George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Intrusiveness of Christ
When the doors were shut...for fear of the Jews, came Jesus--Joh 20:19
A Time of Conflicting Emotions
This was a very memorable Sunday evening, one of the most memorable that history has known. The grave was empty; Christ Jesus had arisen, and slowly the glad truth was reaching the disciples. First had come the tidings of Mary Magdalene, then the thrilling experience of Peter, and now the two travelers to Emmaus had come in and had just finished telling what had befallen them. Can we not imagine what a conflict of emotions surged and throbbed in the disciples' hearts? Some believed instantly; some could not crush their doubt; some passed in swift alternation through glory and despair. And it was then when the doors were shut for fear of the Jews, that Jesus came and stood in the midst of them. How exquisitely fitting was His first word, "Peace!" Peace was the very thing which they lacked that evening. We may always trust Christ, in His unerring tact, to say the right word at the right moment.
But the words I ask you especially to consider are these: "when the doors were shut for fear of the Jews." They suggest to me two lines of thought which I shall ask you to follow for a little. The first is, we may close the doors on Christ unwittingly. The second is, though we close the doors on Christ, we do not shut Him out. May God grant us His guidance as we proceed.
We May Close the Doors on Christ Unwittingly
First, then, we may close the doors on Christ unwittingly; that, you see, is what the disciples did. When they shut and locked the doors of the upper chamber, they never meant to bar them against Jesus. They were afraid of the Jews, the Gospel frankly tells us--and there are few books so frank as the Bible is. They had not been born yet into the heroism of Pentecost; they had not been baptized with the Spirit of fearlessness. Had they heard the trampling of Jewish feet upon the stairs and the beating of Jewish staves upon the door, I daresay they would have thought that all was lost. So they made fast the door for fear of the Jews. That was their only object when they barred it. Yet you and I, reading the story together, detect that they were doing more than they imagined, for unwittingly they closed the door on Christ.
Now there is a lesson in that thought on which you and I do well to ponder. It is that we may close the door on all that is best and worthiest, and yet we can honestly say we never meant to do it. I do not think there are many who have deliberately resolved to shut out Christ. This is an age of such uncertainty that most men are too uncertain even to be skeptics. But there are doors we may close, never thinking of Christ Jesus; there are lines of conduct in common life we may pursue, and we never dream that we are raising barriers between ourselves and the highest and the best. But in the end of the day for us, as for the disciples, it will be found that we have done more than we imagined--we have closed the door unwittingly on Christ.
Many of you will remember the experience of Mr. Darwin which with his customary truthfulness he has chronicled. He tells us that through years of absorption in science, he lost the power of appreciating Shakespeare. He had no quarrel with Shakespeare--how could he have? He knew that he stood peerless and unparalleled. But Darwin for years had given heart and brain, with magnificent persistency, to certain studies. Every power had been riveted and every faculty absorbed in the enthusiastic search for certain truths--and then, when he came back to Shakespeare once again, with kindling memories of how he had loved him once, he had closed the door unwittingly on Shakespeare. It is a comparatively small matter when Shakespeare is concerned. It is supremely important when it is Jesus Christ. It may even be worthwhile sometimes to close the door on Shakespeare. But to close it on Christ is always a tragic thing. I beseech you, see that you are not living and acting as the disciples did upon that Lord's day evening when for fear of the Jews they shut the door, and unwittingly closed it on their Lord.
Friendships and Choices May Shut the Door on Christ
There are many ways in which men commit this error. Think for example of the formation of friendships. Many a young man is ruined by his enemies, but more young men are ruined by their friends. It is amazing how easily some people form their friendships, how they make them on the line of least resistance, how they fail to realize what is implied in that mystical and mighty name of friend. So friendships are lightly and improvidently made, and slowly and secretly character degenerates; until at last that friendship (unworthy of the name), begun in the comradeship of some light-hearted hour, closes the door on a hundred noble things, and among them on the beauty of Christ Jesus. Or think again of the choices that we make--and we exercise our noblest prerogative in choosing. Every morning that we rise and every day that we go forth, our choices make us or our choices mar us. Someday a choice more momentous than usual comes. We are face to face with one of life's great decisions. And we have not been living on high levels, and so we choose amiss, for a man's whole life is in every choice he makes. Then the days pass, and the issues show themselves, and the choice works itself out in life and character, and a hundred glorious things are tarnished and are tainted as the result of one disastrous choice. We never meant to shut out power and purity, but they have receded into the dim distance ever since. We never thought to grow heart-weary and world-weary, but that may follow from one mismanaged choosing. Like the disciples beset by some poor fear, unwittingly we have closed the door on Christ.
