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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Luke 24

 

 

Verse 5-6

THE APPEAL OF EASTER

‘Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.’

Luke 24:5-6

There is a tone of gentle remonstrance in these words of protest against an unseasonable sadness on the day of earth’s greatest joy. ‘O ye of little faith,’ the angels would seem to say, ‘less faith than love, more dutiful than understanding, why come ye to anoint His body on the third day?’

I. Love surviving death.—And yet, remonstrate as they might, we feel that the angels recognised that these women were seeking our Blessed Lord along a track which eventually would bring them right. Even many sins are forgiven to the much-loving. Their love had survived death; it would rally itself once more on hope, and mount up into a perfected faith. For these holy women had grasped that which is of the essence of true religion. For religion is not a mere pondering over slowly yielding evidence to reach a measure of certainty which shall at least remain until stronger evidence oversets it. Religion is not a mere cord of obligation which binds us to a great and invisible Lord. Religion is a devotion to a Person.

II. Beyond the grave.—‘Why seek ye the living among the dead?’ All life has reference to that which is the other side of the grave. So the ancestors of their race had gone forth declaring plainly that they sought a better country, that is a heavenly.

III. A life to be lived.—We seem to be more and more drifting into the idea that Christianity is a system to be intellectually accepted more than a life to be lived. But if you want to find the risen Christ you must know Him before you know the power of His resurrection. But we indignantly repudiate the idea that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is only the necessary immortality of a great Man, that He is alive as other great ones are alive, in influence, in memory, in spiritual Presence. This is not what we mean by the resurrection, this is not what St. Paul preached at Athens amidst the ill-concealed ridicule of his hearers. This is not what he preached before Festus, who thought him mad for his pains. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave may be accepted or denied, but no self-respecting Christian will stay for one moment to accept a travesty of that glorious doctrine, which is at once an insult to the understanding and a menace to the faith of those who have lived and grown in the strength and nurture of the Catholic faith. The living Christ, that is Whom we seek. And to have found the living Christ is to find Him in death and beyond death. ‘I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death.’

IV. The living Christ.—If you would know Jesus and the power of His resurrection, you must find the living Christ. It is only too true that the ordinary forms of religion, the common setting of our life, may be but the tomb where Christ is not. If Lent has taught us anything it has taught us this, that a good deal of the doubts that vex us, and the disappointments which pull us back, do not come from a weakness in our religion, but from a weakness in ourselves. How can we hope to find joy and peace in believing, if we have never really made proof of our religion? Nothing is so insipid as a religion which is a mere form, and nothing so dangerous as religious professions which are not based on sincerity and truth.

Rev. Canon Newbolt.

Illustration

‘What evidence would satisfy you as to the truth of our Lord’s resurrection? If it could be proved to a certainty that without fraud, actual or literary, the grave of Jesus Christ was found empty on the first Easter Day, if you could satisfy yourself without any doubt whatever as to the credibility of the witnesses who saw and asserted this fact, to which St. Paul himself testified with such emphasis in his sermon at Antioch, would you be satisfied? Would not the restless, suspicious mind go off elsewhere on other difficulties and demand other evidence? As a matter of fact, the empty grave was not the cause of the disciples’ faith. The fact of the empty grave created no belief in the resurrection in the case either of St. Mary Magdalene, or of the other women, or of St. Peter. The Easter faith did not really spring from the empty grave, but from the self-manifestation of the risen Lord.

Luke 24:11

THE APOSTLES AT HOME

‘And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.’

Luke 24:11

Idle tales! It is a contemptuous word, such as a very superior person would use. It seems to say, ‘Hysterical women are apt to see angels. And what they say cannot be true, because it is contrary to the most elementary experience, that a dead body should rise again, and that a body buried under such conditions should escape from the tomb.’ A risen Lord, an empty tomb! They were both impossible. It was pure nonsense. And yet the women were right, and the absurd and the impossible had to be corrected by fact.

I. What did it mean—the Apostles at home on Easter morning, repudiating the realisation of what they had hoped for and the embodiment of the unseen which they had been led to expect? Nonsense—idle tales; these are ugly words on Easter morning. It meant that, for the moment, they had failed in devotion to our Lord’s Person. Note well who they were whose simple faith had been rewarded by a wondrous revelation, which a colder reason would seek to repudiate.

II. What did it mean, once more—the Apostles at home on Easter morning?—It meant that for the moment their faith had broken down. It was a supreme moment when the tottering child had to take his first step alone, and did not see the tender hand ready stretched out to catch his fall. It was the beginning of their life’s work—to walk by faith and not by sight, and they were not ready to begin; and, as we have already seen, the next step was harder, because a longer distance now intervened. It is a mistake to miss rungs out of the ladder of life anywhere; it always means a harder effort afterwards, sometimes a wrench. See what it meant to St. Thomas to lose the whole of Easter Day.

