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Lord of Life, “Abide With Us!”

Date: April 12, 1942

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. And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread and blessed it and brake and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures?Luke 24:28-32

Jesus, Our Resurrected Redeemer:

“Abide with as!” we, too, pray as the shades of this world’s night overshadow us. Unmistakable signs point to Thy quick return during the last hours of this far-spent day. Until Thou dost come again in Thy glory, draw near to us constantly through Thy Gospel! Walk with us along our pathways, as on the first Easter Thou didst accompany Thy two disappointed disciples; but open our eyes to find in Thee our living Savior, whose resurrection is the seal of our own eternal life! As we behold Thy holy radiance, make as keenly mindful of our daily sins and the anguish that follows all unforgiven iniquity! Speak to us through Thy Word, and implant within us a real sorrow over our denials of Thy mercy; yet make “our heart burn within us,” too, when we take hold of Thy mercy which can remove sins ten thousand times more numerous and grievous than ours! Dwell in our homes, and during these months of war and woe, give us that sense of inner gratitude which leads us to accept our daily bread and Thy multiplied bounty with thanksgiving! Into Thy fatherly care we place the cause of this nation. Be not distant from us, for danger is neat! Bring us constantly closer to Thee, along any road on which Thou wouldst draw us to Thy grace! We know that Thou wilt bear us, for Thou hast often promised to answer those who put their trust in Thee. Therefore, “abide with us,” Lord Jesus, our only, but all-powerful Savior! Amen.

LAST week sorrow suddenly changed to joy for the crew of a vessel in the Caribbean Sea. It was carrying a cargo of precious oil, when an enemy submarine suddenly blocked its path and began to rake the decks with shellfire, shrapnel, and pom-poms. A torpedo then struck amidship and tore a gaping hole in her side at water level. The steering apparatus was destroyed; fire broke out; the craft began to list; and the “Abandon Ship!” order was soon given. Only one lifeboat and three rafts were undamaged, and on these most of the crew were able to escape, leaving the gallant captain and eight seamen dead on the flaming decks. By hard rowing the lifeboat and the rafts were brought safely outside the danger zone. A night of darkness and deep anxiety followed. But can you imagine the thrill those prisoners of the waves experienced when, as the sun rose over the eastern horizon, they saw their ship still afloat? The fire had burned itself out, and the safety compartments had prevented the vessel from sinking. The crew hastily rowed back to the tanker, made emergency adjustments, and after several days brought the craft into an American port. The lost vessel was rescued, the valuable cargo saved.

In many other ways this war has produced sudden happiness for those cast down by its crushing sorrow. Airplanes given up as destroyed return to their base; troop transports, long overdue, posted as missing, sail into their harbors; soldiers reported by official war department announcements as killed in action reappear alive and uninjured. But not even parents who have received notifications that their sons, mourned as dead, were in joyful reality living, could have experienced the whole-souled rejoicing which came to two disciples of our Lord on the road to Emmaus, a small village near Jerusalem. Despondent because Jesus had been crucified, they were transported to raptures when the same Christ who had been laid into the grave, unexpectedly appeared on that dusty highway, spoke to them, entered their home, and left them with a blessing.

It is the grace of the resurrected Savior, however, that everyone who accepts His atoning death and His Easter victory over the grave can share in the Emmaus disciples’ gladness. And because many of you, through personal reverses or distrust of God’s promises, are missing the happiness of a life in faith, let us, lingering for another Sunday in the Easter exultation, make the request of the two disciples our personal plea as, turning to the risen Savior, we ask:

LORD OF LIFE, “ABIDE WITH US!”

For this fortifying of our faith we shall study, under the Spirit’s guidance, the words recorded in Saint Luke’s Gospel, chapter twenty-four, verses twenty-eight to thirty­two: “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. And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread and blessed it and brake and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures?”

