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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1252

April 10, 2016 Luke 24:36-53

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)



“The Proof is in.….. the Fish”


  • Talking About These Things (Luke 24:36a)


Imagine for a moment you are gathered with your closest friends and you are discussing the unexpected death of another friend in which you all shared admiration and love. That would be disturbing enough, but imagine that some of the women who had come back from his burial place said that his body was not there. Two other friends show up saying they have seen him alive! Well, you know I'm talking about the disciples who were gathered together talking about Jesus and the events of the previous days as well as the testimonies of those who said they had seen him alive and well. It is difficult for us to imagine what that could have been like. Luke 24:36 begins this way, “As they were talking about these things...” These things were the suffering, death, and resurrection of their friend and leader, the one they all had hoped was the Messiah. I can only imagine the grief, sadness, excitement, confusion, disbelief, and hope and all of it stirred up in a caldron of fear.


  • Bodily Resurrection (Luke 24:36b-43)


When people are experiencing fear in Bible stories, an angel or God will very often say what Jesus first says to them in this story, “Peace to you!” Peace! It is a word of comfort like your mom used to use when you awoke from a nightmare. “It's alright, it was just a dream!” But in this case, what the disciples had been through was more than a dream. It was the reality of death and resurrection. It was the fear of something so amazing that they do not believe at first. At some level they all struggle with whether or not they believe. They are not even sure as Jesus appears in their presence.

Verse 37 says it this way, “But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” They did not think he was the risen Lord, bodily risen from the dead. They thought what many would claim later, it was just a spirit. People have been trying to make that claim in one form or another ever since the resurrection. Every year one of more major magazines like Time or Newsweek will seek to toss doubt in the readers minds. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? If not them, then it will be the Discovery Channel or History Channel or other skeptics looking to challenge people or faith or just make some money off this story.

Jesus challenges their doubts and fears by asking them to take a look at his hands and feet. I have no doubt they are looking at the scars from the nails of crucifixion. Look and touch. In today's language we would call this scientific proof. But such proof is no longer available to us since Jesus is not physically among us. Jesus shows them that he is not a spirit, it is really him. He died on the cross, he was buried, and he was raised from the dead. This truth has been challenged by non-believers for centuries. It is one of the reasons why the Apostles' Creed goes to lengths to show that Jesus died and was raised. “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead.” Crucified – he died on a cross. Died – really dead. Buried – really really dead, so dead they buried him. He descended to the dead. Jesus was dead. His body expired. Then, “On the third day he rose again.”

We also affirm Jesus' death and resurrection in our essentials of faith. Essentials #2 says, He died on the cross a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. On the third day He arose bodily from the dead. Jesus shows the disciples that it is really him, he lives!

Luke tells us that the disciples are still unsure, “they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling.” What a great phrase, they disbelieved for joy! They are so excited but still unsure. Could this really be true? Now if I were to ask you to fill in the blank to an old popular phrase, “The proof is in the ______.” I suspect most of you would say “pudding.” The proof is in the pudding. We say that to show that you will find out the truth in the experience or in the results. The original phrase was “the proof is in the eating of the pudding.” But I'm not here to preach pudding. As you may have gathered by now, my sermon title is a take off that old saying. Jesus sees that they still are having trouble believing so he asks them if they have anything to eat. The proof is in the fish! Spirits don't eat. Spirits don't have scarred hands and feet. Spirits don't hang on a cross and die. The Son of God did that. Paul said it this way, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). J.B. Phillips translates it this way: “Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.” The disciples had the physical body of Christ to examine and even to share a piece of fish! Now our proof is in the testimony that began in this room and that testimony has been handed down from generation to generation.

Christ died for us and thus he saves us! This is good news.



