When We Walk With Jesus
In his classic book of the same title, A. B. Simpson speaks of "The Christ of the Forty Days." There are two "forty" day experiences in the life of our Lord. The first forty day experience is seen at the beginning of his ministry and was a period of temptation. This period of testing ended in a great triumph over Satan. The second forty day experience follows the greatest triumph of all, the resurrection of a Living Saviour and is and of itself a period of further triumph.
Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, speaks of this triumphant period with this words: "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:" (Acts 1:1-3)
Let us refresh our memories relative to some of the literal appearances of our living Savior during that forty day period. He appeared to the women as they departed from the tomb. (Matt 28:9) He appeared to ten of the disciples. Thomas was missing. (John 20:24) He later appeared to all eleven as they ate. (Mark 6:14) He appeared to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. (John 21:1-2) He appeared to Cleopas and another man as they walked on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:15) He appeared to over 500 at one time. (1 Cor 15:6)
Today let us look at an incident that occurred in the first week following His resurrection. The story of what happened when He walked with two of His followers on the road to the village of Emmaus. Then let us consider what can happen when we walk with Jesus.
Visualize for a moment the scene of a bright Sunday afternoon as two men stroll along on their way home to their village. Can you imagine their confusion, mixed with excitement, as they consider the events of the past week or so? The triumphant entry of their Master into the city of Jerusalem. His last Passover meal with His followers and the institution of His Supper. His betrayal and His arrest in the garden and the fearful fleeing of His followers The terrible trials before Pilate and Herod. Peter's denial. We can be sure that the word of all this had gotten around to those who were in His first assembly. Then the terrible dark and earth shaking day of His crucifixion. Now they are hearing all these rumors about the resurrection. What are they supposed to think about these things?
Just at the moment they are in deep discussion about the possible meaning of all this, they become aware of a third person who has, from their viewpoint, evidently just overtaken and joined them on their walk. There seems to be nothing unusual about this. Evidently such casual meetings on a walk were common place. Apparently there was nothing in His manner or opening conversation that was special. That is until this stranger begins to join in their ongoing discussion. He then gradually begins to lead it and to explain the meaning of the scriptures.
We can draw some helpful general lessons from this dynamic encounter. First, we can conclude that Christ can join us and walk with us in all the walks of our life. Next, we can see that Christ may go unrecognized as He walks with us. It is possible we may not know or acknowledge His personal presence. We can also understand that if we want to really recognize Christ in our walk we can always do so by His Word. He is Logos, the Living Word. It would seem as well that the ultimate recognition of Christ relates to breaking bread with Him. In other words, through intimately fellowshipping with Him in His Word and in prayer. Last, we can conclude that close fellowship with Christ can be temporary and transient. That we are called to "...live by faith, not by sight." (II Cor. 5:7)
One more thing about this walk of about 12 kilometers. The Old Testament prophets all the way back to Job had spoken of the resurrection of the Redeemer. Jesus Himself had taught his followers about it as well. (See Matt. 12:39-41, 16:4, John 2:19-21, 12:23) These two were not alone in their confusion and perplexity. They were not the only ones filled with doubts and fears following the crucifixion. But it should be said that if they had only spiritually understood and believed the scriptures and the teaching of their Master they could have been walking down that road to their home with great certainty and joy in their heart. The joy and certainty that burned their hearts at the end of their encounter with the risen Saviour could have been theirs all along. How often do we let spiritual ignorance, doubt and fear rob us of potential blessings? Let us look now at what can happen, "When We Walk With Jesus."
WHEN WE ARE WILLING TO WALK WITH JESUS HE WILL WALK WITH US. He tells us of His desire to have fellowship and communion with us. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20) "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup (fellowship) with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20) Paul also speaks clearly of the benefits of our fellowship with the risen Lord. "God [is] faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (I Cor. 1:9)
As we look at these two walking along before our Saviour joins them, we need to be careful about criticism of them. Even with all their doubts and fears, they were seeking the ultimate truth about the Saviour. They were communing and reasoning about the Saviour. They were considering spiritual things. How often do we just casually and naturally talk about or really communicate about Jesus? How often, on the other hand, do we "fellowship" around more mundane matters. Just pause and listen sometimes to the things being discussed by believers. Even after they have come together in worship and praise of the Lord. The weather, politics, cricket and football seem to be popular areas of consideration. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with that. Gossip even sometimes seems to come into play. There is something wrong with that!
These two were sincere truth seekers. God blesses sincere truth seekers. Just this week I had an occasion to share this truth with an unbeliever. The encounter demonstrated the fact that only those who sincerely seek God by faith can really know the truth about Him and know Him personally. "But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6)
The story of Cornelius in Acts Chapter Ten clearly illustrates the reward of sincerely seeking the truth by faith. God went to a great deal of trouble, humanly speaking, to miraculously send the devout Jewish Christian, Peter, to share the message of God on equal terms with a Gentile. This ground breaking and earth shaking act occurred as God's response to a sincere truth seeker. God has said that those who seek Him early (before all else) will find Him. Jesus has promised to abundantly reward real truth seekers. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matt. 7:7-8) I am sure these words are intended for all those who would walk with Jesus.
But perhaps these two were a bit too cautious in their seeking. Jesus lovingly gives them a mild upbraiding. Then He patiently explains it all to them. Notice how He introduces the truth and Himself to them. He begins and ends with scripture. "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Oh, how we need to emulate His example here. Especially in our day when all sorts of gimmickry and methodology are being advocated and tried. When it sometimes seems that the approach Jesus took here would be the last rather than the first resort in informing seekers of the resurrected Christ and His salvation.
