The Sermon for Easter 3 April 15, 2018
Text: Luke 24:13-35 18:2064
Theme: Abide with Me, O Risen Savior.
On November 20, 1847, a retired and chronically ill English minister died. Henry Frances Lyte had lived with poor health throughout his lifetime, but he remained a tireless worker in God’s kingdom. Eventually he wore himself out in the ministry. Compelled by ill-health to give up preaching, he was on his way to recuperate in Italy, when death overtook him in France. But before he was taken from this life, he penned the words of the hymn you just sang. His daughter relates the circumstances in the following way:
“The year was passing. Each day seemed to have special value as (father was drawing) one day nearer his departure. The family was surprised and almost alarmed when he announced his intention to preach one more time to his people. His weakness and the possible danger (to his health) urged him not to do it, but it was in vain. ‘It is better,’ he said, ‘to wear out than to rust out.’ So he preached and afterwards assisted at Communion. He was much exhausted. That evening he placed in the hands of a dear and near relative the little hymn, Abide with Me.”(Pollack p.392 & Marsh p.182).
That hymn which Lyte composed in the twilight of his life is a favorite of many and has sung itself around the world: “Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, Oh, abide with me!”
There was a man whose faith in Christ enabled him to get the best out of death, and the hymn which he left behind has helped a multitude of souls to get the best out of life in the Savior. Even though the hymn refers to the evening of life more than to the evening of a day, it is still a joy to sing at any time. It is based on the words of our text when two disciples made their appeal Easter evening: “Abide with us, for it is nearly evening; and the day is almost over.”
Ah, dear friends, may that be your request. Say with the disciples:
I. …Abide with Me, O Risen Savior…(As I trudge through life.)
Here is a scene with the Savior that you might wish to share with Him if you could somehow turn back the hands of time. If you could go backwards in time to any moment with Jesus, what time would you pick? Some might wish to be present at His birth when the angels sang their glorious song and the shepherds adored Him. Others might wish to be present at the crucifixion when His divine blood paid for our sin and brought us atonement with God. But perhaps a more likely scene would be a moment of Easter, like this, when He arose from the grave and gave such joy to His disciples and all who followed Him.
This account takes place that first Easter evening. Two disciples were on their way to the little village of Emmaus, about 7 miles to the west and north of Jerusalem. These two were not among Jesus’ inner circle of the Twelve, but they were among the others who followed Him. They had walked this way many times before, but never with such heavy hearts as they carried that day. Back and forth they talked as they trudged along, asking hard and unanswerable questions.
How often Jesus’ name must have come up in the conversation! “We hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel and restore us as God’s people,” they lamented. But Jesus was dead – at least to them – and with Him had died their hopes. Oh, they knew the promises of the Old Testament about Messiah’s death and resurrection. How could they not know them when they constantly read it in the psalms (16; 118). And Jesus Himself had talked about it. But obviously they did not understand the matter, for reasons that we cannot fully explain. And so they trudged along in complete bewilderment and uncertainty, craving guidance and comfort
When have you trudged through life like these Emmaus disciples, walking along sad, puzzled, disappointed, feeling as though you’ve been let down? When sins lay heavily upon us, when problems weary us, when things we don’t understand overtake us, do you come close to kicking the dust in despair, trudging along as though there were nothing or no one to whom you can look up? Far too often the question mark of doubt rather than the exclamation mark of confidence surrounds our thoughts of God and His activity in our lives – still believers, yet confused! How we need the Risen Savior to Abide with us and walk at our side with His Word to set us straight! It is what happened here.
While they trudged along, Jesus came up and joined them in their walk, but they did not recognize Him. Why not? Some think that they didn’t recognize Jesus because of their grief. Sadness and tears kept their eyes from seeing Him clearly. Others think that they didn’t recognize Jesus because the Lord Himself kept them from it. At least one of the Gospel writers says that following His resurrection “Jesus appeared in a different form” at times (Mark 16:12). I suppose that either thing could have contributed to their non-recognition of Him. But could there be something else that added to their blindness? All they could see in these happenings were themselves and how things adversely affected them.
Satan would like nothing more than for each of us to trudge along just as sadly and blindly in life. If he can blur our sight of the Lord Jesus through tears or get us to dwell on ourselves and forget what God has said, he can overwhelm us with life’s sorrows and toils.
II. …As I learn from You.
Had you been in Jesus’ shoes, what would you have done with these disciples as you joined them in their walk? Would you have opened their eyes immediately so that they could see you right away? Would you have reminded them of the promises about your rising again the third day, then chastised them soundly for not believing it? Would you have left them to trudge along in their ignorant despair, furious at them? That’s not the way the Risen Savior works. He seeks the heavy-hearted and perplexed. He sweeps away their misunderstandings and clears up their doubts. And He does it by gently abiding with them in His Word.
“How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the
Scriptures concerning Himself.” They learned from Him as they walked with Him.
I might wish that I had been there too that Easter afternoon as the Risen Savior explained the humble surroundings of Christmas, the pain of Good Friday, the victory of Easter, and how it all had been conceived by God in eternity to save us from our sin. How thrilling it was to hear! How their hearts were warmed by His words! But I don’t need to go back in time to that Emmaus road in order to learn from the Savior. He stands ready to feed me any time in the green pastures of His Word.
That truth makes my church and Bible class attendance something important. It makes my daily grazing in His Word valuable. I can never learn too much about my Savior, how He was conceived, born, suffered, died, and rose again to save me from sin. I will grow in faith if I abide with Him in His Word instead of resisting Him. I will learn from Him and it will warm my life! It will drive me to…
III. …invite Him into my home.
Who is the most important person you have ever invited to your house? Most of us would probably have a hard time answering that question. We are not all that acquainted with the rich and famous of the world. Yet, aren’t my family and friends important to me the most? Aren’t they the ones that light up my home and cheer me with their presence? And what about the dearest Friend of all, the Risen Savior? No home is complete without Him. When He is there, all is well.
Isn’t that what these disciples found to be true? Even though they did not recognize Him, their hearts were so warmed by the words that fell from Jesus’ lips that they didn’t want to part from Him. They needed His soul comforting presence. Wouldn’t it have been a shame if, after reaching their house, they had not invited Him to remain with them? How much they would have missed, and their home would have been incomplete.
But the Risen Savior doesn’t stay where He is not invited, so He acted as if He would go on. But they urged Him strongly, “Abide with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them. What a wonderful gift to have – His presence among them. Then they knew it was true. Indeed, He was risen! And their eyes were opened to see and believe in Him and His blessings.
“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,” I invite at mealtimes. “I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” I petition at night. “Abide with me,” I hum through the day. But not just at those brief moments do I invite Him into my home. Morning, noon, and night I need the Risen Savior. I need His forgiveness for my sin; I need His strength against my temptations; I need His comfort for my sorrows; I need the place He has prepared above for my future. And I know where to find Him – in His Word. There our hearts will burn within us while He talks with us and opens the Scriptures to us. When I live in His Word, I have the Risen Savior at my side, whether at the end of a day or in the twilight of life.
“Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, Oh, abide with me!
“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes, Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!”