MEDITATION on John 24,15.
What a sad journey, but what a blessed and happy outcome. Can we not draw an illustration, and rightly so, from the experience of these travellers to Emmaus, and make some application there from to our own personal case. When under the word, call and constraint of the Lord the people of God are treading a certain promised path of tribulation, finding much that disappoints and frustrates, much in opposition to that which they had expected, walking in darkness and loneliness, bereft of the comforts that they one time possessed, yet the Lord does not forsake them as they journey. He has determined that His promise shall most certainly be performed.
Though He had spoken many promises to His disciples and warned them of the things that He would have to endure, these travellers on the road to Emmaus did not understand them because, like ourselves so often, they were so ignorant of the revelation of God and so blind in their own conceits. As with these travellers, today’s pilgrims will also prove that the word of the Lord will prevail against all their fears and the darkness of their unbelief.
Despite the tremendous news, amazing indeed, that had reached them that remained in Jerusalem after the death and burial of the Lord Jesus Christ, there were some, at least, among that number of disciples who were so bound in darkness of mind and unbelief that they did not consider it necessary, if I may put it like that, to investigate the reports which had been received. These reports had concerned a “Vision of angels which said that he, (Christ), was alive.” The travellers, speaking of those who brought the report said, “But Him they saw not.” Did they reason together that if Jesus Christ was really risen from the dead, which was a tremendous, and they may have thought impossible thing, after what they had known concerning His burial and entombment, surely they would have seen Him, and the vision of angels would have resulted in some manifestation of Christ. I realise that we may walk in the darkness of our own reason but also be very impatient for something to happen. We may be in a state of dreadful paradox with faith desiring but unbelief declaring the impossibility of the event happening. What a conflict!
As these travelled to Emmaus they did not adopt the attitude, that many worldly people adopt when they come into some great trouble, that the best thing to do is to plunge yourself into all the pleasures of life so that you may sink your sorrow in frivolity. Many persons think that they gain relief from their troubles and distress by such indulgence, but these persons did not do so. Some seeming mental relief may be gained from such methods but there can never be any abiding and spiritual good resulting from such a course of action as that. You will never find that there is any real
profit in indulgence in worldly pleasures and frivolity in order to alleviate the distress of the mind. I well remember how, when a friend of mine, who was suffering from nervous prostration, I expect it was what we should call a bad nervous breakdown, was advised by a doctor to go and join some of the women’s clubs in the town, to attend some whist drives and go to the cinema now and then. He told her that if she would do this she would soon “Snap out of” her gloom and depression of mind. There was another medical man who used to attend her who advised a very different course. I believe he understood something of her real condition, not only of mind but of soul and he gave her very different advice to that of the other worldly minded doctor.
What a favour it is to have a doctor who, before he performs in operation or undertakes the visitation of his patients, will go aside and pray to the Lord that he might receive the Lord’s blessing in all his undertakings and ministry to those that are ill. I have known some doctors of that character. I remember going into a surgeon’s consulting room and seeing, under the plate glass on the surgeon’s desk, a copy of a prayer followed by verses of a hymn. I did notice that although his desk was covered by papers and files that particular place was uncovered. It would be well for us to pray for doctors and surgeons and also for young men who are being trained in medicine and surgery that there might be given to them that blessing of Divine grace and the true spirit of prayer as they attend the sick. Those who have the charge of sick persons have a wonderful opportunity at times, presented to them by God, not only to minister to the body, but also the soul, of their patients.
But, to return, these people on the road to Emmaus were not indulging in ordinary worldly chatter to rid them of the depression under which they laboured. The grace of God, when in activity in the heart, does not allow that such means of relief should be tried and continued. Mind you, advisers, evil counsellors may suggest this. The choice of our sinful flesh may easily incline in that direction, but, you may be well assured of this, the teaching of the Holy Spirit will never incline those who sorrow in heart to seek relief in ways of worldliness and frivolity.
