Luke 24

 

THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST (vs. 1-49)

 

All the four gospels give an account of the Resurrection. None of the four,

however, attempt to give a history of it simply from a human point of view.

Each Gospel probably reproduces the special points dwelt on in certain great

centers of Christian teaching, in what we should now term different schools of

thought.  (Attempts have been made by theological scholars to classify these as

Jewish, Gentile, Greek, Roman; but only with indifferent success).  The teaching

which Matthew’s Gospel represents, evidently in the Resurrection preaching dwelt

with peculiar insistence on the great Galilaean appearance of the Risen. Luke

confines himself exclusively to the appearance, in Judaea. John chooses for his

Resurrection instruction scenes which had for their theatre both Galilee and

Judaea. John, as his central or most detailed piece of teaching, dwells on a

fishing scene on Gennesaret, the actors being the well-known inner circle of

the apostles.  While Luke chooses for his detailed Resurrection narrative a

high-road in a Jerusalem suburb; and for actors, two devoted, but historically

unknown, disciples.

 

Then there is no question of discrepancies in this portion of the great

history. It is not easy to frame a perfectly satisfactory harmony of all the

events related by the four, after the Lord had risen; for, in fact, we possess

no detailed account or history of what took place in that eventful period in

presence of the disciples. We simply have memoranda of eye-witnesses of

certain incidents connected with the Resurrection selected by the great first

teachers as specially adapted to their own preaching and instruction.

The events of the first Easter Day have been tabulated by Professor

Westcott, in what he terms a provisional arrangement, as follows:

 

Approximate time:

 

Very early on Sunday             The Resurrection, followed by the earthquake,

the descent of the angel, the opening of the tomb

(Matthew 28:2-4).

 

5 a.m.…                                  Mary Magdalene, Mary the [mother] of James and

Salome, probably with others, start for the

sepulchre in the twilight. Mary Magdalene goes

before the others, and returns at once to Peter and

John (John 20:1-18),

 

5:30 a.m.…                             Her companions reach the sepulcher when the sun

had risen (Mark 16:2). A vision of an angel.

Message to the disciples (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark

16:5-7).

 

6 a.m.…                                  Another party, among whom is Joanna, come a

little later, but still in the early morning (vs.1-4;

compare Mark 16:1, note). A vision of “two

young men.” Words of comfort and instruction

(vs. 4-7).

 

6:30 a.m.…                             The visit of Peter and John (John 20:3-10). A vision

of two angels to Mary Magdalene (Ibid. vs.11- 13).

About the same time the company of women carry

their tidings to the apostles ( vs.10-11).

 

7 a.m.…                                  The Lord reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene

(John 20:14-18; Mark 16:9). Not long after He reveals

Himself, as it appears, to the company of women

who are returning to the sepulcher. Charge

to the brethren to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:9-10).

 

4-6 p.m.…                               The appearance to the two disciples on the way to

Emmaus (vs.13-31; Mark 16:12).

 

After 4 p.m                         An appearance to Peter (v.34; compare I Corinthians

15:5).

 

8 p.m.…                                  The appearance to the eleven and others (v. 36-53;

Mark 16:14; John 20:19-29).

 

In the above table one point must be specially noticed: two companies or

separate groups of women are mentioned as going to the sepulchre with

the same pious object of assisting in the final embalming of the sacred body.

 

If this be assumed to be the fact, there will be nothing improbable in the

supposition that both these groups of women, all doubtless intimate friends

belonging to the little company of the Master, but living probably some

distance apart in Jerusalem, came together some time on the sabbath day,

and then arranged to meet early on the first day at the sepulcher. Probably

the spices purchased in some haste just before the sabbath commenced

were judged inadequate.

 

  • For in ch.23:56 we read of a company of women, most probably

including all, i.e. both groups, of holy women, who, after beholding

the sepulcher, “returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and

rested the sabbath day.

 

  • In Mark 16:1 we read, “When the sabbath was past, Mary

Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought [not

had bought] sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him.” This

company arrives the first at the sepulcher, and sees the vision of one

angel (Ibid. v.5). The other company (alluded to here in v.1) arrives

not long after at the sepulcher, and sees the vision of two angels (v.4).

 

In considering the accounts of the Resurrection, the following memoranda

will be found suggestive:

 

  • The holy women are the principal actors in all the four accounts of the

circumstances connected with the tomb. But their assertions were not

believed by the disciples until their statements were confirmed by the

Lord’s personal appearance.

 

  • When Paul (I Corinthians 15:5-8) sums up the great appearances of our

Lord, the basis of our faith, he makes no reference to his appearance to

Mary Magdalene (John 20:14; Mark 16:9) or to the women (two Marys

mentioned Matthew 28:9-10).

 

  • No evangelist describes the Resurrection, no earthly being having been

present.  Matthew is the evangelist who, in his narrative, goes furthest

back. He mentions the shock of the earthquake, the awful presence of

the angel, the benumbing terror which seized the guards who were

watching.  Most probably these signs accompanied the Resurrection.

 

  • The risen Lord appeared only to His own.

 

  • That no future doubt should be thrown on the reality of the

appearances of the Risen, He showed Himself not only to solitary

individuals, but to companies, i.e. to two, to the eleven (repeatedly),

and to above five hundred brethren at once. And these manifestations

took place:

 

Ø      at different hours of the day;

Ø      in different localities — in Judaea, in Galilee, in rooms of

houses, in the open air.

 

 

The Resurrection.  At the Sepulchre.  (vs. 1-12)

 

1  Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they

came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared,

and certain others with them.”  In the foregoing general note on the Resurrection,

the probability has been discussed of the holy women having been divided into

two companies who separately came to the sepulcher. Luke’s notice here refers

to the party who arrived the second at the tomb.

 

2 “And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher.” The tomb in

which the body of the “King’s Son” was laid was in a garden close by the scene

of the Crucifixion. It had been recently hewn out of a rock, the low ridge opposite

the slight ascent of Calvary. “In front of a tomb belonging to a rich family there

was generally a vestibule open to the air, then a low entrance sometimes, as in

this case, on the side of a rock, leading into a square chamber of moderate

dimensions, on one side of which was a place for the body, either cut some

seven feet into the rock, or lengthways, three feet deep, with a low arch over it…

The tomb had been lately made, and the door which closed the entrance, the

only aperture into the tomb, was a large stone” (‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ on

Matthew 27:60). Recent investigations in Jerusalem serve to confirm the accuracy

of the original traditional sites. We find the following passage in the Bordeaux

Pilgrim (A.D. 333): “On the left side (of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre)

is the hillock Golgotha, where the Lord was crucified. Thence about a stone-throw

distance is the crypt where His body was deposited.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem makes

several references to the spot. In the days of Eusebius (first half of the fourth

century) there was no doubt as to the site.

 

3 “And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

4  And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout,

behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:”  To one company of

women one angel appeared: to another, two. Mary Magdalene, a little later, saw

two angels in white sitting, as it were keeping watch and ward over the sepulcher

for a short time after the sacred form had left it. The words which these beings

from another sphere spoke to the mourning women were slightly different, but

the teaching was the same in each case: “He is not here, but is risen. Do you

not remember what He told you when He was yet with you?” Van Oosterzee

and Farrar repeat a beautiful passage from Lessing on this: “Cold discrepancy-

mongers, do you not, then, see that the evangelists do not count the angels?…

There were not only two angels — there were millions of them. They appeared

not always one and the same, not always the same two; sometimes this one

appeared, sometimes that; sometimes on this place,- sometimes on that;

sometimes alone, sometimes in company; sometimes they said this,

sometimes they said that.”

 

 

 

                        Side-Lights from the Resurrection (vs. 1-12)

 

The simple, unpretending story of the Resurrection, as here narrated,

brings into view other truths than that great and supreme fact of the rising

of our Lord. We have our attention called to:

 

·         THE CONSTANCY AND THE EAGERNESS OF TRUE

AFFECTION, (v. 1.) No thought had these women of deserting Him

whom they loved but whom the world hated and had now slain. On the

contrary, the enmity of those that maligned and murdered Him made their

affection to cleave all the more firmly to Him. It attended Hhim right up to

the very last; it followed Him to the grave; it came to bestow those final

ministries which only devoted affection would have cared to render. And it

showed itself as eager as it was constant. “Very early in the morning they

came unto the sepulchre.” True love to our Lord will stand these tests. It

will survive the enmities and oppositions of an indifferent or a hostile

society; it will be unaffected by these except, indeed, to be strengthened

and deepened by them; moreover, it will show its loyalty and its fervor by

the eagerness of its service, not waiting for the last hour of necessity, but

availing itself of the first hour of opportunity.

 

·         THE DISAPPEARANCE OF DIFFICULTIES AS WE GO ON OUR

WAY OF FAITHFUL SERVICE. We know from Mark (Mark 16:3)

that these women were full of apprehension lest they should be unable to

get the stone rolled away from the door. But they went on their way to do

their sacred office; and when they reached the spot they found their

difficulty vanished (v. 2). This is the common experience of the seeker

after God in Christ, of the man desirous of discharging his duty in the fear

of God, of the Christian worker. “Who will roll away that intervening

stone?” we ask timidly and apprehensively. “How shall we get over that

insurmountable barrier? How will our weakness prevail against such solid

obstacles?” Let us go on our way of faith, of duty, of loving service, and

we shall find that, if some angel has not been on the scene, the hindrance

has disappeared, the way is open, the goal within our reach, the service

within the compass of our powers.

 

·         THE SURPRISES THAT AWAIT US AS WE PROCEED, These

women found an empty grave, visitants from the unseen world, a most

unexpected though most welcome message; instead of a mournful

satisfaction, they found a new hope, far too good and far too great to be

held all at once within their heart (vs. 4-7). Peter, too, found himself the

subject of a great astonishment (v. 12). God has His merciful surprises for

us as we proceed on our Christian path. He may surprise us with a sudden

fear or a sudden sorrow; but He also surprises us with an unanticipated

peace; with an unlooked-for joy; with a new, strange hope; before long He

will introduce us to the blessed surprise of the heavenly realities.

 

  • THE NEARNESS OF THE HEAVENLY TO THE EARTHLY

SPHERE. (v. 4.) Angels were always at hand to render service in the

great redemptive work. Why should we think of heaven as “beyond the

stars”? Why should we not think of it as encompassing us on every side,

only separated from us by a thin veil, through which our mortal senses

cannot pass to its glorious spectacles and its blessed harmonies?

 

  • GOD HAS MUCH BETTER THINGS IN STORE FOR US

THAN WE THINK POSSIBLE. Neither the wondering women nor the

incredulous apostles could believe in such a happy issue as they were

assured of, though they had been carefully prepared to expect it (v. 11).

In the feebleness of our faith we say to ourselves, “Surely God is not going

to give me that, to place me there, to bestow on me such a heritage as

this!” But why not? For Him to make all grace, all power, all life, to

abound, is for Him to do what He has promised, and what He has been

doing since He first opened His hand to create and to bestow.  (Psalm 104:

27-31; Ephesians 3:20-21)

 

5 “And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth,

they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?  6 He is not

here, but is risen:” -  These words were repeated in each of the angelic

communications at the sepulcher - “remember how He spake unto you when

He was yet in Galilee,  7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the

hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

The angels here call to the women’s memory the Master’s former promises of

the Resurrection. In Matthew and Mark the angel bids them tell the disciples

not to forget the appointed place of meeting in Galilee, referring to the Lord’s

words on the way from the “Last Supper” to Gethsemane (Matthew 26:32;

Mark 14:28).  (Dear Reader – they who went to Galilee saw Him, they that

did not go did not see Him.  Think of the implication for you and me when

we don’t go where He says or do what He says, then no wonder you or I

do not believe!  - CY – 2012).

 

 

 

                                    The Resurrection and the Life (vs. 5-6)

 

No smallest touch of censure can we trace in the words of these angels. On

their errand of faithful love these women would not be greeted thus. It was

but a strong, awakening appeal, calling them to consider that, while they

had come in the right spirit, they had come on a superfluous mission, and

were looking in the wrong place for their Lord. Not there in the tomb

among the dead, but breathing the air of a life that would never be laid

down, was He whom they sought. The words attest:

 

·         THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD. This was:

 

Ø      Here attested by the angels. It was, at the same time, indicated by the

empty tomb. The latter, of course, would not of itself prove such a fact;

but it strongly sustained the word of the heavenly visitants. But beyond

this, weightier than this, was:

 

Ø      The repeated and unmistakable evidence of the apostles and the

      women. Ten several times, at least, the risen Saviour was seen by those

who knew Him best. These were so thoroughly assured of the fact of

His rising again, that they not only testified it, but risked and even

sacrificed their lives to propagate a faith of which it was the corner-stone.

And they not only undoubtedly believed it themselves, but they spoke

as men who could be and who were credited by those who heard them.

Then we have here:

 

Ø      The twofold buttress of a Divine promise and of human incredulity.

(refusal to believe)  Jesus spake, saying,… the third day He should

rise again.” This was the fulfillment of the promise of One who gave

such convincing proof that He could do what He willed. Moreover, it

was believed in spite of the strongest incredulity. The apostles ought to

have expected it, but they did not; we might almost say that it was the

last thing they were looking for. They had given up their Lord and their

cause as utterly lost; and when the tidings came, they refused to believe

(v. 11). So far from the Resurrection being the figment of a diseased

expectation, it was a fact forced upon minds strongly predisposed to

discredit it. The second clause of the angels’ sentence was as true

as the first: He was not there; He had risen. He had kept His word;

He who had commanded the winds and the waves, and who showed

Himself Master of the elements of nature, now proved that the keys

of death were in His royal hand, and proved Himself to be

the Son of God, the Lord of life. And with His “glorious resurrection”

comes the fact of:

 

·         OUR OWN IMMORTALITY. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the sure sign,

      proof, forerunner, of our own life beyond the grave. Without that supreme and

crowning fact, we could have had no certain hope, no assurance; without that

He could not have been to us “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25-26). 

Now we have in Him a LIVING LORD, who can carry out His kindest promises

and be to us all that, during His ministry, He undertook to be.

 

Ø      Wherefore let us seek and find  spiritual life in the once-crucified

      and ever-living Saviour, “He that believeth in Him, though He

were dead, yet shall He live,” live in very deed and truth,

                        i.e. live before God, unto God, and in God — partake of the

                        life which is spiritual and Divine.  “Whereby are given unto us

            exceeding great and precious promises:  that by these ye might be

            partakers of the divine nature”  (II Peter 1:4)

 

Ø      Be assured, then, of a blessed immortality; for “whoso liveth [in Him]

and believeth in Him shall never die.” His outward, bodily dissolution

will be a mere incident in his career; so far from its being a termination

of it, it will prove to be the starting-point of another and nobler life

than the present, one nearer to God and far fuller of power, of usefulness,

of blessedness.

 

Ø      Realize this truth concerning the departed. We may go to the grave and

weep there like the sorrowing sisters of Bethany; we may tend their tomb

with the carefulness which is the simple prompting of pure and deep

affection; but let us learn to dissociate our thoughts of our departed

friends from the grave. They are not there; let us not be seeking the

living among the dead. There rest their mortal remains, but they

themselves are with God, with the Saviour whose presence and

friendship are exceeding gladness, with the holy and the true who

have passed into the skies. They are in the light and the love and

the joy of home. Let us dwell on this, and comfort ourselves and

comfort one another with these thoughts.  (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

 

8 “And they remembered His words,  9 And returned from the sepulchre,

and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.”  The account of

the scenes at the sepulcher in Luke are the least vivid and detailed of the four

evangelists. It must be remembered that Matthew, Mark (the amanuensis of Peter),

and John relate their own memories here, as well as what they had heard from

the holy women. Peter and John, we know, were present themselves at the

sepulcher. Luke received his less detailed and more summarized account of

that early morning, years after, most probably from the lips of one of the holy

women who had formed part of one of the “two companies” who carried

spices for the embalming.

 

10 “It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of

James, and other women that were with them, which told these

things unto the apostles.  11 And their words seemed to them as idle

tales, and they believed them not.” The utter incredulity of the friends

of Jesus when these reports of His resurrection were brought to them is

remarkable when contrasted with the evident dread of the Sanhedrin that

something of grave moment would happen after three days had elapsed.

 

o       The disciples were evidently amazed at their Master’s rising

from the dead.

 

o       The chief priests and Jewish leaders would apparently have

been surprised if something startling had not happened

 

(see Matthew 27:63-66), where an account is given of the measures these able

but unprincipled men took, in their short-sighted wisdom, to counteract any

fulfilment of the Crucified One’s word — a fulfillment they evidently looked

forward to as to no improbable contingency). The utter surprise of the disciples

at the Resurrection, which in their Gospels they truthfully acknowledge, is no

small side-proof of the genuineness of these records of the event.

 

12 “Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulcher; and stooping down,

he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering

in himself at that which was come to pass.”  This verse is omitted in some

of the ancient authorities. It is, however, no doubt genuine, and is, in tact,

a condensed report (omitting all mention of John) of the narrative given at

length in John 20:3-10.

 

 

            The Resurrection Morning (vs. 1-12)

 

Who are the witnesses to the Resurrection? What is the evidence on which it was

believed by the first disciples? — on which it is received by all Christians still?

 

·         THE WITNESSES ARE THE HOLY WOMEN AND THE

APOSTLES. It is (v. 1) the very early morning: “while it was yet dark,”

says John (John 20:1); “as the day began to dawn,” says Matthew

(Matthew 28:1); “at the rising of the sun,” says Mark (Mark 16:2).

Then the women hasten towards the sepulcher.  How many formed the

company, or, as seems to be implied, the two companies, of women we

know not. The names of five are given, and the rest are grouped under

the phrases, the “others that were with them,” and “the others from

Galilee.” They quickly pass through the silent streets. Jerusalem is still asleep;

neither memory of what had happened, nor fear of what might happen, has

disturbed its repose. They have only one care (v.1) — the complete

embalming of the body which had been hastily laid in the rock-hewn sepulcher

of Joseph. There is no idea beyond this; there is no hope even against hope

that, on this the third day, He would rise again.  With the eagerness characteristic

of woman’s nature, they proceed, the question never suggesting itself until they

near the tomb, “Who shall roll away the stone from the mouth of the cave?”

It would seem that they did not know of the guard which had been commanded

to watch or of the sealing of the stone, for that had been done on the sabbath

morning; but some of them had observed the setting of the stone — a block three

or four feet in height, and two or three in breadth, requiring several men to move

it. “How shall it be moved? how shall we find an entrance?” is the question

before them as they press towards the holy place. Now, what are the facts?

