a heavy loss in order that we may be led out of our narrowness and self-completeness into broader fields of thought and action. Little hopes make life little; great hopes make a great life. When we limit God we make ourselves poor; when we enlarge our conception of Him we enlarge our whole being. (H. Elvet Lewis.)
But Him they saw not
Him they saw not
I. WE HAVE HERE AN UNBELIEVING SEARCH.
II. WE HAVE ALSO HERE FINDING WITHOUT A SEARCH. An anxious, honest doubt will not shut out visions of God from the soul.
III. WE HAVE HERE THE DISCOVERY OF CHRIST BY WOMAN’S LOVE.
IV. APPLICATION. “Him they saw not.” To see Him is the characteristic and end of all true life.
1. “Him they saw not”--a sad confession when made in reference to our stated worship hours. To meet Him we ostensibly assemble and join in the outer forms of reverence and worship, and yet of how many may our text apply, “Him they saw not.”
2. “Him they saw not,” a sad confession when made in relation to the service of work. We see the terrible aspects of human misery, poverty in a thousand forms, and sin in many of its loathsome shapes. Do we see Him in those scenes? In our daily toil how true it is of many--oh, so many--“Him they see not”!
3. “Him they saw not.” How sad in relation to earth’s sorrows! Sad, yet true. The brotherhood of sorrow and trouble is a worldwide brotherhood. There runs a chain of sorrow through time; this is all dark and mysterious if Him the sufferers see not. (W. Scott.)
O fools, and slow of heart
The folly of unbelief
I. UNBELIEF IS FOLLY.
1. It is folly because it arises from want of thought and consideration. Not to think is folly. To give way to sadness, when a little thought would prevent it, is foolishness. If these two disciples had sat down and said, “Now the prophets have said concerning the Messias that He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and thus was it with our Master,” they would have been confirmed in their confidence that Jesus was the Messiah. In the Scriptures they would have found types, and figures, and plain words, in which the death and the rising again, the shame and the glory of Christ are linked together, and His cross is made the road to His throne. Had they compared the testimony of the holy women with the prophecies of the Old Testament, they would have obtained ground of hope. How many a precious text have you and I read again and again without perceiving its joyful meaning, because our minds have been clouded with despondency! We take the telescope, and try to look into heavenly things, and we breathe upon the glass with the hot breath of our anxiety till we cannot see anything; and then we conclude that there is nothing to be seen.
2. Unbelief is folly because it is inconsistent with our own professions. The two disciples professed that they believed in the prophets; and I have no doubt that they did do so. They were devout Jews who accepted the Holy Books as Divinely inspired, and therefore infallible; and yet now they were acting as if they did not believe in the prophets at all.
3. Folly, again, is clearly seen in unbelieving sadness, because the evidence which should cheer us is so clear. In the ease of the brethren going to Emmaus they had solid ground for hope. They speak, to my mind, a little cavalierly of the holy women as “certain women.” I say not they speak disrespectfully; but there is a slurring of their witness by casting a doubt upon it. If those who were at the empty sepulchre were to be believed, why did they doubt? The evidence which they themselves detail, though we have it only in brief in this place, was conclusive evidence that Christ had left the tomb; and yet they doubted it. Now, you and I have had superabundant evidence of the faithfulness of God, and if we are unbelieving, we are unreasonable and foolish.
4. Unbelief is folly, because it very often arises out of our being in such a hurry. They said, “Beside all this, this is the third day.” Although the Saviour had said that He would rise on the third day, He had not said that He would appear to them all on the third day. He told them to go into Galilee, and there they should see Him; but that meeting had not yet come. “He that believeth shall not make haste”; but they that do not believe are always restless. Well is it written, “Ye have need of patience.” God’s promises will be kept to the moment, but they will not all be fulfilled today. Divine promises are some of them bills which are payable so many days after sight; and because they are not paid at sight we doubt whether they are good bills. Is this reasonable? Are we not foolish to doubt the sure handwriting of a God that cannot lie?
5. Yet, again, I think we may well be accused of folly whenever we doubt, because we make ourselves suffer needlessly. There are enough bitter wells in this wilderness without our digging more. There are enough real causes of sorrow without our inventing imaginary ones. No asp ever stung Cleopatra so terribly as that which she held to her breast herself.
6. I want you to notice yet further that it was folly, but it was nothing more. I feel so thankful to our Lord for using that word. Though we ought to condemn our own unbelief with all our hearts, yet our Saviour is full of tenderness, and so freely forgives, that He looks upon our fault as folly, and not as wilful wickedness. He knows that it is true of his children, as it is of ours, that folly is bound up in the heart of a child.
II. In the second place, our Lord rebuked them for SLOWNESS OF HEART TO BELIEVE.
1. First, we are slow in heart to believe our God, for we are much more ready to believe others than to believe Him. I am often amazed with the credulity of good people whom I had credited with more sense. Credulity towards man and incredulity towards God are singular things to find in the same person. Let us henceforth accept every syllable of God’s Word as infallible, while we turn our unbelief towards man and his philosophies and infidelities!
2. Is it not clear that we are slow of heart to believe, since we judge this of others when they are mistrustful?
3. There is another point in which we are very slow of heart to believe, namely, that we do believe, and yet do not believe. We must be very slow of heart when we say “Yes, I believe that promise,” and yet we do not expect it to be fulfilled. We are quick of mind to believe mentally, but we are slow of heart to believe practically. The very heart of our believing is slow. They talk about believing in the Lord for eternity, but for this day and next week they are full of fear. True faith is every-day faith. We want a faith which will endure the wear and tear of life--a practical, realizing faith, which trusts in God from hour to hour.
4. These two disciples must have been slow of heart to believe, again, because they had enjoyed so much excellent teaching, and they ought to have been solid believers. They had been for years with Jesus Christ
Himself as a tutor, and yet they had not learned the elements of simple faith.
5. Once more, these two disciples were very slow of heart to believe, because there is so much in the Word which ought to have convinced them. See how the Saviour puts it--“Slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” What a mighty “all” that is! Brethren, are you half aware of the treasure bidden in the field of Scripture?
III. Now I want to speak on this matter TO THE UNCONVERTED. Some of you are really seeking the Lord, but you say that you cannot believe though you long to believe.
1. This unbelief proves you to be foolish, and slow of heart, for there are other parts of His Word which you easily believe. If there is a text that speaks of judgment to come you believe it. You are ready enough to take in the hard things, but the gracious promises of the loving Christ you will not believe. How can you justify this? How foolish you are t The promises are in the same Book as the threatenings, and if you believe the one, believe the other.
2. Next, you are very foolish, because your objections against believing are altogether poor and puerile. One man cannot believe in Jesus because he does not feel humble enough; as if that affected Christ’s power to save. If he felt more humbled, then he could believe in Jesus. Would not that be just believing in himself, and trusting in his own humility instead of trusting in Christ?
3. Though you find it so hard to believe Christ, you have found it very easy to believe in yourself.
4. Moreover, you are very apt now to believe Satan if he comes and says that the Bible is not true, or that Jesus will not accept you, or that you have sinned beyond hope, or that the grace of God cannot save you.
5. Then you know how ready you are, you seekers, to stop short of Christ.
6. And then some of you are foolish and slow of heart because you make such foolish demands upon God. You would believe if you could hear a voice, if you could dream a dream, if some strange thing were to happen in your family. What I Is God to be tied to your fancies.
7. You are foolish and slow of heart because, to a great extent, you ignore the Word of God and its suitability to your case. If a soul in distress will take down the Bible, and turn it over, he need not took long before he will light upon a passage which describes himself as the object of mercy. Those two disciples did not, for a while, see how the prophets met the case of the crucified and risen Christ; but as they did see it, their hearts burned within them. As you also see how God has provided for your condition in His Word, in His covenant, in His Son, your sadness will flee away. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Ought not Christ to have suffered?--
Gain from the sufferings of Christ
I. IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, AN INNUMERABLE MULTITUDE OF OUR RACE WILL BE RAISED FROM A STATE OF SINFUL DEGRADATION AND MISERY, AND EXALTED TO THE SOCIETY OF ANGELS AND OF GOD.
II. IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, ALL WHO FINALLY BELIEVE AND TRUST IN HIM, AS THE SON OF GOD, WILL BE CONFIRMED IN A STATE OF PERFECT HOLINESS AND HAPPINESS FOR EVER.
III. IN THE PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. THE DIVINE CHARACTER, IN ITS VARIOUS ATTRIBUTES, IS GLORIOUSLY DISPLAYED. Reflections:
1. From this subject we are led to admire the character of God’s government.
2. We are led to mourn how exceedingly limited are the views of those who think that the only object of Christ’s coming into our world was “to publish a good system of morality, and to set us a good example!”
3. We learn how very imperfect are the views of those who suppose that the only object of Christ’s coming into our world was to save sinners. But oh! what is the salvation of millions who creep on earth--what is this compared with those glorious displays of God’s character, or compared with that eternal confidence in His government which is inspired among the loftier and wider provinces of His empire?
4. We ought not to distrust the wisdom of Providence, even in those events which seem dark and mysterious.
5. Let Christians be provoked to self-denying sacrifices in the cause of humanity, and untiring devotedness to the Saviour.
6. Let the wicked and the worldling, amid the blaze of gospel light, be constrained to repent and believe.
7. The reflection very naturally follows, that incorrigible sinners must be punished with immeasurable severity.
8. We learn from this subject the great propriety of frequently commemorating the dying of the Lord Jesus. (A. Dickinson, M. A.)
The sufferings and the glory of the Christ
I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE SUFFERINGS AND THE GLORY OF CHRIST.
II. THE MORAL OBLIGATION.
1. In reference to the fulfilment of inspired prophecy.
2. In reference to the eternal purpose of God.
3. In reference to the conscious needs of our own nature. (J. Waite, B. A.)
Ends proposed in the sufferings of Christ
1. It was requisite that Christ should suffer, in order that He might verify His own predictions.
2. A succession of prophets had foretold His sufferings.
3. That the salvation of mankind depended on His death, and could not have been effected without it.
4. The full display of the glorious character of God required that Christ should suffer.
5. A farther end, a subordinate one, I confess, was that Christ, in suffering, might give us an example of holiness and virtue. (R. Hall, M. A.)
The sufferings and glory of Christ
I. THE PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS OF CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS FOR SIN.
1. He had a clear view of the unspeakable hideousness and odiousness of sin.
2. He was conscious of the Divine displeasure on account of sin.
3. He was conscious of the absence of the Divine favour, and the presence and power of Satan.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH RENDERED THESE SUFFERINGS NECESSARY.
1. They were necessary for the full manifestation of the Divine character in the work of redemption.
2. They were necessary to prevent the salvation of sinners from infringing on the authority and government of God.
III. THE GLORY WHICH IS THE RESULT AND REWARD OF THE SAVIOUR’S SUFFERINGS (see Philippians 2:9-11).
1. The glory and honour thus bestowed on Christ, are conferred on Him in His character of Mediator.
2. The glory of Christ arises from His superiority over the hosts of heaven.
3. Christ possesses glory as the Governor of the world.
4. Christ is glorious as the Sovereign Head of the Church. (W. L. Alexander, D. D.)
Christ’s first sermon after His resurrection; or, Christ the theme of the prophets
I. LET US FIRST CONSIDER OUR LORD’S SERMON ON THIS OCCASION.
II. LET US CONSIDER THE BENEFITS WE MAY DERIVE FROM THIS SERMON.
1. It encourages us to search and understand the Scriptures.
2. It encourages us to preach Scripture sermons.
3. It calls the people to listen to Scripture sermons.
4. This sermon should move the preachers of the gospel to imitate their blessed Master in preaching Christ, as suitable opportunities are presented, even to small congregations.
5. This sermon strengthens our faith in the truth of the Scriptures.
6. This sermon tends to increase our abhorrence of sin.
7. This sermon should increase our love to Christ.
8. This sermon should revive our zeal for Christ’s cause, and for the salvation of our fellow-creatures.
9. This sermon confirms our hope of heaven.
10. This sermon affords great encouragement to penitent, believing souls.
11. This sermon should be a warning to us that the threatenings of the Bible will be fulfilled. (E. Hedding, D. D.)
The Bible a rich storehouse
There are promises in God’s Word that no man has ever tried to find. There are treasures of gold and silver in it that no man has taken the pains to dig for. There are medicines in it for the want of a knowledge of which hundreds have died. It seems to me like some old baronial estate that has descended to a man who lives in a modern house and thinks it scarcely worth while to go and look into the venerable mansion. Year after year passes away, and he pays no attention to it, since he has no suspicion of the valuable treasures it contains, till at last some man says to him, “Have you been up in the country to look at that estate?” He makes up his mind that he will take a look at it. As he goes through the porch he is surprised to see the skill that has been displayed in its construction; he is more and more impressed as he goes through the halls. He enters a large room, and is astonished as he beholds the wealth of pictures upon the walls, among which are portraits of many of his revered ancestors. He stands in amazement before them. There is a Titian, there is a Raphael, there is a Correggio, and there is a Giorgione. He says, “I never had any idea of these before.” “Ah!” says the steward, “there is many another thing that you know nothing about in this castle”; and he takes him from room to room, and shows him carved plate and wonderful statues, and the man exclaims, “Here I have been for a score of years the owner of this estate, and have never before known what things were in it!” But no architect ever conceived of such an estate as God’s Word, and no artist, or carver, or sculptor, ever conceived of such pictures, and carved dishes, and statues, as adorn its apartments. Its halls and passages cannot be surpassed for beauty of architecture, and it contains treasures that silver and gold and precious stones are not to be mentioned in connection with. (H. W. Beecher.)
Abide with us
Disciples at Emmaus
I. THEIR REQUEST. “Abide with us.”
1. As a companion.
2. As a teacher.
3. As a comforter.
4. As a guest.
II. THEIR PLEA. “Toward evening.” Christ makes the night to be light about us.
III. THEIR EARNESTNESS. “Constrained.”
IV. Their success. “He went in.” Wonderful power in prayer, Peasants of earth can prevail with Prince of heaven. Creatures of a day can detain Creator of universe. (W. Jackson.)
Christ constrained to abide
I. CHRIST’S PRESENCE IS EXCEEDINGLY DESIRABLE TO THE SAINTS. This appears from their earnest desires after it, and their sorrows when deprived of it.
1. The presence of Christ is an evidence of His love. Fellowship is the fruit of friendship.
2. Christ’s presence is attended with the most desirable effects; none can enjoy it without deriving the greatest advantages from it. It conveys light into the understanding, as well as warmth into the affections; so that in proportion to the measure of Christ’s revealing Himself to us will he the measure of our profiting in the knowledge of Him.
3. Present communion with Christ is an earnest of everlasting fruition.
II. A SEEMINGLY DEPARTING SAVIOUR MAY BE CONSTRAINED, AS IT WERE, TO ABIDE WITH HIS PEOPLE. Speaking after the manner of men, there are three ways of constraining Christ to abide with us.
1. By the exercise of a lively faith.
2. By fervent prayer.
3. By a suitable conduct towards Him. If we would have Christ abide with us, we must do what we can to delight Him and make His stay pleasant. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
The blessed Guest detained
I. COMPANIONS LIKELY TO PART.
1. Observe the reason of parting. If Jesus had gone further, it would have been entirely because they forgot to invite Him or failed to urge Him to stay.
2. The point at which they were at all likely to part company with Christ.
(1) A point of change.
(2) A point where something had been accomplished.
(3) They were now about to rest for a time.
3. Had they parted company, the act would have been most blameworthy on their part.
II. THE GUEST NEEDING TO BE PRESSED.
1. He could not very well have tarried otherwise.
2. This is a characteristic of the Son of God at all times.
(1) He is jealous of our love.
(2) Another reason is His anxiety to do us good. He wisely wishes that we should value the mercy which He gives, by being led to consider what a case we should be in if He did not give it.
III. A GUEST WORTH PRESSING.
IV. AN ARGUMENT WITH WHICH TO HOLD HIM.
1. They would be dreary and lonely without Him.
2. The night was coming on, and they could not think of His being out in it. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The evening prayer of Christ’s friends
I. NOTICE SOME OF THE FEELINGS WHICH MUST HAVE BEEN IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO PRESENTED THIS PRAYER.
1. Grateful interest in a spiritual benefactor. When a soul has become truly alive to God, and to eternal things, there is no tie so pure and deep as that which binds it to the scenes and instruments which opened its view to the higher life. It is when Churches and families and friendships are held together by such ties as these--by helping one another in the way of God and life eternal--that they are united and strong, that they can feel there is no nightfall which has any right or power to part them, and that they must turn in at the journey’s close, and dwell together in the same abiding home. One of the enjoyments of that home will be to review and renew the intercourse of the journey, and to discover how the ties were deeper and the benefits higher than our hearts at the time understood, and how these sojourning associations were preparing the way for the unending union of souls. And Christ desires to have a personal share in these ties of grateful affection. He is the Author of spiritual light and life to all who receive it, but here He becomes also the direct instrument--He is the channel as well as the fountain--teaching us that His heart lies hidden behind every other heart that is made a source of blessing to us, and also that He wishes to attach us to Himself as “a man speaketh to his friend.”
2. A desire to have such conversation continued. He who has had such fellowship in the thoughts of God on the way will desire to have them also in the house at nightfall. He cannot surrender them at the setting of any earthly sun, but will pray as these disciples did, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening.”
3. The last feeling we mention in the hearts of these friends of Christ was the presentiment of something more than they had yet seen or heard. They had gratitude to the speaker, they had love to the theme, but they felt that there was still a mystery behind. They had learned much, but their heart told them they had not learned all. The sense of a great presence hovered near them; a great truth floated before them ere yet it disclosed itself to their eyes. They fear to ask Him of it; they shrink from whispering it to themselves; but there is a beam of light in the stranger’s look which promises to lead to fuller revelation, a tone of hopeful confidence in His words that reminds them of a voice which once before spoke from the gloom. What if now, amid a severer storm and out of a denser darkness, that beloved form should step forth again, and the words be heard, “It is I; be not afraid”? Such a hope of a risen Saviour, and that this was He, unuttered even to themselves deep down in their soul, and fighting with fears as once their ship did with waves, was surely present in their hearts when they urged this request: “Abide with us, for it is toward evening.”
II. SOME OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THIS REQUEST MAY BE OFFERED BY US. It may be said to be suitable to the whole earthly life of every Christian. The Church of Christ, and every member of it in this world, is pursuing this Emmaus journey--travelling from the death of Christ on to the house where He shall give the manifestation of His resurrection. We feel that He who sustains us on the way, and drops into our soul great desires and deep presentiments, will answer them when we reach the heavenly house, and show us there things which eye hath not seen, neither hath it entered into man’s heart to conceive. Our life is now hid with Christ in God, but “when He who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory,” and therefore we hold Him fast to the close. “Abide with us.” Next, it is suitable to those who are suffering under some special despondency of spirit. It is then we need to cling to Him most, and then that He is accustomed to reveal Himself. It is His “to lighten men’s darkness, lest they sleep the sleep of death.” If He seems to be passing by, constrain Him. “Abide with us, for it is toward evening.” “I will not let Thee go until Thou bless me.” Oh, faithful heart, thou hast wrestled and overcome. Another time suitable for presenting this request is in approaching the evening of life. Last, we remark that this request is suitable to those who live in an age of the world such as ours. It would be unwarrantable to say that this is the evening of our earth’s history, and that we are close upon the second coming of Christ. The world has probably much to look on yet before the final end. But there are various days and nights in God’s dispensations, and one of these evenings seems now creeping in upon us. There is a cold vapour of materialism spreading over the minds of many, chilling their conviction of a living God who made and superintends His world. There is only one duty and one source of safety for any man who wishes to have a life that rises above the most barren materialism; it is to seek a close and personal contact with the Saviour as the life of His Spirit, to know Christ as the risen Son of God, who quickens dead souls. These evening shades and doubts and trembling fears, that settle down ever and again on the world’s way, are permitted, to compel us to this--to urge us to seek His fellowship with a closer access, and to constrain Him to enter the house with us and reveal Himself in such living power that we, for our parts, can never doubt His truth any more. We need not fear for the gospel of Christ, whatever dangers threaten it. Calvary has still its Olivet; the shades of the Cross, the ascension glory; and every night of trouble in its history, a brighter day-dawn. (J. Igor, D. D.)
How to detain Jesus in the soul
I. Doubts as to the use of holy things we do, or of God’s gifts to us, or even of the faith, and of the reality of every thing unseen, are parts of Satan’s assaults against us. Men cannot but see that God does promise, in His Word, that He will hear prayer, bless fasting, enrich those who give alms; that by baptism we are clothed with Christ, in the Holy Eucharist are made one with Him; that the Church is the appointed channel of His gifts and of salvation. But men come short of God’s gracious will for them; and so they are tempted to doubt of His promises altogether. Just so the disciples of Emmaus. They had believed that Jesus was “He who should redeem Israel.” But He redeemed it not in the way they looked for. He had foretold that He should arise from the dead on the third day; “To-day,” they say, “is the third day since these things were done,” and He had not appeared. Had they, upon this, gone away, He never would have appeared unto them. They were saddened, perplexed, yet still they mused on Jesus and His promises. And so, as and when they looked not, relief came. “Jesus drew near, and went with them,” while they knew not, hoped not, that it was He. And so in the like cases now, doubts will have no real hold upon us while we hold fast to Jesus.
II. Then, while thus communing with Jesus, take we heed that we act as He teacheth. Our deeds are the fruits of our faith, but they fix it and secure it in our souls. Without deeds love grows chilled, and, with it, faith. Nothing shall hurt thy faith while thy heart is whole with God; nothing shall warp thy heart while, for love of Christ, thou dost deeds of love.
There is yet another and larger teaching of this history, which extends over the whole of life, relates to every communion, to every fervent prayer which any, by God’s grace, prays, to every melting of the hard heart, to every drawing of the soul to serve God better.
So is it with the soul.
Jesus visits it many ways.
Every visitation of God, in awe and mercy, is a visit of Jesus to the soul.
It feels His presence.
It is troubled, and turns to Him; it is alarmed at itself, or with fears of hell, and flees to Him; or He brings before it its own crooked ways and the loathsomeness of its sin, and it would fain escape out of itself to Him; or He gives it thoughts of His own everlasting love, and the bliss of ever loving, ever being beloved; and kindles some longing for Him.
