Luke 24

Luke 24  •  25 min. read  •  grade level: 7
We have now reached the closing chapter of our Gospel, and there, as in the corresponding place of each Gospel, we find the Lord in resurrection.
In resurrection, the Lord breaks forth, laden with the full fruit of complete victory over all the power of the enemy. It is, in His person, the “burning lamp” after the passage of the “smoking furnace” (Gen. 15). The previous season had been man’s “hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:5353When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. (Luke 22:53)), Satan’s time for the putting forth of all his strength. But wherein they dealt proudly the Lord was above them; and this is our comfort, that the enemy has been met in the height of his strength and pride. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was the second morning in the history of creation. When the foundations of old were laid “the morning stars sang together.” But that workmanship was spoiled. Adam betrayed the kingdom he had received from God into the hand of Satan, and death entered. The Son of God, however, entered also; and as it was appointed unto men once to die, so Christ was once offered (Heb. 9). He took on Himself the penalty, the death deserved by us; and thus the grave of Jesus is seen by faith, as the end of the old creation. But His resurrection is the morning of a new and more glorious one, and the saints, the sons of God, sing, in spirit, over it. It is the clay in the hand of the potter a second time, to bring forth a vessel that can never be marred. It is the foundation of an enduring kingdom; and that kingdom, thus to be received by the risen Jesus, the Second Man, He will not, like Adam, betray into the hand of the enemy; but will, in due season, deliver it up without taint to God, even the Father, that all may end in “God” being “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:2424Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:24)).
How blessed this is—how satisfying and encouraging, thus to see the Lord undoing all the mighty mischief of the rebellion of the first man, and, in the way of righteousness, repairing the breach! And who can tell the glory of that economy where mercy and truth so meet together! Who can understand the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God in such a mystery! And it is that by which He shows Himself. His glory is seen “in the face of Jesus Christ.” In the work of grace, and in its fruits in glory, God is revealing Himself; so that to know Him, and to be happy in the assurance of His love through Jesus, is the same thing. “He that loveth not knoweth not God.”
It was on this very ground that, of old, God sought to be known as God by the Jews. He claimed to be worshipped by them as the one only God, because He had shown Himself their Redeemer. “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” In this action He had made Himself known as God, full of grace and power for captive sinners; and if we know Him not as such we know Him not rightly. Any thought about God at variance with this is but the act of the mind of a darkened creature busying itself about its own idolatry. The true God is He who reveals Himself in redeeming grace and power; and, blessed truth, to know God is, accordingly, to know myself a sinner saved by grace.
By the primitive order of creation, glory was secured as God’s portion—blessing as the creature’s. The serpent beguiled the woman, so as to lead man to seek the glory for, himself: “Ye shall be as gods.” And by this, the whole divine order was disturbed; for man righteously lost his place of blessing, in this attempt to take God’s place of glory. The work of redemption restores this order. It puts things in their due place again. Redemption through grace does this; for it excludes boasting, and secures blessing. It reserves the place of glory for God, and that of blessing for man; and that is the way of God, according to the order of creation, as it came forth from His hand. He cannot own man in his pride, in his old attempt to be as God; but having humbled him, and asserted that glory is His alone, He will then show that blessing is man’s. For indeed, through His own goodness, blessing is as much the creature’s due place, as glory is God’s. His love, which is Himself, has made it so. He has as surely consulted for man’s joy, as for His own praise. He will show Himself just, thus providing for His own glory; but He will also show Himself a Justifier, thus providing for the sinner’s blessing. And the resurrection of the Lord tells us all this. It tells us both of God’s glory, in His destroying the very head of all the offence, and of man’s blessing in having grace imparted to him, though an offender. This is the lesson it reads to us: of course, hard to be learned by those who have sought to exalt themselves, and affected to be as God; but a lesson which if redeemed, we must learn; for redemption must restore God’s own primitive and unchangeable principles, and put Him into the place of unrivalled, unquestioned glory, while it gives the creature equally the place of full, unquestioned blessing.
The subject of this chapter suggests these things, as general truths, to the mind. But in our evangelist’s account of it, wherever there is anything peculiar, it will, I believe, be found to be characteristic also. Thus the journey to Emmaus, which in detail we get only here, presents our Lord in the grace of the Teacher still, dealing with the thoughts and affections of men.
