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Sermon May 5, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1396

May 5, 2019 Luke 24.36-53

Dr. Ed Pettus

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

 

“To See the Risen Lord”

 

  • To See the Risen Lord

 

Luke 24 is a full Sunday! The tomb was found empty early in the morning. The women told the disciples about it. Peter ran back to confirm. Jesus walked with two disciples from Jerusalem to Emmaus and then the two returned to Jerusalem to tell the disciples about that encounter. Verse 36 picks up at this point, still on resurrection day, still Sunday. They were talking about all that had happened. Luke 24.36 says, “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. As they were talking and experiencing the testimonies and possibilities, Jesus, the text says, stood among them. He appeared. As quickly as He disappeared from their presence in Emmaus, now He appears back in Jerusalem. He is certainly a resurrection body but something even more amazing seems to be going on to when He can disappear and reappear!

 

  • A Bodily Resurrection

 

When Jesus does appear, the first thing He says is “Peace to you!” This is a common opening line in the Bible when appearances like this happen. When an angel appears, “Peace, do not be afraid.” When Jesus shows up unexpected, “Peace!” Fear is the first response at the sight of Jesus, or in other places and angel or when God gives someone a task to do like freeing His people from Egypt. We need those words of comfort and reassurance in times of fear. Mom might tell us everything is okay, it was just a dream. The doctor might say there are new treatments and everything will be alright. Jesus among them is not a dream; He is not a spirit.

Jesus invites them to look and touch and later to give him something to eat. Spirits don’t have physical bodies, nor do they have appetites. This is the bodily resurrected Lord of glory, the Jesus who was crucified on the cross and has risen from the tomb. 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. He gave His last breath. Then, “On the third day he rose again.” We also affirm Jesus' death and resurrection in the EPC 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! He has a resurrected body.

Luke writes that they were still not convinced. The phrase he uses is that they “still disbelieved for joy and were marveling”. Excited, but unsure. Thrilled, but still suspect. Just about too good to be true. But they had more testimony, even before Jesus appeared, they had the testimony of the women, testimony of Peter, and the testimony of Cleopas and his companion. Now the disciples have the physical body of Christ and a meal to share together.

 

 

  • To Fulfill All Scripture

 

Jesus finishes his fish and reminds them of what he had told them time and time again while he walked with them for three years. He told them what would happen: death, rising, and the proclamation of this gospel. These are the three themes that will form our central message to the world: (1) the suffering and crucifixion of the Jesus, (2) his resurrection from the dead, and (3) the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness to all nations. Jesus also teaches them as He taught the two on the road to Emmaus. Luke adds Psalms to the list of Moses and the prophets. Again, we don’t know what Scripture Jesus taught, but what they see is how Jesus fulfilled all the Scripture. 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.

Jesus opens their minds to remember what He had told them about Himself prior to the cross. Jesus opened their minds to see the core teaching of the Christian faith: that Christ would suffer and die, that Christ would rise from the dead, and that He would send all who believe in Him with a message of repentance and forgiveness. We share a message of death and life in Jesus and a message of death and life for all who believe, death to sin (repentance) and life in Jesus (forgiveness). This is becoming an even more difficult message for a world that does not recognize sin very much anymore. It appears that sexual sins no longer exist. Abuses of power no longer require penalty. The term illegal is no longer valid in some minds. The list goes on. When there is no longer a need for repentance, the message of repentance falls on deaf ears. But there is good news because God is still working in the hearts and minds of people. God is still opening ears and eyes and minds and hearts. There are still many to bring into the family of God. So this message given in Luke 24 is still our message today: Jesus died that we might live. Repent and believe and your sins will be forgiven!

 

 

  • Witnesses with Power

 

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. 49 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 message is clear and the witnesses are soon to receive power. Now when we read verse 48 “You are witnesses of these things”, Jesus is certainly referring to the things they had been talking about – His death and resurrection. But there is something about the term witness that goes beyond just what one has seen, for a witness is also a testifier. Witnesses give testimony. “Witness” is the Greek word martures from which we get the term martyr. A martyr is one whose testimony leads to persecution or suffering for the faith or possibly death! That is a serious witness!

But we have seen the great witnesses in the Bible, even long before Jesus as Hebrews reminds us in chapter 11. By faith, Noah, Abraham, Moses and the list is extensive. All this leads to Hebrews 12.1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

What is the race set before us? It is to be a witness, to give the testimony, to live as a martyr, to proclaim Jesus, repentance, and forgiveness. In the Old Testament God calls forth His witnesses like in

 

Isaiah 43.10-13


10“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. 12I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.
13Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

 

And God calls forth witnesses in the New Testament as well.

Acts 1.4-8

4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

We are not sent alone. The same power from on high given to the disciples has been given to us. In the power of the Holy Spirit we are called to give witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are called on to preach repentance and forgiveness and the Spirit will enable us to form the words and have the courage and to share with friend, neighbor, and even stranger.

 

 

  • To Worship the Lord

 

The final scene Luke is one of worship. Jesus takes them out to Bethany. He blessed them and while blessing He is taken up. The disciples return to Jerusalem and what do they do? They bless the Lord in worship. Their fear and disbelief is turned into rejoicing and blessing. Now they look forward to what will happen, what power will be sent, what adventure they will experience. I like to imagine that the disciples worshiped with Psalm 103.

 

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.”

 

I imagine that every word of the Psalm took on new meaning for them because they now knew first had the benefits of the Lord. For they knew the reality of forgiveness of iniquity, healing of diseases, redemption from the pit. They knew fully the God’s mercy and grace, patience and steadfast love. This Psalm and all the Scriptures came alive for them with Jesus as they also come alive for us! That is the gospel – the God who sent his Son – benefits from heaven.

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. We are now the witnesses who have seen the Lord, for we have seen Him in Luke, and Mark, and John, and Matthew, and in all of Scripture. We now give the testimony about the fish He ate and the hands and feet He showed. We are the witnesses to the Gospel message that Jesus suffered and died, was raised, gave us repentance and forgiveness in order that we might proclaim that 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, for we too have seen the Risen Lord! Amen.