by T. Austin-Sparks
"Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself." (Luke 24:27).
The greatest thing in history and experience, the greatest thing possible to man, was just at hand with these two men, but all unsuspected, unimagined and unexpected. No two men have ever been more surprised at how a journey, a journey without particular purpose or interest, turned out. Something that was more or less casual, dictated by a sense of the necessity for getting away from things, having time to think and to try to adjust. Perhaps little, if anything, more than that was behind this 'walk into the country' as Mark calls it, this sad walk of seven miles and a little more.
It is upon the tremendous nature of this eventuality that we want to focus attention, for this twenty-fourth chapter of the gospel by Luke is one of the most momentous parts of the whole Bible - indeed, it gathers up the whole Bible and embodies the one inclusive, comprehensive issue of all the Bible. So it was no small thing. We shall see that it was infinitely more than just one of a number of appearances of the Lord Jesus to people after His resurrection. That may have been very wonderful as something in itself, that He should suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear, but it was far more than that. I venture to say that the 'far more' could spread itself over a whole lifetime in its meaning and significance.
Well then, having made that the keynote, we went on to say a considerable number of things about this journey and about these people which circle round this central question and issue, and to those we shall not make further reference at the moment.
We are going to pass on to the discourse of this strange Stranger on the country road. "Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself." You do not expect me to give you that discourse, and you do not expect me to try to do it in all the Scriptures, and yet we are going to get that discourse somehow.
The Old Testament a Testimony to the Crucified and Risen Christ
The beginning is this, that from this chapter, Luke 24, we learn that the Old Testament is a comprehensive and detailed testimony. Jesus said it, and you have to dispute the point with Him if you do not believe it or agree with it. The entire Scriptures of the Old Testament are a testimony; comprehensive and detailed. That testimony centres in one Person called the Christ. That Person centres round one thing in two parts: death and resurrection. And then, finally, that one thing has in itself one supreme issue: the conquest of death and the triumph of life. To sum that up, the whole of the Scriptures of the Old Testament bear ultimately upon one issue: the conquest of death and the triumph of Life. You cannot read the Old Testament with eyes opened, as did Jesus and as did these people when He had opened their eyes, without seeing that there is one thing all the time at issue, one thing involved, and it may be in a thousand different ways, but one thing: the conquest of death and the triumph of Life. This is the testimony. This testimony is said to be everywhere in the Scriptures.
The Object of the Lord's Discourse
Then the Lord Jesus proceeded to divide the Scriptures up into three sections and to bring out of each section this great ultimate truth concerning Himself; from Moses, the prophets, and the psalms. And that does, according to the Hebrew arrangement, comprehend the Old Testament. Now it is just there, of course, that our difficulty begins. We do not know what data Christ's discourse employed. We do not know what He took out of Moses and the prophets and the psalms for His purpose, we do not know the data of His discourse, but we do know the object of it. That is perfectly clear. While we do not know the line that He took, we know the end that He reached. We are left without anything to assure us as to the exact matter which He employed, but we can take His principle, and I think we can to some degree arrive at His material, by recognising His conclusion. That sounds a little involved perhaps. You will see what I mean in a moment.
What was the sum of it all? How did He sum it all up? What was the end to which He moved? What was it that for Him governed the whole? Just one statement - "...the Christ to suffer... and to enter into his glory". That is the issue, that is the end, that is the goal, and He got that somehow from all the Scriptures. "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?" The suffering - that clearly meant His death and all that was involved in His death. The glory - that clearly meant His triumph over death and the nature of resurrection Life. That is the substance of the Old Testament, that is the testimony everywhere: suffering in the deadly grapple with death in many ways, glory in complete triumph over death, its destruction, and the nature of resurrection Life. That is the substance of it all and these two things were always kept together and must always be kept together - the death and the resurrection. Each gives meaning to the other. That is, why did He die? You have no answer to that question except in the resurrection. Why was He raised? What does resurrection Life mean? There is no answer to that question except as you understand the meaning of the Cross, the death.
