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!
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.”