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THE resurrection of Christ is one of the great foundation-stones of the Christian religion. In practical importance it is second only to the crucifixion. The chapter we have now begun directs our mind to the evidence of the resurrection. It contains unanswerable proof that Jesus not only died, but rose again.
We see, in the verses before us, the reality of Christ’s resurrection. We read, that upon "the first day of the week" certain women came to the sepulchre in which the body of Jesus had been laid, in order to anoint Him. But when they came to the place, "they found the stone rolled away. And they entered in and found not the body of the Lord Jesus."
This simple fact is the starting-point in the history of the resurrection of Christ. On Friday morning His body was safe in the tomb. On Sabbath morning His body was gone. By whose hands had it been taken away? Who had removed it? Not surely the priests and scribes and other enemies of Christ! If they had had Christ’s body to show in disproof of His resurrection, they would gladly have shown it.—Not the apostles and other disciples of our Lord! They were far too much frightened and dispirited to attempt such an action, and the more so when they had nothing to gain by it. One explanation, and one only, can meet the circumstance of the case. That explanation is the one supplied by the angels in the verse before us. Christ "had risen" from the grave. To seek Him in the sepulcher was seeking "the living among the dead." He had risen again, and was soon seen alive and conversing in the body by many credible witnesses.
The fact of our Lord’s resurrection rests on evidence which no infidel can ever explain away. It is confirmed by testimony of every kind, sort, and description. The plain unvarnished story which the Gospel writers tell about it, is one that cannot be overthrown. The more the account they give is examined, the more inexplicable will the event appear, unless we accept it as true. If we choose to deny the truth of their account we may deny everything in the world. It is not so certain that Julius Cæsar once lived, as it is that Christ rose again.
Let us cling firmly to the resurrection of Christ, as one of the pillars of the Gospel. It ought to produce in our minds a settled conviction of the truth of Christianity. Our faith does not depend merely on a set of texts and doctrines. It is founded on a mighty fact which the skeptic has never been able to overturn.—It ought to assure us of the certainty of the resurrection of our own bodies after death. If our Master has risen from the grave, we need not doubt that His disciples shall rise again at the last day.—Above all it ought to fill our hearts with a joyful sense of the fullness of Gospel salvation. Who is he that shall condemn us? Our Great Surety has not only died for us but risen again. (Romans 8:34.) He has gone to prison for us, and come forth triumphantly after atoning for our sins. The payment He made for us has been accepted. The work of satisfaction has been perfectly accomplished. No wonder that Peter exclaims, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1 Peter 1:3.)
We see, secondly, in the verses before us, how dull the memory of the disciples was about some of our Lord’s sayings. We are told that the angels who appeared to the women, reminded them of their Master’s words in Galilee, foretelling His own crucifixion and resurrection. And then we read, "They remembered his words." They had heard them, but made no use of them. Now after many days they call them to mind.
This dulness of memory is a common spiritual disease among believers. It prevails as widely now as it did in the days of the first disciples. It is one among many proofs of our fallen and corrupt condition. Even after men have been renewed by the Holy Ghost, their readiness to forget the promises and precepts of the Gospel is continually bringing them into trouble. They hear many things which they ought to store up in their hearts, but seem to forget as fast as they hear. And then, perhaps after many days, affliction brings them up before their recollection, and at once it flashes across their minds that they heard them long ago! They find that they had heard, but heard in vain.
The true cure for a dull memory in religion, is to get deeper love toward Christ, and affections more thoroughly set on things above. We do not readily forget the things we love, and the objects which we keep continually under our eyes. The names of our parents and children are always remembered. The face of the husband or wife we love is graven on the tablets of our hearts. The more our affections are engaged in Christ’s service, the more easy shall we find it to remember Christ’s words. The words of the apostle ought to be carefully pondered: "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." (Hebrews 2:1.)
We see, lastly, how slow of belief the first disciples were on the subject of Christ’s resurrection. We read that when the women returned from the sepulcher and told the things they had heard from the angels to the eleven apostles, "their words seemed to them idle tales, and they believed them not." In spite of the plainest declarations from their Master’s own lips that He would rise again the third day,—in spite of the distinct testimony of five or six credible witnesses that the sepulcher was empty, and that angels had told them He was risen,—in spite of the manifest impossibility of accounting for the empty tomb on any other supposition than that of a miraculous resurrection,—in spite of all this, these eleven faithless ones would not believe!
Perhaps we marvel at their unbelief. No doubt it seems at first sight most senseless, most unreasonable, most provoking, most unaccountable. But shall we not do well to look at home? Do we not see around us in the Christian Churches a mass of unbelief far more unreasonable and far more blameworthy than that of the apostles? Do we not see, after eighteen centuries of additional proofs that Christ has risen from the dead, a general want of faith which is truly deplorable? Do we not see myriads of professing Christians who seem not to believe that Jesus died and rose again, and is coming to judge the world? These are painful questions. Strong faith is indeed a rare thing. No wonder that our Lord said, "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8.)
Finally, let us admire the wisdom of God, which can bring great good out of seeming evil. The unbelief of the apostles is one of the strongest indirect evidences that Jesus rose from the dead. If the disciples were at first so backward to believe our Lord’s resurrection, and were at last so thoroughly persuaded of its truth that they preached it everywhere, Christ must have risen indeed. The first preachers were men who were convinced in spite of themselves, and in spite of determined, obstinate unwillingness to believe. If the apostles at last believed, the resurrection must be true.
v1.—[The first day of the week.] This, we must remember, was our Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath was our Saturday.
[Very early in the morning.] Let it be noted, that this early visit to the sepulchre is a strong proof of the love and affection of these holy women. For women to go to a place of burial, near a crowded city, before the sun was risen, faith and courage were needed.
[The spices.] We are told by John that Joseph and Nicodemus had already used "a hundred pounds weight" of myrrh and aloes, when they buried our Lord. (John 19:39.) But it is probable that for want of time these spices were used hurriedly and imperfectly. Some commentators say, that the process of embalming and applying spices to dead bodies, was usually repeated for several days together, in order that the aromatic and antiseptic compounds might have their full effect.
v2.—[The stone rolled away.] This, according to Matthew, (Matthew 28:1,) had been the first great sign attending the resurrection. At the sight of the angels who rolled away the stone, the Roman guard was first terrified and then fled. After this the women came, and found the grave empty.
v3.—[The Lord Jesus.] Bishop Brownrig remarks that this is the first time in the New Testament that our Saviour is so termed. The Lord,—Christ,—Jesus, are names He frequently has had. Here, after His resurrection as a conqueror, Luke calls Him "the Lord Jesus."
v4.—[Much perplexed.] They could not tell what to make of the facts before them,—the empty sepulchre,—the linen clothes lying by themselves,—the body gone.
[Two men.] Here, as in another place, (Acts 1:18,) we are, of course, to understand angels in the appearance of men. The frequency with which Luke mentions angels is a peculiar feature in his Gospel. An angel appears to Zacharias, an angel appears to Mary, angels appear to the shepherds when our Lord is born, all mentioned only in Luke.
v5.—[The living.] It admits of doubt whether the Greek expression here would not have been more literally rendered, "the living one,"—the great source of life, the life of the world.
v6.—[In Galilee.] This expression shows, no less than many other similar ones, that the greater part of our Lord’s discourses and sermons were delivered in Galilee.
Some have indulged in unprofitable speculations on this verse, as to the remembrance of the things spoken in Galilee, which the angels exhibit in this verse. It ought to content us to remember that these angels were executing a commission and delivering a message intrusted to them by God. There is no warrant for the assertion that angels know everything spoken to God’s people, and can afterwards repeat it.
v7.—[Must be delivered.] The Greek words here mean, "It is necessary that He should be delivered,"—necessary for the fulfilment of prophecies and types, necessary for the redemption of sinners.
v8.—[They remembered.] Ford quotes a good remark of Cecil’s on this expression: "It is not sufficiently considered how much more we need recollection than information."
v9.—[Told all these things, &c.] Augustine remarks that these women were "the first preachers of the resurrection of Christ."
