#"PEACE BE UNTO YOU" ON LORDS-DAY EVENING, OCTOBER 2, 1878.
"And as they thus spoke. . .Peace be unto you."
- Luke 24:36
WE like to know how a person used to act, for we think we can infer from that how he will act. That is not always correct, however, for men change. But in our Savior’s case, if we study His life, we may very well infer from what He did, what He will do, because He never changes! And this is a comfortable reflection for us at this time, that in the days of His flesh, while He was yet on earth, He loved the company of His people! If He changes not, then He still loves the company of His people. He did reveal Himself, then, to one. He will still speak comfortable words to His people when they are alone. One by one will He reveal Himself to them. He did speak graciously to two. Where Christians converse on holy things, they may still expect that Jesus will Himself draw near. But more frequently He lingered longest and revealed Himself most in the assembly of His people. Where the eleven were met, where many were gathered together, there the Savior came, not once, but twice and often. Learn, then, that we may expect Him here tonight! Peter, and James, and John are representatively here. Here, too, we have some of the goodly women—the Marys and Marthas are here. They are waiting for Him. Their hearts are longing for Him. He is the same now as always. Brothers and sisters, we may expect Him! He will come to His old haunts. He will come and deal with His people as He did before. Twice, at least, we have it on record that our Savior came to His disciples when they were met on the first day of the week—from which I gather another comfortable thought, that as this is the first day of the week, we may for another reason expect Him to be here, to put honor on what now is the Lord’s Day. He, at least twice, for so it is on record, came to His disciples and, standing in their midst, said, "Peace be unto you." On this first day of the week, this Lord’s-Day, at eventide I trust—I hope, no, I expect, that you will feel Him here, and I pray that to each one of His people those soft words may come with divine power, "Peace be unto you."
Without further preface than these words, let us draw your attention first, to what He said. Secondly, when He appeared to say it. And thirdly, of what came of His appearance at the saying of it.
I. OUR LORD’S GRACIOUS SPEECH.
What did He say? He said, "Peace be unto you"—four words, each full of meaning. May I not view those words in four lights? Was it not first a salutation and benediction? Thus He introduced Himself, "Peace be unto you." It was His good wish—more, it was His fervent prayer! He breathed peace upon them expressive of His goodwill, His love, His intense desire for their highest good. Peace is the highest gift He can impart. Said the apostle, "Grace, mercy, and peace be with all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ." He had given them grace and mercy—He now gives them the highest benediction, peace! Did He not mean more than that? In a second light it was a benediction. "Peace be unto you." He had been into the invisible world and He had returned from it—and He tells them that there was peace reserved for them. He had passed the veil with His own blood. He had offered up His sacrifice. He had said, "It is finished." He had received the token that it was finished by His being raised from the dead. And now He comes to them with the marks of His crucifixion still upon Him, and He tells them there is peace—it is done—"The war is over, the conflict is concluded—My bloody sacrifice and glorious resurrection have made peace between you and God." "Peace be unto you." It is the declaration of what He had seen and heard of the Father as the result of His death; a benediction and a declaration.
Was it not also a fiat? By a fiat I mean that kind of word which God spoke to the darkness when He said, "Light be," and light was. Here they were in trouble and Jesus said, "Peace be," and before long peace was. It is always with Jesus to speak the Word of power, for He is, Himself, the Word of power. and when He speaks thus, it is not a mere wish, it is not a mere prayer, it is not a mere declaration, even, of a fact—it is the fulfillment of wish and prayer, and the application of the fact! "Peace be unto you." Before long they did receive the peace which He thus authoritatively gave them.
