The Resurrection world. Luke 24.36-48
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Today we are looking at Luke’s account of how Jesus appears to the disciples
The fact that the accounts are a little different doesn’t worry me in the slightest.
People remember things in different ways.
And each of the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are telling the story in a particular way to make particular points - so they are going to emphasise different things.
And actually, the four accounts - although different - have quite a number of constant themes running through them.
And as in John, so here in Luke. When the risen Jesus appears to his disciples, the first thing that he says to them is ‘Peace be with you’
And he shows them
1. A more solid world, the resurrection world
When Jesus first appears to his followers they think he is a ghost.
Why? How many of
them had seen a ghost before? - probably none of them.
Ghosts were from stories that you told to frighten each other
Ghosts are about a shadow world, half way in between death and life, where things are unpredictable, where you have desires but are never able to fulfil them. Ghosts are about revenge or unrequited love. Often ghosts are said to have no peace and to bring no peace.
So I guess that when Jesus - who they had seen crucified and dead - appeared to them in a locked room, they did assume that he was a ghost. Maybe he had come to haunt them for denying him, running away from him.
So it is no wonder that the first thing that the risen Jesus has to say to his followers is, ‘Peace be with you’.
But then he shows them a world that is far more solid than the ghost world, indeed that is far more solid, far more real even than the things of this world.
In fact the resurrection body of Jesus makes this world look like a ghost world.
It is sort of of
He had flesh and bones.
His body still bore the marks of the crucifixion.
He ate fish
And yet there was a huge difference.
First of all there was a difference in appearance: On several occasions, Jesus followers do not at first recognise the risen Jesus
And this was a resurrection body that could appear and disappear at will, which could come into locked rooms and leave through locked doors
In fact Peter,
James and John had already had a glimpse of Jesus’ resurrection body when he
had taken them up a mountain. His body is transfigured, he is bigger than time
as he speaks with Moses and Elijah, and he shines with glory.
But Jesus knows that nobody will get it, and so he tells them to tell nobody what they have seen until after he is risen from the dead.
Paul in 1 Corinthians discusses the resurrection body.
Someone has asked him, ‘What kind of body will we have in the resurrection?’
He answers that it is a bit of a foolish question: he says that it is a bit like two acorns under the ground discussing what it will be like to be an oak tree. It is beyond our imagination.
And he describes the body that we have now as a physical body, and the body that we have then as a spiritual body. Not in the sense that the resurrection body of Jesus was not physical, but that it was not powered by the physical. It was powered by the spiritual.
I guess it is a bit like having a car that is being pushed by people because it has run out of petrol, and a futuristic car that is driven by - let’s say - nuclear power.
Both may look the same, both may be moving - but there is a world of difference between them.
The resurrection body of Jesus is, for us, a glimpse into that other world
The NT describes Jesus as ‘the first fruits’ of the new creation.
That solid world, that real world makes this world look - in fact - a ghost world.
If you are a reader of the Chronicles of Narnia, you will get this.
Elsewhere, CS Lewis describes, in the Great Divorce, a coach trip from hell to heaven. When the inhabitants of hell arrive in heaven, they can’t look because it is too bright. They get out and start to walk on the grass, but they can’t walk on it because each blade of grass is too real for them, and pierces through them.
We need to remember that when we get too attached to this world, or when the things of this world start to overwhelm us.
Of course, this world is very real and solid, and it matters. As Christians we are part of this world, called to live in this world and to make a difference for good and for God in this world.
But we are also not to forget that we are the people of the risen Jesus, and that we are citizens of a future world.
We wait for the day when Paul writes in Romans 8 that this creation is set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21)
We look for a future resurrection world, which will make the things of this world look like shadows. It will be a continuation of this world, but a transfiguration of this world.
2. The risen Jesus shows them that in this world the Messiah had to suffer.
‘Thus it is written that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day’ (v46)
They had struggled with that. How could the Messiah, God’s anointed one, suffer?
Surely, to suffer means that you are not in control. You suffer from sickness or when you are defenceless against the attacks of others. The Greek gods would never have allowed themselves to suffer - they only suffered when they got tricked by clever gods or attacked by stronger gods.