I

WE NEED THY PRESENCE ON OUR DARKENED PATHWAYS

We know little definitely about these two disciples. The one is called Cleopas, but this does not identify him for us. The other remains entirely unnamed, although some students of the Scriptures have held that he is Saint Luke himself. Nor can we locate with certainty the village of Emmaus toward which they were hastening on this first Easter in the early afternoon. We do know, however, that their hearts were overburdened with grief such as few of you have endured. The death of a beloved one, as many know from funerals they attended this week, always brings heart-crushing anguish, even though it is the release from pain and the end of a long, troubled life; but these disciples were gripped by inconsolable heartache because they had learned to love the Lord Jesus as a “prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” With clinging faith they had trusted that He would redeem Israel, break the Roman rule, and establish God’s kingdom on earth. All their hopes, their ideals, their ambitions were centered in Christ, and when the churchmen and the politicians “delivered Him to be condemned to death and . . . crucified Him,” that shameful death made their aspirations and yearnings crash in utter ruin. The foundation of their faith had collapsed, and they found nothing on which they could rebuild assurance or regain joy in life. The reports they had heard a few hours before from Mary Magdalene and other women that Christ was risen; the announcement by certain disciples that the grave in which Jesus had been laid was now empty—these claims left the two disconsolate disciples untouched, except perhaps to increase their sorrow, for they regarded such accounts as idle, impossible rumors. Therefore it seemed a cruel, heartless taunt to raise false hopes, which would only cause fresh wounds of anguish. In short, their whole happiness was blasted away, because they definitely believed that Christ was moldering in the sealed tomb.

With earnest concern for your soul’s salvation, a peaceful mind, and a victorious life, remember that you likewise will never know the highest happiness if you reject the fact of our Savior’s resurrection. You may be ever so religious, constantly concerned about a moral goodness, daily devoted to the reading of spiritual books and church magazines; you may spend much money for instruction courses in some of the new creeds which pretend to offer divine solution to human problems; you may rigidly follow programs of self-denial, fasting, praying; you may be high officers in fashionable, influential congregations; you may be even a pastor with a string of university degrees behind your name, applauded for your intellect and oratory: but if you believe that Jesus did not rise from the grave; that Christ was only a man, though you admit, the mightiest; that His life was only an example, though the noblest; that His words were only human wisdom, even if the choicest; that His crucifixion and death with all the rankling injustice and fearful agony were only the usual end of man—you are robbing yourself of the one hope of eternal blessing that God Almighty can give you. To lead the life worth living, to find sorrow worth the suffering, to be strengthened for the death worth the glorious dying, you must—there are no exceptions, no exemptions—believe and confess that Jesus Christ is both Son of God and Son of man, that He was both sinless and sin-cursed as He bore all our transgressions in His holy body at Calvary, that He was both slain on the cross and then raised from the garden-grave “for our justification,” pardon, and eternal peace.

While the two forlorn followers of our Lord were trudging along the Emmaus road, engrossed in their gloomy, dismal thoughts, they suddenly met a mysterious Stranger, whom we identify as the risen Redeemer, but whom they failed to recognize because, as we read, “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.” Have you likewise been unaware of the Lord’s presence? He would come close to you each time His name is mentioned, wherever you pass a true church of God, see a Bible, or view a picture presenting a scene from His life—and how happy I was recently to find on public exhibition in one of the nation’s largest department stores two immense and impressive canvases portraying our Lord’s trial and crucifixion! The risen Savior approaches you personally whenever, as in this message, you are told that Jesus, God’s Son and Mary’s, laid down His life and then took it up again for you. Yet how many there are who have not identified the inner appeal for repentance and redemption as the voice of Christ and His Spirit! Too often the Word falls on the stony soil of indifference, so that after short-lived enthusiasm your ardor cools and you forget Jesus. You think that it is of little importance whether you believe or disbelieve, take the Gospel or leave it.—When the world-famous Koh-i-noor, one of the most magnificent diamonds in the world, was discovered in India, it was entrusted to a high official for safekeeping. Weighted by the cares of state, he dismissed the precious stone from his mind and even forgot where it had been placed. Six months later Queen Victoria ordered the Koh-i-noor sent to her. After considerable search the small package in which it had been wrapped was found in a trunk. The native servant had thought it merely an interesting piece of glass, and his master had been almost as unconcerned about the immense treasure. I am offering to you now, in this broadcast, through these very sentences, a possession far more precious than ten thousands of Koh-i-noors. What will you do with it? Will you not at least be considerate enough of your soul to take time for the reverent hearing and studying of Christ’s invitation and instruction?—The Earl of Chatham, noted British statesman, was once bequeathed a large, attractive estate, but the country lawyer whose duty it was to inform Chatham of this important bequest was at first not admitted to the Earl’s residence. The doorkeeper bluntly reminded him, “His lordship does not receive every countryman who comes to town.” After several other refusals the attorney’s persistence was rewarded. He was ushered into Chatham’s presence. But the earl cautioned him, “I am so busy with the affairs of state that I can give you but three minutes.” The lawyer began to read the will, but Chatham’s mind still lingered on national issues; he heard only a jumble of legal terms like “whereas,” “aforesaid,” “hereby”; and when the reading was finished, he demanded emphatically, “Well, what has all this to do with me?” Amazedly the attorney replied, “Don’t you understand that this whole estate is yours, that this document makes you a wealthy man?” In much the same way some of you have been paying merely half-hearted attention to what I am telling you, reading the Sunday newspaper or washing the dinner dishes and catching only a few phrases of this broadcast. Put the paper away, let the dishes stand a few minutes, while I offer you, in the Savior’s name, these spiritual riches and heavenly treasures which “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt”—the assurance that Jesus Christ is your Savior; that He is risen from the grave and has now, in the realms of His celestial glory, prepared a place which can be yours if you will but accept His promised grace!

