Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 24:1-12 – What Do We Do With The Resurrection Of Christ?

Grace For The Journey

We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke and we find ourselves beginning the final chapter, chapter 24.  If you are wondering why we are studying an Easter passage in early September it is not because we are confused or ignorant, but simply because it is the next passage in our sequential study of the book of Luke.

Having said that . . .

It is always appropriate

To preach an Easter message

Because it is always appropriate

To preach the resurrection.  

In fact, we cannot fully appreciate any event in human history apart from the resurrection of Christ, apart from the redemptive message of the cross and our need for salvation.

The previous chapter, chapter 23, concluded with the death and burial of Christ in a tomb just outside the city of Jerusalem.  It was the day before Sabbath and there are some women who intended to come back after the Sabbath to anoint Christ’s body with spices and fragrant oils.  Luke begins chapter 24 with what happens on that third day, the first day of the week, Sunday.

I want you to picture in your mind for a moment a car with a trailer hitched to the back, a U-Haul trailer . . . Now I want to state the obvious: The car does not need the trailer in order to move forward.  Right?  A car can move without a trailer attached to it. If you’re driving the car, it is up to you whether you wish to attach something to the back and haul it around.

The resurrection is not like a U-Haul trailer that we hitch to the back of a car.  It is not as though one can be a Christian and just sort of “take or leave” the resurrection.  Yet, there are many people who try to do just that.  They say they believe in the teachings of Christ, but they do not believe in the bodily resurrection.  Some of these men and women are gifted scholars and write books.  Some of them even pastor churches.  But they view the resurrection as something of a U-Haul trailer, you can hitch it to your life if you like, but it really is not necessary.

And yet, the Bible teaches something else.  You read the New Testament and you read the Apostle Paul and you get the idea that the resurrection drives everything.  

The truth of Christianity rises or falls

On the fact of an empty tomb.

That is not my conclusion, it is the center-piece of the message of the Gospel . . .

Romans 4:25 – Christ was, “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Romans 6:4-5 – “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4 – “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand” . . . For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

1 Corinthians 15:17 – “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”

For the Christian . . .

The resurrection is everything.

It is truth that makes

Our lives possible.

I want to share with you from the first 12 verses in Luke 24 a few things about this truth of the resurrection . . .

I. It Is A Truth To Remember – Verses 1-8.

Luke opens chapter 24 telling us that these women came to the tomb bringing spices in order to anoint the body of Christ.  It was a very loving thing to do.  They did not have time to do it the day Christ died because it was the eve of the Sabbath.  They are making their way to the tomb of Christ.  But when they arrive at the tomb, they find the stone rolled away and the body missing.  The Bible tells us that the women are “greatly perplexed” about this.

I am not going to take a lot of time to debunk all the popular liberal theories and alternative explanations of what happened to Christ’s body . . .  

  • Someone says, “The body was missing because the disciples came and got it and hid it somewhere.”

We can hardly imagine that scenario given the cowardice of these disciples who fled from Christ once He was arrested, to say nothing of their dying for the truth of the resurrection; all but one of them would eventually die the death of a martyr, dying for the truth of the resurrection.

  • Someone else says, “Well, the Jews stole the body or the Romans stole the body and hid it.”

Again, this makes even less sense, for if the Jews or Romans had the body then they certainly would have produced it for the world to see.  You have got these disciples later claiming that they had seen the resurrected Christ and that He appeared to them and so forth.  If that were not so and the unbelieving Jews or Romans actually had the body themselves, all they had to do was say, “The disciples are lying. Here’s the body of Jesus right here!”

Luke, being guided by the Holy Spirit tells us what happened.  While the women are standing there wondering what had happened to the body of Jesus, Luke says in verse 4 that, “two men stood by them in shining garments.” These were angels.  The women are afraid when they see the angels.  The angels ask this question of the women in verse 5, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  That is a good question, isn’t it?  But that is just the problem: they were not seeking the living.  They were seeking the dead. They had come to finish the anointing of Christ’s body for burial. They were not seeking the living. They were seeking the dead.

The angels say in verse 6, “He is not here, but is risen!” and apparently they are still standing with mouths open and question marks above their heads and so the angels say, “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee.”  They were to remember.  Remember what?  What had Jesus said?  Verse 7 tells us, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”  Jesus had said that very thing three different times (Luke 9:44; Luke 11:29-30; and Luke 18:31-33), but the significance of those statements did not sink in until this moment.  Luke then records in verse 8, “And they remembered His words.”

