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George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons

Devotional For

July 18

      The Ascension
      Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have .... And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?--Luk. 24:39-41
      Why Forty Resurrection Days?
      Ten appearances of the risen Lord are recorded in the New Testament, and of these no fewer than five occurred on the day of resurrection. Of the ten appearances Luke narrates three--(1) that to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luk. 24:13-35); (2) that to the ten apostles and others (Luk. 24:36-49); (3) that on the occasion of the Ascension (Luk. 24:50-51), separated by an interval of days from the preceding one, though we might not gather that from a hasty reading of the chapter. Let us remember, too, that from resurrection to ascension there elapsed a period of forty days, and let us recall how often a like period had figured in the story of the Bible. For forty days Moses was on the Mount, preparing for his deliverance of the law. For forty days Elijah was in the wilderness before he came forth for his great work in Israel. For forty days Jesus Himself was in the desert, at the beginning of His public ministry. May it not be that these forty resurrection days were a preface to that glorious ministry in heaven, which Jesus is to carry on forevermore?
      They Believed Not for Joy
      The disciples then were gathered together, probably in that very upper chamber which was now hallowed with all manner of blessed memory, when Jesus (though the doors were shut for fear of the Jews) appeared in their midst and said, "Peace be unto you." One marks the suddenness of Christ's procedure now. He had suddenly left the two disciples at Emmaus. He suddenly stands amid the ten disciples here. In the action and movement of the risen Jesus there is an unexpected and arresting swiftness that we do not find in the days before the cross. The disciples were scared (for the Greek word means that). It was Jesus, but so altered that He seemed a spirit. And once again we can do nothing but marvel at the timely and wise compassion of the Lord. He did not rebuke them--He knew that they were dust. He bade them touch Him and look at His hands and feet, and handle Him. It was only to a worshipping and adoring Mary that He could say, "Touch me not (thy faith hath made thee whole), for I ascend unto the Father." They touched Him, and never forgot that touch. One touch of a hand will alter a life sometimes. I think that John was living this hour again when long years afterwards he began his priceless letter by speaking of what our hands have handled of the Word of Life (1Jo. 1:1). Then a great joy, like a tide, swept over them. And they could not believe, they were so glad. Not long ago Christ found them sleeping for sorrow (Luk. 22:45), and now He found them disbelieving for joy. Do not forget, then, that joy can hinder faith. It may be as great a foe to faith as sorrow sometimes is. There was no door to shut or open here, as there was with little Rhoda in the Acts; yet when Rhoda opened not the gate for gladness (Act. 12:14), she was like the ten, who believed not for joy.
      That One Hour
      But Jesus is very tender with such unbelief, for it is as if the sunshine (and not sin) were blinding men. He called for food, and they gave Him a piece of fish. Jerusalem was always well supplied with that. And I dare say the two who had walked with Him to Emmaus, thought He would break it, and suddenly disappear. But "God fulfills Himself in many ways," and Christ had other purposes to serve. He took it, and did eat before them. Who of them now could say this was a spirit? Once many had believed (on the hillside) when Christ made others eat. Now they believed because He Himself ate. Then Jesus led them into the heart of Scripture. He went back to the law and the prophets and the psalms. He read that old story in the light of all that happened till their hearts burned and glowed at the interpretation. Can you wonder that in the Book of Acts the disciples should be so mighty in the Word? A single hour will sometimes teach us more than the dull strivings of half a score of years. And in that one hour, in the upper chamber with Christ, Scripture became a new book to the disciples. Never forget how earnestly and constantly our Lord appealed to the testimony of the Word. Jesus dwelt deep in history and Psalm and prophecy. There never was such a student of the Scripture. He used it as His weapon in the desert. He confuted His enemies with their own sacred books. He found His solace in it. He read His mission there. He went back to its deep words when hanging on Calvary. He taught it more urgently than ever when He rose. The Bible was full of authority and power for a Savior who had risen from the dead.
      A Fitting Departure
      Then when the forty days were over, and the closing counsels and commissions had been given, Christ led His disciples through the streets of Jerusalem, and over Kedron, and past the shadows of Gethsemane. I think the little company were all silent; their hearts were too full of memories for speech. Then they passed out to the upland ground near Bethany, and Jesus lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And while He blessed them, a cloud gathered, and parted them, and Jesus was carried up into heaven. How simple and how reserved is the whole scene! There is no chariot of fire; no sound of music. It was a fitting departure of One who would not strive nor cry, and who had come down on the mown grass gently as the rain. And did the disciples sorrow or lament? They returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luk. 24:52). Christ had not left them; He would be with them still. Their Lord and they would never be parted again. A little before, they could not believe for joy. Now they were joyful just because they believed.

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