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THE RESURRECTION. All the four evangelists give an account of the Resurrection. None of the four, however, attempt to give a history of it simply from a human point of sight. Each Gospel probably reproduces the special points dwelt on in certain great centres of Christian teaching, in what we should now term different schools of thought. (Attempts have been made by theological scholars to classify these as Jewish, Gentile, Greek, Roman; but only with indifferent success).
The teaching which St. Matthew's Gospel represents, evidently in the Resurrection preaching dwelt with peculiar insistence on the great Galilaean appearance of the Risen. St. Luke confines himself exclusively to the appearance, in Judaea. St. John chooses for his Resurrection instruction scenes which had for their theatre both Galilee and Judaea. St. John, as his central or most detailed piece of teaching, dwells on a fishing scene on Gennesaret, the actors being the well-known inner circle of the apostles. While St. Luke chooses for his detailed Resurrection narrative a high-road in a Jerusalem suburb; and for actors, two devoted, but historically unknown, disciples.
Then there is no question of discrepancies in this portion of the great history. It is not easy to frame a perfectly satisfactory harmony of all the events related by the four, after the Lord had risen; for, in fact, we possess no detailed account or history of what took place in that eventful period in presence of the disciples. We simply have memoranda of eye-witnesses of certain incidents connected with the Resurrection selected by the great first teachers as specially adapted to their own preaching and instruction.
The events of the first Easter Day have Been tabulated by Professor Westcott, in what he terms a provisional arrangement, as follows:—
Very early on Sunday
The Resurrection, followed by the earthquake, the descent of the angel, the opening of the tomb (Matthew 28:2-4).
Mary Magdalene, Mary the [mother] of James and Salome, probably with others, start for the sepulchre in the twilight. Mary Magdalene goes before the others, and returns at once to Peter and John (John 20:1, etc.),
John 5:30 a.m.
Her companions reach the sepulchre when the sun had risen (Mark 16:2). A vision of an angel. Message to the disciples.
Another party, among whom is Joanna, come a little later, but still in the early morning. A vision of "two young men." Words of comfort and instruction (Luke 24:4, etc.).
John 6:30 a.m.
The visit of Peter and John (John 20:3-10). A vision of two angels to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-13). About the same time the company of women carry their tidings to the apostles (Luke 24:10, etc.).
The Lord reveals himself to Mary Magdalene. Not long after he reveals him self, as it appears, to the company of women who are returning to the sepulchre. Charge to the brethren to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:9, etc.).
The appearance to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus.
After 4 p.m.
An appearance to St. Peter.
The appearance to the eleven and others.
In the above table one point must be specially noticed: two companies or separate groups of women are mentioned as going to the sepulchre with the same pious object of assisting in the final embalming of the sacred body.
If this be assumed to be the fact, there will be nothing improbable in the supposition that both these groups of women, all doubtless intimate friends belonging to the little company of the Master, but living probably some distance apart in Jerusalem, came together some time on the sabbath day, and then arranged to meet early on the first day at the sepulchre. Probably the spices purchased in some haste just before the sabbath commenced were judged inadequate.
(1) For in Luke 23:56 we read of a company of women, most probably including all, i.e. both groups, of holy women, who, after beholding the sepulchre, "returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day."
(2) In Mark 16:1 we read, "When the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought [not had bought] sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." This company arrives the first at the sepulchre, and sees the vision of one angel (Mark 16:5). The other company (alluded to in Luke 24:1) arrives not long after at the sepulchre, and sees the vision of two angels (Luke 24:4).
In considering the accounts of the Resurrection, the following memoranda will be found suggestive:—
(1) The holy women are the principal actors in all the four accounts of the circumstances connected with the tomb. But their assertions were not believed by the disciples until their statements were confirmed by the Lord's personal appearance.
(2) When St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5-8) sums up the great appearances of our Lord, the basis of our faith, he makes no reference to his appearance to Mary Magdalene or to the women.
(3) No evangelist describes the Resurrection-no earthly being having been present. St. Matthew is the evangelist who, in his narrative, goes furthest back. He mentions the shock of the earthquake, the awful presence of the angel, the benumbing terror which seized the guards who were watching. Most probably these signs accompanied the Resurrection.
(4) The risen Lord appeared only to his own.
(5) That no future doubt should be thrown on the reality of the appearances of the Risen, he showed himself not only to solitary individuals, but to companies, i.e. to two, to the eleven (repeatedly), and to above five hundred brethren at once. And these manifestations took place
(a) at different hours of the day;
(b) in different localities—in Judaea, in Galilee, in rooms of houses, in the open air.
The Resurrection. At the sepulchre.
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. In the foregoing general note on the Resurrection, the probability has been discussed of the holy women having been divided into two companies who separately came to the sepulchre. St. Luke's notice here refers to the party who arrived the second at the tomb.
And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. The tomb in which the body of the "King's Son" was laid was in a garden close by the scene of the Crucifixion. It had been recently hewn out of a rock, the low ridge opposite the slight ascent of Calvary. "In front of a tomb belonging to a rich family there was generally a vestibule open to the air, then a low entrance sometimes, as in this case, on the side of a rock, leading into a square chamber of moderate dimensions, on one side of which was a place for the body, either cut some seven feet into the rock, or lengthways, three feet deep, with a low arch over it … The tomb had been lately made, and the door which closed the entrance, the only aperture into the tomb, was a large stone" ('Speaker's Commentary,' on Matthew 27:60). Recent investigations in Jerusalem serve to confirm the accuracy of the original traditional sites.. We find the following passage in the Bordeaux Pilgrim: "On the left side is the hillock Golgotha, where the Lord was crucified. Thence about a stone-throw distance is the crypt where his body was deposited." St. Cyril of Jerusalem makes several references to the spot. In the days of Eusebius (first half of the fourth century) there was no doubt as to the site.
And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. To one company of women one angel appeared: to another, two. Mary Magdalene, a little later, saw two angels in white sitting, as it were keeping watch and ward over the sepulchre for a short time after the sacred form had left it. The words which these beings from another sphere spoke to the mourning women were slightly different, but the teaching was the same in each case: "He is not here, but is risen. Do you not remember what he told you when he was yet with you?" Van Oosterzee and Farrar repeat a beautiful passage from Lessing on this: "Cold discrepancy-mongers, do you not, then, see that the evangelists do not count the angels?… There were not only two angels—there were millions of them. They appeared not always one and the same, not always the same two; sometimes this one appeared, sometimes that; sometimes on this place,- sometimes on that; sometimes alone, sometimes in company; sometimes they said this, sometimes they said that."
Luke 24:6, Luke 24:7
He is not here, but is risen. These words were repeated in each of the angelic communications at the sepulchre. Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. The angels here call to the women's memory the Master's former promises of the Resurrection. In SS. Matthew and Mark the angel bids them tell the disciples not to forget the appointed place of meeting in Galilee, referring to the Lord's words on the way from the "Last Supper" to Gethsemane.
And told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. The account of the scenes at the sepulchre in St. Luke are the least vivid and detailed of the four evangelists. It must be remembered that Matthew, Mark (the amanuensis of Peter), and John relate their own memories here, as well as what they had heard from the holy women. Peter and John, we know, were present themselves at the sepulchre. St. Luke received his less detailed and more summarized account of that early morning, years after, most probably from the lips of one of the holy women who had formed part of one of the "two companies" who carried spices for the embalming.
And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. The utter incredulity of the friends of Jesus when these reports of his resurrection were brought to them is remarkable when contrasted with the evident dread of the Sanhedrin that something of grave moment would happen after three days had elapsed. The disciples were evidently amazed at their Master's rising from the dead. The chief priests and Jewish leaders would apparently have been surprised if something startling had not happened (see Matthew 27:63, etc., where an account is given of the measures these able but unprincipled men took, in their short-sighted wisdom, to counteract any fulfilment of the Crucified One's word—a fulfilment they evidently looked forward to as to no improbable contingency). The utter surprise of the disciples at the Resurrection, which in their Gospels they truthfully acknowledge, is no small side-proof of the genuineness of these records of the event.
Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. This verse is omitted in some of the ancient authorities. It is, however, no doubt genuine, and is, in tact, a condensed report (omitting all mention of John) of the narrative given at length in St. John's Gospel (John 20:3-10).
The meeting with the risen Jesus on the way to Emmaus.
And, behold, two of them. This long piece, which relates in a singularly vivid and picturesque manner one of the earliest appearances of the Risen, is peculiar to St. Luke. St. Mark mentions it, but as it were only in passing. This Gospel, written probably after the Gospels of SS. Matthew and Mark, holds a middle place between the earliest apostolic memoirs represented by the first two Gospels and the last memoir, that of St. John, which was probably put out in its present form by the apostle "whom Jesus loved" some time in the last fifteen years of the first century. Writers of varied schools unite in expressions of admiration for this singularly beautiful "memory of the Lord." Godet styles it one of the most admirable pieces in St. Luke's Gospel. Renan, belonging to another, perhaps the most cheerless of all schools of religious thought, writes thus: "L'episode des disciples d'Emmaus est un des recits les plus fins, les plus nuances qu'il y ait duns aucune langue". Dean Plumptre speaks of "the long and singularly interesting narrative peculiar to St. Luke." He says, "It must be looked upon as among the ' gleaning of the grapes,' which rewarded his researches even after the full vintage had apparently been gathered in by others". The "two of them," although doubtless well known in the apostolic age, seem to have held no distinguished place in early Christian history (see note on verse 18, where Cleopas is mentioned). That same day. The first day of the week—the first Easter Day. The events of the early morning of the Resurrection have been already commented upon. To a village called Emmaus. This Emmaus, the narrative tells us, was about sixty furlongs—some six miles and a half—from the holy city. It was situated east-south-east from Jerusalem. The name is connected with the modern Arabic term Hammam (a bath), and indicates probably, like the Latin Aquae, or the French Aix, and the English "Bath," or "Wells," the presence of medicinal springs; and this may possibly account for St. Luke the physician's attention having in the first instance been drawn to the spot. This Emmaus is now called Kulonieh. A curious Talmudical reference, quoted by Godet, belongs to this place Emmaus, now Kulonieh: "At Mattza they go to gather the green boughs for the Feast of Tabernacles'' (Talmud, 'Succa,' 4.5). Elsewhere it is said that "Maflza is Kulonieh."
While they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. One, if not the first, fulfilment of the comforting promise, "Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them." Compare also the words of Malachi, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it" (Malachi 3:16).
But their eyes were holden, that they should not know him. So Mary Magdalene looked on and failed to recognize at first the Person of her adored Master (John 20:15). So by the lake-shore, as he stood and spoke to the tired fishermen, they who had been so long with him knew him not. Some mysterious change had been wrought in the Person of the Lord. Between the Resurrection and the Ascension, men and women now looked on him without a gleam of recognition, now gazed on him knowing well that it was the Lord. "It is vain," writes Dr. Westcott, "to give any simply natural explanation of the failure of the disciples to recognize Christ. After the Resurrection he was known as he pleased, and not necessarily at once Till they who gazed on him were placed in something of spiritual harmony with the Lord, they could not recognize him." The two on their walk to Emmaus, and Mary Magdalene in the garden, were preoccupied with their sorrow. The fisher-disciples on the lake were preoccupied with their work, so that the vision of the Divine was obscured. The risen Christ will surely fulfil his own words, "The pure in heart, they shall see God" but only the pure in heart.
What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? The older authorities make the question stop at "as ye walk," and then add, "and they stood still, looking sad." This change is, of course, of no great importance, but it considerably adds to the vividness of the picture.
And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas. This name is a Greek contraction of Cleopatros, and points to Alexandrian antecedents. Dean Plumptre suggests that this may in part, perhaps, account for this Cleopas, not improbably a Jew of Alexandria, imparting to St. Luke what had not found its way into the current oral teaching of the Hebrew Church at Jerusalem, as embodied in the narratives of SS. Matthew and Mark. Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem? better translated, dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem, and not know, etc.? That is to say, "Art thou the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know about the wonderful events which have just taken place in the holy city?"
And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. To the Stranger's question, "What things have so lately excited Jerusalem?" they both probably burst out with "the Name," then doubtless on all lips in the holy city, "Jesus of Nazareth," the hated and adored Same. And then they went on with a farther explanation to One who seemed a stranger just arrived: they explained who this Jesus was supposed to have been. "He was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people," which Lunge happily paraphrases "equally great in secret contemplative holiness and in public acts of beneficence." But then the "two" explained, "This he was; for he is no more. Our chief priests and rulers have done him to death. They have crucified him."
But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. And we who were his friends and followers, we thought we had found in him the Redeemer of Israel, King Messiah! Think! the Redeemer crucified! Although the Redeemer, in the sense they-probably understood the word, was something very different to the sense we give to it, the idea was still something very lofty and sublime. It in-eluded, no doubt, much of earthly glory and dominion for Israel, but in some definite sense the Gentile world, too, would share in the blessings of Messiah. And to think of the shameful cross putting an end to all these hopes! And beside all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done. But yet terrible and despairing as was the story of Cleopas and his friend, their tone was not quite hopeless; for they went on, "And now we have come to the third day since they crucified him." No doubt they dwelt a short space on the expression, "third day," telling the Stranger how their dead Master, when alive, had bade his friends watch for the third day from his death. The third day, he had told them, would be the day of his triumphant return to them; and, strangely enough, on the early morning of this third day, something did happen which had stirred, excited, and perplexed them. Certain women of their company, who had been early to the grave of the Master, meaning to embalm the corpse, found the sepulchre empty, and they came back reporting how they had seen a vision of angels there, who told them their Master lived. What did it all mean?
And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Tholuck writes, "Does not their word sound as the language of those in whose heart the smoking flax yet glimmers, though nigh to extinction?"
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! better translated, O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! The Stranger now replies to the confused story of sorrow and baffled hopes just lit up with one faint ray of hope, with a calm reference to that holy book so well known to, so deeply treasured by every Jew. "See," he seems to say, "in the pages of our prophets all this, over which you now so bitterly mourn, is plainly predicted: you must be blind and deaf not to have seen and heard this story of agony and patient suffering in those well-known, well-loved pages! When ,those great prophets spoke of the coming of Messiah, how came it about that you missed seeing that they pointed to days of suffering and death to be endured by him before his time of sovereignty and triumph could be entered on?"
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? better translated, ought not the Christ, etc.? "St. Luke dwells on the Resurrection as a spiritual necessity; St. Mark, as a great fact; St. Matthew, as a glorious and majestic manifestation; and St. John, in its effects on the members of the Church … If this suffering and death were a necessity (οὐχ ἔδει), if it was in accordance with the will of God that the Christ should suffer, and so enter into his glory, and if we can be enabled to see this necessity, and see also the noble issues which flow from it, then we can understand how the same necessity must in due measure be laid upon his brethren" (Westcott). And so we obtain a key to some of the darkest problems of humanity. Thus the Stranger led the "two" to see the true meaning of the "prophets," whose burning words they had so often read and heard without grasping their real deep signification. Thus he led them to see that the Christ must be a suffering before he could be a triumphing Messiah; that the crucifixion of Jesus, over which they wailed with so bitter a wailing, was in fact an essential part of the counsels of God. Then he went on to show that, as his suffering is now fulfilled—for the Crucifixion and death were past—nothing remains of that which is written in the prophets, but the entering into his glory.