The resurrection is a truth to remember.  And once the women remembered that truth, it changed their lives.  Matthew, in his Gospel, tells us the women now had a fear mingled with great joy.  He is risen; this was Good News from the graveyard!  They then return in joy to tell others about the resurrected Christ.

The resurrection is a truth to remember.  

The resurrection changes our lives,

Not just at the point of initial salvation,

But at every point along the

Journey of the Christian’s life.

Because Christ is risen, I am forgiven of all my sins.  The Bible says in Romans 4:25, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” In other words, Jesus died taking our sins upon Himself and then God raised Jesus from the dead “for our justification;” that is, “so that we could be declared ‘Not guilty’ of our sin.”

This is why Christians can joyfully sing that part of the song, “In Christ Alone,” which says: “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me.” The resurrection is not just, “No fear in death.”  That is great, of course.  I thank God that I have no fear in death.  I hope you have no fear of dying, too.  When our bodies die our souls will live-on either in heaven or hell depending on what we have done with the resurrection.

But the resurrection is not

Just, “No fear in death.”

The resurrection is also,

“No guilt in life.”

When you and I sin as Christians, because of the resurrection, we can remember this truth, and we can say, “No guilt in life.”

The resurrection is a truth to remember.  Secondly . . .

It Is A Truth To Report – Verses 9-10.

Verses 9 and 10 tells us, “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things [they reported these things] to the eleven and to all the rest.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.”  These women did not keep the Good News of the resurrection to themselves; they shared the good news with others.

This is our task as well and really it is not so much a task as it is a privilege.  We have a life-saving message to share with everyone, from folks in our community across the seas to the continents around the world.  We have Good News too good to keep to ourselves.

If I know of a good restaurant and I really enjoy eating there, what am I going to do?  I am going to share that good news with others.  If I know of a place where they serve good tea or coffee, I will be fired-up about that and I will share that good news with others.  But the resurrection is more important than dinner and coffee.  If I know you have an illness and I know it is a fatal illness, an illness that will lead to death if untreated.  If I have had that same illness, but I have been healed, and I know you have the same illness and I do not share the medication with you, what am I?  I am selfish, uncaring, mean, and criminal.  The resurrection is a truth to report. It’s a truth to tell others.

Some need to share this truth with your family.  Some need to share this truth with a friend at school. Some of you need to share the life-saving message of the resurrection with somebody because, “All have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We all have a fatal disease.  We are all sinners.  Unless we receive the antidote of the Gospel, we will remain dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

The resurrection: it is a truth to remember; it is a truth to report;  and thirdly . . .

III.        It Is A Truth To Receive – Verses 11-12.

Every one of us must receive the truth of the resurrection.  It is a truth that must become personal to us, not personal in the sense of private.  Christianity is not a private religion. Christianity is personal, that is . . . It means something to us personally.  It is not an abstract, it real and personal to us.  The resurrection is a truth we must receive by faith.

This was not the case for the disciples at first.  They had trouble grappling with the resurrection.  After the disciples had heard the truth the women had reported, they were at first unwilling to receive it as truth.  Verse 11 says, “And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”  It is interesting that Christ should choose to appear first to women.  We have noted before that women were often treated as second-class or third-class citizens in the day of Jesus.  Their testimony was not heard and believed in the same way a man’s testimony would be heard.  It is just like Jesus, then, to turn the tables yet again.

Christ’s appearing first to women and their being the first eye-witnesses account is yet another thing that argues for the authenticity of the resurrection account. If you lived in the time of Jesus and you wanted to make up a story and present it as true and you wanted to write a story about someone rising from the dead, you would not choose women as the first people to see and report about it because nobody would believe women.

It is just like Jesus to appear to them first.  This is not made up.  It is just another demonstration of God’s ways not being the ways of man.  In fact, the Bible says the disciples could not believe what they were hearing.  Verse 11 says that all this talk about Jesus being alive “seemed to them like idle tales,” literally “nonsense,” and “they did not believe them.”  Verse 12 even tells us Peter ran to the tomb; and stooping down, sees the evidence of the resurrection, but cannot seem to receive this truth.  Now of course, later, the disciples will encounter the resurrected Christ Himself and they will believe.  They will receive this truth of the resurrection and be saved. 

