May 8, 2011

The Risen Jesus Revealed - May 8, 2011

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Who was Jesus, and what was He really about? That’s a question that many people over the centuries have tried to answer.

In the Koran, Mohamed described Jesus as a very important prophet of God. He also described Jesus as just a man, not the Son of God. As for the crucifixion, the Koran says that Jesus didn’t really die, the Jews only thought they killed Him.

Modern Jewish rabbis have a different view. They describe Jesus as a rogue teacher. A rabbi who was just one of many who claimed to be the promised Messiah, but ended up getting Himself killed. Again, just a mere man.

Modern “Christ” teachers, present Jesus as an example of how God wants people to be. Kind and compassionate. Self-sacrificing. Love incarnate. They describe Jesus is a social reformer, more concerned with making earth a good place to live than a prophet, concerned with things like heaven and hell.

Jesus’ first century followers had still a different perception of Him. In a moment we’re going to read from Luke 24, and there we’ll see that the first followers of Jesus THOUGHT He was going to redeem Israel. But what that meant to them, well, that’s a bit of a mystery.

So, who IS Jesus? And what WAS He really about? We don’t have to wonder. Nor do we have to sift through the countless portraits painted by religious teachers throughout the centuries. In the New Testament of the Bible we have a description of Jesus from His own mouth. In our reading for today, Jesus Himself answers these questions.

The theme of our mediation is “The Risen Jesus Revealed”. By Jesus’ own words and actions we’ll see that He is a gentle teacher, a Bible based teacher and the Savior which was foretold. We pray…

Holy Spirit, open our minds to Your Word. Lord Jesus, show us Your face. Amen.

The events of our reading take place late in the day on the first Easter Sunday. Jesus had been arrested, tried, condemned, crucified and laid dead in a tomb three days earlier.

The disciples who deserted Him on the night He was arrested are mostly still in Jerusalem. However, two former followers of Jesus are just now leaving the holy city.

Luke 24:13-35 (NIV)

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus was a gentle teacher. He said as much in passages like Matthew 11, verse 28...
“28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV).
Not only did Jesus SAY He was a gentle teacher, He proved it through the way treated people during His ministry.

When He miraculously healed a leper, He did it with a touch – teaching the man that He was not afraid of this disease. The Holy Son of God had come to cleanse the human race of their sins, and He could easily cleanse this man of His leprosy.

The Pharisees once brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery. They wanted Him to begin the stoning that would end her life. But Jesus artfully turned them away with the suggestion that the one who had no sin among them ought to be the one to throw the first stone. In their shame they all left. And Jesus, seeing the woman’s remorse said to her…

“…Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11 ESV).
Once a young rich man came to Jesus and asked what He should do to get into heaven. Somehow this young rich man thought that he had never broken any of God’s commands. Jesus told him…
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21 NIV).
The man went away sad, for he had great wealth. In this way Jesus gently revealed to this man that he was not sinless at all. He had broken the very first commandment – he loved his wealth more than God.

In our reading from Luke, we find the resurrected Jesus to be the same gentle teacher that He was in life. He masks His identity when He joins those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and slips in among them.

They are talking about all the horrible things that have just happened to Jesus. The arrest, the beatings, condemnation by the Roman governor, crucifixion with robbers, death.

Jesus gently inserts Himself into the conversation with a question, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17).

And when they are surprised that He doesn’t know what things have just happened in Jerusalem, Jesus adds another leading question, “What things?” (Luke 24:19).

Just like a teacher in a classroom, Jesus asks questions that He knows the answers to. He asks these questions so that He can teach. So that He can open up the meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection to their hearts. So that He can pound all their question marks into exclamation points.

Just as He was a gentle teacher back then, Jesus is a gentle teacher today. He is ever patient with sinners like you and me. Daily He forgives our sins because He suffered for them on the cross. Daily He guides the lives of His followers so that we may grow in our knowledge of Him, and may depend on Him more fully.

Jesus isn’t always a soft-spoken teacher, though. To those people He met who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus spoke harshly. He called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs”, pointing out that they had great reputations on the outside, but on the inside they were dead in sinful un-repentance.

When Peter told Jesus that He certainly was NOT going to be crucified, Jesus replied,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 6:23 ESV).
And really that was the problem with the Emmaus disciples also. Their understanding of the Messiah was all tied up with earthly things. They figured that He was there to establish a golden age for the Nation of Israel. An earthly Jewish Empire. Their minds were on the things of man.