In the dawn, half-clear and half-dark, as the east begins to lighten, Mary of

Magdala, the foremost of the company, sees the cave standing wide open

— the stone having been rolled aside. Horror-struck, she turns to her

companions, and, yielding to the moment’s impulse, she speeds back to the

city to communicate her fears to Peter and John (John 20:1-2). In the

mean time, her companions venture forward. Timidly they enter the tomb,

or the vestibule of the tomb, to search for the body. Lo, there (Matthew

28:2-3), on the stone which had been pushed into a corner, sits one

“whose countenance is like lightning, and his raiment white as snow,”

and prostrate on the ground are the Roman sentries. The women start., but the

assuring word, “Fear not ye,” is spoken, and the invitation (Matthew

28:6) is given to “come and see the place where the Lord lay.” Yes,

guardians, and only guardians, are these — one where the head, another

where the feet, of Jesus had been — token of the complete, protecting care

of His Father. And these guardians ask (vs. 5-7), “Why do you seek the

living among the dead?” and repeat the testimony, “He is not here: He is

risen,” bidding them remember His own words, and bear the news of the

Resurrection to the sorrowing company. It is with fear and great joy that

they depart, running to bring the disciples word. They encounter

skepticism. Their hot, eager sentences (v. 11) seem to the apostles “as

idle tales, and they believe them not.” Peter and John, however, have

already obeyed the importunate pleading of Mary. And there, to be sure, as

they reach the sepulcher, is the open door. John, who is first, looks in

without entering; Peter, coming up, enters at once. “John,” observes

Matthew Henry, “could outrun Peter, but Peter could out-dare John.”

Undoubtedly the tomb is empty. Examining it, they discover (v. 12) the

linen clothes laid by themselves; and the napkin which had surrounded the

head laid by itself. There had been no haste. Not thus would any have acted

who had borne away the sacred form. Peter, after minute examination of

the surroundings, “departed, wondering in himself at that which was come

to pass.” John, with the quick intuition of love, not only wondered, but

believed — felt sure that these grave-clothes were the sign of a victory.

Such is the account of that ever-memorable morning. The arrangement of

its events may not be absolutely accurate; in the ignorance of all that

occurred, it is impossible to supply every link in the chain of narrative. The

evangelists are so filled with the one reality, “HE IS RISEN” that they are

not careful as to the minutiae of the circumstances. On the Resurrection, as

personal, as real, the structure of Christian life and doctrine is reared. By

the effect of the Resurrection the apostles were transformed. The foolish

and slow-hearted fishermen of the past became the princes of a new and

heavenly kingdom. “With great power they gave witness to the

resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”

(Acts 4:33)

 

·         CONSIDER THE RESURRECTION AS A MIGHTY SPIRITUAL

FORCE. Consider what the apostle calls “the power of the Resurrection.”

(Philippians 3:10)  What is the central truth of the forty days between the

Resurrection and Ascension? Study the brief account of these forty days,

and you see at once a change in the manner and conditions of the revelation

of Christ.  He shows Himself only to chosen witnesses. Mark 16:12 says that

He appeared to the disciples “in another form.” The eyes of the

disciples are declared to be so held (v. 16) that they do not know Him. It

is the same Jesus, but much is altered. He came and He went as He

pleased; material substances such as the fastened doors were no

impediment to His coming; when He was present His disciples did not,

as a matter of course, know Him. These forty days were what the sunrise is

to the day; they were the beginning of the relation in which He stands to His

Church now. All His self-revelations are pictures of the way and truth of His

presence as we are called to realize it. Men had seen Him without knowing

Him; now they know Him without seeing Him. We behold Him passing from

His hiding-place of sight without knowledge to that of knowledge without sight.

As a transition-time, giving us intimations of the glory in which he is abiding and

of the grace in which He is dealing with us, regard the period that was ushered

in by the early morning of the first day of the week. It was a great day. Four

appearances are noted:

 

Ø      The first (John 20.), to Mary of Magdala, followed or preceded,

perhaps, by an appearance to the other women (Matthew 23.);

Ø      the second (vs. 13-35), to the two brethren journeying to Emmaus;

Ø      the third, to Simon Peter (v. 34); and

Ø      the fourth (John 20:19-23), to the disciples assembled at night when

Ø      the doors were shut for fear of the Jews.

 

Each of these appearances is significant.  Luke relates the second. One remark

only as to Mary of Magdala.  The commandment which sent her to the disciples

is the inspiration of all Christian hearts. “Go, tell my brethren.” Tell the message

of the risen Lord in the light with which the countenance is irradiated; tell it in the

glad obedience by which the life is sanctified; tell it through all that you do and

are; tell — let your teaching cease only with your breathing — that Christ

has risen, that the imprisoning stone has been rolled away, and the

kingdom of heaven is open to all believers, its gates being closed

neither by day nor by night, for there is no night there. (Revelation

21:25) 

 

 

 

                        The Resurrection Discovered (vs. 1-12)

 

When the women and the other mourners left the Lord’s tomb on the

evening of the Crucifixion, it was with the intention, after the sabbath was

past, of completing the embalmment. This office of love seems to have

been left largely to the women; for it is they who make their way, in the

early morning of the first day of the week, to the sepulchrer. They seem to

have had no knowledge, for they had no apprehension, of the Roman

guard, which was manifestly placed at the sepulcher on the Jewish sabbath,

when the disciples and the women were keeping the sad day in strictest

privacy. Their one apprehension was how to roll away the stone; but, like

so many apprehended difficulties, it was found to vanish away — some

hands stronger than women’s had been before them and had rolled away

the stone, and left them no difficulty in discovering an empty tomb. The

narrative of John about Mary Magdalene’s visit is quite consistent with

Luke’s narrative; for, as Gilbert West has pointed out in his admirable

analysis of the Resurrection-history, Mary rushes off alone to tell the

disciples, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchrer, and we

know not where they have laid Him” — implying that others had been with

her at the tomb. Without any misgivings, therefore, about the reliable

character of the history, let us point out the instructive steps in the

discovery of our Lord’s resurrection.

 

·         THE WOMEN WITH THE SPICES DISCOVER AN EMPTY TOMB.

(vs. 1-3.) They had employed the evening after the sabbath was past in

preparing all that was needful for embalming thoroughly and finally the

Saviour’s body. It was with this fragrant burden they made their way in the

twilight towards the tomb, to find their fears groundless and the stone

already removed. But a new fear now laid hold on them. There is no body

in the tomb; it is empty. They do not appear to have taken in the

significance of the grave-clothes carefully put aside because never to be

needed more, as John did at his subsequent visit; their whole anxiety was

about what had become of the dear body which they had come to embalm.

The empty tomb was a discovery. The first impression, as indicated by

Mary’s message (John 20:2), was that their enemies had seized the

body and disposed of it to defeat all their ideas of embalming. One thing is

certain from the history, that neither the women nor the disciples could

have been parties to the removal of the body.

 

·         THE WOMEN THAT WAITED GOT EXPLANATIONS FROM

THE ANGELS. (vs. 4-7.) Mary Magdalene, acting on impulse, seems to

have hurried off to tell Peter and John about the discovery of the empty

tomb, while her companions wait longer to get some explanation, if

possible, regarding it. And the waiting women are not disappointed. Angels

appear in shining garments, and, as the women sink before them in terror,

they proceed to reassure them with the glad tidings, “Why seek ye the

living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how He

spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man mast

be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third

day rise again.” It was the angels that reminded them of the promise of

resurrection, and how it was now fulfilled. This is the second stage,

therefore, in the discovery of the Resurrection. The fear of the women had

been that the Jews had got the body. But there could have been no such

plot carried out, for the very simple reason that, if they had got the body

and it had not risen, they could have produced such evidence at the

Pentecost as would have overturned the apostolic testimony, and prevented

the inauguration of the Christian society. The angelic explanation, based as

it was on our Lord’s previous promises, was the only satisfactory one. The

Resurrection was the fulfillment of Christ’s deliberate plan.

 

·         THE REPORT OF THE WOMEN TO THE ELEVEN AND THE

REST. (vs. 8-11.) It is quite reasonable to suppose that Mary

Magdalene was the forerunner of the rest, and through her report induced

Peter and John to start at once for the sepulcher, while the main body of

the women, consisting of Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others,

returned more leisurely to make their report. At all events, the narrative of

Luke implies all that is given by Matthew and by John. For the disciples

who went to Emmaus distinctly say that certain of the disciples “went to

the sepulcher, and found it even so as the women had said; but Him they

saw not (v. 24) — implying that the women, in their report, had spoken

of having seen the Master. The testimony of the women was based upon a

threefold foundation:

 

Ø      first, the assurance of the angels;

Ø      secondly, the promise of resurrection given in Galilee by the Lord;

Ø      thirdly, according to Matthew’s account, an interview with the risen

      Lord Himself (Matthew 28:9-10). It was a remarkable testimony

certainly, but at the same time it had ample warrant.

 

·         THE BEST-ATTESTED FACTS MAY SEEM, TO DAZED

MINDS, THE IDLEST FANCIES. (v. 11.) The poor disciples are,

however, so overpowered with grief and disappointment that they are

utterly unprepared for the announcement of the Resurrection. Here the

suppler mind of woman is revealed in contrast to the more plodding,

sifting, logic-demanding mind of man. The women enjoy the consolations

of the Resurrection much sooner than the men. They take in the evidence

at a glance. They do not question. They simply accept. But the disciples

will not believe in a hurry. And so the messengers of the best tidings ever

related unto men are at first in the position of the Master ..… Himself, and

constrained to cry, “Who hath believed our report?” And the unbehevmg

criticism of today is more unreasonable than the disciples were before the

women. Because the resurrection of Christ may break in upon the ideas of

nature’s absolute uniformity which the critics have adopted, the whole

evidence of resurrection-power continued through the ages is to be treated

as an idle tale! Minds may be so dazed with grief or with success on certain

lines as to discredit THE MOST COMPLETE EVIDENCE EVER

OFFERED TO THE WORLD!  Before prejudice, the strongest facts get

resolved into the idlest fancies. We should earnestly seek an impartial mind.

 

·         PETER’S FIRST ATTEMPT TO DEAL WITH THE EVIDENCE OF

THE RESURRECTION. (v. 12.) Peter, as we learn from John’s

account, accompanied by John, rushes off to see the sepulchrer. He reaches

it after John, but pushes past him, and goes into the sepulcher. There he

sees the linen clothes laid by themselves, yet departs without reaching

anything but perplexity. To John’s keener intellect the grave-clothes, so

neatly deposited and the napkin laid in a place by itself, show that Jesus

had risen, and laid aside His sleeping-clothes, as we do our night-dresses in

the morning, because He had entered on the day of resurrection. John

becomes a believer in the Resurrection on circumstantial evidence. Peter,

it would seem, cannot make it out, and has to get a personal interview

somewhat later on that day (compare v. 34), before he can take it in. It thus

appears that one mind may handle the Resurrection evidence successfully,

while another may only stumble through it into deeper perplexity. But

when a soul like Peter is in earnest, the Lord will not leave him in the

darkness, but will grant such further light as will dispel the gloom and

dissipate all perplexity. Meanwhile the discovery of Christ’s resurrection is

but the interesting first stage in the remarkable evidence to part of which

we have yet to proceed.

 

 

     The Meeting with the Risen Jesus on the Way to Emmaus (vs. 13-35)

 

These two favored men got to spend about a quarter of a day communing and

Conversing with Christ, opening their minds and pouring out their hearts to Him,

telling Him their hopes and their fears, and receiving kind and illuminating responses

from His lips.  And as we may be sure that the way to Emmaus was marvelously

shortened that afternoon, and the village houses showed themselves long before

they were looked for, so will earnest and loving communion with our living Lord,

so will our walking with Christ, make the hours go swiftly by on the wings of holy

and elevated joy, and we shall “call the sabbath a delight.”

 

13 “And, behold, two of them” -  This long piece, which relates in a singularly vivid

and picturesque manner one of the earliest appearances of the Risen Saviour, is peculiar

to Luke. Mark 16:12-13 mentions it, but as it were only in passing. This Gospel, written

probably after the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, holds a middle place between the

earliest apostolic memoirs represented by the first two Gospels and the last

memoir, that of John, which was probably put out in its present form by

the apostle “whom Jesus loved” some time in the last fifteen years of the

first century. Writers of varied schools unite in expressions of admiration

for this singularly beautiful “memory of the Lord.”  The “two of them,” although

doubtless well known in the apostolic age, seem to have held no distinguished

place in early Christian history (see note on v. 18, where Cleopas is mentioned) –

 “went that same day” -  The first day of the week — the first Easter Day. The

events of the early morning of the Resurrection have been already commented upon –

“to a village called Emmaus,” -  This Emmaus, the narrative tells us, was about

sixty furlongs — some six miles and a half — from the holy city. It was

situated east-southeast from Jerusalem. The name is connected with the

modern Arabic term Hammam (a bath), and indicates probably, like the

Latin Aquae, or the French Aix, and the English “Bath,” or “Wells,” the

presence of medicinal springs; and this may possibly account for Luke

the physician’s attention having in the first instance been drawn to the spot.

This Emmaus is now called Kulonieh. A curious Talmudical reference,

belongs to this place Emmaus, now Kulonieh: “At Mattza they go to gather the

green boughs for the Feast of Tabernacles’’ (Talmud, ‘Succa,’ 4:5). Elsewhere

it is said that “Maflza is Kulonieh” -  “which was from Jerusalem  about

threescore furlongs.  14 And they talked together of all these things

which had happened.”

 

15 “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and

reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them.” One, if not the

first, fulfillment of the comforting promise, Where two or three are gathered

together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Compare “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and

the Lord hearkened, and heard it” (Malachi 3:16).

 

We should never undertake any trip or pilgrimage without securing the

COMPANIONSHIP OF JESUS!   The “OMNIPRESENCE” of Jesus

should be the believer’s constant consolation!  He is at our side, He takes

every step with us, but we are so blinded with care and preoccupation that

we fail to see Him or enjoy His company as we should!   We may enjoy

Christ’s spiritual presence and His escort all through the pilgrimage of life. It is this

which will make the present life a heaven, not by anticipation merely, but in

actual enjoyment; for fellowship with Christ, even though He be unseen, is

the chief element of heaven. May we have the great Escort with us all the

way!

 

16 “But their eyes were holden, that they should not know Him.” So Mary

Magdalene looked on and failed to recognize at first the Person of her adored

Master (John 20:15). So by the lake-shore, as He stood and spoke to the tired

fishermen, they who had been so long with Him knew Him not. Some mysterious

change had been wrought in the Person of the Lord. Between the Resurrection

and the Ascension, men and women now looked on Him without a gleam of

recognition, now gazed on Him knowing well that it was the Lord. It is vain,

to give any simply natural explanation of the failure of the disciples to recognize

Christ. After the Resurrection He was known as He pleased, and not necessarily

at once Till they who gazed on Him were placed in something of spiritual harmony

with the Lord, they could not recognize Him. The two on their walk to Emmaus,

and Mary Magdalene in the garden, were preoccupied with their sorrow. The

fisher-disciples on the lake were preoccupied with their work, so that the vision

of the Divine was obscured. The risen Christ will surely fulfill His own words,

“The pure in heart, they shall see God” but only the pure in heart.

(Matthew 5:8)

 

17 “And He said unto them, What manner of communications are these

that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? The older authorities

make the question stop at “as ye walk,” and then add, “and they stood still,

looking sad.” This change is, of course, of no great importance, but it

considerably adds to the vividness of the picture.

 

 

18 “And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto

Him,” -  This name is a Greek contraction of Cleopatros, and points to Alexandrian

antecedents.  It is suggested that this may in part, perhaps, account for this Cleopas,

not improbably a Jew of Alexandria, imparting to Luke what had not found its way

into the current oral teaching of the Hebrew Church at Jerusalem, as embodied in

the narratives of Matthew and Mark -  “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem,

and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”

better translated, dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem, and not know, etc.?

That is to say, “Art thou the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know

about the wonderful events which have just taken place in the holy city?”

 

19 “And He said unto them, What things? And they said unto Him,

Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed

and word before God and all the people:”  To the Stranger’s question,

“What things have so lately excited Jerusalem?” they both probably burst out

with “the Name,” then doubtless on all lips in the holy city, “JESUS OF

NAZARETH the hated and adored Same. And then they went on with a

further explanation to One who seemed a stranger just arrived: they explained

who this Jesus was supposed to have been. “He was a Prophet mighty in

deed and word before God and all the people,” equally great in secret

contemplative holiness and in public acts of beneficence. 20  “And how the

chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death,

and have crucified Him.” But then the“two explained, “This He was; for

He is no more. Our chief priests and rulers have done Him to death. They

have crucified Him.”

 

21 “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed

Israel:” -  And we who were His friends and followers, we thought

we had found in Him the Redeemer of Israel, King Messiah! Think! the

Redeemer crucified! Although the Redeemer, in the sense they-probably

understood the word, was something very different to the sense we give to

it, the idea was still something very lofty and sublime. It included, no

doubt, much of earthly glory and dominion for Israel, but in some definite

sense the Gentile world, too, would share in the blessings of Messiah. And

to think of the shameful cross putting an end to all these hopes! - “and beside

all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.”  But yet

terrible and despairing as was the story of Cleopas and his friend, their tone

was not quite hopeless; for they went on, “And now we have come to the

third day since they crucified Him.” No doubt they dwelt a short space

on the expression, “third day,” telling the Stranger how their dead Master,

when alive, had bade His friends watch for the third day from His death.

The third day, He had told them, would be the day of His triumphant return

to them; and, strangely enough, on the early morning of this third day,

SOMETHING DID HAPPEN which had stirred, excited, and perplexed

 Them - 22  “Yea, and certain women also of our company made us

astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found

not His body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels,

which said that He was alive.” Certain women of their company, who had been

early to the grave of the Master, meaning to embalm the corpse, FOUND THE

SEPULCHER EMPTY and they came back reporting how they had seen a

vision of angels there, who told them their Master lived. What did it all mean?

 

24 “And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulcher, and

found it even so as the women had said: but Him they saw not.” Does

not their word sound as the language of those in whose heart the smoking flax

yet glimmers, though nigh to extinction?”

 

25 “Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all

that the prophets have spoken!”  better translated, O foolish men, and slow

of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! The Stranger now

 replies to the confused story of sorrow and baffled hopes just lit up with one

faint ray of hope, with a calm reference to that holy book so well known to,

so deeply treasured by every Jew. “See,” He seems to say, “in the pages of

our prophets all this, over which you now so bitterly mourn, is plainly predicted:

you must be blind and deaf not to have seen and heard this story of agony

and patient suffering in those well-known, well-loved pages!  When ,those

great prophets spoke of the coming of Messiah, how came it about that

you missed seeing that they pointed to days of suffering and death to

be endured by Him before His time of sovereignty and triumph could

be entered on?”

 

26 “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His

glory? better translated, ought not the Christ, etc.?  Luke dwells on the

Resurrection as a spiritual necessity; Mark, as a great fact; Matthew, as a

glorious and majestic manifestation; and John, in its effects on the members of the

Church… If this suffering and death were a necessity (οὐχὶ ταῦτα ἔδει  ouchi

Tauta edeiare not these things binding), if it was in accordance with the will of

God that the Christ should suffer, and so enter into His glory, and if we

can be enabled to see this necessity, and see also the noble issues which

flow from it, then we can understand how the same necessity must in due

measure be laid upon His brethren. And so we obtain a key to

some of the darkest problems of humanity. Thus the Stranger led the “two”

to see the true meaning of the “prophets,” whose burning words they had

so often read and heard without grasping their real deep signification. Thus

He led them to see that the Christ must be a suffering before He could be a

triumphing Messiah; that the crucifixion of Jesus, over which they wailed

with so bitter a wailing, was in fact AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE

THE COUNSELS OF GOD!  Then He went on to show that, as His

suffering is now fulfilled — for the Crucifixion and death were past — nothing

remains of that which is written in the prophets, but THE ENTERING

INTO HIS GLORY!