III. There would be many mornings like the dark dawn of that first Easter, when all they would have to act upon would be a treasured precept or a half-forgotten command. A morning would be coming to St. James when he would have to ask himself, Is it worth while to lay down my life in the vindication of a lost cause? when He would have to summon all his faith to mount the throne of martyrdom set on the right hand of his crucified King. A day would be coming to St. Peter when in the still night, with soldiers sleeping each side of him, he would have to act on what he had been told, to prepare for a road which he had never traversed before, and to gird himself for a journey against which flesh and blood rebelled. One by one they would have to learn to live in the minority, to be on the unpopular side, to be suspected and scorned by the religious world, and oppressed by the political rulers of its prosperity. One by one they most of them must go before their time, and endure as seeing Him Who is invisible.

Rev. Canon Newbolt.

Illustration

‘Let Magdalene come out to-day and say what she has seen. Let the other Mary come forth and say why she went thus early to the grave. Let Joanna tell us why she found a joy in ministering to Christ of her substance so great that she, too, comes to wait on Him in life or death, and finds the reward which He has ever promised to a generous faith. This is a side of Easter which appeals to every one. While Jews say He cannot, and Pilate says He shall not, and Apostles fear He may not rise, here is our place beside the tomb. We do not in the least need evidence or confirmation or defence. The Jews do not stop us; Pilate cannot coerce us, nor friends damp our ardour. Our godparents did not say for us, and we did not say for ourselves, when we accepted the Creed, “all this I steadfastly believe subject to whatever historical revisions may await it in the future.” We, too, have a school of trained research. We know Him in Whom we have believed. He has never failed us yet; His word has always come true. We have been with Him on the mountain side, and He has taught us. We have been with Him when the ship of the Church seemed whelmed beneath the waves, and He has stilled for us the tumult. We have knelt before Him in the upper room, and He has given Himself to us, with His own Hand, in mystic Eucharist. We have stood beneath His Cross and seen Him pass into the dark valley of the shadow of death, and here we are with Him on Easter morning. You say the Body has been stolen; you say we have dreamed it; you say our words are idle tales—nonsense; you deny us the testimony of our eyes, as a blind man might refuse to believe there was a sun.’


Verse 15-16

THE WALK TO EMMAUS

‘And it came to pass, while they communed and questioned together, that Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.’

Luke 24:15-16, R.V.

The story of the walk of the two disciples to Emmaus is full of vivid touches which show that it is based on personal experience. How startling sometimes is the apathy with which we are content to ignore God’s presence in our daily life. On our road, as we journey onwards from youth to old age, Jesus Himself draws near and goes with us, but our eyes are holden that we do not know Him. Why is it that we have this difficulty in realising His presence?

I. In some cases, no doubt, the cause is a moral one.—Vice and worldliness both cut men off from God. The thoroughly vicious man eventually reaches a stage in which he cannot recognise the value of either Divine or human goodness; he not merely does not know God, but he cannot know Him.

II. But Cleopas and his companion suggest quite a different kind of spiritual blindness.—They are types of those genuine followers of Christ, of those true seekers after Christ, who yet fail for some reason or other to recognise Him, who for a time, at any rate, or perhaps in some cases their whole lives through, cannot realise His presence, His voice, His teaching, His willingness to abide with them. There is a real desire to know God—a real longing after God, ‘like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks’—a real cry of the soul, ‘O that I knew where I might find Him’; and then along with all this comes at times a sense of something akin to despair.

III. How hard it is to know what to do under these circumstances; and how still more hard it is to help other people. The preacher can but draw a bow at a venture, and yet he feels it would be wrong always to be silent about difficulties which are, he knows, often pressing heavily on sensitive consciences. If I am speaking to any one here whose eyes are holden, I would ask these two questions: (a) Are you in earnest in your effort to find God? and (b) Are you trying to live as Jesus would have you live? Not every one, perhaps, will honestly be able to say ‘Yes’ to these questions; but those who can may rest assured that God will not hold them accountable for their doubts.

Rev. Dr. H. G. Woods.

Illustration

‘Our intellectual difficulties about Christianity sometimes proceed from a mistaken view of the province of reason in matters of faith. Reason may rightly claim to be a judge of the evidence on which Christianity is based. But for the acceptance of the teaching of Christ, for the knowledge of Christ, something more than reason is required. Belief is not a purely intellectual process. Christianity cannot be demonstrated like a proposition of Euclid by a purely intellectual process. That is what St. Paul means by saying that “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” We need to try continually to bring ourselves into touch with the spirit of Christ. We need to study earnestly and reverently the teaching and character of Christ. We need to learn how to see in His words a real meaning for ourselves, here and now.’