[To all the rest.] Who these were we do not know. It is evident that our Lord had other disciples in Jerusalem beside the eleven. On the day of His ascension the number of names was a "hundred and twenty."
v10.—[Other women.] Who these were we do not know. They were probably the same spoken of in a former place, who ministered to our Lord. (Luke 8:2.)
v11.—[Idle tales.] The Greek word so rendered is only found here. According to Parkhurst it means, "Words of no value; idle nonsense."
v12.—[Peter.] We can well understand that Peter would be in a peculiarly sensitive and anxious state of conscience. On the very chance of the report being true he goes to see for himself.
[The linen clothes laid by themselves.] All writers on the resurrection of Christ, call attention with much justice to this fact. If the body of our Lord had been stolen from the grave by his friends, it is most improbable that those who stole it would have taken thetrouble to remove the linen clothes and wrap them together in an orderly manner.
[Departed...wondering in himself.] It is the opinion of those who are best judges, that these words would be better rendered, "departed to his own house wondering." (See John 20:10.)
THE history contained in these verses is not found in any other Gospel but that of Luke. Of all the eleven appearances of Christ after His resurrection, none perhaps is so interesting as the one described in this passage.
Let us mark, in these verses, what encouragement there is to believers to speak to one another about Christ. We are told of two disciples walking together to Emmaus, and talking of their Master’s crucifixion. And then come the remarkable words, "While they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them."
Conference on spiritual subjects is a most important means of grace. As iron sharpeneth iron, so does exchange of thoughts with brethren sharpen a believer’s soul. It brings down a special blessing on all who make a practice of it. The striking words of Malachi were meant for the Church in every age;—"Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine saith the LORD, in that day when I make up my jewels." (Malachi 3:16-17.)
What do we know ourselves of spiritual conversation with other Christians? Perhaps we read our Bibles, and pray in private, and use public means of grace. It is all well, very well. But if we stop short here we neglect a great privilege and have yet much to learn. We ought to "consider one another to provoke to love and good works." We ought to "exhort" and "edify one another." (Hebrews 10:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:11.) Have we no time for spiritual conversation? Let us think again. The quantity of time wasted on frivolous, trifling, and unprofitable talk, is fearfully great.—Do we find nothing to say on spiritual subjects? Do we feel tongue-tied and dumb on the things of Christ? Surely if this is the case, there must be something wrong within. A heart right in the sight of God will generally find words. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matthew 12:34.)
Let us learn a lesson from the two travelers to Emmaus. Let us speak of Jesus, when we are sitting in our houses and when we are walking by the way, whenever we can find a disciple to speak to. (Deuteronomy 6:7.) If we believe we are journeying to a heaven where Christ will be the central object of every mind, let us begin to learn the manners of heaven, while we are yet upon earth. So doing we shall often have One with us whom our eyes will not see, but One who will make our hearts "burn within us" by blessing the conversation.
Let us mark, secondly, in these verses, how weak and imperfect was the knowledge of some of our Lord’s disciples. We are told that the two disciples confessed frankly that their expectations had been disappointed by the crucifixion of Christ. "We trusted," said they, "that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel." A temporal redemption of the Jews by a conqueror appears to have been the redemption which they looked for. A spiritual redemption by a sacrificial death was an idea which their minds could not thoroughly take in.
Ignorance like this, at first sight, is truly astounding. We cannot be surprised at the sharp rebuke which fell from our Lord’s lips, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe." Yet ignorance like this is deeply instructive. It shows us how little cause we have to wonder at the spiritual darkness which obscures the minds of careless Christians. Myriads around us are just as ignorant of the meaning of Christ’s sufferings as these travelers to Emmaus. As long as the world stands the cross will seem foolishness to natural man.
Let us bless God that there may be true grace hidden under much intellectual ignorance. Clear and accurate knowledge is a most useful thing, but it is not absolutely needful to salvation, and may even be possessed without grace. A deep sense of sin, a humble willingness to be saved in God’s way, a teachable readiness to give up our own prejudices when a more excellent way is shown, these are the principal things. These things the two disciples possessed, and therefore our Lord "went with them" and guided them into all truth.
Let us mark, thirdly, in these verses, how full the Old Testament is of Christ. We are told that our Lord began "at Moses and all the prophets, and expounded in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."
How shall we explain these words? In what way did our Lord show "things concerning himself," in every part of the Old Testament field? The answer to these questions is short and simple. Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice, ordained in the law of Moses. Christ was the true Deliverer and King, of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, whose glorious advent filled the pages of prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent’s head,—the true seed in whom all nations were to be blessed,—the true Shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered,—the true scape-goat,—the true brazen serpent,—the true Lamb to which every daily offering pointed,—the true High Priest of whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure. These things, or something like them, we need not doubt, were some of the things which our Lord expounded in the way to Emmaus.
Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole book. So long as we keep Him in view, we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.
Let us mark, finally, in these verses, how much Christ loves to be entreated by His people. We are told, that when the disciples drew nigh to Emmaus, our Lord "made as though he would have gone further." He desired to see if they were weary of His conversation. But it was not so. "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."
Cases like this are not uncommon in Scripture. Our Lord sees it good for us to prove our love, by withholding mercies till we ask for them. He does not always force His gifts upon us, unsought and unsolicited. He loves to draw out our desires, and to compel us to exercise our spiritual affections, by waiting for our prayers. He dealt so with Jacob at Peniel. "Let me go," He said, "for the day breaketh." And then came the noble declaration from Jacob’s lips, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." (Genesis 32:26.) The story of the Canaanitish mother, the story of the healing of two blind men at Jericho, the story of the nobleman at Capernaum, the parables of the unjust judge and friend at midnight, are all meant to teach the same lesson. All show that our Lord loves to be entreated, and likes importunity.
Let us act on this principle in all our prayers, if we know anything of praying. Let us ask much, and ask often, and lose nothing for want of asking. Let us not be like the Jewish king who smote three times on the ground, and then stayed his hand. (2 Kings 13:18.) Let us rather remember the words of David’s Psalm, "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it." (Psalms 81:10.) It is the man who puts a holy constraint on Christ in prayer, who enjoys much of Christ’s manifested presence.
v13.—[Two of them.] We are not told who these two disciples were, except that one of them was named Cleopas. Several conjectures have been made about the other one. Epiphanius supposes he was Nathanal. Origen calls him Simeon. Ambrose calls him Amaon. Theophylact suggests that it was Luke himself. All this is guesswork. We know nothing certain about it, excepting this, that it could not have been one of the apostles. We are distinctly told that when these two disciples returned to Jerusalem, "they found the eleven gathered together."—This point ought to be carefully noticed.
Lightfoot says, "It seems to me beyond question, that one of the disciples going to Emmaus was Peter, who hearing from the women that the Lord had risen, and sent him a message, and spoken of going to Galilee, took Cleopas and made off towards Galilee."—This opinion seems very improbable.
[Went that same day.] Henry says on this expression, "I suspect that they were going homeward to Galilee, with an intention not to inquire more about this Jesus; that they were meditating a retreat, and went away from their company without asking or taking leave."—This is, no doubt, an ingenious conjecture. But I see nothing to warrant it.
v16.—[Should not know him.] Let it be noted here, that Mark mentions that He "appeared in another form." (Mark 16:12.) This circumstance would account for their not recognizing Him. At the same time it is clear that in some miraculous way the eyes of the disciples were holden or restrained from seeing aright. (See 2 Kings 6:17-20.)
v17.—[He said.] Bengel remarks here, that "it is the part of wisdom to pass with ease into profitable conversation."
[What manner...communications...ye have.] The literal rendering of the Greek words here would be, "What sayings or words are these which ye cast against one another, or bandy about?"
