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I. The first thought that these words of the angel messenger, and the scene in which we find them, suggest, is this: The dead are the living. Language, which is more accustomed and adapted to express the appearances than the realities of things, leads us astray very much when we use the phrase "the dead" as if it expressed the continuance of the condition into which men pass in the act of dissolution. The dead are the living who have died. Whilst they were dying they lived, and after they were dead they lived more fully. All live unto God. How solemnly sometimes that thought comes up before us, that all those past generations which have stormed across this earth of ours, and then have fallen into still forgetfulness, live yet! Somewhere at this very instant, they now verily are! Death is no state; it is an act. It is not a condition; it is a transition.
II. This text indeed, the whole incident may set before us the other consideration: Since they have died, they live a better life than ours. In what particulars is their life now higher than ours? (1) They have close fellowship with Christ. (2) They are separated from the present body of weakness, of dishonour, of corruption. (3) They are withdrawn from all the trouble and toil and care of this present life. (4) They have death behind them, not having that awful figure standing on their horizon waiting for them to come up with it.
III. The better life which the dead are living now leads on to a still fuller life when they get back their glorified bodies. "Body, soul, and spirit" the old combination which was on earth is to be the perfect humanity of heaven. The spirits that are perfected, that are living in blessedness, that are dwelling in God, that are sleeping in Christ, at this moment are waiting, stretching out expectant hands of faith and hope; for that they would not be unclothed, but clothed upon with their house which is from heaven, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
A. Maclaren, Sermons preached in Manchester, 1st series, p. 97.
Christ, a Quickening Spirit.
I. Observe how Christ's Resurrection harmonises with the history of His Birth. David had foretold that His soul should not be left in hell (that is, the unseen state) neither should the Holy One of God see corruption. In the angel's announcement of His Birth His incorruptible and immortal nature is implied. Death might overpower, but it could not keep possession it had no dominion over Him. He was, in the words of the text, "the Living among the dead. The grave could not detain Him who had life in Himself. He rose as a man awakes in the morning, when sleep flies from him as a thing of course.
II. Jesus Christ manifested Himself to His disciples in His exalted state, that they might be witnesses to the people; witnesses of those separate truths which man's reason cannot combine, that He had a real human body, that it was partaker in the properties of His Soul, and that it was inhabited by the Eternal Word. They handled Him; they saw Him come and go, when the doors were shut; they felt what they could not see, but could witness even unto death that He was their Lord and their God: a triple evidence, first, of His Atonement; next, of their own resurrection unto glory; lastly, of His Divine power to conduct them safely to it. Thus manifested, as perfect God and perfect man, in the fulness of His sovereignty, and the immortality of His holiness, He ascended up on high to take possession of His kingdom.
III. As Adam is the author of death to the whole race of men, so is Christ the origin of immortality. Adam spreads poison; Christ diffuses life eternal. Christ communicates life to us, one by one, by means of that holy and incorrupt nature which He assumed for our redemption: how, we know not; though by an unseen, still by a real, communication of Himself. How wonderful a work of grace! Strange it was that Adam should be our death: but stranger still and very gracious, that God Himself should be our life, by means of that human tabernacle which He has taken on Himself.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 139.
References: Luke 24:5 , Luke 24:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1106; C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day, p. 85; Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 63; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 166; A. Maclaren, Sermons in Union Chapel, p. 113; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 74.Luke 24:6 . W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 273; C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 128. Luke 24:8 . H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, No. x.
I. We can hardly conceive that, had the Cross and the sepulchre been the end of the course of Jesus, His followers would have held together many months. That such men should knit up again their ravelled and scattered expectations; that these disciples, being what we know them to have been, should have recovered heart, as the narrative tells us, and as the world's history shows us they did; is simply inconceivable, supposing that nothing more happened after the deposition in the tomb. We cannot imagine them, crushed, disappointed, deceived men, standing up before the victorious enemies of their disgraced Master, and proclaiming Him a Prince and a Saviour. There is but one way of accounting for this change; and that way is, that the Resurrection really took place, as we are told it did.