Everything which deadens the soul to the world, or quickens it to heavenly things, is a visit of Jesus. And now, what should we do, when, in this fleeting world, nothing, not even virtue, abideth at one stay? What should be our hope, when all fleeteth, but in Him who alone abideth, who alone is our stay? “And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly, my hope is even in Thee.” “Abide with us, Lord.” He giveth His grace, that we may know His sweetness; He seemeth to withdraw it, that He may draw us up after it to Himself. He showeth Himself, that we may love Him; He hideth Himself, that we may long for Him, and the more we seek Him the more may find Him.” ‘Abide with us, Lord!’ For without Thee this world’s light, and all the purest joys of the whole world, were but a false glare, cold and comfortless to the soul. With Thee, who art light and love, all darkness is light and joy.” Precious, above the price of the whole world, is every moment in which Christ speaks to the soul. Only, in all we say, think, do, fear, hope, enjoy, let us say, “Abide with us, Lord.” We fear our own unsteadfastness; “Lord, abide with us!” The foe is strong, and we, through our sins, weak; “Lord, abide with us,” and be our strength. We are ever subject to change, and ebb, and flow; “Abide with us, Lord,” with whom “is no change.” The pleasures of the world would lead us from Thee; “Abide with us, Lord,” and be Thou our joy. The troubles of the world would shake our endurance; “Abide with us, Lord,” and bear them in us, as Thou didst bear them for us. Thou art our refreshment in weariness; Thou our comfort in trouble; Thou our refuge in temptation; Thou in death our life; Thou in judgment our Redeemer. If our Lord give thee any fervour in prayer, say to Him, “Abide with me, Lord!” Use the fervour He giveth, to stretch on to some higher fervour, to long for some more burning, deeper love; not as though thou couldest gain it for thyself, but, as emboldened by Him who hath “held out His golden sceptre of His righteousness and mercy unto thee, that thou mayest “touch it,” and ask what thou wilt. If Satan would withdraw thee from prayer by weariness, hold thou on the firmer. Say, “Abide with me, Lord,” and He will be with thee in thy prayer. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
As He sat at meat with them, He took bread
The meal at Emmaus
I. THE BREAKING AND DISTRIBUTION OF BREAD.
1. The old, familiar, blessed intercourse between Christ and His disciples had not been put an end to, then, by all that had passed during those three mysterious days. Death vanishes as a nothing in their intercourse; they stand where they were; the fellowship is unbroken; the society is the same; all that there used to be of love and friendship, of peaceful concord, of true association--it abides for ever.
2. The true idea of the relation which results from Christ and His presence is that of the Family. He takes His place at the head of the table; He is the Lord of the household, though it be but the household of two men, and they belong to the family and the society which He founds.
3. Where Christ is invited as a Guest, He becomes the Host. Our Master never comes empty-handed. Where He is invited, He comes to bestow; where He is welcomed, He comes with His gifts; when we say, “Do Thou take what I offer,” He says, “Do thou take Myself.”
II. THE DISCOVERY. The consequence of this assumption of the position of Master, Host, Bestower, is that “their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.” Where Christ is loved and desired, the veriest trifles of common life may be the means of His discovery, There is nothing so small but that to it there may be attached some filament which will bring after it the whole majesty and grace of Christ and His love.
III. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE LORD.
1. When Christ’s presence is recognized, the senses may be put aside. We have lost, it is true, the bodily presence of our Master; but it is more than made up to us by the clearer knowledge of His spiritual verity and stature, the deeper experience of the profounder aspects of His mission and message, the indwelling Spirit, and the knowledge of Him working evermore for us all.
2. When Christ is discerned, there is work to be done. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Their eyes were opened
The spiritual eye
It is quite certain that there is an inward faculty in the mind which accurately corresponds to the natural eye. It is the power by which we morally see and morally apprehend truth. And that eye, just like the bodily eye, admits of being either closed or opened. This eye of the soul is a part of man’s original constitution. Familiarly we have known it under the name of faith. Faith is that eye of the soul. This eye is born blind. But while nature, in this matter of our blindness, has done much, we ourselves have done much more. The closed eye is being continually closed more and more, and sealed in its closeness. The mistakes of education--the bad early training--youthful prejudice--every neglect of a duty, and every violence done to conscience--the grievings of the spirit, each secret sin and wilful act of disobedience--all our proud tempers, and impure desires, and self-willed thoughts--all that has not God in it--the whole contact with this wicked world--almost every act, and word, and imagination of our lives--all has, every day, been fastening up the fast eye faster and faster. And so at last it comes, that a man can really see nothing but what is material. He has no perception of Divine things. Jesus is practically hidden. Neither his sin, nor its pardon, nor its punishment, nor peace of mind, nor the higher love, nor the heavenly life, nor another world, nor God, does he descry. And yet, all the while, all these things are near him and about him every moment--he moves in that beautiful circle, heaven is round him, but there is a thick curtain before him, it is an unknown thing, it is all to him as if it were not. How is the shut eye opened? Now, it might be enough to say that it is done by an act of sovereign grace and power. That is true; but that would not practically help you. You would then say, “I must wait till that act of sovereign power passes upon me.” Therefore, let me look at it rather differently. There is the eye of the body, which you shut and which you open. How does the physical eye open? There is an act of will in the brain, and that act of will in the brain moves the organ. It is a perfect mystery how the will can take effect upon the nerves, and so upon the muscles, of any part of our body; but it is done. The will acts naturally; but there is another power, an appointment, and a secret omnipotence, which is wanted. So it is with the opening of the spiritual eye. There must be will. True, God gives the will; but He is always giving it, and you are always resisting it. The will begins--the will produces an effort--the effort puts certain things in motion--and God being in it all--in the will which He has created, and in the effort, and in the process--the thing is done--the eye opens, vision is restored. It may be gradually, it may be with more or less of clearness and growth, but it is vision--the eye is opened--and things which were invisible come in through the new avenue, and make their mark, and stamp their impression on the inner man. And the man, the highest part of the man, sees; he finds he is in a new world, and because he is in a new world, he is a new creature. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Did not our heart burn within us
Christ talking--hearts burning
I. CHRIST’S METHOD OF REVEALING HIMSELF.
1. Scripture exposition.
2. Talking. The grandest things demand the simplest presentation.
II. LOOK NOW AT SOME OF THE EFFECTS OF THIS REVELATION ON HIS DISCIPLES.
1. The first effect was deeply interior and experimental. “Their hearts began to burn within them.” There was an unusual interest--a feeling they had never had till now--a longing and a love, and a begun enthusiasm which all their after-life was to express. What effect can be finer than this? or more desirable?--the effect of the burning heart. It is well enough to have an idea, and a sight of things; to see the things that can be seen, and know the truth that can be known. But it is yet better to have a deep, warm, inward sense of them; to have them burning in the breast, and all the breast aflame with the holy fire. No better effect could come to us of our “talkings” together by the way; and of our endeavours to open to each other the Scriptures.
2. The next effect is what we may express in the phrase: “the willing feet.” “They rose up the same hour and returned to Jerusalem.” The feeling was instinctive that something must be done, and done immediately. All this good news which has turned their hearts into fountains of joy, must, in some way, be told, and told without delay; in what way may best remain to be seen; but the first thing to be done is to return to Jerusalem. There their hopes were buried three days ago, and they go now to tell of their resurrection. There, their friends are; and probably their work, and possibly their sufferings. No matter. They must go. Is it not always thus with those to whom Christ makes Himself known? Arising out of the feeling of His presence, along with the burning of heart that makes that presence known, is the immediate and ineffaceable conviction that something must be done for Him. “Here am I, send me.” “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” At least, I feel that whatever my hand findeth to do, I must do it with all my might, and without delay. I must go; and when I reach the end of the little journey, I must speak.
3. Thus we come to another effect of the relation of Christ, which we may call the effect of the ready-tongue. When they came to Jerusalem, they told “what things were done in the way,” and how “He was known of them in the breaking of bread.” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Our emotions are connected with our intellectual states, yet distinct from them and beyond them, because the result of them. The text records the way in which the feelings of the two disciples were excited by the conversation of the unknown stranger who joined them on the way to Emmaus. It suggests a twofold observation.
I. THE GOSPEL APPEALS TO THE FEELINGS OF MEN. It is a religion intended for man in the sense that it meets the wants of his entire nature. And the emotional is as really a part of man’s nature as any other. It would not be a sufficient religion for man if it merely issued its commands as to what should be done in the shape of bodily service, or even in the exercise of a discipline intended for the subjugation of the body; nor if it only furnished the intellect with instruction and elevating material. It must address itself also to the moral and emotional nature. Accordingly, Christianity seizes on the passions, sympathies, and susceptibilities of our nature. The Old and New Testaments are alike full of them, as the experience of the godly. It follows that those whose feelings are not touched by it are unacquainted with its saving power.
II. THE GOSPEL IS ADAPTED TO EXCITE THE FEELINGS OF MEN.
1. The truths of the gospel are in themselves adapted to excite feeling. You attempt to produce emotion by the exhibition of objects that are suitable to that end. Take, as illustrations, the feelings of joy and of love. Could anything be more adapted to their production than the truth that God loves the world of sinners; that He gave His Son to death for them; and that whosoever believes in Him receives pardon and eternal life?
2. This is especially the case when they are addressed to men in certain states of mind. You would never expect to interest a dying man by placing on his pillow the crown of an earthly kingdom. A word of comfort respecting the future is incomparably more to him than all the splendours of this world. Thus, when you laboured under deep conviction of sin and consequent distress, perhaps amounting to hopelessness, the nature, sufficiency, and freeness of salvation in Christ was expounded, and you found it exactly what you wanted. Thus, when you have come to the sanctuary with some trouble on your heart that has almost shaken your faith to its centre, the theme of the ministry has been God’s faithfulness and love, or the mystery along with the benevolence of His providence; and your fainting soul has felt like a falling child whose mother has tenderly taken it up and saved it from hurt.
3. Some circumstances are specially favourable to the excitement of the feelings by the gospel. The public worship of the sanctuary. The communion of Christian friends. The retirement of the closet.
4. Spiritual feelings must be sustained by the means which first produces them. Do you wish to keep your heart warm in this sense? Often walk and talk with Jesus. Let Him be much in your thoughts. (John Rawlinson.)
A suggestive question
I. This question which these disciples asked themselves, illustrates THE DIFFICULTY WE HAVE IN UNDERSTANDING AT THE TIME THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF EVENTS IN OUR LIVES, AND ESPECIALLY OF THE RELIGIOUS EVENTS IN THEM. We are naturally disposed to think that the Important events must be striking; that they must address themselves powerfully to the imagination; that they must stand out, in obvious prominence, from among surrounding occurrences. Whereas it may very well happen that what is most important in reality, that is to say, in its bearing on our prospects in the future life, is in appearance commonplace and trivial. Of course in this world we look at the plan of our lives from below, not from above. We deal with the task of each day, of each hour, as it comes; we have no time or capacity to make a map or theory of the whole and to arrange the several parts in their true proportion and perspective. It is with our conceptions of life as with a landscape painting; some tree in the immediate foreground fills up a third of the canvas, while the towers of a great city, or the outlines of a mountain range, lie far away in the distance. In another state of existence the relative worth of everything will be clear to us: here we constantly make the wildest mistakes, partly from the narrowness of our out look, and partly from the false ideals which too often control our judgment. We look out for the sensational, which never comes to us quite as we anticipate it; we walk near Jesus Christ, who veils His presence, in the ordinary paths of life; perhaps we never get beyond a certain passing glow of emotion, which dies away and leaves us where we were. Our hearts burn within us. But what this has meant we only find out when it is too late.
II. Another point suggested by the words is THE USE OF RELIGIOUS FEELING. “Did not our heart burn within us?” The disciples ask each other the question in a tone of self-reproach. While our Lord explained to them the true sense of the Hebrew Scriptures with reference to His person and His work, His sufferings and His triumph, their whole inward being, thought, affection, fancy, had kindled into flame. They were on fire, and yet it all had led to nothing. Ought it not to have led to something? Ought it not, at the least, to have convinced them that, within the range of their experience, One only could have spoken as He did? Certainly, my brethren, true religion cannot afford to neglect any elements of man’s complex nature; and so it finds room for emotion. That glow of the soul with which it should hail the presence of its Maker and Redeemer is as much His handiwork as the thinking power which apprehends His message or the resolve which enterprises to do His will. Yet religious emotion, like natural fire, is a good servant but a bad master. It is the ruin of real religion when it blazes up into a fanaticism that, in its exaltation of certain states of feeling, proscribes thought, and makes light of duty, and dispenses with means of grace, and passes through some phase of frantic, although disguised, self-assertion, into some further phase of indifference or despair. But, when kept well in hand, emotion is the warmth and lustre of the soul’s life.
III. A third consideration which the words suggest, is THE DUTY OF MAKING AN ACTIVE EFFORT TO UNDERSTAND TRUTH AS IT IS PRESENTED TO US. I say, an active effort; because, as a rule, our minds are apt to be passive. We let truth come to say what it can; we do not go out to meet it, to welcome it, to offer it a lodging in the soul, and, if it may be, to take its measure and understand it. If we have serious thoughts now and then, and look into our Bibles in a casual way, and attend some of the Church services, we think we have good reason to be satisfied that we know all that it concerns our soul’s health to know; perhaps even that we know enough to discuss religious questions of the day with confidence, We drift through life in this way, some of us; malting our feelings and preferences the rule of truth; assuming that what is popular for the passing hour, or what comes readily to us, must be the will of God. He indeed is near from whom we might learn the truth; walking by our side, ready and longing to be inquired of if we only will; but we dispense ourselves from the necessity. Religious truth, we say to ourselves, is very simple and easy of acquirement; that which is intended for all must be open to all, and cannot be the monopoly of those who make efforts to know it. And yet nothing in the Bible is clearer than that it makes the attainment of truth depend upon an earnest search for truth (Matthew 7:7; Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 33:3; Proverbs 2:3-5). In conclusion, let us reflect that our Lord’s presence with His disciples during the forty days after His resurrection was in many ways an anticipation of His presence in His Church to the end of time. His religion wears a commonplace appearance; its sacred books seem to belong to the same category as the works of human genius; its Sacraments are, St. Augustine said, rites chiefly remarkable for their simplicity; its ministers are ordinary, and often erring and sinful, men. But for all that, the Incarnate Son is here, who was crucified and rose from death, and ascended and reigns in heaven, He is here; and the trial and duty of faith is what it was eighteen centuries ago, namely, to detect, under the veil of the familiar and the commonplace, the presence of the Eternal and the Divine. We, too, walk along the road to Emmaus; and the Divine Teacher appears to us, as St. Mark puts it, “in another form”; and our hearts, perhaps, glow within us, yet without doing anything for our understandings or our wills. (Canon Liddon.)
Christ warms the heart
I. CONSIDER THE OCCASION, OR THE MEANS EMPLOYED. “He talked with us by the way.” “He opened to us the Scriptures.”
II. CONSIDER THE EFFECT PRODUCED BY THAT OCCASION AND THOSE MEANS. “Did not our heart burn,” etc. There is in real communion that which warms the heart. Away from Christ, all is coldness in regard to God and spiritual things; away from Christ, men even pride themselves in a sort of stoical apathy in regard to the claims of God; away from Christ, the most constraining motives of the gospel are heard with unconcern. There is communion to be had with Christ in prayer. Many pray in a formal way, but have never yet known “the heart to burn within them” in prayer. So with meditation: “My meditation of Him shall be sweet,” said the psalmist. “Did not our heart burn within us?” And whence this effect? They were, you remember, anxious disciples, perplexed with doubts and seeking the truth. Hence, as they heard Him expound the Scriptures, they found their doubts gradually cleared away. It is when you discover your personal interest in the things spoken of--“That promise speaks to me,” “That Saviour is my Saviour,” “This God is our God even unto death,” “He is mine, and I am His”--that you will again feel “the heart to burn within you.” (J. H. Hambleton, M. A.)
The means, author, and effects of Christian instruction
I. We have THE INSTRUMENTALITY USED BY OUR LORD IN THE INSTRUCTION OF HIS DISCIPLES, We are told it was “the Scriptures.” God honours His word above all His attributes--“Thou hast magnified Thy word,” says David, “above all Thy name;” i.e., “all Thy perfections.” Why does He do so? Because it is by His Word He reveals the mystery of His essence, and His moral perfections. Because without His Word there would be no God to be recognized and worshipped.
II. We have to consider, THE AGENCY BY WHICH THIS INSTRUMENTALITY WAS MADE EFFECTIVE. We read that Christ “opened” the Scriptures. But where was the necessity for “opening” the Scriptures? What is there so mystical in the nature of this book, that it should have been as written in unintelligible characters which they did not understand? Remember that the Bible is a sealed book to any who are unenlightened by the Spirit of God I It is true of the Bible as of every department of Divine knowledge, that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God--they are foolishness to him: he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
III. But, again, What was THE SENSIBLE EFFECT PRODUCED IN THE MINDS OF THOSE WHO WERE THUS INSTRUCTED BY OUR LORD? Their hearts burned within them. Observe, they got light and heat at the same time, “Did not our heart burn within us?” With what did they burn?--with shame for their sins; their hearts were melted into penitence, inflamed with zeal, and filled with the fire of Divine love; the Spirit of God kindled within them what the breath of God breathed in them!--the bright light of hope shone within their minds, and they were enabled to take a clear view of Christ--Christ was manifested to them--“their heart burned within them.” Here, then, we see the sensible effect produced by the instruction of our Lord in the Scriptures. Here we have presented to us the instrumentality employed in the work of conversion; the agent in the work of conversion; and the effect of the work of conversion--we have the Bible as the instrumentality; we have Christ as the teacher; and we have burning hearts as the effect produced by the Spirit of God. (H. H. Beamish, M. A.)
The Bible gives light and warmth
A gentleman approached the fruit stand of an Italian woman, whom he found very intently engaged reading a book. “What are you reading there, my good woman, that seems to interest you so much?” he inquired. “The Word of God,” said the woman. “The Word of God! Who told you that?” “God told me Himself,” answered the woman. “God told you? How did He do that? Have you ever talked with God? How did He tell you that was His Word?” Not accustomed to discuss questions of theology, the woman was a little confused. Recovering herself, she said: “Sir, can you prove to me that there is a sun up there in heaven?” “Prove it,” said the man, “Why do you ask me to prove it? It proves itself. It warms me and I see its light; what better proof can any one want?” The woman smiled and said: “Just so; you are right. And that is just the way God tells this Book is His Word. I read it, and it warms me and gives me light. I see Him in it, and what it says is light and warmth which none but God can give; and so He tells me it is His Word. What more proof do I need?”
Divine influence needed to understand the Scriptures
Unsanctified men cannot read the Bible to profit. If you bring me a basket full of minerals from California, and I take them and look at them, I shall know that this specimen has gold in it, because I see there little points of yellow gold, but I shall not know what the white and the dark points are that I see. But let a metallurgist look at it, and he will see that it contains not only gold, but silver, and lead, and iron, and he will single them out. To me it is a mere stone, with only here and there a hint of gold, but to him it is a combination of various metals. Now take the Word of God, that is filled with precious stones and metals, and let one instructed in spiritual insight go through it, and he will discover all these treasures; while, if you let a man uninstructed in spiritual insight go through it, he will discover those things that are outside and apparent, but those things that make God and man friends, and that have to do with the immortality of the soul in heaven, escape his notice. No man can know these things unless the Spirit of God has taught him to discern them. (H. W. Beecher.)
While He opened to us the Scriptures
The opening of the Scriptures
I. THE SCRIPTURES CLOSED.
1. The mysterious nature of the Bible itself.
2. The degenerate faith of the disciples.
II. THE SCRIPTURES OPENED.
1. It is necessary to have Christ as the interpreter.
2. The disciples must possess a sympathetic heart.
3. Given these conditions, the Scriptures are opened with the utmost ease.
III. THE RESULT OF THE OPENING OF THE SCRIPTURES.
1. The two disciples understood that a thorough unity of design pervaded the whole Bible.
2. They perceived that Christ was the great theme of the Scriptures.
3. They were filled with wonder at the aspect in which Christ was revealed.
4. They experienced true happiness. (H. C. Williams.)
Christ opening the Scriptures
I. OUR LORD’S SERMON ON THIS OCCASION.
II. THE BENEFITS WE MAY DERIVE THEREFROM.
1. It encourages us to search the Scriptures.
2. It encourages us to preach Scripture sermons.
3. It calls on the people to listen to Scripture sermons.
4. It strengthens our faith in the truth of the Scriptures.
5. It strengthens our faith in the predictions concerning the increase of Christ’s kingdom. (Canon Fleming.)
I. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ARE THE ONLY SOURCE OF DIVINE WISDOM AND CONSOLATION.
II. FOR THE FULL UNDERSTANDING OF THE SCRIPTURES, WE NEED THE SPIRITUAL TEACHING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
III. THIS SPIRITUAL TEACHING IS OFTEN SPECIALLY GRANTED TO TRUE DISCIPLES, WHEN ENGAGED IN HOLY CHRISTIAN COMMUNION.
IV. WHEN YOUR AFFECTIONS ARE WARMED BY DISCOVERIES MADE TO YOU IN THE WORD OF GOD, THEN YOU SHOULD AT ONCE RECOGNIZE THE PRESENCE OF JESUS, AND EARNESTLY ENTREAT HIS CONTINUANCE WITH YOU. (J. Jowett, M. A.)
Christ opening Scripture
I. IT IS CHRIST’S WORK TO OPEN AND APPLY THE SCRIPTURES WHERE THEY REACH THE HEART. He is the great Prophet of His Church, who hath already revealed the will of God for our salvation. He opens the Scripture that it may not remain a sealed Book, and opens the understanding, and unbars the heart, that the light may enter to make the first saving change, and to be our strength and comfort afterward.
II. THE OPENING AND APPLYING OF THE SCRIPTURES ARE THE MEANS CHRIST WILL ORDINARILY USE, TO REACH AND CARRY ON HIS DESIGN UPON THE HEART.
III. ‘TIS IN THIS WAY OF OPENING AND APPLYING THE SCRIPTURES, THAT CHRIST IS TO BE CONCEIVED OF, AND REGARDED AS TALKING WITH HIS PEOPLE. He did so personally while He was upon earth, and continues to do so by His ministers and Spirit now when He is gone to heaven.
IV. IN WHAT RESPECTS THEIR HEARTS MAY BE SAID TO BURN, TO WHOM CHRIST EFFECTUALLY SPEAKS. To keep your thoughts distinct, I shall consider this, either with respect to sinners, whom He is drawing to him: or to believers, whom He is acquainting with their interest in Him.
1. As to sinners whom He is drawing to Him. When Christ opens the Scriptures, and talks with such, their hearts may be said to burn--
(1) With a sense of sin, and a fearful apprehension of deserved wrath.
(2) Their hearts are made to burn with ardent desire for deliverance from their sinful wretched state, and for an interest in Christ the only, all-sufficient Saviour.
2. As to believers, whom Christ is acquainting with their interest in Him, and thereby talking with them to their comfort; whilst He does so, their hearts may be made to burn.
(1) With love to Him; and
(2) With longing desires to be with Him. And both these are excited by what He makes the subject of His discourses with them, namely, His sufferings, and His glory. The followers of Christ may have their hearts made to burn, with desire to see, and be for ever with Him.
V. WITH WHAT TEMPER THEY, WHO UNDER CHRIST’S SPEAKING TO THEM HAVE FELT THEIR HEARTS TO BURN WITHIN THEMSELVES, SHOULD BE LED TO OPEN IT TO OTHERS. The answer to this is obvious.
1. With deep humility; as having their eye upon their unworthiness, that the Lord of glory should talk with such as them, and in so plain and powerful a manner lead them into an acquaintance with the Word of truth; and thereby with the things concerning Himself, which are so necessary to their safety and peace.
2. With raised wonder; they being ready to say, How strange an ardour did we feel within us kindling into an heavenly flame, while He talked with us, and opened to us the Scriptures?
3. With thankfulness and joy; from a just sense of the value of that distinguishing grace of Christ, which made the remembrance of the time and place where it was vouchsafed so pleasant to them afterwards.
4. With desire and endeavour to bring others acquainted with Christ, by whom their hearts were made to burn within them. (D. Wilcox.)
