Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
My heart is full today because I am privileged to pass on a message to you from Reverend Stegen: Ubaba uthi uyasikhumbula kakhulu kulesisikhathi. May the resurrection power be a reality in each and every life this Easter. I pray that the Lord will bless and keep each and every one of you.
This Easter should not only mean pondering on the crucifixion and celebrating the resurrection but have you had a special visit from God? I would like to speak about two men. After all the events of the Passover, they were oblivious to what had happened in the heavenly realm. They were oblivious to Christ’s descent into hell and freeing Satan’s captives. They were confused. They experienced pain and yet they had the seed of faith in their hearts. There was something in them that caused the risen Lord to visit them.
Our text for today is taken from Luke 24:13
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognised him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
There is a great parallel between what we are experiencing through the Covid-19 epidemic and what the disciples experienced at this time in Jerusalem. Many pray that the pandemic may pass and that is right. They wrestle with God in prayer and plead for mercy and grace. This is right. All of us should be on knees praying for our country, as we have done and ask the Lord to keep us under the shadow of His wings and as the apple of His eye. But there is something more to this epidemic than doing just that. As we experienced this weekend, there was a deeper desire in my heart to meet with God, “Lord, please do not pass me by.” If our hearts are not right with God, He has this way of passing us quietly by. There is a possibility that we have gone through this time of separation and God has not revealed Himself to us in a special way as He revealed Himself to these two men.
Many thousands of Jews experienced the Passover and the crucifixion but there were only a few to whom Jesus revealed Himself. This is what God does in revival. He sees whether our hearts are broken, pure and clean. He may not openly curse or punish us (that is the worst and if He did so we would know that we are not in His will) but He has this way of quietly passing by us by and revealing Himself to people who have been walking meekly with Him.
During the crucifixion the disciples were scattered. The 11 and a few others were gathered in a room waiting upon Him. He had many disciples. They were afraid of persecution and crucifixion. They were confused and disillusioned because of what had happened to their Master. They could not meet and encourage each other. They were aware of the ominous things that had happened and the Lord who had been killed. Many were in isolation at that time as we have been with this pandemic.
There are three groups of people who experience a period of isolation:
The people in the first group experience a much stronger temptation to sin during this time. They sit around and are bored. They look at things on the internet and sin. When a person is isolated you are alone with your thoughts. You brood about things people have said and done to you which can hatch more evil eggs in your soul. You busy yourself with lustful thoughts because of a video you have seen or people you have met. You have thoughts of anger and hatred. When you are on your own you have time to look at everything and the devil has a way of making everything fall into place so that you draw conclusions such as …this is why so-and-so did this and that…he is actually out to kill me…he is evil…he hates me. These are the thoughts of your evil heart that it cooks up and you brood over. Your own thoughts can be your hardest slave driver. When you are alone your thoughts can accuse you and make you feel guilty for everything. Satan is the accuser of the brethren that is one of his names. He will use this time to accuse you. Unless you can say to Satan, “I have brought this sin to the light. I was washed from this sin. The guilt has been washed from my soul.” Unless you can do this, you are in serious trouble.
The second group of people are the group of Jews who just continued with the Passover rituals as usual. They did all they were supposed to do. They followed the traditions and laws of Moses as they always did but they did not experience a personal visit from the living God. Friends, times of isolation have often been times when the Lord revealed Himself in a special way to his children. This is what happened to these two men on the way to Emmaus. It also happened to a few of His followers to whom He appeared. This was the cry of my heart these days, “Lord, won’t you visit me in a special way. While you visit others, please Lord, do not pass me by.” Do you know what it means to be passed by? I know. It is when you think you are serving the Lord and then you realise that God has been speaking to a particular group of people but He said nothing to you at that time.
God decided that He would reveal Himself to these two men. He did not just appear to them. What a privilege! The Man to whom everything had happened, the One who had died appeared to these lonely men who were separated from the others and on the way to Emmaus. It was not just about appearing to them and strengthening their faith, it was about explaining the Scriptures and giving them deeper insight so that everything that had happened fell into place and they understood the reasons. Why could God do that to them? Why did He go after them and make them part of His plans? Why could God do it to the rest of the disciples later? Friend, I do not ask whether you have celebrated Easter but whether He has made you part of His plan. Has he revealed his intimate secrets to you that He does not reveal to others or has He quietly left you while He visits others?
