“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39Behold 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. 40And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43And he took it, and did eat before them. 44And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And ye are witnesses of these things. 49And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. 50And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.”

—Luke 24:36-53

The Lord had risen from the dead. The grave had been rifled of its prey. Songs of victory were already on the lips of some to whom He had shown Himself, and their hearts burned within them as they hastened onward with the joyous news. For a brief moment the tears of the weeping Church ceased to flow. It was a moment of suspense; awe and wonder filled every heart, for they knew not what to think. At this juncture, while assembled in the upper room in Jerusalem, and with the doors around them closed, the risen Saviour appears in their midst. It is a scene full of comfort, full of instruction, full of practical issues. Let us look at it, under the guidance of God’s Spirit, and may we learn His lessons.

The disciples had assembled together to hear the glad tidings brought by the two who had just returned from Emmaus. They came together to hear of and to speak of the risen Saviour, and that Saviour came to meet them; this is our first lesson. When we come together to hear of Him or to speak of Him, He comes to meet us. It is immaterial where we meet; for where He is all is hallowed ground, every place is a consecrated temple. It is not the place; it is the object in view that is everything. It is not the variety and diversity of character in those who meet that is of any weight; it is Him whom they come together to meet.

There were strange characters among that throng. One had only a few hours before cursed, sworn and denied that he knew Him. Two others had been clamoring as to which should have the chief place in His kingdom. Three of them had fallen asleep in His hour of agony, when most of all He needed their sympathy. All of them had forsaken Him and fled, when He stood alone at the cross.

‘Surely,’ men would naturally have said, ‘it is not these You are going to meet, and comfort, and strengthen! Why trouble Yourself with such as these? They have treated You as badly as anyone could have. They played the traitor and the coward at the last moment, and may do so again. Leave them to themselves.’ Such a course would only have been natural. Such a course man would have taken, and no doubt they deserved it. But God is not like man. God begins at the very point where man stops short. This is grace. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”“having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” Just at the very point where nature would exclaim, ‘Leave such creatures to themselves,’ there grace begins; there Jesus went. There He goes still; and there all who are like Him go too. If we have any measure of grace in our hearts answering to grace in Him, we shall do as Jesus does here; go where nature would stop short. Oh that we had this grace more in us! Oh, that this trying yet true test of our hearts found us in the same path! Lord Jesus, give us Thy mind, Thy Spirit, that we may turn and seek those who have injured us, forsaken us, cast us off; that we may be found with hearts full of love among those who least of all deserve it!

Yet, with all their weaknesses, and failings, and sins, they loved Him and came to meet Him; and where we come to meet Him, God is faithful, there He never fails to meet us. It may be we are full of failings, and look back on the past hours with shame and confusion of face; still His love fails not. He cannot, He will not, keep back from us. Nay, these things draw out His grace the more. He yearns to meet us because He sees these things in us. He longs to meet us, to cheer our hearts, to strengthen our faith, and to encourage us onward with His love. What a Saviour He is! How every view of Him charms and cheers our hearts! Who is like Him? “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.”

Let us remember this at all times, and especially when we meet together for worship. It is not the prepared prayer that is the form nor yet the absence of it that makes prayer worship. It is not ecclesiastical order, unvarying services or constantly repeated words which constitute form, nor yet the entire absence of them that makes worship scriptural and spiritual. Oh no! The form is in our own hearts, whether the place be consecrated or otherwise, whether the prayer be prepared or spontaneous, whether the words be constantly changed or continually repeated. The form, we repeat it, is in ourselves, not in any of these things. Let us not make these things the occasion of difference, nor yet excuses for our own want of spiritual life and power. The fault is within, not without. Only let us come with a single eye to meet Jesus, and we shall Surely find Him, whether in a cathedral or in an upper room, whether under a preconceived form of prayer or a spontaneous one.

Oh, that we had a single eye to meet Jesus—Jesus only! What a change would there then be in cathedrals, and chapels, and churches! What blessings on our services! What spiritual worship from our worshipers! It is the going to meet Jesus that makes all right. It is going to church or to prayer as simply treading a beaten path that makes all wrong. Let us go with Christ in our hearts and there will we meet Christ; and then all things will become new.

