Now these disciples had spent a most blessed time with Jesus, but if they had gone away before He revealed Himself that evening, they would never have been sure that it was Jesus, for their eyes were holden that they should not know Him. That is, alas, the condition of a great multitude in the Church of Christ. They know that Christ has risen from the dead. They believe, and they very often have blessed experiences that come from the risen Christ. Very often in a time of Convention, or in time of silent Bible reading, or in a time of the visitation of God's grace, their hearts burn; and yet it can be said of a people whose hearts are burning within them, that they did not know it was Jesus Himself.
And now if you ask me what is to be the great blessing to be sought, my answer is this: Not only should we think about Jesus Himself and speak about Him and believe in Him, but we should come to the point that the disciples in the text arrived at, "and they knew Him." Everything is to be found in that.
If I read that story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus, I get from it four stages in the Christian life. Just think! How did they begin the morning that day? With
Hearts sad and troubled,
because they thought Jesus was dead. They did not know that He was alive, and that is the state of very many Christians. They look to the Cross, and they struggle to trust Christ, but they have never yet learned the blessedness of believing that there is a living Christ to do everything for them. Oh! that word of the angel to the women! "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" What is the difference between a dead Christ, whom the women went to anoint, and a living Christ? A dead Christ, I must do everything for; a living Christ does everything for me.
The disciples began the morning with a sad heart. I fancy very possibly they spent a sleepless night. Oh! the terrible disappointment! They had hoped that Christ would be the Deliverer of Israel, and they had seen Him die an accursed death. On the morning of that first day of the week, they rose with sad hearts -- the bitter sadness cannot be expressed. That is just the life of many Christians. They try to believe in Jesus and to trust Him, and to hope in Him, but there is no joy. Why? Because they do not know that there is a living Christ to reveal Himself.
Then there is the second stage. What is that? The stage of which Christ speaks:
"Slow of heart to believe."
They had the message from the women. They told the stranger who walked with them: "Certain women have astonished us, telling us they have seen an angel, who says He is alive." And Christ replied to them: "Oh! fools, and slow of heart to believe." Yes! there are many Christians to-day who have heard and who know that they must not only believe in a crucified Christ, but in a living Christ, and they try to grasp it and take it in, but it does not bring them a blessing, and why? Because they want to feel it and not to believe it. They want to work for it, and with efforts get hold of it, instead of just quietly sinking down and believing, "Christ, the living Jesus, He will do everything for us." That is the second stage. The first stage is that of ignorance, the second stage is that of unbelief -- the doubting heart that cannot take in the wonderful truth that Jesus lives.
Then comes the third stage --
The burning heart.
Jesus came to the two disciples, and after He had reproved them and said: "Oh! fools, and slow of heart to believe," He began to open the Scriptures to them, and to tell them of all the wonderful things the prophets had taught. Then their eyes were opened, and they began to understand the Scriptures. They saw that it was true that it was prophesied that Christ must rise. As He talked, there came out from Him -- the living risen One -- a mighty influence, and it rested upon them, and they began to feel their hearts burn within them with joy and gladness.
You still say perhaps: "That is the stage we want to come to." No; God forbid you should stop there. You may get in that third stage -- the burning heart -- and yet something is still wanting -- the revelation of Christ. The disciples had had a blessed experience of His divine powers, but He had not revealed Himself, and oh! how often it is that at Conventions and in churches, and in meetings and in blessed fellowship with God's saints, our hearts burn within us. These are precious experiences of the working of God's grace and Spirit, and yet there is something wanting. What is that? Jesus Himself has been working upon us, and the power of his risen life has touched us, but we cannot say, "I have met Him. He has made Himself known to me." Oh, the difference between a burning heart, which becomes cold after a time, which comes by fits and starts, and the blessed revelation of Jesus Himself as my Saviour, taking charge of me and blessing me and keeping me every day! This is the stage of
The satisfied heart.
Oh my brother, my sister! It is what I ask for you, and it is what I am sure you ask for yourself. I ask it for myself. Lord Jesus! may we know Thee in thy divine glory as the risen One, our Jesus, our Beloved and our mighty One. Oh! if there are any sad ones who cannot take this in, and who say, "I have never known the joy of religion yet" -- listen, we are going to tell you how you can. All will center round this one thing, that just as a little child lives day by day in the arms of its mother, and grows up year by year under a mother's eye, it is a possibility that you can live every day and hour of your life in fellowship with the Holy Jesus.