Why could he appear to these men? Because there were no obstacles between them and God. They did not have grudges about what so-and so had been doing. They did not allow criticism in their hearts and say things like, “Look at Peter, he betrayed the Lord! How will he ever be able to carry that burden? I would have never done that! Look at Judas! Do you know why he committed suicide? No one had time for him. Why did he not feel free to speak to Peter, John and the others about his temptations? They did not treat him in a way in which he felt free to speak to them. There was no love among them. They had a holier-than-thou attitude and Judas sensed that. Where was the love when Judas needed it? Where was the one who could follow the sheep that had wandered away and bringing him back into the fold?”
Friends, be careful of criticism that comes from the pit of hell. It will rob you and Christ will pass you by and not appear to you.
“You know, those three who fell asleep when the Lord told them to watch – I’m sorry I don’t understand that! How could they sleep when the Lord told them to pray with Him? He needed them to pray. Just look at Peter, such a rude man who could not control his anger! They should have told him a long time ago, ‘Peter, control your anger! You’re a problem!’ And then He chopped off the ear of the servant of the High priest, no wonder things went the way they did because Jesus was with a bunch of people who could not control their anger!” There was nothing like this in their hearts. There was nothing between them and the other disciples. Although they were confused and did not understand what had happened, they were of one spirit. Is there still one spirit between you and your brother? Maybe on ordinary days you sit next to each other on the same bench in church but there is a wall of concrete between you and your brother. Do you think the Lord will visit you and reveal His mysteries to you? No, He will just keep quiet, pass you by and move on to bless others and reveal Himself to them.
This was the darkest hour of their lives and yet they were altogether. They carried the same burden; they had the same fire; the same passion; they stayed spiritually close to each other. They opened their hearts to Jesus and asked Him to examine their hearts whether there was anything between them. When the Lord revealed Himself to them they immediately went to others and shared it with them. They did not allow the pride of hell enter their hearts that when God spoke to them they did not share it with others. They were of one spirit.
Friends, it is heart breaking to see people who once used to be one spirit but are no longer like that. Somehow the devil has managed to come in between. The bitterness in a person’s heart can be seen and his bitter attitude can be read. Friend, you keep yourself separate because you think you are too good but keeping yourself separate will result in spiritual suicide. Why does Paul mention factions in the church together with other grave sins such as theft, murder and immorality? Because factions in the church of God are a curse to the body of Christ. You say, “I am of Barnabas. I am of Paul.” Who is hurt the most through this? The church of Christ. The Lord said, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40 The least in your eyes is the church of Christ and because it is the least, you do not worry about it, you feel nothing for the church because you have this vendetta in your heart, this grudge against someone.
This is the greatest challenge in a time of crisis: will the Lord still visit you? Is the Lord still visiting you? Do you know how precious it is when we spend time together even if we are only two or three? The sweetness of heaven is in our midst. It like a healing oil on any wounds you may have had. There is a soberness that I experience from the black brethren. Where I realise that with my way of thinking, I am missing the point. They can see immediately what the main point is and put me back on the right track. Do you really want to experience the joy of the resurrection of Christ? Make sure your heart is clean so that He can remove the peels off your eyes and you can see where He is busy and where He wants to work. Are you only praying for God to help us through this crisis or are you asking God to use you during this time?
There is another example of a period of time when everyone was in isolation – the three year period of severe drought in Israel. God’s prophet, the man of God who was close to his heart, was treated by God like a dog (I say this respectfully). He had to sit near a stream and wait for crows to bring him food. Elijah was one of only two people in the history of the world who never died but was snatched up to heaven. This prophet of fire was treated by God in this manner. Watch out, you will miss out if you look down on a man who does have pomp and glory as you think he should. Finally, God decided to give someone the privilege of looking after him – a man whom Ahab is hunting like a wild animal and Jezebel wants to kill. God took him to a special person who would look after him so that he did not have to be fed by the crows.
24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. Luke 4:24
This law was established by Jesus: no prophet is acceptable in his hometown, a prophet is not acceptable in his own family.
God skipped all the widows in Israel. (This was another dispensation. God was not yet known as the God of the heathen but the God of Israel and if a heathen wanted to serve God he had to become part of the nation). The widows in Israel did what they always did and God skipped them and went to this widow in Sidon. The Sidonians were the worst idol worshippers. Jezebel was a Sidonian, the daughter of a Sidonian king. They sacrificed their children to Baal. God goes to these people because none of the Israelites were fit enough. This widow knew nothing of the God of Israel. Elijah tested her and asked for water. Have you experienced this? Where God sends his special prophet to you as a sinner and asks for water? The widow turned around to fetch water and then Elijah said, “By the way, make a bit of bread for me.” You may think – but I am not a Christian, I have never tried to be a Christian, I cannot afford to give this man my water and bread. This widow was broken. “Sir,” she said, “I just have a little bit of dough. I will make one last loaf for me and my son and then we will die.”
Friend, if Jesus comes to you like that do not turn Him away. Even if you are in the worst sinful position you could be in where you cannot be deeper in the mud of sin, do not say, “Lord, I cannot afford You in my life now. I will have to make right with so-and-so and pay back to so and so.” Never do that! If you hear this message and God speaks to you and asks you, “Give me your life. Give me water. Give me some bread.” Do not answer and say, “I cannot do all these things!” She accepted him and he blessed her oil. From that day on her oil never finished. This was a special visit. Like the two men on their way to Emmaus, He did not just visit them to reveal Himself to them, He visited them to unlock the Scriptures. He did not visit this woman just to give her the honour of looking after this man of God, there was a deeper blessing behind his visit.
Never turn your back on the Holy Spirit if He visits you, friend. You cannot imagine what He has in store for you and what He wants to do for you.
Just look at how quietly God passed by all the widows in Israel. He did not make an announcement. This is what God did in Mapumulo in 1966. He decided to visit one white man and group of Zulus. There were many people going to church in those days. I was going to church. I was ten years old and we went to church every Sunday but God passed us by as far as the revival was concerned. There were many church projects with people reaching out to others and numerous activities. God quietly started working with one white man and a group of Zulus in Mapumulo. God kept His prophet in obscurity for many years. Be careful that you do not miss the fact that God is keeping him in obscurity and that you think there is nothing to him anymore.
Do not make the mistake and say that due to isolation, I cannot confess my sins anymore So I will keep to myself and go deeper into my sin.
In closing, when I began visiting this place in the late 1970s I was a young student. One long weekend I was driving to the mission. I had an old fashioned tape recorder on the seat next to me and I listened to messages from Rev Stegen between praying that my car would not break down. I drove an old Vauxhall Victor at the time which had the habit of breaking down in the worst places at the worst of times. The KSB choir sang a song that stuck in my heart. I listened and then I would rewind the tape and listen again. The choir would sing this song during Easter. This song blessed me and I was not surprised when Rev Stegen said that he would like this song to be played at his funeral. Uncle Erlo, we thank you that we have not reached that stage yet and we pray that there will be many years before it happens. We thank the Lord that He has kept you well.
I’LL BE A FRIEND TO JESUS
They tried my Lord and Master,
With no one to defend;
Within the halls of Pilate
He stood without a friend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus,
My life for Him I’ll spend;
I’ll be a friend to Jesus,
Until my years shall end.
Do you understand what this means: to spend your life? When you spend money you give it away and never take it back again. If you spend your life for Christ you give it away, never to take it back again from Him. It is pouring yourself out for Him. How many people have listened to this song through the years, have sung it and listened to it? How many of them have been faithful to this?
To all who need a Saviour,
My Friend I’ll recommend;
Because He brought salvation,
Is why I am His friend.
He has become my friend. Why? Is He just a casual friend? No, He is my friend because He brought salvation, that’s why I am His friend. He saved me from my sins, that’s why I am His friend. I recommend Him to everybody who needs a Saviour. Friends, this is the desire of my heart. “Lord, do not pass me by like You passed by the widows of Israel at that time. During the COVID-19 epidemic reveal Yourself to me in a special way.”
I’ll do what He may bid me;
I’ll go where He may send;
I’ll try each passing moment
To prove that I’m His friend.
Johnson Oatman Jr
While I was studying at Kroonstad I heard how the Lord was working in revival power here and I asked the Lord, “Why are you passing me by? I want to spend my life for You and I do not want it back. I want to be Your friend until my years end. I will try each passing moment to prove that I am your friend.”
Jesus was on trial during this Easter time. No one defended Him. Have you heard the call to come to Him and bring your life and sins to Him? Have you heard the call to be washed by Him and become His friend? Obey and never go back on your promise.