The parallel between Joseph and our Lord Jesus Christ ought to be noticed at this part of our Lord’s history. The conduct of Joseph in not discovering himself to his brethren, and in trying them by delay, was a type of our Lord’s dealings with His two disciples before manifesting Himself to them. The whole history of Joseph is probably much more typical than we suppose.
v18.—[Art thou only a stranger, &c.] The Greek words so rendered are somewhat peculiar. Alford translates them, "Dost thou lodge alone at Jerusalem?"—Major renders them, "Art thou that one individual who sojournest at Jerusalem, and hast not known," &c.,—meaning, "There surely cannot be another, whether stranger or resident, who has not heard of these events."
The whole verse is an important evidence of the publicity and notoriety of our Lord Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
v19.—[What things?] Our Lord, both here and at a latter part of His history draws out from the disciples their opinions, feelings, and wishes. By asking a question He elicits a declaration of the exact state of their minds about Himself.
[A prophet, &c.] The exceeding dimness of the disciples’ apprehension of our Lord’s divinity and atonement, is strikingly brought out in this description.
[Before God and the people.] This must mean "By the testimony both of God and the Jewish nation."—We read elsewhere that "God bare him witness by signs and wonders." (Acts 2:22.) The people also "bare record." (John 12:17.)
v21.—[He which should have redeemed Israel.] The exact kind of redemption expected by the disciples we are left to conjecture. But it is clear that like most Jews, they looked much more for a temporal Redeemer than a spiritual one. They looked for a redemption like that of their forefathers out of Egypt. Hence their excessive perplexity and amazement, when he who they thought would prove the Redeemer was crucified.
[To-day is the third day.] There certainly seems a reference in the mind of Cleopas to something which was to happen on the "third day," according to promise. He speaks like one who had an indistinct recollection of our Lord’s sayings about rising again, upon the third day, but had never understood their meaning.
Lightfoot remarks on this verse, what notice the Rabbins take of the third day, and conjectures that the Jewish idea about the third day may be traced in the saying of Cleopas, as well as a reference to our Lord’s predictions. He points out the frequency with which the third day is referred to in the Old Testament. (Genesis 22:4; Hosea 6:2; Genesis 42:18; Joshua 2:16; Exodus 19:16; Jonah 1:17; Ezra 8:15; Esther 5:1.)
v24.—[Certain of them, &c.] Luke has only told us of Peter having gone to the grave. From John we learn that John accompanied him.
v25.—[Fools.] The Greek word so rendered is not the same word which is so translated in the sermon on the mount. (Matthew 5:22.) Here it only means "wanting in thought, understanding, and consideration," and does not imply any contempt.
[Slow of heart to believe all...prophets...spoken.] This expression should be carefully noted. The disciples believed many things which the prophets had spoken. But they did not believe all. They believed the predictions of Messiah’s glory, but not of Messiah’s sufferings. Christians in modern times too often err in like manner, though in a totally different direction. They believe all that the prophets say about Christ’s sufferings, but not all that they say about Christ coming the second time in glory.
v26.—[Ought not.] This means, "was it not fitting, meet, and needful;"—"did it not behove," in order to the fulfilment of prophecies and types, that Christ should suffer? It is the same Greek word translated "behoved," at Luke 24:46.
[Suffered...enter...glory.] Here our Lord briefly states the whole truth concerning the expected Messiah. He was one who was to suffer first and afterwards to reign,—to be cut off first and afterwards have a kingdom,—to be led as a lamb to the slaughter first, and afterwards to divide the spoil as a conqueror.
v27.—[Beginning at Moses, &c.] Many a commentator has remarked on this verse, that it would have been a blessing to the Church if it had possessed the exposition which our Lord here gave. For wise reasons it has been withheld from us. Several have attempted to supply conjecturally the general substance of this exposition, and specially Gerhard, Bullinger, and Stella. But it is probable that we have, at best, very inadequate ideas of the fullness of our Lord’s exposition. Judging from the use He made of Scripture during His ministry, He saw probably many "things concerning Himself" which modern commentators utterly fail to discover.
Alford remarks, "Observe the testimony which this verse gives to the divine authority, and Christian interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures. The denial of reference to Christ’s death and glory in the Old Testament, is a denial of Christ’s own teaching."
v28.—[He made as though...gone further.] Many very unprofitable remarks have been made on this expression. Some have gone so far as to assert that it justifies dissimulation and a certain degree of untruthfulness on some occasions. Such assertions are too monstrous and absurd to deserve serious refutation.
Alford remarks, "It is not implied that our Lord said anything to indicate that He would go further, but simply that He was pass ing on." He quotes also a passage from Jeremy Taylor’s Sermon on Christian Simplicity, explanatory of this expression.—"Our blessed Saviour pretended that He would pass forth from Emmaus; but if He intended not to do it, He did no injury to the two disciples, for whose good He intended to make this offer. Neither did He prevaricate the strictness of simplicity and sincerity, because they were persons with whom He had made no contracts, to whom He had passed no obligations. In the nature of the thing it is proper and natural by an offer to give an occasion to another to do good actions; and in case it succeeds not then to do what was intended not. And so the offer was conditional."
I have quoted this passage from a desire to meet the possible objections of scrupulous consciences. To my own mind it seems surprising that any one can stumble at the expression before us, or can find ground for supposing that our Lord meant to deceive. Our Lord used the readiest and most natural means to draw out the feelings of His disciples, by walking on as if He intended to go further. But it seems to me as unreasonable to see in this an intention to deceive, as it would be to see dishonesty in His first question, "What manner of communications are these that ye have?" He knew all things, and had no real occasion to ask. But He asked in order to draw out the minds of His disciples.
v29.—[They constrained him.] Let it be noted that we have several instances of expressions like this in Scripture used upon similar occasions. Abraham said, "Pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant." (Genesis 18:3.) Gideon said, "Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee." (Judges 6:18.) Manoah and his wife said, "I pray thee, let us detain thee." (Judges 13:15.) All show that God loves to be entreated of His people, and that those who would have much must ask much, and even use a holy violence.
v30.—[He took bread...blessed...brake...gave, &c.] The action mentioned here has occasioned much difference of opinion.
1. Some think that no particular sense is to be attached to the expression, and that it means that Jesus was recognized at the time when He brake bread.
2. Some think that there was something peculiar in our Lord’s manner and demeanor at breaking of bread, which was well known to the disciples. Lyranus and Stella even go so far as to say that He broke bread in a miraculous manner, like one cutting with a knife. According to Schottgen, Jewish teachers used to be known and recognized by their disciples by their peculiar gestures.
3. Some think that the whole passage refers to the Lord’s Supper. This opinion is stoutly defended by Maldonatus and Cornelius à Lapide, the Romish commentators, and maintained even by Wordsworth among modern English Protestants.—The two Romish writers go so far as to maintain that the passage shows the propriety of the bread only and not the cup being given to the laity in the Lord’s Supper. It is only fair to say that not all Romish writers maintain this opinion respecting the Lord’s Supper being meant. Jansenius and Stella deny it entirely. Barradius and Bellarmine allow that it is just as probable that the Lord’s Supper is not meant, as that it is meant.
I have little doubt that the expression refers to some wellknown and peculiar gesture of our Lord in the act of breaking bread, with which all His disciples were familiar. I think it even possible that there is a reference to our Lord’s demeanor at the miracle of feeding the multitude with a few loaves and fishes.
Alford suggests that the marks of the nails in our Lord’s hands may have been first noticed as He was breaking bread.
That it could not be the Lord’s Supper appears clear to my own mind for the following reasons.—Firstly, it was impossible that the two disciples could recognize anything in our Lord’s manner of breaking the bread to remind them of the Lord’s Supper, because they were not present at the institution of it. None but the apostles were present at the institution, and the two disciples were evidently not apostles.—Secondly, it is mere gratuitous assumption to say that the Lord’s Supper is meant, when we find no words of consecration used, and no mention of wine. Even the Roman Catholics must allow that without consecration and the presence of wine, there is no sacrament. They will hardly dare to say that the two disciples at Emmaus were laymen.—Thirdly, the words of our Lord at the time of the first institution of the Lord’s Supper, that He would no more "drink the fruit of the vine" with His disciples, make it highly improbable that the sacrament can be here referred to.