 

Is there not progressiveness in the teaching of the Holy Ghost?

There is development in Christianity. It has its permanent, but it has its

progressive, element also. It is only by little and little that the higher truth

of the kingdom enters the hearts of men. Precept must be on precept, line

on line, until the dispensation of the opening, when the Church, gathered

fully into the house of the Lord, will receive from-the pierced hand the

bread of the eternal life. So in personal history and experience. There is

One teaching us, even when we do not recognize who He is. Life is the

school in which the HOLY GHOST IS THE INSTRUCTOR!   Christ

and Christ’s love, and the meaning of our existence as interpreted in Christ’s

cross, is the lesson in which we are taught. We pass from standard up to standard,

the book which regulates all the teaching being the Scriptures. Many are the

forms which the Holy Ghost, the Teacher, assumes; many are the agencies

through which He draws near. But if, with receptive minds, we are yielded

to Him, He is taking us step by step along the path of the manifold

education meant for the disciple of Jesus; expounding as we are able to

bear, stooping to our immaturities and weaknesses; a presence in us rather

than external to us, stimulating thought and desire, enkindling into fuller

flame the smoking flax; so that by-and-by we are able to say, “Did not our

heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He

opened to us the Scriptures?” (v. 32).

 

27 “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them

in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” The three divisions, the

Pentateuch (Moses), the prophets, and all the Scriptures, cover the whole Old

Testament received then in the same words as we possess them now. The Lord’s

proofs of what He asserted He drew from the whole series of writings, rapidly

glancing over the long many-colored roll called the Old Testament. Jesus had

before Him a grand field, from the Protevangelium, the first great Gospel of Genesis,

down to Malachi. In studying the Scriptures for Himself, He had found Himself in

them everywhere (John 5:39-40). The things concerning Himself. The Scriptures

which the Lord probably referred to specially were:

 

o       the promise to Eve (Genesis 3:15);

o       the promise to Abraham (Ibid. ch.22:18);

o       the Paschal lamb (Exodus 12.);

o       the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:1-34);

o       the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:9);

o       the star and scepter (Numbers 24:17);

o       the greater Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15);

o       the smitten rock (Ibid. ch 20:11; I Corinthians 10:4);

o       Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14);

o       “Unto us a Child is born,” etc. (Ibid. ch. 9:6-7);

o       the good Shepherd (Ibid. ch.40:10-11);

o       the meek Sufferer (Ibid. ch.50:6);

o       He who bore our griefs (Ibid. ch. 53:4-5);

o       the Branch (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:14-15);

o       the Heir of David (Ezekiel 34:23);

o       the Ruler from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2);

o       the Branch (Zechariah 6:12);

o       the lowly King (Ibid. ch. 9:9);

o       the pierced Victim (Ibid. ch. 12:10);

o       the smitten Shepherd (Ibid. ch. 13:7);

o       the messenger of the covenant (Malachi 3:1);

o       the Sun of Righteousness (Ibid. ch. 4:2);

 

and no doubt many other passages. There is not one of the prophets without

some distinct reference to Christ, except Nahum, Jonah (who was himself a type

and prophetic sign – Matthew 12:39-40), and Habakkuk, who, however, uses

the memorable words quoted in Romans 1:17. To these we must add references

to several of the psalms, notably to the sixteenth and twenty-second, where

sufferings and death are spoken of as belonging to the perfect picture of the

Servant of the Lord and the ideal King. His hearers would know well how

strangely the agony of Calvary was foreshadowed in those vivid word-pictures

He called before their memories in the course of that six-mile walk from

Jerusalem to Emmaus.

 

28 “And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and He made

as though He would have gone further.” This was no feint or deception. The

Lord would have left them then to themselves had they not prayed Him with real

earnestness to abide with them. How many are there to whom He has drawn near,

but with whom He has not tarried, because they have suffered Him to ‘go away

again,’ in his living and heart-moving words! How comparatively rare is it for men

to reach the full blessing they might receive (see, for example, the striking historical

instance, II Kings 13:14-19)!  But these were not content to let the unknown

Teacher pass on, and see no more of Him, and hear no more of His strange

powerful teaching. It is the words of, and the thought contained in, this verse

which suggested the idea of the well-known hymn —

 

“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.”

 

29 “But they constrained Him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward

evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them.”

Some have supposed that one at least of the two had a dwelling at Emmaus; but

the position which the strange Teacher assumed as “Master of the household,”

in the solemn act recorded in v. 30, seems to indicate that it was an inn where

they sojourned.

 

 

 

                        Behold Christ Revealed and Recognized (v. 29)

 

The village is reached. Must the delightful companionship end? Courteously saluting

them, the Stranger apparently is going on. Nay, the sun is about to set; they

entreat Him not to leave them. He would have gone on if there had been no prayer.

The personal desire is essential to the tarrying. But that desire never pleads in vain.

How many never plead for the tarrying — indeed, do not want it! For the drawing

near and journeying with us, no desire from us is needed. Christ does that of His

own will. But the tarrying is another matter. He cannot force an entrance; He will

be forced. “They constrained Him.” He receives sinners for salvation; their reception

of Him is salvation (Revelation 3:20). At meat with them He is revealed. What it was

that disclosed Him we cannot exactly say. The whole manner is solemn and striking.

At once He takes the head of the table. The Master’s place is conceded to Him. And

that always prepares for revelation. When the heart is truly yielded to Christ, the

moment of the showing of Himself is near. He takes the bread; He blesses; He

breaks, and gives it to the two.  And their eyes are opened, and they know Him.

There is the voice, the blessing, and I think, the sight of the pierced hands — the sight

that I expect to have in glory. The meal may not have been a full sacrament. But

Christ’s presence and blessing made, the meal sacramental; for that presence and

that blessing elevate whatever is ordinary. And the action before us is a consecration

of ordinance as well as Word as the means of revelation. The Word prepares for the

ordinance; in the ordinance Christ is revealed. Is not this a forecast of the future? Is it

not Christ’s will to make Himself known to those who sit at meat with Him — they

having first constrained Him and being thus spiritually susceptible — in the breaking of

bread? Observe the signs of the revelation:

 

o       A new sight (v. 31);

o       a new energy (v. 33);

o       a new sympathy (vs. 33-34);

o       a new eloquence (v. 35).

 

Joy, joy to the disciples who have seen the Lord. But He has vanished out of their

sight. He must not hinder, by His bodily presence, the lifting of the consciousness

into the region of the spiritual presence. That on which afterwards they dwell is, not

the glimpse they have had of face and hand, but the power of His Spirit, the life-giving

force of His Word (v. 32). The clouds were dispelled by the rising of the Day-star

in the heart. That is the sign of Christ with us here. By that we know that it is He who

has been talking with us. One day, but not in this present time, we shall see Him as

He is; He will bless and break and give to us Himself, the Bread of life. And

then He will not vanish out of our sight.

 

“Oh, then shall the veil be removed,

      And round me thy brightness be poured;

I shall meet Him whom absent I loved,

     I shall see whom unseen I adored.’

 

 

SOME THOUGHT ON OLD AGE (v. 29)

 

The disciples “constrained” our Lord to abide with them; for, they said, “It

is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” This act of theirs and their

words taken together are suggestive of the truth that those whose life is

fast waning — with whom it is “toward evening,” whose day is “far spent”

(Romans 13:11-14) have urgent need that Jesus Christ should “abide with” them.

We have before us the special spiritual necessities of old age.

 

·         Age is often lonely. It misses the companions of its youth and its prime.

Most of these, perhaps nearly all, have fallen, and they are as the last leaf

upon the wintry bough. “They are all gone, the old familiar faces,” is the

plaintive strain of their discourse; and some who still live have drifted away

from them in space or in spirit.  There is no one left who can go back with

them in thought and sympathy to the old times, the memory of which is so

pleasant, and which they would fain revisit with the friends of youth and

childhood. Age is apt to be very lonely, and it has great need of a Divine

Companion who does not pass away, who “abides,” who is “the same

yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”  (Hebrews 13:8)

 

·         Its special limitation. We all know that there may not be many days left in

which we can bear witness for our Lord and His gospel.  But the aged know

that there can not be many more left to them. So much the more, therefore, as

they see the night approaching when they can work no more for their Master

(John 9:4), may they well desire to be and to do all that still lies in their power.

Every hour is golden to him to whom but few remain.  And because the

opportunities of serving men here on earth are narrowing perceptibly day by day,

the aged may earnestly entreat their Lord to be near to them, and to let His grace

rest upon them, that their last days may be full of fruitfulness as well as of

peace and hope.

 

·         Its nearness to death. We wish not only to “live unto the Lord,” but also to

“die unto the Lord” (Romans 14:8); to honor Him in the manner of our

death as well as by the spirit of our life. They who feel that the evening

shadows are gathering, and that the night of death is near, may well wish

for the near presence of the upholding Saviour, with whom they will go

tranquilly and hopefully through the last darkness. “Abide with us,” they

say; “be with us as we take the last steps of our earthly journey, go down

with us into the deep waters, attend us till we reach the heavenly shore.”

 

“Oh, meet us in the valley,

    When heart and flesh shall fail,

And softly, safely, lead us on,

   Until within the veil;

When faith shall turn to gladness,

   To find ourselves with thee,

And trembling Hope shall realize

   Her full felicity.”

 

(For contemplation, I recommend The Voyage of Life by Thomas Cole on the

Internet – [a series of four paintings on childhood, youth, manhood and old age –

CY – 2012)

 

30 “And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and

blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.” There was a deep significance in the

concluding act of this memorable appearance of the risen Lord. This taking the

bread, and blessing it, and breaking it, and then giving it to them, was no ordinary

act of courtesy, or welcome, or friendship, which, from a master or teacher might

be shown to his disciples. It resembles too closely the great sacramental act in the

upper room, when Jesus was alone with His apostles, for us to mistake its solemn

sacramental character. The great teachers of the Church in different ages have

generally so understood it.  It taught men generally, even more plainly than did

the first sacred institution teach the twelve, that in this solemn breaking of bread

the Church would recognize their Master’s presence. So generally, in fact, has

this Emmaus “breaking of bread” been recognized by the Catholic Church as the

sacrament, that later Romanist divines have even pressed it as a scriptural

demonstration for the abuse which administered the elements under one form

(compare, for instance, the ‘Refutation of the Confession of Angsberg,’ quoted

by Stier, in his comment on this passage of Luke, ‘Words of the Lord Jesus’).

How unnecessary and forced such a construction is, Bishop Wordsworth points

out in his note on this verse. “It may be remembered that bread (ἄρτοςartos)

was to the Jews a general name for food, including drink as well as meat Thus bread

 became spiritually an expressive term for all the blessings received from communion

in Christ’s body and blood, and the κλάσις ἄρτουklasis artou - breaking of

bread -  was suggestive of the source from which these blessings flow, (viz.) Christ’s

body (κλώμενονklomenonbroken) in I Corinthians 11:24; hence κλάσις ἄρτου  -

klasis artou - breaking of bread in Acts 2:42 is a general term for the Holy Eucharist.”

 

31 “And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished

out of their sight.”  Not here, not now, can we hope to understand the nature of

the resurrection-body of the Lord; it is and must remain to us, in our present

condition, a mystery. Certain facts have, however, been revealed to us:

 

  • The Resurrection was a reality, not an appearance; for on more than

one occasion the Lord permitted the test of touch. He also ate before

His disciples of their ordinary food.

 

  • Yet there was a manifest exemption from the common conditions of

bodily (corporeal) existence; for He comes through a closed door; He

could withdraw himself when He would from touch as well as from sight;

He could vanish in a moment from those looking on Him; He could, as men

gazed on Him, rise by the exertion of His own will into the clouds of heaven.

 

  • He was known just as He pleased and when He pleased; for at times

during the “forty days” men and women looked on Him without a gleam

of recognition, at times they gazed at Him, knowing well that it was the

Lord.  On the words, “He vanished out of their sight,” it must be

remembered that Jesus, strictly speaking, was already no more with them

(v. 44), and that the miracle consisted rather in His appearing than

 in His disappearing.  What was natural to Him before was now

MIRACULOUS  what was before miraculous is now NATURAL.”

 

32 “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while

He talked with us by the way?” -  better rendered, was not our heart burning

within us, while, etc.? – “and while He opened to us the scriptures?”

How wonderful these Scriptures which contain the record of Divine revelation! So

short as to be capable of being committed to the memory, and yet so full as to

contain all that is needful for our enlightenment and enrichment, for guidance to God

and heaven; so dull to the unquickened conscience, and so delightful to the awakened

and renewed; holding mysteries insoluble to human learning, and yet intelligible

and instructive from Genesis to Revelation to the earnest inquirer after truth and life;

valueless in the market, and yet precious beyond all price to all who want to know how

to live and how to die. As Christ and the two learners walked and talked, new light

shone on the old passages, and the way was too short and the time too soon gone for

their interest and their eagerness to be expended. 

 

Possibly those who teach may sometimes ask themselves whether it is worth their

while to conduct so small a class, to preach to so poor a congregation. Here is the

answer to that questioning. If the risen Lord of glory thought it worth His while

to walk seven miles and spend two hours in enlightening the minds and

comforting the hearts of two humble and obscure disciples; if He was content

 to spend a good part of His first sabbath in taking a class of two, and pouring

 from the rich treasury of His truth into their minds, we may not think it unworthy

of us to spend time in enlightening or comforting one human heart that craves

 the succor it is in our power to give. The disciple is not above his Master.

 

           

                                    Further Lessons by the Way (vs. 13-32)

 

Other lessons beside those already gleaned (see preceding homily) await

our hand in this instructive story.

 

·         THE THREAD OF TRIAL WHICH RUNS THROUGH THE FABRIC

OF OUR LIFE. On one occasion our Lord asked a question of one of His

disciples, and of that question it is said, “This He said to prove him”

(John 6:6). There were other occasions, e.g. that of the blind beggars

by the wayside, and that of the Syro-phoenician woman, when Jesus said

things to prove or to try those who came to Him. We have the same thing

here. He drew near to these two disciples in the guise of a stranger; He

chose to remain unknown to them; He drew them out as if He were one

unacquainted with the events which were filling their minds and hearts; He

induced them to discover themselves freely and fully both to His own eyes

and to theirs; moreover, He was in the act of passing on, and would have

gone beyond Emmaus if they had not availed themselves of the opportunity

of persuading Him to remain. And thus He tried them. The “trial of our

faith,” and of our love and loyalty, forms a great part of our Master’s

dealing with ourselves. It explains many otherwise inexplicable things in

our life. God appears to us other than the kind, gracious, pitiful,

considerate Father that He is. Christ seems to be other than the present,

strong, faith-rewarding Master that He is. Why does God let such things

happen to us? Why does not Christ bring to pass that for which we labor

and pray so earnestly? It may be that, in these cases, He is trying us;

proving the sincerity and deepening the roots of our faith and love and

zeal. We shall be the stronger, and our lives will be the more fruitful, for

His action or His lingering, a little further on.

 

·         THE TRUE WAY TO MAKE THE SABBATH A DELIGHT. It was

fitting that on the first sabbath of the Christian era there should be recorded

an instance in which the day was spent as Christ would have it be. What a

pleasant picture this of communion with Christ, of searching the Scriptures,

of sitting down at the same table with Him! We have here:

 

Ø      Communion with our Lord. About one-fourth of the whole day these

favored men were conversing with Christ, opening their minds and

outpouring their hearts to Him, telling Him their hopes and their fears,

and receiving kind and illuminating responses from His lips. So should

our “fellowship be with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ,”

on the “day of the Lord.” And as we may be sure that the way to

Emmaus was marvelously shortened that afternoon, and the village

houses showed themselves long before they were looked for, so will

earnest and loving communion with our living Lord, so will our

walking with Christ, make the hours go swiftly by on the wings of

holy and elevated joy, and we shall “call the sabbath a delight.”

 

Ø      Sacred study. (vs. 27, 32.) How wonderful these Scriptures which

contain the record of Divine revelation! So short as to be capable of

being committed to the memory, and yet so full as to contain all that

is needful for our enlightenment and enrichment, for guidance to God

and heaven; so dull to the unquickened conscience, and so delightful

to the awakened and renewed; holding mysteries insoluble to human

learning, and yet intelligible and instructive from Genesis to Revelation

to the earnest inquirer after truth and life; valueless in the market, and

yet precious beyond all price to all who want to know how to live and

how to die. As Christ and the two learners walked and talked, new

light shone on the old passages, and the way was too short and the

time too soon gone for their interest and their eagerness to be expended.

 

Ø      Meeting the living Lord at His table. (v. 30.) This was not, strictly

speaking, a “sacramental” meal to which they sat down. It was not the

“Lord’s Supper” of which they partook. But there was about it so much of

reverence, of religious earnestness, of holy communion, of sacred joy, that

it may well suggest to us that most excellent way of spending some part of

“the Lord’s day.”

 

·         THE WORTH OF ALL TRUE CHRISTIAN LABOR. Possibly

those who teach may sometimes ask themselves whether it is worth their

while to conduct so small a class, to preach to so poor a congregation.

Here is the answer to that questioning. If the risen Lord of glory thought it

worth His while to walk seven miles and spend two hours in enlightening

the minds and comforting the hearts of two humble and obscure disciples;

if He was content to spend a good part of His first sabbath in taking a class

of two, and pouring from the rich treasury of His truth into their minds, we

may not think it unworthy of us to spend time in enlightening or

comforting one human heart that craves the succor it is in our power to

give. The disciple is not above His Master.

 

·         THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL INTEREST, Do we devoutly wish

that we knew more of that sacred gladness of which these disciples were so

happily conscious as He “talked with them by the way, and opened to them

the Scriptures” (v. 32)? Then:

 

Ø      Let us see that we are, as they were, earnestly desirous of knowing more

of Jesus Christ. Let us go to our Bible and go up to the house of the Lord

with that end distinctly and prominently in view.

 

Ø      Let us seek and gain the same Divine illumination. It is still to be had,

though that voice is not now heard in our ear. The “Spirit of truth” is

with us still, waiting to illumine and to enlarge our hearts; if we seek

His aid and open our minds to His entrance, He will “guide us into all

                        the truth” (John 16:13).

 

 

 

            Privilege; Unconscious Companionship; Incredulity

                                                (vs. 13-32)

 

In this most interesting narrative, beside a very pleasing and attractive

picture, we have a variety of lessons. We may gather instruction respecting:

 

·         OUR LORD’S ELECTIVE LOVE. It was a very great favor He

granted to these two men. Why, we ask, was it rendered to them? Of one

we do not even know his name, and of the other nothing but his name.

Why was so rare and high a privilege accorded to these obscure disciples,

and not rather to those more prominent and active? In truth, we find

ourselves quite unable to decide who are the fittest to receive special

favors from the hand of God, or on what grounds He wills to manifest His

presence and His power. His selections, we are sure, cannot be arbitrary or

irrational. God must have not only a reason, but the best reason, for

everything He does. But into the reasons for His choice we often may not

enter; they lie beyond our reach. It is not to the acknowledged leaders of

the Church that God often chooses to manifest especial privilege, but to

those who are simple, unexpectant, unknown. He grants illuminations of

His Spirit, peculiar joy and gladness of heart in Him, remarkable success in

the utterance of His truth, anticipatory glimpses of heavenly glory, to whom

He will. And these are quite likely to be found amongst the humbler

members of His Church. If there is any law which will guide our judgment it

is this — that it is to the “pure in heart,” to those who have most perfectly

conquered the fleshly passions and are most freed from worldly ambitions

and anxieties, who have the simplest and purest hope in Him and desire

toward Him, that He vouchsafes His presence and grants the teaching and

inspiration of His Spirit. But Christ’s elective love is fully as much of a fact

as it is of a doctrine.