II. There have been many strange days in this world's history, but there was never a day so strange as this one of the Resurrection, because never one that resembled it in that which had happened. (1) As the loss had been, so was the gain; as the sorrow, so the joy. A new order of things was begun; a new life was sprung up. The harvest which seemed to have been but an heap in the day of desperate sorrow, is become precious seed, for another and an endless sowing. (2) And with joy comes responsibility: "They could not but speak of those things which they had seen and heard." This testimony of witnessed fact became a necessity of their lives, they went about invested with its responsibility. (3) And with joy and responsibility came also strength. In proportion to the greatness of the event, in proportion to the vastness of the change, in proportion to the working of the spirit, was their testimony given with power so that it bore down all opposition. Between Peter disclaiming Jesus, Peter weeping bitterly for his faithlessness, Peter returning from the sepulchre wondering in himself, and Peter standing before the council and proclaiming that there is none other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved there needs no link supplied, if this joy gave responsibility, and strength followed; but otherwise I see not how the weakness and the power are to belong to the same; how the same man is to utter in a few short days some of the weakest and basest, and also some of the boldest and grandest, words in this world's history.
H. Alford, Eastertide Sermons, p. 1.
The Journey to Emmaus.
I. We see in this appearance something very characteristic of our Lord's habits and ways. During His lifetime His disciples and followers were always craving for publicity and display. He was always retiring from too much of that, carrying on His work as quietly as possible. How entirely consonant with His whole habit of life are these appearings after the Resurrection.
II. We may see how easily still, in that risen life, He enters into communication with men, how little difficulty He has in joining any company, or any two or three with whom He wishes to be. Thus He consecrates for us our saddest walks, our hardest roads, our longest journeys.
III. This appearance of Christ is like a message of fraternity and Divine regard, especially to plain, simple, ordinary men to what we may call common men, who wear no distinction and possess no advantage whatever, over their fellows. For who were these two men? No one knows anything about them. In all probability there was not much to know, except that they were disciples, that they loved Him. Who may despair of a visit? Who shall dare say, "The Lord has forgotten me "?
IV. We have an instance here of the attractive power of sorrow to Him. They walked and talked and were sad; and then He drew near and went with them. He is now in the painless, passionless, glorious life; and yet with the quickness of an immortal instinct, with the certainty belonging to an established affinity He seeks the society of struggling spirits, He gives His presence to sorrowing souls.
V. This, however, we must observe that it is not to every kind of trouble and sadness that He grants immediate assuagement.
A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 394.
References: Luke 24:13-42.24.15 . H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1870, p. 324; C. Stanford, From Calvary to Olivet, p. 192.Luke 24:13-42.24.22 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 463.Luke 24:13-42.24.32 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 165; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 232, Luke 24:13-42.24.35 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. xii., p. 210; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 214.Luke 24:15 . A. A. Ramsay, Christian World Pulpit; vol. vi., p. 284.Luke 24:16 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1180, Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 305.
The modern world contains not a few of the disciples of Christ in name, downcast and sad, who are leaving Jerusalem as if on the point of giving Him up; and He, as of old, joins them once and again, in another form, so that their eyes are holden and they do not see Him. He comes to them in His Church, which is in their eyes only a human institution; or in His Scriptures, which seem to them but a human literature; or in His Sacraments, in which they can discern nothing more than mere graceless forms: and yet He has a question to put to them and a word to address to them if they will but listen.
I. There is the sadness of mental perplexity. It is our risen Lord who offers the true solution of all mental perplexities. And that He can speak with authority on such subjects we know, for He has given the world a pledge of His right to speak by first of all dying publicly in the full daylight of history, and then raising Himself from the dead.
II. The sadness of the conscience. Our risen Lord reveals Himself to those who are weighed down by sin as pardoning it and blotting it out. But what is it that gives His Death, His Blood, this power? It is that the worth and merits of His Person are simply incalculable, since He is the everlasting Son of God. And what is the proof of this which He Himself proffered to His disciples and to all the world? It is His Resurrection from the dead.
