The Risen Saviour
We began last week’s sermon with the words:
“It was the end of an eventful day...” And the day we were taking about was the first Easter Sunday. We thought then about how Jesus met with two of his downcast followers trudging along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
When Jesus met those two followers he changed their sadness into joyful enthusiasm as he opened the Scriptures to them so that they could begin to understand that it had been God’s plan all along that the Messiah should suffer in the completion of his mission. In fact the Messiah would experience exactly the kind of suffering that had been come Jesus’ way in Jerusalem just a few days previously by.
And so as they sat at table for their evening meal they already were beginning to assess those recent events from a whole new perspective. And then the final penny dropped. Their eyes were opened and they recognised that the man who was breaking bread with them was not the stranger they thought he was – it was Jesus himself, and a very much alive Jesus at that.
The moment they recognised him he was gone but they knew it was real. This was no hallucination, no fruit of their vivid imagination. They had walked with this man, they had talked with him and listened to him and finally God had caused them to realise just who he was – it was their friend, the One they had hoped would redeem Israel, the One who had been crucified. It was Jesus and he was the Messiah after all!
When Jesus disappeared from their sight Cleopas and his companion could only think of doing one thing. They abandoned any plans they might have had about having an early night – they were going back to Jerusalem. When they got there they quickly found Jesus’ followers and they too were rejoicing for they too had heard that Jesus was alive – he’d shown himself to Simon.
Cleopas and his companion soon shared their own experience on the road and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread and you can bet a lively conversation took place. What a subject they all had to talk about now!
Have you ever stopped to think about this?
Doesn’t it demonstrate in a wonderful way just how much he loved his followers?
It was the very same day on which he rose from the dead and Jesus wants to be with them. They had all failed him to one degree or another but he holds no grudges and doesn’t hold back making them suffer any longer than is necessary. He doesn’t put it off till the next week, not even the next day but he goes to meet them and the first words he speaks are words of peace. Yes, he will have some challenging questions to put to them but those challenges are to be heard in the context of peace and not of insecurity.
And if this is the way Jesus sought out his followers then what makes you think that he won’t want to see you turning to him in prayer or seeking him in the Word? Particularly when we have failed him we can so easily imagine that he’ll be so displeased with us that we can’t expect to come quickly into his presence again. But how we err and how we dishonour him as we do so. This is the Saviour of the World and it is to the Saviour’s honour that he is known as the friend of sinners! He seeks out his followers and is happy to spend time with them and yet not one of them has ever been deserving for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We sing that we have a friend in Jesus and that to stay away from him only means that we needlessly bear our own pains and burdens so let’s not hesitate to carry them all to him.
It sometimes strikes us as unfair, as though we shouldn’t be able to enjoy his blessings so easily – the gospel seems too good to be true! Shouldn’t we suffer a bit more than we do? Shouldn’t we have to work a bit harder? Well the answer is a wonderful “No”! But if we think like this at times we mustn’t think we’re the only ones who ever have. The disciples that evening felt exactly the same! It all seemed far good to be true to them too.
With the risen Lord Jesus standing in front of them and speaking wonderful words of peace to them they were completely confounded! What could they make of it? How were they going to react?
Well, Luke tells us, that they acted as if they had seen a ghost! They were startled and frightened. One minute they had joyfully been talking about Jesus risen from the dead and the next moment with him standing before them it is all too much for them, far too much!
And how reasonable is Luke’s account of the events that took place in that room that evening. Most of them had never seen anything like it, a man who had been crucified and laid out dead in a tomb was alive again! Yes, they’d been thrilled by talking about it but to be personally confronted by the reality of it was another kettle of fish!! They were aware that something out of the ordinary was taking place but how were they to come to terms with it and to explain it all – maybe this was his ghost, a spirit entity – they didn’t know, how frightened they were!
And immediately come comforting words:
v.38 “Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
When Jesus put the question it was his way of introducing them to convincing proofs concerning the truth of his resurrection and the fact that it was really him and not a ghost that was speaking to them. And lying behind the question was the obvious truth that there was NO reason at all why they should be troubled NOR why they should give way to doubt.
To allay those niggling fears and doubts Jesus then took steps to assure them that it really was himself who was speaking to them. It was the same One who had been crucified and buried who was there – not a figment of their imagination, not the fruit of their fears or a projection of their guilt. How could they be sure?
Well touch him and see!
That’s what Jesus told them to do. Reach out and touch me, he said. Feel me. Don’t be worried about keeping your social distance, squeeze my arms and you’ll feel real flesh covering real solid bones. I’m alive! A spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones but I do!
