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Their eyes were opened, and they knew him. -- Luke 24:31
It is very possible to have Jesus Himself with you and not know it. It is very possible to listen to all the truth about Jesus, and even to preach about it, and yet not know Him. This fact has made a deep impression on me. That was the case of the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus after He was resurrected. Their hearts burned within them as they talked with Him about all the events of His crucifixion and the reports of His resurrection. These disciples spent a very blessed time with Jesus, but if they had gone away before He revealed Himself that evening, they never would have been sure that it was Jesus, for they had been prevented from recognizing Him. This, I am sorry to say, is the condition of a great number of people in the church of Christ. They know that Christ has risen from the dead. They believe in Him; they frequently have blessed experiences that come from the risen Christ. Very often, at a Bible conference or in a time of silent Bible reading or when God gives His grace to them in a special way, their hearts burn. Yet, it can be said of many Christians, whose hearts are burning within them, that they do not know it is Jesus Himself who is with them. If you were to ask me what great blessing we should seek from God, my answer would be this: Not only should we think about Jesus Himself and speak about Him and believe in Him, but we should come to the point at which the disciples in the text arrived: "They knew him." Everything is to be found in that.
Four Stages of the Christian Life
In the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I recognize four stages of the Christian life. First, there is the stage of the sad and troubled heart. Then there is the time in which the heart is slow to believe. This is followed by the period of the burning heart. But the highest level we are to reach is the stage of the satisfied heart.
The Sad and Troubled Heart
Imagine how the disciples were feeling that morning as they started on their journey. Their hearts were sad and troubled because they thought that Jesus was dead. They did not know that He was alive, and this is the way it is with a large number of Christians. They look to the Cross and they struggle to trust Christ, but they have never yet learned the blessedness of believing that there is a living Christ who will do everything for them. The words that the angel spoke to the women who came to Christ's tomb on the morning of the Resurrection were striking: "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5). What is the difference between a dead Christ, whom the women had gone to anoint, and a living Christ? The difference is that I must do everything for a dead Christ, but a living Christ does everything for me. The disciples began the morning with a sad heart. It is very possible that they had spent a sleepless night. What a terrible disappointment they had experienced. They had hoped that Christ would be the Deliverer of Israel, yet they had seen Him die an accursed death. Their bitter sadness cannot possibly be expressed. Again, the life of many Christians is much the same. They try to believe in Jesus and to trust Him and to hope in Him, but they have no joy. Why? They do not know that there is a living Christ who can be revealed to them.
Slow to Believe
The second stage is taken from the words that Christ spoke to the disciples when He told them that they were "slow of heart to believe" (Luke 24:25). They had heard the message from the women, and they told the Stranger who walked with them:
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 15:22-23)
And Christ replied to them, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe" (v. 25). Yes, there are many Christians today who have heard the Gospel and who know that they must not only believe in a crucified Christ but in a living Christ, and they try to grasp it and take it in, but it does not bring them a blessing. Why? They do not receive the blessing because they want to feel it and not to believe it. They want to work for it and to receive it through their own efforts, instead of just quietly humbling themselves and believing that Christ, the living Jesus, will do everything for them. Therefore, that is the second stage. The first stage is one of ignorance, and the second stage is one of unbelief. The doubting heart cannot take in the wonderful truth that Jesus lives.
The Burning Heart
The third stage of the Christian life is the burning heart stage. Jesus came to the two disciples, and after He had reproved them, He began to interpret the Scriptures for them and to tell them of all the wonderful things the prophets had taught. Then their eyes were opened, and they began to understand the Scriptures. They saw that it was true that it had been prophesied that Christ must rise. And as the Living Risen One talked, a mighty spiritual power emanated from Him. It rested upon them, and they began to feel their hearts burn with joy and gladness. You may be saying, "This is the final stage at which we need to arrive." Yet, God forbid that you should stop there. You may arrive at this third stage, and yet something will still be lacking: the revelation of Christ. The disciples had had a blessed experience of His divine power, but He had not revealed Himself. Our hearts often burn within us at Bible conferences, in churches, in meetings, and in blessed fellowship with God's people. These are precious experiences of the working of God's grace and Spirit, and yet there is something lacking. What is it? Jesus Himself has been working in us and the power of His risen life has touched us, but we have not been able to say, "I have met Him. He has made Himself known to me." There is a great difference between a burning heart, which becomes cold after a while, and which comes and goes, and the blessed revelation of Jesus Himself as my Savior who takes charge of me and blesses me and keeps me every day!