III. There is the sadness of the soul which arises from the want of an object in life to be grasped by the affections, to be aimed at by the will. To persons who are thus living without an object, Christ our Lord appears, once, it may be, at least, to teach them that there is a something worth living for the known will of the Eternal God; and He, in His resurrection glory, can speak on this too, with high authority, for He was declared the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 257,
References: Luke 24:17 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 257. Luke 24:17-42.24.22 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 493.Luke 24:17-42.24.29 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 264.Luke 24:21 . Ibid., vol. ii., p. 235. Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. vii., p. 39. Luke 24:22 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 252.Luke 24:24 . W. Scott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 124; E. Lewis, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 378. Luke 24:25 , Luke 24:26 . J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, vol. ii., p. 488. Luke 24:26 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 157; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 12; Ibid., vol. vii., p. 238. Luke 24:27 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 18; T. T. Carter, Sermons, p. 198. Luke 24:28 , Luke 24:29 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1655; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xvi., p. 297; J. R. Macduff, Communion Memories, p. 199.
The Evening Prayer of Christ's Friends.
I. First, notice some of the feelings which must have been in the hearts of those who presented this prayer. (1) The first and most natural feeling was grateful interest in a spiritual benefactor. (2) The next feeling was a desire to have such conversation continued. (3) The last feeling we mention in the hearts of these friends of Christ was the presentiment of something more than they had yet seen or heard.
II. Consider some of the circumstances in which this request may be offered by us. (1) It may be said to be suitable to the whole earthly life of every Christian. (2) Another time suitable for presenting this request is in approaching the evening of life. (3) This request is suitable to those who live in an age of the world such as ours.
J. Ker, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 264.
References: Luke 24:29 . J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 40; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 420; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 178.
Christ Meeting with Doubters.
The story of the two disciples going to the village of Emmaus is the one which men in later ages have most connected with their own experiences; the one which has done most to bridge over the chasm between them and those who saw and handled the Word of Life. They have been sure that it was written to tell them that this Word of Life is not far from any one of them; that it is their fault and not His if they do not hear His voice and follow Him.
I. "While they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them." The Evangelist says nothing to heighten the effect of the meeting; not a word to make us feel that this was a new occurrence in the world's history an occurrence which would scarcely ever be repeated. And why not? Because, I apprehend, it did not strike St. Luke as a new occurrence, or one which would be rarely repeated. He accepted the coming of this Stranger to these disciples as a sign of that which had been continually taking place, when two men walking near Jerusalem, or walking anywhere else, had communed together and reasoned. "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them."
II. "He took bread and blessed it," etc. If you ask whether His breaking of bread in that cottage was a sacramental act, I should answer that I conceive no act of Christ can be anything else. Was it not a pledge of His stooping to men, of His union with men, of His dominion over men? But if the question is, whether this breaking of bread was like that to which we are invited, who may communicate in a completed sacrifice, who may draw nigh to God through an ascended High Priest? I answer, Christ Himself spoke of His departure to the Father as the beginning of all highest knowledge, as the opening of such a converse between earth and heaven as never could be possible whilst He was tarrying with them. It is therefore, I maintain, that we are guilty of strange faithlessness and ingratitude when we estimate our position as worse than that of those who saw Him before the Passion, or in the forty days' after the Resurrection. It must be better and grander. Christ reveals Himself not to one here and there: He is proclaimed as the universal King, as the universal Sacrifice. As such we are permitted to receive Him. As such we are permitted to declare Him to the world.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 33.
References: Luke 24:30 , Luke 24:31 . A. Maclaren, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 9; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, p. 229. Luke 24:31 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 681; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1st series, p. 396.
Christ stopping at Emmaus.
We have here:
I. A striking illustration of our Lord's method of teaching which was, to give more when that already given had been duly received. He did not pretend to open truth after truth, just as though His whole business had been to furnish to the world a certain amount of revelation, whether they would hear or whether they would forbear; but He watched with great attentiveness the reception of truth, and He added or withheld according as that reception did or did not indicate love for truth and a readiness to obey its demands. And the importance to ourselves of observing the course which Christ pursued on earth lies mainly in this. We have no reason to suppose that such course was followed only in the days of His public ministry, but rather that it was universally characteristic of God's spiritual dealings. Let there be a real anxiety for spiritual wisdom, an honest wish to ascertain, in order that you may obey the Divine will; and one lesson shall lead on to another, and you shall always be drawing from Scripture, and yet always feeling yourself to be farther off than ever from exhausting its stores. There is every now and then, with regard to ourselves, a stopping at Emmaus that it may be seen whether you are willing to part with your teacher.
