The Christ of the Common Road
April 7th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHRIST OF THE COMMON ROAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-7-85 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Christ of the Common Road. In this last century there was a tremendously gifted French critic named Renan. And he said, “The most beautiful story in literature, and in human language, is the story of the visit of Christ with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of [Luke].”
And it begins like this. In Luke 24—not John! Luke 24, beginning at verse 13 [Luke 24:13]:
And, 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 it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.
And He said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as you walk, and are sad?
And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto Him,
Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and You do not know the things which are come to pass in these days?
And He said unto them, What things? And they said, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a Prophet, mighty in deed… and before God.
And how He was condemned to death, and they crucified Him.
But we trusted it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done.
Beginning at verse 28:
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and He made as though He would have gone further.
But they constrained Him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to tarry with them.
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?
Emmaus, a little town the Bible says, sixty furlongs, about seven and a half miles, northwest of Jerusalem. And as these two disciples walked together heavy-hearted in the twilight of that Easter Sunday, as they walked together, these gloom-covered men are talking about the things that have just happened [Luke 24:14]. They must have been in the forefront of those who believed that Jesus was bringing with Him the messianic kingdom of God.
They had looked upon His face, radiant with the presence of the Lord God Jehovah. They had seen the miraculous works of His hands. They had listened to the marvelous wisdom that fell from His lips. They had followed Him through His incomparable ministry. And I would think, on the Sunday before, they had joined in the triumphal entry of those who shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” [Matthew 21:9] when the Lord entered in glory and exaltation the holy city of Jerusalem. Then they had seen Him condemned by the courts of Judea, finally, delivered to be crucified by the Romans, and had watched Him die on a hill called Calvary, Golgotha, just outside the Damascus gate of Jerusalem [Matthew 27:1-50].
And with Him, there perished every hope that they had ever known for the entertainment and the anticipation and the realization of the victory of God over sin, death and the grave in this weary, stricken, sin-cursed world. Thus it was, the Bible says, they walk along and are sad [Luke 24:13-17]. There is a sadness of an exile who is away from home and country. There is a sadness of old age, drowned in the memories of the days that are long past. There is a sadness of those who stand by an open grave and see lowered into the earth someone loved and lost for the while.
But there is hardly a sadness comparable to the one who cries, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him” [John 20:13]. A sadness when the heavens are brass and God doesn’t answer prayer, when the faith has lost its freshness and there’s no reality to the hopes and the promises in God’s Holy Word, an indescribable and incomparable sadness as we lose hope for the future and for any golden tomorrow. Thus, these two disciples walk along the road in the eventide toward Emmaus, and are sad. And as they walk along, suddenly “Jesus Himself drew near, and walked with them”—just a stranger to them. “Their eyes were holden that they did not know Him, did not recognize Him” [Luke 24:15-16].
Who are these two men who were so unusually and signally blessed as that the Lord should walk with them in the eventide? We don’t know who they are. They are unknown. One of them is named Cleopas [Luke 24:18]. We have no idea who Cleopas could have been. The other is not even called by any name. They are unknown. They are unfamous, unrecognized. They belong to the great mass of humanity that belong to the common lot, common people, unfamous, unknown.
Isn’t that an amazing thing that the Lord thus discloses Himself to these who are so humble and so poor and so unnamed and so unknown? Was He not that in the days of His flesh and of His earthly ministry? Did He not give Himself in full disclosure and in unending and unwearying loving ministry to the great masses of common people? The common people, the Bible says, heard Him gladly [Mark 12:37]. And His ministries were not with the great of the earth and the famous of the land, but He poured out His life for the poor, for the great masses, unnamed and unknown [Matthew 11:5].
Did you ever think the greatest sermon that was ever delivered on spiritual worship, recorded in the fourth chapter of John [John 4:10-26], the greatest sermon ever delivered on spiritual worship was delivered to a congregation of one? And that someone was an unnamed scarlet Samaritan, despised woman out of the city of Sychar [John 4:5-9]. Who is she? Nobody knows. She is nameless. Yet, the Lord preached to her that incomparable sermon on the worship of God in spirit and in truth [John 4:23].