Verse 29

ABIDE WITH US

‘Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’

Luke 24:29

‘Abide with us.’—It is the prayer of two men; two men to whom God came. It is the only Easter-tide prayer recorded for us, and it is an ideal prayer for ourselves.

I. The journey to Emmaus is as the journey of life.—We walk along by twos, or, more often, all alone. And life is perplexing. Things outside trouble us, and sometimes things within. We don’t understand. Things seem somehow as if they could not be right. All things do not seem just and fair. Our hearts grow faint and sick with trying to understand—trying to trust.

II. We need the presence of God.—We want some one to talk to—some one who knows and can explain. It is this that makes men go off after strange teachers, any one who promises them light. It is not so much that they want heaven hereafter, they want light now. What is our prayer? We are Christians—members of Christ, children of God, inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Surely God is near. ‘Abide with us!’ Yes, the prayer for the knowledge of the ceaseless presence of God is the prayer for men and women to-day.

III. Let us keep an open door for Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God.—Let there be always a place in our hearts where He may abide. There may be difficulties in the inspiration of Scripture, in the origin and interpretation of our sacred books. There may be difficulties and sorrows in a broken-up Church—a divided Christendom. There may be perplexities in the things that come to our lives and the lives of our dear ones. The journey of life may be hard and growing harder. Let us keep our eyes open to see the tokens of the presence of Jesus. Let faith ever hold fast to the words, ‘Lo, I am ever with you.’ Is it so? Then, Lord, I fear not. I will believe. I will be true. I will be patient. Lord Jesus, by Thee we can do all things. Abide with us.’

Bishop E. W. Osborne.

Illustration

‘How beautiful is this revelation of the risen Jesus! It sparkles with light, does it not? Let us learn from it of Him, for what He was that day He is still. He has not changed; Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. What shall we learn, then, from it? Realise the presence of the living Jesus in our daily life. Look for Him as He comes to us in the daytime of our work. Seek Him in the everyday actions, in the daily round, in the common task. Find Him in the most commonplace things. Remember Jesus is essentially human, whilst He is truly Divine, very Man as well as very God. Nothing that has to do with our humanity is foreign to Him. Bear in mind that He is never nearer to us than when we are sad. He has so much in common with sorrow, for He was the very Man of Sorrows Himself. As it has been beautifully said, He consecrates our saddest walks, our hardest roads, our longest journeys. Learn how to deal with doubt—our own, or the doubts of other people. Jesus bids us be patient with doubts; patient with ourselves, with others. He tells us how He ever manifests Himself to the honest doubter. He promises us that He will be with us in our doubt, although we may not recognise Him; though not perhaps until the evening overtakes us, as darkness and the night of death comes over us, we shall know that He has been with us all the time.’


Verse 32

BURNING HEARTS

‘And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?’

Luke 24:32

It is surely one of the lessons to be drawn from this narrative of the Self-revelation to Cleopas and his fellow-wayfarer that these fires are not deceptive, but are incentives to advance from the oppressiveness of doubt and uncertainty to an appreciation of the glorious truth. If our natures are burning, is it not because God is inviting us to draw closer to the goal of religious knowledge? Do not let us think that these deeper hopes and sentiments are untrustworthy—that they ‘are such stuff as dreams are made of.’ They are from God, and are His loving discipline and education.

I. Burning hearts!

(a) They are aglow with Divine fire and not with the flames of illusion.

(b) It is not our own wayward imaginations which have kindled them, but the coming nigh to us of Him Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, the Life.’

(c) They are the preparation for the fullness of the Gospel.

II. In Christ incarnate, dead, triumphant, all needs find their full and sufficient satisfaction.—In ‘the Son of Man’ we see the true dignity and calling of humanity. No aspiration, no forecast, no vision, can surpass the revelation of human worth which is granted to us in His sacred person. In Him, too, we have an earnest of the future which awaits all of which He is the appointed Head and Crown. In Him all things—‘the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth’—have been ‘summed up’ by ‘the Father,’ and there is nothing which can be beyond the issues of such a wondrous consummation. In Him not only the individual man but all nature is promised renewal and restoration. ‘And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more.’ ‘And He that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.’ No interest, no pursuit, no joy, which is capable of receiving consecration, need go unhallowed by such an assurance. Unto the completeness of such assurance may God bring each one of us.

Rev. the Hon. W. E. Bowen.

Illustration

‘Be near me when my light is low,

When the blood creeps and the nerves prick

And tingle; and the heart is sick,

And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame

Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust,

And Time, a maniac scattering dust,

And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,

And men the flies of latter spring,

That lay their eggs, and sting and sing,

And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,

To point the term of human strife,

And on the low dark verge of life

The twilight of eternal day.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

UNRECOGNISED BLESSINGS

I.—The difficulty we have in understanding the real importance of many incidents in our lives at the time of their occurrence.