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. The three divisions, the Pentateuch (Moses), the prophets, and all the Scriptures, cover the whole Old Testament received then in the same words as we possess them now. The Lord's proofs of what he asserted he drew from the whole series of writings, rapidly glancing over the long many-coloured roll called the Old Testament. "Jesus had before him a grand field, from the Protevangelium, the first great Gospel of Genesis, down to Malachi. In studying the Scriptures for himself, he had found himself in them everywhere (John 5:39, John 5:40)' (Godet). The things concerning himself. The Scriptures which the Lord probably referred to specially were the promise to Eve (Genesis 3:15); the promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:18); the Paschal lamb (Exodus 12:1-51.); the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:1-34); the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:9); the greater Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15); the star and sceptre (Numbers 24:17); the smitten rock (Numbers 20:11; 1 Corinthians 10:4), etc.; Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14); "Unto us a Child is born," etc. (Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 9:7); the good Shepherd (Isaiah 40:10, Isaiah 40:11); the meek Sufferer (Isaiah 50:6); he who bore our griefs (Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:5); the Branch (Jeremiah 23:1-40. Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:14, Jeremiah 33:15); the Heir of David (Ezekiel 34:23); the Ruler from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); the Branch (Zechariah 6:12); the lowly King (Zechariah 9:9); the pierced Victim (Zechariah 12:10); the smitten Shepherd (Zechariah 13:7); the messenger of the covenant (Malachi 3:1); the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2); and no doubt many other passages. Dr. Davison, in his book on prophecy, pp. 266-287, shows that there is not one of the prophets without some distinct reference to Christ, except Nahum, Jonah (who was himself a type and prophetic sign), and Habakkuk, who, however, uses the memorable words quoted in Romans 1:17. To these we must add references to several of the psalms, notably to the sixteenth and twenty-second, where sufferings and death are spoken of as Belonging to the perfect picture of the Servant of the Lord and the ideal King. His hearers would know well how strangely the agony of Calvary was foreshadowed in those vivid word-pictures he called before their memories in the course of that six-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. This was no feint or deception. The Lord would have left them then to themselves had they not prayed him with real earnestness to abide with them. "How many are there," says Stier, "to whom he has drawn near, but with whom he has not tarried, because they have suffered him to 'go away again,' in his living and heart-moving words! How comparatively rare is it for men to reach the full blessing they might receive (see, for example, the striking historical instance, 2 Kings 13:14, 2 Kings 13:19)!" But these were not content to let the unknown Teacher pass on, and see no more of him, and hear no more of his strange powerful teaching. It is the words of, and the thought contained in, this verse which suggested the idea of the well-known hymn—
"Abide with me; fast falls the eventide."
And he went in to tarry with them. Some have supposed that one at least of the two had a dwelling at Emmaus; but the position which the strange Teacher assumed as "Master of the household," in the solemn act recorded in Luke 24:30, seems to indicate that it was an inn where they sojourned.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. There was a deep significance in the concluding act of this memorable appearance of the risen Lord. This taking the bread, and blessing it, and breaking it, and then giving it to them, was no ordinary act of courtesy, or welcome, or friendship, which, from a master or teacher might be shown to his disciples. It resembles too closely the great sacramental act in the upper room, when Jesus was alone with his apostles, for us to mistake its solemn sacramental character. The great teachers of the Church in different ages have generally so understood it. So Chrysostom in the Eastern, and Augustine in the Western Church; so Theophylact, and later Beza the Reformer all affirm that this meal was the sacrament. It taught men generally, even more plainly than did the first sacred institution teach the twelve, that in this solemn breaking of bread the Church would recognize their Master's presence. So generally, in fact, has this Emmaus "breaking of bread" been recognized by the Catholic Church as the sacrament, that later Romanist divines have even pressed it as a scriptural demonstration for the abuse which administered the elements under one form (compare, for instance, the 'Refutation of the Confession of Angsberg,' quoted by Stier, in his comment on this passage of Luke, 'Words of the Lord Jesus'). How unnecessary and forced such a construction is, Bishop Wordsworth points out in his note on Luke 24:30, "It may be remembered that bread (ἄρτος)was to the Jews a general name for food, including drink as well as meat Thus bread became spiritually an expressive term for all the blessings received from communion in Christ's body and blood, and the κλάσις ἄρτου, or ' breaking of bread,' was suggestive of the source from which these blessings flow, (viz.) Christ's body (κλώμενον) broken (1 Corinthians 11:24); hence κλάσις ἄρτου in Acts 2:42 is a general term for the Holy Eucharist."
He vanished out of their sight. Not here, not now, can we hope to understand the nature of the resurrection-body of the Lord; it is and must remain to us, in our present condition, a mystery. Certain facts have, however, been revealed to us:
(1) The Resurrection was a reality, not an appearance; for on more than one occasion the Lord permitted the test of touch. He also ate before his disciples of their ordinary food.
(2) Yet there was a manifest exemption flora the common conditions of bodily (corporeal) existence; for he comes through a closed door; he could withdraw himself when he would from touch as well as from sight; he could vanish in a moment from those looking on him; he could, as men gazed on him, rise by the exertion of his own will into the clouds of heaven.
(3) He was known just as he pleased and when he pleased; for at times during the "forty days" men and women looked on him without a gleam of recognition, at times they gazed at him, knowing well that it was the Lord. On the words, "he vanished out of their sight," Godet writes, "It must be remembered that Jesus, strictly speaking, was already no more with them (Luke 24:44), and that the miracle consisted rather in his appearing than in his disappearing." Dr. Westcott expresses the same truth in different language, "What was natural to him before was now miraculous, what was before miraculous is now natural."
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way? better rendered, was not our heart burning within us, while, etc.?
Luke 24:33, Luke 24:34
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem. "They fear no longer the night-journey from which they had dissuaded their unknown Companion" (Bengel). And found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. Late that evening Cleopas and his friend arrived from Emmaus at Jerusalem. Hastening to the accustomed meeting-place of the disciples of Jesus, to tell their wondrous story of the meeting with the risen Master, they find the eleven together full of joy. Peter had seen and had no doubt conversed with his Master. What a meeting must that have been! The once eager and devoted apostle had probably not gazed on that form in life since he caught the sorrowful look bent on him in the courtyard, when Jesus, bound, passed through and heard his servant denying him with oaths and curses. This appearance to Peter is not recorded in the Gospels. It is, however, placed first of all by St. Paul in his records of the manifestation of the Risen (1 Corinthians 15:4-8).
And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. The two travellers now relate to the eleven their wondrous story. The words used by Cleopas and his friend in their narration, ἐν τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου, which should be rendered," in the breaking of the bread," are significant. It is an expression which, at the time when St. Luke wrote his Gospel, had acquired a definite meaning in the language of the Christian Church, and was applied to breaking bread in the "Supper of the Lord" (see Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 10:16). While they were speaking together, the personal appearance of the Lord was vouchsafed to them; for, of a sudden, he stood in the midst and spoke to them!
The Lord appears to the apostles as they were gathered together on the evening of the first Easter Day.
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them. St. John, who also gives an account of this appearance of the Risen, adds the detail, "when the doors were shut." The eleven and their friends were gathered together for counsel, probably too in hope that something more would happen after what had already taken place that Easter Day—the report of the holy women of the repeated vision of angels, their own verification of the empty sepulchre, and above all the testimony of Peter that he had seen the Lord. Into this anxious, waiting assembly the two "Emmaus" disciples enter with their wondrous story. In the act of their mentally comparing notes, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them. This sudden presence there is evidently supernatural. He "stood in the midst of them," though the doors were carefully closed and barred "for fear of the Jews" Rumours of the Resurrection, no doubt, had already spread through the city, and it was uncertain whether such turnouts might not be followed by the arrest of the chief followers of the Crucified. Peace be unto you. This was the ordinary Jewish greeting, but on this occasion, spoken by the Lord, possessed more than the ordinary meaning. This "peace" was his solemn, comforting greeting to his own, just as "his peace" which he left with them on the sad Thursday eve was his solemn farewell to the eleven, spoken, perhaps, in the same "upper room "just before he went out to the garden of the agony.
But they were terrified and affrighted. They spoke one to another of the Master; they discussed the empty sepulchre, the angelic vision, the recital by Peter of his interview with the Risen, and were listening to the details of the quiet Emmaus meeting, all hoping for something more; but this sudden, mysterious appearance of their crucified Master in their midst was not, after all, what they had looked for. It terrified them. And supposed that they had seen a spirit. How else could they explain his presence in their midst, when the doors were shut? The evangelists make no attempt to explain his sudden appearance. He was simply there as they spoke of him. It is clear that his presence could be accounted for in no ordinary, natural way. His disciples felt that; hence their supposition that they were looking on a spirit. We can, with our present limited knowledge, form no adequate conception of this resurrection-body of the Lord. It was a reality, no phantasm or appearance; of that the scene about to be described gives us ample evidence. Still, it is clear that his resurrection-body was not bound by the present conditions of material existence of which we are conscious. Epiphanius ascribes to the body of the risen Lord λεπτότης πνευματική, "a spiritual subtilty," Euthymius uses similar language when he speaks of "his body being now subtile, thin, and unmixed." He could come into a closed, barred room. He could be visible or invisible, known or unknown, as he pleased and when he pleased.
And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled t and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? He had just given them. his peace. He proceeds further to allay their fears. Before showing them his pierced hands and feet and side, before eating in their presence, he addresses these comforting words to them: "See," he seems to say, "I give you my peace: why are ye troubled? why do you allow perplexing, harassing thoughts to arise in your hearts? The past is forgiven and forgotten." "I come not," as Stier beautifully sugests, "as a wrathful Judge to reckon with you for your unbelief and unfaithfulness. I bring to you (and all the world) from my sepulchre something very different from up-braidings."
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. "See," he says, inviting the terror-stricken disciples to a calm, unaffrighted contemplation—"see my hands and my feet pierced with the nails which fastened them to the cross; it is I myself." Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. The first words quietly told the awe-struck ones to look closely at him, and to ascertain from the dread marks he bore that what they looked upon was Jesus their Master. Then he proceeded to bid them touch him, handle him, and so assure themselves that it was no phantom, no bodiless spirit, that stood before them. These words of the Lord, and the invitation, "handle me, and see," made the deepest impression on the hearers. These, then, were proofs of the Resurrection that admitted of no shadow of doubt. These words, this sight, changed their lives. What cared they afterwards for men and men's threatenings? Death, life, to them were all one. They had seen the Lord, they had handled with their hands "that which was flora the beginning" (see 1 John 1:1). Browning forcibly puts this thought which so influenced the first great teachers. The dying St. John is dwelling on the thought that when he is gone there will be none left with men who saw and touched the Lord.
"If I live yet, it is for good, more love
Through me to men: be nought but ashes here
That keep awhile my semblance, who was John.
Still, when they seater, there is left on earth
No one alive who knew (consider this!),
Saw with his eyes, and handled with his hands,
That which was from the first, the Word of life.
How will it be when none more saith, 'I saw'?"
('A Death in the Desert.')
Some (but not the majority) of the older authorities omit this verse. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. It has been suggested that the Risen simply pointed to those parts of his body which were not covered with clothing, and invited the disciples to touch these, and so to assure themselves that he had actually flesh and bone. Von Gerlach has an interesting suggestion that the feet were especially referred to "because there was in the feet something more convincing and touching than even in the hands, on account of the wonder that One who had been so grievously wounded could move." The real reason, however, of the Lord calling attention to the hands and feet comes out from St. John's account of this appearance of the Risen, for he adds that Jesus also showed them his side. Thus he pointed to the wounded members of his blessed body to show that in the resurrection-body he retained these marks of his wounds. That he retained them now and for ever we ]mow from the glorious vision of the Revelation, where the wounded humanity of the Lord appears throned and adored in the highest heaven: "Lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts [living creatures], and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain" (Revelation 5:6). Our Master and God retains these as the glorious tokens of his victory and atonement. Augustine very strikingly deduces from this that perhaps we shall see the same with respect to the wounds of the martyrs.
Luke 24:41, Luke 24:42
And while they yet believed not for joy. The awful joy of the disciples now was something too. deep for words, even for calm belief. St. John records it, too, with simple pathos. "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." This was the fulfilment of his promise to them, when, full of sadness, they were listening to him that last solemn Passover evening in the upper room. "Ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (John 16:22). In after-days, as John preached and taught in his old age, how the remembrance of that hour must have stirred in his heart when he thus wrote of it! Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. The Master would not permit this state of wondering ecstasy to continue; so he changes the current of their thoughts by thus descending into the region of everyday life, at the same time powerfully demonstrating by this further proof that, though changed, his resurrection, body was no mere Docetic semblance, no phantom, but that he could eat if he chose. The next sentence (verse 43) tells simply how he took the food, and ate before them. The fish and honeycomb which they gave him no doubt formed the staple of their evening meal. Fish was part of the common food of the disciples—we see this from the miracles of the five thousand and the four thousand, and also from the narrative of John 21:9. Honey, we know, in Canaan, the laud flowing with milk and honey, was common enough to enter into the diet of the poor (compare, among many passages, Exodus 3:8,Exodus 3:17; Deuteronomy 26:9, Deuteronomy 26:15; Jeremiah 11:5; Isaiah 7:15, Isaiah 7:22; Matthew 3:4).
A summary of some of the Lord's last words. The next six verses do not record sayings uttered the same first Easter evening. They are, in fact, a very brief summary of instructions given by the Master on different occasions during the forty days which elapsed between the Resurrection and the Ascension.
In considering the reasons of the omission of any special reference to the Galilaean appearances of the risen Lord, two points must be borne in mind.
(1) Neither Luke nor Paul had any personal reminiscences, like Matthew, or Mark (who wrote down, we believe, St. Peter's memories), or St. John. Luke was dependent on other sources altogether.
(2) Luke, when he wrote the Gospel bearing his name, probably proposed to complete his recital of the close of the earthly ministry of the Lord in his second work, the Acts of the Apostles. His knowledge of what took place after the Resurrection was evidently derived from a source unfamiliar with the Galilaean manifestations of the risen Lord.
St. Luke's knowledge of the Ascension seems to have been most precise. He evidently lays great stress upon the importance of this last scene, both as a piece of evidence and as a theme of teaching; for he not only concludes his Gospel with it, but commences his book of the Acts with the same recital, accompanied with further details.
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. The words, "while I was yet with you," plainly show that, in the Master's mind, the period of his sojourn with men was, in the human sense of the expression, past. His abode now was elsewhere. This and the next verse (45) probably refer to what the Master said that first Easter evening to the assembled disciples, but the exact fixing the time in the forty days (the time specially mentioned by St. Luke in the Acts as elapsing between the Resurrection and the Ascension, Acts 1:3) is of comparatively small importance. What is, however, of real moment is the weight Jesus showed that he attached to Old Testament words and types and prophecies by this repeated mention. The remarks of Meyer and Van Oosterzee on this subject are well worthy of being quoted: "If the exegete should read the Old Testament Scriptures without knowing to whom and to what they everywhere point, the New Testament clearly directs his understanding, and places him under an obligation, if he would be a sound Christian teacher, to acknowledge its authority and interpret accordingly. Doubt as to the validity of our Lord and of his apostles' method of expounding, involves necessarily a renunciation of Christianity" (Meyer). "They who consult the teaching of Jesus and his apostles with respect to the prophecies concerning the Messiah, need not grope in uncertainty, but should, nevertheless, remember that the Lord probably directed the attention of the disciples, on this occasion (he is referring to the walk to Emmaus), less to isolated Scriptures than to the whole tenor of the Old Testament in its typical and symbolical character" (Van Oosterzee).
Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. Assuming (as is most probably the case) that Luke 24:44 and Luke 24:45 refer to words spoken by Jesus on the first Easter evening to the eleven and to Cleopas and his friend, then the way in which he opened their understanding is described by St. John (John 20:22) thus: "He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Among the new powers bestowed on them by this Divine gift, St. Luke especially dwells on the spiritual insight henceforth possessed by these men into the Scriptures of the Old Testament, hitherto only partly understood. This power was doubtless one of the great instruments of their success as preachers.
In the next four verses (46-49) St. Luke evidently briefly summarizes the Master's great sayings, some probably spoken in the course of the walk to Emmaus, some on that first Easter evening, some on other occasions during the forty days which elapsed between the Resurrection and the Ascension. The introductory words, "and said unto them" (verse 46), seem the commencement of. this summary,
Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise. from the dead the third day. The majority of the older authorities omit the words, "and thus it behoved." The verse should be read thus: "Thus it is written that Christ should suffer," etc. These words probably were spoken on that first Easter evening. They were apparently repeated on several occasions during the forty days. The Old Testament—they would see now with the new light cast upon it—showed the necessity of an atoning Redeemer, from the sin which it everywhere reveals, and of a dying Redeemer, from the death which it proclaims as the consequence. While the same Scriptures no less authoritatively proclaim that through this suffering the Redeemer-Messiah should attain to his glorification.
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his Name among all nations. This is more definitely expressed in Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15, where the universality of his message, here summarized, is found in the form of a definite command. Beginning at Jerusalem. St. Luke enlarges the thought contained in these words in his Acts (Acts 1:8). Psalms 110:2, contains the prophecy that from Zion should first proceed the proclamation.
Ye are witnesses of these things. This personal witness of the first preachers of Christianity was the secret of their great power over men's hearts. What Dr. Westcott wrote of St. John was true of the rest of the eleven. "We have seen, and do testify. He (John) had no laboured process to go through; he saw. He had no constructive proof to develop; he bore witness. His source of knowledge was direct, and his mode of bringing conviction was to affirm."