Now, be very patient with me while I work this way toward the heart of this whole matter, for it is just there and by that means that we are taken back in broad principle to the whole of the Old Testament. What does the Old Testament contain, right up to the Cross of the Lord Jesus? This - the inclusive business on hand from Adam to Christ was the dealing with an invading foreign force into God's created universe. A foreign force had invaded God's created universe, that is one side. And all that represents or speaks of the death of the Lord Jesus is related to that; the dealing with this foreign invading force. The other side, the resurrection, was the introducing of a dynamic power to counter that force, and that dynamic power, the invading force, was resurrection Life; this Life which in itself, in its own nature, is a Life which cannot be touched of death, has in it power and dynamic, mightier than any force in God's universe. That is the issue all the way through, the mighty creative forces of the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus.
Now have you got the setting, or has it been too involved? We must have a full basis and background for what will be perhaps very much simpler as we proceed. The invading force was sin, and death in its train, sin and death. That was the thing with which Christ dealt in His Cross - sin and death. The dynamic to overcome that and rule that out and nullify that is righteousness and Life which are brought into being in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Paul made that perfectly clear when he said - "If Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). Righteousness is only established in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Now let us get to a much more simple line of consideration. I am anxious, though, that you should realise that we are dealing with immense things. The issue on the Emmaus road was no simple matter at all. Look at these two on that country road, look at their state, and you will get a clue to the Old Testament and what Christ was dealing with in His death and resurrection.
The Difference His Discourse Made to Two Men
First of all, these men are all broken up, disintegrated and scattered in themselves. They are not whole, they are not one piece. They are divided men, each of the two is a divided man himself. If you spent a little time with either of them you would find that in talking over things up to this point, in talking of all these things that had happened, at one moment they would be saying one thing and another moment they would be saying exactly the opposite. They would be going round this thing, trying somehow to find a co-ordinating truth; something that would bring them together and settle them and make them sure... but they are broken-up men, scattered men, divided men.
Then again they are despairing men, men who had lost their hope. "We had hoped...". It is in the past tense. "We had hoped that it was He...", but that hope has gone, that hope is in His grave, in His tomb, that hope at the moment is dead, and in its place there is the awful gloom of despair and hopelessness.
Further, they are perplexed and bewildered men. They just cannot see any light, see any meaning, see any reason. Their minds are utterly defeated. For them there is no way out and no way through this situation. They are men in the dark, and not only in the dark, but without sight, without capacity or faculty for seeing. Christ summed their condition all up in one word. Unfortunately the word He used is not translated into this English word, it is put in other words. Our translation is, "O foolish men." Of course, the Authorized Version is stronger than that - "O fools." The Revised is a little more polite - "O foolish men". But He did not even say that. He said, "O senseless men." That is the word He used. That is how He summed everything up - "senseless men". Did it not describe them? It was not an epithet, it was not meant as a discourtesy. It was not in effect saying "O insane men." "Senseless men"; when He used that word He covered the whole ground of the effect of the invading evil force, for when Adam let in that invader, mankind became senseless as to all God's thought and purpose. He became, firstly, insensitive to the things of the Spirit of God. He lost his sense of spiritual sight, and from that time was a blinded man.
Paul puts it this way - "the god of this world has blinded the minds..." (2 Cor. 4:4). You notice it says here - "he opened their mind." "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them." The invading force had destroyed the faculty of spiritual sight. Is it not perfectly clear that from the time that Adam let in that false thing, that man became a disintegrated creation? It is not very long after that you find how disintegrated the human family is. It was at one another's throats, no longer a family in love and fellowship. Murder has come in and disintegrated, and man in himself is disintegrated. You can look at these men and see how broken up they are and scattered. There is no cohesion in man after that, and man has lost his hope, his assurance, and goes to work to try to create one for himself. That is the explanation of the tower of Babel. Lose your hope in God and you have to somehow manufacture your own hope, create your own means of assurance. "Let us build us... a tower" (Gen. 11:4).
Well, the whole of the Old Testament is a revelation of this disintegration of man, this despair and hopelessness of man in his condition, this perplexity and bewilderment of man, and this dark blindness of man where God is concerned. It does not need accentuation. We know in ourselves that until Christ meets us and does the thing which He did with these men and the others mentioned here, until then we are in that state by nature; we are insensitive and in a very real sense we are senseless where God and God's things are concerned. These men were the embodiment of the rest in conditions brought about by this invading evil force. All these conditions are just the effect of that.
