George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Road to Emmaus
Two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus--Luk. 24:13
The Most Memorable Appearance of the Risen Christ
Of all the appearances of the risen Christ, none has a stronger hold upon Christendom than the one along the road to Emmaus. It has brought light to many darkened hearts, and comfort to innumerable souls. Christ revealed Himself to Mary in the garden, and that will always be precious to the Church. He revealed Himself to the eleven, and to Thomas, and to Peter and John beside the sea of Galilee. But this meeting on the Emmaus road, with its revelation of the living Savior, is engraven on the universal heart.
Who these two were we cannot tell. We know nothing about them except the name of one of them. And we are not at liberty to associate that name Cleophas with the Klopas who is mentioned in the Gospels. That they were not of the eleven disciples is certain, for it was to the eleven that they hurried with their news. They were clearly on intimate terms with the apostles, for they knew where they lodged when they went straight to them. But beyond that we know nothing of the men, neither their story in the days before the cross, nor yet their service in the coming years when the Holy Ghost was given at Pentecost. They were in no sense distinguished persons. They were not outstanding in their zeal or love. They occupied no place of proud preeminence among those who had been followers of the Lord. And I take it as characteristic of the Lord that in the glory of His resurrection life He gave Himself with such fulness of disclosure to those unknown and undistinguished men. It reminds one vividly of that earlier hour when He had talked with the woman of Samaria. She too was nameless, and utterly obscure, yet with her He lingered in the richest converse. And now the cross has come, and He has died and risen, yet being risen He is still unchanged, for He still reveals Himself to lowly hearts. Here is the Savior for the common man. Here is the Lord who does not spurn the humble. Here is the Master of all those obscure lives that are yet precious in the sight of heaven. Had these two travelers been John and Peter, we might have hesitated to take home their rich experience, but being what they were, they are our brothers.
The Two Travelers Were without Hope
First then let us try to understand the state of mind of these two travelers. And in the first place this is notable, that these two travelers had lost their hopes. There was a time, not so long ago, when their hopes had been burning brightly like a star. They trusted this was He who should redeem Israel--that was the glowing conviction of their hearts. And as they followed Jesus in His public ministry, and saw His miracles, and heard His words, brighter and even brighter grew the hope that this was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Even the cross itself had not dispelled their hopes, for they remembered that He had talked of that. They remembered that He had said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." But now the third day's sun was near to setting, and darkness was soon to fall upon the world, and a great darkness, heavier than sunset, was beginning to cast its shadow on their hearts. It was true that some women had come hurrying in, bearing the tidings that the tomb was empty. But it was one thing to be told the tomb was empty, and quite another to believe that Christ was risen. And even the women had confessed, when questioned, that they had not seen the Lord Himself, but only an empty grave, and the stone rolled away, and certain mysterious shapes they took for angels. Clearly, then, their Master had not risen. He was still sleeping somewhere beneath the Syrian sky. They would never see Him again, nor hear His words, nor follow Him through any village street. And so that evening, journeying to Emmaus, they were men convinced that they had lost their Lord, and having lost Him they had lost their hopes. Are there any today who are like these men? Any who have lost their hope in Christ? Any to whom Christ was very real once, and who now have a "name to live and yet are dead"? My brother and sister, if that be your condition--if once you had a hope that now is dimmed--you are like these two journeying to Emmaus.
They Were without Joy
Then in the next place this is notable, that these two travelers had lost their gladness. "What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another," said Jesus to them, "as ye walk and are sad?" Sometimes, as we pass along the streets, we meet a face of unutterable sadness. Sorrow is stamped on every lineament of it, all the more tragic because a smile is there. And when we see it, amid the crowd of faces that bear no trace of any great experience, it haunts us so that is it long ere we forget it. Now that is what our Lord seems to have noticed, graven deep upon the faces of these travelers. "What are ye talking about," He said to them, "as ye walk together and are sad?" The utter absence of joy upon their faces--the look of melancholy and of sorrow--touched at once His tender loving heart. And can you wonder that their looks were sad, when all that brightened life for them was gone? A hopeless heart may be a very brave heart, but I never heard that it was a merry heart. So these two disciples, having lost their hopes, had lost that gladness which is the child of hope, and as they walked together they were sad.