  • Opened Minds (Luke 24:44-49)


Jesus finishes his fish and reminds them of what he had told them time and time again. I told you what would happen, suffering, rising, and the proclamation of this gospel. He teaches them as he taught the disciples on the Emmaus road, from Moses, the prophets, and in this case he adds the Psalms. This was the Jewish distinction for all the Word of God. Everything they knew from what Jesus had said and everything they would have known from the Jewish scripture pointed to the Christ. The beauty of God’s redemptive purpose runs throughout the Bible. God’s consistent grace and love is evident from the beginning through to the end. He opened their minds to understand. I talked about this last week because it is the same thing he did for the two on the road to Emmaus, but since it comes up here again perhaps we should note it again! Jesus opens our minds to understand. What a blessing to know that when we are searching for truth and looking to Jesus, he is at work to help us see.

I want to talk about five things he opens for them, and us:


  1. He opened their minds to understand:

That Christ should suffer. This would include everything about his suffering and death.

That Christ would rise from the dead. It is how he is now standing before them and reminding them of what he told them before. He would rise again. This is the gospel narrative of history.


  1. He opened their minds to understand to offer the gifts of:

Repentance – turning from our sins and reconciling to God in order to live for Him.

Forgiveness – trusting in the cleansing blood of Christ. We are set free from our sin in order that we might live in righteousness.


  1. He opened their minds to understand:

That they will proclaim his suffering and death and gifts of repentance and forgiveness to the world. It took some time for the disciples to understand about preaching Christ crucified. Peter does in Acts 2 when he preaches from the prophet Joel. Paul does in his words from 1 Corinthians 1:23, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” The Holy Spirit brought the power and the understanding to them at Pentecost. That was the promise Jesus made to them – the promise of the Father was to send the Holy Spirit. They would be clothed in power. Jesus sends them out as witnesses and will send them help in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus saves them in his bodily resurrection and sends them to proclaim that salvation to the world.


  • Blessings Abound


Jesus then takes them out of the room where they had been hiding and he lifts his nail scarred hands to bless them. I think this scene shifts the mood of the end of Luke's gospel. The disciples are no longer sad by all the things that had happened in the past few days, but now they are worshipful, joyous, and offering blessings to God for the risen Christ and a promise yet to come. They are not looking backwards longing for the glory days of Jesus’ presence, but they are looking energetically forward to what is to come, whatever that may be. Jesus is gone but somehow the disciples have the renewed energy and joy, not the disbelieving joy when Jesus had appeared in the upper room, but now it is an anticipating joy of worship.

They return to Jerusalem no longer hiding out for fear but continually in the temple blessing God. Maybe they quoted Psalm 103. Read with me and listen to these words in light of Luke 24 and all that the disciples had gone through:


Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. 8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”


That is the gospel – the God who sent his Son – benefits from heaven. The God who heals and redeems in Jesus Christ. The God who shows his love and renews us so that we are young again soaring like eagles, all because of Christ. This is the God who forgives our sins and shows us compassion, merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Blessings abound in at the end of Luke because Jesus pours our blessings through his life, death, and resurrection and because he pours our blessings through his words. The disciples are filled with renews blessings they return to God in worship because they have a surge of joy!

Jesus saves them in his bodily resurrection, and sends them to proclaim that salvation to the world, and at the end of this gospel he empowers them through his blessing to go back to Jerusalem, no longer living in fear, but living in the blessing of God. Let's imagine our lives in the place of the disciples, for Jesus has done all that we read today for them and for us. Jesus saves us and sends us and blesses us. May our hearts be renewed with joy, not disbelieving joy, but blessed joy that leads us to wait upon the Lord. We are not waiting for the Holy Spirit as they did then, but we do wait for Christ to come again. And while we wait, we do just as the disciples did before us, we share the good news and we bless the Lord continually in worship. The proof was once in the fish, but now it is in the testimony about the fish and the hands and feet and the good news that Jesus suffered, was raised, gave us repentance and forgiveness in order that we might proclaim the gospel to the world. The Lord has blessed us and we shall bless the Lord by doing all that he has commanded. Bless the Lord, O my soul! Amen.