The Testimony of the Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 9 - A Practical Issue

Reading: Luke 24:13-21.

I feel that the Lord would have us seek to bring matters to very practical issues. A very great deal of ground has been covered, a large amount of material employed, many words have been spoken and many things indicated and implied. And now we must seek in a simple way to see what it means, what it amounts to and where we are in the matter.

These two of whom we have just read on the Emmaus road were representative of a much larger company. Not only of the twelve or the eleven disciples, but Paul speaks of some five hundred who saw Him after His resurrection. And I think we are quite right in surmising that the five hundred, and there may have been many more, were very much in the position of these two, and the fact is they were out of things, they were really not in the good of the truth. There was a great truth which had already been passed to them by the Lord Himself. As you notice, He said later in this very chapter, "These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you", and it was a great range of truth focused upon one tremendous thing. A great deal of truth had been passed to them by Him. That truth had been put into expression within the past few years of their lives, and now its great issue was taking place and they were not in the good of it, they were out of it. And that raises the first quite simple, precise challenge to us.

Are We in the Good of What We Have?

Are we really in the good of all that has been given to us by the Lord? Are we in the position to which all that ought to have brought us? Are we in this great testimony of the Christ which is the subject of this chapter and all that is gathered into this chapter as we have been seeing from Genesis onwards? Are we in the good of this mighty thing: the power, the Life of His resurrection and all that that means? Some of you are blessedly able to give an affirmative answer.

Of course, it means more than that, as we have been trying to show: the relatedness which results from it. For they were scattered until they did really apprehend in a living way His livingness, and then they began to come together. All the scattered bones came together, bone to his bone, and in the end they were one organic and living whole, and that was a fruit. Are you in the good of it? They were not at this time. No, we may say that little, if any, of all that it meant was being enjoyed by them or was being experienced by them. And it may be more or less the same matter with us. The question is just this - Are we right in or are we out? Is this true of us or is it not true?

Now the Lord, in drawing up alongside, asked them the reason for their condition; asked them to state why it was that they were as they were - knowing, as we earlier said, knowing quite well why and all about it better than they did. But knowing also that it is a big movement towards a crisis when we begin to precisely state our reasons and the causes for our position. It is always a great help to do that and especially if we state it to the Lord. Well, when He asked them the reason for their condition, they gave as the explanation the recent happenings, things which had happened in their lives, in their experiences, things which really ought to have had exactly the opposite effect to what they had had. However, they gave these happenings as the reason for their condition. He proceeded to give them another point of view from which to look at those happenings, and having given them another standpoint and another interpretation, He confirmed what He said with that final momentary sight of Himself in the house or the inn, whatever it was, in Emmaus. Their eyes were opened and they saw Him. And He vanished out of their sight - a confirmation of what He had said.

Well now, this had a very good effect upon them. They felt better, decidedly better, and they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem with a good deal of zest. If you had met them then and asked them for the meaning of their position, they would have given an explanation to that which probably would have been very exaggerated. It was like one of those times which perhaps some of you know when you have been going through a bad time, things have been very difficult in yourself, in your own lives or in circumstances. Everything, you would say, has gone wrong, everything has broken down, and it has been a very difficult time indeed and all looks black. You see no way through. Then someone has come along and talked to you, given you some explanations and some interpretations, and, with their strong and confident manner and personality you have felt a lot better, you have felt quite different, felt quite hopeful again and you have gone away quite cheerful. But the real work has not been done. Old strongholds within have not been broken down and the position, though apparently more hopeful and the condition seemingly more cheerful, is still not very secure.

Now I am keeping close to the Book in the back of my mind, because it took quite a lot, a tremendous thing, to get these men firmly established on their feet after this. It is like that. The real work still waits to be done. The fact is that we have been in a false position, just as they had. They had been in a false position, and that false position had not been destroyed with that talk, nor with that momentary glimpse of Him. You say, How do you know that? Are you imagining? I said that they were representative. You remember almost to the last minute before He was caught up from them they asked this question - "Dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). That was their false position. They were still clinging to something of the old and that false position had not really been destroyed though they had had this wonderful stimulus. It may just be like that, not really in... in all that this means, because of a false position somewhere.  The position is not true, is not right, is not sound, is not safe. The thing is far more inward than can be put right by stimulating discourses. That may only add to the falseness of the position. There is something deep to be done inside. Why were they as they were on this way? Why were the others like them?

