THE UNKNOWN GUEST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-5-74 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, KRLD of the city of Dallas, you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church. We, in our First Baptist Church here in Dallas, are observing the Lord’s Supper tonight. And the message of the pastor is in a way a preparation for our hearts as we come to observe this most significant and meaningful memorial.
We have a habit here of reading the Bible together. If you brought your Bible, share it with a neighbor. If you do not have a Bible, there is one in the pew rack in front of you. And all of us turn to the last chapter of Luke, the third Gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, the third Gospel. We shall begin reading at verse 30 in chapter 24, the last chapter in the Gospel of Luke, reading verse 30 to verse 35. Luke 24:30-35, all of us sharing our Bibles, reading out loud together. Now together:
And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
And they told what things were done in the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread.
And you can easily see why it is that the passage it chosen tonight in preparation for our memorial of the breaking of bread.; "known to them in the breaking of bread" [Luke 24:35].
There was a great French literary critic by the name of Renan. And Renan said, though in so many areas of his life he was a bitter skeptic of the Christian faith, Renan said that the most beautiful story in literature and in language is the story here in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke.
It goes like this. Toward the evening there are two disciples of the Lord. After the Lord’s crucifixion and on Sunday, the third day after the Lord’s death, they are walking along from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus [Luke 24:13-14]. Emmaus is northwest of Jerusalem, about seven to eight miles. It is sixty furlongs away. Going by the way of the tomb and past the ancient city of Mizpah, just before the road turns down into the valley of Ajlon, there was the little town of Emmaus.
And the two walk along and are sad [Luke 24:17]. The reason for their sadness is the crucifixion of their Lord. They had been with Christ in the days of His flesh, had seen His incredible miracles, had listened to His wonderful words, had found in Him every holy promise that God had made for the kingdom of Israel. And their hopes had risen higher and higher and higher until they reached the very arch of the sky.
Then they were dashed into the dust of the ground. They not only had seen the marvelous works of the Lord and heard His glorious words, but they had watched the Roman soldiers nail Him to a cross and they had seen Him die [Luke 23:26-46]. As they walk along from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus, they are sad [Luke 24:17].
There is no sadness like spiritual sadness. There is a sadness of an exile far away from home. There is a sadness of old age, seeing the sands of life run out. There is a sadness of an open grave, seeing someone you love lowered beneath the sod and the clod. But there is no sadness like a spiritual sadness.
When the heavens are turned to brass and when the earth is turned to iron, when God doesn’t seem to live and He doesn’t hear and answer prayer, when the Bible has lost its promise and its freshness and when the services of the church are a weariness and when heaven seems shut up to our hearts and our petitions and our cries, there is no sadness like spiritual sadness.
And in hopeless, helpless bereavement these two disciples walk along and are sad. And while they walk, communing in those hushed and gloomy tones, suddenly there is a third who comes and walks with them. It is Jesus and they don’t know it for their eyes were holden of God that they didn’t recognize Him [Luke 24:15-16]. So, as they walk along and are sad, this stranger who joins them in the road asks them, "Why are you so sad?" [Luke 24:17].
And one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered and said, "Are You the only one in Jerusalem who does not know what things have come to pass?"
And He said, "What things, what things?" [Luke 24:18-19].
And they said, as though it were just an opportunity to pour out their hearts, pent up with indescribable, unfathomable, immeasurable grief, they poured out to Him the story of the despair that had seized their hearts when they watched the Savior die [Luke 24:19-24].
Who are these two who are so signally blessed that the Lord raised from the dead that Sunday should walk along by their sides? We don’t know. One of them is named Cleopas. Who is Cleopas? Nobody knows. He’s never mentioned except just there. And the other one is nameless.
Do you see the heart of our Lord in this? Had our Lord revealed Himself, walked along, appeared to one of the eleven, I would not have been surprised. Had it been He was talking with James and John as they walked along, I would not have been surprised. But the Lord reveals Himself and walks along with these two unnamed, unknown ones.