But why do so many not receive the resurrection as truth today?  I think, in part, it can be explained by what we read and studied in Luke 16.  Remember the story Jesus told about the unbelieving rich man and the believing man named Lazarus?  Both died; Lazarus went to heaven; the unbelieving rich man went to hell.  Remember also how the rich man requested that Lazarus should be allowed to go and warn his brothers about death and the judgment to come?  Is his request granted?  No.  The reply to the request is, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”  In other words, they have the Bible.  The Bible warns of death and the judgment to come.  The Bible tells how we must be saved.  But the unbelieving rich man cries out from hell, “No, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” But then comes the reply, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”  Luke may as well say here in chapter 24 what he recorded in chapter 16, “If we do not hear Moses and the prophets [if we do not know our Bibles and believe our Bibles], neither will we be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

The truth of the resurrection

Is a fact of the Bible that

We must receive by faith.

We must believe it and receive its truth into our lives.  If you are waiting for some supernatural special sign in the sky or for God to call you up on your mobile phone and speak audibly to you, you will remain dead in your trespasses and sins.  But if you will receive this truth of the resurrection, you will be saved.

You must deal with the resurrection. If you do not do so today, you will answer for it at a future time.  Most of us keep calendars and we make and keep appointments.  There are two appointments in our calendars that we do not make ourselves; they are made for us by God.  The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man to die once and after this, the judgment.”  Two appointments made for us by God: death and judgment.  Are you prepared for those two appointments?

To prepare for them we must deal with the resurrection: a truth to remember, a truth to report, and a truth to receive.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:50-56 – Taking a Stand for Christ

Grace For The Journey

The evangelist Billy Sunday used to tell of a professing Christian who got a job in a lumber camp that had the reputation of being very ungodly.  A friend, hearing that the man had been hired, said to him, “If those lumberjacks ever find out you’re a Christian, you’re going to be in for a hard time!” The man responded, “I know, but I need the job!”  The next morning he left for camp.  A year later, he came home for a visit.  While in town, he met his friend who asked, “Well, how did it go?  Did they give you a hard time because you’re a Christian?”  “Oh no, not at all,” the man replied. “They didn’t give me a bit of trouble—they never even found out!” (“Our Daily Bread,” 11/83.)

While we may chuckle at that story, many of us may wince.  It hits too close to home! Living in a world that is hostile to Christianity, it is easy just to blend in, to laugh at the dirty jokes, never to confront the gossip, and never to speak a word that would identify yourself as a Christian.  Besides, it might cost your reputation or even your job! Sometimes even among Christian friends it is hard to hold to your convictions for fear of what they will think.

That is why you should be interested in the story of Joseph of Arimathea, the man who buried Jesus.  No one knows where Arimathea was located, but the designation helps distinguish him from other Josephs.  He was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the body of 70 men who governed the religious and many of the civic matters in Israel.  It was the Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to death, although Joseph had not consented to their plan and action.  But probably he had not spoken out as vigorously as he should have.  John 19:39 tells us that he was a secret disciple of Jesus, for fear of the Jews.  His fear had caused Joseph not to take a bold stand for Christ, even though in his heart he knew that he should have done so.

But now, after Jesus was dead, when His followers had gone into hiding, Joseph gathered up his courage (Mark 15:43), went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus so that he could give Him a proper burial.  If he had not done so, Jesus’ body probably would have been thrown on a garbage heap and burned, robbing us of some of the major proofs of the resurrection, as we will see.  We can thank Joseph for honoring Jesus with a proper burial and for giving us many evidences for our faith.

Joseph seemingly had nothing to gain and everything to lose by identifying himself with Jesus at this point in time.  Jesus was dead and no one was expecting His resurrection. It would have been much easier for Joseph to have thought, “Oh, well!  Jesus was a good man and a prophet of God.  It is too bad that these things happen.  But, life must go on. I will have more influence if I do not rock the boat and keep my seat on the Sanhedrin.  I had better not do anything to upset anyone and jeopardize my position of influence.”  But in spite of the risks, Joseph came out of hiding and took a strong stand for Jesus by providing Him a proper burial. He gives us an example of what other Scriptures teach by precept:

The Lord wants us all to take

A stand for Him in this hostile world.

That sound great! But, how do we do it?  Much could be said, but our text reveals at least three factors that will help . . .

1. To Take A Stand For The Lord, Go Often To The Foot Of The Cross.

I cannot say for certain what made Joseph come out of hiding.  Perhaps it was the result of a long process . . .  

  • He had heard Jesus’ teaching, especially that final week in the temple.  
  • He had heard reports of His miracles, especially raising Lazarus from the dead.
  • Knowing the Scriptures, he realized that Jesus uniquely fulfilled the many messianic prophecies.  
  • He also could see the jealousy and selfishness of his fellow members of the council.
  • Unlike the majority of them, Luke tells us that Joseph was “a good and righteous man,” “who was waiting for the kingdom of God” (23:50, 51; see 2:25).
  • As Joseph’s convictions about Jesus grew, he also grew more uncomfortable with the views of his fellow members on the Sanhedrin.
  • Finally, he could no longer keep it in.