II.—It was a question of self-reproach. They were morally and intellectually on fire, and yet it had led to nothing. Ought it not to have led to something?

III.—The duty of making an active effort to understand truth when it is presented to us.

IV.—Our Lord’s Presence with His disciples during the forty days after His resurrection was in many ways an anticipation of His Presence in the Church to the end of time.

Rev. Canon Liddon.


Verse 34

RISEN INDEED

‘The Lord is risen indeed.’

Luke 24:34

I. The fact.—The Christian Church is founded on the definite historic fact of Christ’s Resurrection. Socrates hesitates and confesses he does not know, Christ solves the problems of the ages and says He has the keys of death and of Hades.

II. The power.—Facts are the greatest of all powers. ‘The power of His Resurrection’ is a wonder-working power. It created the Christian Church. We know certain men lived and wrought because of the power they exercised in the world. By the same evidence we know Christ died and rose again by the power He exercises on earth to-day. Knowledge is power. But the knowledge that Christ is risen is the greatest power of all.

III. The surprise.—Christ’s life was full of surprises. His Resurrection was a surprise. It was just what His disciples did not expect (John 20:9). Some people say, ‘I know what I believe.’ That is very desirable. But I can tell you something better—to be able to say, ‘I know Whom I trust.’

Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘“It is of no use,” says John Stuart Mill, “to say that Christ, as exhibited in these Gospels, is not historical. Who could have invented such a character and such a history as that of the Christ given us by the four Evangelists?”’


Verse 39

THE HANDS OF THE RISEN CHRIST

‘Behold My hands.’

Luke 24:39

No doubt the first reason why Christ showed His Hands was to prove that He was the very same Jesus Who had been crucified.

I. They were pitiful Hands.—Those Hands had blessed the children. Those Hands had touched the leper. Those Hands had multiplied the loaves. Those Hands had healed the sick.

II. They were powerful Hands.—The Good Shepherd says of His sheep, ‘No one shall pluck them out of My Hand’ (John 10:28). May we live day by day upheld by those Hands, and fall at last like tired children into those Everlasting Arms, which are soft as love and stronger than death!

III. They were pierced Hands.—You can tell the true Christ by the holes in His Hands. The true Christ is the Sin-bearer. ‘The sting of death is sin’ (1 Corinthians 15:56). The ‘Te Deum’ is a translation from the Latin, and in the verse ‘When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers,’ the Latin is, “When Thou hadst overcome the sting of death,’ with a reference no doubt to the words of St. Paul, ‘The sting of death is sin.’ And who can tell the exceeding sinfulness of sin to pierce those sacred Hands?

IV. They were pleading Hands.—His disciples would remember how those Hands had been uplifted in intercession all through His earthly life.

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘Love is full of service. It is tireless in its ministry. It is always giving itself away, expending itself on others. What will not the mother do for her child, what the true wife for her husband? Let the recollection of our childhood tell. We have seen many a pearly hand, whose whiteness rivalled the gems it wore, but the hands that live most in our recollection are the thin, worn, wrinkled hands of a mother—the dear weariless hands—without ornament, save the one plain gold ring worn through all the years from marriage-day to burial-day. What have these hands not done for us? They have lifted us up and laid us down. They fed us, and dressed us, and soothed us, and caressed us. It was love that made them active: it was love that made them tireless. And now that they are folded in everlasting rest, they still live in vision with us till we clasp them once more on the everlasting shore.’


Verse 46-47

THE GOSPEL OF THE CROSS

‘(He) said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’

Luke 24:46-47

I have recited as our text that most dogmatic of Christ’s recorded instructions to His Church after His Resurrection, in view of the evangelisation of the world.

I. The whole burden of the words is this—His dying work, His resurrection power, the sin of man shown in His light, the forgiveness of man given for His sake: ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and should rise again, and that repentance’—the recognition, the confession, the forsaking of sin—‘and then remission’—amnesty, pardon, welcome, peace with God—‘should be preached in His name.’ All other blessings, but these first. For these He suffered. For these He was exalted. He is enthroned, ‘a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission.’ And this, not to one race or type of manhood rather than to another. Semite, Hamite, Turanian, Aryan, all have sinned, and all must thus be called and blessed. The message was alike to ‘begin at Jerusalem,’ specimen and type of whole regions of the Orient, and to extend ‘to all the nations’ of every continent and every sea.