A humble disciple of the Lord, of whom we know nothing at all. Isn’t that the spirit of our Savior? He was that way in the days of His flesh. How consistently and how faithfully did the Lord minister to and reveal Himself to nameless people.
For example, in the fourth chapter of the Book of John, who is that Samaritan woman to whom He revealed His heart as the Savior of the world and to whom He preached the greatest sermon on spiritual worship the earth has ever heard? [John 4:7-26]. Who is that woman? We don’t know. She was just a despised outcast of a harlot. And yet the Lord took time to reveal to her the unfathomable glory of the spiritual worship of God [John 4:21-23].
Turn to the fifth chapter of the Book of John. Who is that impotent man at the pool of Bethesda who thirty-eight years was bound down with an infirmity? Who is he? What is his name? Nobody knows. He was just an outcast, a part of the flotsam and jetsam of life. Yet the Lord healed him [John 5:1-9].
Who is that blind man in the ninth chapter of the Book of John whose eyes the Lord opened [John 9:1-7], and who came to Him wanting to know who it was that saved him and the Lord spoke to him and forgave his sins, all blotted out and gave him new life? [John 9:35-38]. Who is that blind man? Nobody knows, nobody knows.
That is the spirit of our Savior; raised from the dead He is still just the same. Ministering to nameless ones, just to people because He loves them, for their own sakes; not because they are great, not because they are rich, not because they are famous, not because they are anything, but just somebody who needs God.
When John saw our Lord raised, resurrected, immortalized, glorified, he describes Him; the splendor of our iridescent and immortalized Savior [Revelation 1:9-18]. And when I think of Him, you know, it is hard for me to believe that He still is just as He was in the days of His flesh. But this passage says so. The hands that hold the seven stars [Revelation 1:16], are the same hands that bless little children [Mark 10:16]. And the face that shined above the radiance of the sun [Revelation 1:16] is the same face that drew sinners to His loving feet [Luke 2:5-12]. And the breast gird about with the golden girdle [Revelation 1:13], is the same breast upon which the sainted John leaned at the memorial supper [John 13:23, 21:20]. It is the same Christ, and here He is doing the same thing.
Resurrected, glorified, raised from the dead, He is walking along, talking to two nameless disciples [Luke 24:13-15]. Have no idea who they are. But oh, how signally blessed! Isn’t it a wonderful thing to think I don’t have to be rich for God to love me, and I don’t have to be famous, and sought out and sought after, for Jesus to speak to my heart and to walk by my side, just as He did on the way to Emmaus?
And He said to them, "You seem so sad and in despair and downcast. Why?" [Luke 24:17].
And they said, "Don’t You know what has happened in Jerusalem these last days?"
And He said, "What things?" [Luke 24:19].
And then they just poured out their hearts to Him. In one word they are up in the highest skies in hope, and in the next word they are down in the deepest valley.
Look at it. "And they said to Him, concerning Jesus, a Prophet mighty in deed and in word before God and all the people" [Luke 24:19]. Up and up, and then down: "And how the chief priest and rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and they crucified Him" [Luke 24:20]. And then up: "We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: all our hopes were in Him." Then down again: "Besides, this was the third day since He was crucified" [Luke 24:21]. Then up again: "Oh, there were certain women of our company who were early at the sepulcher; and they found not His body, and they came running to us saying, ‘We have seen a vision of angels. He is alive!’" [Luke 24:22-23]. And then down again: "We went to the sepulchre and we could not find Him: we saw Him not" [Luke 24:24].
Isn’t that our human nature? One day we are up and the next day we are down. One day we are just as though we could hear the angels sing like this choir, and then the next day we are so discouraged and blue we can’t hear nobody pray. We just have to look up to look down; just so blue and discouraged.
And then the Lord, "Beginning at Moses and the Prophets, He expounded" – diermēneuō, diermēneuō. Always in the Bible that word means one thing: translation, translation, translation. "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets," beginning at Genesis and going clear through the Scriptures, "He expounded to them the things concerning Himself [Luke 24:27], how Christ ought to suffer and to enter into His glory" [Luke 24:26].