The Satisfied Heart
The final stage, which I have just described, is the stage of the satisfied heart. I pray that you will arrive at this stage. I am sure that you are praying for this, as well. I am certainly praying that I will arrive at this stage in my own life. Lord Jesus, may we know You in Your divine glory as the Risen One, our Jesus, our Beloved, and our Mighty One.
How to Know Jesus
If you are sad and unable to comprehend or accept this, and if you are saying, "I have never yet known the joy of faith," read the following words carefully, because I am going to tell you how you can know it. Everything centers around one thing. Just as a little child lives day by day in the arms of his mother and grows up year after year under his mother's loving eye, it is possible for you to live every day and hour of your life in fellowship with the Holy Jesus. Let your sad heart begin to hope. You may be asking, "Will He really reveal Himself?" He did it for the disciples, and He will do it for you. Perhaps you have arrived at the stage of the burning heart and can relate many blessed experiences that you have had, but somehow there is a worm at the root. The experiences do not last and your heart is very changeable. Come, beloved believer, and follow Christ. Say, "Jesus, reveal Yourself so that I may know You personally. I am not only asking to drink the living water, I want the Fountain. I am not only asking to bathe myself in the light, I want the 'Sun of righteousness' (Mal. 4:2) within my heart. I am not only asking to know You, who have touched me and warmed my heart and blessed me, but I want to know that I have the unchangeable Jesus dwelling within my heart and remaining with me forever." It may be that you have gotten beyond the stage of the sad heart, but you still feel that you do not have what you want. If you will throw open your heart and give up everything, except believing and allowing Him to do what He wants, it will come. Praise God, it will come!
To Whom Does Jesus Reveal Himself?
The main question I want to address is, What are the conditions under which our blessed Lord reveals Himself? Or, to put it another way, To whom will Jesus reveal Himself? We find the answer in the way Jesus responded to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Those Who Give Up Everything for Him
First of all, I think we can conclude from our text that Christ revealed Himself to those disciples who had given up everything for Him. He had said to them, "Deny [yourself], and take up [your] cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24), and they had done it. With all their unfaithfulness and with all their weaknesses, they had followed Christ to the end. He had said to them,
Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.(Luke 22:28-29)
They were not perfect men, but they would have died for Him. They had loved Him, obeyed Him, followed Him. They had left everything, and for three years they had been following Christ earnestly. You say, "Tell me what Christ wants from me so that I may have His wonderful presence. Tell me the kind of person to whom Christ will reveal Himself in this highest and fullest way." My answer is, "He will reveal Himself to the one who is ready to give up everything and to follow Him." If Christ is to give Himself wholly to me, He must know that I am wholly committed to Him. I trust that God will give us grace, so that these words I have written about consecration and surrender -- not only of all evil, but of many lawful things, and even, if necessary, of life itself -- may lead us to understand the demand that Jesus makes upon us. A motto that is often quoted is, "God first." In one sense, that is a beautiful motto, and yet I am not always satisfied with it because it is a motto that is often misunderstood. "God first" may mean "I" second, something else third, and something else fourth. In this hierarchy, God is first in order, but He still is one of a series of authorities, and that is not the place God wants. The true meaning of the phrase, "God first," is "God all, God everything," and this is what Christ wants. To be willing to give up everything, to submit to Christ so that He may teach you what to say and what to do, is the first characteristic of the person to whom Christ will come. Are you ready to take this step and to say, "Jesus, I do give up everything. Now that I have surrendered to You, I ask You to reveal Yourself"? Do not hesitate to do this. Speak it from your heart, and let this be the time in which a new sacrifice is laid at the feet of the blessed Lamb of God.