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you. Promised on the last Passover evening (John 14-16; see especially John 14:16-26; John 15:26, John 15:27; John 16:7, etc.), and fulfilled partly on the first Easter evening, when he breathed on them (John 20:22), and completely on the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1, etc.). But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. These words apparently were spoken on the day of his ascension (see Acts 1:4).
THE ASCENSION. In considering the questions which suggest themselves in connection with the ascension of our blessed Lord, we are met on the threshold with the fact that only St. Luke, in his Gospel in this place, and in the Acts (1.), has given us a detailed account of the scene. But the fact is referred to plainly by St. John (John 3:13; John 6:62; John 20:17) and by St. Paul (Ephesians 4:9, Ephesians 4:10; 1 Timothy 3:16). A vast number of passages besides, in the Epistles of SS. Paul, Peter, and James, and in the Revelation of St. John, presuppose the Ascension, when they describe the heavenly glory of Jesus and of his session at the right hand of God.
St. John's triple mention of the Ascension (see above) is exactly in accordance with his constant practice in his Gospel; he avoids rewriting a formal narrative of things which, when he wrote, were well known i, the Churches; yet he alludes to these things in clear and unmistakable language, and draws from them his lessons and conclusions.
Notably this is the ease in the Fourth Gospel with regard to the sacraments. "It contains," says Dr. Westcott, "no formal narrative of the institution of sacraments, and yet it presents most fully the idea of sacraments."
Neander writes with great force on this apparent omission of the Ascension: "We make the same remark upon the ascension of Christ as was before made upon his miraculous conception. In regard to neither is prominence given to the special and actual fact in the apostolic writings; in regard to both, such a fact is presupposed in the general conviction of the apostles, and in the connection of Christian consciousness. Thus the end of Christ's appearance on earth corresponds with its beginning. Christianity rests upon supernatural facts—stands or falls with them. By faith in them has the Divine life been generated from the beginning. Were this faith gone, there might indeed remain many of the effects of what Christianity has been; but as for Christianity in the true sense, as for a Christian Church, there could be none."
And he led them out as far as to Bethany; more accurately, and he led them out until they were over against Bethany. The scene of the Ascension could scarcely have been the central summit of the Mount of Olives (Jebel-el-Tur), according to ancient tradition; but it is more likely that it took place on one of the remoter uplands which lie above the village. "On the wild uplands which immediately overhang the village, he finally withdrew from the eyes of his disciples, in a seclusion which, perhaps, could nowhere else be found so near the stir of a mighty city; the long ridge of Olivet screening those hills, and those hills the village beneath them, from all sound or sight of the city behind; the view opening only on the wide waste of desert-rocks and ever-descending valleys, into the depths of the distant Jordan and its mysterious lake" (Dean Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' Luke 3:1-38.). He lifted up his hands, and blessed them. In Acts 1:4 we read how Jesus, having assembled (συναλιζόμενος) the apostles, gave them some last commands before he left them. It is not expressly stated that only the eleven were present on this occasion.' When he had finished speaking, "he lifted up his hands, and blessed them." There is now no laying on of hands. "Jam non imposuit manus," comments Bengel. Those hands, as they were lifted up, were already separated from them, the space between the Risen and those he was blessing grew greater every moment.
And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven; more accurately rendered, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. The last clause, "was carried up into heaven," is absent from some, but not from the majority of the older authorities. The Acts (Acts 1:9) describe the act of ascension thus: "As they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." The eleven and those chosen to witness the last earthly scene of the Lord's ministry came together, in obedience probably to some command of their Master, to some meeting-place in Jerusalem, possibly the well-known upper room. Thence he led them forth from the sacred city, past the scene of the agony and the scene of the weeping, on to some quiet spot hard by loved Bethany, talking to them as they went; and as he spoke, suddenly he lifted up his pierced hands and blessed them; and in the very act of performing this deed of love, he rose, they still gazing on him—rose, as it appears, by the exercise of his own will into the air, and, while they still gazed, a cloud came and veiled him from their sight. He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. Among the appearances of the Risen to his followers during the forty days (ten of these distinct appearances are related in the Gospels and Epistles), this last notably differs from all that preceded it. As at other times when he showed himself to his friends during these forty days, so on the "Ascension" day Jesus apparently came forth suddenly from the invisible world; but not, as on former occasions, did he suddenly vanish from sight, as if he might shortly return as he had done before. But on this fortieth day he withdrew in a different way; as they gazed he rose up into the air, and so he parted from them, thus solemnly suggesting to them that not only was he "no more with them" (verse 44), but that even those occasional and supernatural appearances vouchsafed to them since the Resurrection were now at an end. Nor were they grieved at this final parting; for we read—
And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. This "great joy," on first thoughts, is singular till we read between the lines, and see how perfectly they now grasped the new mode of the Lord's connection with his own. They knew that henceforth, not for a little time as before the cross, not fitfully as since the Resurrection, but that for ever, though their eyes might not see him, would they feel his blessed presence near (see John 14:28; John 16:7). One question more connected with the Ascension presses for an answer. Much modern criticism regards this last scene simply as one of the ordinary disappearances of the forty days, and declines to admit any external, visible fact in which the Ascension was manifested. But St. Luke's description. both in his Gospel and in the Acts, is plainly too circumstantial to admit of any hypothesis which limits the Ascension to a purely spiritual elevation. At the end of his earthly ministry, the evening before the cress, Jesus asked back his glory: "Now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own sell, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). The Ascension and consequent session at the right hand was the answer to the prayer of Christ. It was necessary for the training of the first teachers of Christianity that the great fact should be represented in some outward and visible form. "The physical elevation," writes Dr. Westcott, "was a speaking parable, an eloquent symbol, but not the truth to which it pointed, or the reality which it foreshadowed, The change which Christ revealed by the Ascension was not a change of place, but a change of state; not local, but spiritual. Still, from the necessities of our human condition, the spiritual change was represented sacramentally, so to speak, in an outward form He passed beyond the sphere of man's sensible existence to the open presence of God" ('Tim Revelation of the Risen Lord'). The session at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19) cannot designate any particular place. The ascension, then, of Jesus is not the exchange of one locality, earth, merely for another we term heaven. It is a change of state; it is a passing from all confinement within the limits of space to omnipresence.
And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. These last words of the Gospel just alluded to the life of the first teachers, which is dwelt upon with considerable detail in the Acts. In the early days which succeeded the Ascension, the temple and its courts were the principal resort of the teachers of the new "way." We know that in an extraordinarily short time the numbers of adherents to the crucified and risen Jesus, in Jerusalem only, were counted by thousands. The temple and its vast courts, from its storied past, from its having been the scene of much of the Master's last teaching, was the natural centre for these leaders of the new "way." When Luke wrote the words, "were continually in the temple," it is almost certain that he proposed continuing his great narrative in the book we know as the Acts of the Apostles, in which, guided by the Divine Spirit, he relates to us how the Lord Jesus continued to work on earth—in and by his Church—from his glory-throne in heaven. The early chapters of the Acts take up the thread of the gospel story, and describe the life and work of the friends of Jesus in the great Jerusalem temple, the dangers they had to encounter, and the splendid success which rewarded their brave, faithful toil. These same Acts, in the first lines of their thrilling story, take up again the Ascension scene, which is described with fresh and vivid details From these details we learn how, when the disciples' eyes were fixed on that cloud which veiled their ascending Master, they became aware of two stranger-forms with them, clad in white and glistening garments. They knew these belonged to no earthly company. They were two among the thousands of thousands of angels, possibly the angels of the Resurrection, who sat in the empty garden-tomb. These angels tell the awe-struck friends of the ascended Jesus that their adored Master will one day (Acts 1:2) come back to earth in like manner as they had seen him go to heaven. "O earth, thou grain of sand on the shore of the great ocean of the universe of God, thou Bethlehem among the princes of the regions of heaven, thou art and thou ever wilt be, among ten thousand times ten thousand suns and worlds, the loved one, the elect of the Lord; thee will he visit again; thou shalt provide him a throne, even as thou gavest him a manger; thou shalt rejoice in the splendour of his glory, even as thou drankest his blood and his tears, and mournedst at his death. On thee he hath a great work yet to accomplish" (Hafeli, quoted by Stier).
Who are the witnesses to the Resurrection? What is the evidence on which it was believed by the first disciples?—on which it is received by all Christians still?
I. THE WITNESSES ARE THE HOLY WOMEN AND THE APOSTLES. It is (Luke 24:1) the very early morning: "while it was yet dark," says St. John; "as the day began to dawn," says St. Matthew; "at the rising of the sun," says St. Mark. Then the women hasten towards the sepulchre. How many formed the company, or, as seems to be implied, the two companies, of women we know not. The names of five are given, and the rest are grouped under the phrases, the "others that were with them," and "the others from Galilee." They quickly pass through the silent streets. Jerusalem is still asleep; neither memory of what had happened, nor fear of what might happen, has disturbed its repose. They have only one care (verse 1)—the complete embalming of the body which had been hastily laid in the rock-hewn sepulchre of Joseph. There is no idea beyond this; there is no hope even against hope that, on this the third day, he would rise again. With the eagerness characteristic of woman's nature, they proceed, the question never suggesting itself until they near the tomb, "Who shall roll away the stone from the mouth of the cave?" It would seem that they did not know of the guard which had been commanded to watch or of the sealing of the stone, for that had been done on the sabbath morning; but some of them had observed the setting of the stone—a block three or four feet in height, and two or three in breadth, requiring several men to move it. "How shall it be moved? how shall we find an entrance?" is the question before them as they press towards the holy place. Now, what are the facts? In the dawn, half-clear and half-dark, as the east begins to lighten, Mary of Magdala, the foremost of the company, sees the cave standing wide open—the stone having been rolled aside. Horror-struck, she turns to her companions, and, yielding to the moment's impulse, she speeds back to the city to communicate her fears to Peter and John (John 20:1, John 20:2). In the mean time, her companions venture forward. Timidly they enter the tomb, or the vestibule of the tomb, to search for the body. Lo, there (Matthew 28:2, Matthew 28:3), on the stone which had been pushed into a corner, sits one "whose countenance is like lightning, and his raiment white as snow," and prostrate on the ground are the Roman sentries. The women start., but the assuring word, "Fear not ye," is spoken, and the invitation (Matthew 28:6) is given to "come and see the place where the Lord lay." Yes, guardians, and only guardians, are these—one where the head, another where the feet, of Jesus had been—token of the complete, protecting care of his Father. And these guardians ask (verses 5-7), "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" and repeat the testimony, "He is not here: he is risen," bidding them remember his own words, and bear the news of the Resurrection to the sorrowing company. It is with fear and great joy that they depart, running to bring the disciples word. They encounter scepticism. Their hot, eager sentences (verse 11) seem to the apostles "as idle tales, and they believe them not." Peter and John, however, have already obeyed the importunate pleading of Mary. And there, to be sure, as they reach the sepulchre, is the open door. John, who is first, looks in without entering; Peter, coming up, enters at once. "John," observes Matthew Henry, "could outrun Peter, but Peter could out-dare John." Undoubtedly the tomb is empty. Examining it, they discover (verse 12) the linen clothes laid by themselves; and the napkin which had surrounded the head laid by itself. There had been no haste. Not thus would any have acted who had borne away the sacred form. Peter, after minute examination of the surroundings, "departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass." John, with the quick intuition of love, not only wondered, but believed—felt sure that these grave-clothes were the sign of a victory. Such is the account of that ever-memorable morning. The arrangement of its events may not be absolutely accurate; in the ignorance of all that occurred, it is impossible to supply every link in the chain of narrative. The evangelists are so filled with the one reality, "He is risen," that they are not careful as to the minutiae of the circumstances. On the Resurrection, as personal, as real, the structure of Christian life and doctrine is reared. By the effect of the Resurrection the apostles were transformed. The foolish and slow-hearted fishermen of the past became the princes of a new and heavenly kingdom. "With great power they gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all."
II. But WITHOUT FURTHER DWELLING ON THE EVIDENCES OF THE RESURRECTION AS AN HISTORICAL FACT, CONSIDER IT AS A MIGHTY SPIRITUAL FORCE. Consider what the apostle calls "the power of the Resurrection." What is the central truth of the forty days between the Resurrection and Ascension? Study the brief account of these forty days, and you see at once a change in the manner and conditions of the revelation of Christ. shows himself only to chosen witnesses. St. Mark says that he appeared to the disciples "in another form." The eyes of the disciples are declared to be so held (verse 16) that they do not know him. It is the same Jesus, but much is altered. "He came and he went as he pleased; material substances such as the fastened doors were no impediment to his coming; when he was present his disciples did not, as a matter of course, know him." These forty days were what the sunrise is to the day; they were the beginning of the relation in which he stands to his Church now. All his self-revelations are pictures of the way and truth of his presence as we are called to realize it. Men had seen him without knowing him; now they know him without seeing him. We behold him, as Newman has finely said, "passing from his hiding-place of sight without knowledge to that of knowledge without sight." As a transition-time, giving us intimations of the glory in which he is abiding and of the grace in which he is dealing with us, regard the period that was ushered in by the early morning of the first day of the week. It was a great day. Four appearances are noted. The first (John 20:1-31.), to Mary of Magdala, followed or preceded, perhaps, by an appearance to the other women (Matthew 23:1-39.); the second (verses 13-35), to the two brethren journeying to Emmaus; the third, to bimon Peter (verse 35); and the fourth (John 20:19-23), to the disciples assembled at night when the doors were shut for fear of the Jews. Each of these appearances is significant. St, Luke relates the second. One remark only as to Mary of Magdala. Renan has asserted that the glory of the Resurrection belongs to her; that, "after Jesus, it is Mary who has done the most to the founding of Christianity." There can be nothing more contrary to the explicit statements of the evangelists than much that is contained in the brilliant French man's statement. But the message of Mary is indeed the basis of the faith of the Church, the basis of the faith of humanity. "If Christ is not risen, our hope is vain; we are yet in our sins." And the commandment which sent her to the disciples is the inspiration of all Christian hearts. "Go, tell my brethren." Tell the message of the risen Lord in the light with which the countenance is irradiated; tell it in the glad obedience by which the life is sanctified; tell it through all that you do and are; tell—let your teaching cease only with your breathing—that Christ has risen, that the imprisoning stone has been rolled away, and the kingdom of heaven is open to all believers, its gates being closed neither by day nor by night, for there is no night there.
(For a beautiful paraphrase of this Scripture, see the passage in Cowper's poem 'Conversation,' beginning, "It happened on a solemn eventide." The incident is presented by him as an illustration of converse "such as it behoves man to maintain, and such as God approves." And it is impossible to resist the appropriateness of the lesson which is enforced.) The time of the memorable appearance is the afternoon, probably between four and six; and its prominent persons are two disciples, not apostles, whom it is impossible to identify. The one is called Klopas or Cleophas, supposed by many to be Alphaeus, the brother of Joseph of Nazareth, and father of James; but the name being a contraction of Cleopatrus, the supposition is scarcely admissible. The other is not mentioned by name, and many conjectures concerning him have been framed. A worthy German pastor once said, "The learned cannot come to any agreement who the other was, and I will give you this good counsel—let each of you take his place." Look at these two men as they journey. "The sun of the Resurrection was enveloped in thick clouds of despondency and sorrow, scarcely penetrated by a ray of light." It would seem that they had left the gathering of disciples before Mary had brought her tale. What they dwell on is, "True, the body was not in the tomb; but then he was not seen;" and one risen from the dead was a thought which they could scarcely credit. They are not sure even that the women really saw angels; it was, perhaps, only a vision of angels, and, having the notions of their time as to ghosts and apparitions, they incline to the belief that there was no reality in the presence of whom the Maries and Salome and others had spoken. No; he is dead, and the third day has come and gone, and he has not been seen. Let this state of mind be noted. There was no predisposition in Christ's followers to accept the Resurrection. Far from this, the evidence made way against doubtings, against scepticisms, we might say, of the most obstinate nature. These foolish and slow-hearted men were almost the last people likely to credit the tale. How was it that this temperament, incredulous, despondent, so quickly gave way to one full of worship and great joy? How was it that such men gave up all, travelled hither and thither with the one message ever on their lips, many of them suffering death because they would maintain that the Christ who was crucified did rise, had been seen by them, and is alive for evermore? I can find only one answer to the question—They witnessed to truth. "The Lord is risen indeed." But regard the incident in the light of the thought that the forty days in which Christ showed himself alive after his Passion were intended as a time of preparation for that new form of his presence which began when the day of Pentecost was fully come. Studying the forty-days' period, we can find many hints and suggestions as to the manner of Christ's intercourse with us, of his coming to us in the Comforter whom he promised until the end of the age. The special teaching of this journey to Emmaus, and all that befell the two, may be gathered under three points:
(1) Christ with us, but unrevealed;
(2) Christ teaching, but personally unrecognized;
(3) Christ revealed and recognized.