The right point of view
I go into a gallery where there are illustrious persons hung in portraiture. I see one that I am attracted to, and I look upon it, and I know this much--that it is a man. I know that it is a man of beauty, or, lacking beauty, indicating great intellectual development and power of brain. A number of such external things I know of him, but nothing more. By and by, some one says to me, “His name is Goethe.” Ah! instantly a vision springs up in my mind. I have read of Goethe. I know his poems. I know his dramas. I know much of the whole German literature which he has created. And the moment I hear his name, and associate it with that portrait, it assumes new life. It is a hundred times more to me than it was before. I say to myself, “Then that is Goethe, is it? Well--well--well”; and all these wells merely mean that I am thinking, and gathering together all my scattered knowledge, and concentrating it on that effigy. I do not know him personally, though I know him as well as a book could interpret him to me. But suppose I had been in Germany; suppose I had been invited to his house; had seen him in the morning, at noon, and at night; at the table, familiarly; with his manuscripts, in his study; suppose I had seen him when topics came before him for discussion, or in his intercourse with men; suppose I had seen him surrounded by little children, and seen how they affected him; suppose I had seen how noble personages affected him; suppose I had seen him in moments of calmness and silence and reverie; or at funerals; or at great public rejoicings; in all those moods and circumstances which go to show exactly what a man is; suppose I had lived with him, and seen the coruscation, the whole play of his soul, would I not then have a knowledge of him which no portrait could give me? Having gained this larger knowledge of him, I say, “I never knew Goethe before”; but one exclaims, “You never knew Goethe before? Yes you did. I pointed him out in such a gallery at such a time; and now you say you never knew him before!” But would it not be true? (H. W. Beecher.)
Understanding the Scriptures
The biographer of Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, when describing his plan of studying the Bible, makes this important observation: “There are two methods of reading Scripture, perfectly distinct in their object and nature: the one is practical, the other scientific; the one seeks the religious truth of Scripture as bearing on the inquirer’s heart and personal feelings; the other, the right comprehension of the literary and intellectual portions of the Bible … Only those who feel the Bible can understand it.”
Christ’s method of imparting instruction
There are here several points of very great interest. We have a striking illustration of our Lord’s method of teaching, which was to give more when that already given had been duly received. We have also a most emphatic warning as to the danger of losing golden opportunities, or of letting slip through ignorance or procrastination the means of acquiring great accessions of knowledge and grace. These truths will open before you as we proceed: at present we need only announce, as the general object of our discourse, the showing you how near the disciples were to the losing the manifestation of their Master, forasmuch as though “He made as though He would have gone further,” and how certainly they would have lost that manifestation, had they not been enabled to say with perfect truth, in the words of our text--“Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Now, you may all see, if you study with any attention the record of our blessed Saviour’s ministrations, that He required a peculiar state of mind in those to whom He taught truth, withholding it where likely to be despised or made an instrument of injury, but imparting it where He saw that it would be reverently and profitably received. It was evidently a principle with Christ, as indeed He expressly announced, to give more where what had been given had been duly improved, so that fresh communications were made to depend upon men’s use of past. He did not pretend to open truth after truth, just as though His whole business had been to furnish to the world a certain amount of revelation, whether they would hear or whether they would forbear; but He watched with great attentiveness the reception of truth, and He added or withheld according as that reception did or did not indicate Jove for truth and a readiness to obey its demands. And the importance to ourselves of observing the course which Christ pursued upon earth lies mainly in this. We have no reason to suppose that such course was followed only in the days of His public ministrations, bug rather, that it was universally characteristic of God’s spiritual dealings. You will never make way with the Bible by going to it in a spirit of speculation, carrying to it the same feelings as to a treatise on some branch of human science. It is not indeed now, as it was when our Lord personally taught; when the letter, so to speak, of Scripture might be variously distributed, according to men’s various dispositions and capacities, but it still is, that the letter, though equally accessible to all, is not equally illuminated to all; and by keeping altogether to Himself the power of illuminating the page, so that He can leave that a parable to one which He clears from all mystery to another, God can cause that now, as much as in the days of the Redeemer, the amount of knowledge shall be proportioned to certain moral qualities and acts. You may be sure that it is as true now as ever it was, and in as large a sense, that “whosoever doeth the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine”; for there are innermost meanings in Scripture which will never be reached through learning and ingenuity, but which open before the humble and prayerful inquiry; so that passages on which criticism is vainly turning all its strength, and to which it can attach none but an obscure and unimportant sense, reveal to many an uneducated and simple.minded Christian the counsels of God and the glories of eternity; so that it still depends on your love for truth, and on your willingness to act on it so fast as discovered, whether you shall grow in the knowledge of heavenly things; just as it was in the days of the Redeemer, when a parable was employed to veil truth from the careless, or a miracle concealed, to withhold evidence from the obstinate. But never think that an unaided intellect can master scriptural difficulties, or that unimproved knowledge can be a good thing. There is a certain point up to which Divine teaching will advance, but there will pause, in order that it may be ascertained whether you prize what you have learned, and are sincere in the desire to learn more. And all this was imaged by the conduct of Christ with reference to His disciples. This “making as though he would have gone further,” was but an instance of that cautiousness of which we have spoken as characteristic of His ministry. He just wanted to have evidence whether truth were duly loved; for on His finding that evidence depended, according to His universal rule, His continuing His instruction. There are many, we are thoroughly persuaded, who often miss the manifestation of Christ through the indolently letting slip some presented opportunity; nay, we doubt whether there be any man who is brought within hearing of the gospel unto whom there have not been moments in which he has stood upon the very threshold of the kingdom of heaven, in which it has depended upon his immediately obeying some impulse or hearkening to some suggestion whether the door should fly open or remain closed against him. The mind of the unconverted man, stirred through some secret instrumentality, has felt it proposed to it that it should take into its chambers a Guest who might discipline the passions and remodel the character; but then it has been questioned whether the proposal should be instantly closed with, or longer time given for deliberation, and because the latter course has been adopted--because, that is, the disciples when at Emmaus have parted from their Teacher in the street, and gone alone into the house, the golden opportunity has been lost, and there has been no manifestation of Christ to the soul. You may not be thoroughly aware of it, but we should wish you to be assured, that religion is of such a nature that eternity is very frequently dependent on a moment. You can never be certain that an impulse will be repeated or a suggestion renewed; so that in parting from the Teacher who has awakened some serious emotion, in place of taking Him with you into your dwelling, that the emotion may be deepened, you are perhaps letting go your last likelihood of salvation, and shutting yourselves up to indifference and impenitence. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
While He talked with us
“I have lately seen,” wrote Mr. Hervey, “that most excellent minister of the ever blessed Jesus, Mr.
--. I dined, supped, and spent the evening with him at Northampton, in company with Dr. Doddridge, and two pious clergymen of the Church of England, both of them known to the learned world by their valuable writings; and surely I never spent a more delightful evening, or saw one that seemed to make nearer approaches to the felicity of heaven. A gentleman, of great worth and rank in the town, invited us to his house, and gave us an elegant treat; but how mean was his provision, how coarse his delicacies, compared with the fruit of my friend’s lips! They dropped as the honeycomb, and were a well of life.”
The Lord is risen indeed
The evidence for the resurrection of Christ is of two kinds, predictive and historical. From the Old Testament it appears that Messiah was to rise; from the New, that Jesus of Nazareth did rise, and therefore is the Messiah. Among the predictive witnesses, the first place is due to that ancient and venerable order of men, styled patriarchs, or heads of families, whose lives and actions, as well as their words, were descriptive of the person, in faith of whom they lived and acted, instructing, interceding for, and conducting their dependents, as representative prophets, priests, and kings; looking forward unto the Author and Finisher of their faith and ours, who, by dying and rising again, was to exhibit to the world the Divine fulness of all these characters. In the class of the predictive witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection, the second place is claimed by the law. When we see the Levitical high priest arrayed in the garments of glory and beauty; when we behold him purifying all the parts of the figurative tabernacle with blood, and then entering within the veil, into the holiest of all, to present that propitiating blood before the offended Majesty of heaven; is it possible, even though an apostle had not applied all these circumstances for us, to detain the imagination a moment from fixing itself on the great High Priest of our profession; the plenary satisfaction made on the cross; His resurrection in an immortal body, no more to stand charged with sin, no more to see corruption; the purification of the Church by His precious blood; His ascension into heaven, and intercession for us, in the presence of God? Next to the patriarchs and the law, the prophets press for admittance, to deliver their testimony; for “the testimony of Jesus,” as saith the angel in the Revelation, “is the spirit of prophecy.” Some of these give their evidence in the ancient way of figure and emblem; others, with less reserve, in express literal declarations. A fact of so extraordinary a nature as the resurrection of a body from the dead, predicted, as we have seen, at sundry times and in divers manners, by the patriarchs, the law, and the prophets, cannot be supposed to have happened without sufficient witnesses of its accomplishment. (Bishop Home.)
The Lord is risen indeed
I. LET US VERIFY THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT. In attempting this, let me first of all call your attention to Christianity as an existing fact. And the centre of that belief is the doctrine of the resurrection. We can thus trace the doctrine of the resurrection to its source, and see that it was no gradual innovation into the Church’s belief; no doctrine gradually taking shape, as myths do, from ideas which have been floating about in the minds of men; but an alleged fact, attested by those who professed to be eye-witnesses of the event; and behoved in by the Church at a time when these witnesses were still alive. Now, in testing the value of their testimony, two questions present themselves, and give rise to two concurrent traces of thought, both of which, as we think, lead to the conclusion, that no testimony could be more trustworthy than that borne by the evangelists and others to the resurrection of our Lord. This first question, Were they competent witnesses, divides itself into two. Were they deceived themselves? Did they attempt to deceive others? If either of these questions can be answered in the affirmative, their testimony is invalid; if answered negatively, their testimony deserves to be received. That they could not be deceived themselves, is evident from the following considerations--
1. The question to which they bear testimony is not one of doctrine, on which their judgment might have misled them; but one of fact, on which they were guided by the evidence of their senses.
2. The witnesses were not one or two, but a large number--upwards of five hundred having seen the risen Redeemer at the same time.
3. The men were not fanatics, whose excited imagination might cause them to mistake some uncommon appearance for, or to invest it with, the form of their Lord. Their whole demeanour is the very antipodes to anything like fanaticism. No finer specimen of sobriety than their narrative presents can be found in any language.
4. The times and the manner of the Saviour’s appearing were such as to render deception impossible. He appeared repeatedly--at different times and in various circumstances, and was not only visible to the eye, but palpable to the touch. Lastly, their familiarity with the Saviour previous to His death qualified them for recognizing Him after tits resurrection. They had been with Him in all circumstances. These considerations amply suffice to show that they could not be deceived. But did they attempt to deceive others? One would think the principles they propagated should be sufficient to acquit them of such a charge. Could impostors devise and propagate principles which surpass the practice of the nations almost as much as heaven contrasts with hell--principles which, wherever they obtain, promote the highest morality, making men truthful, honest, upright, generous, and devout--could impostors devise and propagate such principles as these? We think not. Besides, men do not practise imposition without an object. If they attempt to deceive, if is with a view to some selfish end--could there be any such end contemplated by the disciples of Christ? They could not hope to improve their temporal circumstances. Then, did they hope to gain for themselves a reward in heaven? A reward in heaven, for publishing a falsehood, and imposing on their fellows! We pass on now to consider the second question, Would their testimony if false have been believed in Jerusalem and elsewhere? and the concurrent though different train of thought to which it gives rise. All these statements of the history must have been known to be false by those among whom they were circulated; or at least their falsehood might easily have been made so manifest as to render their reception impossible, and to confine them to the parties with whom they originated. And not only were they capable of effectual contradiction; but those who had the power, had also the strongest inducement to make known their falsehood.
II. LET US ACCOUNT FOR THE EXULTANT FEELINGS WITH WHICH THE DISCIPLES PUBLISHED THIS STATEMENT. In attempting this it is necessary to place ourselves to some extent in the position of the disciples, in order that we may judge of the manner in which they were personally affected by the event. It is evident from the Gospels that they were greatly overwhelmed by His death. They had sacrificed all they possessed, and were, as it now appeared to them, to gain nothing. Their temporal prospects were blasted. Their friends were alienated from them; and all they could look for in return was the derision of their neighbours for having indulged baseless expectations. In this state of mind, when it became evident to them that the Lord was risen, when they saw and heard Him, and knew from the old manner and spirit that it was He himself, what a strange revulsion of feeling they must have experienced! What new light must suddenly have flashed upon them! Then He is a king after all, though in another sense than we imagined. Then our expectations are not disappointed; there is a reward for us still, higher than we had dreamed of. Then we have still our friend to lean upon, to care for us, and comfort us, and guide, and help us. Now we have a new conception of our calling and of our Master’s reign. Now we can see how our carnal-mindedness kept us from perceiving the full meaning of His gracious words; and that when we attributed to Him hard sayings, He was but holding out to us greater blessings than our hearts were prepared to receive. No wonder that when such thoughts dawned upon them, their hearts were filled with joy! There were reasons, perhaps, for their joy, which even they did not yet fully apprehend--reasons relating to us as well as to them. They did not yet perceive all the results to humanity which were to flow from His death, though ultimately they showed that they knew what importance was attached to it--Peter, e.g., making it the principal subject of his sermons, connecting it with the miracles which he wrought, and in his Epistle attributing to it the new birth of believers; while Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58., to which we have already referred, makes it lie at the basis of the entire Christian faith--“If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” The meaning of these words, and the supreme importance of the event to which they refer, may be illustrated by the following considerations: The resurrection was the Divine seal to the Saviour’s mission. During His life He claimed to be the Son of God in a sense which made Him equal with the Father--to have come from the bosom of the Father that He might reveal His character to mankind, and open a way by which sinners might approach and find acceptance with Him--to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and, ere His death, exclaimed in reference to this work, “It is finished!” Now, suppose that after all this, He had not risen. In that case His claims would have been falsified. It would have been evident that He was a mere impostor. God does not own this pretended Son of His, who claimed to be one in nature with Himself. His revelation of the Father is untrue. Whereas the resurrection put the Divine seal to His claims, and made manifest His own Divine attributes. By it God declared before all the worlds that He was all that He professed to be, and had done what He professed to do; that His life and teaching contained a true revelation of the Divine character; that He had opened a way of access to God through the atonement which He had offered for the sins of the world; that through Him the love of God was free to our fallen race; that in Him there was pardon and life for mankind sinners. All this, if His miracles had not previously made it manifest, was clearly revealed in the light which shone on the sepulchre on that first Easter morning. But oh the joy which comes to us from that deserted gravel “The Lord is risen indeed!” Then woe unto those by whom His overtures of mercy are rejected and His authority set at nought. As the conqueror of death no one can successfully resist His will. The power which rifled the grave can crush the proudest rebel. (W. Landels.)
I. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST IS A PIVOTAL FACT. The key-stone of Christ’s religion. All turns upon this. Either Jesus rose, or else He is an impostor, and imposture in one thing makes Him false in all. Take away the resurrection, and there is no link left between heaven and earth: preaching is a lie, faith is idle, happy dying is a delusion, and happy living is a greater fiction still. But, with St. Paul, we may challenge the world to disprove the assertion in the text.
II. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST WAS A MIRACLE. Otherwise impossible. Nature possesses no power to raise a dead body. But once admit that the work is God’s, and all difficulty disappears.
III. WHAT THE RESURRECTION BODY WAS. The same palpable and substantial frame which quivered on the cross. I argue this--
1. From the fact that He prophesied His own personal resurrection, in His own proper identity.
2. From the fact that the disciples recognized that identity, though reluctantly.
3. From the fact that He recognized His own identity. (T. Armitage, D. D.)
The resurrection of Christ
I. HIS RESURRECTION IS THE PLEDGE OF OURS.
1. First, because He promised that it should be--“because I live, ye shall live also.” His human nature was the grain of seed (John 12:1-50.) which, sown by the hand of God in the field of the world, was to fructify in death, to bear a thousandfold in resurrection, He linked our nature with His. It was united not for a season, but for ever.
2. But we have, secondly, more than the identity of our nature with His, to establish the fact that in His resurrection we have the pledge of our own We need to be assured that His triumph will avail for us; and we are. In His Revelation 1:18), we are told, are placed “the keys of death and hell.” No longer is death in Satan’s power; he was compelled to surrender his dominion to the Saviour.
II. We proceed to view our Lord’s resurrection as THE PATTERN OF OURS. To be raised in the lowest character in which it were possible, would be an exaltation too glorious to be understood in our present humiliation. Let us examine a few of the particulars of resemblance between His resurrection and ours.
1. And, first, He retained the identity of His person. No change passed upon Him, save that round His humanity glory appeared, like that, perhaps, which He wore for a season on the Mount of Transfiguration. And we, too, shall rise, in the likeness of His resurrection, our very selves.
2. We shall be raised, too, by tim same instrumentality. We are told by the Saviour that He had power to lay down His life, and power to take it up again. We are nowhere told that He did so; on the contrary, it is plainly declared that He was not His own deliverer from the prison-house of death. He is said, in the first of Peter, the third chapter, at the eighteenth verse, to have been “quickened by the Spirit”; and again, in the eight chapter of Romans, the second verse, to have been raised by the Father. Hence it is evident that God the Father was the Author, and God the Spirit the Agent of the resurrection of Christ. If it should be asked, “Why is it so?” the answer is, that Christ came to fulfil all the conditions of our salvation; He must be “made like unto His brethren in all things,” and therefore in His resurrection.
3. Angels were employed instrumentally in the resurrection of Christ; and they will be in ours. Wherefore is the Lord of Hosts indebted to an angel’s hand for His deliverance? Why does not the prison door fly open as the God-Man awakens from His death-sleep? Why? Because He must “fulfil all righteousness”; He must travel back to the glory He had left in the character of those He ransomed; He must submit to every condition of that covenant by which the ransomed fallen are to enter into life; He must, in short, return to glory as a Man.
III. We come to speak upon some of THE EFFECTS OF THE SAVIOUR’S RESURRECTION. These we regard in a twofold aspect.
1. As the resurrection affects our present relation to God. The atonement and resurrection of Christ are inseparably connected. We take but a defective view of the atonemeat when we limit it to the work wrought on Calvary; nay, we will say, that if the work of the Saviour ended here, there could have been no atonement. The work was commenced on Calvary--it is completed in heaven. Without the resurrection there could be no triumph over death, no entrance into glory, and hence no atonement available for our entering where Christ had not gone before.
2. But there is another and most important way in which the tidings of our text affect us. We stand in the same position as Israel of old occupied on the day of atonement, as regards our justification our privileges in other respects exceed. We have lost more than God’s favour in the fall; we have lost our right of access to Him. A rebel may be pardoned, and fully pardoned, and yet never find access to the royal presence. It was so with Israel! they approached God only through the person of their high priest. Ours is the high and holy privilege of access to God.
3. We connect the resurrection of Christ with our own; not as regards its reality for this we have done before, but its glory. But what can we say of this? To tell of the glory which shall burst upon a waiting Church in the resurrection morning, would be to describe that sun which shall no more go down; it would be to fathom the perfections of that God whose glory fills heaven and earth. In conclusion: There is not a being in the universe which will not be affected by the resurrection of Jesus. (A. C. Carr, M. A.)
The necessity of Christ’s resurrection
The resurrection of Christ was necessary--
1. In order to the atonement.
2. In order to the holiness of the believer.
3. In order to the salvation of the Church. (M. H. Seymour, M. A.)
Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them
The first appearance of the risen Lord to the eleven
THE CERTAINTY OF OUR LORD’S RESURRECTION. No fact in history is better attested.
1. Observe, that when this person appeared in the room, the first token that it was Jesus was His speech: they were to have the evidence of hearing: He used the same speech. No sooner did He appear than He spoke. His first accents must have called to their minds those cheering notes with which He had closed His last address. They must have recognized that charming voice. He was a peace-maker, and a peace-giver, and by this sign they were given to discern their Leader. I want you to notice that this evidence was all the better, because they themselves evidently remained the same men as they had been. “They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit”; and thus they did exactly what they had done long before when He came to them walking on the waters. They are not carried away by enthusiasm, nor wafted aloft by fanaticism; they are not even as yet upborne by the Holy Spirit into an unusual state of mind, but they are as slow of heart and as fearful as ever they were. If they are convinced that Jesus has risen from the dead, depend upon it, it must be so.
2. Thus far in the narrative they had received the evidence of their ears, and that is by no means weak evidence; but now they are to have the evidence of sight; for the Saviour says to them, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself”; “and when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet.” John says also “His side,” which he specially noted because he had seen the piercing of that side, and the outflow of blood and water. They were to see and identify that blessed Body which had suffered death.
3. Furthermore, that they might be quite sure, the Lord invited them to receive the evidence of touch or feeling. He called them to a form of examination, from which, I doubt not, many of them shrank; He said, “Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.” The saints are not at the coming of their Lord to remain disembodied spirits, nor to wear freshly created bodies, but their entire manhood is to be restored, and to enjoy endless bliss. It will be of a material substance also; for our Saviour’s Body was material, since He said, “Handle Me, and see that it is I Myself; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.”
4. Still further to confirm the faith of the disciples, and to show them that their Lord had a real Body, and not the mere form of one, He gave them evidence which appealed to their common sense. He said, “Have ye any meat; and they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it and did eat before them.” This was an exceedingly convincing proof of His unquestionable resurrection. In very deed and fact, and not in vision and phantom, the Man who had died upon the cross stood among them.
II. OUR LORD’S CHARACTER WHEN RISEN FROM THE DEAD.
1. Notice, first, that in this appearance of Christ we are taught that He is still anxious to create peace in the hearts of His people. No sooner did He make Himself visible than He said, “Peace be unto you.” He has not lost His tender care ever the least of the flock; He would have each one led by the still waters, and made to lie down in green pastures.
2. Note again, that He has not lost His habit of chiding unbelief, and encouraging faith; for as soon as He has risen, and speaks with His disciples, He asks them, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” He loves you to believe in Him, and be at rest.
3. Notice, next, that when the Saviour had risen from the dead, and a measure of His glory was upon Him, He was still most condescendingly familiar with His people. He showed them His hands and His feet, and He said, “Handle Me, and see.”
4. The next thing is that the risen Lord was still wonderfully patient, even as He had always been. He bore with their folly and infirmity; for “while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered,” He did not chide them.
5. Observe that our Saviour, though He was risen from the dead, and therefore in a measure in His glory, entered into the fullest fellowship with His own. Peter tells us that they did eat and drink with Him. I do not notice in this narrative that He drank with them, but He certainly ate of such food as they had, and this was a clear token of His fellowship with them.
6. Let me call your attention to the fact that when Jesus had risen from the dead, He was just as tender of Scripture as He was before His decease.
7. Once again, our Saviour, after He had risen from the dead, showed that He was anxious for the salvation of men; for it was at this interview that
He breathed upon the apostles, and bade them receive the Holy Ghost, to fit them to go forth and preach the gospel to every creature.
III. The light which is thrown by this incident upon THE NATURE OF OUR OWN RESURRECTION.
1. First, I gather from this text that our nature, our whole humanity, will be perfected at the day of the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we that may then be alive shall be changed. Jesus has redeemed not only our souls, but our bodies.
