In Luke 24, we read the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and their encounter with Jesus. Their experience, in a way, reflects that of Christians generally, and remember, these were disciples of Jesus who had known Him while He lived in this life. This story teaches us that it is possible to have Jesus with us and yet never know it; it is possible to hear and believe all the truth about Jesus and yet never to really know Him.
- They did not know Him (verse 16) – the Greek word used here is epiginosko, meaning to know by relationship, to know intimately. Although they had walked with Him in this life, and believed all that He had taught them, they did not know this resurrected Jesus. They knew the one who was, not the one who is. This also applies to many Christians; they know of Him and about Him but they do not know Him intimately or as He is to be known – as Lord and Ruler of their life.
- They stood still and were sad (verse17) – standing still is in the passive voice here, and it suggests a passive faith. They were sad because Jesus was dead; this Jesus, who had done everything for them, who had lived with them and taught them and encouraged them, was no longer. So many Christians are standing still and are sad also. They look to Jesus, their hope is in Him, they profess faith in Him; but they struggle to truly trust Him, thus rendering Him unable to give them the blessing that He Himself longs to impart. They are passive onlookers who are unable to cast off the lordship of self.
- Their hopes were frustrated (verse 21) – The disciples had hoped that Jesus was to be the Saviour of Israel and to restore the promised kingdom of David. Instead, they had seen Him publicly humiliated and treated as a common criminal, to die a cruel and violent death. This, of course, was prophesied in their scriptures but the scriptures were overruled by their traditions. Christians too, read the scriptures and are excited by the promises therein, but fail to go on to the deeper life in Christ and discover that all of that which has been promised is indeed waiting for them; but they are unable to supply the trust that will unlock those promises.
- They had heard that He had risen but they did not know it themselves (verse 24) – They knew of the reports of His resurrection from the women who had visited the tomb, but they had no personal experience of this; their relationship with Him remained as it was when He died. Too many Christians have no experience of the risen Christ; they are content to hear about Jesus from others instead of searching Him out for themselves. The only relationship that Christ offers is a personal one; we cannot truly know Him vicariously.
- They were slow of heart to believe (verse25) – What they failed to believe in was Moses, the honoured prophet of the Jews. Instead they had believed what the rabbis had told them, but the rabbis had taken away “the key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52) and so they were unable to enter in to the truth of the scriptures. Jesus then taught them Himself what the scriptures had to say. Christians too, are slow of heart to believe and for the same reason; they choose to listen to the “doctrines of men” instead of hearing the voice of the one who is speaking from heaven; the Holy Spirit is the only teacher divinely ordained.
- Their hearts burned within them (verse 32) – All believers have had this experience, as the scriptures are opened up and the truth therein is revealed. That is what happened to the disciples as Jesus expounded the truth to them. Many Christians too, know that revelation warms the heart and the heart burns within; but we must not stop there. The burning heart is for encouragement; it is not a destination; we must go on to know Him as absolute Lord of our life.
- Their minds were opened that they might understand the scriptures (verse 45) – Jesus did this and only He can. Every mind must be opened to the truth by the Holy Spirit; there is no way else that the scriptures can be understood. It is this alone that truly satisfies the heart; the sovereign teaching by God Himself. The important thing to know and believe is that Jesus longs to reveal Himself to each one called; it is His deepest desire. So many earnestly ask for that to happen and when it doesn’t they become despondent and cast down, their faith suffering and their walk degenerating. “How is it”, they say, “that even though both He and I desire the same thing, it still doesn’t happen; what is wrong?”
We fail to understand that there is a condition that we must meet before Jesus will reveal Himself; we must give up self if we want to have Him. “And he said to all, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). That’s the secret; taking up the cross. What that means is following after Him instead of self. This is an absolutely non-negotiable fundamental for Christians; it is what Jesus Himself did in relation to the Father and He has told us that we are to follow Him. Peter said the same: “For to this you were called, since Christ suffered for you, leaving to you an example, that you should follow in his footsteps” (1 Peter 2:21).
It is amazing that the question of how we might do this is not the major topic of discussion in Church circles. It is almost as though a veil has been drawn over all of those scriptures that point to any sort of condition or requirement upon which our salvation is dependent. God’s great gifts are boundless; being infinite they know no limit or capacity. But the taking hold of them is dependent on the condition of the taker; our faith needs to expand in its capacity before it can receive that which God offers. God cannot pour His great gifts into small receptacles.
“For whoever, if he would wish to save his life, shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). This is fairly straightforward; we must give up the self life if we want to find eternal life. The absolute pre-condition of the surrender of the self life, “crucifixion of self” as Paul put it, is a constant thread running throughout the scriptures of the New Testament and having its roots back in the earliest communication between God and His chosen people:-
Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul”.
God hasn’t changed.