Monday, April 5, 2010

The Road to Emmaus - 1

The loveliest thing about returning to church for Evensong last night was to hear Luke 24 read as the Second Lesson - the account of the Risen Jesus appearing to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, whose hearts burned within them as he explained the Scriptures, and who eventually knew him in the breaking of the bread.

For Passiontide meditation this year I read each day from "Life Through the Cross", by Marcus Loane, published in 1966, the year he became [Anglican] Archbishop of Sydney. (He died only last year, aged 97.) Sir Marcus did not set out to write an "original" commentary, or to break new ground in Biblical scholarship; his sole purpose was to beckon his readers' gaze to the Man of Sorrows who died for our salvation and rose to share his victory with us.

As always, Sir Marcus did it so movingly. A "literary hack" like me is reduced to wonder just by his turn of phrase. He was an artist who painted with the English language, a real wordsmith, precise and poetic at the same time. I loved hearing him preach. Indeed, I remember - as if it were yesterday - the sermon he gave at my Confirmation in 1964. An old fashioned evangelical, his dislike of Anglo-Catholicism failed to diminish his real fellowship with and respect for those individual Anglo-Catholics he felt loved the Lord and preached the Gospel.

At Evensong last night, I finished with a few remarks about the New Testament's way of re-interpreting the Old Testament, and then I read to the people this wonderful bird's eye view from Sir Marcus:

Luke proceeds with a brief reference to the speech that followed: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."' Cleopas must have remembered the words in which the Lord began with a clarity which time could not diminish, but he could not quote in detail all that ensued. It is enough to know the drift of that conversation; the journey was sweetened by a fascinating exposition of all that the prophets had spoken. The Son of Man had been saturated with the knowledge and the teaching of the Scriptures; He was at home in its language and its spirit as no other had ever been. He could quote from the law and the prophets with an insight and an application which amazed His hearers, and the last words He had uttered before He bowed His head to die had been words of Scripture. He had felt no hesitation in His reference to the words of prophecy and in His claim that they were now fulfilled before men's eyes (Luke 4:21). But there is no record apart from this momentous occasion of a sustained exposition of all that the Scriptures taught with regard to Him Who was the Christ. It was for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that He took the key of David and set out to unlock all the Messianic teaching in the Old Testament Revelation. He did for them what He was soon to do for their companions who were still in Jerusalem: "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:45, 46).

"He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." There were many fingers of a prophetic character which all pointed forward to the Christ that should come. He was the seed destined to crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8); He was the lamb God would provide as substitute and sacrifice (Genesis 22:8; John 1:29). He was the true Paschal victim whose blood would be shed for many (Exodus 12:13; Matthew 26:28); He was the great High Priest who would enter into the holy of holies once and for all (Leviticus 16:2; Hebrews 9:12). He was like the smitten rock from which there sprang a stream of living water (Numbers 20:11; John 7:38); He was like the brazen serpent that was lifted up for life and healing (Numbers 21:9; John 3:14). He was that star out of Jacob which shone as the herald of a new day (Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16); He was that great prophet whom God promised to raise up like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22). The Psalms had told how He would come to do the will of God (Psalm 40:7, 8; Hebrews 10: 7), and how the nails would pierce His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Matthew 27:35). The Prophecy of Isaiah had made it clear that He would bear our grief s and carry our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17), and that He would be led like a lamb to the place of slaughter (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32). It was through Him that a fountain would be opened for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1; 1 John 1:7); it was in Him that the sun of righteousness would arise with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78). He was prefigured in the symbolic character of things like the pillar of cloud by day and the column of fire by night, the blood of sprinkling and smoke of sacrifice, the seamless veil and mercy seat; He was foreshadowed in the personal history of men such as Joseph and David, Jonah and Jeremiah, Daniel and Mordecai. There were indeed countless signposts to show that Christ was in all the Scriptures and that He was no other than Jesus of Nazareth.

This fact was so significant that it formed part of the apostolic witness from the outset: "Let all the house of Israel know that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). The Son of Man had been impregnable in His appeal to the testimony of the Scriptures; they were the rock on which He had taken His stand against all the storms of controversy. "Ye search the Scriptures," He said for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me: And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:39, 40). They sat in Moses' seat, yet they did not believe Him of Whom Moses wrote: "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me," He said; "for he wrote of me" (john 5:46). Men who knew the letter of the Law had no real insight into its truth, and could make no reply to His devastating criticism. Had they never read what Moses wrote? (Mark 12:26). Had they never read what David did? (Mark 2:25). Nothing is so final as the statement which He ascribed in parable to Abraham: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them" (Luke 16:29). But there was aplausible argument which was meant to turn the edge of these words: men would be more likely to repent if one were to visit them from the dead. Then He declared in words of absolute finality: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31). Thus a solemn appeal to the Scriptures bears out the claims of truth with the most far-reaching authority: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43).

Thus a seeming stranger to the course of events in those days at Jerusalem passed from Moses to Malachi as He talked with them by the way and "opened . . . their understanding" (Luke 24:45) in the Scriptures. He showed them how the law and the prophets had all foretold that the Christ would suffer before He could conquer; then He showed them how all that they foretold had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

- Life Through The Cross, M.L. Loane, 1966, Zondervan, Gran Rapids, Michigan, pages 240-242


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