The message of the Reformed Witness Hour today is taken from the Word of God in Luke 24:28, 29. Here we read: “And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.”
It was the evening of the resurrection day. What a day that had been for the disciples and for all of Jerusalem.
Two followers of the Lord Jesus, Cleopas and, most likely, Luke, were returning from Jerusalem to a village, Emmaus, some seven miles from Jerusalem. They had been busily discussing, even heatedly disputing, all the things that had transpired in the past days. As they walked, the risen Lord Jesus drew near to them, holding their eyes from recognizing Him. As the Lord walks with them, He draws them out with questions. What are you talking about? Why are you so sad? What things have happened? And they tell Him all that is upon their hearts. In rapid-fire and in condensed narrative, they explain to Him all the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth-crucified, and now, reportedly, risen from the dead.
It was then that our Lord rebuked them. Beginning with Moses, He expounded the Scriptures to them concerning Himself. All the while their hearts burned with holy joy and wonder. When they arrived at the village, the Lord making as though He would go further, they constrained Him to come in with them. “Abide with us,” they said, ” for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.”
That Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, abide with us is our great and only need. As the risen Lord, He has the victory. To the accusation of our own conscience that we have sinned and are proud sinners, He stands as the risen Lord, risen for our forgiveness. To the question of the world, “What makes you different? Why are you not driven by the same things that drive us?” the risen Lord stands as our answer: He lives and we live in Him. To the reality of the horror of death, the risen Lord stands as the one who assures us that in Him we shall never die. To be now on this earth, at such a time as this, without the risen Lord, without His presence, all would be lost.
With Moses, we plead: “If Thou go not up with us, how shall we go?” To be left with our own strength, our own wisdom; to endure in the Christian life all the sorrows and temptations and assaults against our faith without our Lord with us? Nothing less than the risen Lord Jesus, the Son of God, will do. So this is our prayer: “Abide with us. Fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.”
It was an urgent request that they made. The journey had come to an end all too soon. The seven miles between Jerusalem and Emmaus were covered quickly as the risen Lord opened the Scriptures and poured those Scriptures into the anxious hearts of Luke and Cleopas. Now they must enter their village, make their way to their own house, and, evidently, come before an evening meal. And Jesus made as though He would have gone further. Our Lord was going to go on. He was going to part from them. Not because of any rupture in fellowship. Not because the two travelers had wearied of His company. Yet, He would have gone on. Urgently they pray Him: “Abide with us.”
How often the Scriptures use that word “abide” to express the gracious, wonderful, living fellowship between God and His people. “Abide” does not mean simply to be in the same place. A teenager may be in his house, the house of his parents, but not abide there. A wife could be right at your elbow at the table but, for all practical purposes, be in Anchorage, Alaska. If there is no humility, no love of God; if there is no self-giving, no tenderness in Jesus Christ-then people may live together, but they do not abide. Girls and guys live together. That’s right. Roommates. They share one bed in the delusion of romance. It is being glamorized. But they do not abide. If they live together outside of the bond of marriage in the love of Christ, they have been made bondage to sin. And there is no bond except in the love of God.
To abide in spiritual union is something that can only be created by God in Christ. For us to abide in God is to be brought to true faith in God. It is to reverence, to stand in awe and trust and obedience before God. It is to delight in God. It is something that is enduring. It is not temporary. When we abide with God, we shall abide with Him forever. And it is something that we are to seek. The Lord said: “Abide in Me and I in you.” Again, the apostle John says in a world which is permeated with the spirit of Antichrist: “Now, little children, abide in Him.” And we do. By an act of God’s electing love, by a work of pure grace, we have been given to Christ. Now, in this world with our flesh and our sins and the assaults against our faith, we pray urgently: “Lord, abide with us.”
