One of the most intriguing passages of Scripture occurs in Luke 24:13-36. Just after the crucifixion and resurrection, two of Jesus’s disciples are walking to Emmaus, discussing all of these recent events. Jesus Himself draws near to them, but “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him,” and He asks what they are talking about that has made them so sad. They tell him of their dashed hopes that Jesus was “he which should have redeemed Israel” and the missing body in the tomb and the odd rumor that He was now alive.
Jesus responds, “‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Many of us would have loved for the rest of that conversation to have been recorded. but evidently the Holy Spirit didn’t deem it necessary. He continues instructing them until they arrive at their destination; they invite Him in for dinner, and as He blessed and broke the bread, “their eyes were opened, and they knew him.” And then one of them says a statement I love, “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?
We had a guest speaker at church last night, and he brought out something from this passage I had never considered before. I’ll have to paraphrase him, because I couldn’t write fast enough to get down everything exactly as he said it, but the gist of it is this:
“Why didn’t Jesus tell those two disciples, ‘It’s Me, boys! I’m alive!’ and comfort them with His physical presence? Why instead did he go through the Scriptures with them? Why did He use the written Word instead of the Living Word? Because He was about to leave them to ascend back into heaven soon and He wanted them to be confident of, trust in, and have comfort in His Word, to know they could count on it when He was no longer physically there.”
That is profound to me. When Jesus could have comforted with His physical presence (and He did reveal Himself to them just before He disappeared and then appeared again to them when they ran back to share with the disciples what had just happened), He used the written Word instead.
It would be an interesting study to see just how He used the Scripture throughout His lifetime and ministry: I’ll have to note that next time I read them. I know He used them to resist Satan’s temptations. He used them to teach about Himself. In John 6:63, He said. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, referred back to what had to have been one of the most magnificent experiences of his life, being with Christ during His transfiguration, and said the written Word of God is a “more sure” word of prophecy than even that, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.”
So we, who are without His bodily presence for now, can rest in His Word and have complete confidence in it, be instructed in it, take comfort from it.
Can people misuse the Word? Sure. Satan does, all the time, as he did when he tempted Jesus, as he did in the garden of Eden. Whole false religions have been founded on a misuse of Scripture. The Pharisees, for all their knowledge of the Scripture, missed seeing Jesus in it. I don’t know how and why that happens. Jesus said in John 7:17, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Maybe there was an unwillingness on their part, a predisposition against the truth, or something. They were often cited for their pride: maybe they didn’t want to admit they were wrong or give up the accolades that had been coming to them. We do have to be careful to come to the Scriptures asking Him to “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18) and not imprinting on it our preconceived notions.
But I think if we are earnestly seeking Him and willing to do what He says, and we’re comparing Scripture with Scripture rather than taking one verse out of context and going off on a tangent, we can rest in what we find there. We can’t “follow Jesus” apart from the Word: that is the avenue through which He speaks to us. Though we are without His bodily Presence until we go to be with Him or He comes back for us, He has left us with the God-breathed Scriptures and His blessed Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who testifies of Jesus, teaches us and reminds us of what He said.