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Online Text Sermon - Slow to Believe, Luke ch.24 vv.25-26

PreacherRev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness
Sermon TitleSlow to Believe
TextLuke ch.24 vv.25-26
Sermon ID290

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"Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24, 25-26).

This is a very famous and familiar passage of Scripture. Almost everybody who has read the Bible at all is well familiar with this chapter. It speaks about two disciples of Christ who are walking along the road together. We are told which day it was when they were holding this conversation. It was the same day on which Jesus Christ our Lord rose from the dead. It was no ordinary day. It was the day in which Christ completed His work of saving His people. Having died for them three days before this, having been buried for those three days, He now on this first day of the week - what we call Sunday - has risen from the dead. He has conquered the devil, He has removed our sins, He is now bursting through the bonds of death - not only for Himself but for all believers. It was a day of great triumph therefore. In some ways, you could say it was the most wonderful day which ever had dawned since the world began.

These two disciples, talking together, were said here to be 'sad': when Jesus joins in their company - "He said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?" (Luke 24, 17). He was drawing attention to the fact that they were talking together and their faces betrayed the fact that they were sad. You and I can smile as we think of the sadness of these two on the road to Emmaus, because we know that there was no reason for them to be sad. But they didn't yet know that. We must make allowance for that fact. These two disciples were sad, really, without any just reason. They were sad without a cause for sadness. That's what I want to look at this evening with you: this sadness that these two disciples were sharing one with another as they spoke in conversation, walking along the road to this little village which was called Emmaus and mentioned here in Luke 24, 13.

My very dear friends, here is an experience which is very common to the Lord's people: the experience of sorrow. Every true Christian finds this world a place of sadness. You know, there are some people who get entirely the wrong idea about the Bible and about God. There are some people who think that if you're a true Christian you're going to be happier than the world. Well, of course, the Christian is happier than the world, but it doesn't always appear like that in his own personal experience. Jesus Christ put it like this when he was preaching. We call this sermon the Sermon on the Plain to distinguish it from the Sermon on the Mount. And Jesus said this: "Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep" (Luke 6, 25). He also said, "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh" (Luke 6, 21). You see, it's a very strange world; it's an upside down world. This is a world where those who have reason for laughter are often the saddest; and those who have reason to weep because of the coming judgement which God is going to send upon them in the end, because they don't see it, are busy laughing. They have a superficial happiness which the Lord's people seldom have.

That was true of these two on the road to Emmaus, and it's so typical of the Lord's people in this present life. They were sad. They looked sad. Often the Lord's people do look sad. Let's consider for a moment what it was that was making these two disciples, on the road, talking together, appear so visibly sad. It was not because they had lost their stocks and shares on the market; it was not that they had suffered some personal tragedy; it was not that some political event had happened which upset their political preferences. It was not even that their health was poor. They were sad for a spiritual reason. Their sadness arose from the fact that something had happened which to them was like a bombshell. It was almost like, say, the 'end of the world' to them. And it was this: That the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ whom they loved had been crucified three days before, on the Friday, and had been placed in the grave. Their sadness arose from this. They put it themselves into these words: they had hoped that this was the Person who was going to bring enormous blessing to the Church of their day; that He was the one who was going to revive the cause of God within the nation. They had expected that this Jesus, who so clearly was sent from heaven by God, was going to bring blessing to Israel and revive the cause which they loved. But it didn't happen. On the contrary, He was crucified, and now - or so they thought - He was dead.

That was the cause of their sadness and I have to point out that there was something very good here, something very praiseworthy. This showed where their affections were. They were not living for this world; they were not at all concerned about ambition for themselves, or wealth, or pleasure of any sort. These were not the things that these two on the road to Emmaus were finding their life's joy in attending to. They lived for God, and for His work, and for His cause, and for His kingdom. They were longing to see blessing come down, but they hadn't seen it. They were the more perplexed because this Jesus had done such wonderful works. They refer to this themselves in the course of their conversation: they say, "...Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people" (Luke 24, 19). No preacher of the calibre of Jesus Christ had ever appeared. No prophet had ever appeared on the stage of history to compare in any sense with this great and wonderful Person. No miracles had every occurred which were to be compared with the miracles of Christ - casting out demons at a word, raising the dead, even healing the sick at a touch. All these glorious things that He did - power over nature: stilling the storm, walking on the waves of the sea. There was nothing He couldn't do. Yet now He was dead and gone - so they thought.