Why is that so urgent? Our text suggests some reasons. The two travelers to Emmaus were, first of all, at a point of change. Always there is a danger to us of missing the fellowship of Christ at points of change, when God, in His providence, alters our circumstances. When those circumstances are altered from persecution to prosperity; from trial to ease; from difficulty to a smooth way; from poverty to abundance; then often, in that moment of change, we lose our fellowship with God. The plants that grow on the Alaskan tundra amid snow and ice, flourishing under extreme conditions, are burned up if you place them under a tropical sun. Those who appear to love the Master rightly when they are poor now become rich, and we ask, “Where is their love for Him?” Those, on the other hand, who were in prosperity and appeared to walk with the Lord in prosperity and now fall upon hard times or worse-they are filled with bitterness and cursing and are not found in the house of God. When under God’s providence in your life things change, watch out! New honors, new duties, new blessings, and new trials often would rob us of His fellowship. Pray, then, “Lord, abide with me.”
More. Something had been accomplished. These two travelers had finished their journey. They had reached home. So often when our work is accomplished, when some spiritual duty has been brought to its end, then peril arises in our walk with the Lord. Perhaps it is pride. We say, I have finished it. Perhaps it is let-down. We waited on Him in the moment of stress and trial as being our only help; but now that stress and trial is over and we feel pleased with ourselves, we do not feel that desperate need of the Lord. Then it is urgent for us to pray: Lord, abide with me.
Our risen Lord does not reveal Himself to self-exalting companions. He goes many a mile with the contrite and with the broken-hearted. But those who feel that they do not really need His company, He soon goes on from them. Nothing parts us from experiencing the presence and comfort of the risen Lord more than the foul smell of our pride.
Still more. The travelers had an urgent need that the Lord abide with them because they would now rest. Times of ease are difficult times if we do not watch and pray. In the battle of faith and temptation and sorrow, we beg the Lord to stay. We cannot live without Him. We are too weary to go on without His presence. Then we settle down in our ease and we stretch ourselves in our prosperity and everything looks rosy to us. We take off our pilgrim sandals and we rest. Urgently we must pray, as we belong to Him in this world, Abide with us. Our hearts grow cold and complacent and proud. We readily are deceived by this world. How urgently we who are weak and assaulted by our sins and the devil, we who walk in this present darkness, how urgently we must pray and entreat the Lord: Abide with us.
They constrained Him.
That is a very strong word, the word “constrained.” We read in II Corinthians 5:14, “The love of Christ constrains us,” that is, the love of Christ gets hold of us and it holds us tightly and strongly.
These two travelers to Emmaus did not simply invite Christ to come in. They grasped His hands and tugged at His robe. “You must not go on. We cannot take No for an answer.” He had given them comfort and instruction. He had opened their hearts to the Word of God. He had revealed to them the counsels of the Father to redeem His people in Jesus Christ unto the glory of His name. Shall these two disciples now sit down for a meal without Him? Shall they draw a line where fellowship is no longer needed? What kind of a meal would that have been if He had not been there? The food would have been tasteless and left a lump in their throat. How much more for us?
He is the One who bore all of our sins. He was nailed upon the cross for our sins. He loved us even unto death and arose for us that we should not die. Shall you, now, enter into the house of marriage without Him? Shall you enter into marriage and not worry about your faith and union as a husband and a wife in Him? Shall you work and choose friends and shop without Him? Shall you draw lines in your life and say, “Oh, yes, I must walk with the Lord at certain times-Sunday and at Christian places and at church-but not at other places. He can stay out of my life with my friends. He can stay out of my life at school. I would be embarrassed if others knew that I walked with the Lord. He can stay out of my life at work.”