Let us continue and mark how the wondrous grace of the Lord Jesus is further shown, in this narrative. “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and said unto them, Peace be unto you.” He came to meet these weak ones, bringing with Him the message He always brings wherever He goes—peace. They who come together with a loving heart and a single eye to meet Him, receive from Him that deep peace which He only can give, and which passeth all understanding.

Although, He comes Himself to the heart with this precious message, how strangely He is received. What weaknesses, and infirmities, and unbelief; what a tumult of agitation, and doubt, and fear, meet Him at His very first approach! How little to encourage, how much to drive Him away! What unpreparedness to meet Him! What hearts we have when Jesus draws near to us! What dishonor we do to His grace! What doubts of His love, and even of His very person! How we look through our own fears at Him, and transmute the very essence of all love, and grace, and mercy, into an angry being, a dark spirit, come expressly from the spirit-world to swallow us up! “But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” Alas! When grace comes to the heart in the person of the Lord Jesus, such is the unvarying reception it meets with! Our hearts are always the same; they can give nothing else.

Driven by our unkindness and sin, does He retire; does He leave us to ourselves, as we deserve to be left? Ah no! He only draws the nearer. What wondrous grace! “And He said unto them, Why are Ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 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.” How He lingers around our darkness and sin! How He presses Himself upon us! How He draws nearer and nearer, gently reasoning, meekly bearing with our fears and unbelief! ‘Come nearer to me; prove me, that it is I myself!’ Thus does He banish our fears, dispel our sadness, and win our souls. Only one thing can do this; not doctrines, not knowledge, nor sermons. No! The heart’s deep maladies can be met by none of these; religion itself is valueless here. We want a living person, a beating heart, a loving bosom, on which to cast ourselves. It must be Jesus Himself drawing very near, Jesus only, speaking His own word as He only can speak it. Man needs only this, but nothing short of this. Now and forever our motto must be—Jesus Himself, Jesus only.

Does our Lord stop here? Surely grace and love have stooped low enough! Nay, not the grace and love of Jesus! He stoops lower still. “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it and did eat before them.” Truly no human thought can conceive, no human tongue can tell, the depths to which the grace and love of Heaven will descend to win the wanderer, to seek and save the lost! God Himself, in the person of His dear Son, can travel forty miles across the desert, with the dust on His sandals and the sweat on His brow, and fling Himself, jaded and weary, at the well of Sychar, to win a sinner’s heart! He can become a debtor to that heart for a drink of water, if only He may gain it; and then, afterwards, in the joy that He has won it, forget the draught, the water, and the well!

The exhibition of grace in the narrative we are now considering falls not a whit behind this. The good Shepherd goes forward in His heavenly path, seeking the wandering sheep. He finds this band, like the lost sheep in the wilderness. He finds them in agitation and doubt, in fear and unbelief. Surely they are the strayed sheep! And now the good Shepherd has found them, how He stoops down and gently lays them on His shoulders: “Why are ye troubled…Behold my hands and my feet…handle me and see” and lastly, He takes the broiled fish and honeycomb and eats “before them.” Could grace and love stoop lower? Could heaven present us with a sweeter picture of the wondrous love of Jesus? Sinner, will not such a picture win thine heart? Will it not banish all thy fears? Will it not win and woo thee to His feet, to drink in deep drafts of love from the ocean fullness that is in Him? Oh gaze on it; and if thou hast ever doubted, or had hard thoughts before, never doubt again.

Now, joy and wonder enter. Now, the good Shepherd lifts the weak ones in His arms, and placing them in His bosom, carries them across the desert, safe, to His everlasting fold. Let us turn and gaze for a moment longer on this beauteous picture, and see how it applies to ourselves. When Jesus comes to us, He finds the same thing as He found when He came to these. What varieties of temperament and constitution has the truth to contend with before it can find an entrance into the heart! What fears and anxieties, what clouds and darkness, morally, physically, and spiritually! One is too optimistic, and looks too much on the bright side; another labors under continual gloom and depression. One is excitable, another uninterested and dull. One labors under some continual nervous irritation, starts at every shadow, and is scared by every cloud. One is continually doubting and fearing, and can believe nothing without the plainest and most tangible evidence; while another, too trusting, takes upon everything without a show of evidence. One is irritable, sensitive and quick to act on feeling; another is cold, callous, and indifferent.

