Sad Hearts Sing – The Walk to Emmaus

Prayer:  O God, open the eyes of our hearts to see You  for who you are today – the risen Savior who conquers all of our enemies.  Renovate our unbelieving hearts so that they burn with devotion and love for our risen Savior and Lord.

I don’t know about you, but  I still get chills every time I read this narrative on Jesus’ walk to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.  It still amazes me that the first afternoon and early evening of Jesus’ resurrected life was spent with two obscure people.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, hope disappointed assaults our ability to trust the plan and promises of God.  I still remember the pain of our miscarriage in 1991.  The bright hopes of holding a new baby in your arms dashed and destroyed.   I still remember the despair and depression that gripped my heart when job opportunities closed one by one and I was without a ministry assignment for a year in 1996.

What does our Lord do when his follower’s hearts are gripped with despair and discouragement?

  • What does our risen Lord do?  Jesus draws near to his despairing, hopeless people.  Jesus joins his depressed and confused followers on their journey (vv.13-24).

The hopes of Cleopas and the other disciple were dashed and destroyed.  Their hearts were gripped by sadness and gloom. They were disillusioned. We get the impression that these men were discouraged and disappointed because God did not do what they wanted Him to do. That which causes these disciples despair should have been the surest ground of their hope –  the dying of the Lord Jesus. They had expected that Jesus would usher in the Messianic kingdom, and nothing of the sort happened at least for those guided by the eyes of sight and not the eyes of faith!

 

What was their basic problem? They did not know and believe all that the prophets had written about the Messiah. They saw the Messiah as a conquering King, but they did not see Him as a Suffering Servant. As they read the Old Testament, they saw the glory but not the suffering, the crown but not the cross. Like many who would come after the, they were blind to the total message of the Bible… that the cross precedes the crown.

  • Why does he do it?  For what purpose does He draw near? Our living Lord joins us in the journey for two fundamental purposes:  To make Himself known and to renovate our hearts (vv.25-35).

The living Christ reveals Himself for who He is – the Risen Savior who has conquered sin, death, hell and the devil.  How does He make himself known to us? By opening His Word and sharing His table.

He opens the scriptures, for they testify of him.  The expounding of those scriptures which speak of Christ has a direct tendency to warm the hearts of his disciples, both to convert and comfort them.  The crucial function of interpreting the Scriptures is to reveal Christ, His sufferings and glories to follow from all of the Scriptures – Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

The word of God defined and structured Jesus’ life.  How did Jesus come to understand that he was the Christ?  God whispering in his ear”  No, but by reading the Bible.  He read the O.T. and discovered his identity.  v.27.  All of its parts point to Jesus Christ.

Imagine the greatest Teacher explaining the greatest themes from the greatest Book and bringing the greatest blessings to men’s lives:

Perhaps Jesus started at Genesis 3:15, the first promise of the Redeemer, and traced that promise through the Scriptures. He may have lingered at Genesis 22, which tells of Abraham placing his only beloved son on the altar. Surely He touched on Passover, the levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle ceremonies, the Day of Atonement, the serpent in the wilderness, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, and the prophetic messages of Psalms 22 and 69. The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page. He did not teach them only doctrine or prophecy; He taught “the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Cleopas would have thought about isaiah 53:3-4…Is that the kind of Redeemer we want?

Two things about Jesus in v.26 – It was necessary for the Messiah to SUFFER (TO DIE).  It was necessary for the Messiah to RISE.

What do you have to know to be a Christian?  You have to know that Jesus died and that Jesus rose again and that it is for you.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer?
Because of who you and I are. We are rebels.  Our envy, pride, our using our status and material wealth in improper ways…  our antagonism towards God.   We are not neutral.

Because of God’s demand for justice.  Man’s rebellion against God had to be justly punished.  God’s son could only pay such a high price (Isaiah 53:5-6)  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Iniquities – wicked actions willingly done.  Trespasses/transgressions – moving and living outside the safe boundaries of God’s law. He had to be perfect to make an adequate and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Only if he died, could he be man’s redeemer.

Because of God’s love for us. The willful rebellion of man… the righteousness judgment of God and the infinite love of God.  It is staggering that God should love sinners.

 

We buy ugly houses.  Totally renovate them and made them beautiful.  That’s you and me.  God buys ugly people with his blood at the cross and he loves us into beauty.  He renovates us at the cost of his own body and blood.  He transformed those who are overwhelmed with iniquity and conforms us into the image of His beauty. It’s the tale as old as time – beauty and the beast.  The only way for the beast to be free of his beastliness is for beauty to love Him unconditionally.

Why was it necessary for him to rise again? Jesus physically rose again to demonstrate God’s victory over death.  Some scholars say that it doesn’t really matter that Jesus rose from the death.  It is a metaphor for new life, the cycle of spring. This type of Easter Bunny Christianity will not rescue you at death’s door. Death is the result of sin in this world and we will only be delivered from its finality and curse through faith in a crucified, risen Savior.