But I think that the deciding factor

That pushed Joseph over the line

Was standing at the cross

And watching Jesus die.

Luke hints at this: In 23:47 . . .

  • He states that when the centurion saw the events at the cross, especially Jesus’ final cry, he broke forth in praise.  
  • In the next verse, he reports that when the multitudes observed what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.  
  • He also reports that Jesus’ acquaintances and the women who followed Him, “were standing at a distance, seeing these things” (23:48).  
  • Immediately Luke adds, “And, behold” to grab our attention. Not only were His followers observing these things, but of all people, a member of the Council was seeing these things!

Seeing the sky darken, watching Jesus on the cross, hearing His final words, hearing the centurion’s praise, watching the multitude depart in mourning – all of this mounted up until Joseph said, “That’s enough!  I cannot hide my convictions any longer. I do not care what it costs me, I am going to Pilate so that I can give this Man the decent burial He deserves!”

The cross is the center of the Christian faith.  While we cannot stand and take in the events first-hand, as Joseph and the others did that day, we should come often to the foot of the cross and think about its implications.  The Bible sums up the core of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  The cross is central (see also Galatians 2:20; 6:14).  If you go to the cross often, you will not be the same.  It will strengthen you to take a stand for Christ. Note these particulars about going to the cross:

A. Going To The Cross Will Remind Us That Jesus Died.

That may sound obvious, but it is an important fact to establish . . .  

If Jesus did not actually die,

Then He did not die for our sins.

If He did not die, then He was not bodily resurrected, in which case, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “… your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”  Jesus did not just “swoon” or go into a semi-comatose state, to be revived later, as some liberals have asserted.

The Gospels all make it clear that Jesus died physically.  The soldiers regarded Jesus as dead so that they did not break His legs to hasten death, as they did with the other two men on the cross.  Rather, one of the soldiers thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, so that blood and water gushed out (John 19:31-34).  If He had not been dead before, that would have killed Him.  Also, the Bible reports in Mark 15:44-45 that Pilate ascertained from the Roman centurion (who certainly knew a live prisoner from a dead one) that Jesus was dead before he released the body to Joseph.  If we accept the eyewitness testimony of the Gospel writers, there is no question that Jesus died physically.

These seemingly incidental facts of Jesus’ death fulfilled specific Old Testament prophecies.  The fact that they were fulfilled in such an obviously unintentional manner underscores God’s sovereignty and the careful accuracy of biblical prophecy.  For example, the fact that the soldiers broke the legs of the two men on either side of Jesus, but did not break His legs, in spite of orders to do so, fulfilled the Scripture that none of the Passover lamb’s bones should be broken (Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20).  The soldier’s piercing Jesus’ side was probably a whim on his part, but he fulfilled Zechariah 12:10, that Israel “will look on Me whom they have pierced.”

B. Going To The Cross Will Remind Us That Jesus Died For Our Sins.

Jesus did not just die a common death, like that of the two thieves.  

He offered Himself

As the Lamb of God,

The substitutionary sacrifice

For our sins.

The darkness at noon pictured the judgment that God poured out on Jesus.  His cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” reveals His agony as He was made sin on our behalf.  The torn veil in the temple shows that through His death, Jesus opened the way into the holy of holies.  The cross satisfied God’s holy wrath against our sin, so that the Bible declares in Romans 3:26, He is free to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  As we think often of what Christ did for us there, it will strengthen us to take a bold stand for Him who endured all of that out of love for us.

C. Going To The Cross Will Remind Us That Jesus Was Buried.

Why does Paul mention Jesus’ burial in his summary of the gospel?  

Jesus’ burial is

Further evidence

Of His death.

If there had been a glimmer of life left in Him, surely Joseph and those who helped him take down the body and prepare it for the tomb would have noticed.  As mentioned, the fact of His burial in the tomb, as opposed to being tossed on the dump in the valley of Gehenna, provides us with several proofs of His resurrection.  We have the empty tomb.  The disciples saw the grave clothes lying in the tomb.  The heavy stone rolled against the entrance, sealed with the Roman seal, and guarded by the Roman guard, give us evidence that the tomb was secure from grave robbers.