I. CHRIST WITH US, BUT UNREVEALED. A Stranger asks the cause of the dejection of the two travellers, and, by his sympathy and courtesy, draws out their confidence. Two reasons for not discerning him are given. The one is (Mark 16:12), that "he appeared in another form" than that with which they were familiar. Not the form of the Shepherd going before them, but that of the Companion in walking and working clothes travelling by their side. But there is the other reason (verse 16)—"Their eyes were holden that they should not know him." They were not at that time in spiritual light; their vision was narrowed by their great sorrow. Are not these still the reasons why so often we do not see the Christ who is with us as we travel along the thoroughfares of life? He is not in the form in which we expect him. Sometimes he hides himself, that he may get the more fully into our hearts. He is with us, wanting the halo, wanting all that would at once declare him, that he may be more intimately our Friend, "familiar, patient, condescending, free." And we miss or mistake him, because we cannot see beneath the form, because our minds are self-occupied, or, when intent on higher things, are wanting in the elevation, in the pure sweet light, of the spiritual mind. Only when the spiritual eyes are opened do we know who has been and is with us. But he is with us as we toil on our toilsome way, bearing the heat and burden of the afternoon. It is he who is touching the springs or' our thought and action. It is he who is speaking to us. Fear not, thou weary and heart-sore disciple; when thy comforts seem to be gone, he, the Comforter, is close to thee. Thy tears are falling; he is nigh with his "Why weepest thou?" Thou art seeking thy God, but thy soul is unresting, because it cannot find the Rock; he is nigh with his "Whom seekest thou?" Thou hast left the city's din behind thee, and art alone with thyself; he is nigh, assuring thee that the fairest vineyards are those which are received from the valley of troubling. Thou art in communion with some kindred spirit, exchanging the fears and joys of the mind that turns to heaven; he is nigh, rejoicing to add himself to the two or three. The story of Emmaus is indeed a figure of the life-pilgrimage. Bear from it the pledge that whosoever is true to the light, is, though halting and uncertain may be his steps, the neighbour to Jesus Christ—Jesus himself near and in fellowship with all communing and reasoning.
II. And how? TEACHING, ALTHOUGH PERSONALLY UNRECOGNIZED. What Christ was in his dealing with the two, he has been in his dealing with his Church. During the past centuries he has been "teaching and expounding the things concerning himself." Did he not promise that the Holy Ghost would be the Guide into all truth, through the glorifying of him, the receiving of his and showing it to his own? What is the witness for the fulfilment of this office? It is the history of the past eighteen centuries. The text from which the Holy Ghost has been preaching is that which Jesus sounded (verse 26); and the way of the sermon is the very way of Christ (verse 27). Moses and the prophets, apprehended in New Testament light, have, for these centuries, been read, opened up, as the treasury of the things of Christ. Thought and culture, devotion and obedience, stand to-day where they stood yesterday—before the mighty "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" Is there not progressiveness in the teaching of the Holy Ghost? There is development in Christianity. It has its permanent, but it has its progressive, element also. It is only by little and little that the higher truth of the kingdom enters the hearts of men. Precept must be on precept, line on line, until the dispensation of the opening, when the Church, gathered fully into the house of the Lord, will receive from-the pierced hand the bread of the eternal life. So in personal history and experience. There is One teaching us, even when we do not recognize who he is. Life is the school in which the Holy Ghost is the Instructor. Christ and Christ's love, and the meaning of our existence as interpreted in Christ's cross, is the lesson in which we are taught. We pass from standard up to standard, the book which regulates all the teaching being the Scriptures. Many are the forms which the Holy Ghost, the Teacher, assumes; many are the agencies through which he draws near. But if, with receptive minds, we are yielded to him, he is taking us step by step along the path of the manifold education meant for the disciple of Jesus; expounding as we are able to bear, stooping to our immaturities and weaknesses; a presence in us rather than external to us, stimulating thought and desire, enkindling into fuller flame the smoking flax; so that by-and-by we are able to say, "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?" (verse 32).
III. Behold CHRIST REVEALED AND RECOGNIZED. The village is reached. Must the delightful companionship end? Courteously saluting them, the Stranger apparently is going on. Nay, the sun is about to set; they entreat him not to leave them (verse 29). He would have gone on if there had been no prayer. The personal desire is essential to the tarrying. But that desire never pleads in vain. How many never plead for the tarrying—indeed, do not want it! For the drawing near and journeying with us, no desire from us is needed. Christ does that of his own will. But the tarrying is another matter. He cannot force an entrance; he will be forced. "They constrained him." He receives sinners for salvation; their reception of him is salvation (Revelation 3:20). At meat with them he is revealed. What it was that disclosed him we cannot exactly say. The whole manner is solemn and striking. At once he takes the head of the table. The Master's place is conceded to him. And that always prepares for revelation. When the heart is truly yielded to Christ, the moment of the showing of himself is near. He takes the bread; he blesses; he breaks, and gives it to the two. And their eyes are opened, and they know him. There is the voice, the blessing, and I think, the sight of the pierced hands—the sight that I expect to have in glory. The meal may not have been a full sacrament. But Christ's presence and blessing made, the meal sacramental; for that presence and that blessing elevate whatever is ordinary. And the action before us is a consecration of ordinance as well as Word as the means of revelation. The Word prepares for the ordinance; in the ordinance Christ is revealed. Is not this a forecast of the future? Is it not Christ's will to make himself known to those who sit at meat with him—they having first constrained him and being thus spiritually susceptible—in the breaking of bread? Observe the signs of the revelation. A new sight (verse 31); a new energy (verse 33); a new sympathy (verses 33, 34); a new eloquence (verse 35). Joy, joy to the disciples who have seen the Lord. But he has vanished out of their sight. He must not hinder, by his bodily presence, the lifting of the consciousness into the region of the spiritual presence. That on which afterwards they dwell is, not the glimpse they have had of face and hand, but the power of his Spirit, the life-giving force of his Word (verse 32). The clouds were dispelled by the rising of the Day-star in the heart. That is the sign of Christ with us here. By that we know that it is he who has been talking with us. One day, but not in this present time, we shall see him as he is; he will bless and break and give to us himself, the Bread of life. And then he will not vanish out of our sight.
"Oh, then shall the veil be removed,
And round me thy brightness be poured;
I shall meet him whom absent I loved,
I shall see whom unseen I adored.'
Christ and his Church.
I. THE CHURCH. It is found in miniature in the upper room—"The eleven, and them that were with them."
1. Its separation. It is isolated from the outer world. A new bond, a new manner, of union is already realized. It is not of the world, as Christ himself was not. There is a door shut between the little flock and the Jews. A supreme attraction to him whom the world sees not, an affiance of soul of which the world knows not, unites the company, and, in thus uniting, separates it. It has a secret with which the world does not intermeddle.
2. Its unity.
(1) That stands in Christ, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you" (John 15:16). The Church is not a mere voluntary association; it is a spiritual organism rooted and grounded in the Man Christ Jesus—in what he is and has done, in his Divine-human Person, and the orifices which he executes as Redeemer.
(2) It is realized through continuance in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship. "The eleven, and those with them." Christ had looked through the ages down to the end of the time, and thus had spoken: "I pray for those who shall believe on me through the word of the men whom thou didst give me." Here the eleven form the centre of the company. There is a definite word on which the Church is built. It has not a mere collection of" memoranda;" it is not an institution of "hazy outlines." It has a distinct testimony—that of the apostles and prophets. And there is a social life, a fellowship, by which it "makes increase to self-edifying in love"—the fellowship which continues that which is witnessed to in the assembly of the eleven and those with them. Remember, it is fellowship, all holding themselves to be fellows in Christ, exchanging their experiences, imparting the gift which each has received, that it may tend to quicken the faith and love of all "As they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst" (Luke 24:36).
II. CHRIST. He had promised, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." Behold the fulfilment and the way of the fulfilment of this promise. Behold him present in his Church.
1. The sovereignty of the presence. On a sudden he stands in the midst. They are not expecting him. He comes through barred doors. It is the day of his power. Christ prescribes means; he ordains channels of grace; and, where there is the obedience of faith in the use of the means, there is blessing. "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them." But in all that speaks of spiritual life, there is the witness for a spiritual sovereignty, for reserves of power in the hands of the Lord himself. The new birth is a secret and a surprise (John 3:7, John 3:8).
2. It is the personal Jesus who is present to bless—"Jesus himself." (Verse 86.) Above and beyond the mere teaching and fellowship, there is the Lord. Christianity is Christ. The full blessing, that which wholly fills the soul, is himself in felt relation with each self. "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30).
3. The announcement of the presence is peace. (Luke 24:36.) One of the last words before he suffered was "peace." It was the legacy of the dying Saviour. The salutation of the risen Saviour is, "Peace to you!"—the customary salutation transformed and glorified. His immanence in the Church is evidenced by the breathing of peace over human souls. "Peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ;" "The peace of God which passeth all understanding."
4. The complete benediction of the presence.
(1) Fears and doubts are scattered. The disciples are terrified and affrighted (Luke 24:37). They are afraid at his tokens. Scepticisms reassert themselves. A Church, a Christian, wanting in spiritual enthusiasm, with a low spiritual temperature, is subject to the fogs of doubt. Its action is crippled by a subtle scepticism. When he is realized as truly in the midst, the fogs are dispelled. There is a counteracting why (Luke 24:38). In the psalms (Psalms 42:1-11.) the soul, dark-and doubtful, asks, "Why hast thou forgotten me?" Its questioning is dispelled through another why: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?" The blessed Jesus-question to poor confused humanity is, "Why art thou troubled? and why do thoughts arise in thy heart?" As the Sun of Righteousness shines into the soul, the melancholy, perplexing thoughts scatter, the clouds whose banks lie so low on the heart's horizon flee away.
(2) The evidence of the sacrifice establishes the faith. (Luke 24:39, Luke 24:40.) He shows the pierced hands and feet—the wounds whence comes the healing, the death whence has come the life. And, even in the glory into which he has entered, the print of the nails is seen. The gaze of the redeemed who share that glory is ever towards the Lamb that was slain. "Worthy is the Lamb!"
(3) The full revelation is the Divine humanity. (Luke 24:41-43.) While they believe, and yet can scarcely believe, for the joy seems too great and too wonderful, he eats the fish and honeycomb before them. It is no ghost who is in that room; it is very man of very man. And this is the abiding consciousness and strength of the Church. It presents the true humanity. It has the true humanitarianism. The Christ is he "who liveth and was dead, and is alive for evermore." And in him humanity is fulfilled, represented, and redeemed. This is the truth of the social life of the Church. The Church is not a mere institute for instruction and worship; it is a social state built up in the ever-abiding humanity of Jesus Christ. Thus, in the upper room at Jerusalem, on the first Easter night, there is an apocalypse of the great mystery, Christ and the Church.
The instruction of the apostles.
The words contained in these verses are a summary of the instruction given by the risen Lord during the forty days in which he showed himself alive after his Passion. They are not to be regarded as the outline of only one discourse, following the appearance to the eleven recorded in the previous verses; they are rather the heads of the teaching which was imparted in the great period between the Resurrection and the Ascension. "We must suppose the evangelist to be hurrying to a close in this portion of his history, and to be giving us a brief sketch of the words and actions of our Lord which are summed up in the expression in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, "Jesus had given commandment unto the apostles." Note the points in this instruction.
I. THE SWORD WHICH HIS CHURCH IS TO WIELD. (Verses 44, 45;) As St. Paul afterwards said, "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The Lord gives the treasury from which the Church is to draw—the Law, the prophets, the psalms, the Scriptures; but these writings, with the key to their inner meaning, to their saving force—"all things in them concerning me." The great word spelt through all the books—each book, as De Quincey put it, forming as it were a letter of the word—is "Christ." And not only so; these Scriptures are to be expounded and enforced in the light and through the skill of the opened understanding. This is the secret of the effect; it is this that makes them the sword. Only when they are thus the weapon of the Spirit, illuminating the mind of the teacher, as well as acting on the conscience of the hearer, are they quick and powerful. The opening of the understanding is spoken of as a definite action at a definite time. "Then opened he their understanding.'' What a new light is then shed on the sacred page! What a blessed "Eureka!" is then realized! The foolish and slow in heart go forth with the sword of the Spirit, "conquering and to conquer."
II. THE MESSAGE WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO DELIVER. (Verse 46.) The message is: the Christ whom God has sent, and the world needs—the historical Christ, incarnate, suffering, crucified, risen; and this Christ presented as the fulfilment of all Scripture, the consummation of Divine thought and purpose, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" the Prophet, Priest, and King, by whom man is redeemed, in whom the nature and want, the hope and desire, of all nations are interpreted. The Church is called to teach that "thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day." Wide is the environment of truth, and the Church must sweep this environment in its vision; but this is the centre of all the circle.
III. THE CONDITIONS OF FELLOWSHIP IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD WHICH IT IS TO DECLARE. (Verse 47.) The beginning of the gospel preached by Christ was the word "repent" (Matthew 4:17). Now he solemnly and emphatically urges that repentance is to be the great fact in New Testament preaching. The end to be ever before the Church is "to open the eyes, and turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God." And with this repentance is to be associated the blessing of the kingdom, "remission of sins;" i.e. the sending of the guilt and power of sin away from between the soul and God, and thus making the inner vision clear, inspiring with the consciousness of the spirit of adoption and the spirit of brotherhood, confirming in the liberty wherewith Christ makes free. In the name of Christ, all nations are to be summoned to repent, and receive this remission; the voice lifted up with strength, "There is none other Name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved."
IV. THE WITNESS WHICH THE CHURCH IS TO REALIZE. (Verse 48.)
1. Its range. "Among all nations." The universality and catholicity of the Christian word, of the Christian Church, are asserted, with regal authority, at the conference on the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:18-20).
2. Its course. "Beginning at Jerusalem." There, where the Lord of glory was crucified, the first call to repentance is to be sounded, the first offer of the Christ for the remission of sins is to be made. So it was (Acts 2:1-47.). But, from Jerusalem, the course of the witness is ever outward—"to Judaea, Samaria, the uttermost parts of the earth." We are first to find our own; but the love which begins, is never to stop, at home.
3. Its power. (Verse 49.) Not in the witnessing man or woman; not in the things witnessed to; not in word, ordinance, ministry; no, the power is from on high. Christ reasserts what he taught in the last discourse before he suffered. The great consolation then was the promise of the Father—that in which his Fatherly love and will are expressed, his great promise to his Son—the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost who testifies of him. He is not the accompaniment of the Church; the Church is his accompaniment. "He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness" (John 15:26, John 15:27). Now, in the forty days' instruction, he repeats this word. He reminds us that the power of witnessing is a descent from on high, the anointing of the man by the Holy Spirit. Two things are said—the one, the declaration that the promise is imminent, "I am sending it;" and the other, the injunction to wait in the city, to attempt nothing, until the promise is made good, and they are endued with the power. Let the Church, let every Christian, remember the injunction; let eternal thanksgiving arise because the promise of the Father has been sent, and the Holy Spirit now dwells with the Church.
The farewell and the Ascension.
Once more the old relation is resumed. The Shepherd of Israel goes before his little flock. They see him, as in the former time, at their head. The well-known route is taken, the well-known place is reached. And the crowning memory of Bethany is imprinted on their hearts. It is the scene of the last adieu, of the Ascension (Luke 24:50). In the earlier history of Israel (2 Kings 2:1-25.) there was a day when the sons of the prophets, referring to Elijah, said to Elisha, "Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to-day?" And his answer was, "Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace." There were no sons of prophets thus speaking to the eleven. But whispers, no doubt, in their hearts raised shadows of some coming event. Something like the old amazement and fear (Mark 10:32) would be felt as, in silence, they followed their Leader. He is to be taken from their head; but better far than the mantle thrown on Elisha from the vanishing prophet is to be their portion. Observe Christ as he is revealed in the concluding verses of the Gospel; observe those whom he is to leave behind.