When the Lord was in the world before, He showed Himself equally to all, for He was attracting their confidence by services of unwearied love. But now, in resurrection, He is known only to His own. The world had refused His goodness, had seen and hated Him and His Father, and were not entitled to see Him now in His exaltation, on His way to the highest heavens. But those who loved Him in the world shall see Him now. Five hundred such, unnamed and unknown though they be, shall look on Him, as well as Peter and John; and look on Him, too, with as full, appropriating a faith as they. And all His visits to them are in love and peace. But love will express itself differently, according to the condition and need of its object. If its object be in sorrow, love will soothe; if walking in light, love will gladden and approve; if gone astray, love will lead again into paths of righteousness. And so is it with the risen Lord, who loves forever. Thus, He visits Mary to refresh her desirous heart with His presence; He visits Thomas to restore his unbelieving soul; and, here, the two disciples, to lead them back by the way by which they came, as they had taken their journey under the power of unbelief. All was, thus, the same love, though suiting itself differently to its different objects. These two needed restoration, and their Lord restores them. At first, He makes Himself strange, rebuking them for their slowness of heart; and then, as the Great Prophet of God, and the Teacher of men, leads them through all the Scriptures, until the light and power of His words warm their hearts.
This was full of divine grace. It was the restoring of the soul in the love of the Good Shepherd. But still it gives occasion to this thought—that the Lord delights in reality, or truthfulness of heart. These disciples, as they walked, were sad. That sadness was real; it was the affection that suited their circumstances, as they judged them to be. They had been disappointed. They had lost, as they feared, the Hope of Israel; and if their hearts were at all true to such things, they must have been sad; and they were sad. Thus there was reality about them, though also slowness of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken. And Jesus loves that reality. Jesus loves that all about us should have the stamp of truth in the inward parts. And He joins Himself to these sad ones, to show them that the things which had happened at Jerusalem, as they spake, were really for them, and not against them; and He makes that, which was shaking their faith, confirm it. And, in His way of communicating it, there is so much of human loveliness, that all is still according to His path under the tracing hand of our evangelist.
“He made as though He would have gone further.” How perfect that little movement was! What title had He, a Stranger as He seemed to be, to force Himself on them? He had only joined them by the way, in the courtesy of one who was travelling the same road. What right had such a one to cross their threshold? If Jesus be but a Stranger in our eyes, beloved, He will still walk outside. Until we know Him as the Saviour, the Lover of our souls, surely He asks for nothing. We may dwell in our own houses, and furnish our own tables, until then. But when He is known by us as the Son of God who has loved us and given Himself for us, then He claims a place in our hearts and our homes; and then will He dwell with us and sup with us, as it were, unbidden; entering, in the person of some of His little ones, either to get a cup of cold water, or to have the feet washed, at moments when, perhaps, we looked not for Him.
And may we be ready, dear brethren! Indeed, it is a blessed state, though hard to our hearts at times. Ever ready, and at the disposal of the need of each other; thus entertaining, not angels merely, but the Lord of angels, and the Friend of sinners.
But as yet, on this occasion, to these two, He was but a Stranger; and, therefore, He would leave them to their rest and repast alone, though the day was far spent. But, oh, the adorning that was upon Him! The ornament of a perfect spirit graced every little passage of His life. What dignity, when dignity was the thing; what tenderness, when that, in its turn, was called for! If man had but the eye for them, what forms of moral beauty would have continually passed before him, in the doings and goings of this perfect Son of Man! Never for a single moment was there the least disturbance in the moral bearing of all that was about Him. But man had no eye or ear for Him. When he saw Him, there was no beauty that he should desire Him. The true beauty was no beauty in man’s eye. None of this perfection was according to man. But at times, through grace, there was the burning of the heart. And so it is here. These two happy ones own the power of His presence, and find their souls restored, and their feet led back to the city, by the way by which they had come, and which to them was the path of righteousness again.