 

·         UNCONSCIOUS COMPANIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. These two

men were walking and talking with Christ, receiving His truth and

responding to His appeal, their hearts “burning within them” as they held

sweet and sacred intercourse with Him; yet they did not recognize Him; they

had no idea that they were having fellowship with the Lord. There is much

unconscious companionship with Jesus Christ now. Men are led into belief

of the truth, are impressed with the sovereign claims of God upon their

service, and of Jesus Christ upon their love; they ask, they inquire, they

come to the feet of Christ to learn of Him; they come to the cross of Christ

to trust in Him; they shun what they believe to be offensive, and pursue

what they think is right and pleasing in His sight; and yet they are not at

rest. They think they may be in a good way or in a fair way to find life; but

they do not realize that they are in the right way. The fact is oft times that

they are walking in the path of life with Christ, but “their eyes are holden

that they do not know Him.” A Divine One has joined Himself to them, as

familiarly and unpretendingly as to these two disciples, ingratiating Himself

into their favor, wooing and winning their trust and their love; but

because there has been no period of welt-recognized revolution, no sudden

remarkable convulsion, they have failed to perceive that the work wrought

within them has been that of  is own kind and holy hand. Such souls need

to learn that oftenest it is not in the wind, or in the earthquake, or in the

fire, but in the still small voice of familiar truth and gracious influence, that

Christ comes to the soul in renewing power. If it is in Christ we are

trusting, if it is in  His service we are most willing to live, if it is His will we

are most concerned to do, then it is He Himself by whose side we are

walking day by day.

 

·         THE STRANGE INCREDULITY OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP.

Our Master, who was so gentle and so considerate, here employs a very

strong expression (v. 25). This is the language of serious reproach; it is a

weighty rebuke. The disciples of Christ ought to have read their Scriptures

better, and they ought to have heeded the reiterated warning and promise

He had Himself given them of His death and His rising again. But while we

wonder at what seems to us their slowness to learn and to believe, are we

not as obtuse (insensitive; slow to understand) and as incredulous as they

were? Do we not fail to grasp the promises of God as they are written in

His Word, as they were spoken by His Son our Saviour? When those things

happen which we should expect to happen in connection with the teaching

of Divine truth:

 

Ø      when the Spirit of God works mightily and mercifully in

            the souls of men;

Ø      when hard hearts are broken and stubborn wills are subdued

      to the obedience of Christ;

Ø      when wrong and shameful lives  are changed into pure and holy ones;

Ø      when the kingdom of God comes amongst us;

 

are we not surprised, incredulous? Are we not tempted to ascribe these

issues to other than heavenly sources? And yet ought not this very result

to happen? Is it not precisely what we should have been looking for,

and wondering that it did not occur? We shall probably find abundant

illustrations of Christian incredulity (unable or unwilling to believe

something) to match anything of which we read in our New Testament.

“Slow of heart” are we to believe all that the Master has said of the

presence and the power and the promises of God.

 

33 “And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem,” - They fear

no longer the night-journey from which they had dissuaded their unknown Companion –

“and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” Late that

evening Cleopas and his friend arrived from Emmaus at Jerusalem. Hastening to the

accustomed meeting-place of the disciples of Jesus, to tell their wondrous

story of the meeting with the risen Master, they find the eleven together

full of joy. Peter had seen and had no doubt conversed with his Master.

What a meeting must that have been! The once eager and devoted apostle

had probably not gazed on that form in life since he caught the sorrowful

look bent on him in the courtyard, when Jesus, bound, passed through and

heard his servant denying him with oaths and curses (ch. 22:55-62).  This

appearance to Peter is not recorded in the Gospels. It is, however, placed

first of all by Paul in his records of the manifestation of the Risen (I Corinthians

15:4-8).

 

35 “And they told what things were done in the way, and how He was

known of them in breaking of bread.”  The two travelers now relate to the

eleven their wondrous story. The words used by Cleopas and his friend in their

narration, ἐν τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου – en tae klasi tou artou -  in the

 breaking of the bread,” are significant. It is an expression which, at the time

when Luke wrote his Gospel, had acquired a definite meaning in the language

of the Christian Church, and was applied to breaking bread in the “Supper of

 the Lord” (see Acts 2:42, 46; I Corinthians 10:16). While they were speaking

together, the personal appearance of the Lord was vouchsafed to them; for, of

a sudden, He stood in the midst and spoke to them!

 

 

 

                                                Emmaus (vs. 13-35)

 

(For a beautiful paraphrase of this Scripture, see the passage in Cowper’s

poem ‘Conversation,’ beginning, “It happened on a solemn eventide.” The

incident is presented by him as an illustration of converse “such as it

behoves man to maintain, and such as God approves.” And it is impossible

to resist the appropriateness of the lesson which is enforced.) The time of

the memorable appearance is the afternoon, probably between four and six;

and its prominent persons are two disciples, not apostles, whom it is

impossible to identify. The one is called Klopas or Cleophas, supposed by

many to be Alphaeus, the brother of Joseph of Nazareth, and father of

James; but the name being a contraction of Cleopatrus, the supposition is

scarcely admissible. The other is not mentioned by name, and many

conjectures concerning him have been framed. A worthy German pastor

once said, “The learned cannot come to any agreement who the other was,

and I will give you this good counsel — let each of you take his place.”

Look at these two men as they journey. “The sun of the Resurrection was

enveloped in thick clouds of despondency and sorrow, scarcely penetrated

by a ray of light.” It would seem that they had left the gathering of disciples

before Mary had brought her tale. What they dwell on is, “True, the body

was not in the tomb; but then He was not seen;” and one risen from the

dead was a thought which they could scarcely credit. They are not sure

even that the women really saw angels; it was, perhaps, only a vision of

angels, and, having the notions of their time as to ghosts and apparitions,

they incline to the belief that there was no reality in the presence of whom

the Maries and Salome and others had spoken. No; He is dead, and the

third day has come and gone, and He has not been seen. Let this state of

mind be noted. There was no predisposition in Christ’s followers to accept

the Resurrection. Far from this, the evidence made way against doubtings,

against skepticisms, we might say, of the most obstinate nature. These

foolish and slow-hearted men were almost the last people likely to credit

the tale. How was it that this temperament, incredulous, despondent, so

quickly gave way to one full of worship and great joy? How was it that

such men gave up all, traveled hither and thither with the one message

ever on their lips, many of them suffering death because they would

maintain that the Christ who was crucified did rise, had been seen by them,

and is alive for evermore? I can find only one answer to the question —

They witnessed to truth. “The Lord is risen indeed.” But regard the

incident in the light of the thought that the forty days in which Christ

showed Himself alive after His Passion were intended as a time of

preparation for that new form of His presence which began when the day of

Pentecost was fully come. Studying the forty-days’ period, we can find

many hints and suggestions as to the manner of Christ’s intercourse with

us, of His coming to us in the Comforter whom He promised until the end of

the age. The special teaching of this journey to Emmaus, and all that befell

the two, may be gathered under three points:

 

(1) Christ with us, but unrevealed;

(2) Christ teaching, but personally unrecognized;

(3) Christ revealed and recognized.

 

·         CHRIST WITH US, BUT UNREVEALED. A Stranger asks the cause

of the dejection of the two travelers, and, by His sympathy and courtesy,

draws out their confidence. Two reasons for not discerning Him are given.

 

Ø      The one is (Mark 16:12), that “He appeared in another form” than that

with which they were familiar. Not the form of the Shepherd going before

them, but that of the Companion in walking and working clothes traveling

by their side.

 

Ø      But there is the other reason (v. 16) — “Their eyes were

holden that they should not know Him.” They were not at that time in

spiritual light; their vision was narrowed by their great sorrow. Are not

these still the reasons why so often we do not see the Christ who is with

us as we travel along the thoroughfares of life? He is not in the form in

which we expect Him. Sometimes He hides Himself, that He may get the

more fully into our hearts. He is with us, wanting the halo, wanting all

that would at once declare Him, that He may be more intimately our

Friend, “familiar, patient, condescending, free.” And we miss or mistake

Him, because we cannot see beneath the form, because our minds are

self-occupied, or, when intent on higher things, are wanting in the

elevation, in the pure sweet light, of the spiritual mind. Only when

the spiritual eyes are opened do we know who has been and is with us.

But He is with us as we toil on our toilsome way, bearing the heat and

burden of the afternoon. It is He who is touching the springs or’ our

thought and action. It is He who is speaking to us. Fear not, thou weary

and heart-sore disciple; when thy comforts seem to be gone, He, the

Comforter, is close to thee. Thy tears are falling; He is nigh with His

“Why weepest thou?” Thou art seeking thy God, but thy soul is

restless, because it cannot find the Rock; He is nigh with His

“Whom seekest thou?” Thou hast left the city’s din behind thee,

and art alone with thyself; He is nigh, assuring thee that the fairest

vineyards are those which are received from the valley of troubling.

Thou art in communion with some kindred spirit, exchanging the

fears and joys of the mind that turns to heaven; He is nigh, rejoicing

to add Himself to the two or three. The story of Emmaus is indeed a

figure of the life-pilgrimage.  Bear from it the pledge that whosoever

is true to the light, is, though halting and uncertain may be his steps,

the neighbor to Jesus Christ — Jesus Himself near and in fellowship

with all communing and reasoning.

 

·         AND HOW? TEACHING, ALTHOUGH PERSONALLY

      UNRECOGNIZED.  What Christ was in His dealing with the two, He has

been in His dealing with His Church. During the past centuries He has been

“teaching and expounding the things concerning Himself.” Did He not

promise that the Holy Ghost would be the Guide into all truth, through the

glorifying of Him, the receiving of His and showing it to His own? What is

the witness for the fulfillment of this office? It is the history of the past

twenty centuries. The text from which the Holy Ghost has been preaching

is that which Jesus sounded (v. 26); and the way of the sermon is the

very way of Christ (v. 27). Moses and the prophets, apprehended in New

Testament light, have, for these centuries, been read, opened up, as the

treasury of the things of Christ. Thought and culture, devotion and

obedience, stand today where they stood yesterday — before the mighty

“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His

glory?” Is there not progressiveness in the teaching of the Holy Ghost?

There is development in Christianity. It has its permanent, but it has its

progressive, element also. It is only by little and little that the higher truth

of the kingdom enters the hearts of men. Precept must be on precept, line

on line, until the dispensation of the opening, when the Church, gathered

fully into the house of the Lord, will receive from-the pierced hand the

bread of the eternal life. So in personal history and experience. There is

One teaching us, even when we do not recognize who He is. Life is the

school in which the Holy Ghost is the Instructor. Christ and Christ’s love,

and the meaning of our existence as interpreted in Christ’s cross, is the

lesson in which we are taught. We pass from standard up to standard, the

book which regulates all the teaching being the Scriptures. Many are the

forms which the Holy Ghost, the Teacher, assumes; many are the agencies

through which He draws near. But if, with receptive minds, we are yielded

to Him, He is taking us step by step along the path of the manifold

education meant for the disciple of Jesus; expounding as we are able to

bear, stooping to our immaturities and weaknesses; A PRESENCE IN US

rather than external to us, stimulating thought and desire, kindling into fuller

flame the smoking flax; so that by-and-by we are able to say, “Did not our

heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He

opened to us the Scriptures?” (v. 32)

 

 

 

 

            The Risen Christ the Best Escort on the Pilgrimage of Life

                                                (vs. 13-35)

 

We left Peter in perplexity, but he and John must have returned to the rest

of the disciples, and reported the emptiness of the sepulcher, but that they

had not seen the Risen One (v. 24). John does not seem to have

communicated his own convictions unto the others. Most likely he is

turning the matter over in his mind, as contemplative and deep-thinking

men will do before giving a public pronouncement. Meanwhile there is a

dispersion of some of the disciples that very afternoon. Thomas seems to

have gone away, and to have remained away that night. And two of them

proceed seven or eight miles into the country to Emmaus, where their

home seems to have been. It is these two pilgrims that we are now to

follow. They leave the city, and their conversation is sad. They are

discussing the bright hopes which have been so lately quenched by the

crucifixion of their Lord. It is while so sad that Jesus joins them; for He

who had been the “Man of sorrows” and “acquainted with grief” is ever

breaking in upon men’s troubles to relieve them. His treatment of these

“unwilling skeptics,” as they have been lately called, is most instructive.

He probes their sorrow, gets an insight into its cause, gets them to state

their hopes, their disappointments, and the rumors they had heard of His

resurrection. On this basis, although apparently an unknown Stranger, He

proceeds to show them their error and slowness in not believing all that the

prophets have spoken about Messiah. Beginning, therefore, at Moses, He

expounds to them from all the prophets that Messiah must first suffer, and

then enter into His glory. The exposition was so brilliant and interesting,

that they felt their hearts burning within them during the process. Then,

under compulsion, He enters their lodging at Emmaus, sits down as Guest,

then proceeds as Host to distribute the food as at the sacramental meal.

Not till then did they recognize their risen Lord in the devout Being who

graced their board. Once recognized, and thus dispelling all their doubt, He

vanishes into the invisible. Such experience could not be quietly kept at

Emmaus. They resolve to return that very night to Jerusalem, to report

their interview, and how blessed an Escort Jesus had been in their

pilgrimage. They are in time for the manifestation of the Risen One to the

assembled disciples. We may learn from the narrative such lessons as these.

 

·         JESUS MAKES HIS ADVENT TO US WHEN OUR SOULS ARE

SAD. This is the very spirit of the dispensation. Thus He cried, “Come unto

me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”

(Matthew 11:28). And as the risen Saviour He prefers, we may well

believe, the house of mourning to the house of mirth. Not only so, but

when souls are in sad perplexity, when they are “unwilling skeptics” it is

His delight to come and be their Escort along life’s way, and lead them out

of gloom and difficulty into real peace and joy. Now, when we know how

accessible He is through prayer, we should never undertake any pilgrimage

without securing the companionship of Jesus.  (“O Lord, I know that the

way of man is not in himself:  it is not in man that walketh to direct

his steps.”  Jeremiah 10:23)

 

·         WE LEARN THAT JESUS IS OFTEN WITH US WHILE WE

KNOW IT NOT. Here was He with these two pilgrims, taking step by step

with them to Emmaus, and yet their eyes were so holden that they did not

know Him. He was near them, but they did not know Him. Is not this the

case with all of us? He is at our side, he takes every step with us, but we

are so blinded with care and preoccupation that we fail to see him or enjoy

His society as we should. The omnipresence of Jesus should be the

believer’s constant consolation.

 

·         JESUS IS HIMSELF AT ONCE THE GREAT SUBJECT AND THE

GREAT EXPOSITOR OF SCRIPTURE. Here we find Him, after listening

so sympathetically to all the difficulties of the disciples, proceeding to

expound to them, “in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself.”

(v. 27)  “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

And here it is well to notice what is the substance of the whole revelation.

It is put in these words of the risen Saviour, “Ought not Messiah to have                                                                                                                                                                                                          

suffered these things, and to have entered (εἰσελθεῖν - eiselthein - to be

entering) into His glory?” The Authorized and Revised Versions have alike

failed to give the proper rendering here.  Our Lord declares that He has entered

already into His glory, just as He has already passed through His sufferings.

We believe it can be made out from this and other passages that our Lord

ascended — of course invisibly — without disciples as spectators, to heaven,

and reported Himself on high immediately after telling Mary, “I ascend

[not ‘will ascend’] unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your

God” (John 20:17).  This supposition of an ascension on the very

day of the Resurrection enables us to understand His movements during the

rest of the day, and His bestowal of the Spirit, which was conditioned on

His glorification, in the evening (ibid. v. 22; compare ibid. ch. 7:39). It also

enables us to regard Heaven as His head-quarters during the forty days

before His visible ascension from Olivet. Upon this interesting subject we

cannot now dwell, however; but we content ourselves by pointing it out,

and emphasizing the fact of Jesus as the suffering and glorified Messiah

being the Hero, the Substance, and the great Expositor of revelation. It is

when we look for Him in the Word that it becomes luminous and delightful.

 

·         THE ENTERTAINMENT OF JESUS IS SURE TO LEAD TO

SPECIAL BLESSING. These two men insisted on Jesus sojourning with

them, because it was towards evening and the day was far spent. And as He

sojourned, He was transmuted from Guest to Host, and gave them a

sacramental instead of common feast. It is when devoutly asking a blessing

on the bread that He is recognized, only, however, to vanish like a vision

from their sight. Now we may pass through an analogous experience. Is

not this what is meant by the Master when He says, “Behold, I stand at the

door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come

in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20)? If

we are open-hearted, and welcome Jesus, He will enter our hearts and sup

with us, taking whatever we have to give Him, and delighting in it, and

enable us to sup with Him. He will change into a Host from being our

Guest. It was thus He acted at the marriage of Cana; it was thus He acted at

Emmaus; it was thus He acted on the Shore of the Galilaean lake. He may

be Guest, but He will soon show Himself to be our Host, and give us a feast

of fat things.

 

·         LIFE IS LARGELY A LIVING UPON HAPPY MEMORIES. AS

soon as the Risen One had vanished, they began to compare notes about

the burning heart, and all the happy memories of their journey from

Jerusalem. And as they plodded in that night through the dark to report

their great discovery, they lived upon the happy memory. But, had they

only known it, the risen Jesus was in some way making that return journey

to Jerusalem too, making for the same upper room, to reveal Himself to the

disciples, and their fellowship with Him might have been repeated. At all

events, we need not live on happy memories, but may enjoy Christ’s

spiritual presence and his escort all through the pilgrimage of life. It is this

which will make the present life a heaven, not by anticipation merely, but in

actual enjoyment; (“.... godliness is profitable in all things, having

promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (I Timothy 4:8)

for fellowship with Christ, even though He be unseen, is the chief element

of heaven. May we have the great Escort with us all the way!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

The Lord’s Appearance to the Apostles

               on the Evening of the First Easter Day (vs. 36-49)

 

36 “And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of

them,” -  John, who also gives an account of this appearance of the Risen,

adds the detail, “when the doors were shut” (John 20:26).  The eleven

and their friends were gathered together for counsel, probably too in hope

that something more would happen after what had already taken place that

Easter Day — the report of the holy women of the repeated vision of angels,

their own verification of the empty sepulcher, and above all the testimony of Peter

that he had seen the Lord. Into this anxious, waiting assembly the two

“Emmaus” disciples enter with their wondrous story. In the act of their

mentally comparing notes, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them. This

sudden presence there is evidently supernatural. He “stood in the midst of

them,” though the doors were carefully closed and barred “for fear of the

Jews” (Ibid. v. 19).  Rumors of the Resurrection, no doubt, had already

spread through the city, and it was uncertain whether such turnouts might

not be followed by the arrest of the chief followers of the Crucified – “and

saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” This was the ordinary Jewish greeting,

but on this occasion, spoken by the Lord, possessed more than the ordinary

meaning. This “peace” was His solemn, comforting greeting to His own,

just as “His peace” which He left with them on the sad Thursday eve was

His solemn farewell to the eleven, spoken, perhaps, in the same “upper room”

just before He went out to the garden of the agony.

