This morning, while we as mortal creatures detest condemnation, many times those circumstances of condemnation strip down the things we do not need to focus more clearly on those things that are truly important. Being comfortable, complacent, and rutted can be desirable to the flesh, but these are rarely – if ever – good circumstances for the walk of faith. Whenever we become rutted in our thinking, we have a tendency to not think clearly or react well to the circumstances before us. What makes it even harder to get out of is – like a natural rut – the longer we are in it the higher the wall becomes to overcome to get out of it. This is why old habits are so hard to break: the wall is seemingly insurmountable in our minds to escape from it. These are the moments when the condemnation for our short-sightedness can be so needed and revealing in our lives.
Oftentimes, I have been asked the question, "If you could place yourself in any one day or circumstance in history, where/when would it be?" For years, my response has been the setting for the verse before us. Can you imagine what the sermon must have been like as it was uttered from the beautiful lips of the Master? Talk about an Old Testament sermon for the ages! Later, the two disciples that were recipients of the blessed message talked about how it gave them heartburn. However, they also talked about how He "opened to us the Scriptures." Not only did His message resonate with the souls of the two men, but it peeled back the curtain of their minds to understand things about the Scriptures and reveal things to them that they previously had not considered. To have revealed to you personally all the Old Testament Scriptures about the Christ from the Christ Himself! What a mind-expanding event it must have been that convicted the soul at the same time!
However, I have recently come to see something in this glorious event that has made me examine my own personal experience. While these two disciples on the road to Emmaus were the only recipients of this glorious sermon, they got there through some harsh condemnation by the Saviour. They were sad when He joined their company, and when He asked them why they were so sad, they responded in defeated tones. Notice in verses 19-24, they respond to Christ's inquiry by speaking of Christ in the past tense. Even though they freely admit that there were reports and witnesses of His resurrection, they still remained defeated and spoke of Jesus in the past tense. Friends, we should never refer to Him in the past tense. He is an ever present help in time of need. (Psalm 46:1) Not only were they speaking of Him in the past, they were denying the very reports that testified to the same thing He preached while He ministered to them: His resurrection. Should they have hid in their heart what He said, they would have understood that He verily would die, but rise again the third day.
Knowing what the Master taught, this day should have been a day of rejoicing. Even if they had not gotten the news from the witnesses, they should have rejoiced, but with the news, there should have been even more cause for uplifted spirits and much delight. Since these two disciples had not reacted to the death of Christ and the succeeding events like they should have, Christ appears to them to manifest things to them and reveal things to them that will produce the fruit that they should be bearing at this time. Before giving them the glorious discourse from our verse, He upbraids (convicts and condemns) them for their unbelief by showing the necessity of Christ suffering and enduring these things then to enter into His glory. (Verses 25-26)
Now, let us proceed to our own experience and see some of the truths of this lesson as they relate to us personally. While I cannot say that I have had Christ personally appear in fleshly form with me in my journey, I have felt the same type of experience that these two did. So much of my life should be uplifted and full of rejoicing, yet I find myself cast down quite often. Do I have legitimate reason to be? In all honesty, no I do not. Ever. Consider our position and the blessed knowledge that Christ has bestowed upon us. Is He resurrected? Does He have all power, glory, and might? Coupled with that, will we one day – without fail – be where He is? From now until that glorious time, has He promised to never leave us nor forsake us? The answer to all those questions is yes. Since those questions are all answered in the affirmative, I have absolutely no reason to be cast down. Yet, many times I am.
When Christ appears (in Spirit) to upbraid and condemn me for my short-sightedness, the event is painful but always fruitful. Upon reflection, I have come to realize that some of my deepest understandings and revelations of Scripture came on the heels of some of my most downcast times. When upbraiding my sadness, the Saviour has opened the Scriptures in ways that I had not previously seen. While I do not treasure the conviction that I feel during those scenes, I do treasure the opening of the understanding that He has blessed me with. What sermons were those two capable of preaching after this event that they could not have done otherwise? What glorious things have mine eyes been made to see that made me realize what little I have to be sad about and how much I have to be thankful for!
There is an old expression that says, "The growing is done in the valleys." Friends, the two on the road in our lesson were in a deep, dark valley, but there was a tremendous amount of growing that took place in them personally from the teaching of the Lord. Many of my "spurts" of growth in understanding come when in deep, dark valleys. Lately, I have been made to realize even more deeply the glorious promise and expression, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Friends, even if we do not forsake our loved ones in this earth, we have to leave them from time to time. Every workday, I leave my family for the office. However, our Lord not only does not forsake us, but He never leaves us as well. Consider how many times we have foolishly asked, "God, where are you?" Friends, He is always there! Upon the realization that He is with us, we can feel condemned at the folly of our own mind and heart, but how sweet the deeper understanding can be when we realize once again what we should have already learned and then realize it even more deeply than before.
There is no excuse for stumbling at things we should already have a firm grasp on. These disciples were without excuse not to realize after 3.5 years of walking and talking with Him that He is God with all power, might, and dominion. They were without excuse not to believe what He told them about His eventual resurrection, and subsequent ascension into glory. Furthermore, they were without excuse not to believe what had already been written of Him, which He expounded in intricate detail unto them. Translated today, I am without excuse not to believe all that has been written of Him and the glorious truths that have so sweetly been revealed to me. I am without excuse not to remember all the ways in which His hand has led and guided me through difficult seasons of life and lifted me up at times to soar on His wings. Furthermore, I am without excuse not to remember what He has yet promised to deliver me to that will drive all the toils of this life into the paleness of the forgotten when that glory is revealed in me.
Just as these two, I have no reason to be cast down and every reason to be uplifted. However, during those moments that I fall short, He convicts the soul and burns the conscience down in my chest while at the same time opening to me the Scriptures. These treasures of revealed knowledge have come after some of my most faulty seasons, but I am convinced that it does not always have to be that way. Indeed, experience can be a very effective teacher, and it has been repeatedly in my life, but I have learned lately even more deeply to pray as instructed "and lead us not into temptation." So oftentimes, I learn more deeply when experiencing the lesson and the trial, but my prayer should be to learn the lesson without needing the trial or test to learn it. Notice that Christ tested these disciples to prove by their own mouth why they were so downcast, and then upbraided them accordingly. Many times, my test comes as I prove manifestly why I am so downcast, and then am upbraided accordingly. May our journey going forward be uplifted and filled with grateful hearts for His kind providence and blessing. May our prayers be to learn and have the Scriptures opened to us without having to go through the test and trial, and most of all, may we heed more and more, deeper and deeper into those things that the Lord would have us to learn and to do.