He will do it for you.
Come, and let your sad heart begin to hope. Will He reveal Himself? He did it to the disciples and He will do it to you. Perhaps there are some who have got beyond the sad heart and who yet feel, "I have not got what I want." If you throw open your heart and give up everything but just believing and allowing Him to do what He wants, it will come. God be praised! it will come.
Jesus will reveal Himself.
Perhaps you have arrived at the stage of the burning heart, and can tell of many blessed experiences, but somehow there is a worm at the root. The experiences do not last, and the heart is so changeable. Oh come, my beloved! Follow Christ. Say, "Jesus, reveal Thyself that we may know Thee Thyself. We ask not only to drink of the living water, we want the fountain. We ask not only to bathe ourselves in the light, we want the Sun of Righteousness within our hearts. We ask not only to know Thee, who hast touched us and warmed our hearts and blessed us, but we want to know that we have the unchangeable Jesus dwelling within our hearts and abiding with us forevermore."
Now comes the question which I really wanted to put, -- What are the conditions under which our blessed Lord reveals Himself? Or, put it this way, -- To whom is it that Jesus will reveal Himself? We have only to see how he dealt with these disciples, and we get the answer. What is the answer? First of all I think I find here that Christ revealed Himself to those disciples
Who had given up everything for Him.
He had said to them: "Forsake all and follow Me," and they had done it. With all their feebleness and all their unfaithfulness they followed Christ to the end. He said to them: "Ye have continued with Me in My temptations, and I appoint you a kingdom, as I have received a kingdom from My Father." They were not perfect men, but they would have died for Him. They loved Him, they obeyed Him, they followed Him. They had left all, and for three years they had been following hard after Christ. You say "Tell me what Christ wants of me, if I am to have his wonderful presence. Tell me what is the character of the man to whom Christ will reveal Himself in this highest and fullest way?" I answer: "It is the one who is ready to forsake all and to follow Him." If Christ is to give Himself wholly to me, He must know that He has me wholly for Himself; and I trust God will give grace that these words spoken about the consecration and the surrender, not only of all evil, but of many lawful things, and even, if necessary, of life itself, may lead us to understand what the demand is that Jesus makes upon us.
The motto of the Cape General Mission is,
In one sense that is a beautiful motto, and yet I am not always satisfied with it, because it is a motto that is often misunderstood. God first may mean "I" second, something else third, and something else fourth. God is thus first in order, but still God becomes one of a series of powers, and that is not the place God wants. The meaning of the words, "God first" is really "God all; God everything;" and that is what Christ wants. To be willing to give up everything, to submit to Christ to teach him what to say and what to do, is the first mark of the man to whom Christ will come. Are you not ready to take this step and say: "Jesus! I do give up everything; I have given up everything; reveal Thyself."
Oh, brother! oh, sister! do not hesitate. Speak it out in your heart, and let this be the time in which a new sacrifice shall be laid at the feet of the blessed Lamb of God.
There is a second thought. There is first the idea of having forsaken all to follow Him; of having given up everything in obedience to Him, and living just a life of simple love and obedience. But there is a second thing needed in the man who is to have this full revelation of Christ. He must be
Convicted of his unbelief.
"Oh! fools, and slow of heart to believe what the prophets have said." Oh! brother, sister, if we could have a sight of the amount of unbelief in the hearts of God's children, barring the door and closing the heart against Christ, how we should stand astonished and ashamed! When there is not unbelief but where there is faith, Christ cannot help coming in. He cannot help coming where there is a living faith, a full faith. The heart is opened, the heart is prepared; and as naturally as water runs into a hollow place, so naturally Christ must come into a heart that is full of faith. What is the hindrance with some earnest souls, who say: "I have given myself up to the Lord Jesus. I have done it often, and by His grace I am doing it every day, and God knows how earnestly and really I am doing it, and I have the sanction of God upon it, I know God has blessed me"? They have not been convicted of their unbelief. "Oh! fools, and slow of heart to believe." Do you know what Christ said about a man calling his brother a fool? Yet here the loving Son of God could find no other word to speak to His beloved disciples: "Oh! fools, and slow of heart to believe." You want the Lord Jesus to give you this full revelation of Himself? Are you willing to acknowledge that you are a fool for never having believed in Him? "Lord Jesus, it is my own fault. There Thou art, longing to have possession of me. There Thou hast been with Thy faithful promises waiting to reveal Thyself."