The quotations of the Fathers given by the Romish writers in defence of this opinion about the Lord’s Supper are most meager and unsatisfactory. At best they only prove, as Jansenius remarks, that some of the Fathers thought the transaction at Emmaus figurative of the Lord’s Supper.
The plain truth is, that both here and elsewhere the carnal mind of man catches at the least pretext for making everything in religion material and sensual, and strains every possible expression into a material sense. All texts about eating, and drinking, and a cup, and bread, must needs signify the Lord’s Supper! All texts about washing, and water, and purifying, and the like, must needs mean baptism! Against such interpretations of Scripture we must always be on our guard.
Lightfoot remarks, "It is strange that any should interpret this breaking of bread of the holy eucharist, when Christ Himself had determined to disappear in the very distribution of the bread, and so interrupt the supper. And where indeed doth it appear that any of them tasted a bit? The supper was ended before it began."—"The Rabbins say, if three eat together, they are bound to say grace."
v31.—[Their eyes...opened...knew Him.] The manner of this sudden revelation of Christ we cannot explain. The whole transaction is so miraculous that we can only take the words as we find them, and must not waste time in attempting to define what is beyond our comprehension.
[Vanished out of their sight.] This and other expressions concerning our Lord’s risen body, show plainly that it was a body in some wonderful way different from the common body of man. It was a real material body, and true flesh and blood. But it was a body capable of moving, appearing, and disappearing after a manner that we cannot explain. We may fairly suppose that it was a pattern of what our own bodies will be after they are raised again. They will be true bodies, material and real, but bodies endued with capacities of which now we know nothing.
v32.—[Did not our heart burn.] These words would be more literally rendered, "was not our heart burning within us." It is a strong expression to indicate the warmth and delight of their feelings while they listened to our Lord’s exposition of Scripture. See Psalms 39:3; Jeremiah 20:9.
v33.—[Found the eleven gathered together.] This expression deserves notice. Was Thomas with them or not? If he was, he must have gone out immediately after the two disciples came in. Otherwise it would be difficult to reconcile the verses which immediately follow, describing our Lord’s appearing, with the account given in John, of Christ’s appearing when Thomas was not present.—If Thomas was not present on this occasion, how can we explain Luke, speaking of "the eleven"? Doddridge must supply the answer;—"As Paul calls the company of apostles the twelve, (1 Corinthians 15:5,) though Judas the twelfth person was dead; so Luke here calls them the eleven, though Thomas the eleventh person was absent, as appears from John 20:24."
Let us add to this, that Mark distintly tells us also, that the Lord "appeared to the eleven, as they sat at meat." (Mark 16:14.)
v34.—[Saying, the Lord is risen indeed.] Major remarks here, "These words which Luke attributes to the eleven apostles are not altogether consistent with what we read in Mark, (Mark 16:12,) that when the two disciples returning acquainted the rest, "they did not believe them."—Campbell thus solves the difficulty: "This does not imply that none of them believed, but that several, perhaps the greater part, did not believe. When Luke tells us that they said ’the Lord is risen indeed,’ we are not to conclude that every one said this, or even believed it, but only that some believed, and that one of them expressly affirmed it. Such latitude in using pronouns is common in every language. So, according to Matthew and Mark, both malefactors reproached Jesus on the cross. But from Luke we learn that it was only one of them who acted thus."
[Appeared to Simon.] This appearance to Simon Peter alone is only mentioned in this place, and in the Epistle to the Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 15:5.) The circumstances of the appearance we do not know.
It may be well to mention here the eleven distinct appearances of our Lord after His resurrection. He appeared,
1. To Mary Magdalene alone. Mark 16:9; John 20:14.
2. To the women returning from the sepulchre. Matthew 28:9-10.
3. To Simon Peter alone. Luke 24:34.
4. To the two disciples going to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-15, &c.
5. To the apostles at Jerusalem, excepting Thomas who was absent. John 20:19, John 20:24.
6. To the apostles at Jerusalem, a second time, when Thomas was present. John 20:26, John 20:29.
7. At the sea of Tiberias, when seven disciples were fishing. John 21:1.
8. To the eleven disciples, on a mountain in Galilee. Matthew 28:16.
9. To above five hundred brethren at once. 1 Corinthians 15:6.
10. To James only. 1 Corinthians 15:7.
11. To all the apostles on mount Olivet at His ascension. Luke 24:51.
Three times we are told that His disciples touched Him after He rose. Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:39; John 20:27. Twice we are told that He ate with them. Luke 24:42; John 21:12-13.
v35.—[Things...done in the way.] This must necessarily mean the wonderful exposition of Scripture which had made their "hearts burn."
[Known of them in breaking of bread.] It is only necessary to remark here that to apply this expression to the Lord’s Supper is mere accommodation of Scripture words, and not justified by the context.
WE should observe in this passage the singularly gracious words with which our Lord introduced Himself to His disciples after His resurrection. We read that He suddenly stood in the midst of them and said, "Peace be unto you."
This was a wonderful saying when we consider the men to whom it was addressed. It was addressed to eleven disciples, who three days before had shamefully forsaken their Master and fled. They had broken their promises. They had forgotten their professions of readiness to die for their faith. They had been scattered, "every man to his own," and left their Master to die alone. One of them had even denied Him three times. All of them had proved backsliders and cowards. And yet behold the return which their Master makes to His disciples! Not a word of rebuke is spoken. Not a single sharp saying falls from His lips. Calmly and quietly He appears in the midst of them, and begins by speaking of peace. "Peace be unto you"!
We see, in this touching saying, one more proof that the love of Christ "passeth knowledge." It is His glory to pass over a transgression. He "delighteth in mercy." He is far more willing to forgive than men are to be forgiven, and far more ready to pardon than men are to be pardoned. There is in His almighty heart an infinite willingness to put away man’s transgressions. Though our sins have been as scarlet He is ever ready to make them white as snow, to blot them out, to cast them behind His back, to bury them in the depths of the sea, to remember them no more. All these are scriptural phrases intended to convey the same great truth. The natural man is continually stumbling at them, and refusing to understand them. At this we need not wonder. Free, full, and undeserved forgiveness to the very uttermost is not the manner of man. But it is the manner of Christ.
Where is the sinner, however great his sins, who need be afraid of beginning to apply to such a Savior as this? In the hand of Jesus there is mercy enough and to spare.—Where is the backslider, however far he may have fallen, who need be afraid of returning? "Fury is not in Christ." (Isaiah 27:4.) He is willing to raise and restore the very worst.—Where is the saint who ought not to love such a Savior, and to pay Him willingly a holy obedience? There is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared. (Psalms 130:4.)—Where is the professing Christian who ought not to be forgiving toward his brethren? The disciples of a Savior whose words were so full of peace, ought to be peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated. (Colossians 3:13.)
We should observe, for another thing, in this passage, our Lord’s marvelous condescension to the infirmity of His disciples. We read that when His disciples were terrified at His appearance, and could not believe that it was Himself, He said, "Behold my hands and feet: handle me and see."
Our Lord might fairly have commanded His disciples to believe that He had risen. He might justly have said "Where is your faith? Why do you not believe my resurrection, when ye see me with your own eyes?" But He does not do so. He stoops even lower than this. He appeals to the bodily senses of the eleven. He bids them touch Him with their own hands, and satisfy themselves that He was a material being, and not a spirit or ghost.
A mighty principle is contained in this circumstance, which we shall do well to store up in our hearts. Our Lord permits us to use our senses in testing a fact or an assertion in religion. Things above our reason we must expect to find in Christianity. But things contrary to reason, and contradictory to our own senses, our Lord would have us know, we are not meant to believe. A doctrine, so-called, which contradicts our senses, is not a doctrine which came from Him who bade the eleven touch His hands and His feet.
