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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thus it is Written (Luke 24.13-47)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - April 27, 2014
Text: Luke 24:13-47

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
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:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: "Praise Him! Praise Him!" (piano 4-hands) (Larry Shackley)
Call to Worship: "Hallelujah to the Risen Lamb!" (Lloyd Larson)
Song of Praise: "You Have Been Raised" (Sovereign Grace - Altrogge et al.)
Offering of Music: "You Said" (Hillsong - Morgan))
Our Song of Praise: "The Doxology"
Hymn of Sending: "Lift High the Cross" (CRUCIFER)
Postlude: "Lift High the Cross" (Charles Ore)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing 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.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them. 44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are 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 He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.(Luke 24:36-47)
We are finally at the end of our “it is written” series that started back in January. In it we have been seeing how Jesus valued and taught the Old Testament scriptures (his only scriptures) and then how he actually embodied and fulfilled those scriptures. You might think all that would find its conclusion in the Good Friday crucifixion and the Easter resurrection, but it actually extends on past that. And we actually see Jesus continuing to appeal to scripture as he appears to men and women after the Resurrection.

On Easter, we considered the invitation to come and check out Jesus for yourself, especially since the claims of Christianity are so mind-boggling! But we also noted that not everyone is a Peter, ready to run and see and hope for Jesus to check out. Many struggle mightily with doubt and unbelief. And we ended last week with the hopeful note that God does not hide, but comes after humanity. We see that this week, as Jesus appears to those who may have given up, wandered off, or lost hope. And what we will see is that Jesus comes in a number of ways, appealing to head, heart, and spirit. Finally, we will see that what scripture promised in Christ did not even end at the Resurrection, but propels the story of a God-who-pursues on to the world that God loves.

All the things written in Law, Prophets, Psalms (v. 44)

In two separate stories today you hear of Jesus appearing to those who missed his resurrection. First, on the Emmaus road he appears to two leaving Jerusalem. Then, he appears to the disciples, still gathered and trying to make sense of the reports coming in. In both cases, Jesus opens the scriptures, demonstrating how all of scripture – Law, Prophets, and Psalms – have been fulfilled. I’d like to briefly suggest what that might have sounded like…

I can think of a number of passages from the Law that Jesus might have spoken about that day. We’ve looked at the Sermon on the Mount, where he took the Law, including some of the Ten Commandments, and pressed them beyond external observance to the heart. More directly connected to who Jesus was, I think of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 (of John 3:16 fame). There, in response to questions about being “born again,” Jesus compares what will happen to the Son of Man to the Numbers 21 account of Moses making a bronze serpent – a symbol of the people’s sin – and putting it up on a pole that all who looked upon it in obedience and faith would be healed. Jesus says later in John 5:46, talking about the ways scripture testifies about him: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

I can think of a number of passages from the Prophets that anticipated Jesus. We’ve spent the most time talking about Isaiah 53, using it for several weeks as our prayer of confession. It is the passage about the “suffering servant.” Jesus quoted from that passage more than once, but we especially saw connections in Luke 22 at the Last Supper and as they prepared to head to the garden where Jesus would be arrested. Isaiah is also in the forefront in many of the details of Jesus’ birth as well early in his ministry when he reads from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue to declare good news, liberty, freedom, and the Year of the Lord.

Finally, Jesus explains how the Psalms point to him. We’ve especially focused on Psalm 118 on Palm Sunday, but Psalm 22 and 69 are well-known in conjunction with Jesus’ crucifixion in their description of forsakenness and suffering. Psalm 72 speaks of God’s righteousness and judgment, extended through the descendant of David (i.e., the Messiah). That Psalm also concludes with a vision of God’s blessing extending through God’s people to all nations. We will see that extension in play in Jesus resurrection encounter in today’s text and in the book of Acts which will follow.

A Personal Experience and an Open Mind

Jesus not only explains from scripture; he also lets people touch him. He eats with them. He provides a human and tangible experience of him resurrected. I’m not saying that Jesus should have appeared in the flesh to all of you. But almost everyone I know with sincere faith would describe it as more than “head knowledge.” God may have answered prayer or delivered from bondage or given hope in the darkness… often there is some kind of experiential component to what we would call faith. Sometimes we’ve had it but miss it waiting for something flashier; like waiting to fall in love Hollywood-style while missing the faithful and constant companion who has stood by us through thick and thin. My point is not to make you feel like you’ve missed something, but to point out that God not only comes to us through words and through the mind, but through life itself; and the best word I know to put on that is “experience.” Sometimes, if you are looking for faith to grow, one of the most effective prayers is to ask God to help you see where he is showing up in your life. Often it’s already happening and we just don’t see it, like the two on the road to Emmaus who walked some distance before realizing who was walking with them!

Finally, don’t miss what is in verse 45. Jesus also “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” That’s why I said that God comes to us heart, mind, AND spirit. That’s one of the roles of the Holy Spirit – to illuminate our understanding, to help us to see. We need God’s help from start to finish; the Good News is that God is pleased to provide that help! So that’s really the best thing to pray. God is meeting us and speaking to us all the time; we just have trouble SEEING it… UNDERSTANDING it. For someone interested in faith or even for someone who is not, I can’t think of a better prayer than the prayer of illumination: “Lord, help them (or help me) to SEE!” 

Christ for the Nations (vv. 46-47)

So all that is the main portion of the two stories in Luke 24… how Jesus came to two different groups of people in mind, heart, and spirit. And I think that is instructive for us as we try to understand and appreciate a God who pursues humanity.

In a slightly more public direction, but definitely related, our text ends with an expansion on the scripture-fulfillment theme we’ve been tracking since January. For some time we have been starting our worship with Jesus’ words in Luke 18:31-33, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” After appearing and opening the scriptures to his followers in Luke 24:46-47, Jesus repeats much of that: “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day…” But he adds more on to the end now: “Thus it is written… that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (v. 47)

Scripture is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but Christ’s work did not end on the cross or even in Resurrection. The forgiveness of sins purchased on the cross and the victory over death and sins achieved on Easter are FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD… the nations. Even in that we are reminded of the ancient scripture, the promise to Abraham that God would be his God and his children would be God’s people, blessed in order to be a blessing for all the nations of the world. God is in pursuit of humanity and the proclamation of that news is just beginning in these days after Easter.

It is a stunning and humbling reminder that God’s love and salvation are personal, but not private. God is personal and pursuing and public, for the sake of the world. That should and must set our course as God’s people, fixing our hearts outward towards the world God loves. And in the weeks to come that is indeed where we will follow scripture and Jesus and the Holy Spirit as we move towards a celebration of Pentecost. Amen.

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