Dear people, I read this. A minister of a church was making the announcement in his bulletin that I read. He said that they were no longer having services in the evening. Church is going to be closed in the evening, because it was not worth his while to prepare a sermon for a congregation of less than a hundred. Therefore, there would be no more services in the evening.
How unlike our Lord! If He had just one somebody who would listen, He had a great message for that one. I think of the Lord in His opening the eyes of the blind man [John 9:1-11] and the delivery of that incomparable sermon on Jesus, the light of the world. “I am the light of the world” [John 9:5]. That was our Lord. He poured His life out for these who were unnamed and unknown, the great masses of humanity.
And as I think of our Lord, He is the same glorified, immortalized, resurrected, raised from the dead in heaven. He is the same there as He was here. His heart is still the same. It is the same Lord Jesus who is the on the throne of the created universe, the same Lord Jesus who walked in loving ministry and humility and gentle helpfulness and remembrance, down here in this world [Hebrews 13:8].
The Lord Christ of Patmos, who in the Apocalypse, in the Revelation, is seated on the throne of God in glory [Revelation 1:9-18; 3:21], is the same Lord Jesus who sat weary by the well at Sychar [John 4:6]. The Lord Jesus, whose face now shines above the brightness of the midday sun [Acts 9:3-4], is the same Lord Jesus who turned His face toward Simon Peter while He was cursing and swearing and saying, “I never saw Him. I do not know Him. I never knew Him” [Luke 22:54-61]. The same Lord Jesus, whose eyes are as a flame of fire [Revelation 1:14], is the same Lord Jesus who wept at the grave of Lazarus [John 11:35] and who wept over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41].
That glorified Lord Jesus, whose voice is as the sound of many waters [Revelation 1:15], is the same Lord Jesus whose voice said, “Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. The glorified Lord Jesus, whose breast is girted with a golden girdle [Revelation 1:13], is the same Lord Jesus, on whose breast the sainted apostle John leaned at the institution of the Lord’s Supper [John 13:23-25; 21:20], the same. The glorified Lord Jesus, who holds in His hands the seven stars [Revelation 1:16], is the same Lord Jesus whose hands were placed in blessing upon little children [Mark 10:13-16], and who welcomes them into the kingdom of God.
The same Lord Jesus, whose feet are like molten burnished metal of brass [Revelation 1:15], glowing in fire, is the same Lord Jesus whose feet followed the Via Dolorosa and were finally nailed to the tree [Matthew 27:31-50]. I can hardly believe—I can hardly believe that One so exalted—the great Pantokrator of the universe, the mighty Creator [John 1:3; Colossians 1:16] and sustaining of all life and being—is the same lowly Lord Jesus who washed feet [John 13:2-5], who was hungry [Matthew 21:18; Luke 4:2], who sat weary [John 4:6], who was slain, crucified [John 19:16-34].
Could it be? Could it be? And yet as I read the story of the resurrected life, the recognitions of our Lord were human—even though He was raised from the dead. Everyone has little personality traits, little things that make you, you, and you, you, and you, you, little things that make us, us. And Jesus was that way. There were little idiosyncratic personality traits that made Jesus recognizable, made Him, Him. And when He was raised from the dead, His recognitions were those human idiosyncratic acknowledgements still. They were still the same.
For example, look at it here, when the evening came, and they arrived at Emmaus, He made as though He would pass on, walk on [Luke 24:28]. The Lord never imposes. He never comes into the heart or in the home unless He is invited—no coerciveness in our Savior. And He made as though He would walk on. And those two disciples of Emmaus constrained Him, “Come. Abide with us. Break bread with us” [Luke 24:29].