Can we prove it? Look at it the other way. See them going and see them returning. See the turn that was taken in the road literally and historically when the Lord Jesus came in resurrection power and reality into their experience. As they went, they went, as we say, in pieces. As they returned, they are no longer like that. They are girded with one all-captivating reality: He is alive! There is nothing more integrating than that, nothing more gathering up of the scattered parts than the knowledge of that in an experimental way. They are girded. I venture to suggest that no man ever 'hopped it' for seven and a half miles as they did, and you do not do that unless there is something that has got hold of you, that has girded you together and brought you together, you do not do that if you are in pieces. You know how you go along when you are in pieces. They rushed back to Jerusalem to break in upon those gathered together, intending to declare at once what had happened, but before they could get it out, the others were telling them the same thing. Not only were they integrated, but as a company they were on one thing, one experience. Before they could open their mouths, those in Jerusalem said, "The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon." Then they got their story out! Nothing of despair about that. There may be some wonderment and amazement, but there is no bewilderment in that sense with that company. They were all at sea for want of some girding truth, some girding reality. Are they men in the dark any longer? No, they have seen Him, and what a difference!
You see what Satan brought in and what Adam let in, and what Christ has dealt with and ruled out. And what an opposite He has established in this great dynamic force, the power of resurrection Life, and that to be an experience. What is it all? Not just parts of some great happening, bits of a story, but one consummate, all-inclusive thing: victory over death and what death means, and the establishment of a deathless life. That is the heart of the whole matter. It is that when entered into - blessed be God, many of us know something of it, that it can be entered into - that, entered into as a living reality, is the heart and sum of the whole Bible. That is the testimony, and when we have said all that, we have not started with Moses and all the prophets and the psalms. That was the issue.
I am not saying that He put it as I have put it, that He said what I have said. I am saying that He went to the heart of the matter and got the inclusive principle. He led the whole of the Scriptures up to this point: that Christ suffered, was raised again, and entered into His glory. That is the end at which He arrived by the use of the Old Testament throughout in all its parts. How He did it, I repeat, I do not know, but that is where He brought them. That satisfied them, that answered all their questions. They were asking why it should have happened, why He should have died. Here is the answer, and it is an adequate answer. He, by His death and resurrection, gathered up and met triumphantly the whole of that terrible invading force with all its consequences in the realm of the creation. He dealt with that and vanquished that. Dying, He destroyed death. By dying, He slew death. You who know your Bibles will be able to call up from everywhere in your New Testament this glorious testimony. "Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10). Life and incorruption were brought to light through the Gospel. Then this Life must be something other than and different from the life we have by nature.
You say, 'What do you mean by Life? I am alive, I am a biological creature.' But that is not what he is talking about. This Life is a different, transcendent Life, and, as it is called, incorruptible Life, and that certainly is not the life that we possess. Death, what do you mean by death? You may answer back - 'Why, you who are speaking about this destruction of death will before long be in the grave.' Ah yes, that may be, but that does not nullify the truth that there is a Life possessed by children of God that is a graveless Life, a deathless Life. If you have ever watched the death of a real unbeliever, and the death of a saint, you know the difference. It is not death with a child of God. But oh, it is so much more than I can explain! I am simply saying that these two words, life and death, are not just what everybody thinks they mean. They are immense things.
Death is a spiritual thing, death is a deadly thing in every realm, death is an evil thing. Say what you will in your artistry and your poetry about death being a friend. It is no friend. The Bible says, "The last enemy that shall be abolished is death" (1 Cor. 15:26), and death is an enemy. Try to sublimate it, if you like. No, death is an evil thing, it came from Satan, it is the fruit of sin, it is destruction. But Christ has destroyed it, and over it has established this other Life which will not see death. Do not think that the death of the body is the end of death. No, no - death is not just physical. Death only affects the body and carries it with it. Death is much bigger than the body. Life is a spiritual thing. Oh, it is much bigger and better than this life that we have in the body. Thank God there is a lot to be said about that if the Lord enables us in these chapters, this marvellous thing with which we are occupied.
I am not going on to the discourse, although I started thinking that we might. We are occupied, not with the discourse itself and material and data, but we are occupied with the issue of it which is the issue of the whole Bible, and the issue - may God bring this home to us in these days in which we live, bring this home to many a heart as a bedrock foundation, a great governing reality - the testimony of God concerning His Son which is given to us is absolute victory over death. That testimony accounts for everything of conflict, pressure, suffering, and everything else. That is the provocative thing, and when I have used that word, I have launched myself upon the discourse, because the representation of the testimony in the books of Moses is Abel, the man who provoked hell.