This is the way of the grace of the risen Lord to those two disciples. And this is quite His way in this Gospel. So, in what follows in the larger company at Jerusalem, we have the marks of our Gospel still as fresh as ever. For there the Lord is especially careful to verify His manhood—to show that He was none other than the Son of Man risen from the dead. He establishes that first, by showing them His hands and His feet, and then by taking of a broiled fish and a honeycomb, and eating before them. And thus we see Him, the Man, before us still; once the anointed Man, and now the risen Man. And having thus approved Himself, He deals with them as men, acting as their Teacher, according to His accustomed place in this Gospel, opening the Scriptures to them, and their understandings to the Scriptures. And having thus sealed to them this fruit of the resurrection, the opened understanding, He promises them “power from on high,” in order that they might be witnesses of the things which they had now learned.
This “power from on high” is, of course, a description of the Holy Spirit, called also “the promise of the Father.” But it intimates the Holy Spirit under a special manifestation, and such a One, too, as is still according to the character of our Gospel. In neither Matthew nor Mark is this Divine Gift of the ascended Lord spoken of. But in John, in a still more blessed sense, He is promised as “the Comforter” or “the Spirit of truth”; that is, the Witness in the saints of grace and glory, the things of the Father and the Son. These distinctions are quite characteristic. The day of Pentecost brought this Divine Gift from the glorified Son of Man, and that Gift at once manifests His presence according to the promise here made: Luke’s Gospel, which is our evangelist’s first letter to Theophilus, thus ending with the promise of the Holy Spirit; the Book of the Acts, which is his second letter to the same friend, opening with the gift according to the promise.
And that book has been properly called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” It comes after the four Gospels. And as they, or the ministry of Jesus which they record, had given the full, formal manifestation of the Father and the Son, so this book, which records the ministry of the apostles and others, gives the same manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The Persons in the Godhead are thus in due season declared, for the full light and comfort of the Church. Notices of this divine mystery, no doubt, there had been from the beginning, but the name of God, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” was now fully manifested and published.
All this, as everything of our God, is perfect in its season. All is perfection in the ways of His wisdom, as in the works of His grace. The Lord tells out one secret after another, bringing forth each in due season, and leading the soul to say, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
But this only by the way. I have already observed that the notice which we get here of the Holy Spirit is according to this Gospel; keeping it, as it were, between Matthew and Mark on the one hand, and John on the other; the former giving us no such notice of the Spirit at all, the latter giving us still larger and richer notice of Him, under the title of “the Comforter,” and “the Spirit of truth.” But so, after this, down to the last sentence, the Gospel is still according to itself. I mean in what happens at the closing moments at Bethany.
To that well-known spot, a retreat for “the poor of the flock,” as at “the backside of the desert” (Ex. 3), the fold of those whom He loved in Judea (John 11:33Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. (John 11:3)), the Lord now leads forth His disciples. And there, while blessing them, He is parted from them, and carried up into heaven. He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And as soon as He had done so, and sealed to them this further fruit of His resurrection, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven, where He sits, as “the Man Christ Jesus,” until we all come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, until all be brought in to form the new man, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all.
Our Gospel had opened with the priest of the family of Levi in the temple at Jerusalem, and now closes with the Priest, the risen Lord, in heaven. It was the Man Jesus, in His infancy, in His human relationship and place, that we got at the beginning; and it is the Man Jesus still, risen and glorified, and about to be seated in His honors and place in the heavens that we now get at the end.
In this character of the Priest and of the risen Man, so fully according to the mind of the Spirit in Luke, we now lose sight of our Lord. And the closing view which we get of Him in each Gospel does strike me as very distinguishing and characteristic. In Matthew the Lord does not change His place. He is still here, still upon the earth, simply saying, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...lo, I am with you.” As though He were just the Lord of the harvest, ordering and strengthening His husbandry. In Mark, He is received up into heaven; but still, on the apostles going forth to preach, He is spoken of as present and working with them. In John, neither He nor they remain on earth, but Peter and John follow Him, and we lose sight of them altogether. But here, He is carried up alone, and there abides, as their High Priest within the veil, sending down the Holy Spirit to be with them here, as power from on high.
This is all quite in character. In our Gospel the Lord ascends as the Priest; in Mark He ascends to the right hand of power, in order to preside over and share in the ministration of His servants; in John He ascends as the Son of the Father, in order to introduce the children to the Father’s house.