II. As the Master, so the servants.—In the apostolic writers we have chosen types of character profoundly varied. In the regions and races they address, in speech and in epistle, we have chosen samples of the world. The Hebrew is there, and the Athenian, the Roman, the Levantine, the Galatian Celt, the Phrygian of the remote Lycus, enamoured of the theosophy of the remoter East. To them messages are sent by men as different in cast of character and trend of thought as Paul, and Peter, and John. But every messenger to every tribe and mission sends a gospel which, however rich, and varied, and locally adjusted in its circumference, is the same thing at its centre; it is the preaching of the Cross.

III. Is this old gospel of the Cross a narrow gospel?—Yes; just as narrow as the gate and as the way of which our Master spoke of old. Is it a narrow gospel? No; in its beating heart, warm with the blood of the Atonement, there lie, always ready for infinite expansion, all the blessings, for eternity and for time, lodged for us by the Father in the Son, and liberated for us by the sacrifice of His death; for ever blessed be His Name. In that Name our missionaries, ‘the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ,’ go to all the nations. They go to teach them many things, yea, all things which He has commanded. They go to gather and to combine; to minister the Lord’s ordinances; to build up men in the Lord’s Body; to equip His disciples for His service; to lead them out into His holy war. But first and most they go to preach, and to glorify, His Cross. For themselves, that Cross, borne for their own salvation, is the Divine peace and power for their suffering as for their witness. In that Sign they conquer.

Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

Illustration

‘“From error and misunderstanding” so runs the Litany of the Moravians, “from the loss of our glory in Thee, from coldness to Thy merits and Thy death, preserve us, gracious Lord and God.”’


Verse 47

AT JERUSALEM

‘Beginning at Jerusalem.’

Luke 24:47

The witness of the Church to the risen Christ is wide as the world. But the words afford a remarkable indication of method.

I. Notice how explicitly this point is emphasised by Christ Himself.—How prominently Jerusalem, where He had been rejected and crucified, is in His thoughts. It is as though the Christian Church were to enlarge its borders in ever-widening concentric circles, so that He who is ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles’ may at the same time be ‘the glory of His people Israel.’ Christ’s messengers are not to scatter over the face of the earth, to commence a haphazard evangelisation of the nations. ‘He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem.’ ‘Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.’

II. Notice how exactly the Church obeyed the will of its risen Lord.—‘They worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.’ Then came the descent of the Spirit. The Jewish Pentecost is transformed at once into the Christian Whitsuntide. Then follows the preaching to ‘the Jew first.’ The Acts of the Apostles shows the Christian society at Jerusalem established as the mother of churches. To it the Christians of the first age look, as the ancient Israel had looked towards Zion. It is from Jerusalem that missionaries go forth to evangelise the Roman Empire. It is ‘the apostles at Jerusalem’ who heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, and sent unto them Peter and John. At Jerusalem is held the first council of the Church. From Macedonia and Achaia, from Philippi and Corinth, churches on the mainland of Greece, contributions are sent for the poor saints at Jerusalem. ‘Beginning at Jerusalem’ is printed, as it were, on the title page of the Acts. And it is quite in accordance with the prominence accorded to this city in the New Testament that the earliest instance of a bishop in the Christian Church should be found at Jerusalem, and that a deference quite out of proportion to its practical importance should have been paid to him as representing the original metropolis of Christendom.

III. A lesson in unity.—But if our Lord meant to fix Jerusalem as the capital, the metropolis of the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, then the conception of the Church of Christ as an actual historic society, with an outward unity as real as that which belongs to any world state, is at once conceded as belonging to the essentials of the Christian faith. ‘All one body we’ was never meant to be a mere pious expression of opinion that at the last, when the secrets of the heart should be disclosed, men who had failed to identify each other in the thick of the conflict would be found to belong to the hidden company of God’s chosen. A Church so vague as this were little better than no Church at all. What we need is a body ‘fitly framed and knit together,’ something that can kindle a common enthusiasm, and arouse the love and loyalty of its members. That Christ has given us in the visible Church.

—Rev. J. G. Simpson.


Verse 49

SPIRITUAL POWER

‘And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.’

Luke 24:49

The question of questions for each of us to consider is, ‘How am I to make my life the home and embodiment of this power from above?’ If we turn to our Lord’s own example, or to the life of St. Paul or any other of His followers, or to any life we have known and felt to breathe around it this same power of the Spirit, some things become at once very obvious and clear to us.

I. Whoever desires to have his soul purified and invigorated, to be charged with this Divine electric influence, must have something of separateness and independence in his life.—He must feel himself as not merely one of the crowd moved by the desires, aims, hopes, tastes, and ambitions which may chance to prevail around him, but as a separate soul in direct communion with the Spirit of God. But if we are to realise this in our own life, it means that our times of daily prayer, whether in private or in public, are times at which we lay open our secret life to the Divine presence and influence; it means that we give some real thought and meditation to this presence of God in our life, and that we thus feed our souls continually on wholesome spiritual food.

