"Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:32). Such were the musings of the same two solitary disciples after pursuing the way to Emmaus in company with their Beloved Lord. Can I, in some feeble measure, endorse them and rehearse them? In my own case, and that of my fellow-guests, what may some of these musings and reflections be, in the hallowed retrospect of today's service?
(1.) Did not our heart burn within us,with a deep sense of the evil nature of sin? At the Holy Table, and in its impressive memorial-symbols, I followed in thought the Adorable Sufferer to the garden of agony.
I beheld Him prostrate there, amid the chills and dews of that midnight hour—drops of perspiration mingled with blood flowing down to the ground—the interpreters of superhuman anguish. The presence of an angel from heaven is needed to strengthen Him. We can see no farther than the rim of the thundercloud—we cannot penetrate the midnight of terror. Well may the Greek liturgy speak "of all the sufferings of Christ known and unknown." "Now," said He Himself, in entering on these, "is the hour and power of darkness." Bewildered, fearful, panic-stricken, trembling, in a thrice repeated fervor of prayer He entreats that the mysterious cup may be allowed to pass from Him. Three times, as He seems to approach the brink of some dreadful precipice, He cries "Father, save Me from this hour!" His soul is "sorrowful," "exceeding sorrowful"—"even unto death."
I farther ponder the dread successive scenes of ignominy which followed Gethsemane, and had their climax on Calvary—
"Lo! a face to heaven in agony stealing,
Why all this? Nothing of retributive punishment could there possibly be in that unparalleled endurance. "In Him was no sin,"—He was the spotless Lamb of God. It was, as our Surety-Substitute—that the Lord laid on Him (or as these words literally mean, 'the Lord caused to meet upon Him') the iniquities of us all. "He was made sin for us." Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being Himself made a curse for us. He was the true spiritual Atlas bearing on His shoulders the transgressions of the world. No other—no less a cause, will suffice to explain the dreadful inner meaning of the "horror of great darkness," and of that bitterest wail that ever arose from earth to heaven—"My God! my God! why have You forsaken me?" "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed."
Have I not seen, today, in these visible significant symbols—the broken bread and the poured out wine—what an evil thing that must have been, which brought the beloved Son of God—the Prince of Life—from the Throne in heaven and nailed Him to the Tree?
(2.) Did not our heart burn within us, with sincere and poignant sorrow for our own sin? My sin formed some drops in that cup of anguish—"He gave Himself for me." For me He descended to these depths of humiliation—for me He bared His head to the pitiless storm, and traveled on that blood-stained path—a spectacle to devils and angels and men! My sins against light, and love, and warning, and mercy—my many faintings and backslidings—my tamperings with temptation—my murmurings under trial; my guilty repinings under providential dealings—how do their vileness and ingratitude stand revealed under "the Cross and Passion" of the Almighty Sufferer! Well may I be subdued and softened and saddened at the retrospect; and resolve with a deeper, more unqualified and unwavering resolution, to hate in all its forms what was, in very truth, the crucifier of the Lord of Glory.
My sin—yes, my sin helped in evoking these most dreadful words that ever broke the trance of eternity—"Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man who is my Fellow, says the Lord Almighty—smite the Shepherd" (Zech. 13:7).
(3.) Did not our heart burn within us, with a lively apprehension of His great love? The word of the Beloved disciple, spoken at a later time, could not fail to come, like a strain of holy music, at the Holy Table today—"Herein is love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." That divine love is revealed and manifested elsewhere. Creation teems with its memorials and illustrations. It is warbled in every grove. It is whispered in every breeze. It is pencilled in every flower. It glitters in every sunbeam. The volume of Providence proclaims the same—"The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works." Yet, at times, there occur, in both volumes, dark and perplexing passages that we cannot understand—and where the only earthly explanation is—"Your judgments, O God, are a great deep!" But—"herein is love." Question as I may that love elsewhere—looking, as I have been permitted to do this day, at these memorials of suffering and anguish, beholding in visible manifestation the grace of the Lord Jesus—who though He were rich—rich in all the plenitude of the Divine perfections, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich—I can surely exclaim in adoring transport—"The love of Christ which passes knowledge!" It will form the theme, the confession, the mystery of eternity—and yet the ever renewed and baffled avowal will be—"Oh the depth!"