The Need for Brokenness

Well, let us say at once, they really were not broken men. They looked like it and they sounded like it. To have heard them talk you would have imagined that it was so, but really they were not. What was broken? The thing that was broken for them was their picture of sitting on thrones in the kingdom on this earth. Their ministry was broken, their position was broken, their earthly prospects were broken in the kingdom. They themselves were not broken. It was their ambition that was broken, or the object of their ambition. The shattering, although registering of course seriously upon their souls, the shattering was really still an objective thing. "We hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel". And if you look through the Gospels, you see what the idea of the Israelites was as represented by the disciples about the kingdom. I hope I am not too hard on them, but I do know that this is so true to life, that we can be out of things because something precious has been broken, not because we have been broken, but because we see some prospect, some outlook, some ministry, some position being taken from us. 

This is borne out, surely, by what the Lord said in answer. "Behoved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?" They had not calculated on the suffering. They had not taken that into their reckoning. They had only seen the glory. The glory had enamoured, the glory of this kingdom on the earth in which they would have places. The suffering aspect had not gripped them at all, and they were in a false position because of that. "Behoved it not the Christ to suffer?"

Well now, you see that brings us to a very practical point. Because they were in that position, that false position, it was absolutely essential that the Cross should shatter them. They had to be shattered. They had to become broken men. All God's purpose, all that God means for us on that other side of the Cross in union with Christ risen and exalted absolutely demands brokenness, complete brokenness, in all those concerned. Not just the brokenness of their pictures and outward hopes, but an inward brokenness. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves" (2 Cor. 4:7). The self-hood broken, broken vessels for heavenly eternal fulness.

The Cross is necessary for our breaking. It is not a pleasant note, I know, but in all faithfulness it must be said. This is the Lord's word to you: that if you are not broken by the Cross, if you have not gone through an experience of real brokenness under the hand of God, all that the Lord means in you and through you will still be suspended, it will be impossible. If the Cross means one thing, it does mean that the Cross is the way to the glory and to heavenly fulness. It is the way of an inward breaking. Let me be very precise, because I know of different kinds of brokenness. I know the brokenness of disappointments, of disappointed hopes and expectations, but the kind of brokenness I am talking about is the brokenness of the self-hood, the strength of Self that holds its position and holds its ground and that will not let go. That is the kind of brokenness. This self-strength, whether it be intellectual and mental or whether it be emotional or whether it be in the will, that strength of the natural life has got to be broken as truly as the sinew of Jacob's thigh had to be touched and withered. Something like that has to happen in us that we carry through the rest of our days. God has done something in the realm of our self-hood and we are broken men and women so far as self-sufficiency, self-assertiveness, self-confidence and every other form of Self is concerned. It must be. With all that had happened, these happenings in Jerusalem of which they spoke, there was still a question as to whether there was real inward brokenness, whether it was not something more superficial than that in relation to things.

Then again, there was a tradition, there was an inheritance, there was an association with God's things and there was all that the Scriptures held. They had got it. The Lord assumes here that they had got it. He was not talking to men who did not know the Bible. He was talking to men who knew the Bible and had all that the Scriptures held. And, in the case of some of them, there was all that three years and more of association with Christ represented. There was all that: a tradition, a great tradition, a wonderful tradition, a religious tradition, the oracles and the promises and the inheritance... all that. There was all the content of a large Bible knowledge, and then in addition there was this personal association with Jesus Himself spreading over a time, where they heard what He said, all that He said. They saw what He did, and yet with all that there was a vital something lacking. Is that not the upshot of it? They had all that long tradition, all that volume of Scriptures, and they had all that this personal contact with Jesus meant, and yet there was that something so vital lacking, that all that they had did not carry them through this tremendous upheaval or stand them in stead through this ordeal and save them in the day of the testing. So with all that they had, there was a vital something lacking. You do not need me to say that that is so often true. There is the great tradition, the great Christian tradition, there is the great inheritance from those who have gone before and handed it down, and there is some kind of an association with Christ and yet for many there is the lack of this vital something.

The value of everything is its livingness. The value of the Scriptures is not that we know our Bibles and can handle our Bibles and can give addresses, wonderful addresses, from our Bibles, and that we can quote Scripture fully and accurately and all that sort of thing. It is not that we bear the name of associates of Christ, Christians, not that we have this great inheritance and tradition. It is the livingness of it all which is proving itself in all ways; that this risen Life of Christ should prove itself. They just had not got that, and, having all the rest, it did not amount to anything when put to the test. That is a strong thing to say, it is a searching thing to say. You have the Christian tradition and a great deal of Christian teaching, perhaps you know your Bibles very well, or think you do, perhaps you have many advantages in your associations, but the question arises. Not, Do you know it all, have you got it all, all the teaching, the truth, the Bible knowledge, the association, and that you are at all the meetings and you have heard it for years and years past and your association with it has been very close. That is not it. You can have all that and yet you yourself not be marked by this vital something that you become a vital factor in the whole thing. You are still a passenger, perhaps a parasite; not really in the good of it yourself. Let us be frank about it. We must face this as a personal matter.

Resurrection the Answer

The answer is in the resurrection. That is the answer to these men, and it is the answer to us. What I mean by that is not the historic fact or a part of the Christian creed. I mean that resurrection is a vital principle as well as an historic fact. It is something which precedes and continues as a mighty force to be known, experienced and expressed continually right through to the end. That is the resurrection and the answer is there. That is, that resurrection is not to be only something that happened with Jesus, but it is something that has happened in us and taken place inside of us. There is a counterpart of that by His risen Life imparted, that we have been raised together with Him. And that is not just doctrine either. That is real, that is vital truth and something to happen in us as well as in Jerusalem so many years ago. It is not just history and tradition, it is experience. Someone, being asked the question - What does history teach us? - answered, History teaches us that history teaches us nothing! And that is very true. The history of past wars, what has it taught us, what is it teaching us? "History teaches us that history teaches us nothing." And it can be like that with Christian doctrine for all practical purposes and outworkings. It may still be the great facts of history unrelated to our present life, and that will not do. We have not only to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but we have got to be alive ourselves with Him in that resurrection and on that ground.

The Touch of the Lord to Open Inner Eyes

You notice that something happened, and this was the happening upon which all the happenings waited. In the first part of the story as to the men, it is put as though it did just happen. In the later part of the story with those in Jerusalem, it is by His own act. And I believe that both are the same, that the fact that their eyes were holden that they should not know Him, was a divine act. Therefore, if they did behold Him suddenly, it was a divine act. In the second case later in Jerusalem it says, "Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures." The point is that there must be a definite, precise touch of the living Lord upon our inner eyes. All the rest that we may possess of which I have been speaking will be latent and inoperative and unavailing until that something has happened in us which is contained in this: that their eyes were opened. And then He opened their minds, that touch of the Spirit of the living Lord upon inner eyes which opens a new world, gave them a new Bible, but it was the old Bible come to life. They never knew what a Bible they had; it was a new world altogether.

They were like people who had never seen suddenly being given their sight. It was a touch of the new creation Life which brought an entirely new world into view. It was like that. We are all darkened, we are all blind, whatever our basis as to our associations and our traditions and our inheritance and our study. We are all blind until He touches us with the power of resurrection and we see. That is a thing that no preacher can explain or define. That is a thing that no one who has the experience can make others understand. One man born blind had sight given to him and they tried to get him to explain, to define, to give some account. The poor fellow was hard put to it, and at last said, 'I don't know', "one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). That is all there is to it. It is the wonder, the inexplicable wonder of just seeing, of getting an open heaven, a faculty comes into life which removes the dome from over your head, and from that time you are in the good of a seeing which makes all the difference.

That is very simple, but I am perfectly certain that this has an application far beyond what many of us might allow. I know many who have a vast and wonderful Bible knowledge, better than I have by a long way, and who have a wonderful tradition and background and upbringing and inheritance and know all the truth and can put you right on any point, but I know that I do not meet the touch of Life. It is all so cold, so exact, it is so icily correct. It does not minister Life and release.

You see, we can go a long way with that sort of thing and just not see. Of course, we do not know that we are not seeing and that is the trouble. But oh, the point is that here are facts true to life and every one of us ought really to be very honest about this, and our honesty may have to take us to the point where, believing with all our might that we know and see, we hold it before the Lord that it may possibly be that we are not seeing after all, with that meekness which is always before the Lord, even though we may have assurance about some things. 'Lord, if I am wrong, and there is every possibility of my not being absolutely right on all points, keep me checked up. Do not let me think I am right always, that my position over against everybody else's is a right one'. Oh, God deliver us from the ever present possibility of not being right when we think most surely we are! It is something not to make us uncertain in life, but it is something to keep us before the Lord ever open to new light, for when we close the case in finality, that is the day of our doom. "The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His word". Openness, meekness and the ever present possibility of there being revelation that will just make all the difference, even to us.

Oh, this breaking work of the Cross, this opening up work of the Cross... this touch of the Spirit of the risen Lord upon us inwardly which brings new vistas into view, and makes us children of a new creation, seeing all things anew! Unless something like that is true of us, or becomes true of us if it is not already, all our teaching is in vain. These messages will not mean anything. Will you have a very humble dealing with the Lord? Do not let any dislike of the way it is put or dislike for the person who puts it or any argumentativeness come in and cloud the issue. The Lord is wanting something with you and for you. Do not let any prejudice or suspicion or anything like that rob you. Be very humble, down before the Lord if it is like this. 'I have been quite sure of my position, I have withstood all others about my position, yet I may be wrong.' There is no one incapable of being wrong. You have a dealing like that with the Lord so that He has His opportunity to get you into the place, or more fully into the place, of adjustment to all that wonderful going on afterwards that we find when this work of brokenness and of mending was accomplished in these men.

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