How do these people act? They have left the place where Christ was laid, they have left the city where this tremendous event has taken place upon which hung the salvation of multitudes of great sinners who should be “Saved by Grace.” They have left “Jerusalem, the city of the great King” and are journeying to another place. May they not have had “Good” argument to do so? “We cannot spend any more time here, duties of life, home and family demand our attendance. All we hoped for has disastrously terminated, there is nothing else to do but to return home.” But see, as they journey together and although they are so sad, they still communed and reasoned together until Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. Though their sadness could have
occasioned silence, perhaps “Sullen silence,” yet their hearts were so closely knit together in desire to the Lord that they still communed, even in their sadness, about the things that had happened.
Notice also, as they communed together they REASONED also. It may be said that here was their trouble and the increase of it. Instead of spending their time together in prayer and desire to the Lord they spent it in reasoning. Reasoning is not always an evil thing, destructive of faith and confidence. Much reasoning is bad, especially when unbelieving reasoning occupies the throne of the mind and expresses itself in doubt and complaint against the sovereign, if mysterious, dealings of the Lord. But, if reasoning, is coupled to a lively exercise of faith in Christ it is a wonderful and most blessed operation of the mind. How truly the Holy Spirit bears witness to this by the prophet Isaiah, (1, 18), “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” May the Lord grant us the spirit of such reasoning, that our days may be spent thus and that the exercise of the powers of the mind, now subject to the authority of the Lord and His Word attended by the sweet exercise of faith in the precious Christ, may bring us to the blessedness of the outcome of such reasoning.
In the case of the two travelling to Emmaus, as they reasoned together, much of their reasoning was not thus. They were reasoning upon the ground of their presuppositions and their own interpretation of the word and will of God. Their interpretation of the word of God concerning his kingdom had not been realised. They tell the Lord that they, “Trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this today is the third day since these things were done.” (v. 21). There are still some, even in these days of widespread denial of the atonement of Christ, who, when the word Redemption is mentioned in their hearing, find there is ONE thing which immediately comes to their mind. It is the truth of Christ and Him crucified, of a precious Saviour upon the cross at Calvary, shedding his precious blood, making an atonement for sins not His own. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” (1. John 1, 7). There is redemption, there is the place of redemption, the person of the Redeemer, the great work accomplished which was committed to Him to do of which the dear Saviour could say, “It is finished,” (John 19, 30). This is redemption.
These, who trusted that He would have redeemed Israel, had been looking, as so many others, including His disciples, for a national restoration, that Caesar would be dethroned, that some great national deliverer would arise. They thought this was to be the position of their blessed Lord, that He would gather mighty armies who would deliver them from Roman domination, would set them “Free” and Himself occupy some throne and rule as a great earthly king. What low, materialistic views they had of Christ
and the nature of His kingdom. Such a king and such a kingdom could never have made them truly FREE. When we ardently want a certain thing and our ambitions may lie in a certain direction how easy it is to forget that Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and the truth of these words, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord,” (Isaiah 55, 8). Christ does not exercise royal rule according to the dictates or purposes of men. Christ rules for a very different purpose; not that men should be gratified with mighty victories gained at the price of vast bloodshed. That is not the nature of the “Victory” or the “Peace” which Christ came to give. He came to lay down His life as a ransom for many, that the most wretched of sinners, in what must have been perpetual bondage but for this Divine and most gracious intervention, should be delivered from their sin, guilt and captivity by a REDEMPTION which entailed the ransom price of Christ’s most precious blood.
