Call to Worship May 12 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 24:44-49

“Let us observe, firstly, in these verses — the gift which our Lord bestowed on His disciples immediately before He left the world. We read that He ‘opened their understanding — that they might understand the Scriptures.’

We must not misapprehend these words. We are not to suppose that the disciples knew nothing about the Old Testament up to this time, and that the Bible is a book which no ordinary person can expect to comprehend. We are simply to understand that Jesus showed His disciples the full meaning of many passages which had hitherto been hidden from their eyes. Above all, He showed the true interpretation of many prophetic passages concerning the Messiah.

We all need a like enlightenment of our understandings. ‘The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ (1 Corinthians 2:14.) Pride, and prejudice, and love of the world — blind our intellects, and throw a veil over the eyes of our minds, in the reading of the Scriptures. We see the words, but do not thoroughly understand them — until we are taught from above.

He who desires to read his Bible with profit, must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Spirit. Human commentaries are useful in their way. The help of good and learned men, is not to be despised. But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ. A humble and prayerful spirit, will find a thousand things in the Bible — which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.

Let us observe secondly in these verses — the remarkable manner in which the Lord Jesus speaks of His own death on the cross. He does not speak of it as a misfortune, or as a thing to be lamented — but as a necessity. He says, ‘The Messiah must suffer, and rise again the third day.’

The death of Christ was necessary to our salvation. His flesh and blood offered in sacrifice on the cross, were ‘the life of the world.’ (John 6:51.) Without the death of Christ — God’s law could never have been satisfied — sin could never have been pardoned — man could never have been justified before God — and God could never have shown mercy to man.

The cross of Christ, was the solution of a mighty difficulty. It untied a vast knot! It enabled God to be ‘just — and yet the justifier’ of the ungodly. (Romans 3:26.) It enabled man to draw near to God with boldness — and to feel that though he is a sinner, he could be saved. Christ by suffering as a Substitute in our stead, the just for the unjust — has made a way by which we can draw near to God. We may freely acknowledge that in ourselves, we are guilty and deserve eternal death. But we may boldly plead, that One has died for us, and that for His sake, believing on Him — we claim forgiveness and eternal life.

Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ. Let us regard it as the source of all our hopes — and the foundation of all our peace. Ignorance and unbelief may see nothing in the sufferings of Calvary, but the cruel martyrdom of an innocent person. Faith will look far deeper. Faith will see in the death of Jesus, the payment of man’s enormous sin-debt to God, and the complete salvation of all who believe.

Let us observe, thirdly, in these verses — what were the first truths which the Lord Jesus bade His disciples preach after He left the world. We read that ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins’ were to be preached in His name among all nations.

‘Repentance and forgiveness of sins’ are the first things which ought to be pressed on the attention of every man, woman, and child throughout the world. All ought to be told the necessity of repentance.

All are by nature, desperately wicked. Without repentance and conversion — none can enter the kingdom of God.

All ought to be told God’s readiness to forgive every one who believes on Christ. All are by nature guilty and condemned. But anyone may obtain by faith in Jesus — free, full, and immediate pardon.

All, not least, ought to be continually reminded, that repentance and forgiveness of sins are inseparably linked together. Not that our repentance can purchase our pardon. Pardon is the free gift of God to the believer in Christ. But still it remains true — that an impenitent man, is an unforgiven man.

He who desires to be a true Christian, must be experimentally acquainted with repentance and remission of sins. These are the principal things in saving religion. To belong to a pure Church, and hear the Gospel, and receive the sacraments — are great privileges. But are we converted? Are we justified? If not — -then we are dead before God. Happy is that Christian who keeps these two points continually before his eyes!

Repentance and forgiveness are not mere elementary truths, and milk for spiritual babes. The highest standard of sanctity is nothing more than a continual growth in practical knowledge of these two points. The brightest saint, is the man who has the most heart-searching sense of his own sinfulness, and the liveliest sense of his own complete acceptance in Christ!

Let us observe, fourthly — what was the first place at which the disciples were to begin preaching. They were to begin ‘at Jerusalem.’

This is a striking fact, and one full of instruction. It teaches us that none are to be reckoned too wicked for salvation to be offered to them — and that no degree of spiritual disease is beyond the reach of the Gospel remedy. Jerusalem was the wickedest city on earth, when our Lord left the world. It was a city which had stoned the prophets and killed those whom God sent to call it to repentance. It was a city full of pride, unbelief, self-righteousness, and desperate hardness of heart. It was a city which had just crowned all its transgressions — by crucifying the Lord of glory. And yet Jerusalem was the place at which the first proclamation of repentance and pardon was to be made! The command of Christ was plain, ‘Begin at Jerusalem.’

We see in these wondrous words, the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of Christ’s compassion toward sinners. We must never despair of anyone being saved — however bad and profligate he may have been. We must open the door of repentance to the chief of sinners. We must not be afraid to invite the worst of men to repent, believe, and live.

It is the glory of our Great Physician, that He can heal incurable cases. The things which seem impossible to men — are possible with Christ.

Let us observe, lastly — the peculiar position which believers, and especially ministers, are meant to occupy in this world. Our Lord defines it in one expressive word. He says, ‘You are witnesses.’

If we are true disciples of Christ — then we must bear a continual testimony in the midst of an evil world. We must testify to the truth of our Master’s Gospel — the graciousness of our Master’s heart — the happiness of our Master’s service — the excellence of our Master’s rules of life — and the enormous danger and wickedness of the ways of the world.

Such testimony will doubtless bring the displeasure of man down upon us. The world will hate us, as it did our Master, because we ‘testify of it — that its works are evil.’ (John 7:7.) Such testimony will doubtless be believed by few comparatively — and will be thought offensive and extreme by many. But the duty of a witness is to bear his testimony — whether he is believed or not. If we bear a faithful testimony, we have done our duty — although, like Noah and Elijah, and Jeremiah, we stand almost alone.

What do we know of this witnessing character? What kind of testimony do we bear? What evidence do we give that we are disciples of a crucified Savior, and, like Him, are ‘not of the world?’ (John 17:14.) What marks do we show of belonging to Him who said, ‘I came that I should bear witness unto the truth?’ (John 18:37.) Happy is he who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions — and whose life declares plainly, that he seeks a better country. (Hebrews 11:14.)”

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