Did you ever hear of a man loving another and not longing to reveal himself? Christ longs to reveal Himself, but He cannot on account of our unbelief. May God convict us of our unbelief that we may get utterly ashamed and broken down, and cry, "Oh, my God, what is this, this heart of unbelief actually throwing a barrier across the door that Christ cannot step in, blinding my eyes that I cannot see Jesus, though he is so near? Here He has been for ten or twenty years, from time to time giving me the burning heart, enjoying the experience of a little of His love and grace, and yet I have not had the revelation of Him, taking possession of my heart and dwelling with me in unbroken continuity." Oh! may God convict us of unbelief. Do let us believe because all things are possible to him that believes. That is God's word, and this blessing, receiving the revelation of Jesus, can come only to those who learn to believe and to trust him.
There is another mark of those to whom this special revelation of Christ will come, and that is,
They do not rest until they obtain it.
You know the story. Their hearts were burning as they drew nigh to the place they were going to, and Christ made as if He were going farther. He put them to the test, and if they had allowed Him quietly to go on, if they had been content with the experience of the burning heart, they would have lost something infinitely better. But they were not content with it. They were not content to go home to the disciples that night and say, "Oh, what a blessed afternoon we have had! What wonderful teaching we have had!" No! The burning heart and the blessed experience just made them say, "Lord, abide with us," and they compelled Him to come in. They constrained Him to come in.
It always reminds me of the story of Jacob, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." That is the spirit that prepares us for the revelation of Jesus. Oh! my dear friend, has this been the spirit in which we have looked upon the wonderful blessing that we have sometimes heard of? "Oh! my Lord Jesus, though I do not understand it, though I cannot grasp it, though my struggles avail nothing, I am not going to let Thee go. If it is possible for a sinner on earth to have Jesus every day, every hour, and every moment in resurrection power dwelling in his heart, shining within him, filling him with love and joy, -- if that is possible, I want it."
Is that your language?
Oh! come then and say: "Lord Jesus, I cannot let Thee go except Thou bless me." The question is asked so often: "What is the cause of the feeble life of so many Christians?" What is really the matter? What is actually the want?
How little the Church responds to Christ's call! how little the Church is what Christ would have her to be! What is the cause of all the trouble? Various answers may be given, but there is one answer which includes all the other answers, and that is, each believer wants the personal
Full revelation of a personal Christ
as an indwelling Lord, as a satisfying portion. When the Lord Jesus was here upon earth, what was it that distinguished His disciples from other people? He took them away from their fish-nets, and from their homes, and He gathered them about Himself, and they knew Jesus. He was their Master, and guarded them, and they followed Him. And what is to make a difference between Christ's disciples -- not those who are just hoping to get to heaven, but Christ's whole-hearted disciples -- what is to make a difference between them and other people? It is this, to be in fellowship with Jesus -- every hour of the day; and just as Christ upon earth was able to keep those people with Him for three years, day by day, so
Christ is able
in heaven now to do what He could not do when He was on earth -- to keep in the closest fellowship with every believer throughout the whole world. Glory be to God! You know that text in Ephesians: "He that descended is the same also that ascended, that He might fill all things." Why was my Lord Jesus taken up to heaven away from the life of earth? Because the life of earth is a life confined to localities, but the life in heaven is a life in which there is no limit and no bound and no locality, and Christ was taken up to heaven, that, in the power of God, of the omnipresent God, He might be able to fill every individual here and be with every individual believer.
That is what my heart wants to realize by faith; that is a possibility, that is a promise, that is my birthright, and I want to have it, and I want by the grace of God to say, "Jesus, I will not rest until Thou hast revealed Thyself fully to my soul."
There are often very blessed experiences in the Christian life in what I call the third stage -- the stage of the burning heart. Do you know what another great mark of that stage is? Delight in God's word. How did the disciples get their burning hearts? By that strange opening of the Scripture to them. He made it all look different, -- new, -- and they saw what they had never seen before. They could not help feeling,
how heavenly was that teaching. Oh! there are many Christians who find the best time of the day is the time when they can get with their Bibles, and who love nothing so much as to get a new thought; and as a diamond digger rejoices when he has found a diamond, or a gold digger when he has found a nugget, they delight when they get from the Bible some new thought, and they feed upon it. Yet with all that interest in God's word, and with all that stirring of the heart with joy, when they go into business or attend to their daily duties, there is still something wanting.