Oh, what a variety of character has the Lord to contend with when He approaches the heart with His messages of love and mercy! Yet He lingers fondly around us, bears month after month, year after year, with all our failings and infirmities. They are infirmities and He knows it. He is touched with a feeling of each one. He is never wearied, His love is never exhausted. He presses Himself upon us again and again. He comes nearer, and says, ‘Handle me and see. Come nearer to my side. Behold the evidences of my love to thee, poor, doubting soul! See the marks in my hands and side! See how I have loved thee! Gaze upon that rude and crimson cross, and there read what I did for thee.’ “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Poor, anxious, troubled one! Shrink not back from Jesus! Say not, He will charge me with my sins. Say not, His wrath is over me. Tremble not with fear and dread. Draw near to Him. Handle Him, and see that it is Jesus, thy friend and brother, the One who loved thee and gave Himself for thee. It is no dark being from the spirit-world, come to swallow thee up. It is thy best beloved; the One who has so often stood near thee in sorrow’s dark hour, stilled the troubled waves to rest, and hushed the storm around thee! It is the One who has encompassed thy path with loving kindness and tender mercies; who has turned aside the blow that it might not fall upon thee, and whispered, in the midst of thy troubles, “Peace, be still.” It is Jesus, thine own dear, tried, precious Saviour. O trembling, doubting one, lean on that tender, all sympathizing bosom. Lean on His exhaustless love, and be at rest.

Let us here mark God’s way of restoring peace to the agitated, doubting heart. “Behold my hands and my feet,” are the first words He utters to bring them to a right state of mind. Yes! It is to His wounded hands and bruised feet, that now, as then, He points the troubled one. Have we doubts of His love? “Behold my hands and my feet,” He cries still. Are we agitated, filled with fears because of our sins, cast down because of our past treatment of Him and His love to us? Yet hear Him say; “Behold my hands and my feet.” See my love to thee, poor burdened one! Gaze on that cross on which I died for thee, and let all thy fear and doubts be at rest.

Do deep thoughts sometimes flash like electric light through our souls, of our great unworthiness, of our past life of shame and neglect, of the holiness and majesty of that God against whom we have sinned, and to whom we must one day give account; and do risings of fear and dread, misery and agony, make us shrink and tremble? See Him standing, as of old, before the door of our hearts and whispering, “Behold my hands and my feet.” See all your sin put away; all your iniquity for…given; all your wrath borne; see all My love in these spear marks and bruises—My love to you, poor, troubled one. Handle me and see. Let joy fill the aching crevices of thy soul.

Are we doubtful of our strength, fainting under the pressure of earthly trial, anxiously asking how will tomorrow’s need be supplied? Or how shall I bear that heavy cross, breast that swelling flood, or brave that storm now looming in the distance? See Jesus at thy very side! See Him before thine own heart, showing thee the print of the nails and the gash in His side, and whispering, “Behold my hands and my feet,…handle me and see.” The dark spirit of your troubled heart is closing your eyes to my love and grace, my sympathy, compassion, and tenderness. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”—strength for every day; light in every dark hour; joy in every trouble; victory in every conflict—yea, all things. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” What a pillow for the weary head! What a resting place for the anxious heart!

The Saviour closes His work of comforting His people, strengthening their faith with the Scriptures. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” He thus shows us, that however various may be the ways in which we approach the heart, to comfort and strengthen it, we are never to lose sight of the most effective means; the Word of God. Let us use what ways we please in approaching man, as wisdom and judgment may suggest, only let them never be severed from the word of God, by which alone they can be sanctified and made a blessing to the soul. Jesus Himself, Jesus only brought home to the heart through the written word of God, was the remedy, and the only remedy He Himself used to meet man’s varied cases, in the chapter we have been considering, and in every other case recorded in the Bible. If, then, these were the means used by the Lord Himself, let us not, in our conceit and folly, try to use some other, as if we knew better than He. Jesus and His word; this is heaven’s own and only remedy for man, whatever his case may be.

