Reading: Luke 24
THIS resurrection story points us to the possibility of having fresh openings to new things, while still holding on to the values of the past. Our tendency is to imagine that the blessings God has given us are, as it were, the last word; and therefore we hold on to them as though there were nothing more to follow. When the three disciples had their experience on the mount of transfiguration they were so overwhelmed with the glory of the Lord Jesus that their immediate reaction was a desire to perpetuate that experience. Everything was so wonderful that they felt the need to settle down with it, not realising that they could take its values with them and yet move on to new discoveries of the infinite greatness of Christ.
“The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word” is not merely a thrilling thought from a hymn but a real possibility, if only we are open to such new light. One of the perils of wide-margin Bibles is that we may use them to provide fixed rails for our thoughts, and so develop a closed attitude towards the Lord’s new speaking. Our notes and underlinings may be helpful, but they should never be allowed to have this kind of effect. Perhaps from time to time we should start a new Bible. This would be good for trade, but it might also be good for our spiritual growth and progress. Certainly we must watch out for anything which would hinder our spiritual life by making us closed when we should be open. So quickly we get into a rut, and unintentionally feel that we are only safe so long as we confine ourselves to [90/91] what we have always been used to. It is very important, though, that we should constantly allow the Lord to open up new areas of our being. I have recently had my attention drawn to seven openings which may be found in this chapter, and have found help in considering each one of them separately.
1. The Open Tomb (vv.2-3)
This is a resurrection chapter and therefore we are not surprised that it begins with an open tomb. This, in fact, is where everything begins for us as Christians, for there is no patching up of our old life, but the bringing in of an entirely new one. Those who know the power of resurrection life and live in the good of it have no need to be always reverting to the past, but have new faith for new experiences of God’s power. Faith is not something which can be stored up, as though we could draw on a fund of reserve faith. “I live by the faith of the Son of God” means an ever present and ever fresh experience, coming livingly to us from the risen Christ.
The opened tomb was the expression of God’s power to do something which had never been done before. That is why these two could not understand it and walked on to Emmaus with hearts that were slow to believe that God could do it, concerned and perplexed as we always are until we have learned to be governed by the principle of the opened tomb. We reason around things and make an effort to explain them, while all the time God is asking us to believe that He means what He has said, and is well able to fulfil His promises. The opened tomb is His great guarantee that He has the answer, not in terms of explanations and appeals to reason but in the person of His risen Son. This kind of life is full of joyful wonders, as we see the working of the God of the impossible. It is a feature of our age that we have lost our capacity to wonder because so many extraordinary things are happening. God’s wonders, however, only begin when man’s efforts are exhausted, and the resurrection of Christ is meant to lead us into constantly new and unexpected proofs of His ability to open up the deepest grave in which we may find ourselves.
2. The Opened Home (v.29)
The Lord did not force His way into this Emmaus home. He never does that. He stayed with the two disciples because they opened their door to Him and begged Him to come in, so He not only went in but sat down with them. He had been with them as they walked along the road, but it was when He sat down with them in their home that the real revelation took place. The Lord sets great store by homes. A true church is only an extension of the family and the home, where things are possible on a larger scale than is possible in an ordinary dwelling. It is unlikely that there will be a church really open for the Lord’s revelation of Himself unless it is based on homes which are just as open to Him. How can we expect to share His glory in the assembly home and at the assembly table if we do not have our own homes and tables open to Him? Yes, and open to others, also, so that they can get a fresh revelation of His love and power among us. Whether it be by entertaining the visitor in our private homes or welcoming the stranger in our assembly home, we will always find that such an action brings the Lord in a new way, making it possible for Him to reveal His glory.
3. Opened Eyes (v.31)
We might have thought that this experience would have come before the opened home, but in this case it did not do so. It seems that it was when they opened things up to the Lord that He was ready to open up things to them. Until this they had received a very full and heart-warming exposition of the Scriptures, but even so their eyes had not been opened to recognise Him. Bible study is very important and very rewarding, but the end in view should always be a new seeing of the risen Christ. We may wonder why He waited so long before revealing Himself in this way. Clearly He regarded the Bible explanations of what had happened as being of primary importance. He did not show Himself as a kind of emotional vision, but led them step by step through the Scriptures, and only when the truth was clearly established in a Biblical way did He let them see who He was. For them there could be no opened eyes without the Word of God, and the same is certainly true of us.
4. The Opened Scriptures (v.32)
This again may seem to be out of sequence, but I do not think that it is, for it seems that when our eyes have been opened to behold Him we must be taken back to the Scriptures and study them in the light of our knowledge of Him. The Word will lead us to Him but He, in turn, will lead us back to the Word. Really it is only He who can adequately open it to us. How much more there was in the Old Testament than the disciples had ever realised. No doubt they considered themselves well taught in the Word, and [91/92] yet as they enjoyed His personal tuition it all opened up to them in quite a new way. In some senses theirs was a unique experience, and yet He has promised that in the same way His Holy Spirit — that other Comforter — will do the same for us. It has been a feature of evangelical Christians to claim an open Bible. It should be a feature of all who know the Lord personally that this open Bible should be daily opened anew to them by the Lord Himself.
5. Opened Minds (vv.44-45)
In this case we notice that the openness was not just of the eyes but of the minds. Is there any difference? It seems that there is, for Paul prayed for the Ephesians that “the eyes of their understanding should be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18), and from this we presume that He longed that those who knew the Lord and read His Word should be given an insight into the divine purposes involved. I believe that the word employed by Luke is a strong one, meaning ‘to open fully’. It involves more than a casual grasp of truth, such as so often characterises those who feel that they are familiar with it, that they have heard it all before and know it all; rather implying a deep and detailed apprehension of the mind of God by intensive instruction. We must ask the Lord for this. Our quest must be not just a neat fitting together of prophecies or sentimental applications of comfort, but an entering into the mind and purposes of God as they are contained in His Word. The Lord took the whole of Scripture, right from the beginning, opening it up to His hearers and also opening their minds to grasp His meaning in a living way. There must be no area of our minds which is not open to Him. If we are so clouded by tradition or natural limitation that His purpose escapes us, then we must appeal to Him to open up our minds and give us capacities which we do not naturally possess. It was not just that they had open minds, though that is important, but that the risen Lord actually worked upon them to open their minds by His divine power.
6. Opened Heavens (v.51)
Everything had been leading up to this, the opened heaven. It was open to receive Him, and one day it will be opened again as He returns; but to us the glorious truth is that heaven is no longer closed, but opened wide to the believing heart, as Stephen found in his hour of greatest need. We are not to envy the two on the road to Emmaus, or the rest of the disciples who saw the Lord, for in our spiritual experience He is just as real and just as near to us as He was to them. The heavens have received Him, but they did not close behind Him. They remain open so that we can pray and praise at all times and in all places. This is one of the great benefits purchased by the sacrifice of the cross and made real in the resurrection and ascension; the possibility of living under an open heaven.
7. Opened Lips (v.52)
It was not that the disciples had previously been speechless — far from it — but that the opening process brought new release into their lives, and wondering worship found expression in both praise and testimony. Into the dead and formal exercises of the temple worship came men whose mouths had been opened to bring living praise to God. This they did continually, for every day brought fresh realisations of the wonder of their risen Lord. We may not feel able to voice the glories of Christ as we would wish, but we can obey God’s word to Israel: “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). Only sin and unbelief can close our lips, so, with a living faith in a living Saviour, we should be delivered from the silence of defeat and know the blessed victory of lips divinely opened to speak His praises, and to share in the Church’s worship. An opened tomb should result in opened lips.