So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent. So he went in to stay with them. -- Luke 24:28-29
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The Great Pretender
I have been reading a sermon of Andrew Murray’s based on these verses, and then Rick mentioned in a comment yesterday that sometimes we seem to think “God is out to get” us. That reminded me of the way this whole passage is worded. God sometimes pretends in order to move us and draw something out of us.
After His resurrection, Jesus joined two of His followers as they walked the seven miles or so from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The travelers spoke of the events that had just taken place, and Jesus, unrecognized yet, chided and corrected them: And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:25-27).
The hearts of the two listeners were stirred as they began to grasp the fullness of the revelation. By this time, they were near their destination, and it was late in the day. Where the ESV says Jesus “acted as if he were going farther”, the KJV says “made as though” – the Greek word behind this occurs only here in the New Testament and means “to conform oneself to [an appearance]”, that is, to pretend.
Jesus pretended He had somewhere else to go.
The two who had walked all this way with Him still had no idea who He was, but they were fascinated and hungry for hope. The only reason Jesus did not go on down the road and perhaps find someone else to talk to was that these two “constrained him”; they begged Him to stay with them. In fact, you could say, they prayed Him stay with them.
Now it was the Lord’s intent all along to go in and reveal Himself to these two, but He would not have done so had He not been invited to abide with them. This parallels what we read in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” The three go in the house and sit down to eat. Jesus takes up the bread, blesses it and breaks it. Suddenly, the eyes of the two listeners are opened, and they recognized the Lord in their communion.
Murray pictures the Emmaus Road experience as being comprised of four stages. First, there is the stage the death of Jesus had created where the two men had hearts that were sad and troubled. That’s the state of those who have lost hope, who believe that, if indeed this Man named Jesus ever lived, He died long ago.
The second stage is that of the heart that is “slow to believe”. Christ was crucified. We know that. We also know that we ought to believe the message we have heard that He is alive, but we are not sure. Perhaps it is only a legend, a hallucination – He lives metaphorically. It’s something we ought to believe in, but we struggle. The two whom Jesus found were at this stage because they had heard that the women had gone to the tomb and found it empty. It seems they were not thoroughly convinced of what that meant.
When the Lord joined them and began to speak to them from the Scripture about His death, burial, and resurrection, He took these two to the third stage of having hearts that burned. As they were walking along this road, they were taking a journey much longer than seven miles. They were going from hell to heaven, from death, hopelessness and alienation to life everlasting. They moved from believing only in the crucified Christ to believing in the living Christ.
They were at the stage of Romans 10:9-10 -- because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. I suppose, at that point, they were on their way to heaven. The Stage Three Christian is a Christian -- righteous, church-going, Bible-believing. We long to see Jesus when we all get to heaven, right?
Unless there is such a thing as a Stage Four Christian. What if we could have not just a burning heart but a satisfied heart, as Murray puts it? What if Jesus would reveal Himself to us? Is that possible? If Luke is right, it is possible. If we are willing to admit that we believe but we are not yet satisfied, if we are willing to entreat and pray and beg the Lord to come and abide with us, He will. He will come through the door we open for Him. He will commune and abide with us always.
Now, right here is where it becomes a problem for people like me. These boys in Emmaus did not know they were inviting Jesus into their house. My mother would let anybody in her kitchen for beans, cornbread, and coffee. It didn’t matter who they were, how dirty they were, where they were from, or what they did for a living. I have seen preachers, politicians, doctors, judges, and lawyers sit down at her table. Old hound men and hillbillies that hadn’t had a bath in a year sat there as well. She would try to pick up and clean up a little if she knew somebody was coming, but even if she didn’t have any warning and the place was mess – and it often was – she didn’t turn anybody away. That’s the way to do it.
A lot of times, we are kind of ashamed of how our place looks. Maybe it hasn’t been swept in a while. Maybe the windows need washing, and the shelves need dusting. Maybe there is some stuff in here I would just as soon Jesus didn’t know I had. If I knew He was coming in, I’d try to make it spotless. We are not to be that kind of a host. If He is knocking, we need to go ahead, open the door and bring Him in. If He has been walking with us and acts like He’s going to go on and not come in, don’t think, “Wow, that’s a relief.” No, beg Him to come on in. Tell Him, “You’ll have to forgive me. This place is a mess. But, please, please, come in, and abide.”
The day is now far spent.