II. A most emphatic warning as to the danger of losing golden opportunities, or of letting slip, through ignorance or procrastination, the means of acquiring great accessions of knowledge and grace. We cannot but think that Christians would escape many of those changes of which they so feelingly complain, and enjoy far more of unbroken fellowship with God, if they were watchful for such moments as those in the streets of Emmaus moments at which desertion seems likely to succeed to presence, or darkness to light; but which are really moments at which the Redeemer, having vouchsafed some rich manifestation, only waits to be importuned that He may vouchsafe a yet richer. They whom privileges make languid in prayer may justly expect to find their privileges diminished; but they, on the contrary, who pray the more fervently as their privileges increase, will find in every spiritual blessing the germ of a brighter.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,662.
References: Luke 24:32 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 281; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 305; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 607; Ibid., vol. iii., p. 234; H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 257; Ibid., Easter Sermons, vol. i., p. 256; J. R. Macduff, Communion Memories, p. 202.Luke 24:33-42.24.35 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 146.
I. The importance of Christ's Resurrection is a thing which we must each learn for ourselves; it will not be felt by our being assured by others that it is important. But few persons of any education reach the age of manhood without having an opportunity to learn it, whether they choose to avail themselves of it, or to neglect it. Be the exciting cause what it may, the effect is almost sure to occur; we commune with our own hearts, and think of life and death, and ask ourselves what will be our condition when sixty years are over; whether, indeed, we shall then have died for ever, or whether we shall but have fallen asleep in Christ, to be awakened by Him when the number of His redeemed is full. It is then that the words of my text assume a very different character to our ears; then it seems no slight, no ordinary, blessing to be assured that the Lord is risen indeed.
II. The fact of our Lord's Resurrection implies two things: (1) That He was actually dead; and (2) that He was alive again after having died. The latter point was the only one which was disputed in former times; it was the original account given of the matter by the Jews, that His disciples came and stole away His body. But it is a remarkable instance, both of the force of truth in the long run, and of the sounder spirit of criticism which prevails in modern times, that this objection is now generally given up. No one who pretends to be a judge of human character can doubt the perfect honesty of the narrative in the two last chapters of St. John's Gospel; and admitting the honesty it is equally impossible to doubt the truth of it as to the fact of our Lord's showing Himself to His disciples after He had been crucified. But it is pretended now that He did not actually die under His Crucifixion; that the appearances were those of a living man, not of one risen from the dead. But where the death of the sufferer was so peculiarly important to those concerned in it, as in the case of our Lord; where He had Himself appealed to His rising again as the proof that He came from God; and where His enemies trusted to prove by His death that He had not come from Him it becomes an improbability beyond all calculation, that an event, in itself so extraordinary, should happen in the very case where its occurrence could not fail to be considered as miraculous. Eight-and-forty hours after His burial, He was seen, not only alive, but in perfect strength and vigour, presenting Himself to Mary Magdalene, in the garden in the morning; to two of His disciples at Emmaus, six miles distant from Jerusalem, in the afternoon; and to His Apostles at Jerusalem in the evening: not as a man saved by miracle from dying of wounds, which must at any rate have left him in a state of the most helpless weakness, but as He was, in truth, the Son of God, who had overcome death, and who retained only so much of His earthly nature as might prove to His Apostles that it was He Himself Jesus, who had been crucified, Jesus, who was now risen, to live for ever.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 94.
References: Luke 24:34 . T. Armitage, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 332; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 86. Luke 24:35 . G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 157; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 224.Luke 24:36 . Thursday Penny Pulpit, 4th series, p. 265; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 115.Luke 24:36-42.24.43 . B. F. Westcott, The Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 61; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 463.Luke 24:38 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 297.