II. But the hindrances that are always acting to undermine or destroy any such spiritual power in us are manifold, and seldom far away from our life.

(a) The world outside is always with us.

(b) Dullness of spirit.

(c) Worst of all hindrances is the harbouring of sensual appetite or craving, passion, or indulgence.

When you think of this Holy Spirit of God as a power in every good life, it become a very real question what and of what sort is the power that is holding sway over you in your leisure hours. This is indeed a question which never sleeps.

—Bishop Percival.

Illustration

‘When I think what turns upon the possession or the non-possession of the Holy Ghost; when I consider that without Him a soul—be it what it may, however amiable, however good—is worthless in God’s sight, and lost; when I feel—as every one who ever looks at his own heart must feel—that without the quickenings and sanctifyings of the Holy Ghost I can do nothing—I cannot pray—I cannot have a good thought; and when I know that on this mighty change, which the Spirit begins and ends, hangs my heaven or my hell—then I rejoice to know that God has not left the gift of the Spirit in a vague uncertainty, but He has made it the promise of the dispensation—“the promise of the Father.”’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE GREATNESS OF POWER

I. The almighty power of the Holy Ghost—within me, without me, in me, upon me. This is:—

(a) Saving power.

(b) Separating power.

(c) Transforming power.

(d) Sustaining power.

(e) Soul-winning power.

II. ‘Now let Thy love my soul inflame, fresh power to me impart.’—Thus:—

(a) Power for service.

(b) Power for testimony.

(c) Power for suffering.

(d) Power for rejoicing.

Rev. C. G. Baskerville.

Illustration

‘It may be, you have something before you—some work, some cross, some difficulty. Now, whatever it be, be careful before you meet it that you have first sought and found “power,” “power from on high.” Let the young man be sure that he does not run into his profession, let a minister be sure he does not go to his ministry, let parents take care that they do not go to their duties with their children, let men beware, before they walk into their houses of business, or every man to his calling, let a man take care that he does not do it till he has good reason to know that he has found “power,” promised “power,” a power that shall enable him to go in the spirit of the words, “Now I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

SPIRITUAL INVESTITURE

This word ‘endued’ signifies an investiture. You have it used in Daniel 5:27. You have it used in Isaiah 22:21. You have it used in Leviticus 8:7. We too may be sure that this being endued with power from on high will give to us the investiture of priests, so that we too may have access into the very holiest, and we too may worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

Turn with me to three instances in the Old Testament Scriptures, where you find three men clothed with the Holy Ghost. And as we watch one character after the other, we shall see what is the result of this enduement of power.

I. The first man is in Judges 6—Is Gideon to fly again? No. We read in Judges 6:34 : ‘The Spirit of God clothed Gideon,’ for so it is on the margin, ‘and he blew the trumpet, and Abi-ezer was gathered unto him.’ Oh that the Spirit of God may thus clothe you to-day, and as you look back upon the past and see failure, and as you to-day determine in the strength of the Lord to go and fight against the foe, even when the foe waxes still more outrageous against you, may the Spirit of God clothe you!

II. The second man you will find in 1 Chronicles 12—David is still an outlaw. But in the first twenty-two verses of the chapter you have a catalogue of the brave heroes that joined themselves to David whilst he was still hunted as a partridge upon the mountains. It is in Luke 24:18 that we read that ‘the Spirit of God clothed Amasai … and he said, Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse. Peace, peace be unto thee and to thine helpers, for God hath helped thee.’ Oh that the Spirit of God might in the same way clothe this congregation here to-day, and that we might with one heart and with one voice say, even as Amasai said, ‘Thine are we, Lord Jesus, and upon Thy side, Thou Son of God!’ Oh that every one of us might be clothed by the Spirit of God, that we may yield ourselves loyally, wholly, faithfully to our King!

III. But our religion is concerned not only with ourselves but also with our fellow-men, and therefore we must turn to the third man who is said to have been clothed with the Holy Ghost. In 2 Chronicles 24 you have an account of the reign of the young king Joash. In Luke 24:20 we read, ‘The Spirit of God came upon Zechariah … and said unto them … Because ye have forsaken the Lord, He hath also forsaken you.’

Rev. Canon E. A. Stuart.

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

THE MISSION OF THE HOLY GHOST

Pentecost, in the Church’s history, was to this dispensation what Bethlehem was to the Christian Era, and Christ ascended that His Spirit might be poured forth.

‘Wait,’ was our Lord’s command; wait for the promise of the Father. ‘Again, ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.’

I. This is the root idea of Christianity, not a new creed for each successive generation, but the heroism and might of a conquering force put into the Creed we have; not miracles wrought, ever and anon, for the Church, but wonders wrought by the Church with the material at hand; men and women carrying on Christ’s work as energised, Spirit-inspired witnesses, living over again Christ’s saintly life in the power which qualified and enabled them to do so, even the power of the Holy Ghost. This was the secret of Christ’s success, as it is the secret of all successful ministry.