Those Convicted of Their Unbelief
The first step is to turn away from everything else and to follow Him, to give up everything in submission to Him and just live a life of simple love and obedience. But there is a second thing that is needed in a person who is to have this full revelation of Christ: he must be convicted of his unbelief. "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25). If we could only see the amount of unbelief in the hearts of God's children, which bars the doors of their hearts, closing them against Christ, we would be astonished and ashamed! Yet, where there is faith instead of unbelief, Christ cannot help coming in. He cannot help coming where there is a living faith. When the heart is opened and prepared, when it is full of faith, then Christ will come as naturally as water runs into a hollow place. What is it that continues to hinder some earnest believers who say, "I have given myself to the Lord Jesus. I have done it often, and by His grace I am doing it every day. God knows how earnestly and genuinely I am doing it. I have the assurance of God's Word, and I know God has blessed me"? Even though they are trying to yield to God, they are hindered because they have not been convicted of their unbelief. "O fools, and slow of heart to believe." Do you want the Lord Jesus to give you a full revelation of Himself? Are you willing to acknowledge that you are a fool for never having believed in Him? Then pray, "Lord Jesus, it is my own fault. You are right here, longing to have possession of me. You have always been here with Your faithful promises, waiting to reveal Yourself." Have you ever heard of a person who did not long to make himself known to someone he loved? Christ longs to reveal Himself to us, but He cannot do so because of our unbelief. May God convict us of this unbelief so that we may become utterly ashamed and broken down, and cry out to Him, "Oh, my God, what is this unbelief that actually throws a barrier across the door of my heart so that Christ cannot come in, that blinds my eyes so that I cannot see Jesus, even though He is so near? He has been near me for ten or twenty years, and from time to time He has given me a burning heart. I have enjoyed the experience of a little of His love and grace, and yet I have not had the revelation of Him in which He takes possession of my heart and remains with me in unbroken communion." Oh, may God convict us of unbelief. Let us make sure that we believe, because "all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). This is God's promise, and the blessing of receiving the revelation of Jesus can come only to those who learn to believe and trust Him. Those Who Persevere in Seeking the Revelation
There is another characteristic of those to whom this special revelation of Christ will come: they do not rest until they obtain it. When the disciples were talking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, their hearts were burning. As they drew close to their destination, Christ acted as if He were going farther. He put them to the test, and if they had allowed Him to go on quietly, if they had been content with the experience of the burning heart, they would have lost something infinitely better. But they were not content with it. They were not content to go home to the other disciples that night and say, "What a blessed afternoon we have had. What wonderful teaching we have had!" No. The burning heart and the blessed experience made them say, "Sir, 'abide with us'" (Luke 24:29), and they compelled Him to come in with them. This always reminds me of the story of Jacob, who wrestled with a man all night and then said, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Gen. 32:26). This is the quality that prepares us for the revelation of Jesus. My dear friend, has this been the attitude in which you have looked upon the wonderful blessing of the presence of Jesus? Have you said: "My Lord Jesus, though I do not understand it, though I cannot grasp it, though my struggles do not accomplish anything, I am not going to let You go. If it is possible for a sinner on earth to have You dwelling in his heart in resurrection power every day, every hour, and every moment -- shining within him, filling him with love and joy -- then I want it"? Is that truly what you want? Then come and say, "Lord Jesus, I cannot let You go unless You bless me."
The Need for a Revelation of Christ
The question is often asked, What is the reason for the weak spiritual lives of so many Christians? This is an excellent question, for it is remarkable how little the church responds to Christ's call, how little the church is what Christ wants her to be. What really is the matter? What actually is needed? Various answers may be given, but there is one answer that includes them all: each believer needs the full revelation of a personal Christ as an indwelling Lord, as a satisfying portion. When the Lord Jesus was here on earth, what was it that distinguished His disciples from other people? The answer is that Jesus took them away from their fishnets and their homes. He gathered them around Himself, and they knew Him. He was their Master; He guarded them, and they followed Him. And what is supposed to make the difference today between Christ's disciples -- not those who are just hoping to get to heaven, but Christ's wholehearted disciples -- and other people? It is this: fellowship with Jesus every hour of the day. When Christ was on earth, He was able to keep the disciples with Him for three years, day after day. Now that Christ is in heaven, He is able to do what He could not do when He was on earth -- to keep in the closest fellowship with every believer throughout the whole world. Praise God for this. You may know the verse in Ephesians: "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things" (4:10). Why was our Lord Jesus taken up to heaven, away from the life of earth? He ascended to heaven because the life of earth is confined to localities, but the life of heaven has no limits, no boundaries, and no localities. Christ was taken up to heaven so that, in the power of God, the omnipresent God, He might be able to fill every one of His followers on earth and be with every individual believer in a personal way. This is what my heart wants to experience by faith. It is a possibility, it is a promise, it is my birthright, and I want to have it. By the grace of God, I want to say, "Jesus, I will not rest until You have revealed Yourself fully to me." Often, people have very blessed experiences during the stage of the burning heart. One of the major characteristics of that stage is that believers delight in God's Word. How did the disciples get their burning hearts? It was through the way in which Christ opened the Scriptures to them. He made it all look different and new, and they saw what they had never seen before. They could not help feeling how wonderful and how heavenly the teaching was. There are many Christians who discover that the best time of the day is when they can read and explore their Bibles, and they love nothing more than to get a new spiritual insight. As a person who mines diamonds rejoices when he has found a diamond, or someone who digs for gold when he has found a nugget, they delight when they get some new thought from the Bible, and they feed upon it. Yet, even with all their interest in God's Word, and with all the joy that is stirred in their hearts, when they go to their work or attend to their daily duties, they find that there is still something missing in their lives. From time to time, we must leave all the many and diverse blessings that Jesus gives us, and come to the one blessing that encompasses them all: the blessing that Jesus makes Himself known, that Jesus is willing to make Himself known to us. If I were to ask, "Is this not exactly what you and I need, and what many of us have been longing for?" I am sure you would answer, "Yes, this is what I want!" Think of the blessedness that will come from it.