I. OBSERVE CHRIST AS HE IS HERE REVEALED. See:
1. The action of the Lord towards them. "He lifted up his hands" (Luke 24:50). Before he suffered he had lifted up his eyes to heaven, and the voice of intercession had been raised for them (John 17:1-26.). As the high-priestly prayer closed, the voice had passed from the tones of earnest but humble pleading into those of the Sovereign expressing his will: "I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am." Now the Priest, about to ascend to his throne, extends those hands in which is the print of the nails. It is the first time in which we are introduced to this attitude in the Gospels. The uplifted hands are the sign of the accepted sacrifice ever potent to cleanse. They are the sign of the righteousness ever ample to clothe. They are the sign of the protection ever sufficient to overshadow his Church. The uplifted hands constituted the last recollection of the Christ whom the disciples had seen; they mark the abiding truth of the Christ whom the eye sees not. And, as the hands are lifted, the lips are opened to bless. What were the words of the blessing? Perhaps the benediction (Numbers 4:24) which the sons of Aaron were commanded to pronounce was included in it. But who can measure all that it comprehended—all the wealth of grace and truth with which it was charged? Let us say rather, with which it is charged for the Church until the end of the age. "Lo, I am with you alway, blessing and keeping, my face shining on you, my will gracious to you, the light of my countenance lifted on you, my peace possessing you."
2. The ascending Lord. "While blessing" (Luke 24:51). While the accents of his tenderness are flowing over the soul, lo! he moves from the soil on which he and his have bees standing. Upward, ever upward, he is borne; they gaze in wonder as the form in which they have beheld him is sublimated and passes whither their adoring vision can no longer follow. The apostle who was "born out of due time" completes, as far as thought of mortal can, the account of the evangelist (Ephesians 1:20-23), when he describes the ascent "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come;" all things put under the feet of the glorified Man, "Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." He is "parted from them;" but only to be more nearly and entirely with them; only to bear with him the humanity through which Highest God is in touch with the whole life of man; only that, in the unchangeable Priesthood, he may ever live to make intercession; only to make good the word as to the promise of the Father. When ten more days have passed, the gates which had opened that the King of glory might enter, shall open again, and the Paraclete, Christ's other self, shall descend from the heaven into which he has gone, to fill the little company with his presence. And in that day they shall know that he is in the Father, and they in him, and he in them.
II. OBSERVE THE DISCIPLES.
1. The new worship. They had followed him, and had called him Master. His appearances during the forty days had prepared them for something higher still. Now, in deepest reverence, they kneel before the Lord. Thomas learns the whole reality of his answer, "My Lord and my God." Mary learns that which is higher and holier than the touch with which, on the resurrection-morning, she had sought to detain him. John learns the word which afterwards he wrote," This is the true God, and the Eternal Life." Peter learns that which moves him to interpret the consciousness of faith, "Whom having not seen ye love." Then first sounds the music which burst forth, in later years, in the sublimest hymn of the Church: "We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord Thou art the King of glory, O Christ." And this worship is the true life of the Church. It is the outcome of the faith in the Resurrection. "Christ died, yea rather, is risen again, and is even at the right hand of God, making intercession for us." Wanting this, there may be such an apostrophe as that with which Renan concludes his 'Life of Jesus;' but worship full and adoring there cannot be. It is this worship which is the spring of all energy, the pledge of all victory, the bend of union between heaven and earth. "Salvation to our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
2. The new joy. "They returned to Jerusalem" (verse 25). But what a difference! They had left it dispirited, weighed down by many thoughts. Now "they come again rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them." "Parted from them!" Might they not feel as sheep without a Shepherd? Nay; for they know that their Shepherd is with them. Their hope had been sealed and confirmed, and they are flushed with "a great joy." Should not this joy thrill the Church? Enthusiasm is essential to its vitality. To be strong, it must be sanguine, triumphant. Times of worshipful faith are always times of great joy. "We triumph in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we received the reconciliation."
3. The new life. "They were continually in the temple" (verse 53). But the temple had a new meaning to them. Rite and offering, house of prayer and songs of praise, were all clothed with a new character. It was their Father's house, and he had given a new song to their lips. Continually are they "praising and blessing God." This is the life; for they are sitting in the heavenly places, and partaking of the heavenly things. "Day by day we magnify thee." Beautiful as the first days of summer is this picture of the waiting Church. Would that the impression of this life of praise and blessing were more evident in the Church, witnessing, working, and still waiting. May the Church be "found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ"!
HOMILIES BY VARIOUS AUTHORS
Side-lights from the Resurrection.
The simple, unpretending story of the Resurrection, as here narrated, brings into view other truths than that great and supreme fact of the rising of our Lord. We have our attention called to—
I. THE CONSTANCY AND THE EAGERNESS OF TRUE AFFECTION, (Luke 24:1.) No thought had these women of deserting him whom they loved but whom the world hated and had now slain. On the contrary, the enmity of those that maligned and murdered him made their affection to cleave all the more firmly to him. It attended him right up to the very last; it followed him to the grave; it came to bestow those final ministries which only devoted affection would have cared to render. And it showed itself as eager as it was constant. "Very early in the morning they came unto the sepulchre." True love to our Lord will stand these tests. It will survive the enmities and oppositions of an indifferent or a hostile society; it will be unaffected by these except, indeed, to be strengthened and deepened by them; moreover, it will show its loyalty and its fervour by the eagerness of its service, not waiting for the last hour of necessity, but availing itself of the first hour of opportunity.
II. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF DIFFICULTIES AS WE GO ON OUR WAY OF FAITHFUL SERVICE. We know from Mark (Mark 16:3) that these women were full of apprehension lest they should be unable to get the stone rolled away from the door. But they went on their way to do their sacred office; and when they reached the spot they found their difficulty vanished (verse 2). This is the common experience of the seeker after God in Christ, of the man desirous of discharging his duty in the fear of God, of the Christian worker. "Who will roll away that intervening stone?" we ask timidly and apprehensively. "How shall we get over that insurmountable barrier? How will our weakness prevail against such solid obstacles?" Let us go on our way of faith, of duty, of loving service, and we shall find that, if some angel has not been on the scene, the hindrance has disappeared, the way is open, the goal within our reach, the service within the compass of our powers.
III. THE SURPRISES THAT AWAIT US AS WE PROCEED, These women found an empty grave, visitants from the unseen world, a most unexpected though most welcome message; instead of a mournful satisfaction, they found a new hope, far too good and far too great to be held all at once within their heart (verses 4-7). Peter, too, found himself the subject of a great astonishment (verse 12). God has his merciful surprises for us as we proceed on our Christian path. He may surprise us with a sudden fear or a sudden sorrow; but he also surprises us with an unanticipated peace; with an unlooked-for joy; with a new, strange hope; before long he will introduce us to the blessed surprise of the heavenly realities.
IV. THE NEARNESS OF THE HEAVENLY TO THE EARTHLY SPHERE. (Verse 4.) Angels were always at hand to render service in the great redemptive work. Why should we think of heaven as "beyond the stars"? Why should we not think of it as encompassing us on every side, only separated from us by a thin veil, through which our mortal senses cannot pass to its glorious spectacles and its blessed harmonies?
V. THAT GOD HAS MUCH BETTER THINGS IN STORE FOR US THAN WE THINK POSSIBLE. Neither the wondering women nor the incredulous apostles could believe in such a happy issue as they were assured of, though they had been carefully prepared to expect it (verse 11). In the feebleness of our faith we say to ourselves, "Surely God is not going to give me that, to place me there, to bestow on me such a heritage as this!" But why not? For him to make all grace, all power, all life, to abound, is for him to do what he has promised, and what he has been doing since he first opened his hand to create and to bestow.—C.
Luke 24:5, Luke 24:6
The Resurrection and the Life.
No smallest touch of censure can we trace in the words of these angels. On their errand of faithful love these women would not be greeted thus. It was but a strong, awakening appeal, calling them to consider that, while they had come in the right spirit, they had come on a superfluous mission, and were looking in the wrong place for their Lord. Not there in the tomb among the dead, but breathing the air of a life that would never be laid down, was he whom they sought. The words attest—
I. THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD. This was:
1. Here attested by the angels. It was, at the same time, indicated by the empty tomb. The latter, of course, would not of itself prove such a fact; but it strongly sustained the word of the heavenly visitants. But beyond this, weightier than this, was:
2. The repeated and unmistakable evidence of the apostles and the women. Ten several times, at least, the risen Saviour was seen by those who knew him best. These were so thoroughly assured of the fact of his rising again, that they not only testified it, but risked and even sacrificed their lives to propagate a faith of which it was the corner-stone. And they not only undoubtedly believed it themselves, but they spoke as men who could be and who were credited by those who heard them. Then we have here:
3. The twofold buttress of a Divine promise and of human incredulity. Jesus "spake, saying,… the third day he should rise again." This was the fulfilment of the promise of One who gave such convincing proof that he could do what he willed. Moreover, it was believed in spite of the strongest incredulity. The apostles ought to have expected it, but they did not; we might almost say that it was the last thing they were looking for. They had given up their Lord and their cause as utterly lost; and when the tidings came, they refused to believe (Luke 24:11). So far from the Resurrection being the figment of a diseased expectation, it was a fact forced upon minds strongly predisposed to discredit it. The second clause of the angels' sentence was as true as the first: he was not there; he had risen. He had kept his word; he who had commanded the winds and the waves, and who showed himself Master of the elements of nature, now proved that the keys of death were in his royal hand, and proved himself to be the Son of God, the Lord of life. And with his "glorious resurrection" comes the fact of—
II. OUR OWN IMMORTALITY. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the sure sign, proof, forerunner, of our own life beyond the grave. Without that supreme and crowning fact, we could have had no certain hope, no assurance; without that he could not have been to us "the Resurrection and the Life." With that he can be and is. Now we have in him a living Lord, who can carry cut his kindest promises and be to us all that, during his ministry, he undertook to be. Wherefore let us:
1. Seek and find spiritual life in the once-crucified and ever-living Saviour, "He that believeth in him, though he were [spiritually] dead, yet shall he live," live in very deed and truth, i.e. live before God, unto God, and in God—partake of the life which is spiritual and Divine.
2. Be assured, then, of a blessed immortality; for "whoso liveth [in him] and believeth in him shall never die." His outward, bodily dissolution will be a mere incident in his career; so far from its being a termination of it, it will prove to be the starting-point of another and nobler life than the present, one nearer to God and far fuller of power, of usefulness, of blessedness.
3. Realize this truth concerning the departed. We may go to the grave and weep there like the sorrowing sisters of Bethany; we may tend their tomb with the carefulness which is the simple prompting of pure and deep affection; but let us learn to dissociate our thoughts of our departed friends from the grave. They are not there; let us not be seeking the living among the dead. There rest their mortal remains, but they themselves are with God, with the Saviour whose presence and friendship are exceeding gladness, with the holy and the true who have passed into the skies. They are in the light and the love and the joy of home. Let us dwell on this, and comfort ourselves and comfort one another with these thoughts.—C.
Privilege; unconscious companionship; incredulity.
In this most interesting narrative, beside a very pleasing and attractive picture, we have a variety of lessons. We may gather instruction respecting—
I. OUR LORD'S ELECTIVE LOVE. It was a very great favour he granted to these two men. Why, we ask, was it rendered to them? Of one we do not even know his name, and of the other nothing but his name. Why was so rare and high a privilege accorded to these obscure disciples, and not rather to those more prominent and active? In truth, we find ourselves quite unable to decide who are the fittest to receive special favours from the hand of God, or on what grounds he wills to manifest his presence and his power. His selections, we are sure, cannot be arbitrary or irrational. God must have not only a reason, but the best reason, for everything he does. But into the reasons for his choice we often may not enter; they lie beyond our reach. It is not to the acknowledged leaders of the Church that God often chooses to manifest especial privilege, but to those who are simple, unexpectant, unknown. He grants illuminations of his Spirit, peculiar joy and gladness of heart in him, remarkable success in the utterance of his truth, anticipatory glimpses of heavenly glory, to whom he will. And these are quite likely to be found amongst the humbler members of his Church. If there is any law which will guide our judgment it is this—that it is to the "pure in heart," to those who have most perfectly conquered the fleshly passions and are most freed from worldly ambitions and anxieties, who have the simplest and purest hope in him and desire toward him, that he vouchsafes his presence and grants the teaching and inspiration of his Spirit. But Christ's elective love is fully as much of a fact as it is of a doctrine.
II. UNCONSCIOUS COMPANIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. These two men were walking and talking with Christ, receiving his truth and responding to his appeal, their hearts "burning within them" as they held sweet and sacred intercourse with him; yet they did not recognize him; they had no idea that they were having fellowship with the Lord. There is much unconscious companionship with Jesus Christ now. Men are led into belief of the truth, are impressed with the sovereign claims of God upon their service, and of Jesus Christ upon their love; they ask, they inquire, they come to the feet of Christ to learn of him; they come to the cross of Christ to trust in him; they shun what they believe to be offensive, and pursue what they think is right and pleasing in his sight; and yet they are not at rest. They think they may be in a good way or in a fair way to find life; but they do not realize that they are in the right way. The fact is ofttimes that they are walking in the path of life with Christ, but "their eyes are holden that they do not know him." A Divine One has joined himself to them, as familiarly and unpretendingly as to these two disciples, ingratiating himself into their favour, wooing and winning their trust and their love; but because there has been no period of welt-recognized revolution, no sudden remarkable convulsion, they have failed to perceive that the work wrought within them has been that of his own kind and holy hand. Such souls need to learn that oftenest it is not in the wind, or in the earthquake, or in the fire, but in the still small voice of familiar truth and gracious influence, that Christ comes to the soul in renewing power. If it is in Christ we are trusting, if it is in his service we are most willing to live, if it is his will we are most concerned to do, then it is he himself by whose side we are walking day by day.
III. THE STRANGE INCREDULITY OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP. Our Master, who was so gentle and so considerate, here employs a very strong expression (Luke 24:25). This is the language of serious reproach; it is a weighty rebuke. The disciples of Christ ought to have read their Scriptures better, and they ought to have heeded the reiterated warning and promise he had himself given them of his death and his rising again. But while we wonder at what seems to us their slowness to learn and to believe, are we not as obtuse and as incredulous as they were? Do we not fail to grasp the promises of God as they are written in his Word, as they were spoken by his Son our Saviour? When those things happen which we should expect to happen in connection with the teaching of Divine truth; when the Spirit of God works mightily and mercifully in the souls of men; when hard hearts are broken and stubborn wills are subdued to the obedience of Christ; when wrong and shameful lives are changed into pure and holy ones; when the kingdom of God comes amongst us;—are we not surprised, incredulous? Are we not tempted to ascribe these issues to other than heavenly sources? And yet ought not this very result to happen? Is it not precisely what we should have been looking for, and wondering that it did not occur? We shall probably find abundant illustrations of Christian incredulity to match anything of which we read in our New Testament. "Slow of heart" are we to believe all that the Master has said of the presence and the power and the promises of God.—C.
Further lessons by the way.
Other lessons beside those already gleaned (see preceding homily) await our hand in this instructive story.
I. THE THREAD OF TRIAL WHICH RUNS THROUGH THE FABRIC OF OUR LIFE. On one occasion our Lord asked a question of one of his disciples, and of that question it is said, "This he said to prove him" (John 6:6). There were other occasions, e.g. that of the blind beggars by the wayside, and that of the Syro-phoenician woman, when Jesus said things to prove or to try those who came to him. We have the same thing here. He drew near to these two disciples in the guise of a stranger; he chose to remain unknown to them; he drew them out as if he were one unacquainted with the events which were filling their minds and hearts; he induced them to discover themselves freely and fully both to his own eyes and to theirs; moreover, he was in the act of passing on, and would have gone beyond Emmaus if they had not availed themselves of the opportunity of persuading him to remain. And thus he tried them. The "trial of our faith," and of our love and loyalty, forms a great part of our Master's dealing with ourselves. It explains many otherwise inexplicable things in our life. God appears to us other than the kind, gracious, pitiful, considerate Father that he is. Christ seems to be other than the present, strong, faith-rewarding Master that he is. Why does God let such things happen to us? Why does not Christ bring to pass that for which we labour and pray so earnestly? It may be that, in these cases, he is trying us; proving the sincerity and deepening the roots of our faith and love and zeal. We shall be the stronger, and our lives will be the more fruitful, for his action or his lingering, a little further on.
II. THE TRUE WAY TO MAKE THE SABBATH A DELIGHT. It was fitting that on the first sabbath of the Christian era there should be recorded an instance in which the day was spent as Christ would have it be. What a pleasant picture this of communion with Christ, of searching the Scriptures, of sitting down at the same table with him! We have here:
1. Communion with our Lord. About one-fourth of the whole day these favoured men were conversing with Christ, opening their minds and outpouring their hearts to him, telling him their hopes and their fears, and receiving kind and illuminating responses from his lips. So should our "fellowship be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ," on the "day of the Lord." And as we may be sure that the way to Emmaus was marvellously shortened that afternoon, and the village houses showed themselves long before they were looked for, so will earnest and loving communion with our living Lord, so will our walking with Christ, make the hours go swiftly by on the wings of holy and elevated joy, and we shall "call the sabbath a delight."