How easy it is to “Reason together” in complete error and blindness of the true facts. “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” Ah! the hour is near when these Tavellers shall know that Christ had indeed “Redeemed Israel” for shall they not rise up and return to Jerusalem declaring that He, the precious risen Christ, has indeed appeared to them, that he has redeemed Israel. How true and blessed are the words of the Lord, Â“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (ver. 26), for what purpose? Was it not that guilty sinners might be forgiven, that His precious blood should atone for their sins and that for the whole of the election of grace He should rise again for their justification, (Romans 4, 25). There is the great wonder which is opened up to these travellers. They were sinners, they were entertaining fearful, unbelieving, sinful thoughts and
reasonings, their mind was in rebellion against the work and counsel of God and YET despite all this, “Jesus himself drew near, and .vent with them.” Are not these words sweet to needy sinners today, they are to me. There are times when the beloved children of God come to a place of fresh deep conviction of sin, rebellion and unbelief has afresh been discovered dominating mind and will, disobedience been afresh in its horrible rebellion against the God of their Salvation. A dear friend wrote to me some time ago and commented hat God cannot bless anyone who is in the path of disobedience. These people who were travelling to Emmaus were certainly going in the wrong direction, they entertained thoughts concerning Christ which were not true and for which the dear Saviour had given them no ground for their supposition. They were entertaining unbelief, they were not in a right state of mind, they had not the “Mind of Christ” in full and gracious exercise. There was sin in them and it was being shown in their actions and conversation, but ever remember the blessed hope to broken hearted sinners contained in that word, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5. 26). I am unable to accept the statement of my friend as it stands. Disobedience is a dreadfully estranging thing. It
estranges from God and it is indeed a great truth that the obedient and diligent soul shall be made fat and in the keeping of the statutes of the Lord there is great reward. But, when I am told that the Lord cannot bless the disobedient then objection must be made. I know that where sin abounded, (and that includes the sin of rebellion), the grace of God does much more abound. Is it not declared prophetically of Christ, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them,” (Psalm 68, 18). If these things were not so I should be without hope before a Holy God. Disobedient, wretched in waywardness I was when the law entered into my soul and then I knew conviction of my sin and guilt before God. Sorrow of heart with repentance, God’s own gift to the heart of a sinner is a great blessing given freely, “Without money and without price,” to the rebellious. It is never, upon the ground of our obedience that we receive the favours of the Lord but entirely upon the ground of the obedience of the dear Saviour who offered Himself without spot to God that there might be a purging of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God, (Hebrews 9, 14). O, to possess a greater degree of the spirit of true obedience, to run in the ways of the Lord, to be diligent in obedience to His word and will in all the paths that He has commanded. But, conscious that my best works are marked and marred by sin in me I cannot go to my God and ask Him to bless me for the sake of my works of obedience. I can only take the “Cup of Salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord” as I petition the Lord for His continued and increasing favour. Are we aliens to the experience of Paul when, out of the depths of heart anguish he writes, “When I would do good, evil is present with me?” Truly it is the diligent that shall be made fat and when a soul is truly “Made fat” the grateful heart would readily declare that it is the Lord who hath given grace for grace, that it was His grace and power that convinced of sin and led to Jesus blood, that forgave, that blessed, and blessed with diligence and obedience.
“Every grace and every favour comes to us through Jesus blood.” All flows alike from that great fountain of Everlasting Love. Truly great and glorious words are those of Psalm 46, “There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.” The streams of this city do not flow simply and solely because the city needs or demands it or the inhabitants are worthy, by their loyalty to the great King, to receive them and their health and refreshment. The streams flow because they have an Eternal and Covenant source and they must flow, THEY MUST FLOW! There have been occasions in certain places when men have sought to divert a river or stream and for a time, with the waters at their normal levels the stream has been confined to its new channel. When, however, heavy rain has fallen bringing the stream to conditions of flood the dams and dykes have been broken and the river has resumed its true course again. Men may try to bind the work of the Lord to a
scheme of their own invention but. “There is a river” and “The streams thereof SHALL make glad the city of God,” Is there someone who is trying to prevent you from tasting of these blessed streams, one that hates you for the truth’s sake and would lay every barrier in the way of even your attendance at the means of grace, one that would seek your harm and never seek your good? The devil is such an opponent and adversary and his servants are like minded to their master. Such would never pray for the Lord to bless you but would rather proclaim some curse upon you. But, let it never be forgotten, “There is a river” and “The streams SHALL make glad the city. O, the blessedness of those streams, that river of the Love of God, in Christ Jesus. Neither man nor devil shall ever be able to stop this flow.
