THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE EMMAUS ROAD
(published in the Australian Evangel circa 1980)
There is probably no incident in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ more able to lift the flagging spirits of discouraged disciples than the experience of the two on the Emmaus Road found in Luke 24.
Not only for individuals, but also for churches and even whole fellowships, there is contained here the dynamic of revival, the release of latent energy and the renewal of the fondest hopes that seem to have been driven underground by the cold, hard facts of human experience.
“We were hoping that it was he who was going to redeem Israel,” they said, and then, as though to reinforce their fading hopes continued, “and besides this, it is the third day since these things happened.” (Luke 24:21)
This lament has been re-echoed a thousand times amongst Christian workers and organisations who, having touched the glory of God and been elevated to high places in ministry and experience, see the whole thing collapse, leaving a bitter-sweet memory. Human institutions may falter and fail, we can no longer say “safe as a bank”, but when society of the redeemed also proves to be vulnerable, then we are of all men most miserable.
This “collapse” must never be accepted as the status quo. If the Church has gone into a trough, it is only that it should rise again. God may allow failures, but it is only that they should be resurrected in new glory and strength. “The first man is of the earth made of dust but the second man is the Lord from heaven.” (1 Cor 15:47) It is in the life of this second Man that we are called to live and move. Nothing short of resurrection life to the glory of God is the norm for those born of the Spirit of God.
So here we have two disciples trudging the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, dispirited and disillusioned, then eating their supper before retiring to bed. Suddenly the stranger eating with them is revealed as the Lord.
The effect is electrifying. Instead of retiring, the two prepare quickly for the return journey to Jerusalem. Weariness is forgotten. Disappointment has vanished. Adrenalin courses through their veins as they retrace the seven miles, late at night, to the city. Not only are their legs loosened, but their tongues also. They return to Jerusalem saying “The Lord is risen” and announce the good news to the rest of the frightened disciples as they rehearse all that happened to them on the road and in the house.
Perhaps the crux of the story is found in verse 15 where the Amplified Version reads “and He caught up with them”. This means that Jesus materialised Himself some distance behind the two men then, quickening His footsteps, caught up with them and engaged them in conversation, thus taking the initiative in the whole episode.
Every worthwhile advance in the Kingdom of God is a revelation of God in the way that He chooses for that particular circumstance. We sing “calling down fire” but really we can’t call down fire unless it be some spurious kind. The truth of the matter is “let Him be God who answers by fire”. God is the custodian of the fire. He sends it when the sacrifice is in order. He is sovereign in all He does.
The two of the Emmaus Road would no doubt have settled back into the life of the village with the memory of their brief years with Jesus slowly fading had not Jesus Himself taken the initiative, caught up with them and then revealed Himself to them. There is an unchanging principle in all of God’s dealings with men and that is “My glory I will not give to another” (Is 42:8).
These two men became the recipients of Christ’s resurrection life as renewal of energy exploded within them but it is God who received the glory because Jesus “caught up with them”.
Having commenced the process, the Lord of glory showed two important principles before revealing Himself. The first of these is the Emmaus Bible study. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. .Luke 24:27. That was a pure Bible study, not a pep talk or an analysis of local problems, or another seminar on one of the many aspects of Christian service. That study was “concerning Himself” – nothing fancy or peripheral, but the very core and centre of the matter. His theme was “Christ in all of the Scriptures” – “these are they with testify of Me” (John 5:39).
The Word of God must be pre-eminent in any future forward move in the purposes of God. Psalm 138:2 makes the quite astounding statement that God has “magnified His word above His name”. The Emmaus revelation is to be an important link in the post-resurrection ministry of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it will be one of the “infallible proofs” of His triumph (Acts 1:3).
The Lord Jesus, in this instance, could not afford any risk whatever of these two dissipating the glory of God in any self-aggrandisement or human display. No commercialism or professional polish must enter; God alone, through His Word, must be supreme.
The other principle seen before Christ revealed Himself is found in the words of verse 28. “He acted as though he would have gone further” (NIV). The three travellers were close to their destination. The day was well spent and, as hospitality is second nature to those of the east, the stranger was wondering whether the two would remember their best instincts. He took a few tentative steps on His way and then, happily, they constrained Him. They invited Him home and soon they were sitting down to the most exciting meal of their lives. They had engaged in an act of worship.
Much has been made of worship in recent years but have the depths of this mystical exercise been reached? Have we turned worship into an art form, a technique, with music as the main feature? Has it achieved what we had hoped – the evident and unmistakeable presence of God?
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Luke 7:44,45 as those who had neglected the first principles of hospitality and worship toward Him – “You gave me no kiss, no water for my feet, and no anointing oil for my head, but this woman has attended to it all.” Worship, then, is revealed as total service to the needs of the Master in a given situation. The final glory of God in His church will have to be complete, comprehensive and all-embracing. Perhaps the foundation is being laid in many ways for a surprise visit of the resurrected One who maintains the prerogative to appear behind closed doors or on open roads to renew and redirect His people as His will.
We remember the lament of John the Baptist, in prison when he sent the poignant enquiry to Jesus, “Are you the One who should come, or look we for another?” We recall John’s spectacular ministry with the great crowds that flocked to his Jordan baptisms. It was John who saw Jesus on the bank of the river and made the prophetic introduction “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Now he is in prison and there are no miraculous appearances to settle his doubt and disillusionment. Now there is the comfort of a divine message embedded with reassurance. “Go and tell John what is happening and let him know that all things he said of Me were true.” (Matt 11:4; John 10:41)
It is possible that some kind of inertia has gripped much of professing Christianity or is it confusion of goals and methods that has sometimes caused church machinery to falter? Whatever it is, we must have nothing less than a personal equivalent of a journey of seven miles, late at night, just when we thought we had reached a dreary end.
The last book of the Bible is the Revelation of Jesus Christ in His risen glory. This is the present position. In the midst of the otherwise sombre notes of punishment and judgments, with kindgoms falling and men crying, there emerges the transcendent description of the majesty of Jesus Christ.
He is the master of every situation. He is the Lamb upon the throne. Twenty seven times is the title, “the Lamb”, used in Revelation - the triumphant Lamb. He carries the merits of His sacrifice with Him. He is far above all principality and power and everything is under His feet. John heard the voice of might thundering saying “Alleluia! For the Lord God omnipotent reigns” (Rev 19:6). This is the same Christ of the Emmaus Road.