2. Sacred study. (Luke 24:27, Luke 24:32.) How wonderful these Scriptures which contain the record of Divine revelation! So short as to be capable of being committed to the memory, and yet so full as to contain all that is needful for our enlightenment and enrichment, for guidance to God and heaven; so dull to the unquickened conscience, and so delightful to the awakened and renewed; holding mysteries insoluble to human learning, and yet intelligible and instructive from Genesis to Revelation to the earnest inquirer after truth and life; valueless in the market, and yet precious beyond all price to all who want to know how to live and how to die. As Christ and the two learners walked and talked, new light shone on the old passages, and the way was too short and the time too soon gone for their interest and their eagerness to be expended.
3. Meeting the living Lord at his table. (Verse 30.) This was not, strictly speaking, a "sacramental" meal to which they sat down. It was not the "Lord's Supper" of which they partook. But there was about it so much of reverence, of religious earnestness, of holy communion, of sacred joy, that it may well suggest to us that most excellent way of spending some part of "the Lord's day."
III. THE WORTH OF ALL TRUE CHRISTIAN LABOUR. Possibly those who teach may sometimes ask themselves whether it is worth their while to conduct so small a class, to preach to so poor a congregation. Here is the answer to that questioning. If the risen Lord of glory thought it worth his while to walk seven miles and spend two hours in enlightening the minds and comforting the hearts of two humble and obscure disciples; if he was content to spend a good part of his first sabbath in taking a class of two, and pouring from the rich treasury of his truth into their minds, we may not think it unworthy of us to spend time in enlightening or comforting one human heart that craves the succour it is in our power to give. The disciple is not above his Master.
IV. THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL INTEREST, Do we devoutly wish that we knew more of that sacred gladness of which these disciples were so happily conscious as he "talked with them by the way, and opened to them the Scriptures" (verse 32)? Then:
1. Let us see that we are, as they were, earnestly desirous of knowing more of Jesus Christ. Let us go to our Bible and go up to the house of the Lord with that end distinctly and prominently in view.
2. Let us seek and gain the same Divine illumination. It is still to be had, though that voice is not now heard in our ear. The "Spirit of truth" is with us still, waiting to illumine and to enlarge our hearts; if we seek his aid and open our minds to his entrance, he will "guide us into all the truth" (John 16:13).—C.
The exigency of old age.
The disciples "constrained" our Lord to abide with them; for, they said, "It is toward evening, and the day is far spent." This act of theirs and their words taken together are suggestive of the truth that those whose life is fast waning—with whom it is "toward evening," whose day is "far spent"—have urgent need that Jesus Christ should "abide with" them. We have before us the special spiritual necessities of old age. It has—
I. ITS SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY. We look to advanced religious experience to set us a particularly blameless example, to show us most clearly the spirit and the complexion of a distinctly Christian life, to lead us in the direction of spirituality and purity. For this high service the near presence of the Saviour is needed, and the constant exercise of his gracious power.
II. ITS SPECIAL TEMPTATION. The temptation of age is to querulousness, to an illiberal criticism of the present and to an undue and partial preference of the past, to an unjust and unwise severity in judging the eccentricities and irregularities of the young, to a dissatisfaction with the comparative obscurity to which it is itself descending. To prevail against this temptation, and to preserve equanimity, sweetness, cheerfulness of spirit and hopefulness of heart, age has urgent need of a constant renewal from above.
III. ITS SPECIAL PRIVATIONS. There are a few who live to a "good old age" without any or without much consciousness of loss. But these are only a few. With old age usually comes privation. In respect of sight, of hearing, of power of locomotion, of facility in speaking, of memory, of intellectual grasp, the aged are painfully conscious that "they are not what they were; they speak with diminished fire, they act with a lessened force." Their life is lower, is narrowed; they are less to their contemporaries than they used to be. They need comfort under the sense of loss; they need another source of satisfaction and of joy. In whom, in what, shall they find it, but in the Person and the presence of the Divine Friend and Saviour?
IV. ITS SPECIAL LONELINESS, Age is often lonely. It misses the companions of its youth and its prime. Most of these, perhaps nearly all, have fallen, and they are as the last leaf upon the wintry bough. "They are all gone, the old familiar faces," is the plaintive strain of their discourse; and some who still live have drifted away from them in space or in spirit. There is no one left who can go back with them in thought and sympathy to the old times, the memory of which is so pleasant, and which they would fain revisit with the friends of youth and childhood. Age is apt to be very lonely, and it has great need of a Divine Companion who does not pass away, who "abides," who is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
V. ITS SPECIAL LIMITATION. We all know that there may not be many days left in which we can bear witness for our Lord and his gospel. But the aged know that there can not be many more left to them. So much the more, therefore, as they see the night approaching when they can work no more for their Master, may they well desire to be and to do all that still lies in their power. Every hour is golden to him to whom but few remain. And because the opportunities of serving men here on earth are narrowing perceptibly day by day, the aged may earnestly entreat their Lord to be near to them, and to let his grace rest upon them, that their last days may be full of fruitfulness as well as of peace and hope.
VI. ITS NEARNESS TO DEATH. We wish not only to "live unto the Lord," but also to "die unto the Lord;" to honour him in the manner of our death as well as by the spirit of our life. They who feel that the evening shadows are gathering, and that the night of death is near, may well wish for the near presence of the upholding Saviour, with whom they will go tranquilly and hopefully through the last darkness. "Abide with us," they say; "be with us as we take the last steps of our earthly journey, go down with us into the deep waters, attend us till we reach the heavenly shore."
"Oh, meet us in the valley,
When heart and flesh shall fail,
And softly, safely, lead us on,
Until within the veil;
When faith shall turn to gladness,
To find ourselves with thee,
And trembling Hope shall realize
Her full felicity."
Sense and spirit: the Resurrection.
The story of the Resurrection in its relation to the disciples of our Lord suggests to us thoughts concerning—
I. THE TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT OVER THE FLESH. These two disciples who had walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and who persuaded the mysterious Stranger to remain because the day was far gone, and subsequently spent some time in earnest converse with him, now hastened back to Jerusalem (Luke 24:33). This was quite contrary to their intention when they set out from the city; it was not in the natural order of things to start out again on a long two-hours' walk after the fatigues of that eventful day. But their minds were so enlarged, their hearts so filled with joy, their souls so stirred with animating and vivifying hope, that they could not remain where they were; they must impart the transporting and transforming tidings to the crushed and sorrowing brethren they had left behind them that afternoon. It was late and dark, and (when they thought of it) they were tired. But what were these considerations? They were things not to be entertained for a moment, they were a mere feather's weight in the scale; and we may be certain that they set off to Jerusalem with a much lighter step in the evening, and far more alacrity of spirit, than they left that city in the afternoon of the day. In one sense "we are but dust and ashes," but "animated clay;" our soul is subject to certain limitations from its close connection with the body. Yet can the spirit triumph nobly over the flesh. Let but the kindling truth come down from heaven, let the Divine hand but touch the secret springs of the soul, and all our bodily sensations and our lower instincts go down and disappear. Fatigue, loss, danger, death itself, is nothing to a soul alight with the celestial fire. A new hope, a new faith, a new purpose, can carry the weary frame along the dusty road of duty, or up the steep ascent of arduous or dangerous achievement, better than angels' wings. Our true self is not the tabernacle of the flesh, but the indwelling and victorious spirit.
II. THE ESSENTIAL SERVICE WHICH THE FLESH RENDERS TO THE SPIRIT. Christianity is essentially spiritual. It makes its appeal to the spiritual nature; its aim is spiritual; and the weapons of its warfare are also spiritual—the efforts of the spirit of man and the energies of the Spirit of God. But it rests largely on a basis of facts attested by our senses—the fact of the Incarnation, "God manifested in the flesh," the "Word made flesh;" the fact of the miracles of Christ, miracles wrought before the eyes of men, and assured by their sensible observation of them; the fact of a blameless life lived in the bodily presence of eye-witnesses; the fact of the death at Calvary, borne witness to by those who actually beheld it; and the great crowning fact of the Resurrection, the return of Jesus Christ in the flesh to his disciples. The entire fabric of our religion rests upon the history of the Man Christ Jesus; and the acceptance of him as a Divine Teacher, whose word can be trusted and whose character can be honoured, stands or falls with the truth of the Resurrection. For if he did not rise again, he certainly was not the One he claimed to be. Of what service to us, then, these physical facts here recorded—his eating with the two at Emmaus; the sound of the familiar voice in many words of intercourse; the sight of his hands and feet with the imprint of the cruel nails; the sight and feeling of the "flesh and bones," which a spirit has not but which they found he had; and the act of sitting down at the table and eating of the fish and honeycomb before their eyes? The sight of his face, the sound of his voice, the style of his speech, the handling of his limbs ("handle me, and see," Luke 24:39), supplemented by his eating and drinking before them,—all this at length convinced their incredulity that it was indeed the risen Lord himself, returned according to his word. And all this accumulated evidence of all the senses is as good for us as it was for them. We are thankful for this multiplication of the material evidence, for, taken with other considerations, it substantiates the great fact of facts, and gives to us not only a marvellously original Thinker, but an unmistaken and faultless Exemplar, a Divine Lord and Master. The human senses never rendered to the human soul so great a service as when they attested the supreme fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But they still do render very valuable service in every Christian life.
1. The control and regulation of our senses for Christ's sake and in obedience to his word is a continual tribute to the power of his truth.
2. Our feet can carry us forth on errands of Christian charity.
3. Our hands can be put daily to deeds of righteousness, of justice, of excellency.
4. Our lips can sing the praises of our Lord, and can speak words of kindness to the young, of sympathy to the suffering and sorrowing, of hope to the dying.
5. Our eye can read, our ears can heal the truths which impart or which sustain the inner life of the spirit. Through our bodily senses God's own living truth, and with his truth himself also, comes continually into our soul; and through these same senses there go forth from us all healing, all helpful, all saving influences to the world; and thus we enrich and are enriched.—C.
The peace of Christ.
It is true that these words, "Peace be unto you!" were the ordinary Jewish salutation. But remembering that our Lord used these words a second time in this interview (see John 20:21), and having in mind the way in which he made these words his own, and gave to them not merely a formal but a profound significance (John 14:27), we may find much meaning in them. We recognize the fact that they were—
I. SPECIALLY APPROPRIATE TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES. The minds of his apostles had passed through the deepest distress. They had lost their Lord and their Friend; and with him they had lost, as they thought, their cause and their hopes; they were, therefore, afflicted with an overwhelming grief. And now they were filled with the liveliest agitation. They were in a mental state in which blighted hopes were struggling with darkest fears; their soul was stirred to its very depths; and what, above all things, they needed was One that could come and say, "Peace be unto you!" It was the very word that was wanted to be breathed into their ear, to be spoken to their heart.
II. ADMIRABLY DESCRIPTIVE OF HIS ABIDING MISSION. It is true that Jesus once said, "I came not to send peace, but a sword." But it will be found, on referring, that then he simply meant to say that division and strife would be an inevitable incident of the course of his gospel; he did not mean that this was its deep purpose or its long and last result. It was the back-water, and not the main current, of the truth he preached. Christ came to give peace to a world profoundly disturbed and disquieted by sin. "Come unto me," he said," and I will give you rest." Not as the world gives rest or peace does he give.
(1) Not mere comfort or gratification that is very short-lived;
(2) nor satisfaction that is based on ignorance of ourselves, and must before long be exposed;
(3) nor the quiet of indifference or unbelief that must soon be broken up. Not of this order is the peace of Christ. It is:
1. Rest to the burdened conscience. lie shows us our sin and makes us ashamed of it; he fills our heart with a true and righteous sorrow for it; he awakes within us a just and honourable concern for the consequences of it. And then he offers himself as the One who bore the burden upon himself, through whom we may find forgiveness and acceptance. And "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
2. Abiding gladness to the hungering heart. "In the world" is unsatisfiedness of soul, emptiness and heartache; a sense of disappointment. But in him is a true and lasting satisfaction. "How happily the days in his blest service fly!" To live heartily and wholly unto him who loved us and gave himself for us, to expend our powers in his praise and in his service,—this is the secret of lifelong peace. All the lower springs will fail, but this never. To "lose our life" unto him is to "find it" and to keep it for ever.
3. Comfort to the troubled spirit. When darkness falls upon the path, when losses come, when bereavement makes a gap in the home and in the heart, when some heavy disappointment blights the prospect,—then the felt presence, the realized sympathy, and the unfailing succour of that Divine Friend give a peace which is deeper than our disturbance, a thrice-blessed calm to the tempest-tossed soul.
4. Peace in death. For many centuries the dying have departed in peace because they have hoped for everything through the Divine Saviour; they have calmly "slept in Jesus;" and those who now look forward to death as a passage through which they will be passing can find no better wish or prayer than that "the music of his Name" may "refresh their soul in death."—C.
The Divine Spirit and the human understanding.
It may be that we do not sufficiently recognize the very intimate connection between our human intelligence and the action of the Spirit of God. We may be seriously in danger of coming short in gratitude for all that God has wrought for us in this respect, and in prayer for his continued and especial help in the future.
I. THE DIVINE ENDOWMENT WITH WHICH HE STARTS US ON OUR COURSE. We receive from his creative hand a kind and a measure of intellectual power which may be said to valor with each individual of the human race. To one he giveth five talents, to another two, to another one. And it is not only difference in measure, but also in kind. The human spirit has many faculties, and one man has a large share of one and another a goodly share of another, "as it pleaseth him." Most happily for us, there is every possible variety of human understanding resulting from the different capacities and dispositions with which our Creator endows us,
II. THE BENEFICENT LAW OF EXPANSION HE HAS ORDAINED FOR US. The law under which we live, and under which our understanding grows, is this—"to him that hath is given." We observe, we hear and read, we reflect, we reason, we construct and produce; and as we do this, we grow—our intelligence is opened and enlarged. Thus by the operation of one of his wise and kind laws God is "opening our understanding" every day, but more particularly in the earlier days of curiosity and of study. Youth has but to do its rightful and proper work, and God will do his gracious, enlarging work; and thus he will "build up" a mind, well stored with knowledge and wisdom, capable of great and noble service.
III. THE SPECIAL ILLUMINATIONS HE HAS GRANTED AND IS WILLING TO IMPART.
1. God has given to members of our race illumination or expansion of mind which we pronounce miraculous, i.e. not in accordance with known laws. Such was the inspiration he gave to Moses when he inspired him to write his books; or that he gave to Samuel, to Elijah, to Isaiah, to Zechariah, when he moved these prophets to remonstrate with or to exhort their contemporaries, or to write words that should live for all time on the sacred page; or that he gave to these two disciples when he opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures as they had never understood them before; or that he gave to the Apostles Peter and Paul and John when he prompted them to speak as they spoke and to write as they wrote. Here was an altogether unusual and supernatural enlightenment and enlargement of mind granted for the special purpose of making known his mind and will to the race of man.
2. God still imparts special illumination to us according to our need and in response to our prayer. The "age of miracles" may be past, but assuredly the age of Divine illumination is not passed. God remains, and will remain, in constant communication with his human children; he has, and ever will have, access to their understanding; he can touch and quicken us, can enlarge and equip our minds for special service in his Name and cause, can make clear to our minds those things which have been obscure, whether in his Word or in his providence, so that we can "understand the Scriptures," and also interpret his dealing with ourselves and his fashioning of our lives. Three things become us.
(1) A sense of our own insufficiency—insufficiency both for comprehending what we are called upon both to consider and to understand, and for doing the work of explanation and enforcement which is required of us.
(2) Faith in God—in his observation of us; in his interest in our humble endeavours to take our part and do our work; in his power over us to "open our understanding" as well as to "open our heart" (Act 16:1-40 :44; see Ephesians 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:7).
(3) -Prayer for Divine illumination. Lacking wisdom, let us ask of God, "who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not (James 1:5; see Colossians 1:9; Ephesians 1:16, Ephesians 1:17). Whenever we read the Scriptures that we may learn the "mind of Christ," whenever we stand up to speak in his Name, when ever we set ourselves to any effort that requires spiritual wisdom, we do well to pray in the spirit, if not in the language, of our great poet—
"Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me; for thou know'st:… What in me is dark,
Illumine! What is low, raise and support!"
