Luke 24, v.21—"But we trusted that it had been he...."
Luke 24, 36 —"And as they thus spake Jesus Himself
stood in the midst of them and saith, Peace be unto you."
Luke 24, 49 —"And behold I send the promise of my
Father upon you."
COMPELLED BY THE CROSS
(Preached in St. Andrews, 2nd. July, 1933
— Holy Communion.)
Three texts suggesting three thoughts.
(1) "We trusted that it had been he.
. ." These two early and
obscure followers of Christ —
Cleopas and another, were in low spirits. We trusted, we hoped, we were
hoping, they said, that Jesus of Nazareth was to prove himself the
redeemer of Israel, but He has been crucified. We were hoping.
And there are so many here to-day who were hoping but—.
Some there are who had hoped by now
to be retired and settled in the Old Country. But critical times have kept
them here. Some there are who had gone back for good, as they thought, to
the Old Country. And critical times have forced them back to us across the
waters. Some are here amongst whose loved ones the great last visitor
Death has been stalking, and they sit alone here who had hoped today to be
in company. Some younger ones are here for whom the future is dark where
once it had not a cloud. Some older ones are here who long ago in the
morning of life set out to catch some of the prizes of life, and evening
is bringing them home with apparently but a handful of darkness. Some are
here who had hoped to mark some spiritual advance. They are conscious only
of spiritual bewilderment and perhaps decline. However it be, we are, so
many of us, in like state to those two unknown lovers of Jesus who
companied with Him on the road to Emmaus. We were hoping, but....
(2) The scene changes. The two wayfarers returned to
Jerusalem and found the eleven Disciples gathered together there. To them
they told their tale. And as they thus spake Jesus Himself stood in the
midst of them and saith, Peace be unto you.
— His first word to men
whose eyes, while bewildered, were yet turned in faith upon the Cross.
Again in how like state to many here around this Holy Table— bewildered
but believing men and women, folk who have sailed a day and a night on
desperate seas, and have lost their bearings, who have taken soundings in
the dark waters below, and have peered across angry waves for a
lighthouse, while all the time there was a Cross in our Southern sky. Our
help was above, and we had been looking below and around and within for
it. Peace! It was the Master’s first word to men in like state to us. We
have been seeking of ourselves to make something of our lives, trying to
be captains of our own souls, attempting to be both sailor on the deck and
admiral on the bridge in the grimy engagement. With His initial greeting
and benediction of Peace He comes into our midst here and invites us to
give up the attempt at making anything of our lives of ourselves, to hand
over ourselves and the command to Him. He enters into competition with no
earthly master for the allegiance of our souls, but standing in the midst
over all, gives this assurance "I am the way, the truth and the life."
(3) And the third thought is this —
that surrender to Him is the road to triumph. Behold I send the
promise of my Father upon you — the promise of
the Holy Spirit—power from on high. These first followers had now a new
understanding of the meaning of Jesus. They knew Him now as the Son of God
with power. They heard Him order them to the task which He had begun, of
bringing in the Kingdom of God over all the earth, and of making the will
of God supreme in all life.
Expediency to-day may be driving men to the same task,
for the world is at its wit’s end, and knows not whither to turn for light
and leading. With these first, followers it was no mere expediency but
that which sent knight and squire and man-at-arms tramping after St.
Bernard — Deus vult —
God wills it. So they went to their task with no hesitation. So they dared
alien seas and hostile peoples and tortures and stonings. They lived and
moved, compelled by the Cross, because He who hung there was no mad martyr
of an incoherent dream but the Lord of life. They held not their lives
dear that they might bring all life beneath His lordship. They had an
imperative which most of us have missed. We have been surrendering
idealism for the sake of prosperity, and now we are bankrupt of both.
Amid the grim tasks that may await us, I would, then,
in Christ’s name, bid believing souls to the Holy Presence of Peace and
Power. In the sweeping changes that the world must make soon, some will
try to rebuild solely to their own advantage, for the human heart is not
easily changed even by black calamity. It was men seeking their own
advantage that brought the world to its present state. Are they to be
allowed to do it again?
Othere will seek to rebuild compelled by the motive
— "Help others". This is Humanitarianism, with
duty as its god. But love of your fellow-man and duty to your fellow-man
will tire soon unless that love be founded on and flow from love of God.
Jesus Christ placed the love of man after the love of God. Why?
Because we can
materially help our brother-man, and even appear to
love him, while all the time our motives may be impure, our hearts full of
guile and our lives of secret shame. Such a state of affairs will bring us
no permanent betterment: sedatives are no remedy when a major operation is
The truest love of humanity is kindled at the Cross.
For thither we must come, as also to this Holy Table, naked of all
pretence and sham, prepared (if never before) to be true with ourselves.
"Nothing in my hands I bring".
No, nothing! Not the labours of my hands, not my zeal,
not my sympathy. But this —a heart entirely
emptied of self, to be there entirely filled and ruled by the Saviour and
Lover of men. God is then in command, and life will be quiet again.
Towards such a devout and blessed consummation you and I may haply and
happily be workers.
Can He count on us, humble folk? There is encouragement
in an old and pretty legend. "This is a great work, O Son of God, that
Thou hast done on earth" said the Guardians at the gates of Heaven to
Jesus at His Ascension, "and yet we are worried; what arrangements have
you made for the carrying on of your work?" "I have left behind me Peter
and John and Andrew and Martha and Mary and some others," said the
ascended Christ. "Yes" answered the angels, "but what if Peter falls from
grace again and denies you; what if Andrew, amid his nets and fishes,
forgets all about you, and dust and dishes fill all poor Martha’s days—
what arrangements. have you made if such things should happen?" And the
crucified, risen and ascended One replied: "I have made no other
arrangements; I am depending upon them."