Let us remember this principle in dealing with the Romish doctrine of a change in the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper. There is no such change at all. Our own eyes and our own tongues tell us that the bread is bread and the wine is wine, after consecration as well as before. Our Lord never requires us to believe that which is contrary to our senses. The doctrine of transubstantiation is therefore false and unscriptural.
Let us remember this principle in dealing with the Romish doctrine of baptismal regeneration. There is no inseparable connection between baptism and the new birth of man’s heart. Our own eyes and senses tell us that myriads of baptized people have not the Spirit of God, are utterly without grace, and are servants of the devil and the world. Our Lord never requires us to believe that which is contrary to our senses. The doctrine that regeneration invariably accompanies baptism is therefore undeserving of credit. It is mere antinomianism to say that there is grace where no grace is to be seen.
A mighty practical lesson is involved in our Lord’s dealing with the disciples, which we shall do well to remember. That lesson is the duty of dealing gently with weak disciples, and teaching them as they are able to bear. Like our Lord, we must be patient and longsuffering. Like our Lord, we must condescend to the feebleness of some men’s faith, and treat them as tenderly as little children, in order to bring them into the right way. We must not cast off men because they do not see everything at once. We must not despise the humblest and most childish means, if we can only persuade men to believe. Such dealing may require much patience. But he who cannot condescend to deal thus with the young, the ignorant, and the uneducated, has not the mind of Christ. Well would it be for all believers, if they would remember Paul’s words more frequently, "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak." (1 Corinthians 9:22.)
v36.—[Stood in the midst of them.] We are not told in what manner our Lord entered the room where the disciples were. We know from John’s words that the doors were shut, (John 20:19,) "for fear of the Jews." Whether our Lord passed through the doors miraculously without opening them, or whether He opened them miraculously, as the angel did when he brought Peter out of prison, we cannot tell. (Acts 12:10.) In either case there was a miracle. In any case the appearance was sudden and instantaneous.
[Peace be unto you.] I am quite unable to regard this expression as being nothing more than the ordinary salutation of courtesy. It seems to me to be full of deep and comfortable truth. It implied that the great battle was fought and the great victory won over the prince of this world, and peace with God obtained for man according to the old promise. It implied that our Lord came to His disciples with peaceful, gracious, and forgiving feelings, and with no resentment for their having forsaken Him.
Let it be noted, that "peace" was the last word in the prophetical hymn of Zacharias,—"peace on earth," part of the good news proclaimed by angels when Christ was born,—"peace" the proclamation which the seventy disciples were ordered to make in every house which they visited,—"peace" the legacy which our Lord left and gave to the apostles on the night before He was crucified,—and "peace" was the first word which He spoke when He appeared among them again after His resurrection. (Luke 1:79; Luke 2:14; Luke 10:5; John 14:27.)
Peace, in short, is one main ingredient of the gospel. Every one of Paul’s epistles, excepting the one to the Hebrews, begins with a gracious wish of "peace" to those to whom it is addressed. Stella has a long and excellent passage on this expression.
v37.—[Terrified and affrighted.] It is striking to remark, both here and elsewhere in Scripture, how invariably the appearance of any supernatural being, or any inhabitant of another world, appears to strike terror into the heart of man. It seems an instinct of human nature to be afraid on such occasions, and is a strong indirect proof of man’s utter inability to meet God in peace without a mediator. If man is afraid of spirits and ghosts, what would man feel if he saw God Himself?
v38.—[Thoughts arise in your hearts.] Here, as elsewhere, our Lord shows His knowledge of the inward man. The reasonings and questionings of the apostles were all known to Him.
v39.—[Behold my hands and my feet.] Some writers cannot see anything in this mention of "hands and feet," but a reference to the uncovered parts of our Lord’s body, to which our Lord directs His disciples’ attention, as a palpable proof that He had a real material body. I cannot, however, think that this was all that our Lord meant. I believe that he called attention to the nail-prints in His hands and feet, and thus showed that he was that very Saviour who had been crucified.
[It is I myself.] The Greek words here mean literally, "I am I myself."
[Handle me and see.] Here is a direct appeal to two senses, touch and sight.
[A spirit hath not flesh and bones.] Stier and Alford both observe the absence of the word "blood" in this expression, and attach significance to it. I am unable to do so. Our Lord had just referred to the senses of touch and sight. Flesh and bones could be touched, looked at, scrutinized, felt, without difficulty. Blood of course could not. Our Lord therefore purposely mentions only "flesh and bones." But to infer that His resurrection body had no blood, as Alford suggests, appears to me to be going further than we have any warrant to go.
Let it be noted that our Lord spoke here of "a spirit," and the qualities of "a spirit," in such a manner that it is impossible to deny the existence of incorporeal beings. To believe every idle story about ghosts and apparitions is foolish and unreasonable. But we must take care that we do not go into the other extreme, and deny the existence of spirits altogether. Our Lord’s words about them are clear and unmistakeable.
v41.—[Believed not for joy.] Poole remarks, "If they had not believed now, they would doubtless not have rejoiced, for faith was the cause of their joy. Yet the excess of their joy was the hinderance of their faith. So dangerous are the excessive motions of our affections!"
[Any meat.] The Greek word so rendered, means literally, "anything eatable, any food." The English word "meat," at the time when our version of the Bible was last revised, did not mean "flesh" exclusively, as it does now.
v43.—[Did eat before them.] The speculative questions raised on this circumstance, about the capacity of our Lord’s resurrection body really to eat and really to drink, are most unprofitable and vain. Let it suffice us to believe that it was a real eating and drinking, and not a mere optical delusion, or apparent eating and drinking, as some have ventured to insinuate. We need not inquire further. That it was so, Peter’s words in another place appear to prove plainly. (Acts 10:41.) The same remarks apply to the eating of the angels who appeared to Abraham. (Genesis 18:8.)
Our Lord’s manner of dealing with the disciples in this passage ought to be carefully remembered. He appeals to their senses, and allows them to satisfy their senses of the reality of His risen body. He even implies that if their senses had not been satisfied they might fairly and justly doubt whether His body had risen. This mode of arguing strikes a blow at the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation, and the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation in the Lord’s supper. When our senses detect no change in the substance of the bread and wine, it is monstrous and unreasonable to require us to believe that any change has taken place in them after the act of consecration.
LET us observe, firstly, in these verses, the gift which our Lord bestowed on His disciples immediately before He left the world. We read that He "opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures."
We must not misapprehend these words. We are not to suppose that the disciples knew nothing about the Old Testament up to this time, and that the Bible is a book which no ordinary person can expect to comprehend. We are simply to understand that Jesus showed His disciples the full meaning of many passages which had hitherto been hid from their eyes. Above all, He showed the true interpretation of many prophetical passages concerning the Messiah.
We all need a like enlightenment of our understandings. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14.) Pride, and prejudice, and love of the world blind our intellects, and throw a veil over the eyes of our minds in the reading of the Scriptures. We see the words, but do not thoroughly understand them until we are taught from above.
He that desires to read his Bible with profit, must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Ghost. Human commentaries are useful in their way. The help of good and learned men is not to be despised. But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ. A humble and prayerful spirit will find a thousand things in the Bible, which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.
Let us observe secondly in these verses, the remarkable manner in which the Lord Jesus speaks of His own death on the cross. He does not speak of it as a misfortune, or as a thing to be lamented, but as a necessity. He says "It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again the third day."
The death of Christ was necessary to our salvation. His flesh and blood offered in sacrifice on the cross were "the life of the world." (John 6:51.) Without the death of Christ, so far as we can see, God’s law could never have been satisfied,—sin could never have been pardoned,—man could never have been justified before God,—and God could never have shown mercy to man. The cross of Christ was the solution of a mighty difficulty. It untied a vast knot. It enabled God to be "just, and yet the justifier" of the ungodly. (Romans 3:26; Romans 4:5.) It enabled man to draw near to God with boldness, and to feel that though a sinner he might have hope. Christ by suffering as a Substitute in our stead, the just for the unjust, has made a way by which we can draw near to God. We may freely acknowledge that in ourselves we are guilty and deserve death. But we may boldly plead, that One has died for us, and that for His sake, believing on Him, we claim life and acquittal.
Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ. Let us regard it as the source of all our hopes, and the foundation of all our peace. Ignorance and unbelief may see nothing in the sufferings of Calvary but the cruel martyrdom of an innocent person. Faith will look far deeper. Faith will see in the death of Jesus the payment of man’s enormous debt to God, and the complete salvation of all who believe.
Let us observe, thirdly, in these verses, what were the first truths which the Lord Jesus bade His disciples preach after He left the world. We read that "repentance and remission of sins" were to be preached in His name among all nations.
"Repentance and remission of sins" are the first things which ought to be pressed on the attention of every man, woman, and child throughout the world.—All ought to be told the necessity of repentance. All are by nature desperately wicked. Without repentance and conversion, none can enter the kingdom of God. All ought to be told God’s readiness to forgive every one who believes on Christ. All are by nature guilty and condemned. But any one may obtain by faith in Jesus, free, full, and immediate pardon.—All, not least, ought to be continually reminded, that repentance and remission of sins are inseparably linked together. Not that our repentance can purchase our pardon. Pardon is the free gift of God to the believer in Christ. But still it remains true, that a man impenitent is a man unforgiven.
He that desires to be a true Christian, must be experimentally acquainted with repentance and remission of sins. These are the principal things in saving religion. To belong to a pure Church, and hear the Gospel, and receive the sacraments, are great privileges. But are we converted? Are we justified? If not, we are dead before God. Happy is that Christian who keeps these two points continually before his eyes! Repentance and remission are not mere elementary truths, and milk for babes. The highest standard of sanctity is nothing more than a continual growth in practical knowledge of these two points. The brightest saint is the man who has the most heart-searching sense of his own sinfulness, and the liveliest sense of his own complete acceptance in Christ.
Let us observe, fourthly, what was the first place at which the disciples were to begin preaching. They were to begin "at Jerusalem."
This is a striking fact, and one full of instruction. It teaches us that none are to be reckoned too wicked for salvation to be offered to them, and that no degree of spiritual disease is beyond the reach of the Gospel remedy. Jerusalem was the wickedest city on earth when our Lord left the world. It was a city which had stoned the prophets and killed those whom God sent to call it to repentance. It was a city full of pride, unbelief, self-righteousness, and desperate hardness of heart. It was a city which had just crowned all its transgressions by crucifying the Lord of glory. And yet Jerusalem was the place at which the first proclamation of repentance and pardon was to be made.—The command of Christ was plain;—"Begin at Jerusalem."
We see in these wondrous words, the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of Christ’s compassion toward sinners. We must never despair of any one being saved, however bad and profligate he may have been. We must open the door of repentance to the chief of sinners. We must not be afraid to invite the worst of men to repent, believe, and live. It is the glory of our Great Physician, that He can heal incurable cases. The things that seem impossible to men are possible with Christ.
Let us observe, lastly, the peculiar position which believers, and especially ministers, are meant to occupy in this world. Our Lord defines it in one expressive word. He says, "Ye are witnesses."
If we are true disciples of Christ, we must bear a continual testimony in the midst of an evil world. We must testify to the truth of our Master’s Gospel,—the graciousness of our Master’s heart,—the happiness of our Master’s service,—the excellence of our Master’s rules of life,—and the enormous danger and wickedness of the ways of the world. Such testimony will doubtless bring down upon us the displeasure of man. The world will hate us, as it did our Master, because we "testify of it, that its works are evil." (John 7:7.) Such testimony will doubtless be believed by few comparatively, and will be thought by many offensive and extreme. But the duty of a witness is to bear his testimony, whether he is believed or not. If we bear a faithful testimony, we have done our duty, although, like Noah and Elijah, and Jeremiah, we stand almost alone.
What do we know of this witnessing character? What kind of testimony do we bear? What evidence do we give that we are disciples of a crucified Savior, and, like Him, are "not of the world"? (John 17:14.) What marks do we show of belonging to Him who said, "I came that I should bear witness unto the truth"? (John 18:37.) Happy is he who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions, and whose life declares plainly that he "seeks a country." (Hebrews 11:14.)
v44.—[These are the words, &c.] This expression must be paraphrased, in order to give the full meaning of it. Alford renders it "Behold the realization of the words."—It signifies, "You now see actually fulfilled, the words which I so often spake to you, saying that the predictions about my sufferings must be accomplished. You could not then believe that I was really going to suffer and afterwards rise again. You see now that it was true."
[Must be fulfilled.] The Greek word here translated "must," is the same that is rendered "ought" in Luke 24:26, and "behoved" in Luke 24:46.
[Law of Moses...prophets...Psalms.] It should be remembered that this threefold division was the Jewish division of the Old Testament. They classed all its contents under these three heads.
"When our Lord speaks of the things in the "law of Moses" concerning Himself, there can be little doubt that He points to all the types and figures which were emblems of Himself, and specially to the sacrifices.
v45.—[Opened he their understanding, &c.] We are taught here that the minds of the disciples had been closed by prejudice and traditional interpretations. Our Lord opened the doors and windows of their minds, and let in the light.
Poole remarks, "He did not open their understanding without the Scripture; He sends them thither. He knows that Scripture would not give them a sufficient knowledge of the things of God, without the influence and illumination of His Spirit. They are truly taught by God who are taught by His Spirit to understand the Scriptures. Christ gives great honor to the Scriptures. The devil cheats those whom he persuades to cast away the Scriptures in expectation of a teaching by the Spirit. The Spirit teaches by, not without, not contrary to, the Holy Scriptures."
Cornelius à Lapide tries in vain to argue from this verse that the laity cannot understand the Bible without the teaching of the Church, that the Bible is not suited for the laity, and that the apostles had the knowledge of the Scriptures specially intrusted to them.—There is not the slightest proof that the apostles alone had their "understandings opened" on the present occasion. On the contrary, the context distinctly tells us that those who were here assembled were the apostles and "they that were with them."— Moreover, the fact that our Lord opened the understandings of all, is a plain proof that all, whether apostles or not, require teaching from above, and that Christ is able, ready, and willing to give it to all, whether apostles or not, as long as the world stands.
v46.—[Thus it is written.] This is a general expression, signifying ’It was written in Scripture that things concerning me should take place in the way in which they have taken place.’ It was "written" that it should be so, and it was necessary, or "behoved" therefore that so it should be. If Christ had not suffered and risen again, Scripture would not have been fulfilled. The chief reference here, no doubt, is to Isaiah 53:1-12. Psalms 22:1-31. and Daniel 9:26.
[Rise from the dead the third day.] The question has been raised here, "Where does the Old Testament say that Christ should rise again the third day"? Pearce remarks that it does not appear, unless in Hosea 6:2, and Jonah 1:17.—I am not however convinced that either here or in 1 Corinthians 15:4, it was intended that we should lay stress on the third day, in understanding the sentence. The meaning of the verse seems to me to be simply, "that it was written, and was therefore necessary, that Christ should suffer and rise again." I cannot see that the sense obliges us to find an Old Testament prediction about the third day. Even if it did, I feel no doubt that there are more passages to prove it than any one has yet discovered. There is a depth of meaning in the Old Testament, I suspect, with reference to Christ, which no one has yet fully fathomed.
v47.—[And that.] The governing words here, we must remember, are still, "it is written, and was therefore necessary that," &c.
[Repentance and remission of sins.] These words are a brief summary of the main doctrines of the Gospel. The necessity of repentance, and the possibility of remission,—the willingness of God to grant repentance unto life, and the full provision made by Christ for the pardon of man’s sins, were to be proclaimed and published like a notice given publicly by a herald. And all was to be done "in Christ’s name." That expression is the leading one in the whole sentence. It signifies, "By the authority of Christ," and "Through the merit and mediation of Christ." Both ideas are included.
No Christian teaching, be it remembered, is scriptural and sound which does not give the principal place to these two great doctrines.
