Have you ever found yourself on your phone scrolling down Facebook when a friend shares a ‘competition:’ a local Range Rover dealer is giving away a new car for free because someone bought one and has not turned up to collect it. All you have to do is like and share the post. Perhaps it’s an airline you have never heard of giving away free flights (during a pandemic) because a family had to cancel a holiday, and they are not allowed to resell them! All you have to do is like the post, share it, and that luxury break could be yours. The world is full of stuff that appears too good to be true.
I wonder what you do such things? Do you hope against hope that even though the page giving away this prize was only created yesterday that it may just be your lucky day, or do you move on quickly because nothing in life is really free, and it is just too good to be true? Our passage today comes at the end of the Easter narrative in Lukes Gospel; the disciples are gathered and are wrestling with testimonies that appear too good to be true: They have heard the witness of the women, the testimony of Peter, and now the elation of the Emmaus two. Yet, it all just seems too good to be true; when suddenly amid their mist appears the one of whom they have been told! Jesus stands among them to make real what they have heard. The disciples are overwhelmed by it all; they cannot grasp the reality of the risen saviour. Yet, they soon grasp that the rising saviour’s news is too good not to be true and what it means for them and all who follow Jesus.
|36 As they were talking about these things, cJesus himself stood among them, and saidto them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were dstartled and efrightened and fthought they sawa spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in yourhearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. gTouch me, and see. For a spiritdoes not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, hheshowed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved ifor joy and weremarveling, jhe said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece ofbroiled fish,2 43 and he took it and ate before them.
44 Then he said to them, k“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 nit is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third-day prise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for3 the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name sto all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 uYou 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 ware clothed with xpower yfrom on high.”
The Confusion of that First Easter Day
I often wonder how conflicting the disciples’ emotions must have been that Easter weekend. The journey they must have all went through: from losing their leader and teacher on Good Friday; then fearing for their lives to the despair and hopelessness of Black Saturday; and then the confusion of that Sunday morning, the women declaring that the tomb was empty; then John and Peter going and confirming the same story. Surely in those moments, their fears must have increased all the more; they must have thought the government was beginning to cover up the whole thing. We hear the story and know what to expect; it prepares us – but consider for a moment being one of the disciples and trying to figure out just what was going on.
How confusing that first Easter must have been as those gathered tried to figure out just what was actually happening. Imagine being there trying to figure out what was going on as everything kept changing; considering the overwhelming sense of fear as the narrative kept shifting: first towards the powers and then towards the unknown as they wondered just who and what was ‘risen.’ Then, there that evening as they listened to the testimony of the Emmaus two Luke tells us: ‘Jesus himself stood among them, and said to the “Peace to You!”’ The resurrection that was a tale at that moment became a reality for all in the room.
This Really Is Jesus: (36-43)
Lots of us have grown up with the resurrection story in our minds; we have been conditioned to expect it every Easter. Thus, we lose the shock of it all; how unlikely it was to expect that after the events of Good Friday, Jesus would ever be seen again. Hence, even after the women’s testimony, the testimony of Simon Peter, and then the Two Emmaus Road disciples, it was still the least likely thing to expect that Jesus was alive! All who were in the room would have known something was happening, but it became real when at that moment as Christ appeared among them. Surely it cannot be what they have all said it can be: Jesus cannot rise, he cannot be here because he died! Luke tells us of their emotional reaction: Startled and frightened and then their rational reaction – they thought they had saw a Spirit. This room has had the culmination of testimonies; the women, Simon-Peter, the Emmaus Road Disciples. Yet, they cannot comprehend it; rather, they fear it because they do not yet understand.
To their fear, Jesus speaks “peace” because this really is Jesus. It is not some spiritual figment of the Jesus they knew. The same Jesus brought them peace in the storms and now offers them peace to their fears. He Speaks peace to remove their apprehension and to enable them to begin to fully believe in and understand what is happening. That the Cross was always the way God intended to work, and that through the cross, God was beginning a new redemptive work in the world.
See And Believe
To add to this imagery and emphasis, Luke presents Jesus inviting the disciples to touch the wounds on his hands and feet and eating with them. It is the most literal presentation of Jesus post-resurrection in all of the New Testament:
“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.”1
Here is Jesus with all his wounds, among his friend eating and speaking to them peace. Luke wants us as we read (as Jesus wanted the disciples to grasp) that his resurrection was as real as his death, and to know him is to grasp that. Yes, this is the same Jesus that they always knew, yet, this Jesus is not the same. Think about verse 36 again, how he appeared among them, akin to the heavenly messenger who appeared before Mary at the beginning of the Gospel, yet, the same Jesus they knew and loved as they watched him eat some fish.