Now, having viewed the Saviour’s grace and love to his own, let us follow Him, and see what are His thoughts toward the world. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” We have before alluded to grace beginning where nature stops short, and have seen it manifested in the Lord’s conduct in this narrative. See here exactly the same principle exercised towards the world—“beginning at Jerusalem.” What place was first in His thoughts of love and mercy? That which would have been last in nature’s thought, even if it could have found a place at all—Jerusalem. Yes, if we are like Jesus, we shall always begin with Jerusalem. Whether in carrying the gospel to sinners, or in our conduct towards each other; we shall begin where the heart would naturally stop short. This is grace, as it was in Jesus, and if we have any measure of likeness to Him, this must show itself.

‘What,’ men would have said, ‘Begin with those who murdered You, with those who refused to listen to Your words, trampled Your messages under their feet, planned and plotted from morning till night to kill You!—go to these, and first!’ Yes, sinner, dark in guilt as the blood red hands of Jerusalem’s murderers, of thee God is thinking. Thou art in God’s heart of love; not only in it, but first in it. Oh, what a message of mercy to thy hell deserving soul! Let Satan paint thy past life in the dark lines of the murderers of the Son of God, still there is mercy for thee; yes, mercy overflowing! His first message is to thee; yes, mercy overflowing! His first message is to you, Jerusalem sinner! And what is that? Pardon of all thy sin—“repentance and remission of sins…beginning at Jerusalem!” Oh come to Jesus! Come, sinner, come! Surely He Himself is calling you! Listen again to the wondrous word—“remission of sins…beginning at Jerusalem.” This is the brightest picture of grace! It can soar no higher! It can descend no greater depths! Come, sinner, come!

He now is about to leave them and gives them directions to go and tarry in Jerusalem till the promise of the Father is sent. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” The position in which the Lord places them here is significant, and shows us how He deals with all His people. A great blessing is about to be granted from heaven. Before receiving it, however, He places His people in the attitude of faith and expectation, in patient waiting, in obedience to His command, and in the midst of their foes. Is not this the way in which God deals with every soul? A blessing from above is promised. Our course in relation to this is faith in the promise, obedience to the command, and patient waiting on God for its fulfillment, in the midst of a world of sin. Surely we wait for a blessing. Surely we know God is faithful, and that not one good thing of all the Lord has promised us shall be lacking. What should be our attitude now?—Faith, Obedience, Patience. Oh, may we be found in this state always; faithful, obedient, patient; praying, watching, working, till the Lord shall send for us!

At this point we approach the interesting narrative of our Lord’s ascension. “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” We have a beautiful commentary on these words in Leviticus 9:22-23. When the high priest was about to enter the tabernacle of old, he lifted up his hands and blessed the people, and in this attitude he passed within. Afterwards, when all the priestly work was over, and he again emerged from the tabernacle, it was with uplifted hands blessing the people; and then, we are told, “the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people.”

We have in this narrative a partial and beautiful fulfillment of that of which this was a type. Jesus, the great High Priest, is now about to enter the tabernacle. He is lifting up His hands in blessing, and in this attitude He passes from their sight within the veil. In a little while, when all the priestly work is over, that same High Priest shall again come forth “in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”—with uplifted hands blessing His people. Then, the glory of the Lord shall appear to all the people; “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest; “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

“He was parted from them.” What an expressive word! It reminds us of a family scene. A loved one is about to leave the family hearth. He lingers fondly over the precious treasures he is about to leave. The hour draws near, the time is up. A gentle touch reminds him that he must stay no longer. Still he lingers. And now loving hands have to lay hold of him and separate him from the fond ties round which his heartstrings are entwined. Thus he is parted. Jesus lingers round the hearts that had loved and followed Him. Lovingly He bends over them with uplifted hands. And now the time for separation has come. Still He lingers. Angel hands descend from heaven and part Him from them; and the last glimpse they catch, as the cloud carries Him upward, are the outstretched hands of blessing, an emblem of the attitude He was ever to retain towards them while hidden from their view, till He should come again and receive them to Himself.

And what effect had all this upon His people? “And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:” They had seen Jesus. He had revealed Himself to them in a gracious, loving manner. This sight produced worship, praise, and blessing. All true worship springs from the same source. It is simply Jesus manifesting Himself to the soul through the written word. Then worship, praise, blessing, must follow. But where the heart sees not Jesus, all worship must be a form, a dead letter.