“Jesus himself.” Some who went to the tomb early in the morning saw a vision of angels that said that Jesus was alive, others saw the place where Christ had laid with the clothes and napkin in their place, but here, “Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” Favoured persons indeed these were. A highly favoured soul is the man or woman, or very young person, whoever they are, when Jesus himself draws near and goes with them. He came just where these travellers were. Jesus himself, that ever blessed risen Lord who had made that one offering for their sin, came just where they were, in all their fears and unbelief, their entertainment of carnal and alien reasoning, HE CAME THERE. This same Jesus would show himself by many infallable proofs during the forty days that elapsed between His resurrection and Ascension and one of these, one of the earliest, was the manifestation of Himself to these travellers to Emmaus when He HIMSELF drew near and went with them.
How kindly and tenderly the Lord does deal with these on the way to Emmaus. As a wise surgeon does not hesitate to operate that he may heal so the Lord does not hesitate to reprove that He may restore. Everything that needed to be done for them He did and everything that He spoke to them was suited to their need. Truly Christ was and is perfect in all His Work and Word. Their eyes were holden and they knew not at first that the Saviour who had suffered, died and been buried was now risen and had “Broken the bars of death that none had broken before” that poor trembling, weary and fearful souls should be delivered from all their fears. Conversation ensues, the depths of the prevailings of unbelief are probed, their false reasoning brought to light, they spoke from their heart of sadness and distress. Then the Lord speaks, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” What should we feel and say is a person, speaking to us, was to suddenly speak to us as “Fools”? Should we not resent it, what indignation we might evidence. What would be our remarks about this if we were relating the event to a third person? But here, such is the authority of the Word of Christ to their souls that these two are humbled under the rebuke, they are able to perfectly agree that what the Lord speaks to them is true as He opened to them the Scriptures.
With this word, “O fools,” there is endearment. It is as though a child, discovered in a position of grave danger and distress brought upon themselves by their ignorance and impetuosity, is addressed by a parent who loves and sympathises in the words. “O, my foolish little children.” Yes, the address is not without endearment, O foolish ones, ignorant wandering ones, little foolish ignorant ones who have taken the wrong path, entertained false thoughts and reasoned in a wrong way; “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things?” OUGHT HE NOT go to Calvary and the Grave according to prophecy and the words of His own precious lips. So beginning at “Moses and all the prophetsÂ” the Lord expounded unto them the things concerning himself. Yes, Moses and all the prophets spoke of Him. Moses was a real man and he truly spake of Christ, despite all the present day critical denials of this. Moses really did speak in the Pentateuch, he really did write those words which are bound up with the promise, coming and obedience of Christ. Let the critics of Moses and his writings consider solemnly the One against they array themselves in so much of their criticism, not Moses but the Son of God.
What is the outcome? Their precious Christ is seen sitting with them at meat. The Lord grant that as we come to the house of prayer, to any means of grace, (I do not speak of the Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper in particular though I include this),Â—when the Gospel table is spread may you be given to see, not merely a minister, deacon or pastor, but may you see by faith the Ever Blessed One. May you hear HIS words, hear HIS voice, with power and blessing to your souls. The Lord make the preacher truly an instrument for your good but may you see JESUS. There is Christ, the dear Redeemer, sitting at meat with them. He takes the bread, blesses and breaks it and their eyes are opened, and they knew him, and he vanishes out of their sight. But He had been there and something has happened to those disciples that they will never forget. It is not only these two who can say, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” If the Lord deigns to visit His people, as indeed He will, for He has promised so to do, as they meet where the Gospel table is spread and where He dispenses to them the bounty of His own Word and love, they will ever have cause to remember such a season and speak with gratitude of their “Heartburning” occasions of love.