The solemn charge.
It is an allowable curiosity to wonder how the apostles of our Lord received this "their solemn charge."
1. They must have been greatly impressed by its extreme seriousness; they were to preach repentance and remission of sin "among all nations." And although they did not know as we do what that meant, and how wide was the range of the Saviour's purpose, they could realize as we cannot how deep and bitter would be the enmity which a gospel of the crucified Nazarene would encounter, more especially in Jerusalem.
2. But they may have been powerfully sustained by the presence of the Lord himself. The "power or' his resurrection" was then upon their souls; they were to go forth in his Name, who had just triumphed over man's last and greatest enemy—death. What could they not do through him? If we ask what was the message, in its fulness, which they were charged to deliver, we reply—
I. REPENTANCE AS CHRIST HAD PREACHED IT. They were to preach repentance in his Name. Therefore of the kind which he demanded. And this was no mere outward amendment; it was not found in the external habits of devotion; no amount of almsgiving, fasting, prayers, would constitute it. It meant:
1. Self-condemnation. Not necessarily the exhibition of overwhelming emotion, but the decided and deep conviction of our own unworthiness, and real regret for wrong done and for service withheld in the past.
2. The return of the heart to God. The coming back from the far country of estrangement, or forgetfulness, or denial and open enmity, and the seeking anew the Father's face and favour.
3. The outcasting from the soul of all tolerance of evil, so that sin is not only shunned but hated.
4. The pursuit of all moral excellency; to be attained by the study and the love of the great Exemplar himself. And this repentance, real and thorough, was to be immediate. There was to be no guilty and dangerous postponement; as soon as the soul recognized its duty it was to start on the true and right course.
II. REMISSION AS CHRIST OFFERED IT. And this was:
1. Full. It was a forgiveness without reserve. The son (of the parable, Luke 15:1-32.) was not relegated to the servants' hall, though he had thought of asking for no more than that. He was admitted to the full honour of sonship; he was to wear the best robe and the ring, and he was to sit down to the table which was loaded in his honour. The mercy we receive through Christ, and which is to be offered "in his Name," is no imperfect thing; it is full, entire, complete. All past transgressions are absolutely forgiven, so that they will never be alleged against us or stand between us and the love of God. We ourselves are taken into the gracious favour of our heavenly Father, admitted to his family, counted among his own children, constituted his heirs, having freest access to his presence, welcome to call him by the most endearing name.
2. Immediate. There is no probation or apprenticeship to be served; we have not to wait to approve ourselves; we are not sentenced to any form of expiation by menial service before we gain our childhood. At once, so soon as we return in spirit unto God, that moment we are welcomed to the side and to the home of our Father.
3. In faith. We are to seek and to find forgiveness "in Christ's Name," i.e. in the exercise of a simple but living faith in him as in our Divine Saviour. So the apostles evidently understood their Master (see Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38, Acts 13:39; 1 Peter 1:8, 1 Peter 1:9; 1 John 2:12). Thus the ascended Saviour instructed the "abortive-born apostle" (Acts 26:18), and thus that faithful witness continually taught (see Acts 20:21). Those who speak for Christ are to invite all sinful men to put their trust in him, the Saviour of mankind, the "Propitiation for the sins of the world," and, accepting him as such, to take the full, free mercy of God unto eternal life.
Such was the message which the apostles were solemnly charged to deliver. There was in this great instruction:
1. One charge which they were more particularly to observe—they were to begin at Jerusalem. It was right they should begin there, for it was there that all "these things" (Luke 24:48) were known and could be attested; and, beginning there, the grace and the magnanimity of the Crucified One would be more abundantly manifested.
2. Another, which more particularly affects ourselves—this message of mercy is to be carried to "all nations." It is "the common salvation," needed by all and fitted for all, to work out and send forth which the Lord Jesus lived and died.—C.
These brief words, "Ye are witnesses," being among the very last which Jesus spoke to his apostles, must have lingered in their ear for the rest of their life. In moments of doubt, or of depression, or of danger, the remembrance that their Lord and Leader had charged them
2. Works of power, which were invariably works of pity and of kindness, of such a nature that there was no possibility of mistake.
3. Words of truth and grace such as mortal lips had never spoken, and such as met the deepest wants of man's hungering heart, of his yearning and aspiring soul.
4. Sufferings and sorrows beyond what others knew, borne with a patience that was sublime.
5. A death undergone in shame and pain, amid natural wonders and with more than human nobility.
6. A glorious resurrection from the grave.
7. A message of mercy and hope to be delivered to all mankind in the name of this great Teacher, Healer, Sufferer, Conqueror.
II. THE VALUABLE SERVICE WHICH IS OPEN TO US ALL.
1. We also can testify, in word, to "these things." We leave, and are content to leave, some mysteries which belong to the Christian faith; we do not try, as we need not try, either to explain or to understand them. But "these things," which the world needs to know for its inward peace and its true prosperity, we can speak. We are familiar with the holy and beautiful life of Jesus Christ. We know the thought, we "have the mind of Christ" on all the deepest and highest subjects with which our character and our destiny are bound up. We are conversant with the sufferings and the sorrows of the Saviour; for the story of his Passion is better known by us than any other history whatsoever—it is not only in our memory, it is in our heart. We can speak of his death and of his triumph over the grave. We know well what is the message of truth and grace he desires to be declared to the whole world. We can speak of him and for him.
2. And we can find an audience. There are many who will not listen to us, but there are those who will. The young, who have a spirit of docility and inquiry; the sick and the sad, to whom "the consolation which is in Christ" is the one thing that heals and calms; the poor, to whom the pearl of great price is welcome, and who are willing to be made "rich toward God;" the disappointed and the weary, who are glad to know of One who can give "rest unto the soul;"—these will receive our testimony.
3. We can bear the best and truest witness of the life. What men want to be convinced of is that Christianity is a living power; that it not only has very fine sentiments to teach—these can be found elsewhere—but that it is a moral and spiritual power that can save the lost, can cleanse the foul, can soften the hard-hearted, can humble the proud, can arouse the indifferent and obtuse, can infuse cheerfulness and joy into the heart of the poor and lowly, can give rest of spirit to those who are encompassed by the cares of time, can fill the soul with tender sympathy and prompt to generous and self-denying succour, can substitute a forgiving for a vindictive spirit in the wronged, can enable its possessors to gain a victory over themselves and over the world and to crown a victorious life by a death of calm tranquillity and joyful hope. Here is scope for witness-bearing; and, as every Christian man has the truth of Christ on which to feed, the example of Christ to follow, and the Holy Spirit of Christ to whom to look for his indwelling power, it is open to every disciple to be a witness, whose testimony shall be valuable on earth and acceptable in heaven.—C.
The secret of spiritual strength.
How came it to pass that the apostles of our Lord became such strong men and did such noble work for their Master and for mankind so soon after they manifested such weakness as they did? We consider—
I. THEIR INSUFFICIENCY UP TO THE TIME OF THE ASCENSION. They had been receiving for many months the inestimable advantage of Christ's own teaching for their mental enlightenment, and his own influence for their spiritual ennoblement. And this teaching and training cannot have been—we may confidently say was not—without very great value throughout their subsequent course. Yet they undoubtedly lacked something which would complete them for the great task before them. They showed but scant determination (Matthew 26:41, Matthew 26:43), but feeble courage (Matthew 26:56), but little understanding of their Master's aim (Acts 1:6); and this, too, at the very close of his ministry, when their great and special privilege was expiring. Something more they sadly needed to prepare them for their work.
II. THE PROMISED POWER.
1. Its announcement and its confirmation. It was first predicted by the prophets who preceded our Lord (Isaiah 44:3); and more particularly Joel (Joel 2:28, Joel 2:29). It was renewed and confirmed, at first more indefinitely, and here more definitely, by our Lord (John 14:16, John 14:26; John 15:26, John 15:27; John 16:7; text).
2. Its historical fulfilment (Acts 2:1-11).
3. Its permanent results. These men, whose character and whose fitness for their grand and lofty mission left much to be desired, "endued with power from on high," became wonderfully equipped for and admirably adapted to the noble mission to which Christ appointed them. They became strong
(1) to stand in the evil hour of temptation, defying the authority of Jewish council and the sword of Roman ruler; they became strong
(2) to suffer, rejoicing that they were "counted worthy to suffer shame" for the Master's sake and Name; they became strong
(3) to testify, "with great power" giving witness to the Resurrection, and great grace being on them all; they became strong
(4) to grasp the great central and saving truths of the gospel, making known to their own compeers by their speech, and to all time by their letters, the "mystery which was hidden from the generations," the great and gracious purpose of God to the whole race of men; they became strong
(5) to build and work, to lay the foundation-stone of the gospel of Christ (Eph 2:1-22 :26), of that Church of the future which has already endured for eighteen centuries, and is more than ever bent on the conversion and conquest of the world. We know what made these weak men strong, these failing men to triumph. It was the power of the Holy Ghost resting upon them, opening their eyes that they might see, quickening their souls that they might feel, nerving their hearts that they might stand, strengthening their hands that they might labour and achieve.
III. ITS LASTING LESSON. It is this which, if anything does, will make us strong also. What the Christian workman wants is the power which comes immediately from God, the inspiration of the Divine Spirit; in truth, the same bestowal as that which the apostles were now promised and afterwards received. The miraculous endowments which accompanied the gift of the Holy Ghost were but the accidents of the bestowal. The power to heal without failure or to speak without error was nothing to the power to testify without fear and to live without reproach.
"Though on our heads no tongues of fire
Their wondrous powers impart,"
we need, as much as they did then, the illuminating, sanctifying, empowering influences of Heaven—"God's Spirit in our heart." Without that, our most heroic efforts will fail; with it, our humblest endeavours will succeed. To gain that we must have
(1) purity of heart and aim;
(2) earnest and believing prayer.
Many thoughts offer themselves to us as we think upon this last scene.
I. THE FITNESS OF THE PLACE WHENCE JESUS ASCENDED. Not, indeed, that Jerusalem could claim to be worthy of such an honour—Jerusalem that had but lately dyed its hands in the blood of its Messiah. But as the ancient dwelling-place of God, as the seat and source of heavenly truth, as the metropolis of religion upon the earth, as the place that furnishes the name and type of the city of our hope, as the joyous gathering-place of the good,—it was well that, from without its walls, he whose presence makes the home and the joy and the glory of his people should pass to his throne. For from that moment "Jerusalem" meant another thing to mankind, Christ took up its meaning as he rose. All the associations of love and hope, of grandeur and gladness, which had belonged to the earthly are transferred to the heavenly city, where he dwells in glory, where he reigns in power. There is a transference, not formal but actual, of the centre and metropolis of religious thought from the Jerusalem below to the Jerusalem above.
II. THE NATURE OF THE LAST SCENE. "They climb the hillside; they cross its summit; they are approaching Bethany. He stops; they gather round. He looks upon them; he lifts his hands; he begins to bless them. What love unutterable in that parting look! What untold riches in that blessing! His hands are uplifted, his lips engaged in blessing, when slowly he begins to rise. Earth has lost her power to keep him; the waiting up-drawing heavens claim him as their own. He rises, but still, as he floats upward through the yielding air, his eyes are bent on those uplooking men; his arms are stretched over them in the attitude of benediction, his voice is heard dying away in blessings as he ascends. Awe-struck, in silence they follow him with straining eyes as his body lessens to sight, till the commissioned cloud enfolds, cuts off all further vision, and closes the earthly and sensible communion between Jesus and his disciples" (Dr. Hanna).
III. THE RECEPTION THE SAVIOUR HAD IN HEAVEN. There have been "triumphant entries" in this little world of ours, and in the history of our human race, the pouring forth in loud acclaim of the pride and joy of many thousands of hearts. But to what a vanishing point do they sink when placed by the side of this entry of the conquering Saviour into heaven! Though unable to form any conception that can approach the glorious reality, yet we may well love to linger in imagination over that blessed scene. His struggle over, his sorrows borne, his temptations met and mastered, his work finished, his great battle fought and his victory won,—the victorious Lord passes through all the ranks of the angelic host, amid their reverent worship and adoring acclamations, to his throne of power and glory.
"Look, ye saints I the sight is glorious:
See the Man of sorrows now
From the fight returned victorious;
Every knee to him shall bow."
IV. THE EFFECT IMMEDIATELY PRODUCED ON THE MINDS OF THE DISCIPLES. Blank dismay, inconsolable sorrow, should we think? So thinking, we should be wrong. They "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Yet their Master was gone from them to return no more till that uncertain and distant day of which the angels spoke (Acts 1:11). How do we account for this? The explanation is found here—they were now perfectly assured of the Divine mission of Jesus Christ. His death had cast a dark shadow of doubt and dread over their hearts. His resurrection had revived their confidence and their hope. But this final manifestation, this "sign in the heavens," this act of being taken up, like Elijah, into heaven, swept away the last fragment of doubt that may have been left behind; they were now absolutely sure, without any reserve or qualification whatever, that the Master they had loved and served was indeed their true Messiah, the Sent of God, worthy of their deepest veneration and their strongest attachment; so they "worshipped him" reverently, and went back to Jerusalem with the joy of faith and love filling their souls. There is no misery so unendurable as doubt, and there is no blessedness so sweet as rest of heart after spiritual disquietude.
V. ITS PERMANENT EFFECT ON THE APOSTLES' MINDS. This was unreservedly good. It was "expedient for them that he should go away." His bodily absence changed the complexion of their dependence upon him. It had been that of childhood; it was now to be that of manhood. With him by their side, as he had been, they would not have become the "men in him" they did become after he left them. The deeper and fuller knowledge of him they gained by his departure led to an enlargement of faith and to a deepening of love, and also to that fulness of attachment and consecration we recognize and rejoice in during their later life. They came to know him and love him and serve him as the Divine Saviour of mankind, and this made them worthier men and truer servants of their Lord. All earthly ambitions respecting the right and left hand of the throne were transformed into a noble consecration to the invisible Lord.
VI. ITS PRICELESS VALUE TO OURSELVES.
1. Christ is accessible to us all. Had he lived and reigned at Jerusalem, or some other sacred metropolis, he would only have been accessible to those who dwelt or journeyed there. But now he is "with us all." For heaven is everywhere; the throne of grace is within the reach of the faintest whisper that comes from every burdened heart, from every seeking soul, wheresoever it may be breathed. A living faith can now realize the constant nearness of its living Lord; it has not to take even a sabbath day's journey to find itself in his presence and to make known its request.
2. He is seated on the throne of power. To him who has passed into the heavens we can realize that "all power is given" (Matthew 28:18). We can well believe that our Master in heaven can do for us what we ask of him; that his arm is one of glorious might; that his hand has plenteousness of bounty and of blessing. And in all our time of need we can go to him, with holy confidence, to ask of him the help, the guidance, the blessing, we require.
3. He has all rightful authority. If he still dwelt on earth, we might be dubious of this; but to the heavenly Saviour we unanimously and cordially ascribe all headship; to him we yield our willing and unquestioning obedience; and we rejoice to believe that he is ruling and governing the affairs of his Church, and reigning in the interests of the whole human race; that it is his hand that is at the helm, and that will safely guide the tempest-ridden vessel to the harbour.
4. He is our constant and ever-living Lord. With all that is earthly we associate change and death; with the heavenly we connect the thought of continuance and life. Of our heavenly Lord we can think, and we delight to think, that whoever changes he is evermore the same, "yesterday, and to-day, and for ever;" that while human ministers "are not suffered to continue by reason of death," he hath "an unchangeable priesthood," and is able to save evermore ("to the uttermost") all those "that come unto God by him." And as we look forward to the future, and realize our own mortality, we cherish the joyous thought that, if we do but "abide in him" until the evening shadows gather and "life's long day" passes into the darkness of death, we shall, in heaven's eternal morning, open our eyes to see the "King in his beauty," to "behold his glory," and shall "sit down with him on his throne," sharing for ever his own and his saints' everlasting rest.—C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The Resurrection discovered.