And he showed them his hands and his feet. Presumably so that they might see the print of the nails on them – this was that man who had been lifted up on the cross before the very eyes and here he was again, the same man but now on the other side of death having gone through it and come out victorious!
The Bible has no time for a resurrection that is not a literal and physical resurrection and I want you to see that clearly and to understand its importance. If all that was meant by resurrection was the ideas, the example and the teaching somehow living on then Jesus’ ghost was all that was needed and there would certainly be no need to emphasise that he was not standing as a ghost before them that evening.
Jesus stood before them as one who had no succumbed to death but as the One who had overcome death as a victorious conqueror. Death is a real enemy because death is the wages of sin but a conquered enemy is no threat to those who are on the victor’s side. Jesus’ death paid the price to deliver sinners and his resurrection is proof that he has been 100% successful in that task. There is nothing left for sinners to do but trust in Jesus and they will be saved by this Mighty Conqueror.
We sometimes sing a song that was written in the 1980s that speaks of these truths:
Jesus is Lord! O’er sin the mighty conqueror,
Have you put your trust in him? You don’t need to entertain doubts and fears for he really rose from the dead and he proved it to these followers who would be responsible after his ascension for testifying boldly and with authority to the reality of what they knew to be true.
from death He rose, and all His foes
Jesus is Lord! God sent His Holy Spirit
to show by works of power
In the opening words of his second volume Luke returned to this matter when he wrote:
This helps us understand just why Jesus took such pains to remove any doubt from the minds of his first followers.
Acts 1:3 “To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”
It was staggering truth and it wasn’t easy to take on board all at once. It all seemed “too good to be true” that is what Luke means when he described the reaction of these followers in v.41. There he wrote
These were not gullible folk eagerly embracing something they really wanted to believe, they were people who were rather quite simply overwhelmed by the grandeur and magnificence of the truth that was established by a wide range of different proofs.
“they disbelieved for joy and were marvelling”
· Jesus had appeared to two on the road to Emmaus
· Jesus had appeared to Simon
· Jesus now appeared to their group meeting
· Jesus had flesh and bones that they could press and feel
But that wasn’t yet all for Jesus was about to give them another bit of proof that he was really and truly alive in a physical body:
And they gave him a piece of broiled fish – not a diet for a ghost or a spirit but a good meal for a real man!
“Have you anything here to eat?”
The hymn-writer Joseph Hart expressed all of this so well in this hymn, let me read a few of the verses:
A MAN there is, a real man,
How important it was for Jesus to have his first followers utterly convinced of his resurrection!
who once on Calvary died.
His blood for guilty sinners ran
from hands and feet and side.
This wondrous Man, of whom we tell,
He bought our souls from death and hell;
the price, His own heart’s blood...
Come then, repenting sinner, come;
approach with humble faith;
owe what you will, the total sum
is cancelled by His death!
His blood can cleanse the sin-stained soul,
He will present us sound and whole
Facts and corroborating evidence are followed up with yet more reminders of what Jesus had previously taught them and with yet another Bible study. Cleopas and his companion had some intensive theological study that day didn’t they? And I bet they didn’t regret being exposed to Bible truth twice on the same day!
Ransacking the Scriptures Jesus showed them the different Scriptures that spoke directly of the Messiah’s mission. It was all part of God’s plan!
But why was this all so important?
v.46 ““Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead...”
Well Jesus continued to explain from the Scriptures that:
And Jesus followers were convinced! Because after the ascension they set about doing just what they were supposed to do – they preached!
v.47 “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
· Repentance and forgiveness of sins
· Repentance unto forgiveness of sins
That is they preached that men and women have to change what they think about Jesus and put their trust in him for until they do so they will never know the forgiveness of sins and will remain exposed to the threat of everlasting damnation. It is the task of the church down through the centuries and it is our task today to preach on Jesus’ authority that in Jesus and Jesus alone is salvation to be found. And the message is one message that is appropriate for every kind of person – it is for all the nations. Don’t think that you are somehow different – if you are human then you must give up on old ways of thinking, on old ways of acting and admit that you were wrong and God was right all along – that is what repentance means. God the Father estimates the value of his Son as priceless and inexpressible and that means when you repent you too with that Biblical change of mind will alter your estimation of Jesus and want him above everything.
And that brings us back to where we began - Jesus came speedily to his followers. It is wonderfully reassuring to know that Jesus welcomes and receives sinners – he will welcome you if only you will come. Have you come yet to him? Oh do so without any further delay.