How much more shall not we who have been given eyes to see Him as the risen Lord also feel an almost desperate need that He abide with us always? Christ is pleased always to have His people press Him to abide with them. God’s grace alone can cause Him to come in to us. And God’s grace alone can cause us to seek Him. But that grace so works that He creates within us the desire to constrain Him, to press Him. Ezekiel 36:37, speaking of the covenant promises that God will perform, that He will perform not for Israel’s sake but for His own holy name’s sake, says: yet … “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” Whenever the Lord appeared in visible form in the Old Testament, He willed, He delighted to be constrained and to be pressed unto fellowship. Abraham, in Genesis 18: “My Lord, if I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant.” Lot, in Genesis 19, when two angels came from the court of heaven: “Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house and tarry all night.” Jacob, wrestling with the Lord: “Let me go,” says the Lord, “for the day breaketh,” and Jacob said, “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.” It is our Lord’s way. He will be pressed and constrained by His people.
Why? Because of the jealousy of His love. He is jealous that the love He has worked in us be expressed unto Him. He says, “Give Me thine heart.” He wills that we prize Him, that we love Him, that we seek Him. He is not satisfied with a “Ho-hum” attitude towards Him. Devotion and the love that He gives us must be returned unto Him. You see, devotion to Jesus Christ is not cold. It is not mechanical. It is not a push-button type of thing. He creates love in us for His person. He creates in us a yearning for Him. He does not give His company to those who have no heart for it. If the smiles of the world will do for you, you shall not have His smile. If intercourse with worldly people pleases you, you shall not have His company. You say, “Where is the power of religion?” In quiet moments, as you compromise with sin and the world, you say, “Where is the ardent, passionate love and devotion for Him? I feel cold.” Well, do you live for other things than Him? Do other things capture your heart? Will you constrain wealth to come into your home? Do you say to honor and to the opinion of others, “Abide with me”? Do you say to pleasures and to lust: “Come into my house, I need you”?
Well, then you shall not know His company. For His company is for those who languish and sigh and cry, “Abide with me.”
And they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening and the night is far spent.” Because of the darkness and the lateness of the hour, for that reason, Lord, abide with us.
Is it toward evening for you? Are you in heaviness and trial? Do the shadows of trial thicken? Your light has departed, you are afraid. Sorrow and darkness has come into your life. You say, concerning all that you see approaching, How can I? You need to pray: “Lord, fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide.”
Are you in depression? Have you lost the sight of God’s countenance? You are not the joyful Christian you once were; your spirit is burdened down; all is dim; all is woe and anguish? If you have no light from God’s face, then hide in the shadow of His wings until those calamities be passed and pray: “Abide with me. Even when reason fails me, even when I dread yet another day, Abide with me. I need Thy presence every hour. Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power. Who like Thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.”
Or, perhaps you are aged and your life is toward the eventide and the day is far spent and your little day ebbs its way. From your vantage point you can say, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Then you should cry, “Lord, abide with me, for it is toward evening and the night is far spent.” You should live in the hope that all your aches and pains, and soon death itself, is but His answer when He brings you, as the risen Lord, to be with Him forever.
Yet, there is another reason why He must abide with us. Because the age is growing dark. The church is now in the evening time. The world of sin is setting around us. The darkness has deepened. And a chill wind is blowing. For the love of many in the church waxes cold. Many who once ran well now turn aside, and the church now greatly looks like (and wants to look like) the harlot of Revelation 17. She has taken another lover. In the world dire evils walk abroad in the darkness, the blasphemy of God. We are in the last hour, little children. And the signs of the end are all around us. Proud man boasts, Who is God?
We need to pray, “Risen Lord, our only Master, come into Thy church; abide with us and make us Thy dwelling. For the night of all nights is coming. Even the end of the world. We know not when, but it is coming soon. Therefore, Master, risen Lord, come and abide with us. Abide with Thy ministers. Abide with Thy church. Fill the church with courage and faith that they may stand in the midst of the darkness. Be Thou our light. Give us to cling to Thee. And hear the prayer that we raise to Thee, Lord, abide with us.”
Until the moment comes when He appears in the glory of His resurrection and the earth shall be flooded with the glory of the Lord, and all shadows and sighing shall flee away; up to that moment we, who are now in death, must cry out, “Oh risen Lord, abide with us.”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy word. We pray that it may enter into our heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.