When the women and the other mourners left the Lord's tomb on the evening of the Crucifixion, it was with the intention, after the sabbath was past, of completing the embalmment. This office of love seems to have been left largely to the women; for it is they who make their way, in the early morning of the first day of the week, to the sepulchre. They seem to have had no knowledge, for they had no apprehension, of the Roman guard, which was manifestly placed at the sepulchre on the Jewish sabbath, when the disciples and the women were keeping the sad day in strictest privacy. Their one apprehension was how to roll away the stone; but, like so many apprehended difficulties, it was found to vanish away—some hands stronger than women's had been before them and had rolled away the stone, and left them no difficulty in discovering an empty tomb. The narrative of John about Mary Magdalene's visit is quite consistent with Luke's narrative; for, as Gilbert West has pointed out in his admirable analysis of the Resurrection-history, Mary rushes off alone to tell the disciples, "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him"—implying that others had been with her at the tomb. Without any misgivings, therefore, about the reliable character of the history, let us point out the instructive steps in the discovery of our Lord's resurrection.
I. THE WOMEN WITH THE SPICES DISCOVER AN EMPTY TOMB. (Verses 1-3.) They had employed the evening after the sabbath was past in preparing all that was needful for embalming thoroughly and finally the Saviour's body. It was with this fragrant burden they made their way in the twilight towards the tomb, to find their fears groundless and the stone already removed. But a new fear now laid hold on them. There is no body in the tomb; it is empty. They do not appear to have taken in the significance of the grave-clothes carefully put aside because never to be needed more, as John did at his subsequent visit; their whole anxiety was about what had become of the dear body which they had come to embalm. The empty tomb was a discovery. The first impression, as indicated by Mary's message (John 20:2), was that their enemies had seized the body and disposed of it to defeat all their ideas of embalming. One thing is certain from the history, that neither the women nor the disciples could have been parties to the removal of the body.
II. THE WOMEN THAT WAITED GOT EXPLANATIONS FROM THE ANGELS. (Verses 4-7.) Mary Magdalene, acting on impulse, seems to have hurried off to tell Peter and John about the discovery of the empty tomb, while her companions wait longer to get some explanation, if possible, regarding it. And the waiting women are not disappointed. Angels appear in shining garments, and, as the women sink before them in terror, they proceed to reassure them with the glad tidings, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man mast be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." It was the angels that reminded them of the promise of resurrection, and how it was now fulfilled. This is the second stage, therefore, in the discovery of the Resurrection. The fear of the women had been that the Jews had got the body. But there could have been no such plot carried out, for the very simple reason that, if they had got the body and it had not risen, they could have produced such evidence at the Pentecost as would have overturned the apostolic testimony, and prevented the inauguration of the Christian society. The angelic explanation, based as it was on our Lord's previous promises, was the only satisfactory one. The Resurrection was the fulfilment of Christ's deliberate plan.
III. THE REPORT OF THE WOMEN TO THE ELEVEN AND THE REST. (Verses 8-11.) It is quite reasonable to suppose that Mary Magdalene was the forerunner of the rest, and through her report induced Peter and John to start at once for the sepulchre, while the main body of the women, consisting of Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others, returned more leisurely to make their report. At all events, the narrative of Luke implies all that is given by Matthew and by John. For the disciples who went to Emmaus distinctly say that certain of the disciples "went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said; but him they saw not" (verse 24)—implying that the women, in their report, had spoken of having seen the Master. £ The testimony of the women was based upon a threefold foundation—first, the assurance of the angels; secondly, the promise of resurrection given in Galilee by the Lord; thirdly, according to Matthew's account, an interview with the risen Lord himself (Matthew 28:9, Matthew 28:10). It was a remarkable testimony certainly, but at the same time it had ample warrant.
IV. THE BEST-ATTESTED FACTS MAY SEEM, TO DAZED MINDS, THE IDLEST FANCIES. (Verse 11.) The poor disciples are, however, so overpowered with grief and disappointment that they are utterly unprepared for the announcement of the Resurrection. Here the suppler mind of woman is revealed in contrast to the more plodding, sifting, logic-demanding mind of man. The women enjoy the consolations of the Resurrection much sooner than the men. They take in the evidence at a glance. They do not question. They simply accept. But the disciples will not believe in a hurry. And so the messengers of the best tidings ever related unto men are at first in the position of the Master .… himself, and constrained to cry, "Who hath believed our report?" And the unbehevmg criticism of to-day is more unreasonable than the disciples were before the women. Because the resurrection of Christ may break in upon the ideas of nature's absolute uniformity which the critics have adopted, the whole evidence of resurrection-power continued through the ages is to be treated as an idle tale! Minds may be so dazed with grief or with success on certain lines as to discredit the completest evidence ever offered to the world. Before prejudice, the strongest facts get resolved into the idlest fancies. We should earnestly seek an impartial mind.
V. PETER'S FIRST ATTEMPT TO DEAL WITH THE EVIDENCE OF THE RESURRECTION. (Verse 12.) Peter, as we learn from John's account, accompanied by John, rushes off to see the sepulchre. He reaches it after John, but pushes past him, and goes into the sepulchre. There he sees the linen clothes laid by themselves, yet departs without reaching anything but perplexity. To John's keener intellect the grave-clothes, so neatly deposited and the napkin laid in a place by itself, show that Jesus had risen, and laid aside his sleeping-clothes, as we do our night-dresses in the morning, because he had entered on the day of resurrection. John becomes a believer in the Resurrection on circumstantial evidence. Peter, it would seem, cannot make it out, and has to get a personal interview somewhat later on that day (cf. verse 34), before he can take it in. It thus appears that one mind may handle the Resurrection evidence successfully, while another may only stumble through it into deeper perplexity. But when a soul like Peter is in earnest, the Lord will not leave him in the darkness, but will grant such further light as will dispel the gloom and dissipate all perplexity. Meanwhile the discovery of Christ's resurrection is but the interesting first stage in the remarkable evidence to part of which we have yet to proceed.—R.M.E.
The risen Christ the best Escort on the pilgrim, age of life.
We left Peter in perplexity, but he and John must have returned to the rest of the disciples, and reported the emptiness of the sepulchre, but that they had not seen the Risen One (verse 24). John does not seem to have communicated his own convictions unto the others. Most likely he is turning the matter over in his mind, as contemplative and deep-thinking men will do before giving a public pronouncement. Meanwhile there is a dispersion of some of the disciples that very afternoon. Thomas seems to have gone away, and to have remained away that night. And two of them proceed seven or eight miles into the country to Emmaus, where their home seems to have been. It is these two pilgrims that we are now to follow. They leave the city, and their conversation is sad. They are discussing the bright hopes which have been so lately quenched by the crucifixion of their Lord. It is while so sad that Jesus joins them; for he who had been the "Man of sorrows" and "acquainted with grief" is ever breaking in upon men's troubles to relieve them. His treatment of these "unwilling sceptics," as they have been lately called, is most instructive. £ He probes their sorrow, gets an insight into its cause, gets them to state their hopes, their disappointments, and the rumours they had heard of his resurrection. On this basis, although apparently an unknown Stranger, he proceeds to show them their error and slowness in not believing all that the prophets have spoken about Messiah. Beginning, therefore, at Moses, he expounds to them from all the prophets that Messiah must first suffer, and then enter into his glory. The exposition was so brilliant and interesting, that they felt their hearts burning within them during the process. Then, under compulsion, he enters their lodging at Emmaus, sits down as Guest, then proceeds as Host to distribute the food as at the sacramental meal. Not till then did they recognize their risen Lord in the devout Being who graced their board. Once recognized, and thus dispelling all their doubt, he vanishes into the invisible. Such experience could not be quietly kept at Emmaus. They resolve to return that very night to Jerusalem, to report their interview, and how blessed an Escort Jesus had been in their pilgrimage. They are in time for the manifestation of the Risen One to the assembled disciples. We may learn from the narrative such lessons as these.
I. JESUS MAKES HIS ADVENT TO US WHEN OUR SOULS ARE SAD. This is the very spirit of the dispensation. Thus he cried, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). And as the risen Saviour he prefers, we may well believe, the house of mourning to the house of mirth. Not only so, but when souls are in sad perplexity, when they are "unwilling sceptic%" it is his delight to come and be their Escort along life's way, and lead them out of gloom and difficulty into real peace and joy. Now, when we know how accessible he is through prayer, we should never undertake any pilgrimage without securing the companionship of Jesus.
II. WE LEARN THAT JESUS IS OFTEN WITH US WHILE WE KNOW IT NOT. Here was he with these two pilgrims, taking step by step with them to Emmaus, and yet their eyes were so holden that they did not know him. He was near them, but they did not know him. Is not this the case with all of us? He is at our side, he takes every step with us, but we are so blinded with care and preoccupation that we fail to see him or enjoy his society as we should. The omnipresence of Jesus should be the believer's constant consolation.
III. JESUS IS HIMSELF AT ONCE THE GREAT SUBJECT AND THE GREAT EXPOSITOR OF SCRIPTURE. Here we find him, after listening so sympathetically to all the difficulties of the disciples, proceeding to expound to them, "in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself." "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." And here it is well to notice what is the substance of the whole revelation. It is put in these words of the risen Saviour, "Ought not Messiah to have suffered these things, and to have entered (εἰσελθεῖν) into his glory?" The Authorized and Revised Versions have alike failed to give the proper rendering here. Our Lord declares that he has entered already into his glory, just as he has already passed through his sufferings. We believe it can be made out from this and other passages that our Lord ascended—of course invisibly—without disciples as spectators, to heaven, and reported himself on high immediately after telling Mary, "I ascend [not 'will ascend'] unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17; cf. also Bush on ' The Resurrection.') This supposition of an ascension on the very day of the Resurrection enables us to understand his movements during the rest of the day, and his bestowal of the Spirit, which was conditioned on his glorification, in the evening (John 20:22; cf. John 7:39). It also enables us to regard heaven as his head-quarters during the forty days before his visible ascension from Olivet. Upon this interesting subject we cannot now dwell, however; but we content ourselves by pointing it out, and emphasizing the fact of Jesus as the suffering and glorified Messiah being the Hero, the Substance, and the great Expositor of revelation. It is when we look for him in the Word that it becomes luminous and delightful.
IV. THE ENTERTAINMENT OF JESUS IS SURE TO LEAD TO SPECIAL BLESSING. These two men insisted on Jesus sojourning with them, because it was towards evening and the day was far spent. And as he sojourned, he was transmuted from Guest to Host, and gave them a sacramental instead of common feast. It is when devoutly asking a blessing on the bread that he is recognized, only, however, to vanish like a vision from their sight. Now we may pass through an analogous experience. Is not this what is meant by the Master when he says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20)? If we are open-hearted, and welcome Jesus, he will enter our hearts and sup with us, taking whatever we have to give him, and delighting in it, and enable us to sup with him. He will change into a Host from being our Guest. It was thus he acted at the marriage of Cana; it was thus he acted at Emmaus; it was thus he acted on the Shore of the Galilaean lake. He may be Guest, but he will soon show himself to be our Host, and give us a feast of fat things.
V. LIFE IS LARGELY A LIVING UPON HAPPY MEMORIES. AS soon as the Risen One had vanished, they began to compare notes about the burning heart, and all the happy memories of their journey from Jerusalem. And as they plodded in that night through the dark to report their great discovery, they lived upon the happy memory. But, had they only known it, the risen Jesus was in some way making that return journey to Jerusalem too, making for the same upper room, to reveal himself to the disciples, and their fellowship with him might have been repeated. At all events, we need not live on happy memories, but may enjoy Christ's spiritual presence and his escort all through the pilgrimage of life. It is this which will make the present life a heaven, not by anticipation merely, but in actual enjoyment; for fellowship with Christ, even though he be unseen, is the chief element of heaven. May we have the great Escort with us all the way!—R.M.E.
Infallible proofs and inevitable partings.
The Emmaus pilgrims have hardly entered the upper room and reported their interview with Jesus, receiving the intelligence that perplexed Peter has got his perplexity resolved, when, notwithstanding that the doors are barred for fear of the Jews, the Risen One appears in the midst of them, and says, "Peace be unto you!" They are at first terrified at such an advent, seeing that it sets aside the ordinary laws of matter, and shows all precaution unavailing when Jesus is determined to get in. But he soon disabuses their minds and dismisses their troubles. Although he can get through barred doors, he is not a disembodied spirit, but a Person with flesh and bones. This he proceeds to demonstrate to their sense-perceptions. Having given them infallible proofs, he next proceeds to expound the Scriptures in detail to them, just as he had done on the way to Emmaus. On these sure foundations he bases their faith, and sends them forth, commissioned to preach repentance and remission of sins. He concludes his interview with the promise of the Father, for which they were to wait at Jerusalem after his visible ascension. And so he is carried up to heaven from Bethany, and the disciples return to wait at Jerusalem in joy until they receive power from on high. And here we have to notice—
I. THE MESSAGE OF THE RISEN SAVIOUR TO DISTRACTED SOULS IS PEACE. The salutation of the East received new depth and meaning when employed by the risen Saviour, when for the first time he appeared among his assembled disciples. He only could pacify them. He is the same "Peacemaker" still. It is his advent which drives away distractions, and secures a peace which passeth all understanding.
II. THE RISEN JESUS SUPPLIES INFALLIBLE PROOFS OF HIS RESURRECTION TO THE PACIFIED DISCIPLES. When pacified by him, they were then fitted for judgment. To place the proofs before worldly, distracted souls would have been throwing pearls before swine, £ It is before the disciples whose fears have been dispelled that he places the proofs. He urges calm investigation. Here are his hands and feet and side. Handle him, use sense-perception to the utmost. Make out that he has a body, and the same one which was crucified. Their joy at the proofs overpowered them for the moment, so that they could hardly credit it. Then he asked them for meat, and was content to eat before them a piece of a broiled fish. The honeycomb addition is not supported by the best manuscripts, and has been omitted in the Revised Version. The last doubt must depart before such proofs. It is the same Saviour who had been crucified, and he is among them in a body, able to partake of food, and perform all the functions assigned to a body dominated by a healthy spirit. Now, although we cannot see or handle the Risen One, we have yet the evidence of his Resurrection so set before us that only criminal partiality can resist it. Dr. Arnold, so accomplished an historian, declares that there is no fact of history sustained by better evidence. £ If we made sure of impartial and fearful minds to begin with, the infallible proofs would be recognized in their full power.
III. THE RISEN SAVIOUR HELPS HIS SERVANTS TO UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES. We learn from John's account that "he breathed on them," and so conveyed to them the Holy Ghost. Along with the outward exposition, therefore, of the Scripture references to himself, there is given the inward inspiration. It is this which made these men such masters of the sacred oracles so far as they indicate Christ's mission. With opened understandings, with inspired hearts, the once sealed book became an open secret, and the fountain-head of missionary enterprise. And the witnesses need similar enlightenment still. By waiting on the Master prayerfully and studiously we shall obtain the key to interpretation, and have the fairy palaces unlocked for us.
IV. A GOSPEL OF REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS OF A UNIVERSAL CHARACTER IS TO BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME. For Christ comes to make men sorry for their sins, while at the same time they enjoy the sense of their pardon. As risen Saviour, he is the outward Guarantee of our justification from all things from which we could not be justified by the Law of Moses. He was "delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25). And to these benefits all nations are to have access. The proofs of resurrection, the understanding of the Scriptures, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, were with a view to a practical issue in the publication of glad tidings to all nations.
V. POWER IS GUARANTEED IF THEY WAIT PRAYERFULLY AT JERUSALEM. They had got the Spirit as zephyr-breath. They had still to get him in Pentecostal and fiery power. Hence they are encouraged by the Lord to wait for this at Jerusalem, for work without spiritual power would be useless. And they waited, and were made world-conquerors by the gift of power. So ought the Lord's people to wait for power still.
VI. THE ASCENSION WAS THE NECESSARY COMPLEMENT OF RESURRECTION, AND THE GUARANTEE OF ULTIMATE VICTORY. We have already seen reason for believing that, on the day of resurrection, Jesus privately ascended to the Father, reported himself there, and made heaven his head-quarters during "the great forty days." But a public ascension before the assembled disciples was necessary to establish their faith and joy. And so they were permitted to see their beloved Lord ascending, in spite of gravitation, up into the blue heavens, and speeding towards the centre of the universe at the right hand of God. Yet the inevitable separation did not prevent them from returning to Jerusalem with great joy, and continuing there until the Pentecost. They divided their time between the upper room and the temple. They waited in joyful anticipation of the promised power, and they got it in due season. And the Ascension ought to be to all believers a matter of definite experience. It is to this St. Paul refers when he speaks, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, of being "raised up together with Christ, anti made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." There is an ascension-experience as well as a resurrection-experience—an experience in which we feel that we have risen superior to all earthly attractions, and that we, setting our affections, indeed, on things above, are sitting by faith among them with our Lord. It is this ecstatic state which heralds the advent of spiritual power. May it belong to all of us!—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Luke 24". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28