Jesus rebuked the Emmaus disciples rather sharply there on the road. Verse 25…
“25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27 NIV).
Jesus was a Bible based teacher. He would not have them continue in their man-based interpretations of the Messiah’s kingdom.

He takes them back into “Moses” (the Jews called the first five books of the Bible “Moses” because he was the writer God used to record them). He takes them back to “the Prophets” (shorthand for most of the rest of the Old Testament Bible). And He shows them how God said long ago that the Messiah would have to suffer first before He entered into glory.

So many people today view the Bible as “man’s word about God”. But Jesus’ taught the opposite. The prophets were able to predict the future sufferings of the Messiah because GOD was revealing these things to them. They weren’t coming up with this stuff on their own! This is God’s Word, not man’s.

I’ve heard a number of people say that you can make the Bible say anything you want to. That it’s like play-doh that can be molded to support whatever you believe. This is like saying “Huckleberry Fin” can be used as a text-book for quantum physics.

The Bible specifically described what the Messiah would be like before He was born. It specifically detailed what He would endure to take away the sins of the world. To those two disciples on the road Jesus effectively says, The Bible said this had to happen to the Christ, so if you believed Jesus was the Christ, you should have expected this!

Verse 27 says…
“…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27 NIV).
Throughout the centuries Christians have wanted to know, which passages did Jesus lead these men to?

I don’t know. Nobody does for sure. But, let me just point out a few that may have been mentioned on the road to Emmaus.

Genesis 3:15 – God told the Satan possessed serpent in the garden that a descendant from the woman would one day destroy Him, but this descendant would also be wounded in the battle. Jesus destroyed Satan’s power over us by suffering the punishment we earned on the cross.

Genesis 12:3 – God promised Abraham that EVERYONE in the whole world will be blessed through Abraham. Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, suffered and died for all sinners who ever lived.

2 Samuel 7:12-16 – God promised King David that one of his descendants will rule over an eternal kingdom and it was this One who would establish a house of worship for Jehovah God. Jesus’ kingdom is one of faith in Him for forgiveness. Those who follow Jesus are part of this house of worship.

Isaiah 53 – Described the suffering and death of an innocent individual. He is described as punished by God for others. He dies having never had children, but it is said that He will see His descendants anyway. Though innocent, Jesus was crucified. But three days later He was raised from the dead. Those who trust in Him are His children.

Psalm 22 – Describes the suffering of God’s servant. How He was encircled by evil men. How they cast lots for His clothing. How they pierced Him and mocked Him. But how this would ultimately lead to God being praised. The witnesses of Jesus crucifixion saw these things, and later understood they had been foretold long ago.

Daniel 2:44-45 – Identifies WHEN the eternal kingdom would be established – during the reign of Rome. Jesus was born, lived died and was raised from the dead – during the reign of Rome.

Isaiah 9:6 – Speaks of a Child to be born that would be called Mighty God. God the Son had existed for eternity before He was born into the human race as a little baby named Jesus.

Micah 5:2 –Speaks of a ruler that would be born in Bethlehem whose had existed long before His birth. Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Now, the disciples understood the Messiah would rule over an eternal kingdom. The part they had trouble understanding was that first He would have to suffer a horrific death, be buried and then raised from the dead. So, when Jesus taught the Emmaus disciples, He surely focused on those prophecies which spoke of the suffering of the Messiah.

But how many other prophecies did Jesus point out and show them? The whole Old Testament looked forward to the Messiah’s birth and His work of salvation.

Jesus once told the unbelieving Pharisees…
“39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40 NIV).
The thing is, if you don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, there’s a question that you have to answer. Who are all these prophesies about? Who fits the bill? It can’t be anyone born recently, or yet to be born because Rome’s Empire is long gone, and the Messiah was predicted to be born during the Empire of Rome.

Who fits all these prophecies – if not Jesus?

The Savior foretold in the Bible is Jesus.

The Old Testament predicted His life in detail. The disciples saw Him live, die and rise again. The Two heard Him explain everything the Scriptures had foretold on the road to Emmaus.

Who was Jesus, and what was He really about? That’s a question that many people over the centuries have tried to answer. But really, only Jesus has the authority to answer that question. And He has answered that question – with His life and with His words.

John 5, verse 24…
“24 Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).
The risen Jesus is the promised Savior. Through Him sinners are forgiven, and heaven is the final destination of all who trust in His promise. Amen.

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