Luke 2: 7-17; 7: 11-17; 10: 29-37; 18: 35-43; 23: 44-46, 52-53;
24: 1-9, 44-51
Acts 1: 10-12
I have read quite a few scriptures, beloved, but I was impressed with the gospel as it comes to us in Luke. During the week we read that verse in Zechariah which says, “And he shall say, I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the ground; for man acquired me as bondman from my youth”, chap 13: 5. Luke’s presentation is of a blessed, humble, devoted Man coming into this scene to do the will of His God and Father. We sang,
We’ll sing of God’s wonderful gospel,
Glad tidings concerning His Son!
These scriptures that we have read take us through the full story, the full display of the gospel concerning Jesus, and I would like to draw your attention, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to features in these various scriptures. I remember once when I was quite young an older brother preaching the gospel and talking about the pictures in Luke’s gospel. When you see an old master on the wall it looks perfect if you stand away from it, but if you go close up to it you see the lines and the cracks in the paint. But the pictures in Luke’s gospel, the closer you get to them, the more you look at them, the more you take them in, the more perfect they are.
I would just draw attention to these pictures we have read of so that we get some impression of the greatness of the Saviour that we have to do with in the gospel, a blessed, holy Saviour, the One who came in in dependence on the will of His God and Father. He came in and the scripture says, “thou hast prepared me a body”, Heb 10: 5. Think of the way that the Lord came. It says of Him in Philippians 2, “For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God; but emptied himself”, v 5-7. Think of the way that the Lord Jesus, One who is God Himself, came in and took a bodily form in the likeness of men, think of that, but as a Man sin apart, One on whom sin could have no claim. Sin has a claim on each one of us, it tells us so in the scripture that by the offence of one man sin has come upon each one of us (Rom 5), and that is what we are according to nature. This One who came in on God’s behalf, the One who subsisted in the form of God, the One who emptied Himself and took a bodily form, but sin apart. What a precious matter to consider in the gospel, beloved, that there was One here who was perfect in every way in the sight of God, and that is the One we want to present to you in the gospel from these scriptures.
In the first scripture it speaks of Him being born, and it says, “She wrapped him up in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in the manger, because there was no room for them in the inn”. There was no room for this dependent Man in the organisations of men. The inn would speak about what man has set up for himself, what man has put together for his own pleasure, for his own enjoyment, but there is no room for Christ there, no room for Christ in the inn, no room for that One who was dependent upon His Father, dependent on what He would provide. As we have said, “thou hast prepared me a body”, but here there is a manger prepared, I think, by the Father for that blessed holy One to be laid in. “Wrapped ... in swaddling-clothes”, think of the provision for that One who came into this scene in dependence, and who came in to do the will of the Father. What a precious One we can present to you in the gospel, the One who came that way. And so the word came to these shepherds in the country, to tell them about it. In Matthew’s gospel we see magi from the east, who see the star, and the star draws them to the place where Jesus was. It is more of an official presentation of the glories of Christ, but here we see the moral glories of Christ in that One who came in in such humility and devotion to the will of His Father. It says, “And there were shepherds in that country abiding without … And lo, an angel of the Lord was there by them”. Shepherds would be persons who are prepared to be concerned about others perhaps at the expense of their own lives, at the expense of their own welfare. They are concerned about others. These are the persons to whom God can manifest what He is doing in this time. It says, “and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they feared with great fear. And the angel said to them, Fear not”. “Fear not”, beloved. As I said, we are all sinners in the sight of God, but it says, “Fear not”. A Saviour has been provided for you, beloved. It says, “a Saviour has been born to you in David’s city, who is Christ the Lord”. It does not say, ‘Who will be Christ the Lord’ or who will become that, but it says, “who is Christ the Lord”. It links on with what we have said already in relation to the One who laid aside His glory, the One who emptied Himself and took a bondman’s form, One who was seen in Bethlehem’s manger, “Christ the Lord”. What a wonderful consideration it is, beloved, that such a One should come in in such a way! Outward weakness - a babe speaks of such weakness, dependence on its mother for everything that it needs, but oh, what moral glory we see presented here! Although it was outward weakness, yet heaven’s attention was centred on that, centred on that manger. Heaven’s attention was centred on what was happening there, the incoming of Christ, the great incarnation of that blessed One into this scene. How wonderful to consider the way He came in. It says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men”. The shepherds went to see what it was, and “they came ... and found ... the babe lying in the manger”. There was no room for Him in the inn, but there is a provision for that blessed, holy One in that manger there.