 

 

 

                                    The Peace of Christ (v. 36)

 

It is true that these words, “Peace be unto you!” were the ordinary Jewish

salutation. But remembering that our Lord used these words a second time

in this interview (see John 20:21), and having in mind the way in which

He made these words His own, and gave to them not merely a formal but a

profound significance (John 14:27), we may find much meaning in

them. We recognize the fact that they were:

 

·         SPECIALLY APPROPRIATE TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES. The

minds of His apostles had passed through the deepest distress. They had

lost their Lord and their Friend; and with Him they had lost, as they

thought, their cause and their hopes; they were, therefore, afflicted with an

overwhelming grief. And now they were filled with the liveliest agitation.

They were in a mental state in which blighted hopes were struggling with

darkest fears; their soul was stirred to its very depths; and what, above all

things, they needed was One that could come and say, “Peace be unto

you!” It was the very word that was wanted to be breathed into their ear,

to be spoken to their heart.

 

·         ADMIRABLY DESCRIPTIVE OF HIS ABIDING MISSION. It is

true that Jesus once said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

(Matthew 10:34) But it will be found, on referring, that then He simply

meant to say that division and strife would be an inevitable incident of the

course of His gospel; He did not mean that this was its deep purpose or its long

and last result. It was the back-water, and not the main current, of the truth He

preached. Christ came to give peace to a world profoundly disturbed and

disquieted by sin. “Come unto me,” He said,” and I will give you rest.”

(ibid. 11:28)  Not as the world gives rest or peace does He give.

 

(1) Not mere comfort or gratification that is very short-lived;

(2) nor satisfaction that is based on ignorance of ourselves, and must

before long be exposed;

(3) nor the quiet of indifference or unbelief that must soon be broken up.

 

Not of this order is the peace of Christ. It is:

 

Ø      Rest to the burdened conscience. He shows us our sin and makes us

ashamed of it; He fills our heart with a true and righteous sorrow for it;

He awakes within us a just and honorable concern for the consequences

of it.  And then He offers Himself as the One who bore the burden

upon Himself, through whom we may find forgiveness and acceptance.

And “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our

Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 5:1)

 

Ø      Abiding gladness to the hungering heart.  In the world  the soul is

      unsatisfied, there are emptiness and heartache and a sense of

disappointment. But in Him is a true and lasting satisfaction. To live

heartily and wholly unto Him who loved us and gave Himself for us,

to expend our powers in His praise and in His service, — this is the

secret of lifelong peace.  All the lower springs will fail, but this never.

To “lose our life” unto Him is to “find it” and to keep it for ever.

(Matthew 1:39)

 

Ø      Comfort to the troubled spirit. When darkness falls upon the path, when

losses come, when bereavement makes a gap in the home and in the heart,

when some heavy disappointment blights the prospect, — then the felt

presence, the realized sympathy, and the unfailing succor of that

Divine Friend give a peace which is deeper than our disturbance,

a thrice-blessed calm to the tempest-tossed soul.

 

Ø      Peace in death. For many centuries the dying have departed in peace

      because they have hoped for everything through the Divine Saviour;

they have calmly “slept in Jesus;” and those who now look forward to

death as a passage through which they will be passing “from death

unto life” (John 5:24) can find no better wish or prayer than that

the music of HIS NAME” may “refresh their soul in death.”

 

37 “But they were terrified and affrighted,” -  They spoke one to

another of the Master; they discussed the empty sepulcher, the angelic

vision, the recital by Peter of his interview with the Risen, and were

listening to the details of the quiet Emmaus meeting, all hoping for

something more; but this sudden, mysterious appearance of their crucified

Master in their midst was not, after all, what they had looked for. It

terrified them – “and supposed that they had seen a spirit.”  How else

could they explain His presence in their midst, when the doors were shut?

The evangelists make no attempt to explain His sudden appearance. He was

simply there as they spoke of Him. It is clear that His presence could be

accounted for in no ordinary, natural way. His disciples felt that; hence

their supposition that they were looking on a spirit. We can, with our

present limited knowledge, form no adequate conception of this

resurrection-body of the Lord. It was a reality, no phantasm or appearance;

of that the scene about to be described gives us ample evidence. Still, it is

clear that His resurrection-body was not bound by the present conditions of

material existence of which we are conscious. Epiphanius ascribes to the

body of the risen Lord λεπτότης πνευματική - leptotaes pneumatikae

a spiritual subtilty,Euthymius uses similar language when he speaks of

“His body being now subtile, thin, and unmixed.” He could come into a closed,

barred room. He could be visible or invisible, known or unknown, as He

pleased and when He pleased.

 

38 “And He said unto them, Why are ye troubled t and why do

thoughts arise in your hearts?”  He had just given them His peace. He

proceeds further to allay their fears. Before showing them His pierced

hands and feet and side, before eating in their presence, He addresses these

comforting words to them: “See,” He seems to say, “I give you my peace:

why are ye troubled? why do you allow perplexing, harassing thoughts to

arise in your hearts? The past is forgiven and forgotten.” “I come not,” as

as a wrathful Judge to reckon with you for your unbelief and unfaithfulness.

I bring to you (and all the world) from my sepulcher something very different

 from up-braidings.”

 

39 “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself;” -  “See,” He

says, inviting the terror-stricken disciples to a calm, unaffrighted contemplation —

“see my hands and my feet pierced with the nails which fastened them to

the cross; it is I myself. “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh

and bones, as ye see me have.”  The first words quietly told the awestruck

ones to look closely at Him, and to ascertain from the dread marks He bore

that what they looked upon was Jesus their Master. Then He proceeded to bid

them touch Him, handle Him, and so assure themselves that it was no phantom,

no bodiless spirit, that stood before them. These words of the Lord, and the

invitation, “handle me, and see,” made the deepest impression on the hearers.

These, then, were proofs of the Resurrection that admitted of no shadow of doubt.

These words, this sight, changed their lives. What cared they afterwards for men

and men’s threatenings? Death, life, to them were all one. They had seen the Lord,

they had handled with their hands “that which was from the beginning” (see

I John 1:1). (Although it is impolite to stare, the word in this verse is ἐθεασάμεθα

etheasamethalook, gaze, - It is okay to stare at Christ! – CY – 2012) The

dying John is dwelling on the thought that when he is gone there will be none left

with men who saw and touched the Lord.

 

“If I live yet, it is for good, more love

Through me to men: be nought but ashes here

That keep awhile my semblance, who was John.

Still, when they scatter, there is left on earth

No one alive who knew (consider this!),

Saw with his eyes, and handled with his hands,

That which was from the first, the Word of life.

How will it be when none more saith, ‘saw I’?”

 

Browning (‘A Death in the Desert.’)

 

Some (but not the majority) of the older authorities omit this verse.  40“And when

He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet.”   It has been

suggested that the Jesus simply pointed to those parts of His body which were not

covered with clothing, and invited the disciples to touch these, and so to assure

themselves that He had actually flesh and bone.  It is suggested that the feet were

especially referred to because there was in the feet something more convincing

and touching than even in the hands, on account of the wonder that One who

had been so grievously wounded could move. The real reason, however, of the

Lord calling attention to the hands and feet comes out from John’s account of

this appearance of the Risen, for he adds that Jesus also showed them His side

(John 20:27).  Thus He pointed to the wounded members of His blessed body

to show that in the resurrection-body He retained these marks of His

wounds.  That He retained them now and for ever we know from the glorious

vision of the Revelation, where the wounded humanity of the Lord appears

enthroned and adored in the highest heaven: “Lo, in the midst of the throne

and of the four beasts [living creatures], and in the midst of the elders,

stood a Lamb as it had been slain(Revelation 5:6). Our Master and God

retains these as the glorious tokens of His victory and atonement.  Perhaps

we can see the same with respect to the martyrs???!!!!!!!!!

 

41 “And while they yet believed not for joy,” -  The awful joy of the disciples

now was something too deep for words, even for calm belief. John records it, too,

with simple pathos. “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord”

(John 20:20).  This was the fulfillment of His promise to them, when, full of sadness,

they were listening to Him that last solemn Passover evening in the upper room.

“Ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall

 rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (Ibid. ch.16:22). In after-days,

as John preached and taught in his old age, how the remembrance of that hour must

have stirred in his heart when he thus wrote of it! - “and wondered, He said unto

them, Have ye here any meat?  42 And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish,

and of an honeycomb.”  The Master would not permit this state of wondering ecstasy

to continue; so He changes the current of their thoughts by thus descending into the

region of everyday life, at the same time powerfully demonstrating by this further

proof that, though changed, His resurrection, body was no mere Docetic

semblance, no phantom, but that He could eat if He chose. 43 “And He took it,

and did eat before them.”  This verse tells simply how He took the food, and ate

before them. The fish and honeycomb which they gave Him no doubt formed the

staple of their evening meal. Fish was part of the common food of the disciples —

we see this from the miracles of the five thousand and the four thousand,

and also from the narrative of  John 21:9. Honey, we know, in Canaan,

the land flowing with milk and honey, was common enough to enter into

the diet of the poor (compare, among many passages, Exodus 3:8,17;

Deuteronomy 26:9, 15; Jeremiah 11:5; Isaiah 7:15, 22; Matthew 3:4).

 

 

 

                                    Christ and His Church (vs. 36-43)

 

·         THE CHURCH. It is found in miniature in the upper room — “The

eleven, and them that were with them.”

 

Ø      Its separation. It is isolated from the outer world. A new bond, a new

manner, of union is already realized. It is not of the world, as Christ

Himself was not. There is a door shut between the little flock and the

Jews. A supreme attraction to Him whom the world sees not, an

affiance of soul of which the world knows not, unites the company,

and, in thus uniting, separates it. It has a secret with which the world

does not intermeddle.

 

Ø      Its unity.

 

o       That stands in Christ. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have

      chosen you” (John 15:16). The Church is not a mere voluntary

association; it is a spiritual organism rooted and grounded in

the Man Christ Jesus — in what He is and has done, in His

Divine-human Person, and the offices which He executes

as Redeemer.

 

o       It is realized through continuance in the apostles’ doctrine and

fellowship. “The eleven, and those with them.” Christ had

looked through the ages down to the end of the time, and thus

had spoken: “I pray for those who shall believe on me through

the word of the men whom thou didst give me.” (John 17:20)

Here the eleven form the center of the company. There is a

definite word on which the Church is built. It has not a mere

collection of” memoranda;” it is not an institution of “hazy

outlines.” It has a distinct testimony — that of the apostles

and prophets. And there is a social life, a fellowship, by which

it “makes increase to self-edifying in love” — the fellowship

which continues that which is witnessed to in the assembly of

the eleven and those with them. Remember, it is fellowship,

all holding themselves to be fellows in Christ, exchanging

their experiences, imparting the gift which each has received,

that it may tend to quicken the faith and love of all “As they

thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst” (v. 36).

 

·         CHRIST. He had promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will

come to you.” (John 14:18)  Behold the fulfillment and the way of the

fulfillment of this promise. Behold Him present in His Church.

 

Ø      The sovereignty of the presence. On a sudden He stands in the midst.

They are not expecting Him. He comes through barred doors. It is the

day of His power. Christ prescribes means; He ordains channels of

grace; and, where there is the obedience of faith in the use of the

means, there is blessing. “Where two or three are gathered together,

there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)  But in all that

speaks of spiritual life, there is the witness for a spiritual sovereignty,

for reserves of power in the hands of the Lord Himself. The new birth

is a secret and a surprise (John 3:7-8).

 

Ø      It is the personal Jesus who is present to blessJesus Himself.

      (v. 36.) Above and beyond the mere teaching and fellowship, there

is the Lord.  Christianity is Christ. The full blessing, that which

wholly fills the soul, is Himself in felt relation with each self.

“Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us Wisdom,

Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption”  (I Corinthians 1:30).

 

Ø      The announcement of the presence is peace. (v. 36.) One of the last

words before He suffered was “peace.” It was the legacy of the dying

Saviour. The salutation of the risen Saviour is, “Peace to you!” — the

customary salutation transformed and glorified. His immanence in the

Church is evidenced by the breathing of peace over human souls.

“Peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1);

 “The peace of God which passeth all understanding.” (Philippians

4:7)

 

Ø      The complete benediction of the presence.

 

o        Fears and doubts are scattered. The disciples are terrified and

      affrighted (v. 37). They are afraid at His tokens. Skepticisms reassert

themselves. A Church, a Christian, wanting in spiritual enthusiasm,

with a low spiritual temperature, is subject to the fogs of doubt. Its

action is crippled by a subtle skepticism. When He is realized as truly

in the midst, the fogs are dispelled. There is a counteracting why

(v. 38). In the psalms (Psalm 42.) the soul, dark-and doubtful, asks,

“Why hast thou forgotten me?” Its questioning is dispelled through

another why: Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” The blessed

Jesus-question to poor confused humanity is, “Why art thou troubled?

and why do thoughts arise in thy heart?” As the Sun of

Righteousness shines into the soul, the melancholy, perplexing

thoughts scatter, the clouds whose banks lie so low on the heart’s

horizon flee away.

 

o        The evidence of the sacrifice establishes the faith. (vs. 39-40.) He

shows the pierced hands and feet — the wounds whence comes the

healing, the death whence has come the life. And, even in the glory

into which He has entered, the print of the nails is seen. The gaze of

the redeemed who share that glory is ever towards the Lamb that was

slain. “Worthy is the Lamb!”

 

Michael W. Smith - Agnus Dei - Bing video

 

 

o        The full revelation is the Divine humanity. (vs. 41-43.) While they

believe, and yet can scarcely believe, for the joy seems too great and

too wonderful, He eats the fish and honeycomb before them. It is no

ghost who is in that room; it is very man of very man. And this is

the abiding consciousness and strength of the Church. It presents

the true humanity. It has the true humanitarianism. THE CHRIST

IS HE  “who liveth and was dead,and is alive for evermore.”

(Revelation 1:18)  AND IN HIM humanity is:

 

§         fulfilled,

§         represented, and

§         redeemed.

 

This is the truth of the social life of the Church. The Church

is not a mere institute for instruction and worship; it is a social state

built up in the ever-abiding humanity of Jesus Christ. Thus, in the

upper room at Jerusalem, on the first Easter night, there is an

apocalypse of the great mystery, Christ and the Church.

 

 

 

The Full Revelation is the Divine Humanity (vs. 41-43)

 

While they believe, and yet can scarcely believe, for the joy seems too great and

too wonderful, He eats the fish and honeycomb before them. It is no ghost who

is in that room; it is very man of very man.  The Christ is He “who liveth and was

dead, and is alive for evermore”  (Revelation  1:18).  And in Him humanity is:

 

o       fulfilled,

o       represented, and

o       redeemed.

 

Of what service to us are these physical facts here recorded — His eating with the two

at Emmaus; the sound of the familiar voice in many words of conversation; the sight of

His hands and feet with the imprint of the cruel nails; the sight and feeling of the

“flesh and bones,” which a spirit has not but which they found He had; and the act

of sitting down at the table and eating of the fish and honeycomb before their eyes?

The sight of His face, the sound of His voice, the style of His speech, the handling of

His limbs (“handle me, and see,” v. 39), supplemented by His eating and drinking

before them, — all this at length convinced their incredulity that it was indeed the risen

Lord Himself, returned according to His word. And all this accumulated evidence of

All the senses is as good for us as it was for them. We are thankful for this

multiplication of the material evidence, for, taken with other considerations, it

substantiates the great fact of facts, and gives to us not only a marvelously original

Thinker, but an unmistaken and faultless Exemplar, a Divine Lord and Master.

The human senses never rendered to the human soul so great a service as when

they attested the supreme fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But they still do

render very valuable service in every Christian life.  (Remember, man is a trinity.

The body connects the soul to the world; the soul connects the spirit the body,

and the spirit connects the soul to God! – CY – 2012)

 

o       The control and regulation of our senses for Christ’s sake and in

obedience to His word is a continual tribute to the power of His truth.

o       Our feet can carry us forth on errands of Christian charity,

o       Our hands can be put daily to deeds of righteousness, of justice, of

excellency.

o       Our lips can sing the praises of our Lord, and can speak words of

kindness to the young, of sympathy to the suffering and sorrowing,

of hope to the dying.

o       Our eye can read, our ears can heal the truths which impart or which

sustain the inner life of the spirit. Through our bodily senses God’s

own living truth, and with His truth himself also, comes continually

into our soul; and through these same senses there go forth from us

all healing, all helpful, all saving influences to the world; and thus we

enrich and are enriched

 

 

The next six verses do not record sayings uttered the same first Easter evening.

They are, in fact, a very brief summary of instructions given by the Master on

different occasions during the forty days which elapsed between the Resurrection

and the Ascension. 

 

In considering the reasons of the omission of any special reference to the

Galilaean appearances of the risen Lord, two points must be borne in mind:

 

  • Neither Luke nor Paul had any personal reminiscences, like Matthew,

or Mark (who wrote down, we believe, Peter’s memories), or John.

Luke was dependent on other sources altogether.

 

  • Luke, when he wrote the Gospel bearing his name, probably proposed

to complete his recital of the close of the earthly ministry of the Lord in his

second work, the Acts of the Apostles. His knowledge of what took place

after the Resurrection was evidently derived from a source unfamiliar with

the Galilaean manifestations of the risen Lord.

 

Luke’s knowledge of the Ascension seems to have been most precise.  He evidently

lays great stress upon the importance of this last scene, both as a piece of evidence

and as a theme of teaching; for he not only concludes his Gospel with it, but

commences his book of the Acts with the same recital, accompanied with further

details.

 

 

                        Sense and Spirit: the Resurrection (vs. 33-43)

 

The story of the Resurrection in its relation to the disciples of our Lord

suggests to us thoughts concerning:

 

·         THE TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT OVER THE FLESH. These two

disciples who had walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and who persuaded

the mysterious Stranger to remain because the day was far gone, and

subsequently spent some time in earnest converse with Him, now hastened

back to Jerusalem (v. 33). This was quite contrary to their intention

when they set out from the city; it was not in the natural order of things to

start out again on a long two-hours’ walk after the fatigues of that eventful

day. But their minds were so enlarged, their hearts so filled with joy, their

souls so stirred with animating and vivifying hope, that they could not

remain where they were; they must impart the transporting and

transforming tidings to the crushed and sorrowing brethren they had left

behind them that afternoon. It was late and dark, and (when they thought

of it) they were tired. But what were these considerations? They were

things not to be entertained for a moment, they were a mere feather’s

weight in the scale; and we may be certain that they set off to Jerusalem

with a much lighter step in the evening, and far more alacrity of spirit, than

they left that city in the afternoon of the day. In one sense “we are but dust

and ashes,” but “animated clay;” our soul is subject to certain limitations

from its close connection with the body. Yet can the spirit triumph nobly

over the flesh. Let but the kindling truth come down from heaven, let the

Divine hand but touch the secret springs of the soul, and all our bodily

sensations and our lower instincts go down and disappear. Fatigue, loss,

danger, death itself, is nothing to a soul alight with the celestial fire. A new

hope, a new faith, a new purpose, can carry the weary frame along the

dusty road of duty, or up the steep ascent of arduous or dangerous

achievement, better than angels’ wings. Our true self is not the tabernacle

of the flesh, but the indwelling and victorious spirit.