If you were God’s only Son, if you had the resources of heaven and eternity under your control, then you would not need to suffer.
Nobody suffers voluntarily.
How can I trust you, if you suffer? You clearly do not have the power to rescue me.
But that is where they had got it wrong.
Jesus, even though he was the Son of God, the anointed one, God’s Messiah, the one God had appointed to be his ruler over creation, over all things - voluntarily chose to suffer.
He chose to go to Jerusalem knowing that he would be crucified.
He allowed them to lead him out to the cross, and he remained hanging on the cross
‘He was oppressed and he was afflicted,
Yet he did not open his mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
And like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
So he did not open his mouth’.
This was the mouth which had ordered demons to leave, sick people to get up, wind and waves to be calm, the dead to come out of their tombs.
This was the mouth which could have summoned armies of angels to protect him
But this was the mouth that was silent.
And Jesus probably now reminds his followers of Isaiah 53 - where the anointed servant of God becomes like one of the lambs that they sacrificed in the Old Testament temple.
It was slaughtered and its blood was scattered on the people as a sign that their sins were forgiven, that their relationship with God was restored.
So the servant of God takes onto himself the sins of the people and dies for them.
And Jesus, the Messiah, chose to suffer for us - because it was the only way that he could save us in love.
No doubt he could have looked at what we do to this planet, to each other, at what we do to ourselves and - as happened in the story of Noah - wipe us out.
Or he could have saved us from the consequences of our evil actions by stripping us of choice - he could have compelled us to follow him and obey him.
But because of love, he wants us to freely respond to his love, and so Messiah is prepared to give himself for us, in this world, to suffer and die for us, so that we have the freedom to respond or not to respond to his love.
That is why Jesus says: ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations’.
It was because he was the Messiah who was prepared to suffer for us, that we have the opportunity to repent, to begin again, to walk towards God rather than to walk away from God (because you are doing one or the other) and to receive forgiveness, so that you can into a relationship with God and become citizens of that other world, the resurrection world.
3. The risen Jesus shows them that God is faithful to his written Word
In both John and Luke’s accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, there is a reference to what is written in the scriptures.
(And for Jesus, the scriptures at that time would be what we know as the Old Testament)
In John’s gospel we are told that John believes because he saw the linen wrappings that had shrouded the head and body of Jesus; but he goes on and says, ‘for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead’. (John 20.9)
In other words, they didn’t really need the evidence of the linen wrappings because they should have believed the scripture.
And here in Luke, twice we have Jesus challenging his disciples for not believing the scripture, and not believing what the prophets wrote about the Messiah.
In verse 26 he tells the two people he meets on the road to Emmaus, ‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory’.
And now, in verse 44, he tells them how ‘everything written about me in Moses, the prophets and psalms [the law, the prophets and the other writings] must be fulfilled’ and he goes on to say (v46-47): ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations’.
Suffer - rise - the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins in his name
And Jesus says, ‘It has happened, it is happening, it will happen - because it is there in the scriptures’
God is faithful to his word.
At the moment it is, for many of us, COVID and the political and economic situation that continue to dominate our lives. Some of us grieve, some of us know people who are seriously sick, and many worry about their health and the health of those they love - should I have the injection or not? I have my first SPUTNIK on Monday.
Some of you are also really struggling because prices are rising and you have little or even no income. Others struggle because of anxieties about visas and closed borders - and are beginning to wonder whether we will ever get away and see our families.
And there is the impact of sanctions and the sword of Damocles hanging over the Ukrainian border.
Listen to the
witness of Luke
Jesus says to the disciples that they will be his witnesses
1. Remember that God is faithful to his word. The resurrection of Jesus and the fact that the message of repentance and forgiveness is preached today is God’s great big ‘Yes’ to his word.
2. Remember the Messiah who became completely part of this world and suffered for you in this world because of his love for you. Remember that love is more important than avoiding suffering. Indeed if you choose to love, you will suffer.
3. Remember that this world is important - and it does matter, and we are to work and pray for the welfare of the city in which we find ourselves, but it is a ghost land in comparison to the next land.
This world is your home - but only your temporary home. Your real home is in that solid world, that resurrection world.