From Sadness to Great Joy

Notes of an Address on Luke 24:15-53

I suppose we are all familiar with this beautiful Scripture. I think we agree that of all the chapters in the Gospels, with perhaps the exception of the crucifixion chapters, none can interest us more than the resurrection chapters. Here were two of the Lord's disciples, and as they walked together to their home they were sad, so that the Lord said to them, "What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?" At the end of the chapter we find them in a very different state of mind; they were filled with great joy, praising and blessing God in the temple, and yet when the Lord joins Himself to them they were sad. Why were they sad?

Why are we sad? There are many things to make us sad in these days. When we think of men made in the likeness and image of God only living to destroy one another, of nations, down-trodden and terrorized over, of all the destruction, the bloodshed, the sorrow and bereavement in the world, we might well be sad. We should have hard and unchristian hearts if we were not saddened as we think of all these things. Yet while on the one hand we may be sorrowing, on the other hand are we not rejoicing? The Apostle Paul spoke of being sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Sorrowful as he thought of the sin of the world, of the rebellion of man against God and the rejection of God's grace and mercy in our Lord Jesus Christ, but rejoicing because he had no doubt that God would triumph in the end; that God's glory would fill the earth; that the rebellion of man would be crushed and peace established. How do we know that this will come to pass? God has given us assurance of it in that He has raised up Christ from the dead. So here is a great fact that should make us rejoice, that should fill us with confidence and with hope, so that the sadness that we have in regard to the state of things in the world is more than balanced by the joy that we have in the knowledge of God's coming mighty triumph.

Here were these two disciples, and as they walked they were sad. Was it not a wonderful thing that Jesus joined Himself to their company? One thing strikes me and that is the grace that was in the heart of the Lord Jesus. As we read the story of His words and ways from the earlier chapters of the Gospel we have to confess that the Lord is gracious. No kind of need ever came into His presence without it being met, and met so graciously that they were blessed by the way He imparted it to them. We need to read the Gospels with that end in view — that we might see that the Lord is gracious; not only in the great blessing He bestows, but in the very way in which He bestows the blessing. He joins Himself to these two sad disciples. They had turned their backs upon Jerusalem. They had decided between themselves that it was no longer any use attempting to stand for the One they had followed. Everything had failed. He whom they supposed was to redeem Israel had been crucified like the worst of criminals; they thought that was the end and so they had lost hope. But it was not that they had expected too much of the Lord Jesus — they did not expect enough.

He joins Himself to them. He might have gone to Jerusalem and convinced the leaders of the people that He was indeed the Christ; He might have gone to Pilate and convinced him that he had crucified an innocent Person; but he did neither of these things. There were those two disheartened disciples who had lost their faith, turning their backs upon the place where He would meet His own, and His heart went out in sympathy and pity towards them; so He joins Himself to their company. Are you sad? Are you full of anxiety? The Lord knows that, He wants to make His presence a great reality to you, and you know the presence of the Lord Jesus, His company, will change everything for you. In answer to His question, they explain that they had followed Jesus of Nazareth and thought He was the One who was to redeem Israel; instead He had been crucified. But He will redeem Israel. They thought the highest glory He could attain to was the throne of David. They would have been satisfied to see Him sitting upon David's throne, but oh, the Father had something greater than that for Him. David's throne at that time was not sufficient glory; He was to enter into His own glory. What a wonderful day when He destroyed the power of death and the dominion of the devil. There was only one place for Him when He came forth victorious from the grave — the highest place in heaven at the Father's right hand.

The secret then comes out; "O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" And opening up to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, their hearts burned within them. They had their favourite texts and had dwelt upon them and had not taken in all the Scriptures: they had not realised that He was the theme of the Scriptures. If we realise that, we shall pay greater attention to them; we shall read them more constantly and not have our favourite texts. As He talked with them they were gladdened and warmed by the words He spoke, although they did not know who He was. He was talking about the right Person and they loved Him, and their hearts were moved as the Scriptures were opened to them, so that although they did not know Him, He assumed His right place in their thoughts. Everything begins there. If we would know the Lord in the various ways in which He is presented to us we must begin with our own individual thoughts of Him — individual hearts first of all. It is not a bit of use talking about our service for the Lord, if our own hearts are cold and icy towards Him. The first thing then is the individual heart warmed, as the hearts of these two were warmed. "Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked with us by the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures? If our hearts are not burning hearts then we had better get down before the Lord and ask Him to warm them.