The Resurrection of the Body.
I. We may learn from this text, first, that the Resurrection will be the restoration of the whole man, in spirit and soul and body; a restoration of all in which consists the integrity of our nature and the identity of our person. And this is emphatically the hope of the Gospel. The light of nature could not show this mystery. The heathen reached only to the immortality of the soul, and even that they saw but dimly, and often doubted. It was seen, too, that even the elder Church saw this mystery in broken and uncertain lights. Without doubt, they saw, as it were, the refracted light of the coming mystery; but in some sense their eyes were holden, while they ministered to us greater things than they themselves conceived, for St. Paul declares that life and immortality are brought to light through the Gospel.
II. It is plain that, among those that are raised from the dead, there shall be a perfect recognition, and that not limited to the blessed, but, like the Resurrection itself, comprehending the wicked also. It follows, inseparably from the law of personal identity, and the law of individual responsibility, that it should be so.
III. This doctrine throws a great light upon the true doctrine of what the Church is. It is not a form, or piece of mechanism, moulded by the human will, or put together for the uses and expedients of men and nations; but a mystery, partaking of a sacramental character, framed and ordained by God Himself. In a word, the Church is the root of the new creation which shall be raised in its fulness at the last day; it is in part earthly, in part heavenly; there is one body and one spirit. And it is ever putting off its mortal shroud, casting its sere leaves upon the earth, and withdrawing its vitality into its hidden source. The earth is sowing with holy dust, and the world unseen replenishing with the souls of the righteous. Even now already, in the clear foresight of the Everlasting, to whom all things are present in their fulness, the Church is complete in Christ. But to us who see only in part and by broken aspects, and on the outer surface, it is imperfect and to come; yet flowing on, and continually unfolding itself from age to age.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 364.
References: Luke 24:39 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 224; H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 225; Ibid., Easter Sermons, vol. i., p. 103; W. Page Roberts, Liberalism in Religion, pp. 51, 64.
I. The doubts of the disciples. There were some things respecting their Master which these disciples strangely doubted; and there were other things, which they as strangely, as it seems to us, did not doubt at all. They doubted whether He were risen, as some had reported; but they had no doubt that, if He were risen, all was well with them. They doubted whether those who said that they had seen Him were correct in their statement; but they had no doubt that, if these witnesses were correct in their report, they had no further ground for sorrow or doubt or fear. They doubted whether this person, who now stood in the midst of them, was really their old Master, Jesus of Nazareth; but they had no doubt that, if this were really He, they had abundant cause of rejoicing.
II. The Lord's way of meeting the doubts of His disciples. "He showed them His hands and His feet." His object in doing this was not only to convince them that He was no spectre, no shadow; but that He was the very Christ who had been crucified. The nail-prints were the proof, not only that He had died, but that He had triumphed over death; that, though "crucified through weakness, He lived again by the power of God." Strange as this kind of recognition, this way of fixing the doubted identity, may seem, it was satisfactory. The mother in the story knew her long-lost child by the scar on the shoulder received in infancy; so was the Son of God recognised by the nail-prints and the bruises of the Cross. He who raised Him from the dead, left these scars still visible, these marks of death and weakness, these memorials of the Cross and its nails, in order, by means of them, to speak to us, to give demonstration of His true death and true resurrection, that thereby we might be comforted exceedingly: nay, made like those of whom it is written: "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord."
H. Bonar, Short Sermons, p. 249.
References: Luke 24:40 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 254; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 24.Luke 24:41 . Ibid., Sermons, vol. vii., No. 425.Luke 24:44-42.24.46 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 582.Luke 24:45 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 19.
Our Lord's Last Words.
