Call to Worship May 19 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 24:50-53

“Let us notice, firstly, in this passage — the remarkable manner in which our Lord left His disciples. We read that ‘He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them — He left them and was taken up into Heaven.’ In one word, He left them when in the very act of blessing.

We cannot for a moment doubt that there was a meaning in this circumstance. It was intended to remind the disciples of all that Jesus had brought with Him when He came into the world. It was intended to assure them of what He would yet do, after He left the world. He came on earth to bless, and not to curse — and blessing, He departed. He came in love, and not in anger — and in love He went away. He came not as a condemning judge, but as a compassionate Friend — and as a Friend He returned to His Father.

He had been a Savior full of blessings to His little flock while He had been with them. He would have them know that He would be a Savior full of blessings to them — even after He was taken away.

If we know anything of true religion — forever let our souls lean on the gracious heart of Christ. We shall never find a heart more tender, more loving, more patient, more compassionate, and more kind. To talk of the Virgin Mary as being more compassionate than Christ — is a proof of miserable ignorance. To flee to the saints for comfort, when we may flee to Christ — is an act of mingled stupidity and blasphemy, and a robbery of Christ’s crown.

Our Lord Jesus was gracious while He lived among His weak disciples. He was gracious in the very season of His agony on the cross. He was gracious when He rose again and gathered His scattered sheep around Him. He was gracious in the manner of His departure from this world. It was a departure, in the very act of blessing! We may be assured that He is gracious now, at the right hand of God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is a Savior ever ready to bless — abounding in blessings.

Let us notice, secondly, in this passage — the place to which our Lord went when He left the world. We read that ‘He was carried up into Heaven.’ The full meaning of these words, we cannot of course comprehend. It would be easy to ask questions about the exact residence of Christ’s glorified body, which the wisest theologian could never answer. We must not waste our time in unedifying speculations, or ‘intrude into unseen things.’ (Colossians 2:18.)

Let it suffice us to know that our Lord Jesus Christ is gone into the presence of God on behalf of all who believe on Him, as a Forerunner and a High Priest. (Hebrews 6:20. John 14:2.)

As a Forerunner, Jesus has gone into Heaven to prepare a place for all His members. Our great Head has taken possession of a glorious inheritance in behalf of His mystical body, the church, and holds it as an elder brother and trustee — until the day comes when His body shall be perfected.

As a High Priest, Jesus has gone into Heaven to intercede for all who believe on Him. There in the holy of holies, He presents on their behalf the merit of His own sacrifice, and obtains daily supplies of mercy and grace for them. The grand secret of the perseverance of saints, is Christ’s appearance for them in Heaven. They have an everlasting Advocate with the Father — and therefore they are never cast away. (Hebrews 9:24. 1 John 2:1.)

A day is coming when Jesus shall return from Heaven, in like manner as He went. He will not always abide within the holy of holies. He will come forth, like the Jewish high priest, to bless the people, to gather His saints together, and to restore all things. For that day — let us wait, and long, and pray. Christ dying on the cross for sinners — Christ living in Heaven to intercede — Christ coming again in glory — are three great objects which ought to stand out prominently before the eyes of every true Christian.

Let us notice, lastly, in this passage — the feelings of our Lord’s disciples when He finally left them and was carried up into Heaven. We read that ‘they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.’

How shall we account for these joyful feelings? How shall we explain the singular fact, that this little company of weak disciples, left, for the first time, like orphans, in the midst of an angry world — was not cast down, but was full of joy? The answer to these questions is short and simple.

The disciples rejoiced, because now for the first time they saw all things clearly about their Master. The veil was removed from their eyes. The darkness had at length passed away. The meaning of Christ’s humiliation and low estate — the meaning of His mysterious agony, and passion, and cross — the meaning of His being Messiah, and yet a sufferer — the meaning of His being crucified, and yet being Son of God — all, all was at length unraveled and made plain!

They saw it all. They understood it all. Their doubts were removed. Their stumbling-blocks were taken away. Now at last they possessed clear knowledge — and possessing clear knowledge, they felt unmingled joy.

Let it be a settled principle with us, that the little degree of joy which many believers feel, often arises from lack of knowledge. Weak faith and inconsistent practice — are doubtless two great reasons why many of God’s children enjoy so little peace. But it may well be suspected that dim and indistinct views of the Gospel, are the true cause of many a believer’s discomfort. When the Lord Jesus is not clearly known and understood — it must needs follow that there is little ‘joy in the Lord.’

Let us leave the Gospel of Luke with a settled purpose of heart to seek more spiritual knowledge every year we live. Let us search the Scriptures more deeply and pray over them more heartily.

Too many believers only scratch the surface of Scripture, and know nothing of digging down into its hidden treasures. Let the word dwell in us more richly. Let us read our Bibles more diligently. So doing, we shall taste more of joy and peace in believing, and shall know what it is to be ‘continually praising and blessing God.’”

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