We must come away from all the manifold and multifarious blessings that Jesus can bestow from time to time, to the blessed unity of that one -- that Jesus makes Himself known, Jesus Himself is willing to make Himself known. Oh! if I were to ask, "Is not this just what you and I want, and what many of us have been longing for?" I am sure you would answer,
"That is what I want."
Think what the blessedness will be that comes from it. You often sing: --
"Oh! the peace my Saviour gives!
I recently had a letter from some one in the Free State saying what a wonderful comfort and strength that little verse was in the midst of difficulties and troubles. Yes; but how can that peace be kept? It was the presence of Christ that brought the peace. When the storm was threatening to swallow up the disciples, it was the presence of Christ Himself that gave the peace.
Oh! Christian, do you want peace and rest? You must have Jesus Himself. You talk of purity, you talk of cleansing, you talk of deliverance from sin. Praise God, here is the deliverance and the cleansing, when the living Jesus comes and gives power. Then we have this resurrection of Christ, this heavenly Christ upon the throne, making Himself known to us. Surely that will be the secret of purity and the secret of strength.
Where does the strength of so many come from? From the joy of a personal friendship with Jesus. Those disciples, if they had gone away with their burning hearts to the other disciples, could have told them wonderful things of a man who had explained to them the Scriptures and the promises, but they could not have said, "We have seen Jesus." They might have said, "Jesus is alive. We are sure of that," but that would not have satisfied the others. But they could now go and say,
"We have seen Himself.
He has revealed Himself to us." We are all glad to work for Christ, but there is a complaint throughout the Church of Christ, from the ministers in the pulpit down to the feeblest worker, of lack of joy and lack of blessedness. Let us try and find out whether this is not the place where the secret will be discovered -- that the Lord Jesus comes and shows Himself to us as our Master and speaks to us. When we have Jesus with us, and when we go every footstep with the thought that it is Jesus wants us to go, it is Jesus who sends us and is helping us, then there will be brightness in our testimony, and it will help other believers, and they will begin to understand; "I see why I have failed. I took the word, I took the blessing, and I took, as I thought, the life, but I was without the living Jesus."
And if you now ask, "How will this revelation come?" Brother, sister, that is the secret that no man may tell, that Jesus keeps to Himself. It is
In the power of the Holy Ghost;
Christ, the risen One, entered into a new life. His resurrection life is entirely different from His life before His death. You know what we read: "They knew Him." He revealed Himself, and then He passed away. And was that vision of Christ worth so much? It was lost in a moment. It was worth heaven, eternity, everything. Why? Because henceforth Christ was no longer to be known after the flesh. Christ was henceforth in the power of the Spirit, which fills Heaven; in the power of the Spirit which is the power of the Godhead; in the power of the Spirit, which fills our hearts. Christ was henceforth to live in the life of Heaven.
Thank God, Christ can by the power of the Holy Ghost reveal Himself to each one of us; but oh! brother, it is a secret thing between Christ and yourself. Take this assurance, "Their eyes were opened and they knew Him," and believe that it is written for you.
You say, "I have known the other three stages; the stage of the sad heart, mourning that I knew no living Christ; I have known the stage of the slow heart to believe, when I struggled with my unbelief; and I know the stage of the burning heart, when there are great times of joy and blessedness." You say that? Oh come then and know the fourth stage of
The satisfied heart,
of the heart made glad for eternity, of the heart that cannot keep its joy in, but goes away back to Jerusalem, and says, "It is true. Jesus has revealed Himself. I know it, I feel it." Oh! brother, oh! sister, how will this revelation come? Jesus will tell you. Just come to the Lord Jesus and breathe up before Him a simple child-like prayer, and I, His servant, will come and take you by the hand and say: "Come, now, my work is done. I have pointed to the Lamb of God, to the risen One. My work is done."
Let us enter into the Holy Presence and begin, if you have never yet sought it before, begin to plead: "Oh! Saviour, that I might have this blessedness every moment present with me -- Jesus Himself, my portion forever."