Since Jesus is Alive, Risen from the Dead
In recent weeks we have been focusing our attention upon the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.
This is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith and indeed without it Christianity as we understand it today would simply not exist. The apostle Paul put it succinctly when he wrote to the church in Corinth:
1Cor.15:16-17, 19 “if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins... If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
There is no good news in a dead Saviour lying in a tomb, but the burial of the Lord Jesus is not the end of the story. Paul immediately continued with:
v.20 “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,”
And there is certainly good news there!
It is because this resurrection is so important and carries such implications that the Bible teaches so clearly that Jesus really did rise from the dead. Jesus’ earliest followers had to be fully convinced that he had conquered death and was alive before they begin to turn the world upside down by preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they were! As history moved along it is clear that these early disciples were totally convinced by the evidence they saw – and therefore we have excellent reasons for us too believing that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today.
The evidence that Luke has gathered in his gospel to assure us that Jesus is risen from the dead can be summarised as follows:
- The testimony of an empty tomb
- The testimony of Jesus’ multiple appearances
- The testimony of Jesus’ own teaching
- The testimony of Scripture which prophesied just such an unfolding of events
- The “inner” testimony of illumination as the outward facts were understood and comprehended.
Well, now our task this morning is to consider just how Luke proceeded. Having established the reality of the resurrection as an objective fact of history, Luke went on to highlight a number of the consequences that flow from such an important and relevant fact. We’ll look at four of them:
Since Jesus is alive –
- We know that Jesus accomplished God’s saving plan (24:44-46)
- We know that Jesus will be proclaimed to the nations by his Spirit-empowered followers (24:47-49)
- We know that Jesus continues to reign (24:50-51)
- We know that Jesus is worthy of worship (24:52-53)
God’s Saving Plan
It is good to have a plan and it is good when that plan is carefully detailed out – all the more so if its scope is impressive and its goal a great one.
We have in our day grown used to politicians telling us all about their grandiose plans before the elections take place only to find later, once those elections are passed, that the plans they spoke so confidently about are quietly downplayed and put on the back-burner. Many fine sounding plans never seem to progress any further than the drawing board but we all know that the only plans that are worth anything are those that are successfully put into motion and then completed.
Well God’s plan was a great plan. It was a great plan of salvation that was first announced as soon as sin raised its ugly head in the world. Right back at the beginning when there were only two human beings on the earth Satan caught them out and led them into a serious act of distrust and they rebelled against God. Adam and Eve thought they could make better choices for themselves than to follow the advice of their Creator and the result was catastrophic. Sin entered the world and has contaminated every area of life. Sin is responsible for war, for hatred, for marital breakdown and for all the problems of society with which we are so familiar today.
Sin’s worst effect, however, was to separate men and women from God. The human race has been battling this problem of sin ever since and what a mess we have made by trying to fit something else into that God-shaped gap in our lives!
Well, God had a plan to overturn the negative effects of sin, all of them. It was a great plan that spoke about redemption, forgiveness and re-creation. It purposed the replacement of eternal death with eternal life and included the destruction of all Satanic forces.
And over time the details of God’s plan were gradually revealed to men and women. It focused upon one character in particular. In earliest days this character was revealed as the “One who would crush the serpent’s head” and subsequent revelation added precision that led to this liberator/saviour being known as the Messiah – Christ.
Many found the description of this person difficult to work out – one the one hand some passages spoke of him as a mighty conqueror and such truths were nice to hear. But there were others which didn’t seem to fit with the idea of a triumphant victor – these other passages spoke of rejection and suffering and death.
How could all this possibly fit together?
And then Jesus came! And for many it became a whole lot clearer! Has it become clearer for you yet?
You see all the various strands of God’s plan come together in Jesus. And the resurrection is the crowning proof of the wisdom, the power and the efficacy of God’s plan. The resurrection of Jesus – not the mere survival of a poor victim going through awful suffering but the triumphant overcoming of every obstacle and every enemy including even death itself – is the proof that God’s plan was right all along; it achieved what it set out to achieve. In fact all that remains for you to benefit from this magnificently effective, gracious and powerful plan is for you to believe in the One who carried it through to completion.
Since Jesus is alive you too can know that God plan has been accomplished and in entrusting yourself to him you too can be saved.
God’s Great Give Away
God’s salvation plan would not however be off much value if having been realised was then kept as a secret, hidden away from those who were destined to be benefit from it. You see God’s salvation plan was not something designed merely with a view to providing some potential benefits – it was designed achieve a number of real benefits, benefits that include the providing of a people for the Son and his imparting of forgiveness and newness of life to undeserving sinners; it was designed to be a means, the means, of heralding God’s gracious and steadfast love and so result in bringing glory to himself. For this to be secured it would be necessary for the good news to be shared widely with the nations of the world.
It was first announced in the OT that God’s plan was to use his chosen people as a channel whereby he might bring blessing to those who didn’t belong to that privileged group. Do you remember those promises that God made to Abraham?
