The Christ of the Common Road
April 7th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM
THE CHRIST OF THE COMMON ROAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-7-85 8:15 a.m.
And welcome the great throngs of you who share this hour on radio with us here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message. It is a presentation of what the French critic Renan said is the most beautiful story in human language, in human literature. The title of the sermon is The Christ of the Common Road, and the story is in the twenty-fourth, the last chapter of the Gospel of Luke, beginning at verse 13 and closing with verse 35. It begins:
Behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all those things which had happened.
And the seventeenth verse—
As they walked and spoke one to another, they were sad.
Sixty furlongs is about seven and a half miles. [Emmaus] a little village located northwest of Jerusalem, and in the evening twilight, two gloom-covered men are walking and talking together. They are speaking about the things that had just so recently happened. The Lord Jesus had been in their midst in a public ministry for three years, and they had seen His face, and had heard His words, and had seen the miracles that He had done. And almost certainly they had been a part of the glorious triumphal entry on the Sunday before in the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:29-40]. Their hopes were high, their hearts were lifted up, their souls were exalted in the Lord [Luke 19:37-38]. And then they had the following Friday, just Friday of the previous week, Friday just now, three days ago, they had seen every hope perish; the light of the world had gone out [Luke 23:26-46], and they were plunged into abysmal and indescribable despair. As they walked along and spoke one to another [Luke 24:13-14], they were filled with an infinite sadness, “as they walked,” the Bible says, “and were sad” [Luke 24:17].
There is a sadness of exile, far away from home and friends. There is a sadness of old age, filled with memories of the years gone by. There is a sadness of an open grave, lowered into the heart of the earth, that someone so loved and lost for the while. But there is no sadness such as the sadness of a Lord who has been taken away, when the faith has lost its freshness, when the heavens are brass, when there’s no answer to prayer, when the Bible has no meaning and the future no hope or promise; thus these men walked along and were sad. Then the Scripture says, “And the Lord Himself drew nigh, and walked with them” [Luke 24:15].
Who are these two men who are so signally blessed that the risen and glorified Savior should walk with them in their evening journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus? They are unknowns; they are without introduction or fame. One of them is named Cleopas; that’s all we know about him, his name Cleopas [Luke 24:18]. The other is not even named. They are two unknowns. But isn’t that just like our Lord, a full self-disclosure of Himself to the humble and the unknown, the unfamous, the unpublicized? Isn’t that what He did in His lifetime; wasn’t He just like that? Wasn’t it among the humble and the poor that He lived His life and ministered so sweetly, so preciously, so graciously? Wasn’t it to a woman, a scarlet woman by the well of Sychar that He delivered the greatest sermon that the world has ever heard on spiritual worship, to a congregation of one? [John 4:5-26]. And she, an outcast, despised, scarlet, Samaritan woman; don’t even know her name.
I read one time from a bulletin, a pastor of a church who said, “From now on, we’ll have no more services on Sunday night. It is not worth my while,” he published in the bulletin, “to prepare a sermon and to deliver it to the congregation for less than one hundred.” How different was our Lord—the greatest sermon on spiritual worship ever delivered, to a congregation of one, and she, a despised, outcast Samaritan woman [John 4:5-26].
Or the greatest sermon on the light of the world, delivered upon the occasion of the opening of the eyes of a blind man, unknown in Jerusalem [John 9:1-41]—preaching the gospel to the poor who heard Him gladly [Mark 12:37], giving Himself to the humble and the unknown, the unfamous, the unpublicized—and here in His resurrected life, He is just the same, just the same [Hebrews 13:8].
Have you ever thought about our glorified Lord as He is presented in the Revelation, the Apocalypse? How He is in His glory? The same Lord Jesus as He was here in the days of His flesh, of His humiliation, of His sojourn and ministry in our midst;
- the Christ who sits upon the throne, seen in that vision of Patmos [Revelation 1:9-18], is the same Lord Christ who sat weary by the well at Sychar in Samaria [John 4:6]; the same Lord.
- The Lord, whose face shined above the brightness of the sun [Revelation 1:16], that’s the same face of our Lord that was turned in sorrow as Simon Peter cursed and swore, “I never saw Him; I do not know Him” [Luke 22:54-61].
- The eyes that flame like fire [Revelation 1:14] are the same eyes that wept at the grave of Lazarus [John 11:35], or over Jerusalem [Luke 19:41].