 

·         THE ESSENTIAL SERVICE WHICH THE FLESH RENDERS TO

THE SPIRIT. Christianity is essentially spiritual. It makes its appeal to the

spiritual nature; its aim is spiritual; and the weapons of its warfare are also

spiritual — the efforts of the spirit of man and the energies of the Spirit of

God. But it rests largely on a basis of facts attested by our senses — the

fact of the Incarnation, “God manifested in the flesh,” the “Word made

flesh:”

 

Ø      the fact of the miracles of Christ, miracles wrought before the eyes

of men, and assured by their sensible observation of them;

 

Ø      the fact of a blameless life lived in the bodily presence of eye-witnesses;

 

Ø      the fact of the death at Calvary, borne witness to by those who actually

      beheld it; and

 

Ø      the great crowning fact of the Resurrection, the return of Jesus Christ

      in the flesh to His disciples.

 

The entire fabric of our religion rests upon the history of the Man

Christ Jesus; and the acceptance of Him as a Divine Teacher,

whose word can be trusted and whose character can be honored, stands

or falls with the truth of the Resurrection. For if He did not rise again,

            He certainly was not the One He claimed to be

 

 

A Summary of Some of the Lords Last Words (vs. 44-49)

 

44 “And He said unto them, These are the words which I spoke

unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled,

which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in

the Psalms, concerning me.”  (See v. 27).  The words, “while I was yet with

you,”plainly show that, in the Master’s mind, the period of His sojourn with men

was, in the human sense of the expression, past. His abode now was

elsewhere. This and the next verse (45) probably refer to what the Master

said that first Easter evening to the assembled disciples, but the exact fixing

the time in the forty days (the time specially mentioned by Luke in the

Acts as elapsing between the Resurrection and the Ascension, Acts 1:3)

is of comparatively small importance. What is, however, of real moment is

the weight Jesus showed that He attached to Old Testament words and

types and prophecies by this repeated mention. If one should read the Old

Testament Scriptures without knowing to whom and to what they everywhere

point, the New Testament clearly directs his understanding, and places him

under an obligation, if he would be a sound Christian teacher, to acknowledge

its authority and interpret accordingly. (The Old Testament points to Christ;

the Gospels tell the story of Christ; the Epistles point to the throne and the

book of Revelation tells the story of the throne)  Doubt as to the validity of our

Lord and of His apostles’ method of expounding, involves necessarily a

renunciation of Christianity.  They who consult the teaching of Jesus and His

apostles with respect to the prophecies concerning the Messiah, need not grope in

uncertainty, but should, nevertheless, remember that the Lord probably

directed the attention of the disciples, on this occasion (He is referring to

the walk to Emmaus), less to isolated Scriptures than to the whole tenor of

the Old Testament in its typical and symbolical character.

 

45 “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand

the Scriptures.”  Assuming (as is most probably the case) that vs. 44-45 refer

to words spoken by Jesus on the first Easter evening to the eleven and to Cleopas

and his friend, then the way in which He opened their understanding is described

in John 20:22 thus:  “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye

the Holy Ghost.” Among the new powers bestowed on them by this Divine gift,

Luke especially dwells on the spiritual insight henceforth possessed by these

Men into the Scriptures of the Old Testament, hitherto only partly understood.

This power was doubtless one of the great instruments of their success as

preachers.

 

Along with the outward exposition, therefore, of the Scripture references to

Himself, there is given the inward inspiration. It is this which made these

men such masters of the sacred oracles so far as they indicate Christ’s

mission. With opened understandings, with inspired hearts, the once sealed

book became an open secret, and the fountain-head of missionary

enterprise. And the witnesses need similar enlightenment still. By waiting

on the Master prayerfully and studiously we shall obtain the key to

interpretation, and have the fairy palaces unlocked for us.

 

 

 

    The Divine Spirit and the Human Understanding (v. 45)

 

It may be that we do not sufficiently recognize the very intimate connection

between our human intelligence and the action of the Spirit of God. We

may be seriously in danger of coming short in gratitude for all that God has

wrought for us in this respect, and in prayer for His continued and especial

help in the future.

 

·         THE DIVINE ENDOWMENT WITH WHICH HE STARTS US ON

OUR COURSE. We receive from His creative hand a kind and a measure

of intellectual power which may be said to vary with each individual of the

human race. To one He giveth five talents, to another two, to another one.

And it is not only difference in measure, but also in kind. The human spirit

has many faculties, and one man has a large share of one and another a

goodly share of another, “as it pleaseth Him.”  (I Corinthians 12:18)

Most happily for us, there is every possible variety of human understanding

resulting from the different capacities and dispositions with which our

Creator endows us.

 

·         THE BENEFICENT LAW OF EXPANSION HE HAS ORDAINED

FOR US. The law under which we live, and under which our understanding

grows, is this — “to him that hath is given.” We observe, we hear and

read, we reflect, we reason, we construct and produce; and as we do this,

we grow — our intelligence is opened and enlarged. Thus by the operation

of one of His wise and kind laws God is “opening our understanding” every

day, but more particularly in the earlier days of curiosity and of study.

Youth has but to do its rightful and proper work, and God will do his

gracious, enlarging work; and thus He will “build up” a mind, well stored

with knowledge and wisdom, capable of great and noble service.

 

·         THE SPECIAL ILLUMINATIONS HE HAS GRANTED AND IS

WILLING TO IMPART.

 

Ø      God has given to members of our race illumination or expansion of mind

which we pronounce miraculous, i.e. not in accordance with known laws.

Such was the inspiration He gave to Moses when He inspired him to write

his books; or that He gave to Samuel, to Elijah, to Isaiah, to Zechariah,

when He moved these prophets to remonstrate with or to exhort their

contemporaries, or to write words that should live for all time on the

sacred page; or that He gave to these two disciples when He opened their

understanding that they might understand the Scriptures as they had never

understood them before; or that He gave to the Apostles Peter and Paul and

John when He prompted them to speak as they spoke and to write as they

wrote. Here was an altogether unusual and supernatural enlightenment and

enlargement of mind granted for the special purpose of making known His

mind and will to the race of man.

 

Ø      God still imparts special illumination to us according to our need and in

response to our prayer. The “age of miracles” may be past, but assuredly

the age of Divine illumination is not passed. God remains, and will remain,

in constant communication with His human children; He has, and ever will

have, access to their understanding; He can touch and quicken us, can

enlarge and equip our minds for special service in His Name and cause, can

make clear to our minds those things which have been obscure, whether in

His Word or in His providence, so that we can “understand the Scriptures,”

and also interpret His dealing with ourselves and His fashioning of our lives.

Three things become us.

 

o        A sense of our own insufficiency — insufficiency both for

comprehending what we are called upon both to consider and (as far

as may be) to understand, and for doing the work of explanation and

enforcement which is required of us.

 

o        Faith in Godin His observation of us; in His interest in our humble

endeavors to take our part and do our work; in His power over us to

“open our understanding” as well as to “open our heart” (Acts 16:14;

see Ephesians 1:18; II Timothy 2:7).

 

o        Prayer for Divine illumination. Lacking wisdom, let us ask of God,

“who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not (James 1:5-6);

see Colossians 1:9; Ephesians 1:16-17). Whenever we read the

Scriptures that we may learn the “mind of Christ” (Philippians

2:5); whenever we stand up to speak in His Name, when ever we set

ourselves to any effort that requires spiritual wisdom, we do well to

pray in the spirit, if not in the language, of our great poet:

 

“Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer

Before all temples the upright heart and pure,

Instruct me; for thou know’st:… What in me is dark,

                                                Illumine! What is low, raise and support!”

 

In vs. 46-49, Luke evidently briefly summarizes the Master’s great sayings, some

probably spoken in the course of the walk to Emmaus, some on that first Easter

evening, some on other occasions during the forty days which elapsed between the

Resurrection and the Ascension. The introductory words, “and said unto them”

(v. 46), seem the commencement of. this summary,

 

46 “And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to

suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.”  The majority of the older

authorities omit the words, “and thus it behoved.” The verse should be

read thus: “Thus it is written that Christ should suffer,” etc. These words

probably were spoken on that first Easter evening. They were apparently

repeated on several occasions during the forty days. The Old Testament

they would see now with the new light cast upon it — showed the

necessity of an atoning Redeemer, from the sin which it everywhere

reveals, and of a dying Redeemer, from the death which it proclaims as the

consequence. While the same Scriptures no less authoritatively proclaim

that through this suffering the Redeemer-Messiah should attain to His

glorification.

 

47 “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name

among all nations,” -  To these benefits “all nations” are to have access!  This is

more definitely expressed in Matthew 28:19 and  Mark 16:15, where the universality

of His message, here summarized, is found in the  form of a definite command - 

“beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke enlarges the thought contained in these words

in Acts 1:8.  Psalm 110:2, contains the prophecy that from  Zion should first proceed

the proclamation.

 

 

 

                                                The Solemn Charge (v. 47)

 

It is an allowable curiosity to wonder how the apostles of our Lord received this

“their solemn charge.”

 

1. They must have been greatly impressed by its extreme seriousness; they

were to preach repentance and remission of sin “among all nations.” And

although they did not know as we do what that meant, and how wide was

the range of the Saviour’s purpose, they could realize as we cannot how

deep and bitter would be the enmity which a gospel of the crucified

Nazarene would encounter, more especially in Jerusalem.

 

2. But they were powerfully sustained by the presence of the

Lord Himself. The “power of His resurrection” was then upon their souls;

they were to go forth in His Name, who had just triumphed over man’s last

and greatest enemy — death. What could they not do through Him? If we

ask what was the message, in its fulness, which they were charged to

deliver, we reply:

 

 

 

·         REPENTANCE AS CHRIST HAD PREACHED IT. They were to

preach repentance in his Name. Therefore of the kind which He demanded.

And this was no mere outward amendment; it was not found in the external

habits of devotion; no amount of almsgiving, fasting, prayers, would

constitute it. It meant:

 

Ø      Self-condemnation. Not necessarily the exhibition of overwhelming

emotion, but the decided and deep conviction of:

 

o       our own unworthiness, and

o       real regret for wrong done and

o       for service withheld in the past.

 

Ø      The return of the heart to God. The coming back from the far country

      of estrangement, or forgetfulness, or denial and open enmity, and the

seeking anew the Father’s face and favor.

 

Ø      The outcasting from the soul of all tolerance of evil, so that sin

      is not only shunned but hated.

 

Ø      The pursuit of all moral excellency; to be attained by the study and the

love of the great Exemplar Himself. And this repentance, real and

thorough, was to be immediate. There was to be no guilty and dangerous

postponement; as soon as the soul recognized its duty it was to start on

the true and right course.

 

 

·         REMISSION AS CHRIST OFFERED IT. And this was:

 

Ø      Full. It was a forgiveness without reserve. The son (of the parable, ch.

15.) was not relegated to the servants’ hall, though he had thought of

asking for no more than that. He was admitted to the full honor of

sonship; he was to wear the best robe and the ring, and he was to sit down

to the table which was loaded in his honor. The mercy we receive through

Christ, and which is to be offered “in his Name,” is no imperfect thing;

it is full, entire, complete. All past transgressions are absolutely forgiven,

so that they will never be alleged against us or stand between us and the

love of God. We ourselves are:

 

o       taken into the gracious favor of our heavenly Father,

o       admitted to His family, counted among His own children,

constituted His heirs,

o       having freest access to His presence, and

o       welcome to call Him by the most endearing name.

 

Ø      Immediate. There is no probation or apprenticeship to be served; we

have not to wait to approve ourselves; we are not sentenced to any form

of expiation by menial service before we gain our childhood. AT ONCE,

so soon as we return in spirit unto God, that moment we are welcomed

to the side and to the home of our Father.

 

Ø      In faith. We are to seek and to find forgiveness “in Christ’s Name,” i.e.

in the exercise of a simple but living faith in Him as in our Divine

Saviour.  So the apostles evidently understood their Master (see Acts

10:43; 13:38-39;  I Peter 1:8-9; I John 2:12). Thus the ascended

Saviour instructed (Acts 26:18) the “abortive-born apostle”

(I Corinthians 15:8), and thus that faithful witness continually

taught (Ibid. 20:21). Those who speak for Christ are to invite all

sinful men to put their trust in Him, the Saviour of mankind, the

“Propitiation for the sins of the world” (Romans 3:25), and, accepting

 Him as such, to take the full, free mercy of God unto eternal life.

 

Such was the message which the apostles were solemnly charged to

deliver. There was in this great instruction:

 

o       One charge which they were more particularly to observe — they

were to begin at Jerusalem. It was right they should begin there,

for it was there that all “these things” (v. 48) were known and

could be attested; and, beginning there, the grace and the

magnanimity of the Crucified One would be more abundantly

manifested.

 

o       Another, which more particularly affects ourselves — this

      message of mercy is to be carried to “all nations.” It is “the

common salvation,” (Jude 1:3) NEEDED BY ALL and

FITTED FOR ALL to work out  and send forth FOR

WHICH THE LORD JESUS LIVED AND

DIED!

 

48  “And ye are witnesses of these things.”  This personal witness of the

first preachers of Christianity was the secret of their great power over men’s hearts.

“We have seen, and do testify” (I John 4:14-16).   He (John) had no labored

process to go through; he saw. He had no constructive proof to develop;

he bore witness. His source of knowledge was direct, and his mode of

bringing conviction was to affirm.

 

They were to be witnesses of the greatest things that were ever seen in the history

of mankind and the practical acceptance of which, DEPENDED THE LIFE

AND THE HOPE OF THE WORLD!  It was a message of  MERCY and

HOPE to be delivered to all mankind in the name of this GREAT TEACHER,

HEALER, SUFFERER, CONQUEROR!

 

Every Christian man:

 

  • has the truth of Christ on which to feed,
  • the example of Christ to follow, and
  • the Holy Spirit of Christ to whom to look for His indwelling power.

 

There are many who will not listen, but there are those who will.  (See Acts 28:24)

 

  • The young, who have a spirit of docility and inquiry;
  • the sick and the sad, to whom “the consolation which is in Christ”

is the one thing that heals and calms;

  • the poor, to whom the pearl of great price is welcome, and who are

willing to be made “rich toward God;”

  • the disappointed and the weary, who are glad to know of One who

can give “rest unto the soul;” — these will receive our testimony.

 

 

                                                Bearing Witness (v. 48)

 

These brief words, “Ye are witnesses,” being among the very last which

Jesus spoke to His apostles, must have lingered in their ear for the rest of

their life. In moments of doubt, or of depression, or of danger, the

remembrance that their Lord and Leader had charged them to be his

witnesses may well have stirred and strengthened them to fresh courage

and to renewed activity. They are words that may well stimulate us also to

duty and self-sacrifice.

 

·         THE UNIQUE SERVICE RENDERED BY THE APOSTLES. They

were witnesses of “those things,” the greatest things that were ever seen

and ever attested in the history of mankind; things they were on the full and

true statement of which, on the cordial and practical acceptance of which,

depended the life and the hope of the world. They could face all with

whom they came in contact, and declare that they:

 

o       saw with their own eyes,

o       heard with their own ears,  and

o       witnessed in their own persons:

 

1. A perfectly beautiful, a spotless human life, in which, though they saw it

under all possible circumstances and when under least constraint or

reserve, they could find no flaw at all (I Peter 2:22).

 

2. Works of power, which were invariably works of pity and of kindness,

of such a nature that there was no possibility of mistake.

 

3. Words of truth and grace such as mortal lips had never spoken, and such

as met the deepest wants of man’s hungering heart, of his yearning and

aspiring soul.

 

4. Sufferings and sorrows beyond what others knew, borne with a patience

that was sublime.

 

5. A death undergone in shame and pain, amid natural wonders and with

more than human nobility.

 

6. A glorious resurrection from the grave.

 

7. A message of mercy and hope to be delivered to all mankind in the name

of this great Teacher, Healer, Sufferer, Conqueror.

 

·         THE VALUABLE SERVICE WHICH IS OPEN TO US ALL.

 

Ø      We also can testify, in word, to “these things.” We leave, and are

content to leave, some mysteries which belong to the Christian faith; we do

not try, as we need not try, either to explain or to understand them. But

“these things,” which the world needs to know for its inward peace and its

true prosperity, we can speak. We are familiar with the holy and beautiful

life of Jesus Christ. We know the thought, we “have the mind of Christ” on

all the deepest and highest subjects with which our character and our

destiny are bound up. We are conversant with the sufferings and the

sorrows of the Saviour; for the story of His Passion is better known by us

than any other history whatsoever — it is not only in our memory, it is in

our heart. We can speak of His death and of His triumph over the grave. We

know well what is the message of truth and grace He desires to be declared

to the whole world. We can speak of Him and for Him.

 

Ø      And we can find an audience. There are many who will not listen to us,

but there are those who will. The young, who have a spirit of docility and

inquiry; the sick and the sad, to whom “the consolation which is in Christ”

is the one thing that heals and calms; the poor, to whom the pearl of great

price is welcome, and who are willing to be made “rich toward God;” the

disappointed and the weary, who are glad to know of One who can give

“rest unto the soul;” — these will receive our testimony.

 

Ø      We can bear the best and truest witness of the life. What men want to be

convinced of is that Christianity is a living power; that it not only has very

fine sentiments to teach — these can be found elsewhere — but that it is a

moral and spiritual power that:

 

o        can save the lost,

o        can cleanse the foul,

o        can soften the hard-hearted,

o        can humble the proud,

o        can arouse the indifferent and obtuse,

o        can infuse cheerfulness and joy into the heart of the poor and

             lowly,

o        can give rest of spirit to those who are encompassed by the cares of

time,

o        can fill the soul with tender sympathy and prompt to generous and

self-denying succor,

o        can substitute a forgiving for a vindictive spirit in the wronged,

o        can enable its possessors to gain a victory over themselves and

over the world and to crown a victorious life by a death of calm

tranquility and joyful hope.

 

Here is scope for witness-bearing; and, as every Christian

man has the truth of Christ on which to feed, the example of Christ to

follow, and the Holy Spirit of Christ to whom to look for His indwelling

power, it is open to every disciple to be a witness, whose testimony shall

be valuable on earth and acceptable in heaven.

 

49 “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you:” -  Promised

on the last Passover evening (John 14-16; see especially John 14:16-26; 15:26-27;

16:7-15), and fulfilled partly on the first Easter evening, when He breathed on them

(Ibid. ch.20:22), and completely on the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41) – “but tarry

ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”  

These words apparently were spoken on the day of His ascension (see Acts 1:4).

The disciples are encouraged by the Lord to wait for this at Jerusalem, for work

without spiritual power would be useless. And they waited, and were made

world-conquerors by the gift of power. So ought the Lord’s people to wait for

power still.

 

“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of

The Lord Jesus:  and great power was upon them all.”  (Ibid. 4:33)

The secret was the power of the Holy Ghost resting upon them, opening their eyes

that they might see, quickening their souls that they might feel, nerving their hearts

that they might stand, strengthening their hands that they might labor and achieve.