(4.) Did not our heart burn within us, with an earnest desire to yield Him a new and more devoted obedience? Is this, tonight, my devout aspiration and resolve—that whatever others do, I will serve the Lord? that my existence henceforth, more than it has been, shall be a continued walk with Jesus, a life-long Emmaus journey? As He, in His infinite love and condescension, invited me to come to His Banqueting-Table, and in expressive sacramental symbols, ratified all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, so may I be ready, with the responsive vow—'Lord, here is my heart; take it; make it Your own forever. I am Yours by creation; I am doubly Yours by redemption.' May all the varied discipline of Your providence—all Your appointed ordinances and sacraments and means of grace, only serve to bring me "nearer to You,"—and lead me more habitually to recognize the obligation thus stated by the Apostle—"He died for all, that those who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them."
(5.) Did not our heart burn within us, with the blessed hope of His second coming? At the very moment when He took bread and blessed it, and broke, and gave to these wondering men of Emmaus, we are told, He suddenly "vanished out of their sight." But it was only for a little time. The two privileged and delighted guests hastened back to the upper chamber and the gathered disciples in Jerusalem; and lo! the Lord re-appeared with the salutation, "Peace be unto you!"
"A little while," says Jesus, "and you shall not see me; and again a little while and you shall see me, because I go unto my Father." The first little while of the "not see Me" will, to His Gospel Church, soon be past; and the second great while of the "you shall see Me" will before long be here. The gracious Feast of today is, above all things, the Feast and pledge of the Second Advent—"You shall show forth the Lord's death until He comes!" Oh, blessed prophetic memorial! which, like a luminous rainbow, thus connects the cross with the crown—one arc of that rainbow resting in the first festal chamber by the Kedron Valley; the other on the golden steps of the Great White Throne! "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
(6.) Did not our heart burn within us, with longing desires of spending an eternity of fellowship in His loving presence? If this rill—this rivulet—of the sacred Ordinance I have been privileged to partake of today be so refreshing, what must be the great Fountain-head? If the Pisgah-view be glorious, what must be the Promised Land itself? If I have been listening by the shore to a few waves murmuring, 'God is love,' what will it be to bathe in the ocean of that Eternal love? Here, at the earthly Communion Table, I only see the Beloved "behind the lattice." He meets me on the Emmaus road, but it is "as a wayfaring man who turns aside to tarry for a night." I go, as a guest; but it is, at times, too, with tearful eye, as I note fellowships that are no more—missing the music of voices that used to cheer, alike in going to the Feast, and when the Feast was over. What will it be in that Glory-Land where nothing can intrude to mar the bliss of uninterrupted communion—no note of discord to disturb the harmonies of the everlasting song—no veil of sin or sadness to intercept the vision and fruition of an ever-present Savior?
I love at times to dwell on that picture of His Resurrection-life, when, early in a Palestine morning—all nature clad in spring's resurrection attire, a solitary Figure stood by the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret, and addressed some weary midnight toilers as 'Children.' They were well-known accents of tenderness. The joyous word of recognition passed from lip to lip—"It is the Lord!" The day is coming, when 'that same Jesus,' in the morning of immortality, will be seen standing on the Heavenly shore, with the look of affection and the word of welcome—the region where no night darkens, no tears dim, and no shadows fall. Let me join with my fellow communicants, in looking forward with bounding heart from the banquet on the earthly shore, to the eternal Heavenly one—where, with the plighted love of today as the master passion of our souls, we shall each be able with unhesitating sincerity to repeat the avowal made of old with trembling lip—"Lord! You know all things, You know that I love You."