- The voice as the sound of many waters [Revelation 1:15] is the same voice that said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28].
- The breast, girt about with a golden girdle [Revelation 1:13], is the same breast upon which John leaned at the Last Supper [John 13:23, 21:20].
- The hands that hold the seven stars [Revelation 1:16] are the same hands that reached out and blessed little children [Mark 10:13-16].
- The feet that burn like burnished molten brass [Revelation 1:15] are the same feet that walked the Via Dolorosa and were nailed to the cross [John 19:16-18].
He is the same Lord in glory as He was here in the earth.
Have you ever thought that His acknowledgements are human still? The same little idiosyncrasies that characterize our Lord in the days of His flesh are the same little peculiar personalities that characterize our Lord resurrected and in glory; the same Jesus.
For example, this couple here: as they came to Emmaus, being late, He deigned to walk on, He would not impose [Luke 24:28-29]. He never does; He never comes into a home or a heart uninvited, and He thought as though He would walk on. But these two disciples importuned His presence at supper and He turned in with them [Luke 24:29]. He always does. You’ll never invite the Lord, never, but He will accept the invitation; He will be there, come into your heart, come into your life, come into your home, always [Revelation 3:20]. And He accepted the invitation [Luke 24:29]. And as they sat down to break bread, they asked Him, this stranger, they ask Him to lead the blessing. And the Scriptures say as He prayed, as He said grace, their eyes were opened, and they knew Him [Luke 24:30-31]. Jesus had a way of saying grace at the table, like nobody else. And when He said that grace before breaking of bread [Luke 24:30], they recognized Him, “That’s the Lord; that is the Lord” [Luke 24:31]. And He vanished out of their sight [Luke 24:31]; the same Lord Jesus, resurrected as He was, in the days of His flesh [Matthew 28:5-7].
Take again: when Simon Peter and John ran to the empty tomb [John 20:1-8], upon the word of Mary Magdalene that it was empty, the Bible says that John being younger outran Simon Peter. When John got to the tomb, he just paused. When Simon Peter arrived at the tomb, he just rushed right in, impetuous. Then John also entered in. And John writes that when he saw the grave clothes, the winding sheet, here and the napkin folded up, lying in a place by itself, John says, “When I saw that, I knew He was raised from the dead,” for Jesus had a little idiosyncratic way of folding up a napkin. And when John, saw that napkin folded up in just the way Jesus would fold it, John says, “I knew He was raised from the dead, He had done it” [John 20:8].
Or take again: Mary. She supposed it was the gardener who was speaking to her that first Easter Sunday morning [John 20:15]. And she recognized the Lord when He called her name. He had a certain way of pronouncing her name. And when the Lord called her name, “Mary,” she recognized the Lord Jesus [John 20:15-16].
And the obvious one that you read: when Thomas said, “Dead men do not rise; I do not believe He was raised from the dead, that He is alive. I do not believe it. Except I put my finger into the print of the nails and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” [John 20:24-25]. And the next Lord’s Day, on Sunday, when the Lord appeared in the presence of His disciples, He reached forth His hands. They were the same hands, nail-scarred. And He invited Thomas to put his hand in the scar in His side [John 20:26-27]; the same Lord Jesus, same risen from the dead as He was in the days of His flesh; just the same.
Take just once again: when those seven apostles have given up hope, are on the Sea of Galilee [John 21:1]. And in the early dawn of the morning, in the midst of the lake, there’s a figure standing on the shore who cries to them, “Have you caught anything?”
And they say, “No” [John 21:4-5].
And He says, “Take the net and place it on the right side of the boat, and you will catch.” And they let down the net for a draft and they could not hold the school of fish that they caught [John 21:6].
And John says to Simon Peter, “Simon, you know who that is? That is the Lord. Fishing. That is the Lord” [John 21:7]; just the same in His resurrected glory as He was in the days of His flesh—just the same.
And that is our glorious Lord whom we worship, and love, and pray to. He is the same sympathetic, and understanding, and loving, and forgiving Lord Jesus, raised to the highest throne of glory [Ephesians 1:20-21], as He was when He walked here in the days of His flesh, just the same [John 1:14]. He is glorified, immortalized, lifted high [Revelation 1:12-18], but His heart is just the same, unchanged [Hebrews 13:8].
And the humblest woman, afflicted, said, “If I could touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed” [Matthew 9:20-21]. He is the same today. Touch Him, the hem of His garment. The leper who said, “If You will just put Your hand upon my face, I will be cleansed” [Matthew 8:2]. He is the same healing Lord Jesus [Hebrews 13:8].