 

 

The Instruction of the Apostles (vs. 44-49)

 

The words contained in these verses are a summary of the instruction given by the risen

Lord during the forty days in which He showed Himself alive after His Passion. They

are not to be regarded as the outline of only one discourse, following the appearance

to the eleven recorded in the previous verses; they are rather the heads of the teaching

which was imparted in the great period between the Resurrection and the Ascension.

We must suppose the evangelist to be hurrying to a close in this portion of his history,

and to be giving us a brief sketch of the words and actions of our Lord which are

summed up in the expression “Jesus had given commandment unto the apostles.”

(Acts 1:2).  Note the points in this instruction.

 

  • THE SWORD WHICH HIS CHURCH IS TO WIELD. (vs. 44, 45;)

As Paul afterwards said, “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of

God” (Ephesians 6:17).   The Lord gives the treasury from which the Church

is to draw:

 

o       The Law,

o       the prophets,

o       the psalms,

 

the Scriptures; but these writings, with the key to their inner meaning, to their

saving force — “all things in them concerning me.” The great word spelt

through all the books — each book forming as it were a letter of the word —

is “CHRIST!”  And not only so; these Scriptures are to be expounded and

enforced in the light and through the skill of the opened understanding. This is

the secret of the effect; it is this that makes them the sword. Only when they are

thus the weapon of the Spirit, illuminating the mind of the teacher, as well as

acting on the conscience of the hearer, are they quick and powerful. “For the

Word of the Lord is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-

edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and

spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the

thoughts and intents of the heart”  (Hebrews 4:12).  The opening of the

understanding is spoken of as a definite action at a definite time. “THEN

 opened He their understanding.’What a new light is then shed

on the sacred page! What a blessed “EUREKA!” is then realized!

The foolish and slow in heart go forth with the sword of the Spirit,

“conquering and to conquer.”  (Revelation 6:2)

 

  • THE MESSAGE WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO DELIVER (v.46.)

The message is:

 

o       the Christ whom God has sent, and the world needs

o       the historical Christ, incarnate, suffering, crucified, risen;

o       this Christ presented as the fulfillment of all Scripture,

 the CONSUMATION OF DIVINE THOUGHT AND PURPOSE,

o       “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”

o       the Prophet, Priest, and King, by whom man is redeemed, in

whom the nature and want, the hope and desire, of all nations

are interpreted.

 

The Church is called to teach that “thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to

 rise from the dead the third day.” Wide is the environment of truth, and the

Church must keep this environment in its vision; but this is the center of

all the circle.

 

  • THE CONDITIONS OF FELLOWSHIP IN THE KINGDOM OF

GOD WHICH IT IS TO DECLARE (v. 47).  The beginning of the

gospel preached by Christ was the word “repent” (Matthew 4:17).

Now He solemnly and emphatically urges that repentance is to be the great

fact in New Testament preaching. The end to be ever before the Church is

“to open the eyes, and turn men from darkness to light, and from the

power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).  And with this repentance is to be

associated the blessing of the kingdom, “remission of sins;” i.e. the sending

of the guilt and power of sin away from between the soul and God, and

thus making the inner vision clear, inspiring with the consciousness of the spirit

of adoption and the spirit of brotherhood, confirming in the liberty wherewith

Christ makes free. In the name of Christ, all nations are to be summoned to

repent, and receive this remission; the voice lifted up with strength, “There

is none other Name given under heaven among men whereby we must

 be saved.”  (Acts 4:12).

 

  • THE WITNESS WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO REALIZE. (v.48)

 

Ø      Its range. “Among all nations.” The universality and catholicity of the

Christian word, of the Christian Church, are asserted, with regal authority,

at the conference on the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:18-20).

 

Ø      Its course. “Beginning at Jerusalem.” There, where the Lord of glory

was crucified, the first call to repentance is to be sounded, the first offer of

the Christ for the remission of sins is to be made. So it was (Acts 2.). But,

from Jerusalem, the course of the witness is ever outward — “to Judaea,

Samaria, the uttermost parts of the earth.” We are first to find our

own;  but the love which begins, is never to stop, at home.

 

Ø      Its power. (v. 49.) Not in the witnessing man or woman; not in the

things witnessed to; not in word, ordinance, ministry; no, the power is

from on high. Christ reasserts what He taught in the last discourse

before He suffered. The great consolation then was the promise of the

Father — that in which His Fatherly love and will are expressed, His

great promise to His Son — the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost

who testifies of Him. He is not the accompaniment of the Church; the

Church is His accompaniment. “He shall testify of me: and ye also

shall bear witness” (John 15:26-27; 16:7-14). Now, in the forty days’

instruction, He repeats this word. He reminds us that the power of

witnessing is a descent from on high, the anointing of the man by the

Holy Spirit. Two things are said — the one, the declaration that

the promise is imminent, “I am sending it;” and the other, the injunction

to wait in the city, to attempt nothing, until the promise is made good,

and they are endued with the power. Let the Church, let every Christian,

remember the injunction; let eternal thanksgiving arise because the promise

of the Father has been sent, and the Holy Spirit now dwells with the

Church.

 

 

 

                        The Secret of Spiritual Strength (v. 49)

 

How came it to pass that the apostles of our Lord became such strong men

and did such noble work for their Master and for mankind so soon after

they manifested such weakness as they did? We consider:

 

·         THEIR INSUFFICIENCY UP TO THE TIME OF THE ASCENSION.

They had been receiving for many months the inestimable advantage of

Christ’s own teaching for their mental enlightenment, and His own

influence for their spiritual ennoblement. And this teaching and training

cannot have been — we may confidently say was not — without very great

value throughout their subsequent course. Yet they undoubtedly lacked

something which would complete them for the great task before them.

They showed but scant determination (Matthew 26:41, 43), but feeble

courage (ibid. v. 56), but little understanding of their Master’s aim

(Acts 1:6); and this, too, at the very close of His ministry, when their

great and special privilege was expiring. Something more they sadly

needed to prepare them for their work.

 

·         THE PROMISED POWER.

 

Ø      Its announcement and its confirmation. It was first predicted by the

prophets who preceded our Lord (Isaiah 44:3); and more particularly

Joel (Joel 2:28-29). It was renewed and confirmed, at first more

indefinitely, and here more definitely, by our Lord (John 14:16, 26;

15:26-27; 16:7; and here).

 

Ø      Its historical fulfillment (Acts 2:1-11).

 

Ø      Its permanent results. These men, whose character and whose fitness for

their grand and lofty mission left much to be desired, “endued with power

from on high,” became wonderfully equipped for and admirably adapted to

the noble mission to which Christ appointed them. They became strong:

 

o        to stand in the evil hour of temptation, defying the authority of Jewish

council and the sword of Roman ruler; they became strong

o        to suffer, rejoicing that they were “counted worthy to suffer shame”

for the Master’s sake and Name; they became strong

o        to testify, “with great power” giving witness to the Resurrection, and

great grace being on them all; they became strong

o        to grasp the great central and saving truths of the gospel, making

known to their own compeers by their speech, and to all time by their

letters, the “mystery which was hidden from the generations,” the

great and gracious purpose of God to the whole race of men; they

became strong

o        to build and work, to lay the foundation-stone of the gospel of Christ,

of that Church of the future which has already endured for twenty

centuries, and is more than ever bent on the conversion and conquest

of the world. We know what made these weak  men strong, these

failing men to triumph. It was the power of the Holy Ghost resting

upon them:

 

§         opening their eyes that they might see,

§         quickening their souls that they might feel,

§         nerving their hearts that they might stand, and

§         strengthening their hands that they might labor and achieve.

 

·         ITS LASTING LESSON. It is this which, if anything does, will make

us strong also. What the Christian workman wants is the power which

comes immediately from God, the inspiration of the Divine Spirit; in truth,

the same bestowal as that which the apostles were now promised and

afterwards received. The miraculous endowments which accompanied the

gift of the Holy Ghost were but the accidents of the bestowal. The power

to heal without failure or to speak without error was nothing to the power

to testify without fear and to live without reproach.

 

“Though on our heads no tongues of fire

Their wondrous powers impart,”

 

we need, as much as they did then, the illuminating, sanctifying,

empowering influences of Heaven“God’s Spirit in our heart.” Without

that, our most heroic efforts will fail; with it, our humblest endeavors will

succeed. To gain that we must have:

 

Ø      purity of heart and aim;         

Ø      earnest and believing prayer.

 

 

 

 

THE ASCENSION (vs. 50-53)

 

In considering the questions which suggest themselves in connection with the

ascension of our blessed Lord, we are met on the threshold with the fact that only

Luke, in his Gospel in this place, and in the Acts (1.), has given us a detailed

account of the scene. But the fact is referred to plainly by John (John 3:13; 6:62;

20:17) and by Paul (Ephesians 4:9-10; I Timothy 3:16). A vast number of passages

besides, in the Epistles of Paul, Peter, and James, and in the Revelation of St. John,

presuppose the Ascension, when they describe the heavenly glory of Jesus and of

his session at the right hand of God.

 

John’s triple mention of the Ascension (see above) is exactly in accordance with

his constant practice in his Gospel; he avoids rewriting a formal narrative of things

which, when he wrote, were well known in the Churches; yet he alludes to these

things in clear and unmistakable language, and draws from them his lessons and

conclusions.

 

Notably this is the case in the Fourth Gospel with regard to the sacraments.

It contains no formal narrative of the institution of sacraments, and yet it presents

most fully the idea of sacraments.  We make the same remark upon the ascension

of Christ as was before made upon his miraculous conception. In regard to neither

is prominence given to the special and actual fact in the apostolic writings; in

regard to both, such a fact is presupposed in the general conviction of the

apostles, and in the connection of Christian consciousness. Thus the end of

Christ’s appearance on earth corresponds with its beginning. Christianity

rests upon supernatural facts — stands or falls with them. By faith in them

has the Divine life been generated from the beginning. Were this faith gone,

there might indeed remain many of the effects of what Christianity has

been; but as for Christianity in the true sense, as for a Christian Church,

there could be none.

 

50 “And He led them out as far as to Bethany;” -  more accurately,

and He led them out until they were over against Bethany. The scene of the

Ascension could scarcely have been the central summit of the Mount of

Olives (Jebel-el-Tur), according to ancient tradition; but it is more likely

that it took place on one of the remoter uplands which lie above the village.

“On the wild uplands which immediately overhang the village, he finally

withdrew from the eyes of his disciples, in a seclusion which, perhaps,

could nowhere else be found so near the stir of a mighty city; the long

ridge of Olivet screening those hills, and those hills the village beneath

them, from all sound or sight of the city behind; the view opening only on

the wide waste of desert-rocks and ever-descending valleys, into the depths

of the distant Jordan and its mysterious lake” (Dean Stanley, ‘Sinai and

Palestine,’ ch. 3.) – “and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.” In

Acts 1:4 we read how Jesus, (συναλιζόμενος  sunalizomenos -  having

assembled) the apostles, gave them some last commands before He left them.

It is not expressly stated that only the eleven were present on this occasion.

When He had finished speaking, “he lifted up His hands, and blessed them.”

There is now no laying on of hands.  Those hands, as they were lifted up, were

already separated from them, the space between the Risen and those He was

 blessing grew greater every moment.

 

John tells us that Jesus “breathed on them,” and said “Receive ye the

Holy Ghost.”

 

 

 

                                    The Ascension (v. 50)

Many thoughts offer themselves to us as we think upon this last scene.

 

·         THE FITNESS OF THE PLACE WHENCE JESUS ASCENDED. Not,

indeed, that Jerusalem could claim to be worthy of such an honor —

Jerusalem that had but lately dyed its hands in the blood of its Messiah.

But as:

 

Ø      the ancient dwelling-place of God,

Ø      the seat and source of heavenly truth,

Ø      the metropolis of religion upon the earth,

Ø      the place that furnishes the name and type of the city of our hope, and

Ø      the joyous gathering-place of the good,

 

it was well that, from without its walls, He whose presence makes the home

and the joy and the glory of His people should pass to His throne. For from

that moment Jerusalem meant another thing to mankind, Christ took up

its meaning as He rose. All the associations of love and hope, of grandeur

and gladness, which had belonged to the earthly are transferred to the

heavenly city, where He dwells in glory, where he reigns in power. There

is a transference, not formal but actual, of the center and metropolis of

religious thought from the Jerusalem below to the Jerusalem above.

 

·         THE NATURE OF THE LAST SCENE. “They climb the hillside; they

cross its summit; they are approaching Bethany. He stops; they gather

round. He looks upon them; He lifts His hands; He begins to bless them.

What love unutterable in that parting look! What untold riches in that

blessing! His hands are uplifted, His lips engaged in blessing, when slowly

He begins to rise. Earth has lost her power to keep Him; the waiting

up-drawing heavens claim Him as their own. He rises, but still, as He floats

upward through the yielding air, His eyes are bent on those up-looking men;

His arms are stretched over them in the attitude of benediction, His voice is

heard dying away in blessings as He ascends. Awe-struck, in silence they

follow Him with straining eyes as His body lessens to sight, till the

commissioned cloud enfolds, cuts off all further vision, and closes the

earthly and sensible communion between Jesus and His disciples” (Dr.

Hanna).

 

·         THE RECEPTION THE SAVIOUR HAD IN HEAVEN. There have

been “triumphant entries” in this little world of ours, and in the history of

our human race, the pouring forth in loud acclaim of the pride and joy of

many thousands of hearts. But to what a vanishing point do they sink when

placed by the side of this entry of the conquering Saviour into heaven!

Though unable to form any conception that can approach the glorious

reality, yet we may well love to linger in imagination over that blessed

scene.

 

Ø      His struggle over,

Ø      His sorrows borne,

Ø      His temptations met and mastered,

Ø      His work finished,

Ø      His great battle fought and

Ø      His victory won,

 

the victorious Lord passes through all the ranks of the angelic host, amid

their reverent worship and adoring acclamations, to His throne of power

and glory.  (Ephesians 1:10 - CY - 2021))

 

“Look, ye saints!  the sight is glorious:

See the Man of sorrows now

From the fight returned victorious;

Every knee to Him shall bow.”

 

·         THE EFFECT IMMEDIATELY PRODUCED ON THE MINDS OF

THE DISCIPLES. Blank dismay, inconsolable sorrow, should we think?

So thinking, we should be wrong. They “returned to Jerusalem with great

joy.” Yet their Master was gone from them to return no more till that

uncertain and distant day of which the angels spoke (Acts 1:11). How

do we account for this? The explanation is found here — they were now

perfectly assured of the Divine mission of Jesus Christ. His death had cast

a dark shadow of doubt and dread over their hearts. His resurrection had

revived their confidence and their hope. But this final manifestation, this

“sign in the heavens,” this act of being taken up, like Elijah, into heaven,

swept away the last fragment of doubt that may have been left behind; they

were now absolutely sure, without any reserve or qualification whatever,

that the Master they had loved and served was indeed their true Messiah,

the Sent of God, worthy of their deepest veneration and their strongest

attachment; so they “worshipped Him” reverently, and went back to

Jerusalem with the joy of faith and love filling their souls. There is no

misery so unendurable as doubt, and there is no blessedness so sweet as

rest of heart after spiritual disquietude.

 

·         ITS PERMANENT EFFECT ON THE APOSTLES’ MINDS. This

was unreservedly good. It was “expedient for them that He should go

away.” (John 16:7)  His bodily absence changed the complexion of their

dependence upon Him. It had been that of childhood; it was now to be that

of manhood. With Him by their side, as He had been, they would not have

become the “men in Him” they did become after He left them. The deeper and

fuller knowledge of Him they gained by His departure led to an enlargement of

faith and to a deepening of love, and also to that fullness of attachment and

consecration we recognize and rejoice in during their later life. They came

to know Him and love Him and serve Him as the Divine Saviour of mankind,

and this made them worthier men and truer servants of their Lord. All

earthly ambitions respecting the right and left hand of the throne were

transformed into a noble consecration to the invisible Lord.

 

·         ITS PRICELESS VALUE TO OURSELVES.

 

Ø      Christ is accessible to us all. Had He lived and reigned at Jerusalem, or

some other sacred metropolis, He would only have been accessible to those

who dwelt or journeyed there. But now HE IS “WITH US ALL!” For heaven

is everywhere; the throne of grace is within the reach of the faintest

whisper that comes from every burdened heart, from every seeking soul,

wheresoever it may be breathed. A living faith can now realize the constant

nearness of its living Lord; it has not to take even a sabbath day’s journey

to find itself in His presence and to make known its request.

 

Ø      He is seated on the throne of power. To Him who has passed into the

heavens we can realize that “all power is given” (Matthew 28:18). We

can well believe that our Master in heaven can do for us what we ask of

Him; that His arm is one of glorious might; that His hand has plenteousness

of bounty and of blessing. And in all our time of need .we can go to Him,

with holy confidence, to ask of Him the help, the guidance, the blessing, we

require.

 

Ø      He has all rightful authority. To the heavenly Saviour we unanimously and

cordially ascribe all headship; to Him we yield our willing and unquestioning

obedience; and we rejoice to believe that He is ruling and governing the

affairs of His Church, and reigning in the interests of the whole human race;

that it is His hand that is at the helm, and that will safely guide the tempest

ridden vessel to the harbor.

 

Ø      He is our constant and ever-living Lord. With all that is earthly we

associate CHANGE and DEATH; with the heavenly we connect the thought of

CONTINUANCE and LIFE. Of our heavenly Lord we can think, and we

delight to think, that whoever changes HE IS EVERMORE THE SAME

“yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8); that while human

ministers “are not suffered to continue by reason of death,” He hath

“an unchangeable priesthood,” and is able to save evermore (“to the

uttermost”) all those “that come unto God by Him.” (Hebrews 7:23-26)

And as we look forward to the future, and realize our own mortality, we

cherish the joyous thought that, if we do but “abide in Him” until the

evening shadows gather and “life’s long day” passes into the darkness of

death, we shall, in heaven’s eternal morning, open our eyes to see the

“King in His beauty” (Isaiah 33:17); to “behold His glory,” and shall

“sit down with him on His throne” (Revelation 3:21); sharing for ever

His own and His saints’ everlasting rest.

 

51 “And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted

from them, and carried up into heaven.” -  more accurately rendered, while

He blessed them, He parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.

The last clause, “was carried up into heaven,” is absent from some, but not

from the majority of the older authorities. Acts 1:9 describes the act of ascension

thus: “As they were looking, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him

out of their sight.” The eleven and those chosen to witness the last earthly

scene of the Lord’s ministry came together, in obedience probably to some

command of their Master, to some meeting place in Jerusalem, possibly the

well-known upper room. Thence He led them forth from the sacred city, past

the scene of the agony and the scene of the weeping, on to some quiet spot

hard by loved Bethany, talking to them as they went; and as He spoke, suddenly

He lifted up His pierced hands and blessed them; and in the very act of performing

this deed of love, He rose, they still gazing on Him — rose, as it appears, by the

exercise of His own will into the air, and, while they still gazed, a cloud came and

veiled Him from their sight. He was parted from them, and carried up into

heaven. Among the appearances of the Risen to His followers during the

forty days (ten of these distinct appearances are related in the Gospels and

Epistles), this last notably differs from all that preceded it. As at other

times when He showed himself to His friends during these forty days, so on

the “Ascension” day Jesus apparently came forth suddenly from the

invisible world; but not, as on former occasions, did He suddenly vanish

from sight, as if He might shortly return as He had done before. (And

should not this correct our thinking, that as He disappeared, so shall He

appear the second time, at any moment!  Thus we are encouraged in the

Scriptures to not only look for Him, but to be READY FOR HIS RETURN!