“They returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” How wonderful! If, when our Lord had said to them, only a short time before, “I go my way to Him that sent me;” and when their hearts were full of sorrow at the thought, some one had whispered: ‘A day is at hand when you will rejoice at His going away,’ could they have believed it? They would have said: ‘Impossible! That can never be.’ Yet that day did come. They returned to Jerusalem not only with joy, but with “great joy.” And what do we learn from this? That God gives us strength for our need; “as thy days, so shall thy strength be;” not before your day; not beyond your day; but as your day. When the hour of trial comes, God will give the needful strength for it. Then, dear Christian reader, look not at the future. Leave that with God. God comes with every extremity. Only trust Him. Think not of tomorrow. Tomorrow’s need will Surely bring with it tomorrow’s God. Trust and be still, “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Oh, trust Him, trust Him! When the hour approaches that now gives you so much anxiety, so much dread, all shall flee away, and you shall pass through it with joy, yea, with “great joy.” Trust, oh trust that precious Saviour, and be at peace!

They “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” One would have supposed that was the last place in the world they would have gone to. There their Master had been murdered. There His testimony and theirs had been continually rejected. There their lives had been in continual jeopardy. Persecution, insult, slander, and reproach had been heaped upon them on every side. And yet to this place and to these people they now hasten with “great joy” filling their hearts! What was the great secret? Ah! They had seen Jesus. His love filled their hearts. His word was burning within them, hence the result. With the love of Jesus burning within, we can go anywhere. His love can make us overleap every barrier, and scatter difficulties of mountain height to the winds. This is what we want now—Jesus’ love filling every niche within. What can stand before it? Nothing! It is omnipotent! Do we want God’s work revived, souls saved, saints comforted, and all God’s people to become “witnesses of these things”—lights bright and clear, cities set on the hill that cannot be hid? Oh, then, let the hearts of ministers, of people, be filled with the love of Jesus. This will send us right joyfully to any Jerusalem, with the message of God on our lips. This will send us with zeal into the dens of iniquity and sin, wherever they are to be found. This will bring us souls to Christ and magnify His name.

They “were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” Here the chapter closes. O, reader, is this the close of each chapter of our spiritual life? Does each hour, each day, find us in the presence of God, with hearts filled with the love of Jesus, and our lips filled with His praise? Does each act of life find us here? Does the world see us here? O, God, grant that when the chapter of our earthly life closes, whether that life be long or short, it may close upon us as this chapter closes upon the disciples here, with the love of Jesus shining brightly in our souls, and the praises of Jesus on our tongues! Reader, be this thy portion now, and whenever the Lord may send for thee, for Jesus Christ’s sake!

O Jesus! Friend unfailing!
How dear art Thou to me!
Are cares or fears assailing?
find my strength in Thee.
Why should my feet grow weary
Of this my pilgrim way?
Rough though the path, and dreary,
It ends in perfect day.

Naught, naught I court as pleasure,
Compared, O Christ with Thee!
Thy sorrow without measure
Earned peace and joy for me!
I love to own, Lord Jesus!
Thy claims o’er me Divine;
Bought with Thy blood most precious,
Whose can I be but Thine?

What fills my heart with gladness?
‘Tis Thy abounding grace.
Where can I look, in sadness,
But, Jesus, on Thy face?
My all is Thy providing,
Thy love can ne’er grow cold;
In Thee, my Refuge, hiding,
No good wilt Thou withhold.

Why should I droop in sorrow?
Thou’rt ever by my side.
Why, trembling, dread the morrow?
What ill can e’er betide?
If I my cross have taken
“Tis but to follow Thee;
If scorned, despised, forsaken,
Naught severs Thee from me.

O worldly pomp and glory,
Your charms are spread in vain!
I’ve heard a sweeter story!
I’ve found a truer gain!
Where Christ a place prepareth,
There is my loved abode:
There shall I gaze on Jesus!
There shall I dwell with God!

For every tribulation,
For every sore distress,
In Christ I’ve full salvation,
Sure help, and quiet rest,
No fear of foes prevailing!
I triumph, Lord, in Thee!
O Jesus! Friend unfailing!
How dear art Thou to me!

Berlin Gesangbuch

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