2. I gather next that in the resurrection our nature will be full of peace. Jesus Christ would not have said, “Peace be unto you,” if there had not been a deep peace within Himself. Be was calm and undisturbed. There was much peace about His whole life; but after the resurrection His peace becomes very conspicuous. There is no striving with scribes and Pharisees, there is no battling with anybody after our Lord is risen. Such shall be our life, we shall be flooded with eternal peace, and shall never again be tossed about with trouble, and sorrow, and distress, and persecution.
3. When we rise again our nature will find its home amid the communion of saints. When the Lord Jesus Christ had risen again His first resort was the room where His disciples were gathered. His first evening was spent among the objects of His love. Even so, wherever we are we shall seek and find communion with the saints.
4. Furthermore, I see that in that day our bodies will admirably serve our spirits. For look at our Lord’s Body. Now that He has risen from the dead He desires to convince His disciples, and His Body becomes at once the means of His argument, the evidence of His statement. His flesh and bones were text and sermon for Him.
5. In that day, beloved, when we shall rise again from the dead we shall remember the past. Do you not notice how the risen Saviour says, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you.” He had not forgotten His former state. It is rather a small subject, and probably we shall far more delight to dwell on the labours of our Redeemer’s hands and feet; but still we shall remember all the way whereby the Lord our God led us, and we shall talk to one another concerning it.
6. Observe that our Lord, after He had risen from the dead, was still full of the spirit of service, and therefore He called others out to go and preach the gospel, and He gave them the Spirit of God to help them. When you and I are risen from the dead, we shall rise full of the spirit of service. He will use us in the grand economy of future manifestations of His Divine glory. Possibly we may be to other dispensations what the angels have been to this. Be that as it may, we shall find a part of our bliss and joy in constantly serving Him who has raised us from the dead. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A Divine visitation
I. WHEN HE APPEARED.
1. When they had been acting unworthily by fleeing from Him at His betrayal, and deserting Him at His trial.
2. When they were unprepared, and unbelieving, doubting His express promise, and refusing the testimony of His messengers.
3. When they greatly needed His presence, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.
4. When they were exercising the little life they had by coming together in loving assembly. So far they were doing well, and acting in a way which was likely to bring blessing.
5. When they were lamenting His absence, and thus proving their desire after Him. This is an admirable means of gaining His presence.
6. When certain among them were testifying concerning Him. Are not we in a similar condition? May we not hopefully look for our Lord’s manifestation of Himself?
II. WHAT HE SAID. “Peace be unto you.”
1. It was a benediction: He wished them peace,
2. It was a declaration: they were at peace with God.
3. It was a fiat; He inspired them with peace.
4. It was an absolution: He blotted out all offences which might have spoiled their peace.
III. WHAT CAME OF HIS APPEARING.
1. He banished their doubts. Even Thomas had to shake off his obstinate unbelief.
2. He revealed and sealed His love upon their hearts by showing them His hands and His feet.
3. He refreshed their memories. “These are the words which I spoke unto you” (Luke 24:44).
4. He opened their understandings (Luke 24:45).
5. He showed them their position. “Ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).
6. He filled them with joy (John 20:20).
Peace be unto you.--
Peace bestowed upon man
I. Notice the nature of the blessing which the Lord Jesus proclaims. It is the blessing of “Peace.”
II. We observe the peculiar connection which the Redeemer implies this blessing to possess with Himself. He comes to them as the author of peace: and the peace which He wishes for them, He Himself gives.
1. Let it be considered that reconciliation with God arises wholly and exclusively from the sacrificial efficacy of the Saviour’s sufferings.
2. Not only is reconciliation secured entirely by the sacrificial efficacy of His sufferings, but from the Lord Jesus Christ proceeds the mission of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to apply actually to men the various blessings of redemption.
III. The animating influence which the Lord Jesus designs a participation of this blessing to exercise over all those by whom it is enjoyed.
1. The possession of this spiritual peace is designed to act as a preservative against temptation.
2. As designed to be a consolation amidst sorrow.
3. As designed to be an incentive to activity.
4. As an exciting cause of gratitude. (J. Parsons.)
The timely presence and salutation of Jesus
I. With reference to THE CHARACTER OF THE VISIT we may remark, that the visits which Christ makes to His Churches are of two kinds. He sometimes comes in anger, to chastise them. In this manner He threatened to visit some of the Asiatic Churches. At other times He visits His Churches in a gracious manner, to comfort, animate, and bless them. This is evident, in the first place, from the language in which He addressed them; Peace be with you. This was no mere formal greeting on His lips, but the expression of a genuine desire for their welfare. Nay, more; it was an assurance that peace existed between God and them. Nor was this all: it was also the bestowment of His peace upon them.
II. THE TIME WHEN THIS GRACIOUS VISIT WAS MADE.
1. It was made at a time when the disciples were exceedingly unworthy of such a favour, and when they rather deserved to have been visited in anger. They had treated Him in a very unkind and ungrateful manner.
2. It was made at a time when the Church was very imperfectly prepared for it, and when very few among them expected it, or had any hope of such a favour.
3. The time when Christ made this gracious visit to His Church was a time in which it was very much needed. The faith, and hope, and courage of its members were reduced to the lowest point of depression, and unless revived by His presence, must soon have expired.
4. This visit was made at a time when the Church was employed in exerting the little life which yet remained among them, and in using proper means to increase it. Though assembling at this time was dangerous, so that they did not dare to meet openly, yet they did assemble, and they assembled in the character of Christ’s disciples. This proved the existence of a bond of union among them, which drew them together. This bond of union consisted in sympathy of feeling. They all felt the same affections, the same apprehensions and anxieties, and the same sorrows, and all their thoughts centred in one object. This object was their crucified Master.
5. The gracious visit appears to have been made the very first time that the Church met after Christ’s resurrection. This circumstance is highly indicative of His affection for them, of His unwillingness to leave them mourning one moment longer than was necessary, and of His strong desire to be again in the midst of them. We remark lastly, that this gracious visit was made on the Lord’s day. And the next visit which He made to His
Church was made on the next Lord’s day. My brethren, should He not favour us with His presence on this occasion, let us consider this evil as the cause of His absence, and set ourselves to remove it without delay. (E. Payson, D. D.)
The mission and equipment of the disciples
I. THE SALUTATION--“Peace be unto you.” These words were, no doubt, meant to allay the fears which were then agitating the disciples’ minds. In themselves they were fitted to bare this effect, as showing the spirit and purpose with which He had come among them. But they were also, and still more, fitted to have this effect, because of what they brought to their remembrance. They were, in fact, like His wounds, signs by which they might identify the risen Lord. The twofold utterance of this salutation is not with out significance. As Luke tells us, “The disciples had beheld, touched, and gladly received their rebuke; but there is again a wondering among them before the final clear and tranquil assurance fills their hearts. As before through fear, so now through astonished joy, they cannot altogether and fully believe.” Their joy, though it has actual faith in it, “does not reach to peace and joy combined in their fulness.” It has “in its first vehemence and disquietude too little peace.” It is a “violent joy, in which, notwithstanding its semblance of overpowering feeling, a deep and firm faith can scarcely fix its roots. Therefore the wise and patient Master gradually brings them to the peace of faith.” But we unduly limit the significance and scope of these words, if we view them only as designed to remove the fears of the disciples. Rather are we to regard them as the salutation which His resurrection brings to those for whom He died--the message borne by His wounds to all who look to Him for salvation. This resurrection as plainly as His advent proclaims, “peace on earth and goodwill to men.”
II. THE SENDING--“As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” This was fitly preceded by the salutation, inasmuch as the man who is to be the herald of peace to others needs to enjoy peace himself. How great the honour which He puts upon His servants in thus comparing their mission with His own! And we offer the following remarks, not as exhaustive, but only as possible helps to the interpretation:
1. That they are, in some measure, to represent Him before men even as He represented the Father, giving men, both by their life and their teaching, a representation of His character, so as to enable them to form a conception of what He was. Such was unquestionably their calling. They were to be living epistles of Christ. He was to live in them.
2. That they receive authority from Him in some measure, as He received authority from His Father. They speak in His name, as He spoke in His Father’s name. They do His works, as He did the works of His Father.
3. That they are to be His messengers to mankind, as He was the Father’s messenger, taking up and publishing among the nations the gospel which He first proclaimed.
4. That they are to prosecute their work in the same spirit as He did--a spirit of self-denial and benevolence, seeking not their own gratification, but the glory of God and the salvation of men.
5. That they must seek to do their work by the same instrumentality--not with carnal weapons, but by the spiritual forces which are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds--not depending on human might or power, but on the Spirit of the Lord of hosts.
6. That they are to be in the world as He was--in it, though not of it--seeking no portion in it, nor making it their rest--desirous of remaining in it only while they have work to do--glad to leave it when their work is done. Such are some of the things which may be implied in their being sent by Him as He was sent by the Father.
III. THE ENDOWMENT--“He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”
IV. THE MOMENTOUS WORK TO BE DONE--“Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (W. Landels.)
Behold My hands and My feet
Jesus on the evening of Easter Day
I. Here we note first of all our LORD’S INDULGENT TREATMENT OF MISTAKES AND IMPERFECTIONS IN RELIGIOUS BELIEF. We may venture to say that the disciples, seeing our Lord in the midst of them, ought to have recognized Him at once. They knew, from long companionship with Him, that there were no discoverable limits to His power over life and nature. That our Lord held His disciples responsible for such knowledge as this is plain from the words which He had used, earlier in the afternoon, when addressing the two on the Emmaus road; and from St. Mark we learn that on this occasion, too, He “upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart.” Yet, looking to St. Luke’s report, what tender censure it is! Here certainly is no expression which betrays grief or anger. He meets their excitement with the mildest rebuke--if it be a rebuke. “Why are ye disquieted? and why do critical reasonings arise in your hearts?” He traces their trouble of heart to its true source--the delusion which possessed their understandings about His being only a “spirit.” In His tenderness He terms their unworthy dread a mere disquietude of the heart; they are on a false track, and He will set them right. What a lesson is here for all who, whether as fathers and mothers, or teachers, or clergymen, have upon their hands the immense responsibility of imparting religious truth to others! The first condition of successful teaching is patient sympathy with the difficulties of the learner. A great master was once asked, “What is the first condition of successful teaching?” “Patience,” he said. “What is the second?” “Patience.” “What is the third?” He paused, then said, “Sympathy.” And what a rebuke is here on the want of considerateness, of courtesy, of generosity, which so often disfigures our modern treatment of real or supposed religious error! Who can wonder at our failures to convince, when our methods are so unlike that of the Great Teacher!
II. Here, too, we see OUR LORD’S SANCTION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF INQUIRY INTO THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR RELIGIOUS BELIEF. Undoubtedly the understanding has great and exacting duties towards Revealed Truth. If God speaks, the least that His rational creatures can do is to try to understand Him. And therefore, as the powers of the mind gradually unfold themselves, the truths of religion ought to engage an increasing share of each of them, and not least of the understanding. What too often happens is, that while a young man’s intelligence is interesting itself more and more in a widening circle of subjects, it takes no account of religion. The old childish thoughts about religion lie shrivelled up in some out-of-the-way corner of a powerful and accomplished mind, the living and governing powers of which are engaged in other matters. Then, the man for the first time in his life meets with some sceptical book; and he brings to bear on it the habits of thought and judgment which have been trained in the study of widely different matters. He forms, he can form, no true estimate of a subject, so unlike any he has really taken in hand before: he is at the mercy of his new instructor, since he knows nothing that will enable him to weigh the worth or the worthlessness of startling assertions. He makes up his mind that science has at length spoken on the subject of religion; and he turns his back, with a mingled feeling of irritation and contempt, on the truths which he learned at his mother’s knee. This is no imaginary case; and among the reasons which go to explain so sad a catastrophe, this, I say, is one; that the understanding has not been properly developed in the boy and the young man, with relation to religious truth. What is the law of that development? It is this: that as the mind grows, it learns to reinforce the teaching of authority by the inquiries of reverent reason. But do not suppose that, because it condescends to be thus tested by your understanding as regards its reality, it is therefore within the compass of your understanding as regards its scope. It begins with that which you can appraise; it ends in that which is beyond you: because while you are finite and bounded in your range of vision, it is an unveiling of the Infinite, of the Incomprehensible.
III. Once more, NOTE HERE THE DIRECTION WHICH OUR LORD PURPOSELY GAVE TO THE THOUGHTS OF HIS PERPLEXED DISCIPLES. He does not turn them in upon themselves; He does not take their trouble, so to speak, sympathetically to pieces, and deal with its separate elements; He does not refute one by one the false reasonings which arise within them. He does not say to them, “These disquietudes, these doubts, are mere mental disorders, or interesting experiences, and the mind itself can cure diseases which the mind has produced.” He would, on the contrary, have them escape from themselves; from the thick jungle of their doubts and fears and hopes and surmises: and come to Him. Whatever they may think, or feel; He is there, seated on a throne which enthusiasm did not raise, and which doubt cannot undermine; in His own calm, assured, unassailable Life. “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a mere spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.” “Let us remind ourselves that whether we believe them or not, the facts of the Christian creed are true; and that faith only receives, but that it cannot possibly create or modify Christ and His gifts. Whether men believe or not in His eternal person, in the atoning virtue of His death, in the sanctifying influences of His Spirit, in the invigorating grace of His sacraments--these are certain truths. They are utterly independent of the hesitations and vacillations of our understandings about them. To ourselves, indeed, it is of great moment whether we have faith or not: to Him, to His truth, to His gifts, it matters not at all. “The Lord sitteth above this waterflood” of our changing and inconstant mental impressions; “the Lord remaineth a King for ever.” “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (Canon Liddon.)
The reality of the resurrection
I. THE NATURE OF OUR LORD’S RISEN BODY. It was the Body which had been born of the Virgin Mary, and had been nailed to the cross; the Body from which life had been expelled by the painful death of crucifixion, ere it had been buried in the grave of Joseph of Arimathea. This identity is insisted on by our Lord. “I Myself.” “Flesh and bones.” Our Lord’s risen body, then, was literally the very body which had been crucified; and yet it had properties attaching to it which distinguished it. It was sown a natural body, that is a body governed by ordinary natural laws; and raised a spiritual body, that is, a body which, while retaining physical substance and unimpaired identity, was yet endowed and interpenetrated with some of the properties of spirit.
II. Now, corresponding to the twofold character of our Lord’s risen Body, visible and palpable on the one hand, and spiritual on the other, is THE CHARACTER OF THE RELIGION WHICH REPRESENTS HIM AMONG MEN. Religion is like a sacrament: it has its outward and visible signs and its inward fact, or thing signified. Of these, the latter is, beyond dispute, the more important. Religion, the bond between the soul and God, lives in the habits, or acts, whereby the soul adheres to, and communes with, the Infinite Source of life. It is made up of faith, hope, and love, pouring themselves forth at the feet of the Invisible King; it is by turns aspiration, worship, resolve; it expends itself in a thousand unheard, unuttered acts, whereby the human spirit holds converse with its Creator. Religion is thus in its essence altogether removed from the province of sense; we cannot feel, or see, or hear, these acts of the soul, which assert its presence. It belongs to the purely immaterial world; it is hid with the Father, who seeth in secret, and who is worshipped, if at all, in spirit and truth. On the other hand, religion has another aspect. It steps forth from the sphere of the supersensuous, which is its congenial home; it takes bodily form and mien, and challenges the senses of hearing, and sight, and touch. It appeals through the human voice to the ear of sense. It meets and fascinates the eye; it even presents itself, as in the outward elements of a sacrament, to the touch. It is represented by a visible society--the Church. This society has its ministers, its assemblies for worship, its characteristic rites, its public buildings--all of which fall within the province of sense. The visible Church is, as our Lord said, a city set on a hill, which cannot be hid. Again, religion is represented by a book--the Bible. The Bible, too, belongs to the world of sense, just as much as the Church. We see it, handle it, read it. It brings religion visibly into the area of history, of poetry, of philosophy, as embodied in a large ancient literature. In the same way, religion takes an outward, shape in the good works and characters of individual Christians. They arrest observation; they invite comment, examination, discussion; they belong just as much to the public life of mankind as do the lives of worldly or wicked men. By them, too, Jesus Himself stands in the midst of human society. In short, religion in the world has this double character--outward and inward.
III. OUR LORD’S PRECEPT, “HANDLE ME, AND SEE,” IS ADDRESSED TO TWO DIFFERENT CLASSES OF MEN.
1. It is an encouragement for the timid.
2. It is a direction for the perplexed. (Canon Liddon.)
The wounds of Jesus
I wish to draw your attention to the simple fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, when He rose again from the dead, had in His body the marks of His passion. If He had pleased He could readily have removed them.
I. OF WHAT USE WAS THE EXHIBITION OF THOSE WOUNDS TO THE DISCIPLES? They were infallible proofs that He was the same person. Had not some such evidence been visible upon our Saviour, it is probable that His disciples would have been unbelieving enough to doubt the identity of His person. But, now, think! If Christ had to undergo in His countenance those matchless transformations, that must have been, first of all, connected with His bloody sweat, then, with His agony, and after that, with the transforming, or, if I may use such a word, the transmutation of His body into a spiritual body, can you not conceive that His likeness would be changed, that the disciples would scarcely know Him if there had not been some deeply graven marks whereby they would be able to discover Him? The disciples looked upon the very face, but, even then they doubted. There was a majesty about Him which most of them had not seen. Peter, James, and John, had seen Him transfigured, when His garments were whiter than any fuller could make them; but the rest of the disciples had only seen Him as a man of sorrows; they had not seen Him as the glorious Lord, and, therefore, they would be apt to doubt whether He was the same. But these nail-prints, this pierced side, these were marks which they could not dispute, which unbelief itself could not doubt.
II. Let us turn to the second question: WHY SHOULD CHRIST WEAR THESE WOUNDS IN HEAVEN, AND OF WHAT AVAIL ARE THEY?
1. I can conceive, first, that the wounds of Christ in heaven will be a theme of eternal wonder to the angels.
2. Again, Christ wears these scars in His Body in heaven as His ornaments. The wounds of Christ are His glories, they are His jewels and His precious things.
3. Nor are these only the ornaments of Christ: they are His trophies--the trophies of His love. Have you never seen a soldier with a gash across his forehead or in his cheek? Why every soldier will tell you the wound in battle is no disfigurement--it is his honour.
4. Another reason why Jesus wears His wounds is, that when He intercedes He may employ them as powerful advocates. When He rises up to pray for His people, He needs not speak a word; He lifts His hands before His Father’s face; He makes bare His side, and points to His feet. These are the orators with which He pleads with God--these wounds. Oh, He must prevail.
5. Jesus Christ appears in heaven as the Wounded One, this shows again that He has not laid aside His priesthood. If the wounds had been removed we might have forgotten that there was a Sacrifice; and, mayhap, next we might have forgotten that there was a Priest. But the wounds are there: then there is a Sacrifice, and there is a Priest also, for He who is wounded is both Himself the Sacrifice and the Priest.
6. There is another and terrible reason why Christ wears His wounds still. It is this. Christ is coming to judge the world. Christ has with Himself today the accusers of His enemies. And when Christ shall come a second time to judge the world in righteousness, seated on the great white throne, that hand of His shall be the terror of the universe. “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced,” and they shall mourn for their sins. They would not mourn with hopeful penitence in time; they shall mourn with sorrowful remorse throughout eternity.
III. WHAT DOES CHRIST MEAN BY SHOWING TO US HIS HANDS AND FEET?
1. He means this, that suffering is absolutely necessary. Christ is the head, and His people are the members. If suffering could have been avoided, surely our glorious Head ought to have escaped; but inasmuch as He shows us His wounds, it is to tell us that we shall have wounds too.
2. But next He teaches us His sympathy with us in our suffering. “There,” says He, “see this hand! I am not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of your infirmities. I have suffered, too. I was tempted in all ways like as you are. Look here! there are the marks--there are the marks. They are not only tokens of My love, they are not only sweet forget-me-nots that bind Me to love you for ever. But besides that they are the evidence of My sympathy. I can feel for you. Look--look--I have suffered. Have you the heart-ache? Ah, look you here, what a heart-ache I had when this heart was pierced. Do you suffer, even unto blood wrestling against sin? So did I. I have sympathy with you.”
3. Christ wears these wounds to show that suffering is an honourable thing. To suffer for Christ is glory.
4. Lastly, there is one sweet thought connected with the wounds of Christ that has charmed my soul, and made my heart run over with delight. It is this: I have sometimes thought that if I am a part of Christ’s Body, I am a poor wounded part; if I do belong to that all-glorious whole, the Church, which is His fulness, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all, yet have I said within me, “I am a poor maimed part, wounded, full of putrifying sores.” But Christ did not leave even His wounds behind Him; even those He took to heaven. “Not a bone of Him shall be broken,” and the flesh when wounded shall not be discarded--shall not be left. He shall carry that with Him to heaven, and He shall glorify even the wounded member. Is not this sweet, is not this precious to the troubled child of God? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The crucial test
In an old legend it is said that Satan once appeared to an old saint and said, “I am Christ,” when the saint confounded him, and exposed his pretensions, as he said, “Then where are the nail-prints?” (H. O.Mackey.)
They yet believed not for Joy
Primitive doubtings and their cure
I. THE DOUBTS OF THE DISCIPLES.
II. THE LORD’S WAY OF MEETING THE DOUBTS OF THE DISCIPLES--“He showed them His hands and His feet.” Strange as this kind of recognition, this way of fixing the doubted identity, may seem, it was satisfactory. The mother in the story knew her long-lost child by the scar on the shoulder received in infancy; so was the Son of God recognized by the nail-prints and the bruises of the Cross. But did the disciples need this? Were the loved features not the same as ever? Were the eyes that wept over Jerusalem not the same as before; or had the grave robbed them of their tenderness and lustre? Were the lips, from which came the gracious words of parting love, not the same as in the upper chamber at the last supper? Was the voice so altered, that they did not know its tones? No. These resemblances might all be recognized; but so many things threw doubt upon these recognitions. It is, then, to remove all doubt that He exhibits the marks of His Passion. And in doing so, He shows us the true way of dispelling doubt, of whatever kind it may be, viz., the fuller knowledge of Himself, as the dead, the buried, the risen, and living Christ. It is this that is the cure of all unbelief, the death of doubting, the cherisher of faith, the perpetual source of stability and peace; for the real cause of all doubting is imperfect knowledge of the Lord. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Too good to be true
In the case before us, the disciples saw Christ manifestly before their eyes. To a certain extent they believed in His resurrection; that belief gave them joy, and at once that very joy made them unbelieving. They looked again; they believed once more; anon, a wave of joy rolled right over the head of their faith, and then afresh their doubts returned. If God had been half as merciful or a tithe as kind as He was, I could have believed it, but such exceeding riches of His grace were too much; such out-doings of Himself in goodness, such giving exceeding abundantly above what one could ask or even think, seemed too much to believe. We will at once attempt to deal with this temptation.
I. To begin, LET ME ACCOUNT FOR IT.
1. It is little marvel that the spirit is amazed even to astonishment and doubt when you think of the greatness of the things themselves. The black sinner says, My iniquity is great; I deserve the wrath of God; the gospel presents me with a pardon, full and complete. I have laboured to wash out these stains, but they will not disappear; the gospel tells me that the precious blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin.
2. Another reason for incredulity may be found in our sense of unworthiness. Note the person that receives these mercies, and you will not wonder that he believes not for joy. “Ah,” saith he, “if these things were given to the righteous I could believe it, but to me, an old offender, to me, a hardhearted despiser of the overflowing love of God that cannot be!”