Evidently gloom was written on the faces of the two soul-weary travelers on the Emmaus road, and sorrow expressed itself in the tone of their voices; for as soon as our Lord joined them, He asked the cause of their sadness. That is always Christ’s merciful manner; He constantly inquires into the reason for human suffering; and while you may think that He, the great and glorious God, would be too engrossed in momentous world issues to have even a thought for you and your perplexities, believe that His Word, which has never made an exaggerated or misplaced pledge, includes you in the invitation “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”!

It took the disciples only a few moments to outline the reasons for their grief; but it took the Lord Jesus longer, almost all the way into the village, to teach them and us a lesson vital for every spiritual life. In plain language, which seems blunt in the translation, He told His companions that their sorrow came from disbelief. With the patience Jesus always showed disturbed, inquiring souls, He reminded them, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” and we read, “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Our Lord referred to the Bible as the one source of absolute authority.

“Back to the Scriptures! Back to fulfilled prophecy!” must be also our motto whenever doubt or disbelief assails our soul. It has always seemed to me that, if skeptical, uncertain minds would only follow Christ’s procedure and consider the predictions foretelling His vicarious suffering, His substitutionary death, and His victorious resurrection, all for the salvation of the sinner, they should be convinced of the unique and divine power in our Christian faith. Human predictions, including scientific forecasts, are often false. Two weeks ago today in Baltimore the weather bureau announced in the press, “No precipitation”; yet, while the newspapers were being sold, a record snowfall of twenty-two inches was in progress. At the beginning of the war a United States Senator turned soothsayer and asserted that within six weeks the Japanese would be wiped out; the fall of Bataan Peninsula after four months of bitter struggle makes the end seem farther away than ever and asks every American citizen to pray harder, work longer, give more generously, until victory be ours with a God-pleasing peace. But Christ’s prophetic Word has never made a mistake. Aging centuries before He went the way of the cross, only to vanquish death, every major aspect of His crucifixion and resurrection was foretold in clear, startling statements, all of which were fulfilled to the letter. By exactly the same truth and divine power Jesus will keep every one of His promises to you. When the Bible directs, “Cast ‘all your care upon Him, for He careth for you,’” bring your worries and anxieties to the foot of the cross, and in fulfillment He will take their burden from you. When the Savior pledges, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy,” nothing on earth can be more certain than that through faith your reverses become causes of rejoicing.

Later, when the disciples reviewed their remarkable conversation with the risen Lord, they exclaimed, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” The fire of faith can bum also within you if you will only read Christ’s Word, hear the truths of Scripture expounded, and believe God’s promise in Jesus. You may be ever so world-weary, blasé, emotionally cold; you may complain that you have tasted all life’s pleasures and have become stolid, hardened, immovable, oversatiated; you may insist that the heavy hand of sorrows has crushed you completely and you no longer react to surprise or disappointment; but I promise you, if you open your heart to the Savior and His Word, “which is able to build you up,” you will experience a newness, a verve of faith, an upswing of joy, such as you have never before considered possible.