[Among all nations.] The Greek words here would be equally well translated, "Among all Gentiles." And considering that "Jerusalem" is brought in at the end of the verse, it is highly probable that this was the idea intended to be conveyed. The Gospel was to be preached to Gentiles as well as Jews.
[Beginning at Jerusalem.] This expression taught two things. One was, that the Apostles and first preachers of the Gospel should not shrink from offering salvation to the worst and greatest sinners. They were not to regard even the city where their Master was crucified as hopelessly wicked, and too bad to be benefited by the Gospel. The result showed that this command was not given without cause. The greatest triumph ever won by the Gospel, perhaps, was the conversion of three thousand Jerusalem hearers on the day of Pentecost.—The other lesson was that the first offer of salvation should always be made to the Jews. Hardened, unbelieving as they were, they were still "beloved for the Father’s sake," and were not to be despised. (Romans 11:28.)
The Acts of the Apostles, in instances too many to be quoted, as well as Paul’s words in the Epistle to the Romans, (Romans 1:16,) show how faithfully the apostles discharged the duty of preaching to the Jews.
The duty of Christians to care specially for the souls of Jews seems plainly pointed out in the expression before us.
Let it be noted, that the conclusions of Peter’s two first sermons at Jerusalem, in Acts 3:1-26., exactly carried out the command of the verse before us. He preached "repentance and remission in Christ’s name."
v48.—[Ye are witnesses of these things.] The "things" here spoken of must be the "things concerning Himself," which our Lord had just been expounding.
The office which the first disciples, and after them, all ministers and believers were to fill, is stated in the word "witnesses."
Stier remarks, "It is not the Lord’s will to appoint and send forth orators, or enthusiasts, or even simple teachers, but before all, and in all, witnesses. The idea contained in Luke 1:2, ’which from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word,’ is here found once more."
v49.—[I send the promise of my Father.] This expression means the Holy Ghost, whom the Father had promised in the Old Testament prophecies to send, and who came down on the day of Pentecost. (See Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:27.)
Let it be noted, that our Lord here speaks of "sending the Holy Ghost." We see in this His equality and unity with God the Father. We also see that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son, no less than from the Father.
Let it be noted, that the Holy Ghost is evidently a Person, and not an influence. The words "I send" can only be used of a "person."
Let it be noted, that our Lord says, "I send,"—not "I will send." This shows the certainty of the coming of the Holy Ghost, and the speedy approach of His coming. May it not also show that even from the very time at which our Lord spoke, the disciples would begin to receive grace and power from the Holy Ghost.
[Tarry ye in the city...until, &c.] This expression is remarkable. It seems to denote that our Lord would have His disciples go forth into all nations immediately after the day of Pentecost and wait at Jerusalem no longer. Their backwardness to do this, when compared with the expression before us, is noteworthy.
[Endued.] This word means literally, "Be clothed upon," or "invested with." It is frequently used in the New Testament, and implies a putting on something which we do not naturally possess. (See Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:53; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 3:9-10.)
[Power from on high.] Some have thought that this expression is only a form of speech for the Holy Ghost Himself. It seems more likely that it signifies the energy and influence imparted by the Holy Ghost. It is very like the expression used about Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee." (Luke 1:35.) It would then mean in this place, "Tarry till ye be endued with that heavenly power which the Holy Ghost, whom the Father has promised, and I also send, shall impart to you."
Alford quotes a remark of Stier, that this "enduing with the Holy Ghost, was the true and complete clothing of the nakedness of the fall." This appears to me only partially correct. I believe the "imputed righteousness of Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe," is the true garment which remedies the nakedness of the fall. (Romans 3:22.) The indwelling grace of the Spirit is doubtless never separate from that righteousness. But it is in itself a distinct and separate thing, and should be kept distinct in our minds.
THESE verses are the winding up of Luke’s history of our Lord’s ministry. They form a suitable conclusion to a Gospel, which in touching tenderness and full exhibition of Christ’s grace, stands first among the four records of the things which Jesus did and taught. (Acts 1:1.)
Let us notice, firstly, in this passage, the remarkable manner in which our Lord left His disciples. We read that "He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them." In one word, He left them when in the very act of blessing.
We cannot for a moment doubt that there was a meaning in this circumstance. It was intended to remind the disciples of all that Jesus had brought with Him when He came into the world. It was intended to assure them of what He would yet do, after He left the world. He came on earth to bless and not to curse, and blessing He departed.—He came in love and not in anger, and in love He went away.—He came not as a condemning judge, but as a compassionate Friend, and as a Friend He returned to His Father.—He had been a Savior full of blessings to His little flock while He had been with them. He would be a Savior full of blessings to them, He would have them know, even after He was taken away.
For ever let our souls lean on the gracious heart of Christ, if we know anything of true religion. We shall never find a heart more tender, more loving, more patient, more compassionate, and more kind. To talk of Mary as being more compassionate than Christ is a proof of miserable ignorance. To flee to the saints for comfort, when we may flee to Christ, is an act of mingled stupidity and blasphemy, and a robbery of Christ’s crown. Gracious was our Lord Jesus while He lived among His weak disciples,—gracious in the very season of His agony on the cross,—gracious when He rose again and gathered His scattered sheep around Him,—gracious in the manner of His departure from this world. It was a departure in the very act of blessing! Gracious, we may be assured He is at the right hand of God. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,—a Savior ever ready to bless, abounding in blessings.
Let us notice, secondly, in this passage, the place to which our Lord went when He left the world. We read that "He was carried up into heaven."
The full meaning of these words we cannot of course comprehend. It would be easy to ask questions about the exact residence of Christ’s glorified body, which the wisest theologian could never answer. We must not waste our time in unedifying speculations, or "intrude into things unseen." (Colossians 2:18.) Let it suffice us to know that our Lord Jesus Christ is gone into the presence of God on behalf of all who believe on Him, as a Forerunner and a High Priest. (Hebrews 6:20. John 14:2.)
As a Forerunner, Jesus has gone into heaven to prepare a place for all His members. Our great Head has taken possession of a glorious inheritance in behalf of His mystical body, and holds it as an elder brother and trustee, until the day comes when His body shall be perfected.—As a High Priest, Jesus has gone into heaven to intercede for all who believe on Him. There in the holy of holies He presents on their behalf the merit of His own sacrifice, and obtains for them daily supplies of mercy and grace. The grand secret of the perseverance of saints is Christ’s appearance for them in heaven. They have an everlasting Advocate with the Father, and therefore they are never cast away. (Hebrews 9:24. 1 John 2:1.)
A day will come when Jesus shall return from heaven, in like manner as He went. He will not always abide within the holy of holies. He will come forth, like the Jewish high priest, to bless the people, to gather His saints together, and to restore all things. (Leviticus 9:23. Acts 3:21.) For that day let us wait, and long, and pray. Christ dying on the cross for sinners,—Christ living in heaven to intercede,—Christ coming again in glory, are three great objects which ought to stand out prominently before the eyes of every true Christian.
Let us notice, lastly, in this passage, the feelings of our Lord’s disciples when He finally left them and was carried up into heaven. We read that "they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God."
How shall we account for these joyful feelings? How shall we explain the singular fact, that this little company of weak disciples, left, for the first time, like orphans, in the midst of an angry world, was not cast down, but was full of joy?—The answer to these questions is short and simple. The disciples rejoiced, because now for the first time they saw all things clearly about their Master. The veil was removed from their eyes. The darkness had at length passed away. The meaning of Christ’s humiliation and low estate,—the meaning of His mysterious agony, and cross, and passion,—the meaning of His being Messiah and yet a sufferer,—the meaning of His being crucified, and yet being Son of God,—all, all was at length unraveled and made plain. They saw it all. They understood it all. Their doubts were removed. Their stumbling-blocks were taken away. Now at last they possessed clear knowledge, and possessing clear knowledge felt unmingled joy.