But may I not view it in another light, namely, as an absolution? Think a minute, and you will see it is so. These were they who had forsaken Him—there was one who had denied Him! Out of them all, there was no faithful spirit there at all who proved to be faithful in the hour of danger. Like cowards, each one had cared for himself and deserted his Lord. They had slept while He agonized. They had retreated while He advanced. They had, every man, left their Master to seek each man his own. And now what does He say to them? Do they stand as culprits? Is He about to accuse them? Do they stand as deserters? Is He, as a captain, about to condemn them? No, that one word seems to say, "It is forgotten. It is forgiven." My only word to you is, peace, peace, peace. I know your weaknesses. I know your deep regret. I know how you lament that you served Me thus—regret no more, at least be not depressed with such regrets, for lo, My only return to you is this, I give you My, "Salem," My salutation—My word of goodwill, My sweet word of love. I have not revoked My legacy, though I might well have destroyed My last will and testament. I said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you." I confirm that will now, risen from the dead. You shall see I have not cut you off from My affectionate regard. I, risen from the dead, declare what I declared when your love was warm and your resolution was rather to die with me than to desert me. I give you the same as I gave you then, "Peace be unto you."
Now I think there are some sweet things rolled up in those brief thoughts which I have given you. The text itself has richness in it. Now, my brothers and sisters, the second thing, and briefly, is—
II. WHEN DID JESUS STAND IN THE MIDST OF HIS DISCIPLES, and say thus, "Peace be unto you"? When? Perhaps in considering the time, we may get some comfort and be led to hope that He will say the same tonight. Well, when did He come? Well, first, He came when they were quite unworthy of His coming. We have already told you how they had served Him. Cowardly—they had deserted Him! But though there was no one there that could have even thought, much less said, "I deserve the Master’s company," yet He came. Oh, I think we are, many of us, in the same plight. Looking back upon the past, we cannot feel that we deserve any love visits from the Savior. We dare not put up a plea on that ground. We are very unworthy—we are very unworthy—but that is no reason why He should not come. They were unworthy, but He stood in their midst and said, "Peace."
Now note, next, that they were very unprepared. They were not looking for Him! They had not come together that night with any expectation of seeing Him—I am sure they were not, for when He did come, they were afraid and thought they saw a spirit! They were least of all expecting Him to come. Well, and my sister, you came in here unprepared. Do not excuse yourself, but yet do not despair about seeing your Lord! Brother, you came here perturbed, troubled. Your soul is not like the lake when it is still, which, like a molten mirror, reflects the stars above. But Jesus Christ can come and mirror Himself in your heart, first smoothing it with the word of peace. Yes, yes, it is wrong to be unprepared for Christ’s manifestation, but it is a thousand blessings that our unpreparedness does not keep Him away! I may expect to see Him, though unfit and unworthy. Come Savior, come, I beseech You, pass not by me. I might have feared You would if I had not seen that, in the case of the eleven, their unpreparedness did not bar the door. Oh, let not my unpreparedness keep You away!
Note, further, that our Lord came to them when they greatly needed Him. They had got into a disorganized, demoralized state as a group and they were, every one of them, almost ready to give up their faith. The third day had passed, and they had not yet believed in His resurrection, though it had been witnessed to them. They were foolish and slow of heart, and I do not know what they might have done the next day, for he that is slow of heart and unbelieving today may go to something worse, if worse may be, tomorrow! And they needed Him—they needed Him and there He was in the midst of them! Courage, then, my brother! You need Him—you may expect Him! Sister, you need Him—oh, how much! How much do I need Him—how would a visit from His love kill many of my sins and quicken all my graces! The physician comes not only when he is sent for, but when he knows he is needed. The Good Physician does so especially! It is not so much our sense of need as our need, itself, that often brings Him. We frequently do not know our need until He comes, and we see our need in contrast with the supply. Well, then, unworthy and unprepared, yet needing Him, we may expect Him! He will come if we cry out for Him. In our very midst He will stand tonight and reveal Himself!