Back to the Book, then, the whole Book, including the Old Testament, which Jesus here cites as God’s literal revelation and which He knowingly calls “Truth”! Back, then, to the Christ of the cross and the open grave! Back to the Church that preaches His full Gospel! And through that blessed return the Savior, who promised, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” will walk at your side along the bitterest pathways, as He accompanied the Emmaus disciples, always to inquire concerning your sadness, to correct your errors, raise your drooping spirits, and stir the cold embers of dying hope into flames of fervent faith.

II

WE NEED THY PRESENCE, PARTICULARLY IN OUR HOMES

When the risen Lord and His disciples all too quickly came near the outskirts of the village, each step increasing the wonder of the two men, Jesus “made as though He would have gone further.” Possibly He would have passed through the village had His companions not pleaded earnestly, “Abide with us!” You see, the Savior awaits an invitation into our homes; He will not force His way into any family circle which refuses to receive Him. He wants devoted, thankful, penitent faith. And because those two faint-hearted followers, still not recognizing Christ, yet learning to love Him as a fascinating Bible expounder, a friend with authority and counsel, were not satisfied merely with extending the invitation, “Abide with us!”“they constrained Him.” They were so eager to keep Him that they “constrained Him” to accept their hospitality.

We, too, should invite Christ with the same constraining fervor: “Lord of life, ‘abide with us’ in our hearts and in our homes!” For if Jesus is not welcomed into our household, our families will not be welcomed in the eternal mansions. According to Scripture and by the verdict of the Lord Himself, no other pathway leads to that Paradise than the faith in the blessed Savior who declares unreservedly, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Therefore, first of all, accept Christ as your own grace-bestowing God! Ask Him, above everything else, to abide with you! Approach Him penitently, with full and unreserved admission of your own sins, without any excuse or attempt to disguise or reduce the wrong which abounds in your heart, and, clinging only to His promise of mercy, you will find complete pardon, perfect peace, the seal of your salvation. As soon as you have declared yourself for Christ, do not rest until He abides with your whole family; for His presence in the home can give husband and wife, parents and children, the promise of a blessed reunion in heaven.

We should likewise pray, “Abide with us!” and constrain Jesus to grace our family circle because the American home, as the unit-basis in the development of the nation, the Church, and the individual, needs the uplifting power which His presence bestows. In consequence of the war normal family life has collapsed throughout vast areas of the world. In Russia juvenile crime has assumed such proportions that only a few years ago a law was passed imposing the death sentence for theft committed by children twelve years old. In Germany strange, vicious theories, which would put the interests of the totalitarian state above the Biblical principles of marriage, have gained acceptance in Nazi circles and have increased youthful immorality. From England social experts send us pointed warning calling attention to war’s devastating effects on home life. They report a 50-percent increase in youth crimes, a growing wave of disobedience to parents, and a disregard of authority. Because British fathers and mothers are frequently too occupied with the issues of war properly to care for their children, the emergency has broken many families. Teenage boys and girls working in English war industries receive unprecedented high wages, which many promptly squander in harmful pastimes and for destructive purposes. In our country the family base is being assaulted as never before. The forces of impurity, using printed page, pictures, and public entertainment, ridicule the exalted standards of Christian morality and openly endorse the violation of God’s purity commandment. It is considered smart and sophisticated in many quarters to indulge in repeated divorce. A man with six matrimonial ventures is featured, without condemnation, by our newspapers. Perverted opinion still regards willfully childless families as fashionable and socially desirable—although some voices outside the Church are finally raised in commendation of larger families. The questions of discipline and respect for parents are constantly becoming more acute as juvenile delinquency increases and mothers, by necessity or desire for more money, work away from their households.

