In this post, I feel led to take a break from musings about our present world’s circumstances to ask a simple question…
Are we too focused on the trip rather than on the destination?
“And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”
Luke 24:15-17 KJV
Sometimes joy can come in the anticipation of our final destination. It is this anticipation that helps us to endure the journey of ‘getting there’.
As a boy, going to visit to Grandma, Grandpa and the cousins in Waterloo, IA was a rare delight. However, taking the trip to Grandma’s in a car filled with cigarette smoke was another matter.
In those days, our parents both smoked and there was little awareness or concern over ‘second-hand smoke’ or even the discomfort and danger that it caused to non smokers.
Today a trip from the Quad Cities where I grew up to Waterloo, Iowa where our mother’s parents lived would take about 2 1/2 hours on four lane highway. When I was a boy, it would usually be a five to six hour trip on two lane roads.
Along our journey my brother and I, as restless boys, would inevitably argue as to where the placement of the invisible line down the center of the bench seat should be drawn. It was a like the two Koreas with a demilitarized zone across which we taunted each other.
Any encroachment, real or imagined would result in a little shoving match with tempers flaring, voices raised and usually ending with my father’s big hand slicing the air like a guided missile aimed at my thigh or backside.
During such times of ‘focused attention’, it became very clear why my older brother insisted on taking the seat behind our dad. It was much easier to avoid a devastating blow in that position.
Our dad’s ‘intercessory enforcement’ of a truce would usually lead to my mom scolding my dad to watch where he was driving. This unfortunate intervention aggravated an already irritated man, adding fuel to the fire in his eyes. A sideways glance up into the rear view mirror from the back seat was like judgment day – seeing two fiery eyes scowling at us from the heavens.
In summer, the trip was barely tolerable because we could put the windows down. That was in the days before air conditioning when a cars front doors had a ‘fly window’ that were ostensibly to be opened enough to shoo annoying hitchhikers of the flying insect variety out of the car.
These windows were more commonly used to let air in and could be directed to blow the hot summer air somewhere in our vicinity. However, It generally just blew noxious cigarette smoke into the back seat. To complete the gas chamber effect, we would inevitably get stuck behind a slow moving or stopped line of cars with at least two or three diesel trucks and farm equipment.
In the winter it was nearly intolerable. We would roll our side windows down ‘just a crack’ in order to get fresh, frigid air. In truth, the only fresh air we got was when we stopped to get fuel and got out of the car to use a bathroom. There was even the occasional outhouse…’fresh air’ indeed!
Of course, my dad was delighted that we weren’t riding in a horse and buggy down mud caked and dusty roads like when he was a boy on the farm. Today I am delighted to have AC, 4 lane highways and multiple rest stops with relatively clean restrooms.
So, not only was it a delight to get to the end of the trip and see Grandma and Grandpa waiting to meet us, but it was a delight to be able to run and breath relatively fresh air, with the anticipation that the headache and nausea would soon pass.
Our cousins would usually already be there to greet us. In the summer it would be with roller skates strapped to their shoes. In the winter, my older cousin Paula would always try and interest me in learning to knit. At that age I was delighted in her attention regardless of the task.
We would often explore Grandmas attic and Grandpas garage delighted with whatever unusual treasures we found there. There was always a story associated with whatever we found. One time we were fixated on grandmas blue polka dot dress in the attic. My cousin Paula was elected to ask Grandma about the dress. We learned that it was worn on the occasion of their two daughters (each of our mothers) graduation from nursing school.
My grandfather proudly showed us the land camera that they acquired after the war and our grandmother would pull out the family picture album for the nostalgic evidence. There we found the black and white photos that provided the proof of what they each wore on those happy days.
Each object that we found, each story that we heard helped us to learn more about our grandparents and our parents. These things that we shared in common drew us closer together as a family. It was the anticipation of these gatherings as a family and time spent with the cousins. that gave us joy for the journey and it made the ‘getting there’ much more bearable.
From Frowns to Fellowship
That is what we have before us at the end of Luke’s gospel and also at the beginning of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. The disciples anxious faces anticipated the persecution of both the Jews and the Romans. These faces were about to be drastically changed to joy in the realization of what each believer has gained in Christ.
It is this realization that gives us joy for the journey. Just as their common experience with Christ caused them to enjoy their fellowship together, now we gather together in those same bonds of shared experience in Christ.
Even before we actually arrive where our Father lives, we can explore the many rooms full of mysteries that reveal something new about our God. Through the Holy Spirit we learn the unfolding mysteries of God’s plan along with the hidden treasures about our God and Savior, Jesus.