So long as Jesus Christ had been alive, there had been a great gladness in their hearts. Only to see Him had been like music to them, as it always is with anyone we love. That they had had their troubles just like other people, is only to say that they were human. Perhaps they were farmers struggling with short harvests, or fishermen who had often toiled and had caught nothing. But this was certain, that in Jesus' company their deepest experience was a great gladness, a joy that they never could quite fathom, and yet which they knew to be intensely real. Always in His society there was delight. There was a feeling of peace and of security. When He was with them all their care and worry took to itself wings and fled away. But now their Lord has passed beyond their ken, and it was like the passing of the sunshine for them, and as they walked together they were sad. Now sadness is of many kinds. There is the sadness which the exile feels when he is far away from home and kindred, and when in the thronging of the crowd around him he catches no glimpse of a familiar face. There is the sadness which the aged feel, when they remember happy days now gone forever; and there is the sadness of the open grave. All these are elements of our mortality, but there is a spiritual sadness different from these, and the cause of it is an absent Lord. When in prayer the heavens seem as brass, when the Bible loses its fragrance and its dew, when spiritual books begin to pall on us, when the services of the House of God become a weariness, then is the heart of the true disciple sad. Then does one feel as if Jesus had not risen, and as if all one's hopes in Him had been a mockery. Then do men cry the exceeding bitter cry, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." And should there be any of God's children who are suffering from such spiritual desertion, I beg of them to remember that their frame of heart is like that of the two journeying to Emmaus.
They Were Not without Desire
But there is one thing more that is notable, and it is this, that these two had lost none of their desire. They had lost their hope and they had lost their gladness, but they had lost none of their desire. That afternoon, walking to Emmaus, their talk was all of the Lord Jesus Christ. And from a hint in the original, we learn that their talk was animated, intense, and eager. They were talking loudly, as Orientals do, and the words were being flung one to the other, for out of the fulness of the heart the mouth was speaking. Someone has said, and there is truth in it, that our friends are never really ours till we have lost them. Only then, undimmed and unobscured, does the vision of them arise within our hearts. And as it is with those whom we have loved, and who have left us and passed into the shadow, so was it with these disciples and their Lord. They never understood how much they needed Him until the day when they thought that He was gone. They never understood how much they loved Him, till the shadow of parting had fallen on their love. But now they knew it, and so, that dreary day, their talk as they journeyed was all of Jesus Christ, and the deepest desire of their hearts was this: Oh that I knew where I might find Him! Are there any reading these words who in the secret of their souls are saying that? Careless and prayerless, backsliding and worldly, are you coming to feel you cannot live without Him? If so--if as the hart for the water-brooks, unsatisfied, you thirst for the living God--remember you have a kinship with these two.
Christ Showed Them the Supreme Necessity of His Death
In the first place, then, and passing by minor matters, He showed them the supreme necessity of His death. "Ought not Christ," He said, "to have suffered these things, that so He might enter into glory?" We may take it for certain that these two disciples had never really grasped the need that Christ should die. They had shared in the common hope that He would reign, and it was a throne they were dreaming of and not a cross. If any dark surmising had arisen in them, stirred by the mysterious words of Jesus, they had crushed them as something too terrible to contemplate. That He whom they loved should die a felon's death was something too awful to believe. And when it happened--there, before their eyes--it seemed a hideous and irreparable calamity. It was as if there had been some mistake in heaven; as if the will of the Eternal had been battled; as if powers were abroad defying the Messiah, and hurrying His triumph into tragedy. And then Christ met them, and spoke about His death, and they learned that the crucifixion was no accident. It was no longer the greatest of calamities; it became the greatest of necessities. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? And they saw its moral and spiritual grandeur; and it dawned upon them that the cross they loathed was something more wonderful than any crown. It was then that their hearts began to burn within them, and the light to break upon their darkened souls. And everything looked different to them now when they saw the meaning of the death of Jesus. And I venture to say that it is always so with hearts that are hungering for the living God--the primary step towards fellowship and peace is to come face to face with the death of Jesus Christ. That I am a sinner and cannot save myself--that God has provided an all-sufficient Savior--that He has died for me, and that I die in Him, and through His death I can reach up to heaven again--all this, so simple that a child can grasp it, and yet so deep that angels cannot fathom it, is the basis of our peace with God. Think not to comprehend all that it means. The deepest we can never comprehend. Call it a substitution if you will--call it an atonement, call it anything. The vital thing is not what you may call it; the vital thing is to grasp it and to feel it, and feeling it to find that in the blood of Christ there is peace of conscience and fellowship with God.