Oh, the peace my Savior gives! Peace I never knew before, And my way has brighter grown, Since I've learnt to trust Him more.
I recently had a letter from someone who wrote what a wonderful comfort and strength the above poem had been in the midst of difficulties and troubles. However, how can a person maintain peace in his life? It was the presence of Christ that brought the peace; therefore, peace must be sustained through the continual presence of Jesus. Remember that when the storm on the sea was threatening to swallow up the disciples, it was the presence of Christ Himself that brought the peace. Do you want peace and rest? Then you must have Jesus Himself. You talk of purity, you talk of cleansing, you talk of deliverance from sin. Praise God, the deliverance and the cleansing come when the living Jesus comes and gives power. Then you have the resurrected Christ, the heavenly Christ who sits on the throne, making Himself known to you. Surely this is the secret of purity and the secret of strength.
The Need for a Friendship with Jesus
Where does the strength of so many believers come from? It comes from the joy of a personal friendship with Jesus. If those disciples had gone back with their burning hearts to the other disciples, they could have told them wonderful things about a man who had explained the Scriptures and the promises to them, but they could not have said, "We have seen Jesus." They might have said, "Jesus is alive -- we are sure of that," but that would not have satisfied the others. Yet, now they could go back and say, "We have seen Jesus Himself. He has revealed Himself to us." Most believers are happy to work for Christ; however, there is a common complaint throughout the church, from the ministers in the pulpit to the least-noticed Christian workers, of a lack of joy and a lack of experiencing the blessings of God. Let us try to find out whether or not the secret of joy may be found where the Lord Jesus comes and shows Himself to us as our Master, and then speaks to us. When you have Jesus with you, and when you take every step with the thought that it is Jesus who wants you to go, that it is Jesus who sends you and is helping you, then there will be brightness in your testimony. Your experience will help other believers, and they will begin to understand, too. They will say, "I see why I have failed. I received the Word, I received the blessing, and I thought I was living the life of Christ, but I did not allow the living Jesus to be a constant, daily presence in my life." Perhaps you may now be asking, "How will this revelation of Christ come?" That is the secret that no one can know, that Jesus keeps to Himself. It will come in the power of the Holy Spirit. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had a revelation of the living, risen Christ. The Scripture says, "They knew him." He revealed Himself, and then He vanished from their sight. Was that vision of Christ worth much? It was gone in a moment, yet it was worth heaven, eternity, everything. Why? From that time on, Christ's disciples were no longer to relate to Him in an earthly way. From then on, Christ was to live in the life of heaven. When Christ was resurrected, He entered into a new life. His resurrection life is entirely different from what His life had been before His death. He is now in the power of the Spirit who fills heaven, in the power of the Spirit who is the power of the Godhead, in the power of the Spirit who fills our hearts. Thank God, Christ can reveal Himself to each one of us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, how He does so is a secret thing between Christ and each individual believer. Take this assurance, "Their eyes were opened, and they knew him," and believe that it was written for you. You may be able to say, "I have known the other three stages. I have experienced the stage of the sad heart, when I mourned that I did not know the living Christ; I have known the stage of the heart that is slow to believe, when I struggled with my lack of faith; and I now know the stage of the burning heart, in which I experience great times of joy and blessedness." If you can say that, then come and know the stage of the satisfied heart. You will have a heart that has been made glad for eternity, a heart that cannot keep in its joy but goes back to other believers, as the disciples went back to the believers in Jerusalem, and says, "It is true. Jesus has revealed Himself. I know it. I feel it." Beloved, how will this revelation come? Jesus will tell you. Just come to the Lord Jesus and say a simple, childlike prayer. You need to come to Jesus yourself. My work is done. I have pointed you to the Lamb of God, to the Risen One. You must now enter into the presence of the Holy One and begin to plead, "Oh, Savior, I have come so that I might have this blessedness with me at all times -- Jesus Himself, my portion forever."