I wonder who Jesus is to you when you think about the resurrection? Luke here leaves us with little room; to know Jesus is to know that the resurrected Jesus is the same as before the Cross. He died a literal death and rose again bodily three days later in so doing defeated death and opening up the way for humanity to know God. To know him and his Peace amid all fears is to know him as the Resurrected one.
The Fulfilment of the Scriptures (44-46)
Despite the efforts Jesus makes here to demonstrate his real presence among them, Luke seems to make it clear that it is still not enough for them to understand; we see this in verse 41. Eugene Peterson captures it better when he phrases it: “They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.” (MSG) The disciples could see Jesus, but such was the realness of the moment. It all just seemed too good to be true. They did not fully understand the why behind the what! Hence, in verses 44-46, like with the two on the Emmaus Road, Jesus begins to show them from Scripture that this was always Gods plan.
A People of the Word Who Understand by the Word
We are reminded here about the importance of Gods word for God’s people. To know God is to know His Word; to live for God is to live via his word. Furthermore, Jesus reminds us here that He is the fulfilment of all of the Scriptures. In Him – his life, death, and resurrection – is the fulfilment of the redemptive work of God that the Old Testament foretold. Thus, Jesus opens their minds to the wonders of God by opening their minds to the wonders of the Scriptures. Christ is the Word (Logos) of God, and it is by the word of God that Christ is known. Then it is by our word that we make Christ known. Jesus clarifies that understanding Scripture comes not simply through hearing; the disciples have heard it all before. No, to understand Scripture and the work of God is to grasp the realisation that all of Scripture is centred and focused on Him. The constant use of the first person singular in this section of the passage (“my words, I spoke, while I was still with you, about me.”) make this point clear.
A Summary of His Message
The summary of Jesus explanation is captured in the three phrases: “Suffer,” “Rise,” and “be preached.” The resurrected Jesus stands there among them, explaining and helping them to understand. First, Christ had to Suffer and die – he did. Second, he must rise again – he did; the disciples were now experiencing this reality for themselves. Finally, Jesus states what remains to be accomplished and what will be the life of all disciples after the resurrection who trust in Him and join in the work of his Kingdom: We are to be witnesses of these things.
Life After the Resurrection (47-48)
I don’t know if you have ever had a “What Now?” moment. When something occurs, and you wonder just what you are meant to do with it. I remember thinking after my ordination – What now? It’s an answer I am still trying to figure out! I wonder as the disciples sat in the presence of the resurrected Jesus, still trying to process what was going on, listening to him explain the scriptures. They slowly started to understand all that was happening. Did they find themselves wondering what they were meant to do with it all? If they did, the uncertainty would not have lasted long. Just as Scripture had helped them to understand the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, so too would it make clear to them the responsibility that would become theirs. Jesus had done his bit. Now it was their turn! It was by the word they knew him, and it would be by their word they would make him known.
Jesus commissions the disciples (and all who would follow him) to carry on the work he started, as he called them to Preach and tell of all that he had done, a call that they started fulfilling from Acts 2. A moment from which the church has followed as we have sought to proclaim the good news of Jesus through the preaching of the word.
The message they would proclaim would be one of repentance; they would be sent into the world to call people to turn from the world to Christ. It was not about changing people’s minds; it was about changing the orientation of a person’s life from the worship of things to the worship of the one true God. To come to God in faith through Christ was to grasp that without Jesus, we are walking the wrong road, and with him, we will know the wonder of Eternal life. The disciples were called to proclaim the risen Jesus and in that proclamation call people to turn to Him and trust Him. Why would people turn from the world to God, because through the work of Christ: his life, death and resurrection, there is no longer any obstacle between humankind and God – the curse of sin is gone, banished through Christ’s redemptive victory on the Cross and through Jesus and the commission given to all disciples the offer of forgiveness will go to every corner of the earth, and the Kingdom of Heaven goes forward, and God manifests his willingness to be gracious to all who might turn to him. While Jesus will ascend to be with his Father in heaven, it is not that he is withdrawing from the world, for those who go out do so in his name and under his authority. They are his presence in the world, empowered by God to do the work of God.