Christ Opened Their Eyes and Hearts to the Scriptures
Then the next step our Savior took was to lead them back to the Word of God again. "Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." We know from the Gospels how Christ had loved the Scripture in the days of His ministry before the cross. We know how He used it when He was tempted, and how He preached from it in the synagogue of Nazareth. And it is a sign to us that He is still the same, though He has passed into the resurrection glory, that He still goes back to the old familiar Scripture which He had learned beside His mother's knee. It is a singular thing that, after He was risen, Christ is never mentioned to have appeared to His mother even once. The name of Mary is never mentioned once in the forty days of our Savior's resurrection. But I sometimes think that when she heard these two rehearsing all that He had taught them from the Scripture, she would have her own sweet secret memories of the old home, and would be quietly certain she was not forgotten. Had these two travelers, then, been neglecting their Bibles? I do not think that that is the least likely. Probably they knew Moses and the prophets far better than any of us. But I want you to think what Scripture must have meant to them in all manner of unexpected depth and fulness, when the Interpreter of it was the Lord Jesus Christ. You and I may have listened to some saintly preacher drawing out the inner meaning of God's Word. And as we did so, our hearts burned within us, and we saw what we had never seen before. And if that be so with an erring, sinful minister, I want you to try to think what it must have been when the risen Son of God handled the Scripture, and showed these two the meaning of it all. Once again they heard of the Paschal Lamb, and of the Brazen Serpent in the wilderness, and of the smitten shepherd in Zechariah, and of the suffering servant in Isaiah. But hearing it all interpreted by Christ, the Bible became a living book to them, and in the hour when it became a living book, they found that Christ Himself was by their side. Once more do I venture to suggest that it is always so in the experience of the soul. One of the surest signs that Christ is nigh is when He makes the Bible live again. It is a living Christ who makes a living Scripture, and when He is going to reveal Himself to us, passages that we have known since we were children begin once more to live and burn for us. If Christ be absent, then all the lore of ages will never make the Word a living book. If Christ be dead for us, in heart and conscience, then is the Bible always a dead book. But when old texts take a strange grip of us, when they haunt us through the market and the street, when we cannot silence some gracious invitation, when we cannot shake off some oracle of warning, when promises come like music to our ear in days of despondency or hours of peril, when some great text that we have long ignored reaches out its loving hands to us, I say that when that happens to a man, the risen Savior is not far away. That was what the two disciples found. The Bible became a living book to them. And their hearts burned within them as they heard again the echo of the old familiar passages. And it all meant that He whom they thought vanished was not vanished but at their very side, though their eyes were holden, and they did not know Him.
Christ Revealed Himself in the Breaking of the Bread
And then He revealed Himself in the breaking of the bread, and it seems like an anti-climax, does it not? After all this marshaled preparation, shall we not look for something far more glorious? We shall have some vision that will strike the sense? We shall have some flash of glory on the eye? "And He revealed Himself in the breaking of the bread." It was in no sense a sacramental meal, as we use that word sacrament in our theology. It was a frugal supper in a village home of two tired travelers, and another. Yet it was then--in the breaking of the bread, and not in any vision of resurrection splendor--that they knew that their companion was the Lord. How that discovery flashed upon their hearts, the Bible, so wonderful in its silences, does not tell. It may have been the quiet air of majesty with which He took at once the place of host, when they had invited Him in to be their guest. It may have been the familiar word of blessing that awakened sweet memories of Galilean days. Or it may have been that as He put forth His hand after the blessing to take the bread and break it, they saw that it was a hand which had been pierced. However it was, whether by word or hand, they felt irresistibly that this was He. Some little action, some dear familiar trait, told them in a flash this was the Christ. Not in some vision of resurrection glory, but in some characteristic movement of the fingers, maybe, they recognized that they found their Lord. In daily life we are always meeting that--the revelation of the insignificant. A certain trick of speech--a tone, a look--and someone whom we have lost is at our side again. And so when a man has spiritually lost his Savior, and is being restored to the joy of his first love, it is often so that the Lord reveals Himself. Our commonest mercies come to gleam on us as the most wonderful of all created things. Our sicknesses, our trials, our disappointments, are all transfigured with a Father's love. Until at last though we have seen no vision, and have only had common meals and common mercies, we too are thrilled and say, "It is the Lord." When that deep certainty once fills a man it seems as if nothing else could ever matter. When that deep certainty once fills a man, in a real sense for him to live is Christ. When that deep certainty once fills a man, he will hurry like these two disciples to Jerusalem, and tell out, though he may not say a word, that he has seen the Lord.
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