II. In anxious days like these, the Church of Christ wants more and more living witnesses, laymen as well as clergy, who are taught of God, full of the Holy Ghost, and then used of God. If we would lift off the reproach too freely cast on our modern Christianity, that it is a creed of selfishness, we must show that we are not careful only of our own salvation, but that we are solicitous for the salvation of others.

—Dean Pigou.

Illustration

‘Well do I remember being requested to visit one of culture and mental gifts on her deathbed in a town where I was conducting a “Mission.” I found her in the deepest distress of mind in the prospect of Eternity. She told me she knew she could not live, but that she had no hope for Eternity. On questioning her as to her religious convictions, she answered me that with her whole soul she longed to know Christ. “They come,” she said, “and sit by my bedside, and bid me ‘to believe’ and to ‘accept Christ.’ Would to God I could, but I cannot.” I asked her if she understood that it must be given to us to believe in order that we may accept; and when I proceeded to explain to her that it is the office and work of the Holy Ghost to convince of sin, to discover our need of a Saviour, to reveal Him to the soul, and to enable us to accept Him, and appropriate personally His precious blood, it all seemed to come to her as a new truth. She did not depart this life without having “seen His salvation.”’


Verse 50-51

THE ASCENSION

‘And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.’

Luke 24:50-51

Witnesses were not necessary to the act of Resurrection, but they were necessary to the act of Ascension. Why? Because, though there were no human witnesses to the act of resurrection, there were many witnesses who saw Him after He had risen from the dead. Suppose there had been no witnesses to the act of Ascension, we might have supposed Him to be still on earth. Who were the privileged ones to see Him go? His own beloved people. The Master did not show Himself at all after His Resurrection to His enemies, but to His own dear friends. In addition to this earthly witness, there were witnesses from the home to which He has gone. Let us thank God that we have such a twofold witness to the Ascension of our Lord.

I. The conduct of our Lord at the time of His Ascension harmonises with all that is written of Him before that time.—“While He blessed them.” That was His work. He was like Himself to the end. Nothing had changed or embittered Him.

II. The Ascension is connected with the carrying out of his own work.—Ephesians 4:8-13. He ascended that He might fill the whole world with His influence. He has left behind Him the spirit of His life. He has shed forth the power of the Holy Ghost.

III. The Ascension inspired the noblest feelings in the hearts of the Apostles (Luke 24:52).—Worship, i.e., reverence, admiration, transcendent wonder. Religion more than knowledge, faith, awe, hope. How many of us content to live without the enthusiasm of love?

IV. The Ascension of Christ teaches that virtuous sufferings lead to and end in glory.—The end of His suffering the beginning of His glory. Shall it not be so with his saints? Death an ascent into glorious life, rather than a descent into the grave (2 Timothy 2:11-12).

Illustration

‘In the Mosque of St. Sophia at Constantinople, in the half-dome of the apse, may be seen worked in mosaic a figure of majestic size crowned with a halo of glory and with arms uplifted as if to bless. It is the figure of the Lord Jesus Christ, for that Mosque was once a Christian Church. And that is just the picture of Ascension Day. For the service for Ascension Day is an uplifting service. It is the triumph of the Crucified. It lifts our thoughts above the dust and din and tears and blood of this world.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

GIFTS AND GRACES OF THE ASCENDED LORD

What conclusion shall we derive from a survey of the testimony of the New Testament writers to the Ascension? Two things at least seem to be clear.

I. We see that the alleged scantiness of evidence resolves itself into this, that the Church of the Apostles, like the Church of all succeeding ages, had her thoughts fixed on the gifts and graces which flow from her Ascended Lord rather than on the historical moment of His Ascension. The phenomena of Luke’s Gospel may not permit us all to concur in the judgment that ‘the Ascension … did not lie within the proper scope of the Gospels, as seen in their genuine texts’; but at all events we begin to perceive how profound is the observation of Dr. Hort that the ‘true place’ of the Ascension record ‘was at the head of the Acts of the Apostles, as the preparation for the Day of Pentecost, and thus the beginning of the history of the Church.’

II. In the second place, the Ascension is not represented in the New Testament as an evidential marvel, whose purpose is to confound and refute the unbeliever, but as a fact of faith whose inner meaning is gradually revealed to the faithful. A historical fact, indeed, it is; the beliefs of Christians do not rest on myth or legend. But it is a historical fact whose guarantee is found at last in its relation to the whole economy of redemption, and in the response of the Christian heart to its message.