WHEN WE WALK WITH JESUS, OUR FOCUS SHOULD BE UPON HIM AND HIS GOSPEL. It would be well to note what was not happening here. These two followers were not discussing getting vengeance for a horrible and unjust murder of a holy man. They were not considering organizing a posse to storm the precincts of the Chief priest or Pilate to right this wrong. They were not discussing unjust social, religious or political conditions. They were not trying to foment some sort of revolution or discussing a social or revolutionary gospel.
The focus and central message of those who walk with Jesus is succinctly summarized in verse twenty-seven. It would be good to ask how many people have heard this central message truly expounded during the season just passed? In the midst of all the hot cross buns, chocolate and bunnies, how many have heard a clear cut challenge boldly issued for people to repent of their sins and by faith be saved by a resurrected, living Saviour? If our answer to the question is very few, then what should be our response? Obviously, a redoubling of our efforts to get the whole truth and nothing but the truth to them.
WHEN WE WALK WITH JESUS, HE WILL TEACH AND GUIDE US. Those who walk with Jesus have His promise of His presence in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Paraklete, the Comforter, the One who walks alongside us. On the night before He went to the cross our Saviour spent considerable time and energy gently explaining to His followers of that day and by extrapolation in every age, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the days and centuries of the future. He speaks of Him and His ministry in John Chapters 14, 15, and 16. He speaks of His comforting ministry. (John 14:26) He speaks of His inspiration and revelation ministry. (John 15:26) He speaks of His evangelistic and teaching ministry and of His guiding ministry. (John 16:7-13)
Without His teaching and guidance we are just as spiritually blind and helpless as these two. Notice how He opened their understanding of the teachings of the scripture and of His teaching. Men are spiritually blind and dead and cannot understand the Word unless He opens it to them. (II Cor. 4:3-4) We have the more sure Word of prophecy that was given by His Spirit. Holy men of God were guided gently along the sea of inspiration and revelation. We have the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. We have his assurance that it is all that is needed as a written guide to life for those who would walk with Jesus. We have the all things the Living Saviour mentioned in the giving of His Great Commission. But again, without His spiritual discernment and guidance we are just as spiritually blind and helpless as these two.
The Spirit Himself gives Paul the same conclusion when He had him to write: "But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned." (I Cor. 2:10-14) If we walk closely with our Lord, we can have the same sort of discernment given to us as was given to these two when He opened their spiritual understanding and comprehension of the scriptures.
Although we do not live in the apostolic age of miracles, signs and wonders, I do believe God can still give us amazing discernment and spiritual insight into the scriptures. Preachers sometimes call this the unction of the Holy Spirit; especially in relation to proclamation of the Word of God. I have shared such experiences with you before. There have been times when I am convinced God gave me not only wonderfully clear insights into the scriptures but also unusual instant recall of scripture and other information to be used in sharing His Word not only with a group in a preaching situation but also with individuals in a witnessing situation. At such times it seemed that I could just place my thought processes into neutral, so to speak, and be carried along by the unction of His Spirit. I am convinced this happened to me in a very special way this week. A word of caution compels me to qualify these remarks. He did not give me any new revelations nor did He give me any information that was deep or the source of a new light into His Word. In a marvelous way, He helped me retrieve from my memory bank that which was needed and then gave the words and the most effective way to use them.
WHEN WE INVITE JESUS INTO OUR LIVES, HE ABIDES WITH US. "And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed [it], and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:28-33)
The conclusion of their encounter with the risen Saviour is especially inspiring. Just envision it if you would please. Imagine Jesus going right into their humble home and sitting down at their common table. Notice He did not force Himself upon them. (John 1:12, Rev. 3:20) He is a gentleman. He will not break down the door of your heart or force His way into your everyday life. By inviting Him into their home and life, they opened themselves to the tremendous blessing of not only supping with Him but truly knowing Him and having all their initial doubts dispelled and fears allayed.
In considering this let us remember that all those who have been saved by His grace through faith have invited him into their heart and their life. They have invited Him into their work places and other places and especially into their homes. Their home is no longer exclusively their castle, but is to be His castle too. He is to sit on the throne of every heart of every person who names Him as Saviour and Lord.
The joy and peace that His presence brought is expressed in their statement: "And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" Have you ever had your heart burn within you because the undeniable and vibrant presence of the Living Saviour in your life?
In case you might wonder why we should thank the Lord for our daily bread and the blessings of life, we have His example here. There can be no mistake about it. If our Saviour routinely and without fail thanked His Heavenly Father and blessed His bread before He ate it, we should go and do likewise.
WHEN WE WALK WITH JESUS, WE WILL WITNESS AND TESTIFY OF HIM. "And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things [were done] in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread."
Notice, they did not say, "Let's wait until the next time we see the apostles and the other disciples and then we can tell them about our experience with the risen Christ." No. They show a real sense of urgency. They immediately rush right off to tell the world about Jesus. Do you think if they had been more reticent, shy and hesitant with their witness we might not even be reading about them in the Word? Their holy boldness is a consistent characteristic of those who have really been with Jesus. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)
Notice as well, Jesus immediately came and stood with them as they were witnessing. "And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you."
What a lesson for those who are bold enough to witness in His Name! He will go before us, with us, and come behind us. His presence and power are guaranteed. (Matt. 28:20) I would personally testify that He and His spirit have come and stood beside me again and again when I by His grace and strength boldly witnessed His Word.