There was therefore something good in the way in which they were sad. My dear friend, when our sadness is for spiritual reasons it is a sign of our love for God. I don't say that it's perfect, as you will see in a moment. I don't say that it's free from infirmity. I don't say that it's in every way praiseworthy, but I do say that there is this in it: it shows where our hearts are. When the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ is weak in any place, at any time, and the Lord's people are burdened and concerned about it, and are sad because of it, it reflects their love for the God who is being dishonoured. That much can be said in its favour. They were also confused. They tell us this, because in reporting the reason for their sorrow they go on like this: "Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive." (Luke 24, 22-23). You can see their state of mind was one of sadness, uncertainty, confusion and perplexity. Their minds were in a whirlwind of confusion. And, unless you are very different from me, I would have to say it's quite a common thing for a Christian to find himself like that: his mind in a very whirlwind of perplexity, confusion, and inability to grapple with all the complexities of the world in which we live, especially in connection with the work of God here below.

That's the first thing. It could be that I'm speaking to people here who know a great deal about the meaning of sadness, for many reasons. It could be that I'm speaking to some people who are very spiritual and godly, and diligent in their service for Christ, and yet you have drunk bitter waters, and you can say like Naomi of old "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me (Ruth 1, 20); "The hand of the Lord is gone out against me" (Ruth 1, 13). It's quite a common experience. Some of the greatest Christians who ever lived have had it: they've had it in their own lives; they've had it in their own families; they've had it in their ministries; they've had it in their churches; they've seen it in their nation and in their circumstances. So, my very dear friends, it is the hallmark of the people of God, very often, to drink deep waters of sorrow.

Secondly, I have to go on from there and I have to point out that there was something in this sadness referred to here which was not praiseworthy. There was something here which was not worthy of being commended and this is what our Lord draws attention to in the text. Christ is now speaking to them: "Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" (text). Let me just remind you how it was that Christ was speaking to these two men; one of whom we know the name of as Cleopas, and the other we are not told the name of - we don't know who it was, but he was a disciple of Christ. They were travelling, we are told in verse 13, going to a village called Emmaus which was some distance from Jerusalem - threescore furlongs; I think you could say that's about eight-and-a-half miles. They were walking on this resurrection day, the first day of the week. As they walked along a stranger, you remember, came and accompanied them and spoke kindly to them. He said words like this: "And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden [shut or, in a sense 'blinded' in a way] that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?" (Luke 24, v.15-17). Of course they didn't recognise Him. Our Lord, therefore, begins this conversation and there's nothing more ironical in the whole of the Bible, surely, than what we have here. Here we have these two disciples talking sadly to one another. Why were they sad? Because Christ was dead, and lo and behold, Christ was actually talking to them as they were sad and walking along; He was drawing out the reasons for their sadness. If only they had known how absurd their sadness was! Could anything have been more absurd than that He, who was the source of their sadness, was the very one they were communing with as they walked along? But they didn't know; their eyes were shut.

My concern is to point out that although there was something good in their sadness, in that it showed their love of God and of his cause, there was also a great weakness and a great infirmity in their sadness because it was not mixed with faith in the Word of God. There was love visible in their sadness, but not faith. There was love for God, certainly, but love is sometimes blind and doesn't recognise the things that God has said in his Word. There is something to be blamed about this sadness of theirs, and Jesus does blame them. He says to them: "O fools..." (text). That's not meant to be too severe - it's a gentle rebuke; He's not attacking them in a stern way, but He is just chiding them - "Oh foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the [Old Testament] prophets have been saying. Was it not fitting that Christ should die and rise again and enter into his glory in heaven? That's what these prophecies have been talking about from the beginning of time. Have you not understood the Scriptures? Have you not realised why it is that these things had to happen?" "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets," we are told at verse 27, "he expounded in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Well of course we mustn't spend time on this. It's very well known, I am sure, by you all. But there are many prophecies dealing with Christ's death and resurrection and ascension. I'll just touch on these for the benefit of the younger persons present.