III. The veil which divides earth from heaven is only lifted for the faithful and patient soul.—The evidence for the Ascension may seem insufficient, the need for a Feast of the Ascension but imaginary, because we have lost the piercing insight into the spiritual world which the first disciples had caught from their Master. The Ascension was only witnessed by Christians at the first; still it is only by Christians that it can be greeted with joy, for it is in the end a fact of faith. None the less real for that; the witness of a musician to the harmonies of a great sonata is none the less real because the dull ear of the undisciplined multitude can catch only a medley of sounds. According to the measure of our powers, the same voices may be to us a Babel of confusion or a Pentecost of harmonious rejoicing.

Dean J. H. Bernard.


Verse 52

TO JERUSALEM WITH GREAT JOY

‘And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.’

Luke 24:52

The message of that descent from the hill of the Ascension is a message for all time, and for all the people of God, until ‘this same Jesus, in like manner, shall so come again, as He was seen going into heaven.’ Briefly and in much simplicity let us unfold some of the contents of it.

I. For every believer there is a Jerusalem.—He has to live in some scene of the will of God, which is quite sure to present, with its manifest mercies, its manifest trials too. Very various are these Jerusalems. For one, the place lies quite at home; for another, it is at the antipodes. It may be a household, a place of business, a place of service, a room of suffering, a school, a college, a mission-station, a parish, a diocese, a kingdom. Where there is real duty there is sure to be something of the Cross with it. And at times the Cross-aspect of Jerusalem expands itself so much to the man sent to dwell there, that it dominates all other aspects; and he by no means associates Jerusalem with great joy.

II. Yet nothing is more certain than that in the Lord’s will and plan we are meant to be joyful in our Jerusalem.—We are to ‘praise and bless God’ there. We are to be known there, and by unfriendly witnesses, if such there be, as those who ‘have been with Jesus.’ It is in Jerusalem—not in a self-chosen solitude—that we are to expect, and to receive, ‘the promise of the Father.’ It is in Jerusalem that we are to bear witness for our ascended and returning Saviour, with the joyful hope of winning others to find out what He is.’ In Jerusalem it is possible to do this ‘with great joy.’ To Jerusalem it is possible to return from the most charming or the most hallowed retreat ‘with great joy,’ as to the Lord’s own chosen scene of work, witness, and blessing, till He come.

III. The secret of this joy lies in that old, immortal principle, ‘We walk by faith, not by sight.’—It is by faith; by ‘taking Him at His word’; by making use of Him in all His wealth of Person, Character, Offices, Promises, Presence, as our strength and our salvation. It is not by sight; not yet; not till the walk by faith has capacitated us for the eternal mode of walking by sight. No, not by sight; such is the deliberate purpose of our King. He would at present school us, to our infinite gain, in the art of trusting Him without appearances, not to say against them. ‘Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,’ was the last beatitude He spoke to His disciples in His days on earth.

‘The life that I live now in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.’ That is to say, I live it by the trustful use of Him as a reality amidst the realities of the hour; by returning to my Jerusalem, and living and walking in it, as one who knows that the Lord Jesus, Who has borne my sins, is for me at the right hand of God, and in me amidst ‘the plottings of men, and the strife of tongues,’ and all that surrounds ‘a sinner in a world of care.’

Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

Illustration

‘So we leave the quiet hill-top between Olivet and Bethany. “It is towards evening and the day is far spent.” See, the sun descends, as we retrace our steps to the city round the southern shoulder of the Mount. Its rays stream over the roofs and towers of Jerusalem, and are reflected as if from water by the broad marble pavement of the Haram area, where the dome of Omar stands up dark as night in the midst. We walk back, past the trees of the Garden of Gethsemane, and round to the northern walls, and to that green Mound crowned with Moslem graves which looks across the road to the Damascus gate; and so home for the night. And we carry with us a message good for all the days and nights of life in front of us. The charm and wonder of the Palestinian sojourn is soon over. It is soon time to return to all that is meant by common duty; to scenes rich in manifold mercy, but in which the days and hours are always bringing their problems pressing for solution, and many a heartache in the course of them. But we go back with a new realisation of what is meant for us by the Ascension of the Lord to heaven, and the descent of His servants to Jerusalem. We have walked as it were with the Apostles to the quiet hill and back with them to the city so terribly unquiet. We saw them go with many a wistful thought and unanswered question heaving in their hearts; may we not gather this from the opening verses of the Acts? And the Blessed Friend to Whom they had turned so often with their doubts and fears had now risen from the midst of them and vanished out of sight. But they walk with a totally different air and bearing as they come back from their farewell:—

Sure of their Master’s truth, sure to succeed,

And well content to suffer and to bleed.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Luke 24:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/luke-24.html. 1876.

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Friday, February 22nd, 2019
the Sixth Week after Epiphany
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