And Jesus—if you will read this Book—never turned down an invitation, never, ever. If you invite Him into your heart, He will come in [Romans 10:13]. If you invite Him into your house or your home or your life or your business, He will come. And He did there. They invited Him. They constrained Him [Luke 24:29]. “And it came to pass, as they set at meat, that He took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave to them. And they knew Him” [Luke 24:30, 31]. He had a way, our Lord had a way of saying the blessing, of saying grace at the table, that was peculiarly and unusually like Him. He had a way of saying the prayer before they broke bread. And when He said it, when He asked the blessing, the disciples knew Him. That’s the Lord. That’s the Lord—by the way that He said grace, at the table.
Take another. When Mary Magdalene came to Peter and John and said, “The grave is empty” [John 20:1-2], they ran to the tomb, and the younger one John outran Peter. But when he came to the tomb, he just looked in. But Simon Peter, impetuous, when he came through, he ran right inside the sepulcher, and John followed him [John 20:2-8]. And John writes in his Gospel: he said, “When I saw the grave clothes, undisturbed, lying here, and when I saw the napkin folded up in a place by itself,” John says, “I knew it was Jesus raised from the dead.” Jesus had a way of folding a napkin just so, peculiarly His, that when John saw that napkin folded up as only Jesus ever did it, John says, “I knew it was He, raised from the dead” [John 20:6-8]. His acknowledgments, His recognitions are human still.
Take again. Mary is in the garden after Peter and John have left. And she is weeping there at the tomb [John 20:11]. And there comes someone behind her, who speaks to her. And she, supposing His presence being that of the gardener, she says, “Where have you laid Him that I might take Him away?” [John 20:13] And whoever that is behind her says, “Mary” [John 20:14-16]. And she recognized Him by the way He pronounced her name, “Mary.” Jesus had a way of saying the word that was peculiarly His. And she recognized Him in the way He pronounced her name [John 20:16].
Or take again in the beautiful passage that you read, Thomas says—Thomas Didymus, Thomas, “the twin.” Thomas says, “Dead men do not rise. They do not rise. When you are buried, you are buried. You are dead. You are dead. Dead men do not rise. And I will not believe that He is raised except I could put my finger in those nail prints in His hands, and put my hand into His side. I do not believe” [John 20:24-25]. And the Lord stood in the midst of the apostles, and He turned to Thomas. Isn’t that amazing? He heard what Thomas had said. He hears what we say. He heard those unbelieving exclamations and those affirmations of doubt and disclaimer and disbelief. He had heard them.
And He says, “Thomas, come. Come and take your finger and thrust it into the nail prints in My hands; and take your hand and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing” [John 20:26-27]. And Thomas cried, “My Lord. My Lord and my God” [John 20:28], known by His human recognitions, by the prints of the nails in His hands, and by the great livid scar in His side.
May I just take one another, not to belabor the point? Our Lord was unusual in His relationship with those disciples on the Sea of Galilee fishing. And He would guide them into the big and profitable catch. He did that with the disciples. And in the gray mist of the morning when seven of those apostles are on the Lake of Galilee—all night long, caught nothing. And whoever that is speaks to them out on the lake and says, “Have you caught any thing?”
And they reply, “No.”
And He says, whoever He is, “You take the net and put it on the right side of the boat, and you shall catch” [John 21:1-6].
And they take the empty net and drop it on the right side of the boat. And they caught a great school of fish, so that the net began to break. And John turned to Simon Peter and said, “Simon, you know who that is? That is the Lord! That’s the Lord. That’s the Lord.” Simon girt himself and cast himself into the sea, coming to the Lord [John 21:6-7]. I am just saying His recognitions are human still. He is the same Lord Jesus. As He was in the days of His humiliation, so He is in the day of His exaltation. As He was in the days of His flesh, so He is in the days of His eternal and forever and blessed sovereignty, the same Lord Jesus [Hebrews 13:8].
And may I make one other avowal? It will be that same Lord Jesus that someday we shall see, coming again [Revelation 1:7-8]. When we see Him, it will be the same blessed Lord Jesus.
The angel said, when those men of Galilee stood looking up into heaven, into which Jesus had gone from the height of the Mount of Olives, as they stood gazing up into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], the angels came and said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus whom you have seen go into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11].