Moreover, it was a time when _they were exercising what spiritual light they had_—let that be remembered. They were in a low state, but they had met together. They had loved together. They were showing that like a flock of frightened sheep, they were running together, hardly knowing what else to do. They did at last get near one another. There is something that Christ loves in that. That was good— there was something hopeful there. Well, we, at least, have got together in the same way. I know you said, "Well, I don’t know that I can do much in praising Christ, but I will go where His people are. Perhaps if I cannot praise, I shall still get a blessing, for all that." I know you often do so on the Sabbath. You say on the Saturday, "I am glad it is the last day of the week, that I may go where my brothers and sisters are, and while I come, to get a blessing. I especially feel when I come to prayer-meeting:"—
"There my best friends, my kinsmen, dwell.
There God, my Savior, reigns."
Well, the Lord Jesus loves to come where we love to be in His name! That helps to bring Him. So I have another good hope, that as we have come together, come together with no other end but that of stirring up what life we have, and of pouring out before Him what grace He has given, and of seeking more, that we may expect to see Him!
More than that—on that occasion when He came, there were some of them who were testifying of what they knew. Two of them were telling how they saw Him in the breaking of bread at Emmaus. And while the two spoke, Jesus came! Now here stands one witness who can bear testimony that there is a living Savior, and a real one, and that His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit! And as you hear that testimony, and many of you are recording in your souls your, "Amen," to it, I hope He will stand in our midst and again say in spiritual language, "Peace be unto you."
Once more, though, I say they were in a low state—they were all lamenting their Master’s absence. I do not think, of all that company, there was one but what had a heavy heart and was sad because Jesus was not there. If you had turned to Peter and said, "Peter, would you like to see Him?" He would have said, "Oh, for another look on those dear eyes, even though it broke my heart again." And John would have said, "Oh, for another leaning of my head upon that bosom, if I might be permitted such a favor." And everyone, by dear remembrances of the past, would have said, "Alas, we have lost everything in losing Him! Take away the sun out of the skies, rather than take Christ out of the circle of our fellowship." Now, dear friends, have you, you lovers of the Savior—have you missed Him and are you now saying, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him"? Well, our mingled notes shall reach Him and He will come and stand tonight in the midst of us, and we, again, shall rejoicingly honor and worship while the King sits at His table with His people. But time flies, and, therefore, I give you but the bare outline of the rest of my sermon.
III. WHAT CAME OF IT?
What came of His appearance and of His speaking of peace? If you will look at the chapter when you are at home, you will see that, first of all, when Jesus came _He banished all their doubts_—He said to them, "Why are you troubled? Why do thoughts arise in your hearts?" Now, if He comes here tonight, in the midst of this assembly, that is just what He will say to you troubled ones. He will say, "Why are you troubled?" You, perhaps, might answer, "Perhaps there is cause enough for it," but He will reply to it, "All things work together for your good." "When you pass through the river, I will be with you; the floods shall not overflow you." "Cast your care upon Me." "Why are you troubled?" And He would then ask you the very question, "Why do those thoughts arise in your hearts?" You would have to guiltily, perhaps, confess what those thoughts were. You thought He was too hard! You thought He had forgotten you! You thought He was not true, after all—that He did not love you. You thought He would fail you. I will not tell you all your thoughts, but they have been evil thoughts—and if He is here tonight, the blush will mantle on your cheeks while you will say, "I will never have such thoughts, again, but I will from now on say, ‘Though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him.’" There is one cure for evil thoughts like this—the vanished Savior manifested to the eyes of faith!