Nevertheless, I must confess that I enjoyed going to Bible conferences much more in years past than I do now. At conferences in the past, I learned about Jesus and met believers forming bonds with them in what we enjoyed about Christ.
However, as we age it seems that when we gather together, our attention is less focused on Christ and more focused on the perils of the journey. While this does provide an opportunity to encourage one another in the Lord, we seem instead to be more fixated on the problems of the way rather than an anticipation of where we are going.
From Fear to Faith
“And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? … And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. … And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?”
Luke 24:17, 36, 38 KJV
When the Lord appeared to the frightened disciples, He startled them with words of Peace. We read that they ‘believed not for joy’. In other words they were surprised to be overwhelmed with joy. Is it a surprise to us when we are suddenly joyful about our destination?
Everyone who is saved knows exactly what this experience is on one level. One moment before salvation we are so burdened by our sin and hopeless condition before God and in the next moment of faith, the burden is gone! We are overwhelmed by joy and the assurance of God’s Word granting us forgiveness.
In Luke 24:44-49 we read of how the Lord appeared to ‘the eleven’ in Jerusalem. The disciples were gathered together in fear and divided by doubt (Mark 16:11) when these two disciples returned from the road to Emmaus and told the rest of their experience with the risen Jesus. As they were doing this, Jesus appeared to them all and opened up to them their understanding of the Scriptures. Now the reality of Jesus’ resurrection began to sink in. They were absolutely convinced that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
This is a vital principle for the child of God. Just as it was at the moment of our salvation, the Lord Jesus is waiting to reveal Himself when we open up the scripture to learn of Him. As we do this, we become aware of His presence in our midst.
Dear child of God, when joy is lost and God seems distant; When His promises seem afar off and not connected with our everyday sorrows and burdens; then what is needed in order for us to experience the reality of His presence? We must come to the scriptures with an open heart and gather with our brethren with an eagerness to learn more about Christ.
What happens when the Lord’s voice is heard?…The Lord’s presence is known.
In fact it was probably His peaceable greeting that drew the attention of the disciples away from their fear and directed them to His presence in the room.
These disciples experienced the physical presence of the Lord in His glorified body then, since the Spirit of God had not yet been given. Now, since the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God is now gone out into the world and believers all over the globe experience God’s presence whenever we gather to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
From Failures to Followers
The Lord Jesus asks His disciples: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” His question was not rhetorical. He was not asking for a list of things that were troubling them. It was patently obvious, they were troubled because they were not expecting Christ to be risen from the dead, much less appear in their midst.
The reason that they were filled with doubt is that they had an imperfect understanding of the scriptures.
This is the point for us today: If we are lacking peace in our hearts and/or peace in our gatherings; If our hearts are troubled and full of doubt it is because at some level we have failed to take God at His Word.
Now, this is the goal of Bible study. It should not be a dry, rambling exposition of what we think that the scripture says. Nor should it be merely what we have read about what other brethren think that the scriptures say. The goal of Bible study is to see Jesus for ourselves. We experience His Peace as we come to enjoy His presence and understand His Word.
We are accountable to know what the scriptures teach because this is what provides joy for the journey. It is in the midst of this joy that the Lord gives purpose to our lives and He commissions us to serve Him. As we learn and understand the scriptures, we take what we have learned about Jesus to tell others.
What does Luke 24:50-53 tell us about committed followers of the Lord Jesus? What characterizes them? Where is their attention focused?…
- They followed Him to Bethany (House of Bread). They were found in a place characterized by joy and fellowship.
- This is where they received the Lord’s blessing;
- This is where they gazed into the heavens at His glory and gained a glimpse of their new home;
- This is where they were found to be filled with great joy.
- This is where they worshiped together.
Are our gatherings in the name of the Lord characterized by the Lord’s blessing; by focused attention on His Glory; Are they marked by great joy? We read that it was from Jerusalem that they continued together in the place where God told them to gather.
They were focused on God in the temple where others came to meet God.
In short, They were characterized by praise, worship, steadfast focus on God and by great joy.
Let’s Face It…
Recently, I had my driver’s license renewed. A picture was taken of a grumpy, unhappy old man. My mind was occupied with the day’s chores and challenges, I did not appear joyful in the slightest degree.
In contrast, in the summer of the previous year, a picture was taken of me with my wife Lisa and our grandchildren at the beach. There our expressions were relaxed, cheerful and focused on the joy of God’s blessings to us.
I know that I would rather be characterized by that face of joy. I would rather be seen as one occupied with the blessings of God rather than a grumpy old man occupied with the burdens of the day.
How about you, dear child of God?
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I have included Blue Letter Bible links to the scriptures cited. When you click on them, it will open a new window to that reference.
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Thank you and may the Lord richly bless you today.