It is God’s invitation to us. Come, come. Is there a burden on your heart? Take it to Jesus. He understands. Is there a hurt in your life? Take it to Jesus. No one was ever more hurt than He. No one was ever more burdened than He. No one ever wept more than He. No one ever faced trial more than He. No one more frustrated or disappointed than He. Just come and lay your soul and its burden at the feet of the Lord Jesus. He is the great sympathetic Physician, High Priest, Savior, and Friend, just the same [Hebrews 13:8].
May I, in closing, say just one other thing? He is the same, coming again. When we see Him, the angel said, “The same Lord Jesus, whom you see go away into glory, shall so come in like manner” [Acts 1:9-11]. When we see our Lord coming with the angels of heaven [Matthew 25:31], it will be the same Lord Jesus who ministered in the days of His flesh [Matthew 20:28], and who is at the right hand of God in heaven [Colossians 3:1], and is coming again [Acts 1:10-11, Revelation 1:7]; the same Lord Jesus. You can touch Him; you can bow at His feet, worship Him, and He will love you [Revelation 1:17]; the same Lord Jesus.
When I was a freshman in the university, instead of living in a dormitory, I lived with another student in the home of an aged widow. Her husband had been an illustrious attorney in the little city. And he’d been dead many years, and she lived there, close to the campus, alone. She had two children. One was a Presbyterian missionary in the Congo of Central Africa, a dear woman, nurse, that was her daughter, a nurse on a mission field in the Congo. The other was a son who was an officer in the American Air Force and having his assignment outside the United States. Oh, being a young minister, in the evening I would listen to her by the hour, in her loneliness as she’d tell me about her girl, who was a missionary in the Congo. Or she would tell me about her son who was an officer in the Air Force, stationed outside the United States.
And one time, she was describing the last visit of her boy to her there in her home. So she said, “When time came for him to leave, to go back to his post of duty, I said in my heart, ‘I’m not going to cry. I’m going to be brave. And when he leaves, I’ll just wave him a brave goodbye, and I’ll not cry.’ So,” she said, “I just did wonderfully well. Didn’t cry; told him how much I was so happy to have him, that my prayers followed him. And I was just doing great, went out to the airport, engine started. But when he kissed me goodbye and turned to go into the plane,” she said, “I couldn’t help myself. I just broke down and burst into tears.” She said to me, “My boy turned around and came back to me and put his arms around me, and said, ‘There, there, Mother. Don’t cry. I will be back soon. I’ll be back soon.’” She said, “He got in the airplane. It took off and he circled one time around the airport. And when he came over me, he dipped his wings, he dipped his wings. And I watched him disappear in the sky. And as the plane disappeared in the sky, I remembered his precious words, ‘Don’t cry, Mother, I’ll be back soon. I’ll be back soon.’”
This is the wondrous promise of our Lord. “I am coming back soon” [Revelation 22:20]. It may seem long to us, but it’s not long to Him. The Book says, “A thousand years are a day in the calendar of God” [2 Peter 3:8]. My sweet brother and sister, He has been gone two days, two days, and it may be He will come back the third.
Oh, blessed hope [Titus 2:13], as Paul calls it, precious prospect, beautiful tomorrow, when the same Lord Jesus, whom we knew in the days of His earthly ministry, comes back to receive us unto Himself [John 14:1-3]. And there will be no more death, no more sorrow, and no more crying, and no more tears, and no more age, and no more hurt—for He, when He comes, will make all things new [Revelation 21:4-5]. Oh welcome, blessed Jesus, welcome. Any day, any hour, any moment, I’m ready. “Even so, come, blessed Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20].
And that is our appeal to your heart this morning, to give yourself, your whole self, in loving devotion to our wonderful Savior, risen [Luke 24:5-8], ascended [Acts 1:9-10], and coming again [Acts 1:10-11; Revelation 1:7]. “I want to receive Him, take Him into my heart and life as my Lord” [Romans 10:9-10]. Or, “I want to put my life in the fellowship of His dear church.” Or, “I want to answer the call of Christ in my heart.” As we stand in a moment to sing our hymn of appeal, down that stairway on either side, down this aisle, “Pastor, I’ve decided for God and here I stand” [Romans 10:9-10]. May angels attend you in the way as you come, and a thousand times, welcome, as we stand and as we sing.