You know, we are kind of like that. We leave out the cross. We love the chromatic lens of the glory, but we leave out the crimson lens of the blood, and the suffering, and the tears, and the agony, and the hurt, and the sorrow, and the distress, and the grief, and the pain.
These men read the Book and never saw the cross, never saw the sufferings. They had placed in a golden censer all of the hopes of Israel, and when they saw Christ die, it burst, it broke and was dashed to the ground. They never saw, as they read the Scriptures that innocent animal slain in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-6, 21]; they never saw it. They never saw the paschal lamb [Exodus 12:3-7, 12-13, 22-23]. They never saw the daily sacrifice [Leviticus 6:8-9]. They never saw the Suffering Servant [Isaiah 53:1-12]. They never saw the smitten Shepherd of Zechariah [Zechariah 13:7]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing, how we can read the Bible and never see, never understand?
They read the Scriptures. They were devout men. They had become disciples of the Lord, and yet they never saw the necessity for the suffering, the crucifixion, the atonement. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? And if we are not careful we will be exactly like it, exactly like them. We will think of the Christian life in terms of the glory and of the blessing and of the honor, and forget, it also has in it a crown of thorns and a crucified life and tears and agony and sobs.
"Beginning at the Scriptures He showed them how Christ should suffer" [Luke 24:25-27]. These men had come to look at the cross as though it were somehow a mistake in heaven. It was an irreparable agony and an abysmal tragedy. No. As He expounded to them the Word of God, the cross was in the plan of the Lord. It was a part of our redemption [1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9]. It was a necessity. Jesus had to die if we were to be saved [Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22]. Atonement had to be made for our sins [Romans 5:10-11].
As the Lord expounded to them the Word of God, how it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and to die before He enters into glory, why, the evening came on, and the sun began to set, and they turned to go home. And the stranger as though He would continue on down the road alone, and they said to Him, "Come, abide with us. It is toward evening and the day is far spent. Come" [Luke 24:26-29].
And He turned and walked with them, and it came to pass that as they sat at the evening meal, He took bread, and He blessed it. And for the first time they saw the nail prints in His hands. When He took the bread, and blessed it, and broke it, they saw His hands. And when they heard Him say the blessing, they recognized Him [Luke 24:30-31, 35]. Evidently the Lord had a way of saying a blessing that was uniquely His. Like John recognized Him when he ran into the tomb and saw the napkin folded up by itself, Jesus had a way of folding up a napkin and John recognized it [John 20:4-8].
He had a way of saying a name, and Mary recognized Him when she thought Him to be the gardener by the way He pronounced her name, "Mary" [John 20:15-16]. And they recognized Him in the way that He said the blessing and when they saw the nail prints in His hands. And He vanished out of their sight [Luke 24:30-31].
It was sixty long furlongs back to Jerusalem and the evening tide had come. But they couldn’t stay. They couldn’t stay. Their hearts were too glad. Their spirits were overflowing. And turning, they rushed back the eight miles to Jerusalem and found the disciples and said, "We have seen the Lord. He is alive, He is alive, and He was known to us in the breaking of bread" [Luke 24:32-35].
Oh, how the world changes when we realize that Jesus is alive. He is alive. He is alive. The road that is so long and lonely when Jesus is with you it becomes a glory road to heaven. And the buildings that seemingly frown upon us become literal cathedrals that point up in glory to the sky. And the whole earth is changed when we come to see that Jesus lives. He is alive.
And is that not what Paul wrote in our salvation? "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, that He lives, thou shalt be saved" [Romans 10:9].
He was known to us in the breaking of bread [Luke 24:35]. "And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen" [Luke 24:52-53].
In this moment now, we pause to sing our hymn of invitation and appeal. I shall stand here to my left by the communion table, and a family you, to come into the fellowship of the church; a couple you, to respond to the appeal of our Christ; a one somebody you, to open your heart to Jesus, let Him come in to be your Savior and Lord. While we sing this song of appeal, would you come and stand by me. As the Spirit shall press the word of invitation to your heart, make the decision now. And upon the first note of the first stanza, come. May angels attend you in the way as you respond; while we stand and while we sing.