They reached their own home. "And He made as though He would have gone further." We get as much of the Lord's company as we desire, and if He is to stay with us we must constrain Him. These two disciples constrained Him and He entered their house and abode with them. First He put them right in regard to Himself, individually, and then He took His place in their home: He was Lord there. It is the only place He can take. has the Lord the first place in our homes? We will gladly give Him His true place in our domestic circle if He is Lord in our individual hearts. They supposed that He was their guest, but as a matter of fact they were His guests. He took bread, and blessed it and handed it to them. There was in that village of Emmaus one home at least that recognised Him as Lord. We may only have a small cottage, perhaps only one room, but what a wonderful thing to be able to say, "Within the four walls of this room the Lord has His true place." That means that while we wait for His kingdom to come we have yielded what little space we have in the world to Him. The great kingdoms of the earth do not acknowledge Him. In the vast majority of homes He has no place at all. But we say, "Lord, come into my home; this little space over which I have the right shall be yielded to Thee, and here Thou shalt be supreme." Well, He will take that place if we yield it to Him, and what is the use of praying, "Thy kingdom come," if we do not acknowledge Him as Lord in our own little sphere.

He was made known to them; their eyes were opened in the breaking of bread, and then He vanished out of their sight. He gave them His presence in their home when they were there, and now He wants to draw them into His circle. The Lord will take His place in our circle if we will let Him, and He has His circle, and His circle is greater than ours. He said to the Church at Laodicea, " 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." In "supping with him" He goes into that man's circle; "and he with Me," He draws them into His own circle. What a wonderful thing it is that the Lord has opened wide the door of His own circle and invites us to have a place there. Blessed indeed it is to have Him in our circle, interested in our things, but far more wonderful it is that He should invite us to His table, far more wonderful that we should have our place in His circle.

So now they arise and start back to Jerusalem. They knew where the Lord was, they knew where He would have them. They know where the disciples are and they find them gathered together, saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon." What thrilling news, how glad their hearts must have been! The Lord is risen indeed! Do we know we have such a triumphant Saviour? What is the greatest power which men know? Death! Death brings to an end all man's devices, his ambitions are silenced by his open grave. Death is master where sin is, but our Saviour, our Lord Jesus, has triumphed over the power of death. We belong to Him; He has called us His; He has bound up our fortunes with His and we have our place in relation to Him and God, in His grace, has identified us with the name and fortune of Christ. We pray for our land, for the British Empire, but our fortunes are not bound up with the British Empire; our fortunes are bound up with Christ's universal empire. The Lord is risen indeed! If they had stopped there I am certain they would have said, "Yes, the Lord is risen indeed, and we lost all faith in Him and when we saw Him taken by His enemies we were afraid, we had no courage and we were very faithless. Now He will choose other men who will be more faithful than we have been." But they added "and has appeared to Simon." Simon who had denied his Lord with oaths and curses and who had not the courage to confess his Lord — Simon the backslider. He not only went after those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, but He went to Simon Peter. Peter was his converted name; Simon was his unconverted name. Doesn't that reveal to us the grace that is in the heart of the Lord. He had gone after the most failing of His disciples; He had sought the one who had treated Him the worst, in spite of all his protestations of faithfulness to the Lord. We are not told what happened; the interview is not recorded for us, and a sacred interview it must have been; but the fact is recorded that on that resurrection day, before coming in the midst of His own gathered together, He had gone after Simon in forgiving mercy. "The Lord is risen," — that was His power; "and has appeared to Simon" — that was His grace. He revealed Himself to the backslidden heart, to restore that heart to communion with Himself.