That is the incoming of the Saviour, beloved, the way that He came into this scene, as a lowly dependent One. He had great resources, He could have come in in power. He had a right to come in in power in judgment on this scene because of the wickedness and the sin that was there, but He comes in in love, love for His own, love for you and love for me. Oh beloved, the gospel has widened out not only to the people of Israel, but to all the nations. It has come down to you tonight. The gospel is available to you tonight in this room in Loanhead. Whatever your need may be, even if you are still in your sins. If there is anyone here in their sins, lay hold on the Saviour tonight! Do not go out from the room without knowing Christ as your Saviour. He is available to you tonight, He is available to you here, the One who came in by way of Bethlehem’s manger, that dependent One. He is available to you tonight as a blessed Saviour. Lay hold of Him if you do not already know Him.
In Luke’s gospel chapter 7 we come to this sad scene at the city of Nain. It says that “a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother, and she a widow”. There is no hope there. In Ephesians it says, “Wherefore remember that ye, once nations in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that called circumcision in the flesh done with the hand; that ye were at that time without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world”, chap 2: 11,12. What a position! What a scene this is. It speaks typically, I suppose, in relation to Israel and to the land of Israel, the people of Israel, but it would apply to each one of us. It is our condition as according to flesh, without hope, dead in our offences, with no way out of that condition. There was a great crowd there coming out of Nain, and there was a crowd with the Lord Jesus; and there was none there that could effect anything in relation to that young man except for one Man, the Man that we present to you in the gospel tonight, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who came in in such a humble way, in such a dependent way. He was available to bring in a result in that man’s life. What a change! He was carried out dead, but it says of the Lord Jesus that He “was moved with compassion”. Think of the compassions of Christ. The Lord Jesus would look on you tonight with compassion, beloved. If, as I have said, you do not yet know Christ as your Saviour, if there is still something between you and the Saviour, still something between you and God, something stopping you, the Lord Jesus would look on you with compassion tonight because He desires to bless you, He desires that you should be blessed. God “desires that all men should be saved”, 1 Tim 2: 4. Do you really believe that, beloved? That is not just as a great crowd, but it comes down to you individually. God desires that you should be saved. He desires that I should be saved. Thank God that I know Jesus as my Saviour, but He desires that you should know Him as your Saviour. He desires that everyone here should know Jesus as their own personal Saviour. How great the thoughts of God are towards you, beloved! And so we look on this weakness here, this hopeless case coming out of Nain. The Lord is moved with compassion and it says, “he touched the bier, and the bearers stopped”. Death had to stop in the presence of that One of whom the scriptures speak as the “the originator of life” (Acts 3: 15), the One “by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb 1: 2), the One who created the heavens and the earth. Death had to stop in His presence; it could not move forward. It says, “And he said, Youth, I say to thee, Wake up”. Oh, beloved, have you ever heard the voice of the Saviour speaking to you, speaking to you personally? There are many places in the scriptures where the Lord speaks to young men, or in the Old Testament where Jehovah speaks to them, and sometimes He says their name twice, “Samuel, Samuel!”, 1 Sam 3: 10. A soft gentle voice is speaking to you in the gospel. Think of that occasion on the mountain where Elijah was before God and there was the wind and the fire and the earthquake, and then there was a “soft gentle voice”, 1 Kings 19: 12. Have you ever heard that soft gentle voice speaking to your soul, asking you where you are? “Youth, I say to thee, Wake up”. Have we all wakened up? Do we all know Jesus as our Saviour? Is there anyone here who would refuse that quiet, gentle voice as He speaks, “Youth, I say to thee, Wake up”? It says, “And the dead sat up and began to speak; and he gave him to his mother”. Oh what a change! No longer without God, without hope in this world, but now a new order of things, a new man, one who has changed altogether from his previous dead condition. What a blessed change!
