And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about three score furlongs.…
I. LET US VERIFY THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT. In attempting this, let me first of all call your attention to Christianity as an existing fact. And the centre of that belief is the doctrine of the resurrection. We can thus trace the doctrine of the resurrection to its source, and see that it was no gradual innovation into the Church's belief; no doctrine gradually taking shape, as myths do, from ideas which have been floating about in the minds of men; but an alleged fact, attested by those who professed to be eye-witnesses of the event; and behoved in by the Church at a time when these witnesses were still alive. Now, in testing the value of their testimony, two questions present themselves, and give rise to two concurrent traces of thought, both of which, as we think, lead to the conclusion, that no testimony could be more trustworthy than that borne by the evangelists and others to the resurrection of our Lord. This first question, Were they competent witnesses, divides itself into two. Were they deceived themselves? Did they attempt to deceive others? If either of these questions can be answered in the affirmative, their testimony is invalid; if answered negatively, their testimony deserves to be received. That they could not be deceived themselves, is evident from the following considerations —
1. The question to which they bear testimony is not one of doctrine, on which their judgment might have misled them; but one of fact, on which they were guided by the evidence of their senses.
2. The witnesses were not one or two, but a large number — upwards of five hundred having seen the risen Redeemer at the same time.
3. The men were not fanatics, whose excited imagination might cause them to mistake some uncommon appearance for, or to invest it with, the form of their Lord. Their whole demeanour is the very antipodes to anything like fanaticism. No finer specimen of sobriety than their narrative presents can be found in any language.
4. The times and the manner of the Saviour's appearing were such as to render deception impossible. He appeared repeatedly — at different times and in various circumstances, and was not only visible to the eye, but palpable to the touch. Lastly, their familiarity with the Saviour previous to His death qualified them for recognizing Him after tits resurrection. They had been with Him in all circumstances. These considerations amply suffice to show that they could not be deceived. But did they attempt to deceive others? One would think the principles they propagated should be sufficient to acquit them of such a charge. Could impostors devise and propagate principles which surpass the practice of the nations almost as much as heaven contrasts with hell — principles which, wherever they obtain, promote the highest morality, making men truthful, honest, upright, generous, and devout — could impostors devise and propagate such principles as these? We think not. Besides, men do not practise imposition without an object. If they attempt to deceive, if is with a view to some selfish end — could there be any such end contemplated by the disciples of Christ? They could not hope to improve their temporal circumstances. Then, did they hope to gain for themselves a reward in heaven? A reward in heaven, for publishing a falsehood, and imposing on their fellows! We pass on now to consider the second question, Would their testimony if false have been believed in Jerusalem and elsewhere? and the concurrent though different train of thought to which it gives rise. All these statements of the history must have been known to be false by those among whom they were circulated; or at least their falsehood might easily have been made so manifest as to render their reception impossible, and to confine them to the parties with whom they originated. And not only were they capable of effectual contradiction; but those who had the power, had also the strongest inducement to make known their falsehood.
II. LET US ACCOUNT FOR THE EXULTANT FEELINGS WITH WHICH THE DISCIPLES PUBLISHED THIS STATEMENT. In attempting this it is necessary to place ourselves to some extent in the position of the disciples, in order that we may judge of the manner in which they were personally affected by the event. It is evident from the Gospels that they were greatly overwhelmed by His death. They had sacrificed all they possessed, and were, as it now appeared to them, to gain nothing. Their temporal prospects were blasted. Their friends were alienated from them; and all they could look for in return was the derision of their neighbours for having indulged baseless expectations. In this state of mind, when it became evident to them that the Lord was risen, when they saw and heard Him, and knew from the old manner and spirit that it was He himself, what a strange revulsion of feeling they must have experienced! What new light must suddenly have flashed upon them! Then He is a king after all, though in another sense than we imagined. Then our expectations are not disappointed; there is a reward for us still, higher than we had dreamed of. Then we have still our friend to lean upon, to care for us, and comfort us, and guide, and help us. Now we have a new conception of our calling and of our Master's reign. Now we can see how our carnal-mindedness kept us from perceiving the full meaning of His gracious words; and that when we attributed to Him hard sayings, He was but holding out to us greater blessings than our hearts were prepared to receive. No wonder that when such thoughts dawned upon them, their hearts were filled with joy! There were reasons, perhaps, for their joy, which even they did not yet fully apprehend — reasons relating to us as well as to them. They did not yet perceive all the results to humanity which were to flow from His death, though ultimately they showed that they knew what importance was attached to it — Peter, e.g., making it the principal subject of his sermons, connecting it with the miracles which he wrought, and in his Epistle attributing to it the new birth of believers; while Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15., to which we have already referred, makes it lie at the basis of the entire Christian faith — "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." The meaning of these words, and the supreme importance of the event to which they refer, may be illustrated by the following considerations: The resurrection was the Divine seal to the Saviour's mission. During His life He claimed to be the Son of God in a sense which made Him equal with the Father — to have come from the bosom of the Father that He might reveal His character to mankind, and open a way by which sinners might approach and find acceptance with Him — to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and, ere His death, exclaimed in reference to this work, "It is finished!" Now, suppose that after all this, He had not risen. In that case His claims would have been falsified. It would have been evident that He was a mere impostor. God does not own this pretended Son of His, who claimed to be one in nature with Himself. His revelation of the Father is untrue. Whereas the resurrection put the Divine seal to His claims, and made manifest His own Divine attributes. By it God declared before all the worlds that He was all that He professed to be, and had done what He professed to do; that His life and teaching contained a true revelation of the Divine character; that He had opened a way of access to God through the atonement which He had offered for the sins of the world; that through Him the love of God was free to our fallen race; that in Him there was pardon and life for mankind sinners. All this, if His miracles had not previously made it manifest, was clearly revealed in the light which shone on the sepulchre on that first Easter morning. But oh the joy which comes to us from that deserted gravel "The Lord is risen indeed!" Then woe unto those by whom His overtures of mercy are rejected and His authority set at nought. As the conqueror of death no one can successfully resist His will. The power which rifled the grave can crush the proudest rebel.
Parallel VersesKJV: And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.