Let it be a settled principle with us, that the little degree of joy which many believers feel arises often from want of knowledge. Weak faith and inconsistent practice are doubtless two great reasons why many of God’s children enjoy so little peace. But it may well be suspected that dim and indistinct views of the Gospel are the true cause of many a believer’s discomfort. When the Lord Jesus is not clearly known and understood, it must needs follow that there is little "joy in the Lord."
Let us leave the Gospel of Luke with a settled purpose of heart to seek more spiritual knowledge every year we live. Let us search the Scriptures more deeply and pray over them more heartily. Too many believers only scratch the surface of Scripture, and know nothing of digging down into its hid treasures. Let the word dwell in us more richly. Let us read our Bibles more diligently. So doing we shall taste more of joy and peace in believing, and shall know what it is to be "continually praising and blessing God."
v50.—[Led them out as far as to Bethany.] There is something very touching in the fact that our Lord’s ascension took place close to Bethany. It was a small village bordering on the mount of Olives, where Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus dwelt. It is probable that they all were present when our Lord left the earth.
[Lifted up his hands and blessed them.] This circumstance is full of meaning. The blessing was significant. It showed the spirit in which our Lord parted from His church on earth, and was an earnest of what He would do for them in heaven. It typified His full assumption of His priestly office, and gave assurance of what He will yet do when He comes again.
Gill remarks, "This lifting up of the hands was not in order to put them on His disciples, nor was it used as a prayer-gesture, nor was the blessing of them prayerwise, or by praying for a blessing on them. As Aaron, His type, lifted up his hands towards the people of Israel, and blessed them when he first offered the offerings for them, (Leviticus 9:22,) so Christ as the great High Priest, having offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of His people, lifted up His hands towards them and blessed them in an authoritative way."
v51.—[He was parted from them.] The Greek word so rendered is somewhat remarkable. It signifies literally, "stood apart." A German commentator thinks it means, "He went a little distance from them previous to His ascension." The more common opinion is that the word is only a part of the same incident which is described when it says He was "carried up into heaven."
[Carried up into heaven.] Where our Lord’s body went when so carried up, is an unprofitable speculation. Let it be enough for us, to remember that He went into the presence of God for us, and that He will come again exactly in like manner as He went. (Acts 1:11.)
Burgon remarks, "These beautiful words denote that Jesus was rather taken away from the men He loved, than that by an act of His own He left them. For His passion, it is said, that He was impatient; (Luke 12:50.)—for His ascension, not so. He did not leave His disciples, but was parted from them."
v52.—[They worshipped Him.] This is the first formal act of adoration which we ever read of the disciples paying to our Lord. Their knowledge of His Messiahship and divinity was now clear and distinct. Hence came the "joy" which the verse mentions that they felt. All things were now clear and plain to them concerning their Master. The darkness was past, and the true light shone. (1 John 2:8.)
v53.—[Continually in the temple.] This expression does not necessarily mean that the disciples were never anywhere else except in the temple. It only means that they made a daily, regular habit of attending the temple services and assembling in the temple courts, and specially at the times of prayer. (Acts 3:1.) It is the same Greek word used about Cornelius, where it says, that "he prayed to God alway." (Acts 10:2.)
The temple, be it remembered, was a place of resort for all pious Jews in Jerusalem, and in its spacious courts all sorts of worshippers met daily without interruption, or interference with one another. Even of the apostles it is said, that "daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." (Acts 5:42.) It seems to have been such an established custom for all religious-minded persons to assemble in the temple, that the apostles could even preach the Gospel there.
Maldonatus remarks, "that it is a striking fact that Luke’s Gospel begins by describing a scene in the temple, when Zacharias had his vision, and also leaves us in the temple, when it concludes."
Burgon says, "They repaired to the temple, and so the temple service became henceforth filled with new meaning. The song of Moses has become to them the song of the Lamb. For them the Psalms speak henceforth another language, for they speak to them only of Christ. Well may they have been henceforth ’continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.’ "
In leaving the Gospel of Luke, it may prove useful to some readers to give the following list of the principal circumstances which are recorded by Luke alone, and are not mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and John. They are fifty-eight in number.
1.—The vision of Zacharias, and conception of Elisabeth; Luke 1:5-25.
2.—The salutation of Mary; Luke 1:26-38.
3.—Mary’s visit to Elisabeth; Luke 1:39-56.
4.—The birth of John the Baptist, and hymn of Zacharias; Luke 1:57-80.
5.—The decree of Cæsar Augustus; Luke 2:1-3.
6.—The birth of Christ at Bethlehem; Luke 2:4-7.
7.—The appearance of angels to the shepherds; Luke 2:8-20.
8.—The circumcision of Christ; Luke 2:21.
9.—The presentation of Christ in the temple; Luke 2:22-24.
10.—The account of Simeon and Anna; Luke 2:25-38.
11.—Christ found among the doctors; Luke 2:41-52.
12.—Date of beginning of John’s ministry; Luke 3:1-2.
13.—Success of John’s ministry; Luke 3:10-15.
14.—Genealogy of Mary; Luke 3:23-38.
15.—Christ preaching and rejected at Nazareth; Luke 4:15-30.
16.—Particulars in the call of Simon, James and John; Luke 5:1-10.
17.—Christ’s discourse in the plain; Luke 6:17-49.
18.—Raising of the widow’s son at Nain; Luke 7:11-17.
19.—Woman in Simon’s house; Luke 7:36-50.
20.—Women who ministered to Christ; Luke 8:1-3.
21.—James and John desiring fire to come down; Luke 9:51-56.
22.—Mission of seventy disciples; Luke 10:1-16.
23.—Return of seventy disciples; Luke 10:17-24.
24.—Parable of the good Samaritan; Luke 10:25-37.
25.—Christ in the house of Martha and Mary; Luke 10:38-42.
26.—Parable of friend at midnight; Luke 11:5-8.
27.—Christ dining in a Pharisee’s house; Luke 11:37-54.
28.—Discourse to an innumerable multitude; Luke 12:1-53.
29.—Murder of the Galileans; Luke 13:1-5.
30.—Parable of the barren fig tree; Luke 13:6-9.
31.—Case of the woman diseased 18 years; Luke 13:10-20.
32.—Question on the few that be saved; Luke 13:22-30.
33.—Reply to the Pharisees’ warning about Herod; Luke 13:31-33.
34.—Case of a dropsical man; Luke 14:1-6.
35.—Parable of the lowest room; Luke 14:7-14.
36.—Parable of the great supper; Luke 14:15-24.
37.—Difficulties of Christ’s service; Luke 14:25-35.
38.—Parable of the lost sheep and piece of money; Luke 15:1-10.
39.—Parable of the prodigal son; Luke 15:11-22.
40.—Parable of the unjust steward; Luke 16:1-18.
41.—Parable of the rich man and Lazarus; Luke 16:19-31.
42.—Instruction to disciples; Luke 17:1-10.
43.—Healing of ten lepers; Luke 17:12-19.
44.—Question and answer about coming of God’s kingdom; Luke 17:20-37.
45.—Parable of the importunate widow; Luke 18:1-8.
46.—Parable of the Pharisee and Publican; Luke 18:9-14.
47.—Calling of Zacchæus; Luke 19:2-10.
48.—Parable of the pounds; Luke 19:11-28.
49.—Christ weeping over Jerusalem; Luke 19:41-44.
50.—Special warning to Peter; Luke 22:31-32.
51.—Direction to buy sword; Luke 22:35-38.
52.—Appearance of an angel, and bloody sweat in garden; Luke 22:43-44.
53.—Pilate sends Christ to Herod; Luke 23:6-16.
54.—Women deplore Christ’s sufferings; Luke 23:27-32.
55.—The penitent thief; Luke 23:39-43.
56.—The appearance of Christ to two disciples going to Emmaus; Luke 24:13-35.
57.—Circumstances attending Christ’s appearance to the eleven; Luke 24:37-49.
58.—Christ’s departure in the act of blessing; Luke 24:50-53.
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Ryle, J. C. "Commentary on Luke 24". "Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent