“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you,” Luke 24:36.
Yesterday morning, in the morning meeting of Kilskeery Free Presbyterian Church, Rev Paul Hanna preached a very profitable and stirring message from the verse 6 of Luke 24. “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee.” I would commend the message to all. The service may be watched at here. I trust you will view the message.
While Rev Hanna read from Luke 24, my eyes were drawn to verse 36, which heads this article. The words are familiar to me yet they came with freshness to my soul and I determined that after the meeting I would look more closely at them.
I particularly noticed the opening words of the verse. “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them”. As I contemplated this statement it occurred to me that here we have:
I. WHAT IT IS THAT DRAWS THE SAVIOUR INTO THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE
The giving witness to His resurrection drew the Saviour into the midst of the little gathering.
1. The smallness of the gathering of disciples does not deter the Saviour coming amongst His people. There were only “eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,” verse 33, when they were joined by the two who had seen the Saviour. Many throughout the world can empathise with such numbers!
This is a comfort to us in Kilskeery and to many, many like gatherings across the world in these evil times when the cause of Christ is despised and ridiculed as it has not been in living memory.
Smallness is always a cause of concern for the believer who wishes ever that more of their neighbours and friends, indeed enemies, would come in under the sounds of the Word of God. However that distresses the Christian, it is clear from the text that it does not in the least deter the Saviour from coming amongst such a small gathering.
2. Our text makes clear that the subject they were speaking of was what drew the Saviour. “The heart of the declaration was, “The Lord is risen indeed,’ verse 35. I believe that I can state with great certainty that nothing pleases the Lord Jesus more than when His people are declaring the truth of His resurrection. It is a central truth and is the essence of the gospel message. If this be UNTRUE then his birth, life and crucifixion are meaningless. They are of no consequence or benefit or profit to this world. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”
How precious to the Saviour is that company which believes He gained the victory over Satan, sin and death at the cross and rose again the third day from the dead! He wishes to be amongst such a company!
3. Please note the position He took up. He “stood in the midst of them.” That means that He stood in the middle, equally near to each disciple. How precious is that fact! Preachers are often concerned that all present hear and understand God’s Word as it is preached and each one receives a blessing. We need not fear over this. The Saviour will draw near to all gathered to worship Him in “spirit and in truth.”
II. PLEASE NOTE WHAT IT WAS HE IMMEDIATELY SAID
He said: “Peace be unto you”.
I dare say that the greatest need they had at that time was a quieting of the storm of fear and doubt that raged in their hearts and minds. Such peace is what the gospel brings to those who welcome and receive it. It was that which the angels celebrated at the birth of Christ. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” Luke 2:13-14. Peace of heart and mind, a desire for the enjoyment of peace by those around us, above all. peace with God — this is the core blessing of the gospel.
1. Such peace comes to us from Christ. I despair as I daily read of the tomfoolery that people engage in that they might find a quietness of mind and spirit! Fortunes are made by those who peddle what are nothing more than quack and fraudulent concoctions and delusional hocus pocus, which it is claimed will bring peace to the mind! It is clear that none of these antics work and it is for this reason alcohol and drugs are the chief resort of a troubled and distraught world!
But, God says: “There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked,” Isaiah 48:22. Try as men may to disprove this, they have and will forever fail. Peace is found ONLY in Christ.
2. It is conveyed to us by His Word. He “saith unto them.” The channel through which God conveys peace to distressed and tormented mankind is His Word! “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:15.
The names that the prophet Isaiah said belonged to the Saviour is given us in that glorious verse, so well known yet very rarely understood! “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” Isaiah 9:6. Only those under His rule and members of His dominion can enjoy that peace which comes to those who believe the gospel. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” John 14:27. The peace of Christ, bestowed upon those who embrace the gospel, has ever been the source of comfort and assurance for God’s people throughout the times of distress.
3. It is especially bestowed in a gathering of His people. That must not be overlooked. The words I just quoted from Luke 14:27 were spoken in that little gathering His disciples at the last supper. That gathering broke up as we are told in John 18:1. “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.”
There are exceptions to this rule, as I myself experienced for I was not converted in any gospel meeting but in the company of only one person and yet, I did not enter into the full peace of heart and mind that assurance of salvation brings until one week later I attended a meeting in a Free Presbyterian Church for the first time and listened to Dr Ian Paisley preach and explain the gospel. It was in that gathering I found the full peace of God’s salvation.
May men and women, who seek the ‘still waters’ by yielding to the guidance charlatans and tricksters, be led instead to where the truth of God is faithfully preached and those ‘waters’ flow.
III. THAT DAY WAS A DAY OF RICH BLESSING
The disciples would never forget that day!
1. In a most practical way the Lord gave proof of His resurrection. “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet,” verses 39-40. That cannot be our experience but we can obtain the same measure of assurance by believing the record of these witnesses.
We enjoy peace of mind about many things that we entrust our lives to on the basis of the public testimony of others. Few of us understand how it is that a fully loaded airplane, some weighing as much as 450 tons, can fly through the air and yet billions of individuals have taken the word of test pilots and manufacturers that their aircraft is safe! There have been many, many tragic crashes resulting in the death of thousands but still very few doubt the science behind powered flight!
There has never been ANYONE who has proved that the gospel of Christ is flawed and doomed to crash and fail.
Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853), one of the principal founders of the Harvard Law School, originally set out to DISPROVE the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was certain that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all the myths at the heart of Christianity. But this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen!
There have been many like Simon Greenleaf who have come to examine the resurrection of Christ with a view to exposing it as fraudulent only to go away disciples and believers.
2. Christ gave that little gathering further evidence of His resurrection in another practical fashion. “And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them,” verses 42-43. As they had so often done before, they enjoyed a time of fellowship around a meal. In so doing He reminded them that He had told them of these events before His crucifixion. “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me,” verse 44.
What pain we inflict upon ourselves by NOT BELIEVING the word of God! The distresses that they passed through at the time of the crucifixion and its aftermath would have been avoided had they only believed the Saviour on those occasions when he spoke to them plainly of what lay ahead for Him. The angels at the empty tomb had reminded them of His teaching of them about the cross. “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again,” Luke 24:6-7.
On one occasion, during a time of prayer with His disciples, the Lord Jesus said unto Peter: “But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day,” Luke 9:20-22.
Repeat of this sad experience
The pain caused by unbelief will again come upon the people of God through their not embracing what the Saviour has said regarding the last days! The spirit of rejection of Christ at Calvary will be seen again to an even greater measure at the approaching close of this age. Calvary was a ‘localised’ event, taking place without any immediate knowledge of it beyond the borders of Israel. But a time is fast approaching when THE WORLD will manifest the spirit that gave rise to the cry of the Jews in Jerusalem, when they: “Cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him,” Mark 15:14.
That day is pictured for us in Revelation chapter 13.
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” Revelation 13:1-8.
These things are revealed in God’s Word for our learning and comfort that we might not be taken unawares by horrific events, as were the disciples at the cross! So said Paul under divine inspiration. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope,” Romans 15:4.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do,” 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.
Paul was writing to comfort God’s people some 2000 years ago about things that lay far in the future for them. But those things are on our doorstep and we would do well to heed what he said and comfort ourselves through his words.
When we see these things come to pass, we are not to panic and lapse into melancholy and despondency! No, you are, as the Saviour tells us, to rejoicingly “look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh,” Luke 21:28.
At this time of the year, when the elect remnant rejoice in the truth of the resurrection of our Saviour in a simple believing manner, and not in the garish buffoonery and nonsense that is seen amongst the benighted church-goers of the apostasy, let us ready ourselves by believing the Holy Scriptures, for that of which the Saviour has clearly warned us in those inspired writings, will come at the end of this age.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
10th April, 2023