Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1346
April 15, 2018 Luke 24:36-53
Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
Peace in Troubled Times
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.”
Troubled times come in a variety of ways. For the disciples, it was the troubling news of a possible empty tomb and a living Lord. Of course the trouble started days before when Jesus was arrested and the disciples scattered in every direction. From that point on in this three day period, they were in trouble, not just that the authorities might have been looking for them, but they were troubled in heart. Add to that the trial, suffering, passion, crucifixion, death, tomb, and the women telling the news that he is alive.
Sometimes we are troubled by life events: deaths, disappointments, losses, illness, bad hair days. We all see our fair share of trouble. Our hearts are troubled from time to time. But that is also a part of life in the grand scheme. We are born into trouble, born into sin, and we strive our whole lives, if we care about it, to stay out of trouble. Reminds me of that song by Ray LaMontagne, Trouble. The first line is, “Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble been doggin’ my soul since the day I was born.” That’s a good line for John Calvin’s first point of TULIP - total depravity, the understanding that we are born sinners in need of repentance. The rest of that song isn’t very theologically sound...but trouble does dog us.
This biblical scene demonstrates that trouble is not a permanent condition. Christ brings us peace. So many times in Scripture Jesus says something like “Peace to you!” in times of trouble. He may say it in different ways and for a multitude of situations. He might say it as “your sins are forgiven.” He might say it this way, “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” The point is that Jesus brings peace in forgiveness, healing, words of encouragement and commandment, teaching, telling the truth. There is peace in Jesus and through Jesus and he is saying these same words to us when we are troubled and when we are in trouble. “Peace be to you all!” But [the disciples] shrank back in terror for they thought they were seeing a ghost. “Why are you so worried?” said Jesus, “and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet—it is really I myself! Feel me and see; ghosts have no flesh or bones as you can see that I have” (JB Phillips).
Peace, shalom in Hebrew, the sense of wholeness, no reason to fear, no point to doubt, everything is going to be alright. It might be the most impossible thing for us to imagine what it was like for the disciples to see Jesus hanging on the cross, taken down from the cross, placed in a tomb for three days, and then standing alive before them. Every bit of that is reason to be troubled and frightened. There are times when we feel that nothing can dissipate the fear, nothing will ease the sorrow, nothing can take away our trouble. But Jesus is here, right now, speaking these words to our hearts and minds, “Peace to you!” “Peace be to you all!”
Christ Revealed (Again)
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
I’ve titled the next point in the outline as Christ Revealed (Again) because this is a continuation of the revelation he gave along the road to Emmaus in the previous verses. You may recall that the two on the road were at first kept from recognizing Jesus. We are not told why or how that was the case, but the story eventually gets to the point where Jesus “interpreted for them” how the Scriptures revealed the things concerning Jesus. Then at the table when Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, then their eyes were opened. Now, in our scene for the day, the disciples are gathered, Jesus appears to them, like a ghost, but not a ghost, and they see him – hands and feet, wounded hands, wounded feet, but living. It is the physical person of Christ risen from the dead. He shows them his physical presence and then to take it one step further, he shares some fish for supper.
His physical presence, his appetite, but the revelation given on the road to the two disciples is repeated as once again Jesus opens the minds of the disciples.
Opening the Mind to Scripture
44 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.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”
We do not have the same privilege of Christ’s physical presence. He may have appeared to be a ghost to them at first, and the good news is that he has sent us the Holy “Ghost”, but what we share with the disciples then and now is the Scripture. That is how Jesus has been revealed from Genesis to Revelation, from generation to generation. In this instance Luke adds the Psalms to Moses and the Prophets. On the road to Emmaus it was just Moses and the Prophets. I like that the Psalms were added but I also don’t think we need to take this too literally. I take this simply to imply that Jesus opened up all the Old Testament to the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ. We better interpret the New with the Old. We more fully understand the New because of the Old.
50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
Jesus ascended into heaven. We look for His return in the same way. The disciples worshiped Him in that moment, and what a moment it must have been! They worshiped the risen Lord in response to His ascension and to everything that had happened to them on this resurrection day. The worshiped continued as they returned to Jerusalem, continually in the temple blessing God. This is our proper response to what God has done in Jesus Christ – we worship, we bless His name, we sing His praises, we pray, we read and interpret the Scriptures in order that our minds might be opened to the revelation of Jesus.
But what I want us to see is a larger picture through this passage. This is a common theme in the Bible: trouble, God comes to deliver, our minds are opened, and in response, we worship Him! It is articulated in many ways. Sin, conviction, forgiveness, thanks. Rebellion, punishment, repentance, praise. Psalm 107 has this common pattern as well:
Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
(See the four cases in Psalm 107:5-9; 10-16; 17-22; 23-32.)
Wandered, hungry, fainted – that’s the trouble.
The cry out and God delivers – peace be with you.
He led them to safety – God revealed in deliverance.
Let them thank the Lord – worship!
Luke 24:36-53 is this pattern revealed: trouble, peace (deliverance), recognition (what God has done), worship.
You see, it always ends in worship! We come here every Sunday to recognize again that Jesus has delivered us from all our troubles, He has given us peace, and so we worship Him. The Psalms end in worship (psalm 150). The book of Revelation ends the Bible in worship (19:6-8),
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—
The whole of the Bible is something of this pattern of trouble to worship because of what God has done. And all throughout the Bible are little reminders to us that God will bring us through all our troubles and with each Sunday we are reminded that one day we will finish all things in a mighty crowd of worshipers. May that day some soon, but for now, let us worship the Christ who has delivered us from all our troubles and given us peace. Amen.