So we come to this man in Luke 10. We have the Lord here speaking to this lawyer who had come up tempting Him. The Lord is able for all who come up to Him, able for all our needs. And He is able to bring in a word here, a word which would challenge this man. He speaks about the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, a man who went down. It says, “A certain man descended from Jerusalem to Jericho”. It does not say whether he was young or whether he was old, it says, “A certain man descended” from a place of privilege, he moved out of that and went on a downward course. How easy it is for us to do that, how easy it is for us to become involved in that, moving from a privileged position. Most of us, if not all of us, have been brought up in privileged conditions, privileged family conditions, brought to the meetings, brought to hear about Jesus, told about Him from an early age, but sometimes, we know it in our histories, we want to go a different way. There is nothing but sorrow in going that way, but, thank God, there is One who is able to come up and pour in oil and wine. There were two other men there, a priest and a Levite, official persons who should have been able to help but were not able to help. But here was One who came up, “pouring in oil and wine”. Someone has said that the man was cured, carried and cared for, J B Stoney vol 2: 248. Beloved, He poured in oil and wine and then, because the man could not do anything, He “having put him on his own beast took him to the inn”. He put him on His own beast so that he would be carried; he could not walk, he could not do anything for himself. That is our condition, the same condition as the man at Nain, he could not do anything for himself, but he is carried and he is taken to the inn. Now the inn here is a different thought to the inn that we read of in the first scripture. This is the inn which is a place of cheer, a place of safety. It would speak to us of the assembly, a place where persons are looked after, where they are cared for, and the Samaritan says, “Take care of him, and whatsoever thou shalt expend more, I will render to thee on my coming back”. Oh, beloved, how wonderful that is to think of, that there will be a coming back. That good Samaritan will return. We will speak about that shortly, but it is wonderful to consider the way that the man turned his back on his privileged position, but that there is One able to come up to him and help him, One who did even more. It says of Him prophetically, “The weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the bars of the earth closed upon me for ever”, John 2: 5, 6. Think of the depths to which the Lord Jesus went, beloved, that He might effect your salvation and my salvation. What a way the Lord Jesus went! If He had not gone that way we would not have been saved, we would still have been in our sins, but the Lord Jesus went that way and from that position He can come up to us and draw near to us and care for us and provide for us. What a Saviour we present in the gospel, the One that is available for you tonight.
In Luke 23 it speaks of the time of the death of our Lord, when He died on Calvary’s tree. What a time that was, beloved! Does it not affect your soul every time that you read of it or hear of it, the way that the Lord Jesus went, the way that He went in love for you, the way that He went in love for me to Calvary’s cross? What sufferings He endured at the hands of men! But then, beloved, what intense sufferings He endured at the hands of a holy God when He took the whole question of sin upon Himself, when He went that way, the One whom we spoke of earlier as the One who was sinless, to whom sin and death could only be vicarious. We are all under the judgment of death. If the Lord does not come we will all die one day. There is no alternative, we will all die one day, but the Lord Jesus, beloved, He went into death. Death had no claim on the Lord Jesus but He went that way for you and for me, and even here in His death we find Him still that devoted Servant. He says, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”. Oh, beloved, think of the Lord there! We do not get it the same way here as we do in other gospels where it speaks of the forsaking and how the Lord could cry, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”, but then there are three hours of darkness that we read of here, all that enters into that time when the Lord felt what it was to be forsaken of His God. But then at the end of it He cries, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”; a dependent Man all the way through from His incoming to the time that He went out of this scene, for the last time that He was seen publicly was when He was seen upon the cross. What a Saviour we can present to you in the gospel, a Saviour who is so available tonight for each one of us! Oh that we might lay hold of Him! That verse further down that we read speaks of Joseph wrapping Him in fine linen. We found Him wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and now we find Him wrapped in fine linen - what is provided, the preparation for the care for the Lord’s body. How wonderful it is just to contemplate that there were those there who were prepared to look after Him in that place.
And then we come to chapter 24, and oh, how glorious that is! The Lord having cried to the Father, it says, “And having said this, he expired”. The Lord died, He really died, beloved. The One who had a right to live, He died on the cross, and He died for you and for me, and He was buried. They rolled a stone across the tomb and they put a seal upon it. It does not tell us about that in this scripture, but that is what they did. The officers put a seal on the tomb, Matt 27: 66. The Jews thought that the disciples would come and roll away the stone and take the Lord’s body out because they remembered His words, but it tells us here in chapter 24 about these faithful persons who came to the tomb brought “aromatic spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And when they had entered they found not the body of the Lord Jesus”. The stone was not rolled away to let the Lord Jesus come out, the Lord Jesus had risen from amongst the dead before the stone was rolled away. An old brother preaching once said, ‘When the Lord rose from the grave not a blade of grass stirred as He rose in power from amongst the dead’. What a movement by Him! He is risen, glorious Saviour, risen from amongst the dead. He went into death, beloved. As we have said, and as I have tried to explain, death was final for Christ. The bars of the earth closed upon Him for ever. But oh, beloved, having gone that way and having overcome death, He could rise righteously from amongst the dead. What a wonderful matter!
It is most difficult for persons to accept, but it is the truth. Do you accept it, beloved, that Jesus rose from amongst the dead? There were persons in Athens that Paul spoke to about this. It says, “Some mocked, and some said, We will hear thee again also concerning this”, Acts 17: 32. Christ really arose from amongst the dead and He is alive today. These two men say, “Why seek ye the living one among the dead? He is not here, but is risen”. Oh, beloved, that glorious One speaks to John in Patmos and says, “I am the first and the last, and the living one: and I became dead”. He became what He never was before. As we said already, death had no hold on that Saviour, but He went that way, He went into death for you and for me. He became dead, but then it says, “and behold, I am living to the ages of ages”, Rev 1: 17, 18. He is risen, risen triumphant from amongst the dead! Death had no claim on Him, death could not touch Him. Oh, beloved, what a glorious Saviour is available to you tonight, not a dead Saviour but a living Saviour, One who has risen from among the dead.
It says, “two men suddenly stood by them in shining raiment”, persons who are linked to a risen Saviour, persons that we should be like, beloved, persons that we should be like in this scene, persons who are like Christ in this scene. The only place before where the gospels refer to shining raiment is on the mount of transfiguration, and we see Christ there and it says that “His garments became shining, exceeding white as snow, such as fuller on earth could not whiten them, Mark 9: 3. Here we have persons who are in accord. It does not say that they are angels, it is “two men”, men who are in accord with a risen Christ. In chapter 2: 14 it says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men”, men who are like Christ in this scene, men who are like that blessed Saviour, related to Him in every way, and in accord with Him. How wonderful to consider, persons that we can be like as receiving power from on high. The Lord Jesus says, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all that is written concerning me in the law of Moses and prophets and psalms must be fulfilled”. The Spirit of God can show you from the Old Testament the things that relate to Christ, the things that relate to God’s gospel. And all has been brought to pass in the precious life of our Lord Jesus Christ: in the way that He went, the way that He came in and the way that He went out by the cross, and the way that He was buried and rose the third day.
So we come to this point where the Lord Jesus says, “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you”. Have you got the promise of the Father upon you? Do we all know what it is to have the Holy Spirit, to have the gift of the Spirit? Without the gift of the Spirit we cannot really enjoy our present salvation, we cannot really enjoy what it is to be here for Christ in this scene. We would never know what it is to be clothed with shining garments if we did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit, never know what it is to enjoy the service of God and enjoy the breaking of bread fully, if we did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is by His power and in His power that we can enjoy it, and it is only as knowing the power of the Holy Spirit that we can come into the blessing of receiving God’s voice as it comes to us. Then it goes on and it says, “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and having lifted up his hands, he blessed them. And it came to pass as he was blessing them, he was separated from them”, a glorious, risen Saviour, ascended now above all the heavens, and sat down. I know it is later that that happens, but He sat down at the right hand of the throne on high (Heb 8: 1), and it is from that place of glory that He would speak to you tonight in the gospel. The Lord Jesus would speak to you from that place in glory where you are in your seat in this hall in Loanhead, and He would draw near to you where you are. Whatever your need may be, the Lord Jesus would draw near to you in the gospel. Beloved, what a Saviour He is! As we have already said, how available to each one of us to meet our need whatever it may be, whether it be our sinful condition, or whether it be our needs as a believer. As we go along the pathway, He is available for each one of us. If you have a need in your heart, if you have a need in your life, you just have to speak to Jesus and He is able to meet it, able to come in to draw near to you.
I just referred to Acts because it is the same writer, and it is almost a continuation of the same scripture, and it speaks about the eleven. “And as they were gazing into heaven, as he was going” it says again here, “behold, also two men”. I do not know if it was the same two men, but it is two men and they say, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come in the manner in which ye have beheld him”. O what a glorious hope! The Saviour who was here, the Saviour who suffered, who died, who rose from the dead, who ascended up above all the heavens, that same Saviour is coming back again, beloved. He is coming back again to receive all who believe in Him. What a glorious day that will be when we see the Saviour, when we hear His voice, when we go in to be with Him, never more to come out. Are you waiting, are you watching for that Saviour? Have you got the hope in your heart of the Saviour coming to take you to be with Him? I challenge each one of us here as to whether we really have that hope in our hearts, that we are going to see the Saviour when He comes for us. We speak about it as the rapture, the time when He “with archangel’s voice and trump of God, shall descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds”, and it says, “thus we shall be always with the Lord”, see 1 Thess 4: 15-17. What a prospect! What a hope the believer has, a hope that is outside of this world, this world which rejected the Saviour, this world which has no place for the Saviour, this world which has no place for those who love Jesus, this world which has no place for those who know Jesus as their Saviour. It has no conception of what is about to take place, but there is a hope in the heart of the believer that Christ is going to come for us. As someone has said, ‘perhaps today He will come for us and take us to be with Himself’. What a day! What a prospect! What a hope! I trust that everyone here is fully assured of their link with the Saviour, and knows Christ as their own personal Saviour. Let none go from the room tonight without knowing Jesus as your own personal Saviour and the Hope of your heart for your eternal salvation. May it be so for His Name’s sake.
18th November 2007