Gen.12:1-3 “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Gen.26:4 “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”
The risen Lord Jesus didn’t delay in ensuring that his followers would take the evangelistic message of God’s successful salvation plan, that plan which had climaxed in his own victorious resurrection from the dead, should be actively shared throughout the world. And more than simply issue the relevant instructions Jesus promised that he would equip them with all that they would need to carry out this mission. Jesus promised that he would send what the Father had promised to his followers: he would send them the Holy Spirit, the power from on high that they would need for the task of being his witnesses throughout the whole world.
Luke is coming to the end of the first of his two books and he knew he was going to expand upon this in his next volume. For the coming of the Spirit and for a record of how he enabled the gospel to be spread throughout the known world in the years that followed we’ll have to turn to the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. But Luke most definitely wanted to briefly flag up those future developments here.
Christian mission would be launched on the Day of Pentecost when Jesus kept his promise and sent the Spirit from the Father. In the centuries that followed the news of a crucified but risen Saviour would be proclaimed on every continent and to every nation.
Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Today that mission continues as isolated people groups who have never heard the good news are hearing it for the first time. Peoples who have no copy of the Bible in their own language are being served as missionaries labour to translate God’s Word into ever more languages. And this work is being carried out in confident expectation of success even though progress may sometimes be painful and fruit slow in coming.
And how can this be?
Because God’s word tells us that when the time for judgment comes and for life as we know it to be brought to an end then there will be people from every tribe and tongue and nation who are present for worship:
Rev.5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”
Rev.7:9-10 “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!””
But someone might ask – how can this happen? The cause of religion is in decline in the West, they say, the churches are emptying, it’s all coming to an end. Where is Jesus anyway?
And Luke has already told us!
Jesus has gone to heaven and there he rules and reigns! Matthew has told us that he only went after having declared that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him. And how appropriate that is for after all the Bible tells us this about heaven:
Ps.11:4 “The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven;”
Is.66:1 “Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool;”
Jesus has gone to the throne room and there he reigns! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
There he has kept his promise of sending the Spirit and there he is still keeping his promise to build his church. It’s so easy for us to overlook facts that we already know and to fail to let them to influence our thinking isn’t it but let’s stop for a moment and remind ourselves of the state of the church when he left the earth and the state of the church now. The church then was so limited both numerically and geographically – but now! Who can tell how many followers Jesus has in the world today? Where is the nation under heaven where there are no believers?
When men on earth look on with incredulity and try to cast off the restraint of godliness they might look impressive to other men and they will make you discouraged if you pay them too much attention but, do you know something, they achieve nothing in God’s sight:
Ps.1:1, 4 “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain...? “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”
No, Jesus, the risen Lord Jesus, is alive and well. He is in heaven but one day he’ll return to his earth. His return will usher in the Day of Judgment and the plan of salvation will attain its final eternal stage – a new creation with new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will be the characteristic feature.
As he left his followers on the hillside of the Mt. of Olives at Bethany Jesus had raised hands – as he left he was blessing his people. He wasn’t expressing his hopes and desires that they might be blessed, no, he was actively and truly blessing them. And his blessing of his people did not stop with his ascension. Ascended to the right hand of the Father he continued to bless his people by sending the Spirit, he continues to bless his people by representing them and by interceding on their behalf securing for them everything they need.
Small wonder then that his disciples when they returned to Jerusalem after watching him go to heaven did so “with great joy” (v.52).
Jesus is Worthy of Worship
We have already touched upon this matter when we referred to the fact that the good news preached to the nations would prove to be both appropriate and effective in meeting the needs of individuals from every type of cultural background. At the last day worship will be offered to Jesus, the Lamb of God and his glory will be admired forever and ever by his redeemed followers. But worship of Jesus begins long before the arrival of that great day!
Luke brings his gospel record to a close on a joyful note of praise and worship.
Jesus has gone. He has been carried up to heaven. And his disciples react with worship. This worship can’t be interpreted as though it was simply saying nice things to Jesus while he was still with them for it took place once he had gone! They worshipped a Christ who was no longer physically present with them and in thus they were simply the first of a long unbroken line of men and women who worship Jesus.
He had gone and they treated him in a way that is only appropriate for God himself. Remember Jesus’ earliest followers were all Jews and Jews were a passionately monotheistic people. The Scriptures laid it our very clearly for them: they were to worship the Lord exclusively. Jesus himself had summarised OT law when answering the question as to what the greatest commandment was. He declared:
Lk.4:8 “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”
Yet here they were ascribing gladly to Jesus what was appropriate and authorised only for God. It wasn’t that they were turning their backs on the teaching of the OT and replacing it with something different but rather they had come to realise that this man whom they had just observed being caught up to heaven was God incarnate. It was right and proper for them to offer Jesus their worship for he was and is God!
This belief had grown during the time that Jesus had been with them: they had seen him do things that God alone could do – they had see him carry out a wide range of miracles – and they had heard him say things that only God could say (eg. the forgiveness of sins) but perhaps the final conclusive proof to them of their Saviour’s divine status lay in his recent resurrection from the dead – as the apostle Paul would later write in his letter to the Romans:
Rom.1:4 he “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,”
Indeed these disciples as they worshipped their Saviour they were doing exactly what God the Father expects of men and women:
Phil.2:9-11 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Have you become a worshipper of the Lord Jesus? What is hindering you from following the same path as these early disciples or those who, down through the centuries, have put their trust in Jesus?
And may God be glorified as we honour and trust his Son.