Remember the words of the angels “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye

Gazing up into heaven?  THIS SAME JESUS, WHICH IS TAKEN

UP FROM YOU INTO HEAVEN, SHALL SO COME IN LIKE

MANNER AS YE HAVE SEEN HIM GO INTO HEAVEN.”  Acts 11 –

CY – 2012)  But on this fortieth day He withdrew in a different way; as they

gazed He rose up into the air, and so He parted from them, thus solemnly

suggesting to them that not only was He “no more with them” (v. 44), but that

even those occasional and supernatural appearances vouchsafed to them since the

Resurrection were now at an end. Nor were they grieved at this final parting; for

we read:

 

52 “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”

This “great joy,” on first thoughts, is singular till we read between the lines, and

see how perfectly they now grasped the new mode of the Lord’s connection with

His own. They knew that henceforth, not for a little time as before the cross, not

fitfully as since the Resurrection, but that for ever, though their eyes might not see

Him, would they feel His blessed presence near (see John 14:28; 16:7).

At the end of His earthly ministry, the evening before the cross, Jesus asked

back His glory: “Now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with

the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). The

Ascension and consequent session at the right hand was the answer to the

prayer of Christ. It was necessary for the training of the first teachers of

Christianity that the great fact should be represented in some outward and

visible form.  The change which Christ revealed by the Ascension was not a

change of place, but a change of state; not local, but spiritual. Still, from the

necessities of our human condition, the spiritual change was represented

sacramentally, so to speak, in an outward form.  He passed beyond the sphere

of man’s sensible existence to the open presence of God, at the Father’s right

hand  (Mark 16:19).  The ascension, then, of Jesus is not the exchange of one

locality, earth, merely for another we term heaven. It is a change of state; it is

a passing from all confinement within the limits of space to OMNIPRESENCE!

 

53 “And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.”

 These last words of the Gospel just alluded to the life of the first teachers, which

is dwelt upon with considerable detail in the Acts. In the early days which succeeded

the Ascension, the temple and its courts were the principal resort of the teachers of

the new “way.” We know that in an extraordinarily short time the numbers of

adherents to the crucified and risen Jesus, in Jerusalem only, were counted

 by thousands. The temple and its vast courts, from its storied past, from its having

been the scene of much of the Master’s last teaching, was the natural center for these

leaders of the new “way.” When Luke wrote the words, “were continually in the

temple” (Acts 2:46), it is almost certain that he proposed continuing his great

narrative in the book we know as the Acts of the Apostles, in which, guided by the

Divine Spirit, he relates to us how the Lord Jesus continued to work on

earth — in and by His Church — from His glory-throne in heaven. The early

chapters of the Acts take up the thread of the gospel story, and describe

the life and work of the friends of Jesus in the great Jerusalem temple, the

dangers they had to encounter, and the splendid success which rewarded

their brave, faithful toil. These same Acts, in the first lines of their thrilling

story, take up again the Ascension scene, which is described with fresh and

vivid details From these details we learn how, when the disciples’ eyes

were fixed on that cloud which veiled their ascending Master, they became

aware of two stranger-forms with them, clad in white and glistening

garments. They knew these belonged to no earthly company. They were

two among the thousands of thousands of angels, possibly the angels of the

Resurrection, who sat in the empty garden-tomb. These angels tell the

awestruck friends of the ascended Jesus that their adored Master will one

day (Acts 1:11) come back to earth in like manner as they had seen Him

go to heaven. “O earth, thou grain of sand on the shore of the great ocean

of the universe of God, thou Bethlehem among the princes of the regions

of heaven, thou art and thou ever wilt be, among ten thousand times ten

thousand suns and worlds, the loved one, the elect of the Lord; thee will He

visit again; thou shalt provide Him a throne, even as thou gavest Him a

manger; thou shalt rejoice in the splendor of His glory, even as thou

drankest His blood and His tears, and mournedst at His death. On thee he

hath a great work yet to accomplish” (Hafeli, quoted by Stier).

 

 

 

 

                        Infallible Proofs and Inevitable Partings (vs. 36-53)

 

The Emmaus pilgrims have hardly entered the upper room and reported

their interview with Jesus, receiving the intelligence that perplexed Peter

has got his perplexity resolved, when, notwithstanding that the doors are

barred for fear of the Jews, the Risen One appears in the midst of them,

and says, “Peace be unto you!” They are at first terrified at such an advent,

seeing that it sets aside the ordinary laws of matter, and shows all

precaution unavailing when Jesus is determined to get in. But He soon

disabuses their minds and dismisses their troubles. Although He can get

through barred doors, He is not a disembodied spirit, but a Person with

flesh and bones. This He proceeds to demonstrate to their sense perceptions.

Having given them infallible proofs, He next proceeds to

expound the Scriptures in detail to them, just as He had done on the way to

Emmaus. On these sure foundations He bases their faith, and sends them

forth, commissioned to preach repentance and remission of sins. He

concludes His interview with the promise of the Father, for which they were

to wait at Jerusalem after His visible ascension. And so He is carried up to

heaven from Bethany, and the disciples return to wait at Jerusalem in joy

until they receive power from on high. And here we have to notice:

 

·         THE MESSAGE OF THE RISEN SAVIOUR TO DISTRACTED

SOULS IS PEACE. The salutation of the East received new depth and

meaning when employed by the risen Saviour, when for the first time He

appeared among His assembled disciples. He only could pacify them. He is

the same “Peacemaker” still. It is His advent which drives away

distractions, and secures a peace which passeth all understanding.

(Philippians 4:7)

 

·         THE RISEN JESUS SUPPLIES INFALLIBLE PROOFS OF HIS

RESURRECTION TO THE PACIFIED DISCIPLES. When pacified by

Him, they were then fitted for judgment. To place the proofs before

worldly, distracted souls would have been throwing pearls before swine.

It is before the disciples whose fears have been dispelled that He places the

proofs. He urges calm investigation. Here are His hands and feet and side.

Handle Him (I John 1:1), use sense-perception to the utmost. Make out that

He has a body, and the same one which was crucified. Their joy at the proofs

overpowered them for the moment, so that they could hardly credit it.

Then He asked them for meat, and was content to eat before them a piece

of a broiled fish. The honeycomb addition is not supported by the best

manuscripts, and has been omitted in the Revised Version. The last doubt

must depart before such proofs. It is the same Saviour who had been

crucified, and He is among them in a body, able to partake of food, and

perform all the functions assigned to a body dominated by a healthy spirit.

Now, although we cannot see or handle the Risen One, we have yet the

evidence of His Resurrection so set before us that only criminal partiality

can resist it.  There is no fact of history sustained by better evidence.  If

we made sure of impartial and fearful minds to begin with, the infallible

proofs would be recognized in their full power.

 

·         THE RISEN SAVIOUR HELPS HIS SERVANTS TO

UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES. We learn from John’s account that

“He breathed on them,” and so conveyed to them the Holy Ghost. Along

with the outward exposition, therefore, of the Scripture references to

Himself, there is given the inward inspiration. It is this which made these

men such masters of the sacred oracles so far as they indicate Christ’s

mission. With opened understandings, with inspired hearts, the once sealed

book became an open secret, and the fountain-head of missionary

enterprise. And the witnesses need similar enlightenment still. By waiting

on the Master prayerfully and studiously we shall obtain the key to

interpretation, and have the heavenly palaces unlocked for us.

 

·         A GOSPEL OF REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS OF A

UNIVERSAL CHARACTER IS TO BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME.

For Christ comes to make men sorry for their sins, while at the same time

they enjoy the sense of their pardon. As risen Saviour, He is the outward

Guarantee of our justification from all things from which we could not be

justified by the Law of Moses. (Acts 13:39)  He was “delivered for our

offences, and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). And to

these benefits all nations are to have access. The proofs of resurrection, the

understanding of the Scriptures, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost,

were with a view to a practical issue in the publication of glad tidings to

ALL NATIONS!

 

·         POWER IS GUARANTEED IF THEY WAIT PRAYERFULLY AT

JERUSALEM. They had got the Spirit as zephyr-breath. They had still to

get Him in Pentecostal and fiery power. Hence they are encouraged by the

Lord to wait for this at Jerusalem, for work without spiritual power would

be useless. And they waited, and were made world-conquerors by the gift

of power. So ought the Lord’s people to wait for power still.

 

·         THE ASCENSION WAS THE NECESSARY COMPLEMENT OF

RESURRECTION, AND THE GUARANTEE OF ULTIMATE

VICTORY. We have already seen reason for believing that, on the day of

resurrection, Jesus privately ascended to the Father, reported Himself there,

and made heaven His head-quarters during “the great forty days.” But a

public ascension before the assembled disciples was necessary to establish

their faith and joy. And so they were permitted to see their beloved Lord

ascending, in spite of gravitation, up into the blue heavens, and speeding

towards the center of the universe at the right hand of God. Yet the

inevitable separation did not prevent them from returning to Jerusalem with

great joy, and continuing there until the Pentecost. They divided their time

between the upper room and the temple. They waited in joyful anticipation

of the promised power, and they got it in due season. And the Ascension

ought to be to all believers a matter of definite experience. It is to this St.

Paul refers when he speaks, in Ephesians 2:6, of being “raised

up together with Christ, and made to sit together in heavenly places in

Christ Jesus.” There is an ascension-experience as well as a resurrection-

experience — an experience in which we feel that we have risen superior to

all earthly attractions, and that we, setting our affections, indeed, on things

above, are sitting by faith among them with our Lord. It is this ecstatic

state which heralds the advent of spiritual power. May it belong to all of

us!

 

 

 

The Farewell and the Ascension (vs. 50-53)

 

Once more the old relation is resumed. The Shepherd of Israel goes before

His little flock. They see Him, as in the former time, at their head. The well-

known route is taken, the well-known place is reached. And the crowning

memory of Bethany is imprinted on their hearts. It is the scene of the last

adieu, of the Ascension (v. 50). In the earlier history of Israel (II Kings

2.) there was a day when the sons of the prophets, referring to Elijah, said

to Elisha, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy

head to-day?” And his answer was, “Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.”

There were no sons of prophets thus speaking to the eleven. But whispers,

no doubt, in their hearts raised shadows of some coming event. Something

like the old amazement and fear (Mark 10:32) would be felt as, in

silence, they followed their Leader. He is to be taken from their head; but

better far than the mantle thrown on Elisha from the vanishing prophet is to

be their portion. Observe Christ as He is revealed in the concluding verses

of the Gospel; observe those whom He is to leave behind.

 

·         OBSERVE CHRIST AS HE IS HERE REVEALED. See:

 

Ø      The action of the Lord towards them. “He lifted up his hands” (v. 50).

Before He suffered He had lifted up His eyes to heaven, and the voice of

intercession had been raised for them (John 17.). As the high-priestly

prayer closed, the voice had passed from the tones of earnest but humble

pleading into those of the Sovereign expressing His will: “I will that they

also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Now the Priest,

about to ascend to His throne, extends those hands in which is the print of

the nails. It is the first time in which we are introduced to this attitude in

the Gospels. The uplifted hands are:

 

o       the sign of the accepted sacrifice ever potent to cleanse,

o       the sign of the righteousness ever ample to clothe,

o       the sign of the protection ever sufficient to overshadow

His Church.

 

The uplifted hands constituted the last recollection of the

Christ whom the disciples had seen; they mark the abiding truth of the

Christ whom the eye sees not. And, as the hands are lifted, the lips are

opened to bless. What were the words of the blessing? Perhaps the

benediction (Numbers 4:24) which the sons of Aaron were commanded

to pronounce was included in it. But who can measure all that it

comprehended — all the wealth of grace and truth with which it was

charged? Let us say rather, with which it is charged for the Church until

the end of the age. “Lo, I am with you alway, blessing and keeping, my

face shining on you, my will gracious to you, the light of my

countenance lifted on you, my peace possessing you.”

 

Ø      The ascending Lord. “While blessing” (v. 51). While the accents of His

tenderness are flowing over the soul, lo! He moves from the soil on which

He and His have bees standing. Upward, ever upward, He is borne; they

gaze in wonder as the form in which they have beheld Him is sublimated

and passes whither their adoring vision can no longer follow. The apostle

who was “born out of due time” completes, as far as thought of mortal

can, the account of the evangelist (Ephesians 1:20-23), when he

describes the ascent “far above all principality, and power, and might,

and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world,

but in that which is to come;” all things put under the feet of the

glorified Man, “Head over all things to the Church, which is His body,

the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” He is “parted from them;”

but only to be more nearly and entirely with them; only to bear with

Him the humanity through which Highest God is in touch with the

whole life of man; only that, in the unchangeable Priesthood, He may

ever live to make intercession; only to make good the word as to the

promise of the Father. When ten more days have passed, the gates

which had opened that the King of glory might enter, shall open again,

and the Paraclete, Christ’s other self, shall descend from the heaven

into which He has gone, to fill the little company with His presence.

And in that day they shall know that He is in the Father, and they

in Him, and He in them.

 

  • OBSERVE THE DISCIPLES.

 

Ø      The new worship. They had followed Him, and had called Him

Master.  His appearances during the forty days had prepared them

for something higher still. Now, in deepest reverence, they kneel

before the Lord.

 

§         Thomas learns the whole reality of his answer, “My Lord and

 my God.”  (John 20:28)

§         Mary learns that which is higher and holier than the touch with

which, on the resurrection-morning, she had sought to detain Him.

(Ibid. v. 17)

§         John learns the word which afterwards he wrote, “This is the

 true God, and the Eternal Life.”  (Ibid. 17:3)

§         Peter learns that which moves him to interpret the consciousness

of faith, “Whom having not seen ye love.”  (I Peter 1:8)

 

Then first sounds the music which burst forth, in later years, in the

sublimest hymn of the Church: “We praise thee, O God; we

 acknowledge thee to be the Lord Thou art the King of

glory, O Christ.” And this worship is the true life of the Church.

It is the outcome of the faith in the Resurrection. “Christ died,

yea rather, is risen again, and is even at the right hand of

God, making intercession for us.  It is this worship which is

the spring of all energy, the pledge of all victory, the bend of union

between heaven and earth. “Salvation to our God who sitteth

on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

(Revelation 7:10)

 

Ø      The new joy. “They returned to Jerusalem(v. 52). But what a

difference! They had left it dispirited, weighed down by many thoughts.

Now “they come again rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.”

(Psalm 126:6)  “He was parted from them!” Might they not feel as

sheep without a Shepherd? Nay; for they know that their Shepherd

 is with them. Their hope had been sealed and confirmed, and they

are flushed with “a great joy.” Should not this joy thrill the Church?

Enthusiasm is essential to its vitality. To be strong, it must be sanguine,

triumphant. Times of worshipful faith are always times of great joy.

“We triumph in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom

we received the reconciliation.” (II Corinthians 2:14; 5:19)

 

Ø      The new life. “They were continually in the temple” (v. 53).

But the temple had a new meaning to them. Rite and offering, house

of prayer and songs of praise, were all clothed with a new character.

It was their Father’s house, and He had given a new song to their lips.

Continually are they “praising and blessing God.” This is the life;

for they are sitting in the heavenly places, and partaking of the heavenly

 things. “Day by day we magnify thee.” Beautiful as the first days of

summer is this picture of the waiting Church. Would that the impression

of this life of praise and blessing were more evident in the Church,

witnessing, working, and still waiting. May the Church be “found unto

 praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ”!

(I Peter 1:7)

 

The disciples were permitted to see their beloved Lord ascending, in spite of

gravitation, up into the blue heavens, and speeding towards the center of the

Universe at the right hand of God.  (Acts 1:1-11)

 

Christ has given His church the promise until the end of the age, “Lo, I am with you

 alway, blessing and keeping, my face shining on you, my will gracious to you,

the light of my countenance lifted on you, my peace possessing you.”  He is

“parted from them;” but only to be more nearly and entirely with them; only to bear

with Him the humanity through which Highest God is in touch with the whole life of

man; only that, in the unchangeable Priesthood, He may ever live to make intercession

(Hebrews 7:25); only to make good the word as to the promise of the Father. When

ten more days have passed, the gates which had opened that the King of glory might

enter (Psalm 24:7-10), shall open again, and the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit), Christ’s

other self, shall descend from the heaven into which He has gone, to fill the little

company with His presence. And in that day they shall know that He is in the

Father, and they in Him, and He in them.  Paul relates, as far as any mortal can,

this account of Luke in the following words of Ephesians 1:17-23)

 

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto

you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him:  The eyes

of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope

of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe,

according to the working of His mighty power, Which He wrought in Christ,

when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in

the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and

dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in

that which is to come:  And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him

to be the head over all things to the church, Which is His body, the fullness

of Him that filleth all in all.”

 

 

 

      WHAT THE ASCENDED CHRIST MEANS TO US.

 

Christ is accessible to us all. Had He lived and reigned at Jerusalem, or

some other sacred metropolis, He would only have been accessible to

those who dwelt or journeyed there. But now HE is “with us all.” For

heaven is everywhere; the throne of grace is within the reach of the faintest

whisper that comes from every burdened heart, from every seeking soul,

wheresoever it may be breathed. A living faith can now realize the constant

nearness of its living Lord; it has not to take even a sabbath day’s journey

to find itself in His presence and to make known its request.

 

He is seated on the throne of power. To Him who has passed into the

heavens we can realize that “all power is given” (Matthew 28:18). We

can well believe that our Master in heaven can do for us what we ask of

Him; that His arm is one of glorious might; that His hand has plenteousness

of bounty and of blessing. And in all our time of need .we can go to Him,

with holy confidence, to ask of Him the help, the guidance, the blessing, we

require, IN OUR TIME OF NEED!

 

He has all rightful authority.   To the heavenly Saviour we unanimously

and cordially ascribe all headship; to Him we yield our willing and

unquestioning obedience; and we rejoice to believe that He is ruling and

governing the affairs of his Church, and reigning in the interests of the

whole human race; that it is His hand that is at the helm, and that will

safely guide the tempest-ridden vessel to the harbor.

 

He is our constant and ever-living Lord. With all that is earthly we

associate change and death; with the heavenly we connect the thought of

continuance and life. Of our heavenly Lord we can think, and we delight

to think, that whoever changes He is evermore the same, “yesterday,

and today, and for ever;” that while human ministers “are not suffered

to continue by reason of death,” He hath “an unchangeable

 priesthood,” and is able to save evermore (“to the uttermost”) all those

“that come unto God by Him” (Hebrews 7:23-25).  And as we look

forward to the future, and realize our own mortality, we cherish the joyous

thought that, if we do but “abide in him” until the evening shadows

gather and “life’s long day” passes into the darkness of death, we shall, in

heaven’s eternal morning, open our eyes to see the “King in His

beauty” (Isaiah 33:17); to “behold His glory” (John 17:24); and shall

“sit down with Him on His throne” (Revelation 3:21); sharing for

ever His own and His saints’ EVERLASTING REST!

 

 

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