Young people, when our first father and mother, Adam and Eve, sinned against God and were ashamed of their nakedness and hid under the trees when God's presence came; as soon as their sins were forgiven God said to them He was going to send a Saviour one day who would come into this world and He would bruise the serpent's head - that was to say, He would destroy the power of the devil - and that was the prophecy of the coming of Christ. Christ must suffer, says God. He told these things to Adam and Eve, all those many hundreds and thousands of years ago - not millions of years ago; the world isn't that old; the world is only some thousands of years old - and God said that to our first father and mother. He repeated it in all sorts of ways. In the days of Abraham, you remember, God gave another of these prophecies. When Abraham was offering up Isaac on Mount Moriah and he was forbidden to kill him, God provided a sacrifice instead. This also was another prophecy of the coming of Christ to be the Saviour of the world. We get it in the days of Moses, in the Passover, as they were leaving to go out of Egypt they had to paint the blood of a slain beast upon the doorposts. When the angel went over he said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Exodus 12, 13) - "but I'll kill the first born sons of the families where there's no blood." This again was a picture of the coming of Christ to die and shed His blood to remove our sin. You get it all the way through the Old Testament: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him [Jesus Christ]; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53, 5).

This is what Jesus was talking about. I've just touched on a few. But in all the Scriptures, as Jesus was walking along with these two disciples He was saying, "There's this prophecy, and that prophecy, and another prophecy, and this one here - and they're all about Christ dying and rising. Have you not understood?" He said. "Psalm 22 - it's very clear; Psalm 69 - it's very clear; Psalm 110; Psalm 16 - sitting at the right hand of God. Have you not understood? Why are you so sad? Did you not realise it was going to happen? This was prophesied, that Christ should die, and rise, and enter into His glory at the right hand of God."

Let me use this little picture, or illustration, which may help the young people here. Supposing now this is an art gallery, and here we have a huge painting on the wall. Supposing I stand here and look at this picture. It's a very big picture but if I stand very close to it, with just a few inches between myself and the picture, I can only see a little bit; I can't take in the whole of it. But somebody on the back row can see it all. That's the trouble with these two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were so close to the events they couldn't see the whole picture. Their sadness and their misery was because they only saw a little bit of the picture of what God was doing. That was what made them sad and it's what often, I'm afraid, makes us sad too. If we could only see the whole picture of what God is doing, there would be no place for this kind of sadness. There would be no room for this kind of disappointment, as though God's work was failing and God's work was going to be lost forever. That's what Jesus says: they were slow to believe the prophets.

You and I must learn from this. A great deal of our sadness arises from the fact that we do not take seriously enough what the Bible has said. "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." In this present life the righteous are cast down many a time. You think of Moses just before the Exodus. He had to spend forty long, tedious years looking after a few sheep in the desert. He was longing for the day when Israel would be delivered out of their bondage from Egypt - that's what he really cared about - and he had to wait forty years for God to do that great work. Think of the days of Elijah, when Elijah saw the fire come down upon the sacrifice and then, because of the persecution of Jezebel, had to flee into the wilderness and there he was, forty days and forty nights, and he had the experience of God passing by and showing him in a vision that the Lord is not in the earthquake nor in the fire but in the still, small voice of grace. Here we have these two on the road to Emmaus, and they were living right next to the great, glorious resurrection of Christ. It had just happened but they were so close to it they didn't see it and they had no comfort from it.