I. The last command of a friend who has left us is commonly regarded with more than usual interest. Whatever else men forget they remember this. It is connected with a moment sacred in their recollections. The last glimpse of the familiar form receding from their view, the vessel long watched amidst the distant haze these or similar remembrances are linked to those words. Nay, sometimes they were the last uttered on earth. The words of the dying oh, how we treasure them; how full they are to us of seeds of action; how deep we lay them in our hearts! And our dear Friend has been taken from us; not the Friend of one family, but of all the families of the earth; the Friend of man He who loved us and gave Himself for us. We have in the Gospels four distinct testimonies that our Lord's parting words were a plain command to His Church to preach the Gospel among all nations, to make disciples of all nations, to preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations, to witness for Him unto the uttermost parts of the earth. This is the last sound of that Voice which spake as never man spake; this the utterance which yet vibrated in the air as He was borne upward, and which still speaks on in the ear of every one of His faithful followers: "Evangelise the world;" "Rest not till all know Him."
II. And what shall we say of the amount of this world's means which God has put into our hands for aiding such work? Need any good work languish, because England cannot afford to support it? Let our vast schemes, undertaken for comfort or luxury, witness what we can afford to lay out on any object when it pleases us. God has bestowed on us all our wealth. He has placed us for religious exertion foremost among the nations of the earth. He has provided us with instruments whereby we may avail ourselves of these opportunities, and lavished on us abundance of wealth to make those instruments effective. It is clear then that we are, as a Christian nation, deeply responsible for carrying on the evangelisation of the earth.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vii., p. 291.
References: Luke 24:46 , Luke 24:47 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 261.Luke 24:47 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 329; Ibid., vol. xxix., No. 1729; T. T. Lynch, Sermons for My Curates, p. 215; R. W. Dale, The Evangelical Revival, p. 149. Luke 24:47-42.24.53 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 536. Luke 24:45 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 280; J. Guinness Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 257; A. Mackennal, Ibid., vol. v., p. 385; G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 134; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 15.
The Ascension of our Saviour.
I. As we meditate upon the passage before us, taking it in connection with other passages in which the same writer has entered more minutely into detail, there are several attendant circumstances of the Ascension upon which we may profitably dwell. (1) As to the manner of it. In the first place, we must notice that it was visible palpable to the senses of every beholder. You will see at once the fitness of this public triumph; it is true of the work of the Messiah, as it is true of the system which has been founded upon Messiah's death, that these things were not done in a corner. His Crucifixion, His Burial, His Resurrection, His Ascension, were public. (2) We observe next, in reference to the event, that the place on which it happened is worthy of our notice. He led them out as far as Bethany. We can imagine the feelings of the disciples as they trod the familiar road, for they had often been to Bethany together. The inner signification of Bethany is the House of Sorrow; and it is a beautiful illustration, both of the tenderness and of the completeness of His triumph, that, on his way to His highest exaltation, He should pass the place of His deepest sorrow, and that thence He should ascend straight to the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (3) Note the act during the performance of which He was lifted up on high: "He lifted up His hands and blessed them." This, indeed, was His daily work. For this He counselled in heaven and visited the earth; and for this He returned to His own glory after He had effectually proved the fulfilment of the design of His humiliation.
II. Consider, next, the purposes of the Ascension. (1) The personal results of the Ascension were the publicity of the scene and the triumph of His entrance into His primal glory. (2) Then there were representative results arising from the ascension of our Saviour. Christ is the federal head, the second great representative Adam. By His exaltation our own race derives surpassing honour. (3) And then there were mediatorial results in connection with the Ascension of the Saviour. "He received gifts for men." That is the purpose for which He has ascended on high. All that He could do on earth He did, and He said, "It is finished." Then He went up, that He might superintend its working, and He sits at the right hand of the Father, that He might make intercession for us.
W. Morley Punshon, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 168.
I. As far as the accompaniments of the Ascension were visible to men, they were the simplest and most unattractive that the case could admit. Even the Birth of the Saviour was far more honoured than His Ascension in supernatural accompaniments. On the Birth of Christ the heavenly host thronged the firmament; and in lofty accents heard by mortal ears, proclaimed the event. Not so upon the Ascension. There was nothing whatever of this angelic gratulation; Christ had trodden the winepress alone, and He ascended to His celestial kingdom alone, as though the attention of the beholders might not be distracted. And when the cloud had hidden Him, and the disciples were even straining their vision to catch another glimpse, two angels appear only to instruct these disciples, and not as attendants upon the ascending Redeemer. If the Saviour had gone away in terrible magnificence, there is many a timid Christian who would have feared that the Mediator in His unapproachable splendour and magnificence might have been forgetful of His followers. But those extended arms, and those parting words the unbelief must indeed be strong which is proof against these.