3. Add to these the strange terms upon which God presents these things to poor sinners. The miracle of the manner equals the marvel of the matter. No works; simply trust thy soul with Christ.
4. And add to this one more thought--the method by which God proposes to work all this; that is to say, He proposes to pardon, and to justify the sinner instantaneously.
II. Having thus tried to account for this state of the heart, may I have the help of God while I try to DO BATTLE WITH THE EVIL THAT IS IN IT, THAT WE MAY BE ABLE TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST!
1. Troubled heart, let me remind thee, first of all, that thou hast no need to doubt the truth of the precious revolution because of its greatness, for He is a great God who makes it to thee. Let no low thoughts of God come in to make you doubt His power to save you.
2. Again, let me remind you that the greatness of God’s mercy should encourage you to believe that it comes from God.
3. Let me remind you again, that you may get another argument to put aa end to your fears about the greatness of God’s mercy from the greatness of His providence.
III. I close by USING YOUR VERY FEARS AS AN ENTICEMENT TO BELIEVE. If it be so joyous only to think of these things, what must it be to possess them If it gives such a weight to thy spirit only to think of being pardoned, adopted, accepted, and saved, what must it be really to be washed? (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The final recorded meeting in Jerusalem
I. CONSIDER THE WAITING (see Acts 1:4).
II. THE PROMISED BAPTISM (see Acts 1:5).
III. CHRIST’S EXEGESIS, OR EXPLANATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
1. Reminds them of former teaching.
2. Law, prophets, Psalms, etc., must be understood of Him.
IV. THE OPENING OF THEIR UNDERSTANDING.
V. THE COMPREHENSIVE CHARACTER OF CHRIST’S COMMISSION.
2. Remission of sins.
3. In His name. Christ the sole hope.
4. Among all nations. Missions an essential part of the Church.
5. Beginning at Jerusalem.
VI. THE DISPENSATION OF THE GOSPEL COMMITTED TO THEM.
VII. TARRYING AT JERUSALEM. “Tarrying,” when clone because of faith, is a fine proof of faith, and strengthens prayer, and is an exercise of humility. (G. Venables, S. C. L.)
The Saviour’s last words
I. ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES.
(1) The books of Divine origin.
(2) Its writers holy men.
(1) In their spirit.
(2) In their letter.
(3) In their symbols.
(1) Moses, the prophets, and psalms distinct chords of one Christly anthem.
(2) This wondrous unity of the Old Testament Scriptures an irrefragable proof of their essential divinity.
II. ESSENTIAL NEED OF DIVINE ILLUMINATION TO UNDERSTAND THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES.
1. Suggested by Christ’s exposition.
2. Proved in the disciples’ experience.
3. Corroborated in all generations.
III. ESSENTIAL PRE-REQUISITES FOR HUMAN SALVATION.
1. The death of Christ.
2. The resurrection of Christ.
3. Repentance and remission of sins.
IV. AN ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTIC OF A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST.
1. TO bear witness of personal salvation through Christ.
2. To bear witness of personal interest in the salvation of others,
V. AN ESSENTIAL NEED FOR SUCCESSFUL WITNESSING FOR CHRIST.
1. This promise of the Father was the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
2. This gift of the Holy Spirit was to endue the disciples of Christ with power for testimony.
3. This enducment with the power of the Holy Spirit essential for successsful bearing witness for Christ.
1. Are we all disciples of Christ?
2. Do we all bear witness for Jesus Christ?
3. Is our witnessing for Christ accompanied with the power of the Holy Spirit?
4. If not, why not? (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The gospel for the world
I. THE BASIS OF THE GOSPEL FOR THE WORLD.
1. This threefold division of the Scriptures suggestive in this connection.
(1) As showing that Christ is the central glory of each and every part.
(2) As showing in this the essential unity of all the parts.
2. The fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures most important in the evangelization of the world.
(1) Because it proves the Divine origin of the Scriptures.
(2) Because it shows the Divine authority with which the Christ of the Scriptures is invested as the world’s Saviour.
II. THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE PROMULGATION OF THE GOSPEL TO THE WORLD.
1. A spiritual understanding of the Scriptures.
(1) Concerning the fitness of a suffering and a triumphant Christ.
(2) Concerning the essentials of gospel preaching.
2. Another qualification is Christian discipleship.
3. A third qualification is the special enduement of power.
(1) This enduement of power by the Holy Spirit should be distinguished from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is not a special, but general privilege of every Christian.
(2) The condition for this enduement may be seen in the account given of the prayerful waiting therefor, before the day of Pentecost Acts 1:12-14; Acts 2:1-4).
III. THE RETURN OF CHRIST TO HEAVEN, NECESSARY FOR THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL IN THE WORLD.
1. The return of our Lord to heaven was necessary in order that the Holy Spirit might be sent. (John 16:7).
2. On the work of the Spirit depend the conviction and conversion of men, and the completion of the truth (John 16:8-14).
IV. PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS.
1. The world’s great need--the gospel of Christ.
2. The Church’s great responsibility to supply this need.
3. The importance of being equipped. (G. Venables, S. C. L.)
Then opened He their understanding
Christ illuminates the understanding
I. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THIS ACT OF CHRIST?
1. It implies the transcendent nature of spiritual things, far exceeding the highest flight and reach of natural reason.
2. Christ’s opening the understanding implies the insufficiency of all external means, how excellent soever they are in themselves to operate savingly upon men, till Christ by His power opens the soul, and so makes them effectual.
3. Christ’s opening the understanding imports His Divine power, whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself. Who but God knows the heart? Who but God can unlock and open it at pleasure?
II. BY WHAT ACTS CHRIST PERFORMS THIS WORK.
1. By His Word.
2. By His Spirit. He breaks in upon the understanding and conscience by powerful convictions and compunctions (John 16:8).
When this is done, the heart is opened: saving light now shines in it; and this light set up, the spirit in the soul is--
1. A new light, in which all things appear far otherwise than they did before. The names “Christ” and “sin,” the words “heaven” and “hell” have another sound in that man’s ears, than formerly they had.
2. It is a very affecting light; a light that hath heat and powerful influences with it, which makes deep impressions on the heart.
3. And it is a growing light, like the light of the morning, which “shines more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).
1. If this be the work and office of Jesus Christ, to open the understandings of men; hence we infer the miseries that lie upon those men, whose understandings, to this day, Jesus Christ hath not opened; of whom we may say, as it is Deuteronomy 29:4.
2. If Jesus Christ be the great Prophet of the Church, then surely He will take special care both of the Church and the under-shepherds appointed by Him to feed them.
3. Hence you that are yet in darkness, may be directed to whom to apply yourselves for saving knowledge. It is Christ that hath the sovereign eye-salve that can cure your blindness.
4. Since then there is a common light, and special saving light, which none but Christ can give, it is therefore the concernment of every one of you to try what your light is. “We know that we all have knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
These lights differ--
1. In their very kind and natures. The one is heavenly, supernatural, and spiritual; the other earthly and natural, the effect of a better constitution or education (James 3:15; James 3:17).
2. They differ most apparently in their effects and operations. The light that comes in a special way from Christ, is humbling, abasing, and soul-emptying light; by it a man feels the vileness of his own nature and practice, which begets self-loathing in him; but natural light, on the contrary, puffs up and exalts, makes the heart swell with self-conceitedness 1 Corinthians 8:1). The light of God is practical and operative, still urging the soul--yea, lovingly constraining it to obedience.
3. They differ in their issues. Natural common knowledge vanisheth, as the apostle speaks (1 Corinthians 13:8). ‘Tis but Mayflower, and dies in its month. “Doth not their excellency that is in them go away?” (Job 4:21). But this that springs from Christ is perfected, not destroyed by death; it springs up into everlasting life. The soul in which it is subjected carries it away with it into glory.
4. How are they obliged to love, serve, and honour Jesus Christ, whom he hath enlightened with the saving knowledge of Himself? O that with hands and hearts lifted up to heaven, ye would adore the free grace of Jesus Christ to your souls! (J. Flavel.)
On the understanding of Scripture
I. OUR LORD DESIGNED TO PUT AN ESPECIAL HONOUR ON THE SCRIPTURES. He might have taught His disciples without them. He might have enabled them by immediate inspiration, to understand all things which related to His person. His office, and Divine commission; to His death and sufferings, His resurrection, and the glory that should follow. But He chose rather to refer them to the living oracles, given by God unto their fathers. Let me solemnly ask you, beloved brethren, what value do you set upon the Scriptures?
II. But, while vast numbers read not the Scriptures at all, MANY READ THEM, BUT UNDERSTAND THEM NOT. Their meaning is sealed up. If we would profit by the Scriptures, we must not read them like another book.
III. That these remarks may be brought to some practical end, let us, finally, ask--DO WE READ THE SCRIPTURES CONTINUALLY WITH THIS CONVICTION, THAT, WITHOUT THE TEACHING OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THEM? It is our duty to search the Scriptures; it is the Lord alone who can enable us to understand them.
1. If this conviction be strong on our minds, it will lead us to read the Scriptures with earnest prayer.
2. Again, if we be under an abiding conviction that, without the teaching of the Spirit, we cannot understand the Scriptures, we shall read them with diligence and perseverance.
3. Once more, if we be deeply convinced of our need of the grace of God, we shall read the Scriptures with an obedient, humble, teachable spirit. (E. Blencowe, M. A.)
The understanding opened
I. THE CHANGE PRODUCED. The unlocking of the whole soul; the breaking down of all the barriers of pride, prejudice, and sin, which preclude the gospel, and prevent the cordial reception of its salutary truths.
II. THE AUTHOR OF THIS CHANGE. The Lord Jesus Christ, by His Spirit. Inward illumination is necessary, because of--
1. The insufficiency of human powers.
2. The inefficiency of outward means.
III. The END of this change; the object which its Divine Author particularly regards; and this is, a right acquaintance with the holy Scriptures. “Then opened He their understanding”; why? to what end and purpose? “That they might understand the Scriptures.” Here let it be carefully noted--the holy Scriptures are a complete revelation of the mind and will of God. But what is this understanding of the Scriptures, this right acquaintance with the Word of God, which evinces the teaching of the Spirit of Christ?
1. It is impressive. It is knowledge which touches and interests the heart.
2. It is progressive. The Spirit of Christ teaches gradually. “More and more unto the perfect day.”
3. It is practical. This knowledge has influence on the spirit and conduct of men, an influence most salutary and important.
(1) It humbles for sin.
(2) It endears the Saviour.
(3) It promotes holiness.
From the whole we remark--
1. The unhappy condition of those whose minds are yet closed against the light of the word and Spirit of Christ. Natural blindness is a melancholy affliction, but unspeakably more so this darkness of the soul!
2. The duty of such as desire Divine teachings. Think not highly of yourselves, but soberly as you ought to think.
3. The encouragement which the gospel gives to apply to Jesus Christ. This encouragement is large and free. (T. Kidd.)
Understanding the Scriptures
Whilst at prayer-meeting to-night, I learned more of the meaning of Scripture than ever before. Suitable frames of soul are like good lights, in which a painting appears to its full advantage. (S. Pearse.)
The opened understanding
This is in all probability as stupendous a miracle as any in the Lord’s history. That men should in a moment receive a power of mental comprehension which they had not before, and that this power should enable them to see the true import and meaning of a book which had hitherto been closed to them, seems greater than any acts of healing, or feeding of multitudes, or stilling of tempests. It implies Divine power over our spiritual and intellectual nature such as God only can exercise. And yet it is the commonest of all miracles, and the one which survives amongst us. The opening of the mind and heart to the things of God is constantly now going on. To many--we may say to all--who submit their wills and understandings to God, the Scriptures are unlocked, a new light is shed upon every part of them, especially upon the works and words of the Lord. This power of a risen Christ we claim every time we put up to God one of the most familiar of all our prayers, that “by patience and comfort of His holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life” in Jesus Christ. (M. F. Sadler.)
Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer
Christ’s epitome of the gospel
I. THE GOSPEL IS HERE REPRESENTED AS THE OUTCOME OF THE LONGCHERISHED PURPOSES OF GOD. It behoved Christ to suffer and to rise again, because it was included in God’s redemptive purposes as revealed by His servants the prophets. Redemption was not an afterthought in the Divine mind.
II. THE GOSPEL IS HERE REPRESENTED AS GROUNDING ITSELF IN TWO HISTORICAL FACTS: VIZ., ON THE SUFFERINGS AND THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
III. THE GOSPEL, AS EXPRESSED IN THESE TWO FACTS, IS HERE REPRESENTED AS THE SUBJECT MATTER OF APOSTOLIC PREACHING. Why? Unquestionably, because they are the most vital and essential doctrines of Christianity. They lie at the root of all experimental religion.
IV. THE GOSPEL IS HERE REPRESENTED AS EMBRACING IN ITS MERCIFUL RESIGNS THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE. IT IS TO BE PREACHED “AMONG ALL NATIONS.”
V. THE GOSPEL IS HERE REPRESENTED AS OFFERING DIVINE MERCY TO THE CHIEF OF SINNERS. “Beginning at Jerusalem.” (W. H. C. Harris.)
The principles and proclamation of the gospel
It would be difficult to find in the Word of God another paragraph which contains within itself more of the essential principles of the gospel than that to which this text belongs.
I. THE GROUND ON WHICH THE GOSPEL PROCLAMATION RESTS: “It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” There could have been no gospel if there had been no Cross; but the death, even of Jesus, would have had no efficacy for the removal of human guilt, if He had not risen from the grave. The one fact is invariably connected with the other in the Epistles. The honour of the law required a victim. Three doctrines unite to form a trinity of gospel truth:
1. The person of Christ as God incarnate.
2. The death of Christ as the sacrifice.
3. The resurrection of Christ as the witness to the other two doctrines.
II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE HERE DESCRIBED: “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name.” It is a proclamation of the remission of sins. This pardon is--
But it is not a proclamation of forgiveness alone. Two things, repentance and remission, are to go together. A man cannot have forgiveness and continue at the same time to indulge in sin. This mention of repentance is virtually the same thing as that insistence on faith so constantly found in the New Testament. Faith is the Christ ward side of repentance. Repentance is the sinward side of faith.
III. THE ORDER IN WHICH THIS PROCLAMATION IS TO BE MADE: “To all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” The reasons of “beginning at Jerusalem” were--
1. To magnify the Divine mercy.
2. To secure a convincing illustration of the gospel’s efficacy.
3. To establish a principle for the guidance of God’s people in all ages.
So the law is that our first efforts should begin in our own homes--“beginning at Jerusalem”--but we are not to be content with working there. We must look abroad also “to all nations.” (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Christ’s sufferings, resurrection
I. THE EXPEDIENCY OF CHRIST’S SUFFERING AND RESURRECTION.
1. That prophecy might be fulfilled (Zechariah 13:1).
2. That justice might be satisfied, and peace made (Romans 3:25-26).
3. To convince and confound His adversaries.
4. To confirm the faith of His disciples.
5. To conquer sin, death, and grave.
6. That He might be the firstfruits.
7. That after abasement He might be exalted.
II. THE BLESSED EFFECTS RESULTING. “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
1. The nature and necessity of repentance (Acts 5:31).
2. Full and free remission (Acts 13:39).
3. “In His name,” or by His authority (Mark 16:15-16).
4. Beginning at Jerusalem in the first place (Luke 1:72).
5. And carrying it to all nations.
III. THE IMPROVEMENT.
1. The grace of Christ always prevents us (Luke 19:10).
2. Repentance and remission of sins are the fruits of Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 8:33-34).
3. Remission of sins also accompanied with the saving knowledge of salvation.
4. The gospel commission is without exception of nations, as God’s people are in all nations.
5. Salvation is alone in the name of Christ. (T. B. Baker.)
Two supreme necessities
I. IT BEHOVED CHRIST TO SUFFER.
1. Because He must show the evil of sin; and this is only seen in its results.
2. Because He must vindicate the Divine honour; and this He could only do by bearing the penalty of sin.
3. Because His truth would oppose the natural inclinations of men, and they would be sure to make Him suffer.
4. Because He must render a perfect obedience to the Father; and this could only be tested and proved by suffering.
II. IT BEHOVED CHRIST TO RISE.
1. Because His work was a commission, and some sign of its acceptance was needed.
2. Because His work was incomplete at death; part must be accomplished in renewed life. (The Weekly Pulpit.)
Christ’s death and resurrection foretold in Scripture
I. THAT MESSIAH SHOULD SUFFER DEATH.
1. Foretold in the Pentateuch. Genesis 22:18.
(2) Sacrificial slaying of beasts.
2. Foretold in the Prophets (Isaiah 53:1-12.; Daniel 9:25-26; Zechariah 12:10).
3. Foretold in the Psalms (Psalms 16:9-10).
II. THAT IT BEHOVED HIM ALSO TO RISE AGAIN.
1. This was first foreshown in the same story of Isaac, wherein his sacrifice or suffering was acted. For from the time that God commanded Isaac to be offered for a burnt-offering, Isaac was a dead man; but the third day he was released from death. This the text tells us expressly, that it was the third day when Abraham came to Mount Moriah, and had his son, as it were, restored to him again: which circumstance there was no need nor use at all to have noted, had it not been for some mystery. For had there been nothing intended but the naked story, what did it concern us to know whether it were the third or the fifth day that Abraham came to Moriah, where he received his son from death? (see Hebrews 11:17-19). The same was foreshowed by the law of sacrifices, which were to be eaten before the third day. Some sacrifices were to be eaten the same day they were offered; but those which were deferred longest, as the peace-offerings, were to be eaten before the third day. The third day no sacrifice might be eaten, but was to be burnt: if it were eaten, it was not accepted for an atonement but counted an abomination. Namely, to show that the sacrifice of Messiah, which these sacrifices represented, was to be finished the third day by His rising from the dead: and therefore the type thereof determined within that time,beyond which time it was not accepted for atonement of sin, because then it was no longer a type of Him.
2. As for the prophets, I find no express prediction in them for the time of Christ’s rising (for that of the case of the Prophet Jonah, I take to be rather an allusion then a prophecy) only in general, “That Christ should rise again,” is implied both in that famous prophecy of Isaiah 53:1-12., and that of Zechariah 12:3. I come to the Psalms, where not only His rising again is prophesied of, but the time thereof determined; though at first sight it appears not so: namely, in that fore-alledged passage of the Sixteenth Psalm, “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, nor suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” All men shall rise again, but their bodies must first return to dust, and see corruption. But Messiah was to rise again before He saw corruption. If before, then, the third day at farthest; for then the body naturally begins to see corruption. (J. Mede.)
Necessity for Christ’s sufferings
Christ’s sacrifice upon Calvary came along by a process of natural simplicity. His death is readily explicable, and yet after He died He said that that death was one of the foregone conclusions of history: “Thus it behoved Christ to suffer.” Paul said “Christ must needs have suffered.” “Must.” It is well to think down deep thoughts into the “musts” of history. The ages were surveyed--using the word of the civil engineer--before they were peopled and built upon, and the points were fixed which now century by century God is covering with facts and events. (C. H. Parkhurst.)
Why it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise
I. TO SUFFER.
1. It did not primarily behove Christ to suffer merely because the prophets had foretold that He should suffer and die; the necessity of His sufferings was rather the reason why prophets were directed to foretel a suffering Messiah. It behoved Him to suffer, that He might make a full and sufficient atonement for the sins of guilty man. It was the will of the Divine Father, and that will was sovereign and absolute, that Jehovah Jesus, the everlasting Son of the Father, should assume our nature, live in our world, and suffer in our stead. It was the voluntary engagement of the Son of God to accomplish His Father’s will--“Lo! I come; in the volume of the Book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God.”
2. I grant you there are collateral reasons why it thus “behoved Christ to suffer.” “Thus it behoved Him to suffer,” that He might exhibit a perfect pattern of all excellence, and of patience in the midst of suffering. In all His condescension, in all His meekness, in all His forgiveness, in all His charity, He has taught us how to live and how to suffer; and “if we say we abide in Him, we ought to walk as He also walked.”
3. “It behoved Him to suffer in our nature, and in our world, that He might, in some sense, ennoble and dignify the path of poverty and of suffering.
4. “It behoved Him to suffer,” that from personal experience in our nature and in our world, He might know how to sympathise with His suffering people.
5. “It behoved Him to suffer,” preparatory to that glory to which, as Mediator, He was to be exalted. “Ought not Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into His glory?” Not unfrequently does it happen, that the path of suffering is the high road to honour and glory; and never does true greatness appear in a light so impressive and interesting, as when seen grappling with difficulties, struggling with opposition, and ultimately rising superior to all. Through what a scene of suffering and agony and blood did our Divine Saviour pass, preparatory to entering into His glory! And when He arrived at the heavenly world, what an outburst of triumph and joy do we hear! “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” And let His suffering followers know, that if so be they suffer with Him, in His cause and in His state and temper, they shall also be glorified together.
II. TO RISE AGAIN.
1. It behoved Him to rise, that in rising He might show that the redemption-price paid by the shedding of His blood was sufficient, and that it was accepted.
2. It behoved Him to rise from the dead, that in rising He might show that He had triumphed over death.
3. It behoved Him to rise., that in rising He might be “the firstfruits of them that slept.”
4. It behoved Him to rise from the dead, that in rising He might assert and exercise His regal character and office as King of saints, as Lord of the earth. (R. Newton, D. D.)
That repentance and remission of sins should be preached
Christ’s first and last subject
From Matthew 4:17, coupled with this verse, we learn that repentance was the first subject upon which the Redeemer dwelt, and that it was the last which, with His departing breath, He commended to the earnestness of His disciples. He begins His mission crying, “Repent”; He ends it by saying to His successors the apostles, “Preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
I. Repentance--ITS ORIGIN. When we cry, “Repent and be converted,” there are some foolish men who call us legal. Now, we beg to state, at the opening of this first point, that repentance is of gospel parentage. It was not born near Mount Sinai. If repentance is ever obtained by the poor sinner, it must be found at the foot of the Cross, and not where the ten commandments lie shivered at Sinai’s base. And as repentance is of gospel parentage, I make a second remark, it is also of gracious origin. Repentance was never yet produced in any man’s heart apart from the grace of God.
II. But to pass forward from this first point to our second head, let us notice the ESSENTIALS of true repentance. I have thus, as best I could, feeling many and very sad distractions in my own mind, endeavoured to explain the essentials of true repentance, illumination, humiliation, detestation, transformation.
III. And now, with all brevity, let me notice, in the third place, the COMPANIONS of true repentance. Her first companion is faith. There was a question once asked by the old Puritan divines, “Which was first in the soul, faith or repentance?” Some said that a man could not truly repent of sin until he believed in God, and had some sense of a Saviour’s love. Others said a man could not have faith till he had repented of sin; for he must hate sin before he could trust Christ. So a good old minister who was present made the following remark: “Brethren,” said he, “I don’t think you can ever settle this question. It would be something like asking whether, when an infant is born, the circulation of the blood or the beating of the pulse can be first observed.” Said he, “it seems to me that faith and repentance are simultaneous. They come at the same moment. There could be no true repentance without faith. There never was yet true faith without sincere repentance.” We endorse that opinion. I believe they are like the Siamese twins--they are born together, and they could not live asunder, but must die if you attempt to separate them. Faith always walks side by side with his weeping sister, true repentance. There is another sweet thing which always goes with repentance, just as Aaron went with Moses, to be spokesman for him; for you must know that Moses was slow of speech, and so is repentance. Repentance has fine eyes, but stammering lips. In fact, it usually happens that repentance speaks through her eyes, and cannot speak with her lips at all, except her friend--who is a good spokesman--is near. He is called “Mr. Confession.” This man is noted for his open-breastedness. Repentance sighs over the sin--confession tells it out. Holiness is evermore the bosom friend of penitence. Fair angel, clad in pure white linen, she loves good company, and will never stay in a heart where repentance is a stranger. Repentance must dig the foundations, but holiness shall erect the structure, and bring forth the top-stone. Repentance is the clearing away of the rubbish of the past temple of sin; holiness builds the new temple which the Lord our God shall inherit. Repentance and desires after holiness never can be separated. Yet once more--wherever repentance is, there cometh also with it peace.
IV. And now I come to my fourth and last point, namely, the EXCELLENCIES of repentance. I shall somewhat surprise you, perhaps, if I say that one of the excellencies of repentance lies in its pleasantness. “Oh!” you say, “but it is bitter!” Nay, say I; it is sweet. At least, it is bitter when it is alone, like the waters of Marah; but there is a tree called the cross, which if thou canst put into it, it will be sweet, and thou wilt love to drink of it. At a school of mutes who were both deaf and dumb, the teacher put the following question to her pupils: “What is the sweetest emotion?” As soon as the children comprehended the question, they took their slates and wrote their answers. One girl in a moment wrote down “Joy.” As soon as the teacher saw it, she expected that all would write the same, hut another girl, more thoughtful, put her hand to her brow, and she wrote “Hope.” Verily, the girl was not far from the mark. But the next one, when she brought up her slate, had written “Gratitude,” and this child was not wrong. Another one, when she brought up her slate, had written “Love,” and I am sure she was right. But there was one other who had written in large characters--and as she brought up her slate the tear was in her eye, showing she had written what she felt--“Repentance is the sweetest emotion.” And I think she was right. Besides this excellency, it is specially sweet to God as well as to men. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” When St. Augustine lay a-dying, he had this verse always fixed upon the curtains, so that as often as he awoke he might read it--“A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” When you despise yourselves, God honours you; but as long as you honour yourselves, God despises you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The gospel commission
I. THE FOUNDATION OF THIS COMMISSION (see Luke 24:46).
II. THE PECULIAR WORK OF THIS COMMISSION. The preaching of repentance and remission of sins in the name of Christ.
III. ITS BEGINNING AS TO LOCALITY. Jerusalem.
IV. THE EXTENT OF THE COMMISSION. All nations.
V. THE GRAND USE TO WHICH THE COMMISSION MUST NOW BE PUT BY THE PEOPLE OF GOD. (A. Somerville.)
The apostolic commission
I. THE WORK PRESCRIBED BY THE SAVIOUR. The end of this work is, that sinners should be saved. This practical end we must ever keep in view.
1. The means here prescribed is preaching--preaching repentance and remission of sins. This ordinance of preaching, even in the general sense of public religious teaching, is all but peculiar to the religion of Christ.
2. The power indicated in our text is the power of truth, of the true Word of God. And here we see the ultimate source of our strength, in the revealed will of God. The so-called crusaders, in their wild enterprise for the recovery of God-forsaken Palestine from the infidels, were animated and sustained by the battle-cry, “God wills it.” In seeking to win the lost world to its life in God, from the bondage of sin and death and hell, we have to cheer us and sustain us the Bible truth, “God wills it.” For the work which He has ordained shall certainly be done (Isaiah 55:10-13). This glorious work the gospel is fitted instrumentally to achieve by its nature as true and Divine, “the Word of God.”
3. Not only the gospel is true and Divine; its Teacher is true and Divine. It is ordained in this Will that the preaching shall be “in the name” of Jesus the Christ.
II. THE ORDER IN WHICH THIS WORK IS TO BE UNDERTAKEN: “BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM.” Not passing by Jerusalem, nor coming to her in the last place, but “beginning at Jerusalem”: so runs the Will.
1. They are the nearest, most easily reached.
(1) In place. To the apostles elect Jerusalem was literally the nearest point of Judaea, and Judaea of Palestine, and Palestine of the world. And even beyond Judaea and Palestine, in every important city of the Gentile world, there was a Judaea and Jerusalem, a Jewish quarter and synagogue, more accessible and convenient for public religious teaching and discussion than any other quarter and temple. This is one of his points of resemblance to the Scot--his nation, far more than ours, is the ubiquitous nation. All the world over, the Jew is nearest in place.
(2) They are nearest in mind. The wood has first to be hewn in the savage forest, and the stones to be quarried from the bowels of the earth, before the heathen mind can furnish as much as an altar for our faith to be laid on. But in the mind of the Jew the altar is built to our hands; the wood is there upon it, ready to be kindled to a blaze.
2. They are, when found and saved, fitted to be the most precious, as instruments of diffusing the gospel to others. I have already referred to their lot of ubiquity, showing that they are by position an army in actual occupation of the world. I might add that they have a natural gift of tongues, being familiar with the languages of all the nations among which they are dispersed. And we have seen that they have a theological knowledge, derived from Old Testament revelation, such that they need only to know Jesus as the incarnate Word in order to be ready-made preachers of Him in the gospel.
3. They are the worst. They are the chief of sinners, peculiarly the children of the devil (John 8:44). No other nation has sinned as they havesinned, so long and deeply and desperately, against the light of God’s offered mercy, first in “Moses and all the prophets,” then in the person of Jesus the Christ, and finally in the apostles and evangelists throughout the new dispensation of the Spirit. Therefore we ought to preach the gospel of salvation “to the Jews first.” For, first, in so doing we act in the spirit of the gospel as a dispensation of healing mercy: we illustrate the abounding grace of the great Physician, who hastens to go first with His remedy where the malady is deadliest. And second: when Jerusalem has yielded at last, and believed and repented for salvation, what shall her actual salvation be but spiritual resurrection to the world? For she will love much because she has been forgiven much. (J. Macgregor, D. D.)
The work of the Christian ministry
I. THE GRAND SUBJECTS OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY: repentance and remission of sins.
II. HOW THESE SUBJECTS ARE TO BE DELIVERED: preached.
III. IN WHOSE NAME THESE TWO GREAT SUBJECTS ARE TO BE PREACHED: in the name of Christ.
IV. TO WHOM: all nations.
V. WHERE FIRST: at Jerusalem. (W. J. Grundy.)
Repentance and pardon
Repentance and pardon are like to the three spring months of the year--March, April, and May. Sin comes in like March--blustering, stormy, and full of bold violence. Repentance succeeds like April--showery, weeping, and full of tears. Pardon follows like May--springing, singing, full of joys and flowers. If our hands have been full of March, with the tempest of unrighteousness, our eyes must be full of April, with the sorrow of repentance; and then our hearts shall be full of May, in the true joy of forgiveness.
The duty and importance of special efforts for the conversion of cities
I. OUR SAVIOUR DEVOTED HIS PERSONAL MINISTRY VERY MUCH TO CITIES AND LARGE TOWNS.
II. CHRIST, IN HIS INSTRUCTIONS TO HIS DISCIPLES, PARTICULARLY DIRECTS THEIR ATTENTION TO CITIES AND LARGE TOWNS.
III. CITIES WERE THE THEATRES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT’S FIRST AND MOST ILLUSTRIOUS ACHIEVEMENTS. Instance--Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, etc.
IV. WE SHOULD SEEK THE CONVERSION OF CITIES, BECAUSE IN THEM THE ADVERSARY REIGNS WITH PECULIAR POWER. Would you see the power of Satan in cities? Cast your eye back upon the past. What were Sodom and Gomorrah? What were Tyre, and Sidon, and Nineveh? What was Babylon? What was Jerusalem in its latter days, when given up, accursed of God? What were they but sinks of pollution and fountains of ruin? And, could we draw aside the curtains of darkness, what might we see in modern cities?
V. THERE ARE PECULIAR ADVANTAGES FOR THE PROMOTION OF RELIGION IN CITIES. In cities, ministers and good men can readily and effectually cooperate in plans of usefulness. Cities also furnish peculiar advantages for individual exertion. If Christians in our cities would conduct themselves agreeably to the Bible, how awful to the wicked would be their example! What reformations would be wrought among the worldly and profane! How many haunts of poverty and wretchedness would be searched out!
How many souls, once in communion with the saints, would be brought back from their wanderings!
VI. ANOTHER REASON FOR SPECIAL EFFORTS IN BEHALF OF CITIES IS, THE INFLUENCE WHICH THEY EXERT ON THE COUNTRY AND ON THE WORLD. (W. Patton, M. A.)
The charge to the apostles
I. WHAT THEY WERE TO PREACH.
1. Repentance. This consists in conviction of sin, contrition of heart, and godly sorrow for transgressions; and it ends in real conversion to God.
2. Remission of sins. Free, full, final. The Forgiver retains no anger.
3. They were to preach both repentance and the remission of sins. We are not to separate what God hath joined together. To encourage the hope of pardon, without repentance, is rebellion against common sense, and treason against the whole spirit and letter of the Word of God. And, on the other hand, there is no true repentance without proper views of, and faith in, God’s pardoning mercy and grace. Without these the heart may be terrified, but it never can be softened.
II. HOW THEY WERE TO PREACH THIS. “In His name.”
1. In His stead.
2. By His authority.
3. Through His mediatorial influence.
III. AMONG WHOM WERE THEY TO PREACH? “Among all nations.”
1. Christianity was designed to be universal; to enter and to pervade all nations of the earth.
2. Christianity is adapted to universality.
3. Enough has already been done to encourage our hope of its actual universality in due time.
IV. WHERE WERE THEY TO BEGIN THEIR WORK? “In Jerusalem.”
1. To fulfil Scripture (Zechariah 14:8).
2. To attest more strongly the truth of Christianity. They were to begin to preach the facts of the gospel in the very place where it is reported they occurred; and so recently as to be in the memory of those they addressed. Would impostors have done this?
3. To afford proofs of the Saviour’s compassion. He sends His ambassadors with offers of mercy and pardon to a city whose inhabitants were reeking with His blood.
4. It was that His ministers should afford encouragement to all; so that none should have a just pretence “to perish in despair.” “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
5. It was to encourage His servants in their endeavours to evangelize. The apostles were not to begin at a distance, but as near as possible. Suppose, now, you had a wilderness covered with briers and thorns, and you wished to make a smooth passage through it; would it be wiser to begin at the farther end, and work homewards, or at home first, pursuing your course to the farther end? Would not the latter way save you some time and trouble? And, as you went on, would not the little parts you cultivated afford supplies to aid you to proceed with your cultivation? (W. Jay.)
He that repents leaves the wrong way to take the right. Repentance is a change of mind leading to a change of conduct. He that repents turns quite round to God; his back was to heaven’s gate, his face is now toward it. A single action may show the change, as the weather-vane, pointing to a new quarter, tells us that the wind has changed. And what a change that may be! “The wind is west,” we cry; “the drought is over!” How simple is repentance, how mighty the effects! “Effects!” “Simple!” Is the rain that blesses the thirsty land caused by the turning weather-cock? Is the great change of wind, of which even smoke or a straw may give us notice, only to be had for the wishing, or so very simple in its causes? We cannot state too simply to ourselves what repentance is; but this repentance, of which we so speak, is a very great thing. This change in the soul’s weather may come in with stormy darkness; thunder and rain and tempest may be the servants of God that bring the blessing. To preach repentance then is not merely to cry: “Consider your ways, amend them.” It is to present such inducements, and to provide such “assistances” that the soul may feel itself very powerfully dealt with for amendment; and these are provided and presented in Jesus Christ. (T. T. Lynch.)
Remission of sins
“Remission of sins “ is the assurance that God will not charge them against the repenting soul; and that He will break the strength they still have in it, and wholly disperse and destroy them. Pardon and complete deliverance are assured; and at once the effect of former sin begins to be put away. But the process of salvation is a gradual one. To put on Christ is not the work of an hour. The Physician once welcomed, many a visit must He pay. Even were the soul at the hour of its repentance absolutely assured that no more harm could ever come to it from what it had done amiss, it has all its good yet to win and to appropriate: as yet it occupies a low place; it is untaught, unclad; it must be educated; it can rise only by degrees. Christ has said for it, and for all souls, “I have overcome evil; I have perfected good.” By faith in Him, i.e., by our so personal union with Him, through trust, that He is ours and we His, we gain all the benefits of His protection from evil, and His promised impartation of God. But we enter into the fulness of the blessing gradually. And, strong as our confidence in the Divine pardon may be, sin in us does not at once die; and earnest as our repentance toward God may be, the good new life in us is not at once adult and all-accomplished. But, in the name of Christ, there has been preached to us, and still is, “repentance and remission of sins”: “repentance,” with all inducements and all assistances; “remission,” with all assurance: the comfort of the blessing, the earnest of its full realization--these may at once be ours. In the name of Christ: shall we say, by His power the one is preached; for His sake, the other? Yes; so we may say. But the two blessings are one in Him who has subdued the past for us and won for us the future. Vain, and wrong, were any declaration of pardon without a call to repentance. Vain, and even mocking, were any call to repentance without the promise of pardon. Hope there can be none for man unless he be made divinely good. Good, and happy in his goodness can no man be made, unless the forces of evil with which he was leagued, by which he was thralled, to which he contributed, are overcome. (T. T. Lynch.)
Beginning at Jerusalem
Reasons for “beginning at Jerusalem”
I. THAT THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER MIGHT BE FULFILLED.
II. THAT THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY MIGHT BE CONFIRMED.
III. THAT THE FULNESS OF CHRIST’S MERCY MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED.
IV. THAT THE EFFICACY OF HIS GRACE MIGHT BE MANIFESTED. In conclusion, we learn from the subject--
1. That it is the duty of professing Christians to manifest the spirit of Christ. If Christ is dwelling in you, you cannot but manifest His spirit, for His life is your life.
2. We learn from this subject, that it is our duty to spread the gospel of Christ.
3. From this Subject we learn how sincere and earnest is God’s desire for the salvation of sinners--“He is not willing that any should perish.” (J. Dobie, D. D.)
Beginning at Jerusalem
I. WHAT THEY WERE TO PREACH.
(1) Repentance as a duty.
(2) The acceptableness of repentance.
(3) The motives of repentance. Not mere fear of hell; but sorrow for sin.
(4) Repentance in its perpetuity.
(5) The source of repentance. The Lord Jesus Christ is exalted to give repentance.
2. Remission of sins. Free, full, irreversible pardon for all who repent of sin, and lay hold on Christ by faith.
II. WHERE IT IS TO BE PREACHED. Among all nations. Divine warrant for missions.
III. But this is not all. We are actually told HOW TO PREACH IT. Repentance and remission are to be preached in Christ’s name. What does this mean?
1. Ought we not to learn from this that we are to tell the gospel to others, because Christ orders us to do so? In Christ’s name we must do it. Silence is sin when salvation is the theme. But it means more than that.
2. Not only preach it under His orders, but preach it on His authority. The true servant of Christ has his Master to back him up.
3. But does it not mean, also, that the repentance and the remission which are so bound together come to men by virtue of His name? Oh, sinner, there would be no acceptance of your repentance if it were not for that dear name!
IV. Now, I shall ask your attention to the principal topic of the present discourse, and that is, that He told His disciples WHERE TO BEGIN. The apostles were not to pick and choose where they should start, but they were to begin at Jerusalem. Why?
1. Because it was written in the Scriptures that they were to begin at Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3; Joel 3:16; Joel 3:16; Zechariah 14:8).
2. I suppose that our Lord bade His disciples begin to preach the gospel at Jerusalem, because it was at Jerusalem that the facts which make up the gospel had occurred.
3. The third reason why the Lord Jesus told them to begin at Jerusalem may have been that He knew that there would come a time when some of His disciples would despise the Jews, and there fore He said--When you preach My gospel, begin with them. This is a standing commandment, and everywhere we ought to preach the gospel to the Jew as well as to the Gentile; Paul even says, “to the Jew first.”
4. The fourth reason for beginning at Jerusalem is a practical lesson for you. Begin where you are tempted not to begin. Naturally these disciples would have said one to another when they met, “We cannot do much here in Jerusalem. The first night that we met together the doors were shut for fear of the Jews. It is of no use for us to go out into the street; these people are all in such an excited frame of mind that they will not receive us; we had better go up to Damascus, or take a long journey, and then commence preaching; and when this excitement is cooled down, and they have forgotten about the crucifixion, we will come and introduce Christ gradually, and say as little as we can about putting Him to death.” That would have been the rule of policy--that rule which often governs men who ought to be led by faith. But our Lord had said, “Beginning at Jerusalem,” and so Peter must stand up in the midst of that motley throng, and he must tell them, “This Jesus whom ye have with wicked hands crucified and slain is now risen from the dead.” Instead of tearing Peter to pieces they come crowding up, crying, “We believe in Jesus: let us be baptized into His sacred name.” The same day there were added to the church three thousand souls, and a day or two afterwards five thousand were converted by the same kind of preaching. We ought always to try to do good where we think that it will not succeed.
5. Begin at home. Look well to your own children, servants, brothers, sisters, neighbours.
6. Begin where much has been already done. The Jerusalem people had been taught for centuries in vain; and yet Christ’s disciples were to speak to them first. We must not pass the gospel-hardened; we must labour for the conversion of those who have enjoyed privileges but have neglected them.
7. Begin where the gospel day is short. It was about to end at Jerusalem. Now, then, if you have any choice as to the person you shall speak to, select an old man. He is near his journey’s end, and if he is unsaved there is but a little bit of candle left by the light of which he may come to Christ. Or when any of you notice a girl upon whose cheek you see that hectic flush which marks consumption--if you notice during service the deep “churchyard” cough--say to yourself, “I will not let you go without speaking to you, for you may soon be dead.” We ought speedily to look up those whose day of grace is short.
8. Begin, dear friend, where you may expect opposition. That is a singular thing to advise, but I recommend it because the Saviour advised it. If they began at Jerusalem, they would arouse a ferocious opposition. But nothing is much better for the gospel than opposition.
9. The Saviour bade them begin at Jerusalem, because the biggest sinners lived there. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Beginning at Jerusalem
I. The charge to begin at Jerusalem shows how the gospel challenges investigation of the facts which it proclaims in the locality in which they transpired, and where, in consequence, they are capable of being most thoroughly sifted.
II. The charge to begin at Jerusalem shows that even Jerusalem sinners--the men who had thirsted for the Saviour’s blood--the men who had cried, “Away with Him, crucify Him!”--the men who mocked Him in His last agonies--the men who reviled and tortured and murdered Him--were not excluded from His compassion.
1. Taking at the outset the lowest ground, we learn from His words that there is mercy for the greatest sinners.
2. But this is not all. The text requires us to advance a step further. It not only teaches that there is mercy for the worst sinners, but that the worst and most wretched sinners are especially the objects of mercy. Should you begin to ask how this is, and on what principle it is to be accounted for, our own feelings under certain circumstances may help us to an answer. The mother, if she loves as a mother should, has no arbitrary or groundless preference for any of her children. While they are all about her, behaving as children should, she cannot tell you which is dearest. Most sincerely she will tell you that she loves them all alike. But in after years, when their character is developed, and each pursues his own course, it is the poor prodigal whose suffering most awakens her solicitude, and not so much his suffering as his sin. It is his image that is most frequently present to her mind. Let me add here, that the salvation of the worst sinners will serve most to magnify the Divine mercy. As the rough sea makes manifest the good qualities of the lifeboat which has weathered the storm; as the physician’s skill is most illustriously displayed, and the efficacy of his medicines most strikingly evinced, by the cure of the most aggravated disease; as the builder’s reputation is advanced, not only by the beauty and symmetry of the structure which he has erected, but also by the worthlessness of the materials out of which it has been formed; so is mercy most illustriously displayed and most gloriously magnified in the salvation of the greatest sinners. Moreover, the forgiveness of the greater guilt is fitted to awaken greater gratitude in the forgiven sinner.
III. The Saviour’s charge shows the order in which we should proceed in our efforts for the conversion of the world. The principle which He commends to us is the sound principle of beginning at home. But while our efforts should begin at home, they should only begin there. (W. Landels.)
The Divine order of preaching
Mark the order to be observed, for it is here prescribed, in promulgating the system of truth and mercy throughout the world. They were to “begin at Jerusalem”; and therefore we must begin there. For thus it is written--“A law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” This part of the Divine order gives to our common Christianity a character of the most resplendent truth. “Beginning at Jerusalem.” Suppose they had begun anywhere else but at Jerusalem. Suppose they had passed Jerusalem by. Suppose they had gone to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. Suppose they had gone to countries still more remote, and there commenced operations, and there proclaimed repentance and remission of sins in the name of Jesus Christ. Infidelity with both its eyes open and both its ears, to look at anything that can be seen, and listen to anything that can be heard, which can be lifted up to the discredit of Christianity--infidelity would very soon have raised its crest, arid lifted its voice on high. It would have said, “You see how these apostles, as they are called, managed this matter. Not a man of them dared say a word in Jerusalem. They knew, if they had gone there with their tales about the darkened sun, the rending rocks and rising dead, the people of Jerusalem would have risen up to confront them; a child of seven years old would have been enough to confront them all. Away they went to another part of the world, and there began with their tales of one Jesus that lived and died and rose again, and that all who believe in Him will be saved by Him; and these untutored people, who had no means of ascertaining whether the statements were true or false, seeing the confidence with which they were asserted, were credulous enough to receive them, and thus your Christianity made a beginning in the world.” Did it sot Let infidelity blush, if of a blush it is capable--which I very much doubt--for where shame is, virtue may be some day or other. Let infidelity blush!--at Jerusalem they did begin. On the very spot where the facts happened,there were those facts fearlessly and triumphantly proclaimed. They did not wait half a century, till a]most all that lived when the facts occurred were numbered with the dead. They went immediately; they “began” there on the very spot; there they preached a risen Saviour, and repentance and remission of sins in His name. Truth loves daylight, truth glories in the sunshine--invites attention, challenges examination, commands conviction and assent. “Begin at Jerusalem!” and does not this give to our Divine Christianity a character of the tenderest compassion? “Begin at Jerusalem?” I can almost imagine I hear Simon Peter, who had a warm heart and therefore a ready tongue, say to his Master--“Oh! let it be rather anywhere but Jerusalem. Hast Thou forgotten how they treated Thy prophets before Thee? Hast Thou so soon forgotten how they treated Thyself?--how they despised Thy teaching and Thy prayers, and Thy entreaties and tears? Hast Thou so soon forgotten how they thirsted for Thy blood, and how they rested not till they had imbrued their hands in it? Look at Thy hands and side, do not they bear the marks of their cruelty?--Anywhere but Jerusalem.” Such might be the language of man, but such was not the determination of our merciful Redeemer--“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” “Begin at Jerusalem.” “Though I bear the marks of their cruelty, they shall have the first offer of My clemency. Begin there. Go and try to find out those that falsely accused Me, and tell them I am ready to become their advocate, to plead their cause before the throne on high. ‘Begin at Jerusalem ‘--try to find out those that scourged Me, and tell them from Me, that by My stripes they may be healed. ‘Begin at Jerusalem ‘--find out those cruel wretches that mingled for Me in My extremity the cup of vinegar and gall, and tell them from Me, that at My hand they may receive the cup of salvation. ‘Begin at Jerusalem’--find out those that plaited the crown of thorns--that put it on--that smote Me with a reed, and mocked Me--and tell them from Me, that from Me they may receive’ a crown of glory that fadeth not away.’” (R. Newton, D. D.)