He was “carried up.” The expression implies that some conveyance waited on Him. And indeed He had been thus waited on from very old time. When exhibited and spoken of as “the Glory,” “the Angel of God,” “the Angel of His presence,” or “the Lord (Ex. 14; 23; 32; Isa. 63), the cloud conveys Him hither and thither. It first took Him at the head of His redeemed people, to lead them in the way (Ex. 13). It then carried Him between the camps of Israel and Egypt, that He might be light to the one and darkness to the other, and out of it so look as to trouble the Egyptians (Ex. 14). At times, it brought Him to take His seat in judgment upon His murmuring and trespassing congregation (Ex. 16; Num. 14; 16; 20). And after all this, it took Him to fill His place in the temple (2 Chron. 5), as it had before, in like manner, borne Him to fill the same place, in the tabernacle (Ex. 40).
Thus did the cloudy chariot wait on Him of old (Psa. 104:33Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: (Psalm 104:3)). And when the sins of the people had disturbed His rest in the midst of them, the cherubim bear Him away (Ezek. 1); and the cherubim were, called “the chariot of the cherubim” (1 Chron. 28:1818And for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the pattern of the chariot of the cherubims, that spread out their wings, and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord. (1 Chronicles 28:18)). Thus He was attended, on all these occasions, by His appointed chariot. And so is He now. He is “carried up.”
On all those former occasions, however, He is spoken of variously, as I have noticed, or indefinitely, as “the Glory,” “the Angel of God,” “the Angel of His presence,” and “the Lord.” And, in the last place that I have mentioned, in Ezekiel, His likeness is “the appearance of a man.” From henceforth, however, this Glory, this Angel-Jehovah, becomes stamped with the form and characters of man. It is the risen Son of Man who is now carried up to His, place on high. It is not merely “the appearance of a man,” but One whose manhood has been assured and verified. As such He now ascends. The glory has taken His abiding form. And as the glorified Man it is that we from henceforth, in the Book of God, see Him. In the vision of the prophet He is, after this, as the glorified Man, brought with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days, to receive His kingdom (Dan. 7); as such He stands, in the eye of another prophet, in the midst of the golden candlesticks (Rev. 1); as such (as He tells us Himself) He will hereafter be seen sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26); and as such, when all the judgment is passed, His name will be made excellent in all the earth (Psa. 8; Heb. 2).
This is a wondrous theme. It is man that has been thus anointed, and man that is to be thus exalted. The ranks of angels, which have as yet surrounded the throne, must open, as it were, to let the Church of redeemed sinners in, that man may be displayed as the appointed vessel of the glory in the ages before us. “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” (Psa. 8).
When the priest Zacharias went into the temple, the whole multitude owned the power of his entrance there, and were without, praying at the time of incense, as we read in this Gospel (Luke 1:1010And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. (Luke 1:10)). And when Moses went within the cloud (being thus, as by the veil, shut within the sanctuary of God), the people rose up, and worshipped, every man at his tent door (Exodus 33). So here, on this entrance of the risen Son of Man within the cloud (Acts 1:99And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9)), as within the veil of the true temple, the people without own the power of His ascension there, and again look after Him, and worship. But then it is here, and only here, that they are His own people worshipping Himself. “They worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.”
Their worship was praise. Such only was now the seasonable service. How could they eat the bread of mourners, while surrounding such an altar as this? It was (shall I not call it?) the feast of the resurrection which they were now keeping; and it must be kept with rejoicing. The first-fruits of the harvest had been accepted for them, and they must offer their meat-offerings and their drink-offerings with joy in His temple (Lev. 23:10-1310Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord. 13And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. (Leviticus 23:10‑13)). They were waiting for the Pentecost, the feast of weeks, but Jesus and the resurrection was their feast; and it was only with gladness they could look on that accepted Sheaf of first-fruits waved before the Lord.