The same Lord Jesus, the same blessed Savior, the same precious voice, the same gentle face, the same nail-pierced hands, the same loving heart—it will be the same Lord Jesus, just the same, just the same. He is the One to whom we carry our burdens now [Matthew 11:28-30]. And He understands all about us.
He carried our griefs and bore our sorrows [Isaiah 53:4]. There is nobody that cries that He did not cry, no one hurt that He was not hurt, no one suffers that He did not suffer, no one rejected and He was not rejected, no one plunged into illimitable despair that He did not also understand. And it is that same Lord Jesus who is coming again. He is coming again. He is. Our Lord is. The same Jesus who went away, that Jesus is coming back again [Acts 1:11].
When I was a beginning student at the university, I stayed with another young student, in the home of an aged widow. Her husband, dead long before, had been an illustrious attorney in the little city. And she left alone, not because of financial necessity, but just mostly it seemed to me, to have somebody close by, she took two students and they lived there in the home. And I was one of them. Being a young minister, she would talk to me. She had two children. One was a Presbyterian missionary nurse in the Congo, in the heart of Africa. And the other was a young officer in the Air Force of the United States stationed outside of the country.
And one evening, as she was talking to me, she was describing the last visit of that boy who was an officer in the air force of our country. And she said, after his visit, time came to go to the air field and for him to go back to his post of duty. And she said to me, “I made up my mind, this time when he goes I’m not going to cry. I’m going to be brave. And when he leaves I’ll just bid him goodbye. And I won’t cry.”
She said, “I did well. I was so brave, until he put his arms around me and kissed me and turned to walk away to the plane. And when he turned to walk away, I couldn’t help myself.”
She said, “I burst into a flood of tears.”
And her boy turned around and came back, and once again put his arms around her and kissed her and said, “Mother, don’t cry. I will be back soon. I’ll be back soon.”
She said, “When the plane took off, he circled the field, and when he came over where I was standing, he dipped his wings, and then faded away into the distant blue sky. And as he went away out of sight, I treasured his words, ‘Mother, don’t you cry. I will be back soon.’”
This, Paul says, is the “blessed hope” of the Christian [Titus 2:13]. There is a day coming soon. And on God’s calendar, it won’t be long. God says a thousand years are as a day on His calendar [2 Peter 3:8]. He has been gone two days. Maybe the third, He will come back. And when Jesus comes back, the same blessed Lord Jesus, God says, “He will wipe away all the tears from our eyes; there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, there will be no more pain: for these things are all passed away” [Revelation 21:4].
And John closes the Book with the Word of the Lord, “He which testifieth these things saith, ‘Surely, surely, I come quickly.’” And John answers in a closing benedictory prayer. “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. If I know my heart, I’m ready. Any day, Lord, any hour, come blessed, blessed Savior.
Oh, what a wonderful way to live! What a wonderful way to face the vicissitudes and fortunes and exigencies of life, what a wonderful way if He delays His coming, to die; what a wonderful triumphant way to lift up our eyes for the eternity that is yet to come! Welcome, blessed Jesus, wonderful Jesus, glorious Savior, my Friend and fellow Pilgrim, Jesus, my Lord.
And that is our appeal to your heart today; to give your life in faith and trust to His blessed, precious, nail-pierced but omnipotent hands, come and welcome [Romans 10:8-13]. To put your life with us in the center, and circumference, and circle, and communion of this precious church, come and welcome [Hebrews 12:24-25]. To bring your family, “Pastor, my wife and my children, all of us are coming today,” a thousand times welcome. Or just you, “Pastor, God has spoken to my heart and I’m answering with my life and here I am [Romans 10:8-13]. I’m on the way.” There’s a stairway at the front and the back on the either side, and there’s time and to spare, welcome. In the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, a thousand times welcome. Make the decision now in your heart and in a moment when we stand to sing our appeal, on that first note of that first stanza, take that first step. It will be the most meaningful and precious you’ve ever taken in your life. “I’m on the way pastor. Here I am.” God bless you and angels attend you as you come while we stand and while we sing.