By J.R. Miller
Sometime in the afternoon of the day on which Jesus rose, two of His disciples, not apostles--but friends, took a long walk into the country. We are not told why they went to Emmaus. Perhaps they had given up hope. Thus it is too often with Christ's friends in these days, when trouble comes upon them. The bright dreams fade, they grow disheartened and turn away--as if the sacred beliefs they had cherished so long were only delusions. We see here, however, how needless was the discouragement. No hope really had faded. What they thought was cause for sorrow--was the secret of the most blessed hope the world ever has known.
As these men walked along the way, they talked together of the strange things which had happened. This was natural. Their hearts were full of these things, and they could not but talk about them. If the conversation of Christian people is sometimes vapid and trivial, it must be because their hearts are not filled with the holy themes which ought to occupy them. Is there much truly pious conversation? What did you talk about yesterday, or last evening, in the long walk you took with your friend? This example suggests to us, at least the value of good, earnest, wayside conversation. Most of us walk more or less with our friends. Why should two sincere Christians talk together for an hour or longer, and neither of them say one word better than the idlest chitchat about the merest nothings?
Now a most interesting thing occurred. As they went on talking together, Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them. That is always the way. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name--there am I in the midst of them." We are met in His name--when love for Him draws us together. Then He will always join us. If only idle words are on our lips, if we are gossiping about our neighbors, saying mean and disagreeable things about them; if we are talking of things which are not beautiful and good--we have no reason to expect Christ to draw near and join us. He would not be interested in our conversation, nor would we care to have Him listening to what we are saying. In order to have Christ go with us in our walk--our talk must be of things which will be congenial to Him. This, therefore, is the test--Would Jesus want to enter into this conversation with us? Would He be pleased to hear the words we are saying drop from our lips?
Sometimes we join a group of busy talkers, and suddenly the conversation ceases. They do no want to go on with it, in our presence. Would we keep on with this talk of ours without embarrassment or sense of unfitness, if Jesus were to come in and sit down visibly in our circle?
He walked with these friends unrecognized. They did not know him. This is often the way with us--Jesus draws near to us and we fail to know that it is He. He comes to us in our sorrow, and we do not see Him by our side. We go on weeping and breaking our hearts, while if we saw the glorious form that is close to us, and knew of the love that is throbbing against our breasts--we would put away our tears and rejoice. Many people fail to recognize the divine love and comfort in their grief--and go on as if there were no stars shining in the sky. How may of us are conscious of the presence of Christ with us, or get from it the full comfort, inspiration, and help which we might get?
Sir Launfal, in Lowell's poem, wandered over all the earth in search of the Holy Grail. When at last, after long years had passed, he returned, aged and bent, to his old home--there under his own castle walls did he find the object of his search! Just so, often we would find close beside us, in the Scriptures we already possess, in the circumstances in which we are place, in the human tenderness that is about us--the help we are seeking and the truth we need, if only we had eyes to see.
The Stranger showed a deep interest in the two men. The sorrow in their faces and tones touched His heart. Jesus always has a quick ear and sensitive heart for human grief or need. He knows when we are sad; when our burden is greater than we can bear. Then He is quick to express sympathy. He wants to give help.
This conversation shows that Jesus desires His friends to confide in Him. It does good for a burdened heart to tell out its trouble to Him. So when these men spoke to Him of the things that filled their hearts that day, He asked, "What things?" He knew, of course; but He wanted them to speak out their fears and doubts and ask their questions. So, when we are in sorrow, Christ wants us to tell Him of all that troubles or perplexes us. The telling will do us good. Then, by bringing them to Him--we shall have the tangles unsnarled.
Jesus spoke to these disciples out of a loving heart, telling them how slow they were in believing in what the prophets had spoken. He then told them that it befit the Messiah, to suffer the very things which this Jesus they were grieving over, had suffered. He told them that if they had only understood the Scriptures, their hearts never would have been cast down by the things which had befallen Him. God's way is always the true one. Our way would not bring us to the glory we desire--any more than the disciples' idea of the Messiah would have brought salvation to the world. When God sets aside our plans for our lives--we may know that His plan, however different from ours it may be, and however it may seem to thwart our plans--is the right one.
These two men enjoyed a rare privilege that day in having Jesus as an interpreter of the Scriptures concerning Himself, "He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself." It would be interesting if we could read the interpretations he gave. What a wonderful talk that was! We may be quite sure that He quoted the passages which depicted the sufferings of the Messiah, showing that the cross was part of the divine plan of redemption. Doubtless He quoted the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. Thus He went over the Old Testament, interpreting it and showing how he had fulfilled these ancient predictions. No wonder their hearts burned within them--as He opened to them the Scriptures.
At length they came to the place where their journey ended. He was disposed to go on farther--but they urged Him to abide with them. If they had not thus constrained Him, He would have passed on. Think what they would have missed--if He had not gone in with them. We do not know how much of the revealing of divine love and grace we miss continually, because of the tameness of our praying. We ought to get a lesson from the example of these disciples, who constrained the Stranger to go in with them and were rewarded by finding in Him--the Friend for whom they were so hungering.
When they sat down together at the table for their evening meal, the Stranger took bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. Perhaps it was these familiar acts which revealed Him to them. Or they may have seen the nail mark in the hand which broke the bread. We are not told how--but in some way they came to understand that the Guest at their table was Jesus Himself, whom they were mourning as dead--but who was now risen and living! What if our eyes would be opened to see Jesus every time He is beside us, eating with us, walking with us? How radiant would all life then become!
Another suggestion from this Emmaus story, is that often it is only as they leave us--that we learn the value of our blessings. "Their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight." How often it is rue that only in their vanishing, do our friends reveal themselves to us.
Somehow our eyes are blinded, and we do not see the loveliness. Faults seem larger and blemishes greater, while our friends are close to us. But as they leave us--the faults appear faults no longer, "just odd ways," and blemishes are transfigured into shining marks. Why wait for the hour of departing--to see the beauty and the good?