The Church’s duty to those outside
Suppose you gentlemen who are in business received no business letters to-morrow morning when you reached your office, and you were expecting large remittances from abroad, you would be very much astonished. You would wait for the next post, and for the next, but I expect that, before noon, your excitement would be so great that you would hurry off, probably, to the General Post Office, and, if there was a universal non-delivery of letters in the city of London, you would really wish to see the Postmaster-General if he were within reach, or, at any rate, the postmaster of the main office. And what would be your criticism if, when you explained your troubles and the nondelivery of the letters, that official shrugged his shoulders, and calmly replied that the letters were all there, and that you were quite aware that the post-office was open from seven to ten, and that you bad only to call and you could have your letters. You would turn round and say, “The Government pays you to deliver the letters at our address.” And in the same way God has given you and me certain messages of mercy to the sinners in this neighbourhood, and it is our business to take those messages to them. (H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem
Tarrying for fitness
I. THE FITNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN.
1. Its essential feature. “Power.” his comprehends all the “fruits of the Spirit.”
2. It is properly and distinctly a gift imparted from without and above. “Endued with power from on high.”
3. Its purpose. Not an ornament or accomplishment merely. It qualified men for various offices in the Church (Ephesians 4:7; Ephesians 4:11).
II. TARRYING FOR FITNESS. Great benefits require time for their realization: and spiritual exercise prepares for spiritual endowment.
1. By their enforced tarrying the disciples were taught that no man must thrust himself into the ministry of Christ.
2. The delay was an important element of their preparation.
3. The place for power is the place of Divine appointment. Why “Jerusalem”? It was full of associations of His ignominy and death. It contained the worst enemies of His cause. But “Christ is God’s forgiveness.” (A. F. Muir, M. A.)
Times of waiting
The time during which they were to “tarry” proved to be ten days--from the Thursday to the Sunday week following. It was just long enough to be a real test and trial. You may say, perhaps, considering the circumstances, it was a tremendous trial. And yet, mercifully, just shortened enough to be not intolerable--a discipline, but like every other from the Father’s hand, a discipline beautifully tempered. I am inclined to think that this interruption--I speak, of course, according to man--this interruption by ten days had a great design, and that it was to illustrate one very important part of God’s methods with all His children, at all times and under all circumstances. I see traces of the same method of dealing throughout the Bible. There is a pause, there is a breathing time, before anything falls. In judgments, the flood did not begin till not only a hundred and twenty years had passed, but not until seven days after the date for which it had been positively announced. And at Sodom, at Gomorrah, at Jericho, at Nineveh, at Jerusalem, there were intervals, distinct, between sentence and execution. While equally, many, I might say most, of the best blessings of which we read did not come till there had first been what you may call their period--a waiting-time. Sometimes it is very short, as in the case of the Syrophoenician woman, or Mary and Martha at Bethany, three or four days; sometimes longer, as with Abraham looking for a son, or David’s succession to his predicted throne; sometimes exceedingly protracted, as when good king Hezekiah never lived to see the answer to a father’s prayers in the conversion of his son, and yet, nevertheless, when the appointed moment came, his son was brought to God, though the lips that prayed it were silent. And what, what is the whole of this dispensation through which we are now passing? A space between two advents--a waiting time for that which seemed to be, and which apostles thought to be, quite close at the door two thousand years ago. Do you say that is too long to be a parallel, that is not an interval? Nay, “a little while and ye shall not see Me; and again a little while and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father.” And we are dealing with One to whom “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The thought, then, which I wish to impress upon you, and which seems to me to be the lesson of this season is, that God is a God who delights in intervals--intervals as they relate to our little minds, but all an equal part in one grand design--and that the right viewing and the proper use of these intervals is an essential part of the Christian’s education. We ought to know how these intervals should be passed. First, you must have in your mind a remembrance that it is an interval, only an interval, an ordained interval, an interval with a defined boundary line--though you cannot see it--that it is in the map, that it is as much a part of the map of God’s covenant as the issue which is to come, or as the means which you are now using to obtain it. Then, acknowledging it as God’s own waiting time, you must honour Him. Shall the great God, all wise and true, be hurried by one of His creatures? “Tarry thou the Lord’s leisure” is written on the fore-front of all God’s government. Is not it enough for you that He has told you “what”?--are you to dictate the “when,” and determine the “where”? Still, while you keep the eye of expectation upon the horizon where the promise is to arise, keep your hand on the door. The hour is a fixed hour--it is in the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” Then, in the interval, you will do well to do just what Christ told His little Church to do in this great model of all waiting--go on with present duties, be content for a little time to have a very small sphere, keep in the appointed path, and be sure that you use ordinances, be where all blessing comes, stay in Jerusalem. Then, in your Jerusalem, look to it that it is all love, else your prayers will be hindered. And, like the twelve--and this is a wonderful record, and shows how God blesses and honours His waiting ones, even when all outward circumstances are quite dark--spend the time in great joy. And be much in prayer, especially united prayer. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Endued with power from on high
Our need to-day is the same as that of the apostles. Our work is prosecuted under different circumstances, but its difficulties are essentially the same. The weak things of the world have still to contend against the mighty, and can be equal to the struggle only in so far as they are made mighty by power from on high. And the promise to us is unchanged.
I. WHAT THIS SPIRITUAL POWER IS. In a word, it is intensity in every part of the Christian life. There is power in faith--the strong, simple, unwavering faith which so lays hold of a truth that it possesses and controls the soul, stirring its deepest sympathies, and awakening its mightiest faculties. There is power in the devoted loyalty to truth which leads a man to obey her call at whatever cost, to surrender wealth, ease, honour, and, what is as hard as all besides, personal prejudice, as well as interest for her sake. There is power in the courage which leads a man to work out his own ideal of duty; to speak what is true, and do what is right, without taking counsel with flesh and blood; to stand alone and defy a scoffing world, rather than compromise his integrity or betray his trust. There is power in sympathy--the gentle, loving, active compassion, which finds its chief delight in doing good; which unlocks the hearts of men as by a magic key, and establishes a rule within them by the force of its own unselfishness. There is power in the grandeur and sublimity imparted to life by its conscious association with another and eternal state of being, and the desire so to shape all its thoughts and words and deeds that it shall be but the fitting prelude to that better and purer life. There is power in devoted love to a high and noble Person: a love which not only inspires in the soul the earnest desire to partake of His goodness and beauty, but to forget itself in the daily effort to exalt and honour Him. All these elements are united in that “spiritual power” of which I speak.
II. THE NEED WHICH THE CHURCH HAS OF THIS POWER. It is the one great want of this age. With it, we need not be afraid of the utmost liberty; without it, there is no safety, even in the most watchful and zealous conservatism. With it, we shall be able to silence the gainsaying even of this sceptical generation; without it, we may employ the most cogent arguments, and put them in the most convincing form, and our labour will be utterly fruitless; for it is the hearts of men we have to move rather than their intellects, and hearts are only reached by the power of soul. With it, we may still have controversy, but there will be a counteractive force that will repress all its evil and violence;. without it, we may have uniformity and quiet, but in them there will be the seeds of corruption, decay, and death. With it, we may have a feeble agency and imperfect organization and defective plans, and yet out of their very weakness will be perfected strength; without it, we may have improvement in our machinery, but for lack of the motive power there will be no result. Give this, and everything will follow. The whole aspect of our religious condition will be altered, a new and more vigorous love will characterize the action of the Church, problems that seem insoluble will be settled, and difficulties that have been regarded as insuperable will be overcome.
III. HOW THIS POWER IS TO BE OBTAINED. It is “power from on high.” God gives it--gives it to every humble and trusting soul, gives it in answer to prayer, gives it liberally to all who earnestly seek. The first and great condition of it is absolute trust in Him. Nothing else can impart earnestness and sincerity to our supplications. (J. G. Rogers, B. A.)
Power from on high
I propose to illustrate this description of the blessed Spirit--
I. BY THE EXTRAORDINARY EFFECTS PRODUCED UPON THE APOSTLES.
II. BY THE ORDINARY INFLUENCE EXERTED ON THEM AND ON ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS.
I. Consider, then, in these extraordinary gifts, which were only intended for the time, how mightily God wrought in man.
1. Take the gift of tongues.
2. Mark the illumination of the mind with the full truth.
3. Mark the power with which they spake. All was light, all feeling.
4. Mark their miracles of healing.
5. Note their discernment of spirits, as in the cases of Ananias and Simon Magus.
6. Finally, take their courage.
II. BY THE ORDINARY INFLUENCES EXERTED ON THE APOSTLES AND ON ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS. Let us, then, consider how this power manifests itself. And here, too, we shall see a mighty working of God in man, not inferior in real glory, and superior in grace, to those extraordinary illapses. This is displayed--
1. In the awakening of the soul of man from its deep and deadly sleep of sin.
2. Our subject is illustrated by the office of the Spirit as the
3. We have another instance in the office of the Spirit as the Holy Ghost the Sanctifier.
4. Take a final instance from the fruits of the Spirit.
I apply this subject to your edification by observing--
1. That there is a power promised to you more glorious than all the endowments of apostolic gifts.
2. Fix the greatness of the blessing before you.
3. Do you ask how you are to attain it? See your example in the apostles. Believe your Lord: “I send the promise of My Father upon you.”
4. Know that “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Aspire, then, to this.
5. Ask the effusion of the Spirit upon your friends, the whole Church, and the world. (R. Watson.)
The chief aim and labour of Boulton was the practical introduction of Wart’s steam engine as the great working power of England. With pride he said to Boswell, when visiting Soho, “I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have--power.” (Smiles.)
Power from on high
Some men are richly endowed with this priceless gift. When they speak their hearers feel that a supernatural power is grappling with them, and forcing them to yield or to set up a conscious resistance. People are often at a loss to account for the influence which such men possess. As men they see nothing in them to account for it; but they are compelled to feel and confess that mysterious something with which their entire being is surcharged. Mr. Carpenter, of New Jersey, a Presbyterian layman, who lived many years ago, presents a most striking instance of this wonderful power. His education was very limited, and his mental endowments were of the most ordinary kind. Till anointed of the Holy Ghost he was a mere cipher in the Church. As soon, however, as he received that anointing, he became a man of marvellous spiritual power. The hardest sinners melted under his appeals, and yielded to Christ. At his death it was stated that by a very careful inquiry it had been ascertained that more than ten thousand souls had been converted through his direct instrumentality. Finney is another instance. “Soon after his conversion,” we are told, “he received a wonderful baptism of the Spirit, which was followed by marvellous effects. His words uttered in private conversation, and forgotten by himself, fell like live coals on the hearts of men, and awakened a sense of guilt, which would not let them rest till the blood of sprinkling was applied. At his presence, before he opened his lips, the operatives in a mill began to fall on their knees, and cry for mercy. When traversing Western and Central New York, he came to the village of Rome in a time of spiritual slumber. He had not been in the house of the pastor an hour before he had conversed with all the family, and brought them all to their knees seeking pardon or the fulness of the Spirit. In a few days every man, woman, and child in the village and vicinity was converted, and the work ceased from lack of material to transform; and the evangelist passed on to other fields to behold new triumphs of the gospel through his instrumentality.” (John Griffith.)
When I was preaching in Farwell Hall, in Chicago, I never worked harder to prepare my sermons than I did then. I preached and preached; but it was beating against the air. A good woman used to say, “Mr. Moody, you don’t seem to have power in your preaching.” Oh, my desire was that I might have a fresh anointing. I requested this woman and a few others to come and pray with me every Friday at four o’clock. Oh, how piteously I prayed that God might fill the empty vessel. After the fire in Chicago, I was in New York city, and going into the bank on Wall Street, it seemed as if I felt a strange and mighty power coming over me. I went up to the hotel, and there in my room I wept before God, and cried, “Oh, my God, stay Thy hand!” He gave me such fulness that it seemed more than I could contain. May God forgive me if I should speak in a boastful way, but I do not know that I have preached a sermon since, but God has given me some soul. Oh, I would not be back where I was four years ago for all the wealth of this world. If you would roll it at my feet, I would kick it away like a football. I seem a wonder to some of you, but I am a greater wonder to myself than to any one else. These are the very same sermons I preached in Chicago, word for word. It is not new sermons, but the power of God. It is not a new gospel, but the old gospel, with the Holy Ghost of power. (D. L. Moody.)
Need of the Spirit of God--the fire from heaven
Suppose we saw an army sitting down before a granite fort, and they told us that they intended to batter it down, we might ask them, “How!” They point to a cannon ball. Well, but there is no power in that; it is heavy, but not more than half-a-hundred or perhaps a hundred-weight; if all the men in the army hurled it against the fort they would make no impression. They say, “No, but look at the cannon!” Well, but there is no power in that. A child may ride upon it; a bird may perch in its mouth. It is a machine, and nothing more. “But look at the powder.” Well, there is no power in that; a child may spill it; a sparrow may peck it. Yet this powerless powder and powerless ball are put into the powerless cannon: one spark of fire enters it, and then, in the twinkling of an eye, that powder is a flash of lightning, and that cannon ball is a thunderbolt which smites as if it had been sent from heaven. So is it with our church or school machinery of this day; we have the instruments necessary for pulling down strongholds, but O for the fire from heaven! (W. Arthur.)
While He blessed them He was parted from them
CONSIDER THE ASCENSION AS THE CROWNING FACT OF CHRIST’S LIFE. It was the consummation of all His glorious work for man, and henceforth man through Him becomes a conqueror too. “He led captivity captive, He received gifts for men.” And with the baptism of these we are conquerors, in our temptations over the devil, in our gardens of agony over sorrow, and in the end over death and the grave, when we shall ascend to be with Him in glory.
II. CONSIDER HIS ASCENSION AS HIS ENTHRONEMENT AS KING OVER ALL. Unseen but ever present. Ruling from His throne in heaven over all the affairs of the world till His enemies become His footstool.
III. CONSIDER HIS ASCENSION IN RELATION TO HIS COMING AGAIN Acts 1:11). (R. Davey.)
Our Lord’s ascension
I. NOTICE THE PLACE FROM WHICH OUR LORD ASCENDED. Near Gethsemane. Near Bethany. A familiar haunt.
II. NOTICE THE WITNESSES OF OUR LORD’S ASCENSION. His faithful apostles.
III. NOTICE THE LAST ACT OF OUR LORD BEFORE HIS ASCENSION. Blessing.
IV. THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST HELPS OUR THOUGHTS, AND GIVES DEFINITENESS TO OUR CONCEPTIONS OF THE FUTURE LIFE OF THE REDEEMED.
V. CHRIST’S ASCENSION IS THE PLEDGE OF THE HEAVENLY LIFE OF THE REDEEMED.
VI. WHEN OUR LORD ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN HE GAINED FOR US A GREAT AND UNSPEAKABLE BLESSING, THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. (W. Bull, B. A.)
In this quiet and unostentatious manner did our Saviour take His departure from this world. His exit was as noiseless--as little attended with pomp--as His entrance. He has finished the redemption of a world--He has vanquished the powers of hell--He has triumphed over death and the grave.
1. From His ascension, therefore, we may learn that heaven has been opened for us. He became our brother. He stood as our representative. There is not only comfort for us in the assurance of admission, but in the thought, that when admitted we shall find One so closely related to us occupying such an exalted place.
2. Our Saviour’s ascension in the nature He wore while on earth may teach us that, though He be so highly exalted, He has sympathy with us still; though far removed from us as regards His bodily presence, the brotherly tie which united us has not been severed.
3. The presence in heaven--the exaltation to the throne of universal dominion of One so closely related to us, and having such sympathy with us, should give confidence to our prayers, leading us to desire and expect great blessings at His hands.
4. Finally. Let us be thankful for the privilege we enjoy in the exaltation of One who bears our nature. (W. Landels.)
On the ascension of Christ
First, let us consider the TIME of the occurrence-of this event. This interval, also, was sufficient in order to afford Him an opportunity of detailing much that to them would be highly interesting, in relation to His kingdom, to the preaching of His gospel, and to the establishment of His empire through the world. Once more, He continued a sufficient period of time on earth in order to afford the strongest evidence of the love He bore to His Church and people; that He would not even take possession of the promised crown, nor enter upon “the joy set before Him,” till He had ordered all things relating to His kingdom. We notice, in the second place, the SITE OR SPOT at which this occurrence took place. “He led them out as far as to Bethany.” I pass on, in the third place, to consider the MANNER in which the ascent of our Lord Jesus Christ took place. You will observe, first, that it was while He prayed--“as He blessed them.” Observe, again, that it was while they werelistening to the interesting communications which our Lord had to impart. It belongs to this part of the subject to observe their solemn adoration of Him after that they saw Him no more. “He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven: and they worshipped Him.” I hasten to the last point of our discourse--to consider THE GREAT ENDS AND OBJECTS OF THIS MOST IMPORTANT TRANSACTION. Christ has left our world--He is gone--He has gone to the mansions of heavenly glory; and for what purposes has He taken His departure. First, in order that He might celebrate a signal triumph over all His enemies. He has gone, secondly, to take possession of the well-earned reward, the stipulated recompense, to which His obedience and His suffering have so well entitled Him. Thirdly, He has gone to receive and to communicate that fulness which the Father had entrusted into His hands; and especially the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he bestows upon “the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” Fourthly, He has gone to ensure and prepare a place for all His believing followers. I only add that He has gone thus to heaven in order to give an example and specimen of the manner in which He will come again in the clouds of Heaven. And is He gone? and have the heavens received Him? Then, first, let us send our hearts after Him. Secondly, in the absence of our Lord, let us abide closely in the fellowship of His Church. Like the disciples, let us resort to the temple; like the disciples, let us keep together. Let us not be scattered and disunited. Thirdly, this subject should lead us to cherish a cheerful confidence with respect to our entrance into eternity. And let this soothe our spirits when we are mourning over our dead. (G. Clayton, M. A.)
The Lord’s farewell
I. THE LAST ACTS OF THE REDEEMER ON EARTH.
1. He selects a suitable place from which to take His departure.
2. He solemnly blesses His disciples.
3. He ascends up to heaven.
4. “It came to pass, while He blessed them, He was taken up.” Did His ascension, then, interrupt and cut short the blessing? No; He still continued to bless as He went up. No--nor is the blessing yet at an end: for this is that Christ who, as St. Paul says, “is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
II. THE FIRST ACTS OF THE REDEEMED AFTER HIS DEPARTURE.
1. They worshipped Him. Remember that! The appointed teachers of the Christian religion “worshipped” Christ; it was their very first act after they had ceased to behold Him.
2. They were filled with joy--great joy.
Now therefore they rejoiced--
1. On their Lord’s account. “If ye love Me,” He had said, “ye would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father.” And this their joy is now fulfilled.
2. On their own account. All was now plain in the system of that redemption, concerning which they had long formed such erroneous expectations.
3. In the use of appointed means they sought and expected His gifts of grace. In Jerusalem were they to receive the “promise of the Father”; therefore they at once returned thither. On their arrival, behold them “continually in the temple, praising and blessing God!” continually--that is, at every appointed service. (J. Jowett, M. A.)
Our Lord’s attitude in ascending
I. HIS HANDS WERE UPLIFTED TO BLESS.
1. This blessing was no unusual thing. To stretch out His hands in benediction was His customary attitude. In that attitude He departed, with a benediction still proceeding from His lips.
2. This blessing was with authority. He blessed them while His Father acknowledged Him by receiving Him to heaven.
3. This blessing was so full that, as it were, He emptied His hands. They saw those dear hands thus unladen of their benedictions.
4. The blessing was for those beneath Him, and beyond the sound of His voice; He scattered benedictions upon them all.
5. The blessing was the fit finis of His sojourn here; nothing fitter, nothing better, could have been thought of.
II. THOSE HANDS WERE PIERCED. This could be seen by them all as they gazed upward.
1. Thus they knew that they were Christ’s hands.
2. Thus they saw the price of the blessing. His crucifixion has purchased continual blessing for all His redeemed.
3. Thus they saw the way of the blessing; it comes from those human hands, through those sacrificial wounds.
4. A sight of those hands is in itself a blessing. By that sight we see pardon and eternal life.
5. The entire action is an epitome of the gospel. This is the substance of the matter--“hands pierced distribute benedictions.” Jesus, through suffering and death, has power to bless us out of the highest heaven. This is the last that was seen of our Lord. He has not changed His attitude of benediction, He will not change it till He shall descend in His glory.
III. THOSE HANDS SWAY THE SCEPTRE. His hands are omnipotent. Those very hands, which blessed His disciples, now hold, on their behalf, the sceptre--
1. Of providence: both in small affairs and greater matters.
2. Of the spiritual kingdom: the Church and all its work.
3. Of the future judgment and the eternal reign. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Saviour’s hand
That wonderful hand of Christ! It was the same hand which had been so quickly stretched out to rescue Peter when sinking in Galilee’s waves. It was that same hand which had been held in the sight of the questioning disciples on the third evening after they had seen it laid lifeless in the tomb. It was that same hand which incredulous Thomas must see before he would believe its risen power; it was that same hand which was extended to him not only to see, but to touch the nail-prints in its palm. It was that same hand which the disciples last saw uplifted in a parting blessing when the cloud parted Him from them. It was only after ten days that they realized the fulness of blessing which came from that extended, pierced hand of Christ. Peter at Pentecost must have preached with that last sight of it fresh in his memory, when he said, “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” That hand, with its nail-prints, knocks at the heart’s door for entrance. That hand, with its deep marks of love, beckons on the weary runner in the heavenly way. (F. B. Pullan.)
Lessons from the ascension
The ascension was the appropriate bloom and culmination of the resurrection.
I. SINCE OUR LORD HAS ASCENDED, WE ARE NEVER TO THINK OF HIM AS DEAD, He has rounded the black and inscrutable Cape of Storms, and changed it for us henceforth into the Cape of Good Hope. It follows that all the great offices pertaining to His exaltation are in active exercise.
1. He stands in heaven to-day the Living Head of His redeemed Church.
2. He stands in heaven to-day our Priestly Advocate.
3. He stands in heaven to-day as the Controller of all things in God’s providential government.
II. SINCE OUR LORD HAS ASCENDED, WE ARE NEVER TO THINK OF HIM AS DISTANT. Contact of spirit with spirit--nothing can be nearer, more intimate. Christ’s inner presence by the Holy Ghost is the special boon and issue of His ascension.
III. SINCE OUR LORD HAS ASCENDED, WE ARE NEVER TO THINK OF HIM AS DIFFERENT. He has not laid aside His brotherhood with us. To our Brother’s heart prayer must find its way; from Him to us a perfect sympathy must ever flow. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)
On the ascension of Christ
I. In the first place, BY OUR SAVIOUR’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN IT WAS MADE TO APPEAR THAT THE GREAT DESIGN FOR WHICH HE DESCENDED TO THE EARTH WAS COMPLETELY FULFILLED. A solemn attestation was thus given by God to the virtue and efficacy of that great sacrifice which He offered by His death for the sins of the world. The ascension of Christ was the signal of His triumph over all the powers of darkness.