"And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them," and there He was surrounded by the company of disciples who were His own and whom He never ceased to love. There was the nucleus of His kingdom, for the beginning of His Church on earth over 1,900 years ago. That company has been extended and God has been working, spreading the fame of the Lord Jesus, and that company, begun on the resurrection day, abides to this day, and you, Christian, are part of it. If we have given the Lord His place in our hearts we will not assert ourselves in His circle, but that is just what has happened in the history of the Church, and so the Lord's people have been divided into sects and schisms. Oh! to give the Lord His proper place! They were afraid and thought they had seen a spirit, and He showed them His hands and feet. "It is I myself; handle me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." That body went to glory. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily today, and the day is coming when we shall see Him as He is. Dear Christian, the Lord is a living Man in heaven; not a spirit — a living Man in heaven. You supposed all Christians knew that? They don't! I remember listening to a rather eccentric brother preaching the Word, and I suppose he said, not less than 100 times, "The Lord is a real living Man in heaven; He is not a spirit, He is a real living Man in heaven." I wondered why he kept repeating that; for surely we all knew it well enough. When the meeting was over, a man senior to myself said, "It is the first time I ever knew the Lord is a real living Man in heaven, I always thought He was a spirit." He is a real living Man in heaven and He has a heart that beats in sympathy towards His own in this world. He has entered into our trials and difficulties, He has passed through them Himself. What a blessed thing it is to know that the Man Christ Jesus is worthy to sit on the throne of God. We know that He is God, but His Manhood was just as perfect as His Godhead.

Well, there He stood in the midst of them and He showed them His hands and feet, the evidence of His love, the love that carried Him to death for us. So I believe when we gather to remember Him it is as though the Lord is showing us afresh His hands and feet, and saying, "It is I myself." Oh, that we may lay hold of that — that it is His own circle in which He stands supreme and He invites us to join Him. And there, gathered together in this way, He begins by opening their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." When we read the Old Testament we see these great facts set forth in type and prophecy and our hearts are greatly blessed as we see Christ thus. He was to suffer and rise again on the third day. With what end in view? That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations. What a revelation of the heart of God to a rebel world. The way has been opened up so that the nations, in turning to God, would meet a pardoning God. Repentance means turn right about face, and when a sinner turns he comes face to face with God, and the God with whom becomes face to face is a God whose heart is full of pardoning grace. He finds His delight in forgiving. Do you remember the day when you met God like that? Let your mind travel back to the happy day when Jesus washed your sins away, when you came face to face with God and found He was a pardoning God. There we have, from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ in resurrection, the object for which He suffered and rose again from the dead — "That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name."

It is very well to keep in mind that it is to be done in His name. When we speak to souls of Christ we should speak as His representatives. He came into the world; "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself," and if we are to speak at all of the Saviour we do so as representatives of Him. How the grace of our God is unveiled! They had to start in Jerusalem itself. The Lord revealed Himself to the disciple that had sinned the most; the Gospel had to go to the city that had sinned the most, the city where He had been crucified. There was forgiveness for that city, and for the worst men in that city. If the worst can be forgiven, then, you see, none ever need despair. So the Lord instructs them; how their hearts must have been overjoyed and blessed as they listened to His words. We have in the first chapter of Acts the last words they hear from His lips: "Ye shall be witnesses to me, … to the uttermost part of the earth." Then He says, "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high." Do not attempt to speak for Me until the Spirit of God comes, for the work of God can only be done by the Spirit of God; the Spirit of God is the only power in this world for God, and if we attempt to serve Him in our own strength, the result will be disaster. I do not suppose Satan cares two straws about a man preaching the Gospel if he is doing it in his own strength and wisdom. So He told them of the only power that can carry them through and enable them to serve the Lord rightly; that is why 3,000 were converted on the day of Pentecost.

As He talked to them, He lifted His hands in blessing over them and while He was so doing He ascended into heaven and a cloud received Him out of their sight. The last sight of Him they had was with His hands uplifted in blessing. Although the Lord has gone to the highest and most glorious place in the universe of God, He is there as our great High Priest; He has not forgotten us; He ever lives to make intercession for us. As we go through the chapter we see these three things: His greatness, His glory, and His grace, and nothing will lift our hearts above the clouds that are growing darker and darker in this world, but the sense of what Christ is; we need a new vision of Christ; we need to have His glory set before our souls by the Spirit of God and then we shall be filled, as were the disciples, with great joy, praising and blessing God. What a change from the sadness at the beginning of the story!

That joy is within our reach — the Lord will give it to us, so that while we are sorrowful because of the state of things in the world, we may rejoice in the Lord, and the Word says, "Again I say rejoice." The Lord grant that everyone of us may have that joy, for His name's sake.