Then our Lord next proceeded to reveal Himself. Being present—which He might have been, you know, and yet they might not have known Him—He now went to reveal Himself and make them see Him. This is what He did. "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I, Myself; handle Me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see I have." Then He proves His kinship with earth, His real manhood, for He took a piece of broiled fish and of a honeycomb, and did eat before them all. Now even so will He do tonight. If He were here tonight, it would be no use to you if these scales were upon your eyes—He will take them off! Those harder scales on an earthbound heart, He will take them off. Oh, I have been amazed, my brothers and sisters, I bear witness I have sometimes been amazed when the Lord has taken away the stone out of my heart, to feel my own sudden tenderness! I have even sat at that table, sometimes, and dealt out the bread and wine to you, and longed to be but a dog beneath the table, to eat but a crumb that fell from it—and all of a sudden I have felt His nearness and rejoiced with unspeakable joy! And oftentimes in preaching, when my spirit has felt like a frozen brook, His grace has thawed my heart! Is not this what the Spouse meant when she said, "Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib"? Now it is the presence of Christ that quickens us. Let the prayer be put by each one, "Quicken You me, O Lord, according to Your Word. Yourself, the Word, draw near to me and I shall be quick to perceive You, to embrace You, to rejoice in You this night."
Then the next act of our Savior was to proceed to inform their understanding. You observe He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures. Nearness to Christ is an education. Get near to Jesus and you will find that the Corpus Christi is the true college! He who knows the body of Christ has got the body of theology, the body of divinity—the true theology of the Word of God. He that knows Him has understanding. With all your getting, get understanding! And from Him you shall get it, for He is wisdom. And is He not the truth of God? And is He not the incarnate wisdom? With Him God took counsel before the earth was. There is no studying the Scriptures that becomes so useful as when we study them with Christ to turn over the leaves for us.
Then the next thing was He refreshed their memories. Perhaps I ought to have mentioned this before because it occurs first. He said to them, "These are the words I spoke to you." Tonight, perhaps, if Jesus is here, you will remember those other times when you have seen Him—
"His former visits we recount,
When with Him on the holy mount."
Yes, you will say as Jesus is here, "I do remember You and the love of Your espousals. I do remember other sweet seasons when I was with Your people, and my heart glowed at Your love." You will look back, some of you gray-headed brothers and sisters in Christ—you will look back, perhaps, 50 years, and remember when Jesus first looked in at your soul. Dear memories! Perish all else but the relics of Christ, the traditions of His presence in my spirit—these will I hand down from year to year and record them forevermore! Nothing like this to set the memory right, the immediate, actual presence of Christ, even at this moment.
And then, beloved, in addition to all this, the Savior’s thus appearing showed them their true position, for He told them that they were His witness of these things. When they saw Him, they felt they were something more than mere lookers on, they were to be tellers and testifiers to others. I hope we shall feel this, tonight, that we shall go out from our seats and from the communion table, saying, "I have seen the Lord, and I will be a witness in my own family—I will be His witness in the court, or the street, or the city where I dwell. I have seen Him and shall I close my mouth concerning Him? No! His presence has opened my mouth, that I may show forth His praise. I will go in the strength of the Lord, making mention of His righteousness, even of His only."
And last of all, that blessed presence created intense joy, though there was wonderment about the joy that mingled it with unbelief, and we read, "While they yet believed not for joy." They were very, very glad. If you had seen them go into that house, and seen them come out, you would not have known they were the same men! Yet they were no richer, no healthier, no more favored, but they had seen the Lord, and they were glad! It is especially recorded by John, "Then were the disciples glad when they had seen the Lord." Oh, there will be singing here! There will be music in your hearts! You will trip home with merry feet if Jesus Christ does come! Come, then, dear Master! You have bled for us. You have loved us with an everlasting love—‘tis but a little thing comparatively that we ask! Your relationship to us binds You to grant it! You will not be a stranger to Your own flesh! You will not hide Yourself from those who are members of Your body, of Your flesh and of Your bones! Your delights were with the sons of men and You have not changed. Oh, if ever You did reveal Yourself, reveal Yourself to us tonight! Melt us down under the glory of Your presence! Dissolve us with the superlative majesty of Your love and we will worship and bless You forever and ever!
Now I have said nothing to those of you who know Him not, but I will say these words and have done. His worth—
"His worth if all the nations knew,
Surely all the world would love Him too."
God bless you. Amen.