John Updike summarizes it well in his Seven Stanzas of Easter: “Make no mistake: if He rose at all, it was as His body; if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules, reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fall.”

Let us not mock God with metaphor and analogy making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages. Let us walk through the door.

Jesus physically rose again so that you might experience new life now. Their hearts burned. They enjoyed real fellowship and communion with the living God. They finally experienced joy in the midst of their sorrows.

He meets them at his table and is revealed to them in the breaking of bread. Blessed art thou O God.  Maybe they saw the nail marks in his hands.  When the bread was broken.

 

  • What are the results? There are at least four results…

Obstructed eyes are opened. Jesus is alive and He is right here with us.  The reference to their eyes is reminiscent of the correlation of sight with understanding, faith, and salvation.  Luke 1:78-79; 2:30; 6:39-42; 10:23; 11:34; 18:35-42; 19:42; 4:18-19.

Slow hearts are turned into burning hearts.  There is a complete reversal of emotions.   Unbelieving, obtuse people are made to burn in devotion for Christ. How frequently I have been slow of heart of believe the promises of the Lord in His Word!  I have failed frequently in orienting myself fully around Jesus’ teaching.

Gospel Community – A fractured community is drawn back together. When the women’s testimony to the resurrection is dismissed by the disciples, fractures begin developing in their company.  They all begin to drift away from their high hopes and the community of discipleship. Cleopas and his friend return to the community of disciples to bear witness to Jesus’ resurrection.

Gospel Communication – Bold witnesses – It is the duty of those to whom Christ has revealed himself to let others know what he has done for their souls. Notes what the two men do after their encounter with the risen Christ. When you are converted, instructed, comforted, you go and strengthen your brothers.

 

 

How are Christ’s followers prepared to be his witnesses of all these things?  Possibility (vv.1-12) gives way to probability (13-35)  and probability to actuality (vv.36-49) and then to resolution (vv.50-53).

When Discouragement and Despair Knock at Your Door

“All progress in the Christian life depends upon a recapitulation (an act or instance of summarizing and restating the main points of something)  of the original terms of one’s acceptance with God” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 27).

This delightful quote points us to an enduring remedy for all our ills, even that of spiritual depression. Every step we take in our Christianity, especially as we learn to war against inclinations to be self-critical, angry, anxious, bitter, hopeless, unbelieving, or fainthearted, depends upon an intentional revisiting of the Gospel. After all, what does a sad person need more than to be gently, yet continually, reminded of the good news? Over and over again, we’ve got to remember His suffering on our behalf: His incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, and ascension.

In a nutshell, we have to intentionally consider Jesus, especially during those dark hours when we’re tempted to think only of ourselves. And although every one of us needs a daily dose of Gospel-recapitulation, those of us who feel the blows of Giant Despair need it even more.

 

Great Sin…Deep Despair…The Power of Jesus

The greatest sin and the deepest despair together cannot baffle the power of Jesus.” These words were spoken by a woman who for a season of her life lived in a suburb of hell… a place of spiritual darkness, rife with all manner of disease, horrendous oppression and death, and all instigated by the one who came and continues to come to kill, steal and destroy.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who, along with her family, saved the lives of over 800 Jews by hiding them from the Nazi occupiers in Holland during World War II.  She endured her imprisonment at the Ravensbruck concentration camp of the Nazis. Her father, brother, sister, and nephew didn’t survive.

Despair and the Goodness of God

One of the biblical antidotes for despair is actively calling to mind the goodness of the Lord in our lives. This is what King David did in Psalm 27:13.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Seeing means to savor and actively call to mind His goodness.  May the Lord give us grace today to enjoy these special evidences of His goodness and may He increase our faith in Him amidst our battle against despair.

In what ways has the Lord demonstrated His goodness in our lives?

His providential goodness in supplying all necessities and delivering us out of the hands of all our spiritual enemies.

His special goodness is seen in the following ways.

  • His covenant
  • His son our Savior
  • All spiritual blessings in Christ
  • His supports under afflictions
  • Views of pardoning grace under a sense of sin
  • Strength against Satan’s temptations
  • Deliverance out of them
  • Discoveries of the love of God
  • The restored light of his countenance after times of spiritual dryness and desertion
  • Divine refreshments of His house
  • His Word and ordinances
  • The glories of the world to come

Adapted from John Gill’s commentary on Psalm 27:13

 

Personal Worship Guide: The Transforming Power of God’s Book

Teach: The Transforming Power of God’s Book (click on the link here for guide)

I.  God’s Book grants us discernment into how He works (Isaiah 29:1-8)

The Holy Spirit uses His Word to show us how God has worked in the past. The first eight verses of this passage show us two things: God humbles his proud people (vv.1-4). Secondly, He powerfully and suddenly delivers the humbled (vv.5-8).

How should knowing this change us? God’s Spirit uses His Word to transform proud hearts into humble hearts.