Also, Jesus’ burial is further proof of His real humanity. In the early days of the church, a heresy called “Docetism” (from the Greek verb, “to seem”) arose that denied that Jesus was a real man.  Rather, He only “seemed” to be so.  At the root of this heresy was the view that matter is essentially evil, whereas spirit is good.  This in turn led to all sorts of wrong ideas and behavior.  It undermined the incarnation, the atonement, and the resurrection.  If Jesus was not a real man who died for our sins and was bodily raised, then we have no salvation.  Thus, it is important to affirm Jesus’ burial.

While Docetism may no longer be a problem, there are false teachers in every age that come along speaking of Jesus Christ.

But the key question

Always must be,

“Which Christ?”

Are they talking about the Christ of the Bible or one of their own making?  As James Stalker puts it in his book, The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ, “Only the Christ of the Scriptures could have brought us the salvation of the Scriptures.”

Also, the fact that Joseph buried Jesus in his own tomb, where no one had ever lain, is significant.  The Bible tells us in Matthew 27:57 that Joseph was a rich man.  Isaiah 53:9 predicted that Messiah’s “grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death.”  Joseph’s burial specifically fulfilled this prophecy.  The fact that it was a new tomb gives further evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been mixed up with another body from that tomb.  His was the only body there and it was gone!

All of these facts about Jesus’ death and burial should strengthen our resolve to take a bold stand for Him because they give us solid evidence that He is who He claimed to be.

D. Going To The Cross Will Remind Us That Jesus Was Raised From The Dead On The Third Day.

The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that, “Christ died for our sins…, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  We will examine the resurrection in our studies of Luke 24, and so I only mention it here in passing.  As you know, the resurrection is the foundation of the entire Christian faith.  It is God’s proof to all men that He will someday judge the world in righteousness through Jesus (Acts 17:31).  If you struggle with taking a bold stand for Christ, go often to the foot of the cross and remember that Christ not only died for your sins, but also that He was raised from the dead and that He is coming again soon to judge the living and the dead.

Still it is not easy to take a definite stand for Christ.  It is costly, and we can only do it if we prepare ourselves for the cost:

2. To Take A Stand For The Lord, Be Prepared To Pay The Price.

We are not told what happened to Joseph of Arimathea after the day that he buried Jesus, but it is not being speculative to say that he paid a heavy price.  We may face the same costs.

A. We May Have To Sacrifice Our Reputation For Christ.

When the Sanhedrin heard that one of their own had buried this despised Galilean, they would have been shocked. The religious leaders had thrown out of the synagogue the man born blind, whom Jesus healed (John 9:22, 34).  It is not hard to imagine that they voted Joseph out of the Council, excluded him from any position of religious or social influence, and did everything they could to ruin his reputation in Jerusalem.  His wife and children may have been ostracized. His stand for Christ cut him off from all of his former associates.

Often it is not only your reputation in the world, but also your reputation in the religious world that takes a beating when you take a bold stand for Christ.  The evangelical church in America has grown tolerant of just about anyone except the man who stands for biblical truth on unpopular issues. I’ve had people in Christian ministry call me a legalist because I preach that we must obey God and I preach against sin.  I have been called divisive because I will not join in the unity movement with denominations that deny the Gospel.  I have been called unloving because do not accept the tolerant view of psychology because it is soft on sin.  But the crucial matter is not what people think or say about you.  The crucial matter is what does God think?  If you live to please Him, then you can let Him take care of your reputation.

B. We May Have To Sacrifice Our Religion For Christ.

In order to bury Jesus, Joseph had to defile himself ceremonially by touching a dead body, right on the eve of the Jewish Passover (Numbers 9:6; 19:11-12).  But both Joseph and Nicodemus (another member of the Council who joined him, John 19:39)  felt that it was more important to give Jesus a proper burial than it was to remain ceremonially pure for Passover.  Christ now was their true Passover lamb who had been slain.  They let go of their rituals and laid hold of Jesus Christ.

To be a committed follower of Jesus, you have to let go of your religion, even if it goes under the label of “Christian.”  By religion, I mean any attempt to be righteous before God or others by keeping certain rules or by outward behavior.  Religious people take pride in what they do or do not do, but they do not judge sins of the heart.  They put on a good front at church, but at home they are angry and difficult to live with.

But genuine Christianity is a matter of the heart. True Christians have been to the cross, where they not only trust in Christ as their righteousness; they are crucified with Him. They daily put to death the deeds of the flesh.  They judge sins of thought, as well as word and deed.  They live in daily repentance, humbling themselves before God and others, so that the life of Christ may shine through them.