We have not here the same rapturous note of admiration as at the close of John. For all the writings may not be equally elevated, though equally perfect in their order, and divine in their original; as one star differs from another star in glory, though all are equally in the heavens, which God created and made. Luke, like the others, is in his own character to the very end, as we have now seen. It is the Son of Man whom the Spirit traces by him, as it had been Messiah, or Jesus in Jewish connection, by Matthew; Jesus the Servant, or Minister, by Mark; and Jesus the Son of God, Son of the Father, by John. And this perfect Man was first the anointed Man, walking through the varied paths of this life, and in all of them presenting to God offerings of untainted human fruit, in such a Vessel as had never before furnished or adorned His sanctuary; then the risen Man, showing Himself to His own in His victory over death and the power of the enemy, and in samples of some of the blessings which that victory had gained for them; and, finally, as the ascended or glorified Man, about to perfect in their behalf before the throne of God, and in the heavenly temple, until He come again, all the fruit of His life and conflict and victory, and to fill them with joy and praise forever and ever.
Here we leave our happy occupation, tracing the varied ways of our divine Lord and Saviour. Oh, that it could leave the same power in the soul behind it, as it imparted joy to the soul engaged in it! But the heart knows its own secret causes of full and constant humiliation, and has well learned the fitness of that word, “When thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room” May our God, beloved, train our hearts to His own joys, which ever find their springs in the person and work of the Son of His love! And may He also free us of ourselves more and more, that Jesus only may be seen by us!
In closing these meditations I would again say, that the skill which is thus, with a little care, discernible in this and in each of the Gospels, is perfectly divine. It is indeed of God’s own hand. Had each of the evangelists introduced his writings by a formal declaration of the design of it, and how it was to distinguish itself from the others, the wisdom and perfections of Him who indited them would not have been so glorified, nor would the same exercise of heart have been so called out, as now it is by reaching this distinct purpose through the “characteristic exhibition” in which each of the Gospels abounds. But, as they now stand, it is the very harmony of creation that we listen to. “There is no speech nor language.” but without these, they express themselves. Thus we see, that the very same Hand which fashioned the heavens, and gave them their voice in the ear of men, has traced the glories that shine in the different Gospels, and given them a voice likewise in the ear of saints. (See Psa. 19).
But after all this, beloved, the gospel itself must be our object. May the Lord keep that fresh and immediate upon our hearts continually! It is the gospel itself, the tale of God’s unmeasured love, and which heaven calls the earth to listen to, that bears with it the real and abiding blessing to our souls. It is the entrance of the living God (God of all grace as He is, through the testimony of the Son of His love) into our hearts that sheds abroad the light, the liberty, the victory there, and is the seed in us of eternal life. As one has said: “A man may be captivated by this intellectual and moral harmony, and take much pleasure in tracing it through all its detail, and yet derive no more profit from it than from the examination of any curious piece of material workmanship. It is proper that this beautiful relation in Christianity (and, I might add, in the Scriptures that reveal Christianity) should be seen and admired; but if it come to be the prominent object of belief, the great truth of Christianity is not believed. There is much in Christianity that may take a strong hold of the imaginative faculties, and give a high species of enjoyment to the mind; but the most important part of religion in relation to sinners is its necessity. The gospel has not been revealed that we may have the pleasure of feeling or expressing fine sentiments, but that we may be saved. The taste may receive the impression of the beauty and sublimity of the Bible, and the nervous system, may have received the impression of the tenderness of its tone; and yet its meaning, its deliverance, its mystery of holy love, may remain unknown.”
This is valuable to us. With all our knowledge of other glories and secrets, may our knowledge of that message of surpassing love be still the dearest, and simplest, and most intimate possession of our souls. The gospel of His grace tells us that our necessities have drawn forth the sympathies and resources of the blessed God. On such a truth may our hearts still dwell with lingering desires, sitting down “at that one well-spring of delight.” It is in the faith of that that the life, the joy, the liberty, and the strength of our souls will be found. There is One who has loved us, and given Himself for us; and that One none less than the Son of God. Such was the spring of Paul’s life, and to such may we turn continually for light and refreshing, our hearts taking counsel there still the oftenest. And when the last of us is gathered in, and all have come “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man,” it is that we may be taken there, where with enlarged powers, both of understanding and joy, we shall praise this Lamb that was slain for the love that He had for us, for evermore.
May His grace keep us with uncorrupted minds and undefiled garments, dear brethren, that we may know Him only in this evil world, for His name’s sake!