Levity Can Close the Door on Christ
But perhaps the commonest of all causes of this great error lies in the spirit that will not take things seriously. I would never ask a young man or woman to be solemn, but I would always urge a young man or woman to be serious. We read the parable of the marriage feast, and we note how the invited guests made light of it. Do you think these guests had been serious and earnest men up to the hour when they received that invitation? God does not tamper with character like that. No man begins to be frivolous by mocking kings. When they were children they had made light of home and had thought little of a mother's love; when they were youths they had made light of purity, for they thought that to be immoral was a manly thing. Now comes the invitation of the king, the crowning and decisive moment of their lives, and in that moment all their past is concentrated, and Scripture tells us they made light of that. One thing is certain, they never meant to do it. They never thought that it would come to this. Thoughtlessly they closed the door on reverent feeling, on devoutness and on chivalry and on purity. But the curse of such levity is that it involves far more than we shall ever know till the years have unrolled their story. In tampering with the least we touch the greatest. We begin by closing the door on little decencies, and unwittingly we close the door on Christ.
Though We Close the Doors on Christ, We Do Not Shut Him Out
But now I pass on (and I do so very gladly) to the second and evangelical message of our text. That message is, though we close the doors on Christ yet we do not shut Him out. That night in Jerusalem the disciples found it so. Suddenly, though every lock was turned, Christ was among them. They had closed the door on Him not knowing what they did, yet for all that they did not shut Him out.
In studying the life of Christ on earth I have often been struck with that note of the inevitable. Men tried to escape Him--adjured Him to depart--yet though all the doors were shut, Jesus confronted them. I think of the Gadarene demoniac in the tombs. He was an object of terror so that all men fled from him. He had shut out his nearest and dearest by his wildness, but for all his wildness he could not shut out the Lord. "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God--art thou come hither to torment us before our time?" He could escape from his chains; he could not escape from Jesus. Lo! he is sitting clothed and in his right mind.
For the Jews, Christ Was Unavoidable
Or I think of Christ in relation to Jewish history, and I feel once again that He was unavoidable. For the whole struggle of scribes and Pharisees and priests was to close the door on Christ and keep Him out. They refused to acknowledge Him and they would make no place for Him; He was a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber; not this man but Barabbas! Everything that malevolence could do was done; everything that spite could suggest was swiftly practiced to discredit the name and sully the reputation of this prophet who mourned with tears over Jerusalem. Did it succeed? Was the door really shut? Was Christ barred out from the destinies of Judaism? Ah, sirs, every page of Jewish story reveals the futility of that endeavor. The most potent influence in Judaism is Christ Jesus. He has determined its fortunes and its fall. He is inextricably blended with its blood and anguish. He is the daystar of its only hope. They closed the door on Him--beat Him off--said He is done with now: but for all that they could not shut Him out.
You May Shut the Door, but Christ Can Still Reach You
If that was true in history I want you to believe that it is true now. For weal or woe, whatever walls you raise, Christ passes through them all and gets to you. There are deeds that we did long since, perhaps twenty years ago, but to this hour unexpectedly they rise and meet us. There were moments of exquisite happiness in our past, and even today their memory is like music. You cannot shut out the thought of intense hours; no change of years will prevent them winning through. And like the ineffaceable memory of such scenes is the presence and the beauty of the Lord. Christ is inevitable. Christ is unavoidable. I want that thought to sink into your hearts. Close every door against Him if you will; the mystery is that you do not shut Him out.
To Avoid Christ Is an Impossibility.
Sometimes He comes through the closed door just because all life is penetrated with Him. We talk of the Christian atmosphere we breathe, but the atmosphere is more than Christian, it is Christ. This is the Lord's day--who then is this Lord? We may have closed the door on Him, but He is here. We cannot date one letter in the morning but we mean that so many years ago Christ was born. He meets us at every turn of the road, in every newspaper, and in every problem. Our life is so interpenetrated with Christ Jesus that to avoid Him is an impossibility.
We Meet Christ through a Genuine Christian
Sometimes He meets us in a noble character, in a man who is a living argument for religion. And though we have resolved to have nothing to do with Christ, yet we feel in a moment that Christ is by our side. Creeds may mean nothing to us; we may have left off church-going; the dust may have gathered thick upon our Bibles; but accidentally we meet some man or some woman, having the hallmark of the genuine Christ, and through the shut door we know that Christ is here.
We Meet Christ in Our Moments of Sorrow
And sometimes it is in our deeper hours that He so comes. It is in the darker and more tragic moments of our life. It is when the sun has ceased to shine, and the birds have ceased to sing; when we are baffled and broken and disappointed. We closed the door on Him when we were strong and vigorous, for we did not want the intrusion of the Cross; but when life's deeps are uncovered then it is God we need, and through the shut doors Christ is in the midst.
Christ Can Break Your Hopelessness
In closing [et me say this single word: am I speaking to any whose sin has made them hopeless? It may be there is someone who seems to have closed every door upon Christ Jesus. Have you been living for years in secret sin? Or has one great sin besmirched and blackened everything? The result of it all is that you seem utterly callous, incapable of faith, cold as a stone. My brother or sister, things are not utterly hopeless. Even now you may have the benediction. Through every barrier--in the teeth of every obstacle--that presence which is life and power may be yours. Christ is a spirit--nothing can hold Him back. There is no road-maker in all the world like love. Cry out, "Thou Son of God, come to my heart!" and though all the doors have been shut, He will be there.
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