If the Emmaus disciples pleaded with Jesus, “Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent!” how much more should we, upon whom the twilight of history has descended, ask for the Savior’s sustaining companionship! All the signs of the last times are being fulfilled before our eyes, and the day of this world is truly “far spent.” Jesus is coming soon in a majestic return to judge the quick and the dead. Make your peace with God now, in this accepted time, while you still have the chance! “Set thine house in order!” More than in any previous age of our nation’s existence the American household should repeat the Emmaus prayer, “Abide with us!” for Christ, as He steps across our threshold, can bring Heaven’s help, together with the faith which will bless the whole family and counteract the forces of lust and hatred.

How reassuring to read that our Lord accepted the disciples’ invitation and entered their dwelling! It was probably only a small, modest house, as most Palestinian homes were in those days, but it was not too humble for Christ. He is the Savior of the meek and lowly. Any family, however poor and unimportant it may be; any home, a one-room cabin on the wide Western plains or a pretentious mansion in the city’s most exclusive section; any fathers, whether they are laborers or corporation heads; any mothers, hard-working scrubwomen with only meager schooling or socially prominent college graduates; any children, sons and daughters of the ragged or of the rich—all who in true, trusting faith say to the Savior, “Abide with us!” can have the assurance that He will enter their homes to bless them.—He does not come visibly, of course, as He did on that Easter afternoon; but He enters our homes just as effectively through His Word. His promise “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” holds particularly for households in which the reading of God’s Word forms an essential part of the day’s activities. Let this, then, be the cry that offers promise for better homes, better churches, a better nation: “Bring the Bible back to the American family. Make each home in the United States a Scripture-loving, Scripture-searching house of God!”

When Jesus “went in to tarry with them” at Emmaus, He, the Lord of Life, accepted the food prepared for the simple evening meal; but before eating, He asked divine blessing. Wherever His Spirit rules, His holy example will be followed reverently. Yet, while Christians know that the three meals they enjoy each day come from God and that He who gives can also withhold, it is to be regretted that in most American families, including many with church connections, there is no time for even a word of prayer or a hymn of thanksgiving at mealtime. The masses stolidly accept these daily blessings as though they were automatic and their tables had to be filled morning, noon, and night. This year especially, when we contrast the lavish bounty our country enjoys with the specter of famine facing other nations, there should not be a single household from coast to coast in which grateful voices are not raised to the Almighty in Jesus’ name.

Where the Redeemer reigns, prayer is regarded as a high privilege; both parents and children set aside appropriate time daily and regularly to commune with God, to plead for His guidance and His strength. If up to this time you have neglected grace at meals, family worship in general, behold Jesus as He speaks the blessing in that Emmaus cottage, and, asking God to forgive your past negligence, resolve today that yours will be a Christ­dedicated home! If you need help in consecrating your household to the Savior and you want instruction as to how your family can serve God, write us! We will gladly assist you in dedicating your dwelling to the Lord.

In the midst of that memorable evening meal Jesus suddenly permitted Himself to be recognized. The eyes of the two disciples “were opened, and they knew Him.” What indescribable joy theirs must have been! What inexpressible, almost unbelievable exultation surged within them when they knew that Christ had kept His word, and found that the Savior who on the third day previous had been laid into the grave was now victoriously risen! Gone were all their doubts, vanished every shadow of sadness! The Lord whom their unbelief had mourned as dead was now with them in His resurrection radiance.

Jesus will reveal Himself also to you. If your home is overclouded with selfishness, strife, misery, I am sure that you will find the cause for this unhappiness either in your own unwillingness to accept the Savior fully or in the rejection of His mercies by another member of your family. If sorrow, loss, bereavement, have blighted your household and you remain uncomforted, inconsolable, is this not ultimately to be traced to the fact that you do not fully accept the risen Redeemer’s sacred pledges nor permit the balm of His love to heal your wounded heart? Give Him the supremacy in your family circle, enthrone Him as the heavenly Head of your home; and as you worship Him humbly, yet confidently, He will reveal Himself in His full glory, and your eyes will be opened to behold Him as the mighty God with unlimited resources for your help; the all-merciful Savior with pardon for every sin; the unfailing Counselor for parents; the faithful Guide for children; the living Christ who even now waits to welcome us into heavenly glory!

God bless American homes with the faith that beseeches Jesus, the risen Redeemer, “Abide with us”! God bless every one of you with the firm, living trust which constantly prays, “Come, Lord Jesus, and be our Guest”! “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.