“Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem?” (Luke 24:18) said Cleopas to the unknown traveller, by whom he and his companion were accosted, as they journeyed toward Emmaus, on that eventful first day of the week.
Three days had elapsed since the Lord Jesus had been crucified, and for so long had the sorrowing disciples mourned, not only their loss, but the blighting of all their hopes as to the redemption of the nation of Israel.
On the morning of this day, however, strange things had happened. Certain women had gone early to the sepulchre of their loved Lord in order that they might embalm His body with the spices which they had prepared.
But they found the sepulchre empty. Their Lord was not there. Moreover, they had seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.
Again, certain of the disciples had also gone to the sepulchre, and found that the report of the women was correct; “but Him they saw not.”
These were strange and startling events indeed, and proved themselves such to the two who walked these sixty furlongs that lay between Jerusalem and Emmaus.
And why did they take that road? How came they to leave the place where, of all others, this mystery would certainly be solved? Why abandon the society of their fellow-disciples at such a juncture?
The reason was best known to themselves; and so they moved away with perplexed and heavy hearts until “Jesus drew near, and went with them.”
He had come up from behind; and as He was making for the same point they did not object to His company.
“And He said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”
He remarked upon that sadness as He asked the manner of their conversation. Alas! unbelief was the cause of both. Their reasoning, their sadness, and their weary walk would all have been obviated had they only believed what they had so often heard.
It is always our highest wisdom to believe the word of God. If we fail so to do we only land ourselves in vain reasonings or speculations, and fill our hearts with sadness and depression.
But Cleopas could not understand how that any one could be ignorant of the things that engrossed the minds of all, and so he said, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”
Little did Cleopas know how deeply acquainted this “Stranger” was with these things. The exquisite sequel shows; while their hearts burned how the unknown speaker attracted them, as by a magnet, to the Scriptures which they had unbelievingly overlooked.
At length the disclosure came. “They knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight.”
But that glimpse was enough, as on eagles’ wings they fled back to the place they should never have left, in order to tell their tale of that charming interview, and, as eye-witnesses, to corroborate the fact of Christ’s resurrection. They return, and find the eleven assembled, and are informed by them that “the Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.”
Thus their news is not new. Simon had anticipated them. Had their walk only been shorter they might have forestalled him; but they had to suffer the consequences of their unnecessary departure to Emmaus, and learn that they were not the only eye-witnesses of the risen Lord.
Yet the title, “Stranger in Jerusalem,” applied in ignorance by Cleopas, had a meaning now that he could not conceive. It was only too true that Jesus was a stranger in Jerusalem! He had come to His own, and His own had received Him not, He was Lord of that very temple where thieves, and exchangers of money, and grasping merchants found a place, whilst He had none.
He had come—the Son—seeking fruit from the husbandmen to whom the vineyard had been let out, and was encountered by the unanimous cry, “Come, let us kill Him!”
Verily He was a “Stranger in Jerusalem.” Her rightful Lord was refused, rejected, crucified. He, for whom there was no room in the inn, and who had not where to lay His head, was thrust aside for Barabbas the robber. For His love He had hatred; and how deeply pathetic was His complaint when He said, “O Jerusalem!, Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together … and ye would not!” He had their blessing at heart, but they would none of Him; and hence nought remained but judgment for them, whilst He became morally a stranger in their city. Yet He who is a stranger in Jerusalem seeks to be a resident in the hearts of His people. “If a man love Me,” He declares, “He will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). And this “abode” is but a “dwelling-place.” Or again, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17)—that Christ may be no stranger there, nay, not even a visitor, but a dweller in the heart by that faith which makes His company more real and intelligible than sight or touch.
If He be a stranger in Jerusalem, He seeks an abiding-place in the heart. If He be unknown there, He would be well known, and loved, and enjoyed here. If cruel unbelief prefer a robber, or a Judas, or a world there, faith may bid Him welcome—Him who died to save, and lives to keep, and whose love passeth knowledge.
May He be no “stranger,” no mere visitor, but the rather a constant, welcome Resident in your heart, dear fellow-believer, until you and all His own are in His mansion, His abode, and like Him on high.