C. We May Have To Sacrifice Our Riches For Christ.

Joseph gave up his personal tomb, an expensive thing to do.  Remember, he was not expecting it to be vacated in three days!  He could have bought a cheaper tomb for Jesus, out in the countryside somewhere, but he gave Jesus the best.  He also bought linen wrappings and spices.  He may have had to pay Pilate for the body.  But he was willing to give generously because he believed in Jesus as his Lord and Messiah.

Jesus said Luke 14:33, “No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”  You say, “He does not mean that literally, does He?”  No, He did not mean it any more literally than when He said that we must hate our families in order to follow Him (14:26).  But before you say, “Whew!” and go on living just as you were, you need to do some hard thinking about His words.

You cannot buy off God by giving Him a tenth of your income.  In fact, for most of us, if you do not give more than a tenth, you are robbing God.  Most of us could easily give far more than a tenth to the Lord’s work if we really believed the Great Commission and if we were more careful stewards.  We could live much more simply and give far more generously if, like Joseph, we were really “waiting for the kingdom of God.”  If you give your money to God’s kingdom, your heart will follow (Matthew 6:21).  You will find yourself being much more committed to Christ if you give radically.  If you give what is safe and convenient, you will be safe and convenient when it comes to taking a bold stand for Christ.

To take a bold stand for Christ, go often to the cross; be prepared to pay the price; snf finally . . .

3. To Take A Stand For Christ, “Show Up” And Do What You Can Do.

Here I am focusing on the women who followed Jesus out of Galilee and now follow to see where and how His body was laid.  They went back to prepare more spices and perfumes, intending to return after the Sabbath and further anoint His body.  Matthew Henry points out that their actions sprang more from love than from faith, since they did not yet understand or believe that He would be raised from the dead.  But at least they showed up.  Why weren’t the eleven there with them, helping with the burial?  They had gone into hiding out of fear of the Jews (John 20:19).  But because the women were there and because they went back on that resurrection morning, they had the privilege of being the first witnesses of the risen Savior.

Norval Geldenhuys observes in his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, “In the hours of crisis, it is often the Peters who have sworn loyalty to Jesus with big gestures and fullness of self-confidence, that disappoint, and it is the secret and quiet followers of the Master (like Joseph, Nicodemus and the women) that do not hesitate to serve Him in love – at whatever cost.”

Maybe you cannot be an articulate verbal witness for Christ in front of a group.  But you can still take a stand by your behavior, your attitude, and your quiet resolve not to compromise.  Just “show up” in the sense of siding with Jesus, even if you are not clear about how to defend the faith.  Show your commitment and love for the Savior, and He will use you as He used Joseph and these faithful women.

Conclusion

Martin Luther, who certainly modeled taking a stand for Christ, wrote, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that point attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is tested and to be steady in all the battlefields besides is mere flight and disgrace if the soldier flinches at that one point.”  If there is a point where you know you are compromising your stand for Christ, where you are blending in with the world but you know that you need to take a stand, learn from Joseph of Arimathea.  Go to the foot of the cross and think about the Savior’s death on your behalf. Be prepared to count the cost.  And, the next opportunity you get, show up and do whatever you can to let others know that you are on Jesus’ side.  Even if you formerly were a secret disciple, God will use you as He used Joseph of Arimathea, to be a bold witness and to render valuable service for the Savior.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:44-49 – The Death Of The Innocent One

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series of studies in the Gospel of Luke entitled, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  Luke has attempted to write an orderly account of the life and death of Jesus so that his readers may be certain of the things they have heard.  We are slowly inching towards the end of Luke’s account.  Now we are at the pinnacle of the life of Jesus – His crucifixion.  As we reflect upon our study of Luke thus far, we will recall the repeated declaration of Jesus’ innocence.

  • Luke 23:4 – “Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no guilt in this man.’”
  • Luke 23:14-15 – “And [Pilate] said to them, ‘You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.  No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.’”
  • Luke 23:22 – “And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done?  I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.’”

Despite the fact that Jesus was never declared guilty of anything, the Jewish leaders persuaded Pilate and the people to crucify Jesus.

Even when Pilate presented an opportunity to have Jesus released, the Jewish leaders called for a convicted criminal to be released instead.  We read in Luke 23:18-23, “But they cried out all together, saying, ‘Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!’  (He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.)  Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept on calling out, saying, ‘Crucify, crucify Him!’  And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.’  But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail.”  At the command of Pilate, they led Jesus to Golgotha to be crucified along with two criminals.

While Jesus is on the cross one criminal asked Jesus to remember him, while the other questioned why Jesus does not save Himself. 