My friends, there are some things for us all to learn. In a Christian's sadnesses there is always some unbelief, because we are to take God seriously that all things are working together for good to them that love Him (Romans 8, 28). Oh I know it's very easy for a preacher to say that, but it is perfectly true. The psalmist says, "God that performeth all things for me" (Psalm 57, 2). Let us remind ourselves, my very dear friends, that you and I, living as we are in 2001, with all that we know about the churches, about the nation, about what's happening in schools, about crime, drunkenness and drugs - all these things; they are not outside of the plan and purpose of God. There is some unbelief in me, and even in you, when we allow these things to weigh us down unduly.

I want now to say to you that if we could only see the big picture and not simply the square in front of our eyes, of what God is doing, you and I might today have extraordinary reason to be encouraged rather than cast down when we look at the state of the world. I am going to be bold this evening. I am going to suggest to you that there could very well be things happening in the world today which are very encouraging, if only we had eyes to understand and interpret these things. Well I won't tell you things that I've said many times before, such as the fact that in China today, in the last 30 years there have been thirty million converts they say. I won't speak again about Korea where there are great numbers of Christians going from that beautiful country to all over the world, including our own country, to set up colleges to teach the nations the Word of God. I won't speak about the great work of God in parts of Africa where there are great congregations; and America, where the Lord is working far more, I believe, than He is in Britain and in Europe.

I want to speak about the Jews, just now. You can quarrel with me later if you wish. It's a subject that I've thought about for many, many years - thirty odd years anyway - and I'm convinced that there is something here that would give us encouragement if we had eyes to see and ears to hear. Something happened in 1948 which we must never forget. For 2000 years the Jewish people had been scattered all over the world. They were driven from place to place. They were hated, sent into ghettos, persecuted and subjected to pogroms and holocausts - as Hitler subjected them in the Second World War. People attempted to exterminate them, to wipe them out; the name Jew was used all over the world as a word of hatred - 'Jew!' and people would spit; they hated them. The reason was because the Jews had crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, our blessed Saviour, who had come to their nation and they had failed to recognise Him, and they had crucified Him. But I say, after nearly 2000 years of being scattered all over the world, in 1948 the State of Israel was set up and from that day to this Jews from all over the world have been steadily coming home - thousands are coming home every week; planeloads are coming home - to live in Palestine.

That's not the most important thing that I wish to say. What I want to say is this: listen to the words of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is talking now, in this passage, about the prophets. "Slow to believe the prophets," He said. Well now, what do the prophecies tell us about the Jewish people? I'll tell you. The Lord Jesus said: "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21, 24). That was to say, the day would come when God would no longer punish the Jews for what they had done. The day would come when the Gentiles would no longer be masters of Jerusalem and Palestine, and that the Jews would come back. He prophesied that by implication. So, whatever happened in 1948 must have been significant. It was the beginning of a new work of God in the world, a new phase of the purposes of God, a new chapter opening in the counsels of heaven. That's not going to be the end of it. Today, Jewish people are for the first time in hundreds of years being brought to Christ in considerable numbers. In Palestine - in their own country of Israel that is - there are Jews who love the Lord Jesus Christ, many of them coming from Eastern Europe, and from Russia especially, and there are more and more of them coming all the time. That's a brand new thing. There were always Jewish converts all through these 2000 years - one here and another there, but very few. There are more today than there have been probably for a very long time, possibly not since the days of Christ were there so many.

But be that as it may, that's not the end of it. The apostle Paul adds on to this prophecy of Christ concerning the Jews, that they have been "cast off" so that we Gentiles could be grafted in to the tree of the covenant of grace. He compares this to a tree, an olive tree (Romans 11, 24). He says Abraham was the root, as it were, and then there was the big trunk - that's the nation of Israel - and then the branches. But some of these branches were chopped off and cast away so that we Gentiles could be grafted in to the blessings of the covenant of grace. The salvation which Abraham and Israel had in the Old Testament, we now have. The Church of the Old Testament and of the New is one Church. All over the world, for 2000 years, Gentiles are being grafted in, through faith, into Christ and to the blessings of eternal life in Him.

