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EYES HOLDEN - OR EYES OPENED?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, January 2, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"But their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).

"And their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (Luke 24:31).


It was Sunday afternoon. Earlier that day Christ rose from the dead. Two of His followers walked toward the town of Emmaus. It would take them about two hours to walk there. It was a distance about of seven miles. They were headed back toward Galilee to their homes, and would stop for the night when they reached Emmaus. One of these two men was named Cleopas, whom the ancient writers said was the brother of Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus. This would mean he was Christ's uncle. The second man's name is not given.

A third man joined them as they walked. The three of them discussed what had happened to Jesus - His arrest on Thursday night, His trial and crucifixion on Friday, His burial, and the rumours they had heard of His resurrection earlier that day. They seem to have doubted those reports of His resurrection.

The man who joined them rebuked them, telling them that they were "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25). Then the third man said,

"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" (Luke 24:26-27).

Christ Himself was the third man who joined them as they walked and discussed these things.

But they did not know it was Christ. Verse 16 tells us the reason they didn't know who He was.

"Their eyes were holden [held] that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).

The two texts of our sermon show the former and later conditions of these two men. At first their eyes were held that they should not know Him. Later that evening, "Their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (Luke 24:31).

This is a very simple story, given to show us how a person is converted. First, his eyes are held so he does not know Christ. Second, his eyes are opened, and he knows Christ. It's as simple as that. But there is depth to it. And so I will try to show what lay behind the change that took place in these two men's hearts as they encountered the risen Christ and were converted.

I. First, their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.

The "eyes" here may refer partially to their physical eyes. Dr. John Gill thought that "their eyes were held downwards; or they kept looking upon the ground as they walked, which was the posture suitable to their melancholy [sadness]… and there might be a peculiar influence of divine power and providence, so disposing them, that they did not look up to Christ their new fellow-traveller" (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, pp. 727-728). In any case, they did not look carefully at this man, perhaps because it was growing dark, and they did not know that it was Christ Himself who walked with them that late afternoon, as the sun set and they travelled on in their journey.

But I must come back to the first text,

"Their eyes were holden that they should not know him"
      (Luke 24:16).

It seems that more is meant here than their physical eyes. In verse 31 we are told that "their eyes were opened" (Luke 24:31). Later in the same chapter, speaking of the other ten disciples, we are told,

"Then opened he their understanding" (Luke 24:45).

Taking these further verses into account, it seems that there was a supernatural power that caused them to be blind toward Christ when He was so near to them.

"But their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).

The "eyes" spoken of here are surely more than their mere physical eyes. This I think refers to the "eyes of your understanding," which need to be enlightened by God before you can know Christ (ref. Ephesians 1:18).

And their spiritual eyes "were holden that they should not know him." The Greek word translated "holden" means "to hold, to restrain" (Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, 1980, p. 214). We could say that their eyes were held or restrained from knowing Christ by their own natural depravity,

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).

These two men were still in a natural state of spiritual death, and

"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned
      (I Corinthians 2:14).

These two men, in their natural, unconverted state, were blind of heart and, thus, could not grasp the spirituality of Christ's resurrection. It made no impact on them because

"Their eyes were holden that they should not know him"

by the natural depravity of their unconverted hearts. Their eyes were held back from knowing Him by "the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).

It wasn't more information alone that these men needed. Their eyes needed to be opened by God (cf. Luke 24:31). If the ancients were right and Cleopas was the "uncle" of Jesus, he must already have known a great deal about Christ already. So must the other man have had much knowledge about the Saviour. Christ Himself had been with them many times and had taught them many things. But the "head knowledge" they had gained from Him in the past failed to open their eyes. So Christ goes over it all again for them to hear,

"And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" 
      (Luke 24:27).

But they were still in the dark. They still didn't know Him - until they finally stopped to eat,

"And their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (Luke 24:31).

Listen to Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian and preacher, speak of this:

There is a distinction to be made between a mere notional understanding [doctrinal belief], wherein the mind only beholds in the exercise of a speculative [mental] faculty; and the sense of the heart, wherein the mind not only speculates and beholds, but relishes and feels… The one is mere speculative knowledge; the other sensible knowledge, in which more than the mere intellect [mind] is concerned (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth Trust, 1992 reprint, Volume One, p. 283).

What does Edwards mean? He means that you cannot learn how to be saved by receiving knowledge into your mind alone. The person who says, "How do I come to Christ?" wants more "notional understanding," to use Edwards' phrase. He wants to know more information on the "mechanics" of conversion.

I do not discount the preaching of Christ to these two men, nor do I discount any gospel preaching. But if you think you can be converted by simply receiving more information from the preaching, you are wrong. If you think you can learn mentally how to be saved, you will continue

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (II Timothy 3:7).

You must have preaching, but you must have something more than preaching. And that is exactly what these two men received,

"And their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (Luke 24:31).

We are going to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in January. When you come to these evangelistic meetings, they will do you no good at all if you come to "learn how to be saved." You must want something far more important than just learning more. You must be aware that your eyes are "holden that [you] should not know him" (Luke 24:16). And that should trouble you.

If you want to be converted you should feel deeply your deadness of heart, and your blindness to Christ. And you should want to know Him in your heart. Only by coming to know Christ, can you receive justification and cleansing from sin. Only by coming to know Christ Himself can you be saved.

The thief who died next to Christ on the Cross did not have the opportunities that these two men had. These men had heard Christ preach for many hours, many times. The thief only heard Christ say a few words from the Cross. Yet the thief was converted, while these men, who had heard so many sermons, remained lost.

"But their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).

The thief had far less teaching, but what little teaching he had pierced his heart and turned him to Christ for salvation.

No, Jonathan Edwards was right - most of you have had plenty of "mere notional instruction." What you need is "the sense of the heart,"

"For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness"
      (Romans 10:10).

II. Second, their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.

Look at verse thirty-one.

"And their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (Luke 24:31).

How did this happen to them? First Christ rebuked them. Look at verse twenty-five,

"Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25).

Those are strong words. The old preachers called it "law" preaching - and they said that the law should be preached before the gospel is given. I agree with them.

And I am telling you the same thing this morning that Christ told those two men. You are a "fool" to be so slow in believing. You have had the Scriptures explained and preached to you many times - some of you countless times - and yet you are "slow of heart to believe." Shame on you! Isn't that true? Newer people have come in to our church and been saved rather quickly, while you have "twisted in the wind," hearing one sermon after the other without effect.

If you ever expect to be converted, you must see what a "fool" you have been! Put it down and think about it - and say to yourself, "I have been a stupid, blind fool. I have been so slow to believe. If there ever was a fool it is me." I don't think some of you will ever be converted if you don't start rebuking yourself like that inwardly. Say to yourself, "O, what a fool I am! O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24).

It was not long after these men heard Christ call them "fools" before

"Their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (Luke 24:31).

Christ's sharp preaching blistered their ears and made them think. His sharp "law" preaching awakened them from their dull and lifeless religion. It was then that their "eyes were opened, and they knew him."

Haven't you been a fool long enough? Haven't you sat in church Sunday after Sunday, and gone home no closer to salvation than when you came? Haven't you heard dozens of sermons with no effect on your heart? Wouldn't it be right for a just God to cast a fool like you into the eternal flames of Hell? What excuse would you have if you died this afternoon and stood before Almighty God? What excuse could you give when God said to you, "O fool, and slow of heart to believe"? And I must blister you as a "fool" if you are still unawakened and unconcerned about your soul. You'll never wake up without strong preaching against your lukewarm laziness toward conversion!

"Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 24:13-31.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"If You Linger Too Long" (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

THE OUTLINE OF

EYES HOLDEN - OR EYES OPENED?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"But their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).

"And their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (Luke 24:31).

(Luke 24:25-27)

I.   Their eyes were holden that they should not know Him,
Luke 24:45, Ephesians 1:18; 4:18; I Corinthians 2:14;
Luke 24:27; II Timothy 3:7; Romans 10:10.

II.  Their eyes were opened, and they knew Him, Luke 24:25;
Romans 7:24; Matthew 22:13.

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at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."