This leads us to our text this morning.  Throughout the book of Luke, and particularly in the last two chapters we have studied, Luke has sought to show the innocence of Jesus.  Our passage this morning is the crowning moment of Luke’s emphasis on Jesus’ innocence. 

In addition to the clear theme of the innocence of Jesus, we also see explicit evidence of God’s controlling hand at this moment.  We are taking our time throughout the end of Luke.  This morning we are studying the crucifixion and death of Jesus.  We will look at three reactions that came from the crucifixion and death of Jesus, the Innocent One.

Creation mourns the death of the Innocent One (vv. 44-46)

We see right away in verses 44 and 45 that this event is marked by a striking sign – darkness over all the earth, “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.  Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.”  In case you are curious what time that would have been, according to the Jewish time keeping system it would have been 12 PM to 3 PM.

There was darkness over the land for three solid hours. That is a big deal.  Obviously, it is not normally dark in our state from 12 to 3 PM. It would not have been normal for Jerusalem either.  Some have attempted to explain this darkness as a solar eclipse. That attempt is silly.  Remember, this is happening during the Jewish Passover.  The Passover took place during the full moon phase.  I am told that an eclipse during the full moon phase is impossible.

Instead, we can explain this darkness as evidence that God is fully aware of what is happening.  In Scripture when darkness covers the earth it is usually a sign of an eschatological event or the judgment of God.  In any case, we can be sure that this darkness is not a good thing. Rather, it is a sign that God is not pleased with the events taking place.

God is still absolutely 100% in control at this time, and He shows it by His creation crying out through darkness covering the Earth.

Next, in the latter part of verse 45, we are told that the temple veil, or curtain, is torn in two.  This does not mean that someone tore the veil as if one of Jesus’ followers were there tearing the temple veil.  Rather, it means that God Himself tore the veil.  Most biblical scholars agree that this veil or curtain was the one that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place.  The Holy Place would have been the place where only the high priest was allowed to go and intercede with God on behalf of the people.

The symbolism of the tearing

Of this veil is no small matter.

This would have been a catastrophic event for devout Jewish worshipers.  For centuries they worshipped God in this matter. They were never allowed to be in His presence.  This is in effect breaking down the barrier between God and man.  We will look more into this truth toward the end of our study.

Finally, we see Jesus exercise dominion over God’s creation and human life itself by willingly yielding His life at His appointed time.  Verse 46 tells us, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’  Having said this, He breathed His last.”  Jesus was not blind-sided by His death.  He was in control.  He laid down His life under His own control.  This statement not only shows Jesus giving Himself to God, but it shows Jesus’ humble obedience to the Father.  Some of the other Gospels give a more detailed account of the horrific nature of the crucifixion.  Luke, however, focuses on Jesus’ innocence and His obedience to the will of God.

Normally crucifixion was a slow death.  However, Jesus simply gave His life up willingly to the Father.  The phrase “Into your hands I commit my spirit” is a quote from Psalm 31:5.  This moment was foretold long ago.  Jesus was in control.  He willingly gave His life on the cross.  Not only did creation respond to the death of Jesus, but the people did also.  In verses 47-49 we see that the people are moved by the death of the Innocent One, “So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man!’  And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned.  But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”

We see three different perspectives to the death of Jesus in these verses . . .

1) We See The Reaction Of The Centurion.

A centurion was a Roman officer with leadership over 100 soldiers.  He probably would have witnessed most of the events leading up to this point.  At the least, we know that he witnessed Jesus’ interaction with His enemies, His interaction with the two criminals, His brutal crucifixion, His prayer to the Father, the darkness over the earth, and the death of the Son of God. 

The centurion says, “Certainly this was a righteous man.”  Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel report the centurion saying, “Certainly this man was the Son of God.”  Luke, however, uses “righteous” or “innocent.”  This fits with his theme of showing the innocence of Jesus.  This is certainly not a problem or contradiction between the Gospels.  Rather these are complimentary accounts that lead us to the same point . . .

That Jesus is who

He claimed to be,

The innocent,

Righteous,

Son of God.

If there was any doubt left that Jesus was innocent, the Roman centurion lays that to rest in verse 47.

2) We See The Response Of The People In The Crowd.

Luke tells his readers that those in the crowd “beat their breasts.”  There are a few verses in the Bible that speak about people beating their breasts. 

  • In Nahum 2:7 and Isaiah 32:12-13 we are told this was a sign of grief or pain. 
  • In Luke 18:13 the tax collector beat his breast while praying to God which was a sign of contrition or repentance.