II.  God’s Book summons us to accept and not deny His diagnosis of us (vv.9-16).

He knows our hypocrisy (vv.9-13) and sees our rebellious ways that we try to hide (vv.14-16).

How should knowing this change us? God’s Spirit uses His Word to transform hypocritical hearts into hungry hearts.

III.  God’s Book instills hope as we anticipate the coming transformation (vv.17-24).

God promises to renew the entire world (vv.17-21). He also promises that His city will be holy (vv. 22-24).

How should knowing this about the future change us now? God’s Spirit uses His Word to transform complaining, despairing hearts into hopeful, steady hearts. See especially verse 24.

Lifelines for Spiritual Depression

Lifelines for those journeying through spiritual depression from Psalm 120:

Martin Lloyd Jones in his book entitled Spiritual Depression sets forth a radical notion that has proven most helpful to me personally. He writes that “most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself.”

He counsels us to “take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why are you in despair? What business have you to be depressed? You exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope in God’ – instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must remind yourself of God, who He is, what He has done, and what He has pledged Himself to do (pp. 20-21).”

Here are five lifelines on how to do this from Psalm 120.
A.    Recall God’s past faithfulness in your life. “I called to the LORD, and he answered me” (120:1). Such personal evidences such as answered prayers and God’s deliverance and provision in the past serve as powerful antidotes to spiritual depression. Actively call to mind one way that you have personally seen the Lord’s faithfulness in your  past!

B.    Recognize that your only source of hope is in the name of the LORD (120:2). The great tragedy of spiritual depression is that, those who suffer from it tend to think that they must overcome it before they can come to God, but the reality is that we are powerless in and of ourselves to overcome it. We must acknowledge that there is only one source of help. This source is set forth in our Psalm – the LORD – Yahweh. This most important name for God is used twice in Psalm 120.   Dr. Bruce Waltke, an Old Testament scholar, reminds us that the following two words capture the significance of this name for our God – loving loyalty. It is the Lord’s personal and covenantal name. It reminds us that He has pledged to be our God and take us to be His people and that He refuses to give up on us. Let us heed the counsel of John Stott, the pastor emeritus of All Souls Church in London, England: “The cure for spiritual depression is neither to look in at our grief, nor back to the past, nor round at our problems, but upwards to the living God. He is our help and our God, and if we trust in him now, we shall soon have cause to praise him again.”

C.    Pursue peace with God by declaring war on your sin (120:3). We tend to treat our sins of speech (lying lips and deceitful tongues) lightly until we are the ones lied to or slandered. The Psalmist prayer for deliverance from a  “deceitful tongue” in Psalm 120:3 might not be somebody’s else, but his own. Here are a couple of applicational questions to declare war on your sin: Are there any ways that you have spoken unadvisedly, bitterly, or untruly this past week? Confess it to the Lord. Is your gloomy state of mind and sense of despair caused by your unwilling to really trust God to be faithful to His promises? One of my biggest sins in this area of spiritual depression is simply unbelief and allowing myself to be dictated to by my feelings and emotions rather than actively trusting God’s promises. For us to trust God’s promises we must be familiar with them. Today, why don’t you select a promise of God from Scripture and memorize it so that you can have it as a ready weapon for your next bout for spiritual sanity and health? Psalm 42:11 would be a good place to start: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

D.    Rejoice that divine judgment fell upon another – the Prince of peace (120:4). Jesus himself took all the sharp arrows that were due us when He suffered on our behalf and died in our place. He bore in his body all of our sins of speech, despair and unbelief.  In our moments of desperation, we cast ourselves on Jesus and thank Him for absorbing the judgment that was due us. What joy it brings to know that I am no longer condemned but forgiven. I am no longer rejected, but accepted by the one who matters ultimately. May the wonderful truths of the gospel bring you out again into the sunshine of the Father’s love for you!

E.    Remember that your deep longing for peace will one day be fully satisfied (120:5-7). The key word here is SHALOM. According to the Scriptures, our  journey’s destination is not the earthly Jerusalem, but the heavenly Mount Zion – the new Jerusalem (city of peace). In it, there will not be even one day of doom and gloom. There will be full shalom – complete mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being, wholeness, health, prosperity, safety, tranquility, rest, harmony, and the absence of all agitation and discord.

“All of us have a deep longing for peace… to be released and set free from the babble of voices both within ourselves and outside ourselves. Jesus was a man of peace; he came into our world, and was worshipped at his nativity as the Prince of peace. He lived and died to make peace “by the blood of his cross.” When he was going out of the world, he said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” When he was risen from the dead, and made his first appearance to his disciples, he said to them. “Peace be to you.” He is the ultimate peace-maker. His gospel is the gospel of peace. It contains the peace of God which passes all understanding.”
– Samuel Pierce, quoted in Charles Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David

William Cowper was a man who struggled mightily with spiritual depression. He wrote a wonderful hymn entitled “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” The second verse serves as a lifeline for others struggling with depression: “Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, the clouds you so much dread. Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head!”