“They rose up the same hour.” What proof we have in the Word of God that when the Lord does bless His people then they do obey and delight to do so. That is the hour of their liberation, they are made willing in the day of His power and the Love of Christ most powerfully constrains them to the delight of obedience. I have commented on the statement that God cannot bless a disobedient person but I will assert this that when the Lord does bless His people then they do obey and delight to do so. Then they walk
in His ways, their heart is set free, their spirit is enlarged when this great power of God, by His great love, is known in their heart. Many speak of their duty to God and their obligations but how powerless is such advocacy and argument whilst the heart and will is bound in the chains of spiritual death and Satan’s power. Paul knew and gratefully publishes the Divine secret made known to him, “The love of Christ constraineth usÂ—that they which live should not live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (1. Corinthians 5, 14/15).
“They rose up the same hour.” What was their purpose? Is it not known in the words of the Psalmist, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” (Psalm 66, 18). Is it a person who has been perfectly obedient, full of faith, always strong in hope in Christ; is it one who always believed the promises, who always understood them perfectly and who never turned aside from the Lord’s counsel who is speaking in this way? As these travellers returned to Jerusalem, they came to speak of what the Lord had done for their souls, that they might be forgiven and restored by God sending His own dear Son into the world that they might LIVE through Him, that there might flow to them those blessed streams from that eternal fountain of love that their hearts might be made glad. That was what they wished to declare to others and nothing else but the tidings of a Risen Saviour was the subject of their praises. The state of the weather, the gossip of Emmaus was no longer their interest. The roads may even have been in foul condition, it was winter, but this did not deter them despite the fact that they had only just completed the three score furlong journey, (Eight miles would be considered by most persons a long enough walk for one day), for they were determined to return to Jerusalem to tell what the Lord had done. Surely the word that the Lord spake concerning his disciples as he entered Jerusalem could be spoken concerning such persons as these, “If these should hold their peace the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19, 40). Is it not when the Lord hath done a great thing for a sinner and his eyes are opened to see himself and the nature, not only of the act of grace done but, the nature of the One by whom the act of love, “So amazing, so divine,” has been performed that He asserts from His heart, “This, demands my life my soul, my all.” It is then that their tongues are really loosed and they are set free from their previous bondage so that they can speak well and with true confidence of their Lord who perhaps they long have sought.
How many there may be to whom the thought of openly confessing their faith in and love to the Lord Jesus Christ is the occasion of the utmost dread. They say, “I could never speak like that and speak of things of that kind. I could not possibly speak in that way publicly or to any person.” But how great is the truth that a people shall be willing, and able, in the day of Divine power for is it not the Lord who giveth power to the faint and increaseth might
to them that have no strength. But, there are many who can remember when this grace was given to them. They have said, “I was made a wonder to myself and to all who heard me. I did not think that I should ever be able to say a word but the Lord was with me then and helped me.”
Yes, the words are very sweet ones, “Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” Such was the fear and unbelief that possessed their hearts that these two could not believe what the women said concerning the Resurrection, the words seemed as “Idle Tales.” With such darkness of soul and such prevailing of unbelief it would have been impossible for them to pray in faith believing for Christ to come to them, but He did draw near and go with them. Truly before they cried He did answer. Yet, in the riches of His grace He drew near and went with them.
Is there in the heart that which says, “This is just what I long for the Lord to do for me, but I am so unworthy, my sins stand between me and the Lord. Think of what has happened to me today, sins of heart, word and deed all testify against me, surely He will never return again.” I have tried to depict something of the darkness, the fears, the prevailings of unbelief that was in the hearts of these two on the way to Emmaus as Jesus, in the riches of His grace and ever blessed sympathy, “Drew near and went with them.”
The Lord grant that the experience of the disciples here may be repeated in many hearts with the same Christ exalting outcome and I pray that the Lord may seal to many hearts that word. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”