The reason for the crowd beating their chests was probably some of both.  They were probably feeling grief, guilt, contrition, humiliation, and confusion.  They were probably absolutely overwhelmed with emotion as they witnessed the death of the Righteous One.

Remember, just hours before, the crowd was responding in quite a different way toward Jesus. 

  • Luke 23:35 tells us that the rulers sneered at Him.
  • Luke 23:36 tells us that the soldiers mocked Him.
  • Luke 22, Mark 15, and John 19 tell us that they struck Him. 
  • Mark and John add that they also mockingly bowed down and worshipped Him.
  • Luke 23:21 tells us that when Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, the entire crowd shouted, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

There is no reason for us to think that all of these people automatically accepted Jesus as the Son of God and the one Savior of the Universe.   However, something changed in their minds that day about Jesus.  They were horrified at what they had done to this Innocent Man.

We also see that that Jesus’ acquaintances and the women who followed Him stood at a distance watching these things.  Luke doesn’t tell us exactly what Jesus’ followers are thinking or feeling.  We can be sure that they were horrified, confused, heart-broken, and scared.  This is not what they expected of their coming Messiah.

This would have caused His followers to take a long hard look at the life and death of Jesus and try to make sense of it all.  They expected a conquering Messiah.  One who would bring power to the Jewish people, establish justice and truth, and bring God’s kingdom to earth.  As Jesus neared the end of His life, He repeatedly showed that this was not the kind of Messiah that He was to be.  However, no one expected it to end like this.  I am sure His followers were absolutely devastated.

So, here we are.  Everything that Jesus had lived for, His 33 years of life, His three years of ministry, His miracles, His sparring with the religious elite, His brilliant answers to His objectors, His innocent perfection comes down to this moment; and, His death on a cross.

The death of the Innocent One not only caused creation to mourn, it not only moved the people that were there, but . . .

3) It Changed Mankind Forever.

We see in verses 47-49 that humanity is changed by the death of the Innocent One.  Not only were the people that were present at the crucifixion changed, but everything about human civilization is now changed. 

The door that leads to a

Relationship with God

Will soon be wide open.

The tearing of the veil in the temple was a clear sign that now mankind is able to approach the throne of God. 

When that veil tore, it signified that Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice, and that He was the Perfect High Priest.  Hebrews 9:11-14 describes it for us, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, bit with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to god, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

These verses tell us that Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come.  He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world.  With his own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.  Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity.  Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God.  For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

In Hebrews 10:19-22 the Bible tells us, “Therefore, brethren, having boldeness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the vail, that is His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

These verses tell us that we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.  By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him and what He did upon the cross and the empty tomb.  For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Listen to the lyrics of one of my favorite modern worship songs:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the One,
Risen Son of God!

Behold Him there, the Risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I am,
The King of glory and of grace!

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God1

The death of Jesus Christ changes everything.  It is part of the key moment in the history of human civilization.  Ever since the creation of our planet, God was pointing mankind to this moment.  Since the death of Jesus, people have looked back to that moment as a sign of God’s grace to the world.

No event in the history of mankind

Has been so monumental.

I  am so glad that there is more to the story!  Jesus did not stay dead, but He conquered death and rose from the grave.  He appeared to over 500 people.  He promised that He would return one day.  Finally, He ascended into Heaven and sent us the Holy Spirit.

Jesus offers us the opportunity to be saved from the punishment that we deserve for our sins because He paid a punishment that He did not deserve.  We are guilty, He is innocent.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:18a, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”  Just as the blood of animals was shed by the high priest in the most holy place in the temple, so also Jesus shed His blood for the atonement, or payment, of our sins.  The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:22b, “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”

 Creation mourned the death of the Innocent One, the people were moved by the death of the Innocent One, and humanity was changed forever by the death of the Innocent One.

I challenge you to take a look at the death of Jesus.  What do you make of it?  Is this simply a myth?  Is it a terrible tragedy?  Or, is it part of God’s plan to bring redemption to a world of sinners who desperately need it?

Robert Stein, a biblical scholar, says, “What was taking place was not simply the death of an innocent Jew by crucifixion.  It was not just the death of a righteous prophet.  It was far, far more.  This was the death of God’s Son by which He is able today to be the Savior of the world.”

I mentioned earlier that Jesus’ followers did not know what was going on at the death of Jesus.  We, however, are blessed with the ability to look back knowing the significance of Jesus’ death.  God has revealed to us through His Word that there is only one way for us to be made right with Him, and that is through Jesus Christ.  If you have not taken a hard look at Jesus, I urge you to do so now.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”