You say, that's wonderful news, and we non-Jewish people are thankful to God to know that. But that's not the end of it. Paul says, "I've got a mystery for you - a mystery - something you would never imagine; something you would never have thought. I wouldn't have you ignorant in your own conceits. Blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness has come in. Then," he says, "all Israel shall be saved." Then he explains it. He said, "God is able to graft the Jewish people back in to their own olive tree. They've been cut out, but they can be grafted in." What does he mean by that? Well, he means that God is able to send revival to the Jews all over again, so that in this or some future generation not only one and two and ten and twenty will come to Christ, but hundreds, and thousands, and many thousands, all over the world and in their own nation, and that they would be grafted in again. Let's not forget the prophecies that we have in that wonderful Book of Zechariah when Zechariah, undoubtedly, shows us what will happen when the Spirit of God comes down upon the Jewish people in a special revival particularly for their benefit. He says this is what will happen: "I will pour upon them the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they will then [as a nation] look upon me whom they have pierced," - it's clearly Christ speaking - "and they shall mourn for him, every family apart, and their wives apart." He's referring to the revival which is going to occur amongst the Jews sometime in the future. You might say, "Well what's this of interest to me? I'm not Jewish. I don't care much about the Jews." Well, shame on you, if that's what you think! But nevertheless, there's more to be said, and Paul puts it like this: "If the casting away of the Jews was the reconciling of the world, what will the receiving of them be but life from the dead?" And he's telling us, if the Day of Pentecost was wonderful that brought Gentile converts into the Church, when the Jews were scattered and cast off, how much more wonderful will this day of reconciling the Jews to Christ be? When, in the synagogues all over the world, God will remove the scales from their eyes and they shall understand who Jesus of Nazareth was! They shall rend their hearts with sorrow, and marvel at the blindness of their forefathers - they crucified the Lord from heaven, the Lord of Glory that God sent! In spite of their own scriptures they didn't understand and they put Christ to death. When that happens it will be life from the dead, he said.

I've nearly finished, and my task, as you see, is to try to dry your eyes and to comfort your dear hearts. My friends, we never know how soon this may happen. These two men on the road to Emmaus were so close to the picture. They were sad because they only saw a little bit of the picture. But when they could stand back and see the panorama of what God was going to do in raising Christ from the dead then, all their sorrow turned to glory and to joy. We see that, don't we, in the end of this chapter, the bit I read to you, where they tell their Lord they wanted Him to spend the evening with them. "Come into the house," they said. "Come and take a meal with us. The night is far spent. Look, the sun is going down in the western sky; come and take some supper with us." And so our Lord goes in and as a stranger they ask him to say the grace. And as he breaks the bread they recognise him! And he vanishes out of their sight. And they immediately, the same hour, put their hats and coats on and they speedily go back to the place they had been in, in Jerusalem, and they say to the disciples, the eleven disciples, "We have seen the Lord!" and they say, "So have we!" Peter saw Him. As they were talking, who appears in the midst but Jesus Himself: "Peace be unto you" (Luke 24, 36).

Oh my friends, God's purposes have not finished. He will gather in his elect from all nations - Jew and Gentile. Here is the comfort for today. Two thousand years have gone, and our elder brother the Jew has been shut out all that time. In 1948 God began to open the door and the darkness and the deadness on the Gentile world, in this country and in Europe today, may very well be the preparation for the glory to come down. When it happens, every Christian soul shall rejoice with unspeakable joy.

If you are uncertain, I recommend you read Romans 11. If you want a good commentator, read Robert Haldane or Charles Hodge, or read Dr Lloyd-Jones in his sermons on that chapter; or read Professor John Murray's commentary, or many other books. We refer to this subject as the "Puritan hope". God has not finished with the world.

So, my dear friends, let us wipe away our tears and let us go on cheerfully and gladly. Christ is with us always, even to the end of the world.

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