II. It is, in the next place, to be viewed by us WITH RESPECT TO CHRIST HIMSELF, AS A MERITED RESTORATION TO HIS ORIGINAL FELICITY. As the Son of God, all glory belonged to Him for ever.
III. In the third place, Christ ascended into heaven THAT HE MIGHT ACT THERE, IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD, AS OUR HIGH PRIEST AND INTERCESSOR. (H. Blair, D. D.)
The ascension of Christ
1. This event had been foretold and typified in the Old Testament. See especially Psalms 110:1-7; Psalms 110:1-7. Moses, ascending the mount to receive the law, may be a type of Christ ascending to receive spiritual blessings for men. Elijah, taken up into heaven, and imparting a double portion of his spirit to his successor, was probably typical of Christ ascending and imparting the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost. And the Jewish high priest, in passing from the holy place, which represented earth, to the most holy, which figured heaven, also foreshadowed the ascension of our Lord.
2. These predictions and types were now to be fulfilled.
3. To the top of this mountain our Saviour led His disciples, purposing to ascend visibly from thence. He might have taken His departure unseen by them, but He ascended openly, to confirm their faith in Him as the promised Messiah, to assure them of the certainty of the life in the world to come, and of their own exaltation to the place whither He had gone before.
4. The manner in which Christ was taken up from the midst of His disciples, as described in our text, was most interesting, and is worthy of our attention. In the very act of blessing them He was taken away. Oh, what a delightful consistency and loveliness of character we have in Jesus from the beginning of His mission to its close! The first assurance of His birth was accompanied by the cry of peace on earth and good-will to men; and here, He goes from the world with hands outstretched in benedictions upon those He left below. Surely if any man love not such a Saviour he deserves to be “Anathema, Maranatha.”
5. But what feelings must have possessed the hearts of the disciples when they witnessed these things.
6. And where was He from whom they had been separated? His place on the eternal throne of glory had been resumed, and He sat there now not as God merely, but God-man, the great mediatorial king.
7. Such ware the leading circumstances attending the ascension of our Lord. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
The ascension of Jesus
I. THE WITNESSES OF THE ASCENSION. Only friends. Only the small band of the eleven apostles.
II. THE PLACE. In the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, which had been the scene of many of our Lord’s great miracles, where His most violent enemies resided, and where He had suffered death in the most public manner. Also near Bethany, a spot sufficiently retired to permit the assemblage of the eleven without exciting the vigilance of enemies.
III. THE MANNER of Christ’s ascension. The ascension seems to have been slow and gentle. The apostles could therefore view it distinctly and deliberately, so that they might be assured of its reality, and be able to describe it to others. No chariot nor horses of fire were seen like those which wafted the prophet Elijah to heaven; no violent whirlwind agitated the air, no blaze of glory dazzled the eyes, or overpowered the feelings of the anxious spectators. Every part of the scene accorded with the character of the mild and benevolent Jesus. Though a parting scene, there was nothing in it to terrify or depress the minds of the apostles. They were indeed surprised and filled with astonishment, but it was an astonishment which expanded, elevated, and delighted them; for we are told they returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
IV. Let us next inquire WHAT REASONS CAN BE ASSIGNED FOR THE ASCENSION OF JESUS,
1. First, then, it was necessary to complete the proof of His exalted rank and Divine mission.
2. The ascension was necessary in order that the Lord Jesus should complete His mediatorial functions.
3. It was necessary that Jesus should ascend to heaven, to receive the approbation and honour from His heavenly Father, which were to be given to Him as the Mediator and Redeemer of man.
V. THE BENEFITS WHICH WE MAY DERIVE FROM THE ASCENSION OF JESUS.
1. It tends to complete our faith in Him. His miracles proved His Divine power; and His prophecies, His Divine knowledge. His death proved His own declaration, “that He had power to lay down His life”; His resurrection, “that He had power to take it again.” In addition, His ascension showed that all the purposes of His coming to this world were finished, that He was going to return to the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; nay, that the glory of His human nature was to be increased in a high degree. Hereby, then, is our faith in Him enlarged, strengthened, and completed, for we have full assurance of the dignity and perfection of Jesus, and that the grit and benevolent purposes for which He visited this world were fully accomplished.
2. We are assured, also, as connected with the ascension of Jesus, of another event resembling it in manner, namely, the second coming of the Lord Jesus.
3. By the ascension of Jesus His promises to the righteous are fully ratified. (J. Thomson, D. D.)
Tile Lord’s ascension
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR LORD’S ASCENSION.
1. The time. Not until after He had appeared to His disciples frequently, and conversed with them freely. He tarried with them forty days, to convince them of His resurrection, to instruct them in the knowledge of the truth, and to encourage them to stedfastness in the cause of the gospel.
2. The place of His ascension. Mount Olivet. This was a place to which He frequently resorted for secret prayer. So, also, the bed of sickness, though the believer may endure much agony there, is generally the spot whence his soul, released from trouble, ascends to the joys of heaven.
3. The ascension of Christ took place in the presence of numerous witnesses. There was no necessity for any persons being present when our Lord rose from the dead, because His appearing after His resurrection to those who knew Him before His crucifixion was a sufficient proof of His resurrection.
4. Another circumstance of which we are informed is, that this event took place while our Lord was employed in blessing the disciples. By this action He showed the strength and the duration of His affection for His disciples.
5. We are told, in Acts 1:9, that “a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Clouds are frequently mentioned in Scripture as a medium through which the Lord in some degree manifested Himself to men.
6. The last circumstance we have to notice is, that our Lord’s ascension was attended by angels.
II. ITS ENDS, or the chief purposes for which He ascended.
1. Christ ascended in order to send down the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
2. Jesus Christ ascended into heaven in order to make intercession for His people.
3. Jesus Christ ascended in order that He might receive infinite power, happiness, and glory, as the reward of His humiliation. He is set down on His throne of glory to exercise dominion over the universe, but especially over His Church.
4. Our Lord ascended into heaven that He might prepare a place for His followers, and bring them home to Himself.
III. Having considered the chief circumstances and ends of our Lord’s ascension, we now come to consider, in the last place, THE PRACTICAL EFFECTS WHICH THE CONSIDERATION OF THE EVENT SHOULD PRODUCE ON US.
1. It should lead us to pay the Redeemer that Divine homage which is so justly due to His name.
2. It becomes us to rejoice on account of our Lord’s ascension.
3. Our Lord’s ascension should lead us unhesitatingly to trust in Him for salvation.
4. Christ’s ascension should encourage us to engage with liveliness in religious exercises.
5. The consideration of our Lord’s ascension should raise our thoughts and affections to heaven.
6. Our Lord’s ascension should carry forward our thoughts to His second coming. (James Foote, M. A.)
From home to heaven
It seems natural to wish to pass away from this world from the place which we call our home. How many persons--when they are in search of health in the mountains of Switzerland or by the lake side, in the watering places, or bright sunny spots, where they seek to fan the dying embers of life--when they find that their end is approaching, desire to go home to die. Those who go out to India in the Civil Service have this hope before them, that they shall spend their last days in England and die at home. So it was natural that our Saviour should choose to pass away from the familiar slope of Olivet, within sight of Bethany, the nearest place to a home that the Son of Man knew during His public ministry, that from this oft-frequented haunt He should ascend to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God. (W. Bull, B. A.)
The parting blessing
He departed from them in the act of blessing; He was still blessing when the cloud received Him out of their sight. And what was this but the natural climax of all our Lord’s precedent life? That life had been one of continual blessing. And before we turn from this subject of “connection,” does it not see m as though heaven and earth are here represented as connected with blessing? The lark, soaring up on high, seems nevertheless to connect the skies and earth by her train of song; thus binds Christ the heaven and the earth now. There is no sight; but from the height above drops blessing--blessing for all who will take it; no less blessing on His part because it may be refused by us; blessing which shall fall upon all believers now; and which shall soak into the thirsty bosom of the millenial earth when He is owned as King of all its kings and Lord of all its lords. And with this thought of connection comes that of activity also. We have not presented before us any careful thoughts of Christ about His own glory; the activity of His mind--yea, even of His body--was all being put forth on behalf of others. We can easily imagine how comforting thoughts flowed in upon the disciples when they remembered this. He ascended into the heavens while blessing them; and, if so, what but blessing could they look for from that other world? Those who knew Him not might look up with fear and trembling, and see the Judge upon His throne. The heavens contained nothing but woe for them; but Jesus, by entering heaven in the very act of blessing, taught His people how to look up, what there to see, and what thence to expect. There is yet one more thought which presses upon our minds in connection with this parting aspect of Christ. What He dropped on them they in turn were to drop upon the world. The last impression of their Lord was to exercise its peculiar power upon their after lives; and we may be well assured that so it did. Activity in blessing marked Jesus’ career to the very last; He was unwearied in well-doing. He has carried His energy with Him into heaven. Remembering, then, that all good things are given to us for others as well as for ourselves, let us use for others this word “while,” in whatever teaching it conveys to our souls. Good things most truly perform their mission to us when they pass on through us to perform a ministry to others also. We never know the power of a good thing--how really good it is--until we begin to use it, to put it in the way of evolving its fragrance. (P. B. Power, M. A.)
Christ departs while blessing
Oh, what a fitting close to such a life as that of the Redeemer! He had come to bless the world, and He spent His every moment on earth in communicating blessings; and now, as though He were going within the veil to carry on the same gracious purpose, He quits the earth with extended hands, and the last words that He utters in mortal hearing are words of Divine benediction. What could be more worthy of His character? what more likely to assure and comfort His followers? It was not, you observe, when He had finished His benediction, but while He was pronouncing it, that Christ commenced His ascent; so that His departure may be said to have interrupted the blessing. And we are disposed to think that there was something in this which was designed to be pre-eminently significant. At all events, we are certain that the fact may be interpreted into lessons of general application and of no common merit. It was no proof, you see, that Christ did not love His disciples, and that He was not consulting their good, that He withdrew Himself from them. On the contrary, He was blessing them in leaving them. If there had been nothing in the departure itself from which to argue a blessing, there might have been place for suspicion; but the mode of departure irresistibly proves that Christ went away not in anger, but in tenderness. And though when anything analogous to His departure occurs it may not be possible to assure ourselves that the departing One has left us in the act of blessing us, it cannot be unreasonable to regard the history before us as in some measure a parable, and argue from it something general. When, for example, the spiritually-minded have enjoyed seasons of communion with the Saviour--seasons most blessed, which assuredly there are, though the cold and the worldly may think it merely enthusiasm to speak of the manifestations to the soul of the invisible Mediator--and when these seasons have been followed by others of less intimate fellowship, how apt are Christians to be troubled and cast down, as though it must have been in wrath that the Redeemer withdrew the tokens of His presence! But they should rather go in thought to the Mount of Olives, and behold how Christ parts from His disciples. Oh, it is not necessarily in displeasure that the Saviour withdraws Himself. If you could see Him depart, it may be that you would behold those extended arms, and hear the lingering benediction, and thus learn that He went away only because it was expedient for you--because He could bless you better and more effectually by temporal removal than through unbroken continuance amongst you. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The ascension and exaltation of Christ
I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE ASCENSION. The small procession of Christ and the eleven apostles gradually increases till it consists of five hundred persons. They reach and climb the Mount of Olives. Then the arms which not long before had been stretched out upon the accursed tree are uplifted in prayer. A last smile He leaves for a legacy behind Him ere He quits the world--a smile involving whole oceans of meaning; and who can venture to fill up the outline, or clothe in words that blessing which He gives to His little flock whom He is leaving alone in the world? All He has to leave them is a blessing, and yet a blessing which is felt to be a shield of defence and a security in trial to them all. And, lo! while He is thus employed in blessing, the cloud that has been approaching on the breath of the gentle breeze rests on Christ’s head and conceals His face, and obliterates His smile, and gathers around His uplifted arms, and surrounds His whole form and hides it from view.
II. LET US FOLLOW CHRIST UPWARDS WITH THE WING OF FAITH. AS through a veil, though the disciples may not see Him, He sees them, and counts their tears. He sees, too, Jerusalem itself, and perhaps weeps over it again. But night has come over the landscape. The land below fades away from His view. Olivet, the Moabite mountains, the loftiest peak of all the Sinaitic range, have disappeared, and the cloud chariot plunges amidst the stars. Orion on the south, and the Great Bear on the norris, are left behind. The moon becomes Christ’s footstool, and is then spurned away as He mounts higher still. Through the milky way, as through the multitudinous laughter of an ocean’s billows, He pursues His course. The last star which, like a giant sentinel, keeps its solitary watch, and treads its enormous round on the verge of the universe, ceases to be seen, and the hollow and blank space which lies beyond is found to be peopled with an innumerable company of angels, who have come out to meet and to welcome their King and their Lord. And then the gates of the heavenly city appear, flaming with diamond and gold as with the lustre of ten thousand suns. From the angelic cavalcade the cry arises, “Open, ye everlasting gates, that the King of glory may enter in”; and it is met by the challenge from the walls, “Who is this King of glory?” and the reply comes, “The Lord of hosts, that is also the Man of Nazareth, the mighty in battle, He is the King of glory.” And, lo! the gates fly open, and the everlasting doors are unbarred, and thus the King of glory enters in, and the Man of Nazareth, amidst the acclamation of ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, takes His seat upon the right hand of the Majesty on high.
III. CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL SENSE IN WHICH CHRIST MAY BE SAID TO HAVE ASCENDED TO BE EXALTED.
1. Christ is in the ascendant as the highest example of moral excellence.
(1) No character, confessedly, can be named beside His in richness and depth, in pureness and simplicity, in dignity and truthfulness and affection.
(2) No death, in grand unconsciousness, in profound submission, in absolute renunciation of self, in the spirit of forgiveness which pervades it, in its meekness, gentleness, and patience, can be named with that of Calvary. Truly said Rousseau, “If the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a God.”
2. Jesus is the best specimen of the risen man. No other risen man has got beyond the lowest step in the stage leading up to the footstool of the throne on which the Man of Galilee is thus exalted.
3. Christ is one the history of whose faith is the most wonderful of all histories.
4. The moral and spiritual principles which were the teaching and the glory of Christ are those on which the happiness of the world present and the prospects of the world future are felt to be dependent.
1. What a cheering doctrine is that of Christ’s exaltation. God has recognized His principles as the laws of universal government.
2. Let us seek to ascend. “Excelsior.” (G. Gilfillan.)
A strange joy, yet explicable
They had parted from their beloved Master; they had to face a trying life now, without having Him near to counsel or to help; they would never see Him again, till they died. And yet they were glad. From the place of that last earthly parting they went away, not stricken to the earth, not stunned and stupefied, as we are after the like heart-breaking wrench, but in high spirits, cheerful and elate. “They returned to Jerusalem with great joy!” Well, it is very strange. Perhaps the disciples, coming back to Jerusalem, could not easily have sorted out and explained to other people the reasons of their great joy. First, there was something very cheering about all the surroundings of Christ’s departure. It was to be, the disciples knew; and the whole event was so different from what such a parting might have been. For one thing, it was so triumphant, so glorious, so miraculous, that it was proof irresistible that the work which brought the Redeemer to this world was finished successfully. And it was blessing His servants that the Redeemer left them. Sometimes, while here, He had spoken severely, and that not to His enemies only, but to His friends--to the great apostle Peter, “Get thee behind Me, Satan”; but all that was gone, and there was only kindness in the departing heart and voice. Now, as a second reason for this strange joy, let us remember that there was one great definite gain which was to come of Christ’s going; and upon the enjoyment of that gain His Church was soon to enter now. The blessed Spirit, the Holy Ghost, could not come till the Saviour went; and He Himself had declared strongly that it would be gain for His disciples to lose Him if thus they received the blessed Spirit in His stead. They hardly understood, perhaps, the disciples, on the day Christ went--they did not understand, as we do now, all that the Holy Ghost would be, of light, strength, wisdom, joy, peace, strong consolation. It needed experience of His sympathy, His faithfulness, His patience, His almighty power, to make Christian people know what He is. But the disciples knew enough to make them anticipate His coming with joyful expectation; and for this reason, doubtless, among others, even from the spot where they had seen their Saviour for the last time in this life, they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” We can think of a third reason for this joy on that parting day. It was a parting quite by itself. He went away, in visible form. It was better for His Church that He should; but, after all, He never left it. He went away, as concerns the material presence, which must be here or there. He abode yet in that Divine, real though unseen presence, which can be everywhere. Even as He departed from sight and sense, He uttered the sure and hopeful promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.” He could be with the disciples He left, He can be with us day by day, as God is with us; present that is, to faith, not to sense, but as really, substantially, influentially present, as any thing or person we can touch or see. Beyond these spiritual consolations which might cheer under the departure of their Saviour, the disciples had yet another hope, which some might esteem as having something more substantial in it. Master and servants were to meet again. This same Jesus, now gone, is to come again in glory; and since that day, the Church is “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That will be the consummation of all things. Then, all will be well at last. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
Joy in working for Christ
In a recent great European war, the soldiers of both countries, when they were ordered to the seat of war, received the order enthusiastically, and marched to the front with waving of banners and singing. The joy of the disciples when called to win the world for Christ, seem to have been similar (Luke 24:52-53). If a father entrusts his son with a difficult piece of work, the boy does it joyfully and proudly. Should we have less joy in performing a great work entrusted to us by Christ?
This statement is of more interest and importance to us than appears at first sight. It embodies a great principle; and that, one which enters continually into the Christian’s life. The inward counterbalancing the outward--this is the great idea brought before us; and it will unfold itself, as we proceed to examine the circumstances under which the apostles were placed, when they thus “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” At the first glance, we should have supposed “joy” to have been the very last emotion, which, at this particular time, would have swayed the apostles’ minds. We shall find no cause for it in anything outward. Nature seemed to indicate everything but joy. We should not have been surprised, had we been reading merely an ordinary narrative, to have heard that terror instead of joy was the leading feeling in the apostles’ minds. Another class of feelings, also, was calculated to arise within their breasts; and whatever emotions these were likely to be productive of, they were certainly not those of joy. The feelings which nature would have engendered under these circumstances were those of indignation and revenge. Then, there was the natural shrinking from sad associations. Were they to be affected by the outward only, almost every stone in Jerusalem would have a mournful voice for them, saying, “Here He once was, but He is gone; and His place knoweth Him now no more.” But there were other and higher influences at work; there must have been, for we read, not of resignation, but of joy; and not only of joy, but of “great joy”; and to produce this, there must have been a great counterbalancing principle within the heart. The actual feeling of the apostles was that of “great joy”; and whence this great joy came we can easily see. All doubts were now removed. Coldly and damply, unbelief, from time to time, had struck in upon them; but it was now dispelled for ever. The veil’s last fold was removed from their eyes; and they now stood forth upon firm ground, prepared to meet the world in the power of clear, inward light. Wherever there is full, clear, unclouded faith, and that in unhindered exercise--there, there is joy, and all the power that flows forth from a light and joyous heart. The disciples had seen also the exaltation of the One they loved. Moreover, they had now a union with the unseen. We can understand how a new light was now thrown on all old scenes; how a new destiny lay outstretched before the disciples’ eyes; how they felt that they had that which the world had not given, and which the world, therefore, could not take away; and, rich in all this, they turned from the place whence their Lord had ascended up on high, “leading captivity captive,” and re-sought the place where He had been bound, and led as a lamb to the slaughter; all tears now wiped from their eyes, and their hearts filled with “great joy.” Here, then, was the power of the inward to counterbalance the outward; and what says it to us as regards our own experiences? First of all it says: As with the disciples, so also with you; look not always for a change in the outward aspect of things, but look for the introduction of a new element therein, modifying, compensating, supporting, as the case may be. The outward remains unmoved; but it is met by the inward which pervades it, and puts forth its more than compensating power; there is, as the apostle says in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10., “much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.” And now, with regard to ourselves. What is the power of the inward with us? In the first place, have we an inward living power within us which exercises an unmistakeable influence; and can compensate, energize, or support, as circumstances may require? It is surely impossible to have this without knowing it, there are so many circumstances which are calculated to call it into exercise, and in which, if it existed, it must have acted. Have we a felt and realized union with God, which influences us, so that we feel we have something which the would cannot see; and which, indeed, is not of the world at all? Our perceptions may be more or less vivid on these points, but have we a perception, so that there is as distinct an inward life as there is an outward? Moreover, are we conscious of how this “inward” has acted? Have we felt when disappointed of earthly things, or in them, that, after all, there was nothing unduly to depress us: for that we had something else of infinitely more importance, in which we could not be disappointed? When darkness closed in upon us in the outward world, have we had distinct inward light, in which we could move, and see, and rejoice? When called upon to sacrifice any of the “outward,” have we been enabled to do so because it was as nothing compared with the “inward”--the possession of which soothed and comforted us, and kept us from being down-trodden by poverty, and being made to feel ourselves miserably poor? Let the believer also never be a gloomy man. If ever any men on earth had cause for gloom the apostles had, when they returned to Jerusalem; but they returned with “great joy.” Let us not be gloomy in the world or to the world; let us show it that we have something more than it has. Perhaps men will believe that faith is a real power when they see if able to do something; when, acting from within, it can make us cheerful in times of sadness, and contented in times of reverse and poverty, and patient in times of weariness and pain, and ever hopeful for the future--our horizon being, not the valley of the shadow of death, but the glorious land which lies beyond. And who knows whether, thus looking beyond this earth, we may not lead others to ask whereon our eyes are fixed, and, it may be, that they also will look onward and upward and join us on our way. One Adrianus, in ancient times, seeing the martyrs suffer such grievous things in the cause of Christ, asked, “What is that which enables them to bear such sufferings?” Then he was told of the “inward” counterbalancing the “outward”; for one of them replied, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” And thus was Adrianus won not only to conversion, but to martyrdom also, for he laid down his life manfully for Christ. (P. B. Power, M. A.)
Continually in the temple, praising and blessing God
I. THE OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP.
1. A human Christ.
2. A living Christ.
3. A glorified Christ.
4. A crucified Christ.
II. THE PLACE OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. “The temple.” Where two or three are met together in Christ’s name.
III. THE TIME OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. “Continually.” Every day. No opportunity of doing homage to the Saviour should be missed.
IV. THE FORM OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. “Praising and blessing God.” Magnifying His mercy, and speaking good of His name.
V. THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. “With great joy.” The Christian rejoices in the Saviour’s exaltation--
1. For Christ’s sake. Reward of redeeming work.
2. For his own sake. A pledge and guarantee of his acceptance and salvation.
3. For the world’s sake. (T. Whitelaw, M. A.)
Earnestness in using means of grace
“Continually in the temple!” Observe that! The disciples were now thoroughly assured that they had an Advocate in the heavenly temple, but this did not withdraw them from the earthly. On the contrary, they seem to have resorted with greater frequency to the courts of the Lord’s house, well convinced, by the circumstance of their Master’s departure, that they had an Advocate with God, and we may be sure that there is something radically wrong when a sense of the privileges of Christianity produces listlessness, and does not produce earnestness in the use of Christian ordinances. He is not a strong Christian who feels that he can do without sermons and sacraments, any more than it is the appetite of an energetic man, when there is no relish for food. It is no sign of good faith or well-grounded hope that the Christian seems beyond needing the means of grace; as well might you think it a sign of knowledge and security against shipwreck that the mariner was above consulting his chart or making observations. “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)