The last point that Jesus makes as he commissions them is about the reach of this message and their call. The disciples often struggled because they assumed that the redemptive work of God’s messiah would have a narrow ethnic focus. They assumed that God would only offer salvation to a few; as Jesus finishes his commission, he reminds the disciples and all who will follow them that this is not a narrow offer, but one that will go to the ends of the world; to every tribe, tongue and nation. It will start in Jerusalem, yet, God did not intend the message to remain only for Jerusalem; it would journey the world and change the world. Peter started preaching in Acts 2, and it would take to Acts 10 for the Good News of Jesus to begin to travel. Yet, it has been travelling ever since.
There is life after the Resurrection, and we are called to live out the same patterns as the first disciples. Jesus saves us to use us; as they were commissioned to make know the hope of the Cross, so to has every disciple been in every generation and every place the church of Christ exists. Their commission is our commission, so let us not simply rest on the resurrection or study God work to know God without making God known. Let us get on with the Kingdom Commission that is ours where God has placed us. That though word and deed, the good news of Jesus might be made known.
Conclusion and Application
So as we close, there are several things for us to remind ourselves of in terms of faith and following Jesus. Firstly, Luke makes it quite clear as we write that this resurrection of Jesus was a real and literal event; the early church believed it because the early church witnessed it. It was not some mythical or spiritual rising; it was a bodily resurrection as Jesus stood there among them, showed them his scars, eat some fish and chatted; it was the same Jesus who they had saw die but a few days before. To know Jesus and follow him is to know the truth and wonder of the resurrection! Yes, we to can be overwhelmed but more in the sense of what it offers to all who turn to Church: Grace, the forgiveness of sins and relationship with God. Today, let us renew in ourselves the wonder and hope of the resurrection. Let us remember that we are a resurrection people – it is the event by which we have faith and the event by which we live confidently and proclaim the Lordship and reign of Christ. It is the event by which we are all who turn to Christ can have faith in every situation because it reminds us that God is working for good in every situation. Else as Paul wrote: “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Cor 15:19 NLT).
A Commissioned People
While we stand on the Resurrection as disciples of Jesus, we do not stay there. No, as a risen people who are confident that this life is not all, we live this life to the full. We live in a way that points people to the life everlasting, the life only found in Christ. The reality of the resurrection is that it breaths into our new life and a new vigour for life as we seek to make Jesus known. The defeating of death does not turn the followers of Jesus into idol people who sit about awaiting death because there is something better. No, the resurrection people are a commissioned people who are called and equipped to make Christ known in the world. This is the reality of life after the resurrection: Jesus has done the major work, but there is still work to be done, and he calls his disciples to it. As the disciples were commissioned then, so too is each generation of disciples called to the same work of proclamation and deed so that all might know the hope of Jesus. We call people to repent and look to Jesus because we know that it is the best thing to do, and we are not selecting in whom we tell the good news because we know at the foot of the cross everyone stands equal in need. Hence we go to where Jesus has sent us: everywhere. This witnessing will look different for each of us; we are each gifted and called in unique ways and unique places. For some, it will mean a ministry of the word because God has called them to preach; for others, it will be a ministry of faithfulness in the normal places because that is where God has placed them. What matters not is the size of our impact or the stage (or lack of) that God may give to some; what matters is our faithfulness to the message so that all might know the hope of Jesus and his resurrection.
Empowered with a Purpose
I remember once starting a job and finding myself on the first day with lots to do and little idea of how to do it. I had been employed for a purpose and then abandoned once that commission had begun. Thankfully in the work of the Kingdom of God, we are never alone. Jesus commissioned the disciples and then told them: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in the life of disciples and through the church to advance his kingdom and make him known. They would never be alone in the work of the Kingdom; the God who calls us is the same God who empowers us to his work. Every believer receives God the Holy Spirit into their lives as both a deposit and assurance of faith but also as the power for the Kingdom work to which all have been called; whether we are faithfully stacking shelves and talking about Jesus when the chance arrives, or we find ourselves writing books and proclaiming Jesus across the world – it is the same Holy Spirit work in each of us and through each of us. Today, let us not be dismayed by the state of the world or by what we find ourselves facing; let us remember that we are an empowered people with a purpose, so let us get on with the work of making Jesus known.
Don’t Miss Sight of Jesus
How do you react to something that appears too good to be true? Do you pass over it on to the next thing in life? What about something too good not to be true? Jesus is not something that allows us to pass over him; we either respond to him and reap the benefit of Grace or ignore him at our own peril. We trust in him or trust in ourselves, as we ultimately know that we cannot be trusted. Jesus is not too good to be true; he is the truth by which we can have hope in every circumstance and the truth by which we live. He is the truth of the world that the world needs and called to make known to the world.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 24:39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles. ↩