II. There is a great mistake in imagining that when God withdraws Himself in His gifts, He must withdraw Himself in anger. It may be much nearer the truth to say that He withdraws Himself in love. It is like the going away of Christ only because it is expedient a going away, of which it might be said that in departing He left His heart behind. Consider what may have been the attitude of your Heavenly Parent in removing what you have loved, and you may find cause to hope that the text has been true in regard to yourselves. "It came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them."
III. Note the effect wrought on the disciples by the Ascension of Christ an effect, you observe, not of sorrow, but of joy. In place of being disheartened by the separation, they were mightily encouraged, and "returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God." Shall we grieve that the Visible Presence is withdrawn, and that there is no longer on earth the mighty and mysterious Personage who put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself and discomfited through dying the enemies of God and man? Not so! There is no reason for sorrow that He quits the earth on the wings of the wind. We could not detain Him below, we would have Him as our Mediator within the veil. This and this only, can secure to us those spiritual assistances through which we ourselves may climb the firmament.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,519.
References: Luke 24:50 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii. p. 307, Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 118. Luke 24:50 , Luke 24:51 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., pp. 167, 169; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 105; W. Bull, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 246; T. Jones, Ibid., vol. xxii., p. 122; J. Vaughan, Sermons to Children, 3rd series, p. 36. Luke 24:50-42.24.53 . B. F. Westcott, The Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 175; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 265; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 88; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 358. Luke 24:51 . G. Gilfillan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 209; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 279; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 5th series, p. 26. Luke 24:51 , Luke 24:52 . H. W. Beecher, Preacher's Monthly, vol. xix., p. 154.Luke 24:52 . H. M. Butler, Ibid., p. 337; Ibid., vol. v., p. 266.
Warfare the Condition of Victory.
I. It will be well if we take to ourselves, and learn that great truth which the Apostles shrank from at first, but at length rejoiced in. Christ suffered and entered into joy, So did they, in their measure, after Him. And, in our measure, so do we. It is written that "through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God." At some time or other of the life of everyone there is pain, and sorrow, and trouble. So it is, and the sooner we can look upon it as a law of our Christian condition the better. One generation comes and then another. They issue forth, and succeed like leaves in spring; in all this law is observable. They are tried, and then they triumph; they are humbled, and then are exalted; they overcome the. world, and then they sit down on Christ's throne. I suppose it is a long time before any one of us recognises and understands that his own state on earth is, in one shape or other, a state of trial and sorrow; and that, if he has intervals of external peace, this is all gain, and more than he has a right to expect. Let us try to accustom ourselves to this view of the subject. The Church, all elect souls, each in its turn, is called to this necessary work. Once it was the turn of others, and now it is our turn. It is as though all of us were allowed to stand around His throne at once, and He called on first this man, and then that, to take up the chant by himself, each in his turn having to repeat the melody which his brethren have before gone through; or as if it were some trial of strength or of agility, and while the ring of bystanders beheld and applauded we, in succession, one by one, were actors in the pageant. Such is our state angels are looking on, Christ has gone before Christ has given us an example that we may follow His steps. Whatever your trouble be, though you be lonely, O Children of a Heavenly Father, be not afraid! quit you like men in your day, and when it is over, Christ will receive you to Himself, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh, from you.
II. Christ is already in that place of peace, which is all in all. He is on the right hand of God. He is hidden in the brightness of the radiance which issues from the everlasting throne. He is in the very abyss of peace, where there is no voice of tumult or distress, but a deep stillness stillness, that greatest and most awful of all goods which we can fancy; that most perfect of joys, the utter, profound, ineffable tranquillity of the Divine Essence. He has entered into His rest. That is our home; here we are but on pilgrimage, and Christ calls us to His many mansions which He has prepared.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vi., p. 221.
References: Luke 24:52 , Luke 24:53 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 127. Luke 24:53 . F. Kelly, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 244.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Luke 24". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany