The Disciples Encounter the Risen Christ (Luke 24:28-53)

      Alien life has been a major Hollywood theme over the last thirty-plus years. America seems to be fascinated by alien lifeforms. Whether it is Men in Black, Aliens, Star Wars, or Star Trek, American culture has had a fascination with alien life ever since Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of a Third Kind. In 1977, Richard Dreyfus starred as Roy Neary, a cableman who, during a routine call, witnessed a bright light leaving his face sunburned. Neary had his first encounter with alien life. He was eager to return home and tell his wife. His excitement is dashed upon his arrival, as his wife refuses to believe in his apparent hallucinations. Neary could not get the vision that he saw out of his head. He becomes consumed with his desire to have a close encounter of a third kind: contact. Neary’s wife ended up taking the kids and leaving him because of his obsession.

      Roy Neary’s life was dramatically changed because of his encounter with this Unidentified Flying Object along the roadside. There was no going back. Similarly, the disciples were dramatically changed because of their encounter with the Risen Christ following his death and resurrection. Their lives would never be the same. The major difference between Roy Neary in Close Encounters of a Third Kind and the disciples is that one is grounded in historical fact, while the other is fiction.

      Skeptics may want to frame the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a simple tale of make believe, but we cannot take the bait. When the Eleven first heard the news of the resurrection, they believed it was an idle tale told by hysterical, unreliable women, until they encountered the Risen Christ themselves. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not some unbelievable alien encounter, but true historical event that radically transformed his followers to give their lives. Remember Luke is a historian. He carefully analyzed the evidence and wrote an orderly account. Although Luke wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and leaves us his book as the infallible Word of God, he also can be trusted as a careful historian who gives facts of the events surrounding the resurrection. Let us not over mystify the Bible, but carefully consider this account from Luke as reliable historical account of the resurrection, specifically as we examine how the disciples encountered the risen Christ.
The Disciples Saw the Risen Christ

      When Jesus encountered the two men on the road to Emmaus, their last words described the mood following the resurrection. Luke 24:24, “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.” These disciples were walking in the opposite direction away from Jerusalem because no one had seen Jesus, but that was all about to change. Luke 24:28-35,

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 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. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 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?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35)

Jesus revealed himself to the disciples upon the breaking of bread and their eyes were opened. They saw him. It was their sight that confirmed the reality of what they were feeling.

      They testified that their hearts were burning inside them as Jesus opened up the Scriptures as they walked along the road. They knew something was different with this man, but it was not confirmed until Jesus himself opened their eyes. How many times have people said, “I’ll believe it when I see it?” These men were walking away from Jesus, they wanted to believe, but did not see him. And yet, everything changed when their eyes were opened. Notice that they were not the only ones who had encountered Jesus. They returned to the other disciples and they were already saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” The number of people who encountered Jesus in sight was growing, now extending now to Simon Peter.

      In 1946, Billy Graham became friends with a fellow evangelist, Charles Templeton. Templeton and Graham traveled the United States preaching the gospel. Unfortunately, as time went on Templeton started to drift from his faith. In his memoir, Farewell to GodMy Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith, Templeton recalls a conversation with Graham. Graham said to him,

I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.”
“But Billy,” I protested, “You cannot do that. You don’t dare stop thinking about the most important question in life. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.”

      “I don’t know about anybody else,” he said, “but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me.”[1]
Beloved, it is not intellectual suicide to believe in the resurrection. The first disciples doubted until they saw Christ. It is not an idle tale, but a fact of history. This is one of the reasons I am so encouraged with the renewed interests of apologetics in our congregation. We have reasons for the faith that is within us. Near the end of Templeton’s life, he was interviewed by Lee Strobel in a Case for Faith. Strobel recounts the conversation,

      “And how do you assess this Jesus?” It seemed like the next logical question—but I wasn’t ready for the response it would evoke.  “He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”

      I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.

      “Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him! . . .Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’

      “Uh . . . but . . . no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most . . .” He stopped, then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”

That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!”[2]

This man wanted to believe, but refused to accept the evidence. Beloved, the disciples saw the Risen Christ. The resurrection is not intellectual suicide, but real people seeing the Risen Christ in real history.

The Disciples Touched the Risen Christ

      There will always be a few skeptical people in the crowd. Charles Templeton was a skeptic, but there were skeptics among the disciples. While they were all recounted what they had seen, Jesus came to address the skeptics. Luke 24:36-43,

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

This was not a spiritual resurrection, but a literal, bodily resurrection with flesh and bones. Jesus looked at him and said, “Touch me, and see.” He then offers them his hands and his feet so they can touch him and see. 

      Luke notes that the disciples “still disbelieved for joy and were marveling.” Luke is highlighting the sheer amazement and shock of what they were witnessed.  It is similar to when we hear or see something and say, “That is unbelievable.” We do not mean it is actually unbelievable, but we are amazed that it just happened. We know this because Luke says the disciples disbelieved with joy and were marveling; a clear sign of belief. Jesus then removes all doubt by taking a fish and eating it. Although we may draw implications of this meal of Jesus communing with the disciples as in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me,” Luke’s main point is to confirm the reality of Jesus resurrection. The disciples had good reasons to think that Jesus rose from the dead.

The Disciples Heard the Risen Christ

We have seen throughout Jesus’s ministry that the miraculous events done by his hands were to draw people to his words. He would heal a paralytic or exorcise a demon so that people would listen to his teachings. The same could be said of his resurrection. The resurrection is like the Mount Everest of miracles. It confirms the reality of all the Scriptures and has implications for all of life. The charge that Jesus gives his disciples following the greatest miracles of all history is the charge he gives to us as well. Luke 24:44-49,

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The first thing that Jesus does is remind them of the words he has already spoken.

He starts not with sharing with anything new, but that which is from the beginning how everything written in the Law, Prophets and Psalms has been fulfilled. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He has done everything that was required of him. He confirms that the entire Old Testament finds its “Yes and Amen” in Christ Jesus. If we read the Bible and miss the person and work of Jesus Christ, we are misreading the Bible. The main thrust of the Bible is to show us Jesus.

After reminding his disciples of the truth, he then commissions them to go and share this knowledge with the entire world. Jesus said that he suffered and was raised on the third day so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations. This is the task of the church. This is our mission. We are to go and to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations. We are on mission to proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come near in Jesus Christ. Therefore, in order to be faithful to our mission, we must proclaim the message of the gospel, but why would we not want to share it? 

Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), the world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away. So, when he discovered an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn't able to buy it. Later, having raised enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase that beautiful instrument. But to his great dismay it had been sold to a collector. Kreisler made his way to the new owner's home and offered to buy the violin. The collector said it had become his prized possession and he would not sell it. Keenly disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he had an idea. "Could I play the instrument once more before it is consigned to silence?" he asked. Permission was granted, and the great virtuoso filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector's emotions were deeply stirred. "I have no right to keep that to myself," he exclaimed. "It's yours, Mr. Kreisler. Take it into the world, and let people hear it."  

Beloved, the gospel message of salvation is so beautiful; we must take it into the entire world.  Think back to your salvation: How precious did that grace appear the hour you first believed?  Romans 10:15b, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.”  It is a privilege and joy to share the beauty of the gospel with those lost in sin.

Non-Christian, have you ever heard and believed the good news about Jesus Christ?  The Bible says that all have sinned and stand condemned before God.  Because of God’s perfection he cannot allow sinners into his presence and because of his justice he has to punish sin with death.  But the good news is that God sent Jesus Christ into the world to be condemned in our place.  And after Jesus was dead and buried, God raised him from the dead as the firstfruits of the resurrection for anyone who would turn and trust in Him as Lord and Savior.  Christians cannot imagine better news.  We were dead in our trespasses and sin, but have been made alive in Christ.  Dear friends, believe the good news of Jesus Christ.  The kingdom of God has come near in Christ. This is our mission, but we will not be left alone to complete it.

We can know this that whenever God gives us a mission, he will give us the means to complete that mission.  As a church it is easy to give reasons why we cannot complete our mission to reach the world for Jesus Christ.  We do not have enough time. We do not have enough energy. We do not have enough money. We do not have a cool, hip pastor.  The list can go on and on. We do not need what we think we need, for what we need has already been given to us by God.  Remember the promise of the Lord Jesus here, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” We will finish our mission because we trust the promise of the perfect Promise-Keeper. God the Son will send the promise of God the Father which is the power of God the Spirit.

Two Greek words in the text should frame our understanding of our task to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. The first word “power” comes from the Greek word dunamis which usually connotes the ability to overcome evil forces. The kingdom of God has been inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and will be ushered in by the Spirit of God at Pentecost where the church will be clothed in the Holy Spirit. The second word “witness” comes from the Greek word marturion which is where we get our English word martyr.

We are called to be powerful witnesses. These two words should frame our understanding of the mission. You will face evil, but you have the power to stand up against that evil with the truth of the gospel in unto death. The Christian mission is one of ultimate victory. God promises opposition, but promises the power to testify in the face of that opposition so that we will be fully and finally blessed. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

The Disciples Believed the Risen Christ

Jesus leads his disciples to Bethany comforting and confirming with them the task that lies before them. He blessed them and then returned to the Father. Luke 24:50-53,

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Resurrected Christ was raised to sit at the right hand of the Majesty on High. He returned to his place of authority and power waiting for the day when all his enemies will be his footstool. The disciples saw, touched and heard the Risen Christ and believed. They worshipped him with great joy continually blessing God in the temple.  They encountered the Risen Christ and they believed. Have you encountered Christ? Have you believed?

Encountering Christ will change you. Our faith is not some mystical, idle tale like Roy Neary in Close Encounters, but a reasoned faith grounded the historical eyewitness accounts of those who were there. Let me close with the words of one of the 500 eyewitnesses that saw the Risen Christ, the Apostle John says,

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

That which they had seen and heard, I proclaim to you also that you may have fellowship with God. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Dear friends, listen to those who were there. Believe in evidence. Believe in the Risen Christ and have eternal life.

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Do You Have the Truth? (Luke 24:13-27)

On September 11th, 2001 Al Qaeda orchestrated the greatest terrorist attack on American soil.  Two planes took down the World Trade Center and another plane crashed into the Pentagon.  Three thousand people lost their lives during the coordinated attacks that day. There are certain dates that impact a generation: December 7, 1941 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, November 22, 1963 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, January 28th, 1986 and the Challenger explosion. Everyone in my generation will remember exactly where they were when they heard that the planes flew into the towers.  We have life before 9/11 and life after 9/11.

      I will never forget driving through New York City a few weeks after the attacks and seeing American flags flying everywhere. I counted how many seconds it was between flag sightings and the longest I got to was 5 seconds. Our nation was drawn together against this horrible evil. There was unanimous agreement that the attacks of 9/11 were a textbook example of moral evil. That day, our nation testified to the belief in that truth as absolute. Would we do the same today? Would you? What about our belief in God? Is “truth” about the God of the bible absolute, or simply relative?

   A year after 9/11, when the nation appeared to agree on the concept of moral evil, the Barna Research Group discovered that most Americans do not believe in moral absolutes. Moral Absolutism is the ethical belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context of the act. An example would be saying that the premediated murder of innocent lives in 9/11 is morally wrong. In a survey of 4,000 people, it was discovered that,

·         64% of all adults believed truth to always be relative, depending on the situation.
·         83% of teenagers believed truth to always be relative.
·         Only 32% of Christians believe in moral absolutes
·         Only 9 % of Christian teens believe in moral absolute.[1]

Based on this survey, most Christians do not believe in moral absolutes. When asked this, “When you are faced with a moral or ethical choice, which ONE of the following best describes how you, yourself, decide what to do?” In other words, where do you turn to find your morality? Twenty four percent of born-again Christians said when facing a moral choice that they do, “whatever feels right[2].” One out of four Christians says their morality is determined by their feelings. 
The world does not value absolute truths and sadly, too often, neither does the church. Do you? Was 9/11 absolutely wrong or was it justifiable? Truth is important. Let me ask you, “Do you have truth?” I believe the Bible is clear in its claims of absolute truths. And I believe the Bible makes specific claims about Jesus Christ.  Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father accept me.” Jesus believed in absolute truth. As we work through our text, I want to ask you 2 questions to see if you have the truth.

Do you have True Knowledge?
 In order to have the truth, you have to have the right facts. You have to know the right things. Jesus appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus to make sure they had the right facts about the Bible and the Messiah. Luke 24:13-17,

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 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. (Luke 24:13-17)

The men were talking over the facts about Jesus. They were discussing the meaning of everything that happened.  They did not recognize Jesus, but because his identity was hidden from them. They were shocked that he had “no idea” of the recent events. 
 Human beings are meaning makers. Pastor and Counselor Paul Tripp explains this concept in his book, How People Change,

We look for meaning and purpose in every event, activity, and relationship in our lives. The toddler who asks his mother if God made telephone poles is a meaning maker. The second grade girl who advises her friend on how to get other girls to like her is a meaning maker. The husband and wife who discuss why the husband can’t get along with his boss are meaning makers. The elderly woman who wonders why her daughter doesn’t visit is a meaning maker. Meaning making is something we do unconsciously but incessantly. We never stop trying to figure life out. We ask questions. We make assumptions, draw conclusions, make connections, interpret data, and make distinctions. Whether we suffer, strive, achieve or relax, we ask ourselves consciously or subconsciously, “What is the point? What does it all mean?” And here is the important part: the answers we give ourselves, the meanings we give to our thoughts, circumstances, relationships, and actions move us in specific directions.[3]

The disciples were grasping for meaning. They wanted to know, “What was the point?” of Jesus’ life, death, and rumored resurrection. 

     Although they were still discussing the recent events, it appears that they had already made their decision about Jesus. Over the last 15 chapters, Luke has pictured Jesus journeying towards Jerusalem and his ascension. The turning point for is Luke 9:51 which states, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus was journeying back to the Father, but had to go through Jerusalem and the cross. These disciples of Jesus were on the road to Emmaus traveling from Jerusalem.  They were journeying in the opposite direction. They thought everything was over. When Jesus approached them on the road, they stopped, stood still and were looking sad. They had knowledge of the events, but did not interpret them rightly. They assumed they understood everything that was going on, but as we will see, they did not have the true knowledge.
   These men were not waiting in Jerusalem, but had turned away. Their faulty interpretation caused them to change their direction as Tripp said above, “And here is the important part: the answers we give ourselves, the meanings we give to our thoughts, circumstances, relationships, and actions move us in specific directions.” Have you ever turned away from a friend because you wrongly interpreted information? You may have believed something to be true about someone so you turned from them. You may have made a decision without having all the facts, or perhaps you had the facts, but drew the wrong conclusion.

   The two men will explain to Jesus all the recent events and Jesus will add clarity to their confused knowledge.  Luke 24:18-24,

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?” 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, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 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. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 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. 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.” (Luke 24:18-24)

    There are two phrases that help explain these disciples’ actions. First, in verse 20, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” This reveals why they are sad. Jesus did not fulfill their hopes. They expected him to restore Israel as a nation by overthrowing Roman oppression. Their expectations were not met so they were sad and walked away.  Beloved, I have seen too many people walk away from relationships, the church and the Lord because of the unfulfilled hopes of unmet expectations. But did Jesus fail these disciples, or did Jesus fail these disciples’ expectations? Jesus is not the problem, but rather the expectations of disciples. They did not have true knowledge. Jesus was going to redeem Israel, but not the way these disciples had expected. Their sadness was a result of unmet expectations.
The second phrase that reveals the motive behind their actions is the end of verse 24, “him they did not see.” The irony is very thick. The reader knows far more than these two men. There is a sense of anticipation and excitement. They said they did not see him as they were staring at him. This passage answers the question that every disciple had asked, “Where is Jesus?” His body is gone, but where is he?

Jesus’s response is crucial for us to understand. Luke 24:25-27,

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

Before Jesus reveals his identity, he gives them true knowledge by helping them rightly interpret the Scriptures. He corrected their interpretation. Verses 26-27 are extremely important in how we interpret the Scriptures. Jesus is the key to interpret the whole Old Testament.
 This would have been an amazing conversation. Jesus unpacks and interprets how everything from Moses to the Prophets explains how the Messiah would come and redeem his people through his death and resurrection. Do not miss this!!! The main purpose of the Bible is to explain how Jesus Christ was going to come and rescue an unholy people to reconcile them to a Holy God. The Bible answers the question, “How can a holy God forgive sin, yet show justice to the guilty? The answer is found only in Jesus Christ. It was necessary for Jesus to suffer on the cross before he was to enter his glory through the resurrection. Jesus Christ was punished for sin experiencing the penalty for sin in his death on the cross. And now through his resurrection from the dead, anyone who places their faith Jesus will have everlasting life. A holy God cannot overlook sin, so for our sake, Jesus, who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus provided true knowledge to the disciples showing from the Scriptures how to interpret everything in relation to Him. Jesus gave his disciples true knowledge, but true knowledge is not enough. You also need to believe.

Do you have True Faith?
  The disciples needed things clarified for them, but their main problem was a lack of faith. Jesus said, “O foolish ones, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” The disciples did not believe. Their main problem was a lack of faith in the word of God. I believe that this is our main problem today as well. In John 6, Jesus disciples asked him, “‘what must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’” (John 6:28-29)

It is not enough to have the right knowledge; you must also believe in that knowledge. Your belief in the truth will dictate how you live. The reason people do not forgive those who sin against them is because they do not truly believe Jesus words, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15). The reason people give themselves to lust or greed is because in those moments, they do not believe in the resurrection. John Piper writes,

All the promises of God were purchased for believing sinners by an act that happened in the past, namely, by the death and resurrection of Jesus. But God-glorifying BELIEF doesn't merely stare at those acts; it stands on them, and then looks forward to all the promises Jesus bought for us, and banks its hope on the promises, and moves out in a life of faith. Faith is future-oriented. It is heartfelt hope in the promises of God.[4]

So as a church, we have to ask ourselves, “Do we believe in God’s Word?” Are we motivated by faith in God’s promises or unfilled hopes of unmet expectations? 

As your pastor, I am praying that we will be motivated by faith to believe all that God has promised for us in Christ Jesus. I am praying that our hope will be set fully at the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Beloved, if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Will we be motivated by faith in the very great and precious promises of God or by fear that God will not be there for us in the end?

Maybe your problem this morning is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of faith in that knowledge you already possess. Do not be foolish and slow of heart to believe. Jesus Christ has promised you a glorious resurrection if you have faith in Him. Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God. One pastor shared a story of young boy caught in a house fire,

The young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters[5]."

Beloved, we do not place our faith in what we see, but in our God who sees us. Our faith is grounded in what He has said and what he has done for us in Christ. The disciples did not believe in the resurrection, because they did not see him so they turned to walk away. We must trust God even when we cannot see the outcome. We must be disciples with a true knowledge and a true faith. Even though we have not seen him, we love him. Though we do not now see him, we believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

[3] Tripp, Paul. How People Change.  Pg 31.
[5] Sherman, Reece. Faith Lessons, pg. 16
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The Reception of the Resurrection (Luke 23:50-24:12)

      In high school I was recruited by all of the Ivy Schools accept for Harvard University. Harvard eventually came to their senses, but knowing that I did not have the test scores to get into the school I politely rejected them before they could reject me. So I can say with a straight face that I chose not to attend Harvard University. I am sure that Harvard quickly got over their rejection, but thousands of High School seniors are having a difficult time dealing with their own rejection. Siobhan O’Dell, a senior from High Point, NC, made national news when she recently rejected her rejection. She received her rejection letter from Duke University, but graciously responded,

Thank you for your rejection letter of March 26, 2015. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me admission into the Fall 2015 freshman class at Duke. This year I have been fortunate enough to receive rejection letters from the best and brightest universities in the country. Despite Duke’s outstanding success in rejecting previous applicants, you simply did not meet my qualifications. Therefore, I will be attending Duke University’s 2015 freshmen class. I look forward to seeing you then.

Regrettably, regardless of her finest attempts to reject her rejection, Ms. O’Dell will not be attending Duke next year.

      Facts sometimes can be hard to accept. The problem is not in the information, but in the desire to receive the information. This Easter weekend, the facts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ will be heralded from pulpits all over the world. The problem will not be in the facts cleared stated in the Scripture, but in our desire to receive the truth of the resurrection. The problem is not in the details, but in our ability to receive them. I pray that you will not only examine the facts, but receive them as truth. For as Ms. O’Dell discovered; her rejection of her rejection did not change the facts. Truth is truth regardless of whether we want to accept it or not. Let us examine the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Respect of the Disciples

Before we can examine the truth of the resurrection, we have to first establish that a resurrection is needed. There have been many explanations put forward to discount the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, including several that states that Jesus Christ never really died. The Romans were professionals in execution. It is clearly seen in the Luke 23:44-49 that the Jesus Christ really died and confirmed by the Roman Centurion, the watching hostile crowd, along with the disciples and the women who followed Jesus. Luke is very detailed in his description of the respect shown to Jesus in his death. He was not treated like a common criminal, but as one deserving of the highest honor. Luke 23:50-56,

Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Jesus was dead and buried. Luke clearly presents the facts.

      Joseph Arimathea was a wealthy and righteous man. Even the most liberal scholars affirm him as a true historical figure. He showed tremendous courage by going to Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus. He laid Jesus in a tomb where no one had ever yet been laid. Joseph was looking for the kingdom of God and was a disciple of Jesus. We cannot fully know if Joseph was expecting a resurrection, but we can know that he clearly believe that Jesus was dead. Do not gloss over these verses.  The physical death of Jesus Christ is essential for the Christian faith. Jesus had to literally die for there to be a literal resurrection. 

       One day we all will literally die. We cannot avoid it. We may try to ignore it. We may not want to think about it, but it is coming. You can reject the facts, but you cannot change them. If you are here visiting today, I wonder have you ever considered what happens after death? Have you ever taken time to think about short time we have in this life. The great man of God, Moses prays in Psalm 90, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10; 12) Thinking about death actually can change how we live. Are you afraid to die? What confidence do you have in death?  What hope do you have for your life after death?

The reason why Christians so joyfully celebrate Easter is because they understand what the resurrection of Christ saves us from. The Bible gives the reason we all die. We die because of sin. Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Death spread to all men because all sinned. We will all die, because we all have sinned. Hebrews 9:27, “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes to judgment.” Upon our death, we are going to be judged.

The question for you and me is what is our hope in that judgment? Our only hope in judgment is that Jesus Christ literally died to pay the penalty for our sins. The Apostle Paul writes,

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:21-23)

Our only hope is to believe in faith that Jesus died in our place taking our sin on the cross and transferring his righteous life to us. But his death would mean nothing for us if there was not a resurrection.

The women saw the tomb where Jesus was laid. They, as devout Jews, rested on the Sabbath according to the law, before returning on the first day of the week. And when they arrive, God has messengers waiting with a reminder.

The Reminder of the Divine

         Luke places the emphasis on the declaration by the angels that were sent to testify to the resurrection by God. Luke 24:1-9,

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

The women were expecting to find Jesus’ body in the tomb. They came prepared with spices to anoint the body for burial. The whole account has one of shock and amazement.  

Luke shows his respect by adding the title Lord Jesus to this account. The women will realize very quickly why Jesus is the Lord. When they arrived they noticed that the stone was rolled away. In Mark’s account the women were wondering who was going to roll the stone away implying the size and the weight of the stone, but here Luke emphasizes words of the angels.  The women were perplexed and confused why the stone was removed when the angels appeared in dazzling white apparel. It was clear that these messengers were from God. And in seeing these messengers from God, they bowed in reverence. A great picture of how our hearts should be when God speaks to us through his messengers today.

God sends his messengers to remind his people about his resurrection. This is not new news as the angels make clear, but they bring to remembrance the words of Christ. Hear them again, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Jesus is alive. Jesus Christ has been vindicated for his righteousness and has conquered the grave. The women should not have been surprised for Jesus told them this was to happen. The keyword in the angels account is the word “must” in verse 7.  Luke uses the Greek word “dei” which means “it is necessary” highlighting the divine redemptive plan of God. God planned this salvation before the foundation of the world. It could only come through the Son of Man being delivered, crucified and raised on the third day.

      The third day was a symbol through Scripture as the day of salvation. The Jews should have expected salvation to come,

God gave Isaac salvation on the third day, Genesis 22:3-4, “So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.

God gave Joseph’s brothers salvation on the third day, Genesis 42:17-18, “And he put them all together in custody for three days. On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God.

God gave Jonah salvation on the third day, Jonah 1:17, “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

God gave Esther salvation on the third day, Esther 5:1-2, “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

God promised repentant Israel salvation on the third day, Hosea 6:1-2, “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”

All that to say is that God had been planning to give salvation to his people on the third day for a long time. The women should not have been surprised, but they needed a reminder.

Beloved, we are so much like these women. We need a reminder. God has promises us so many great and precious promises, but we are so prone to forget.  This is one of the reasons why God sends his messengers to us week in and week out to declare his Word so we shall not forget. The world wants us cover our eyes to God’s salvation, but we must remember. Peter said his whole ministry could be summed up in reminding the people of God of resurrection. 2 Peter 1:12-16,

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

What are you facing today where you need to remember that God is in control and has promised you a resurrection? Do not be deceived by the world, our God is not dead; He is alive. He does not promise a life without suffering, He promises a resurrection. Remember, Remember, Remember!!! We do not base our lives on cleverly devised myths, but trust the facts of eye witnesses who saw Jesus die and be raised.

The Reception of the Discreditable

      Luke makes a specific point to identify the women by name that went to the tomb and reported the events to the apostles. Throughout this gospel Luke has given honor and respect to women who were treated as outcasts of society. Women were no credible witnesses. They were not allowed to testify in court. In God’s sovereign plan, he chose women to be the first witnesses and the first reporters of the resurrection.

Luke is careful throughout his Passion account to show the various witnesses who testified to Christ’s life. Do not forget Luke’s purpose to write an orderly account” so that the church would have certainty concerning the things that have been taught. Luke is writing facts, because no one would use women as witnesses if they wanted anyone to believe the resurrection. We do not always like facts and are very quick to reinterpret history, but Christianity has done more to improve the treatment and respect of women than any other religion in history. In her article, Christianity: The Best Thing that Ever Happen to Women, Sue Bohlin writes,

The first people Jesus chose to appear to after his resurrection were women; not only that, but he instructed them to tell his disciples that he was alive (Matt. 28John 20). In a culture where a woman’s testimony was worthless because she was worthless, Jesus elevated the value of women beyond anything the world had seen…As a result of Jesus Christ and His teachings, women in much of the world today, especially in the West, enjoy more privileges and rights than at any other time in history. It takes only a cursory trip to an Arab nation or to a Third World country to see how little freedom women have in countries where Christianity has had little or no presence. It’s the best thing that ever happened to women.[i]

She is right. Christianity is the best thing to happen to women. As our culture becomes more and more confused about gender, do not allow the culture to reinterpret history.

      Jesus chose to give women a prominent place in sharing the greatest news the world has ever heard. God does not make mistakes. Luke 24:8-10, “And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.” Jesus honored women when no one else would. It is just like our God to give the greatest testimony ever heard to discreditable witnesses.          
The Rejection of the Disciples

The women came back to the apostles and share what they had seen. Everyone was still trying to figure out what was happening. We learn from John’s account that Mary herself who reported the missing body to the apostles thought that they had stolen it. Even though Jesus told them beforehand that this was going to happen, the disciples were slow to believe. Luke 24:11, “but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” The apostles did not trust the testimony of these women, but thought they were making it up. They believed it to be an idle tale and did not believe them. Although the text says the apostles did not believe the women, it was actually Jesus they did not believe.

Jesus had told them on three occasions that he was going to be delivered to the chief priests, suffer, die and on the third day be raised. They did not pay careful attention to the words of Christ or they remember the words and dismissed them. Luke does not paint the apostles in a very good light giving even more weight to the evidence. If this was a lie, why would the apostles describe themselves so poorly and use women as the primary witnesses? It does not make sense unless it is true.

And yet, I wonder how many of you are like these apostles. You may have heard of the good news of the death and resurrection of Christ, but are slow to believe. It seems like an idle tale. This is what many are saying about Christianity today. Richard Dawkins has said, “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” The apostles seem to have heard and evaluated the evidence from the women and found it wanting. It seems like the first apostles did not believe exactly because the evidence was not compelling, but we have read the rest of the account and see what happened to these apostles who were slow to believe after they examined the evidence.

The Resurrection of the Dead

Peter decided to examine the evidence. He heard the women’s testimony and went to see the tomb for himself. Luke 24:12, “But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” Peter came to the tomb and he looked inside and did not see Jesus. He said he went away marveling at what had happened. We do not know for certain that when Peter “marveled” he truly believed in the resurrection, but we can assume that his heart started to fill with hope. “Could this be true? Could Christ actually be alive? Could Jesus really be the resurrection and the life?”

Peter’s mind was filled with questions as he stared into that empty tomb. He had to ask, “What does that empty tomb mean?” Romans 1:4 tells us what it means in that Son, “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The resurrection proves that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The early church does not make any sense without the literal, bodily resurrection of the Jesus from the dead. We know as Peter started in that empty tomb, his hope was stirred, but we know that his hope was confirmed when he saw the risen Christ. If Christ has not been raised our faith is futile and we are still in our sins.
     Friends, Peter went from a denying Christ to willingly die for Christ. Why? There is only one reason, Peter believed in the resurrection from the dead. He believed and was changed. He was born again to a living hope to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading? The hope for future glory transformed Peter life. Has the resurrection changed you? It is a simple question. Have you placed all your hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? If you truly believe in the resurrection it will change how you live, how you spend your money, how you spend your time, how you forgive your spouse, how you do everything because the resurrection power changes you as you trust in Christ. Tim Keller shares a story of this power,

 A minister was in Italy, and there he saw the grave of a man who had died centuries before who was an unbeliever and completely against Christianity, but a little afraid of it too. So the man had a huge stone slab put over his grave so he would not have to be raised from the dead in case there is a resurrection from the dead. He had insignias put all over the slab saying, "I do not want to be raised from the dead. I don't believe in it."

His rejection of the resurrection did not change the facts. His belief of the truth could not change true. He tried to deny the resurrection with that huge stone slab over his grave like Pilate tried to with a huge stone over Jesus grave, yet, as Keller continues,

When he was buried, an acorn must have fallen into the grave. So a hundred years later the acorn had grown up through the grave and split that slab. It was now a tall towering oak tree. The minister looked at it and asked, "If an acorn, which has power of biological life in it, can split a slab of that magnitude, what can the acorn of God's resurrection power do in a person's life?[ii]"

And Keller adds these comments,

The minute you decide to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It's the power of the resurrection—the same thing that raised Jesus from the dead …. Think of the things you see as immovable slabs in your life—your bitterness, your insecurity, your fears, your self-doubts. Those things can be split and rolled off. The more you know him, the more you grow into the power of the resurrection.[iii]

Beloved, Peter looked into the tomb and marveled at God’s resurrection power.  He would spend the rest of his life testifying to the power of the resurrection and I pray you would do the same. This Easter, I urge you to receive the resurrection of Jesus Christ from dead and experience His power to break the immoveable slabs in your life. I pray you would be like Paul who was willing to give his life to “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible to attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) Receive Christ and His resurrection power.