Theme: The Calming Influence of Jesus in the Scriptures
1. Calm from terror
2. Calm from doubt
3. Calm from joy
The first Easter Sunday was a whirlwind for the disciples. Everything they had been through with Jesus was now coming to a head and we get a taste of the chaos in our text. Our text divides into two primary sections. We read the first, verses 36-43, which describes the frenzied state of that day:
Luke 24:36-49 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?" 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.
The disciples needed to be calmed. They were scared. They were in doubt. They were shocked. Their emotional inventory was bursting over. To calm them, Jesus taught them from His Word, as we see in the remainder of our text:
44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 "And you are witnesses of these things. 49 "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
An amazing transformation took place through these words. The disciples, who throughout Jesus’ three year ministry had been meek, timid, and mistake-prone, now moved forward to form the early Christian Church – the very foundation that we continue to build upon today. What happened? How did they go from wandering followers who left their Master to be killed by His enemies, to courageous defenders of salvation? What happened in the 50 days from Easter to Pentecost, the window of time for this transformation? Peter himself went from denier of Christ to gospel preacher before the very tribunal that crucified his Lord. What happened was that the disciples were calmed through the peaceful influence of the Scriptures.
Peace was the first message Jesus spoke to them on Easter. Before He appeared to them in the upper room, the disciples were huddled in fear. They were scared that they would be the next target of the bloodthirsty crowd that had demanded Jesus’ crucifixion. They were afraid that they would be hunted down by the Sanhedrin, one by one. To the disciples, everything seemed over. What does a person who is scared need? Peace. Jesus had every right to chastise His disciples. He had every right to demand penance for their laziness and disloyalty in the Garden. But, the first thing He says is “Peace to you.” Jesus recognized that the disciples agonized over their mistakes already. They felt the guilt and shame of letting Jesus down. They were at a low point. And so, Jesus offered an encouraged word of peace.
Jesus knows the same about your life also. He knows when you are at a low point of shame and guilt because of your sins. David wrote of his own sins, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-- These, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17). It’s okay to be broken and contrite because God says that when you repent in sorrow over your sins, He will not forsake you. He will be there to offer peace. Jesus did that for His own disciples, during this tumultuous time, and He continues to do it for you. Those who truly recognize and confess their sins for what they are, have peace from God. There is calm over the fear of what we have earned for ourselves.
However, the disciples needed more help from their Lord, as we so often do. The next stage of their emotional chaos was doubt. Could it really be Jesus? Was He different? Was He just a ghost – simply a vision and not truly alive? They suffered from doubt, and therefore needed answers. And quite an answer Jesus gave to respond to their doubt. He allowed them to see and feel the wounds of the cross. He ate food to show them that He was more than a vision.
It’s kind of funny that Thomas forever is known as “doubting Thomas” because he wouldn’t believe the disciples’ word until he had proof. Yet, here, shortly before Thomas’ story, the rest of them had the same feeling. They wanted proof that they could handle and see. They didn’t want to believe until their senses had been satisfied. Rather than taking Jesus at His Word, they wanted to define the criteria of faith. So many people today are the same – even good Christians – even us. We talk about trusting Jesus, but so often we fall into the trap of trusting ourselves by making faith about what we observe.
But, there was much more going on here than just providing rational evidence. Scars are also reminders. They teach us lessons. There is an emotional significance to them because they bring us back to their point of origin. For example, I have a large scar on my knee. I will forever remember, with great clarity, how I got that scar. I was canoeing with my dad and younger sister, who wasn’t more than 5 years old. I was in the front of the canoe, charting and directing the course on the river – for the first time. Due to my lack of experience I panicked when the current started leading us to a set of rapids with low-lying trees. When you’re in a canoe being led by a current that you can’t control, you stay clear of low-hanging objects. Rather than re-direct, I panicked. I was clotheslined by the overhanging branch, thrown out of the canoe, which was subsequently pinned underwater beneath even lower branches. Here’s where I got my scar. As I bobbed down the river I knew I should have lifted up my legs and just floated, but I panicked again and tried to stand up and walk out of the current. Bad idea. My knees scraped against the jagged rocks and when I finally emerged I had a huge gash. It likely could have been even worse. This scar reminds me to stay calm in uncertain circumstances. I am continually reminded of that lesson.
We could all list similar lessons about other scars I’m sure. What a much greater lesson was given through Jesus’. Here’s where we see the spiritual connection. The nail prints and the gouge from the spear were not just lessons for Jesus – they were the marks of salvation for the entire world. When Jesus showed these wounds to the disciples He was not just giving evidence of His resurrected life. He was displaying the irrefutable promise that they had eternal hope. His scars were the very best answer for their questions of doubt – not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Physical proof may calm a skeptic’s heart for a time. But if there is no spiritual backing – it will not last. More pressing than the intellectual doubts of the mind are the spiritual doubts of the heart. A person may have all the logical proof they desire, but if they still have the hollow doubt of a sinner’s heart – knowing that something more before God is still needed, they will never be calm. Jesus’ wounds calm the mind and heart – by giving proof of the resurrection, but also by fulfilled the demand of a righteous offering for sin.
One might expect the chaos to end here, but the toughest stage was still before the disciples. Upon seeing and touching the resurrected Savior, we’re told a most fascinating thing. They still did not believe for joy. Their fear had been overcome. They questions were answered. But, they still did not believe because of joy. What do you do for that? We don’t often think of joy as an impediment that needs to be overcome. But, as strange as this sounds, we’ve all had moments before where the joy of something was just too much. Think of a child on Christmas morning. Think of a married couple on their wedding day. Think of a team who just wins the championship. Moments of intense joy can be overwhelming.
The disciples knew that Jesus being alive was a good thing but they were in sensory overload. They couldn’t process it all. It was because of their joy that they did not believe. They were still in a frenetic state of emotional chaos over everything that had happened. It was finally when Jesus taught them from the Scriptures and their understanding increased, they were calmed. Jesus was giving them a foundation to stand on in their faith.
Feeling joy is great, but without an steady foundation to fall back on, it can still be a stressful thing. To be calm in your heart you have to have some place steady. For the believer that is the Scriptures. Even joy can cause uneasiness. The Word of God keeps us level. It gives us a home that we can return to again and again when we need an emotional break.
This is also why faith in Jesus is about the Word, not about feeling alone. The Christian who is on fire for the Lord may wonder, how do I keep this up? What happens if I fail? How do I keep moving forward if these feelings of joy dissipate – because surely they will in this world? It helps to return to the origin of faith – the objective fact that Jesus is the Savior; the irrefutable proofs of what He accomplished. These things are recorded for us in the Word. This is why God says that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” The Word is our safe space -whether we seek shelter from fear-induced frenzy or joy-induced frenzy. The Word is stable spot.
Some of us are intellectually led people; those of us that are analytically driven, fact-oriented, truth seekers. We don’t get caught up in emotions. Others are the opposite. Those who want to feel an emotional attachment. Those who look beneath the surface of the details and seek a deeper meaning of things. Jesus connects to both and calms both when troubles arise. And to do so, He used the Scriptures. The Word of God contains the straightforward truth. To the intellectually driven person the Word can be tested and analyzed. However, the Word of God also speaks beauty into a person’s life. It connects on a spiritual level – reaching the human heart. It changes how we feel, not just what we think.
In this account we see how the resurrection of Christ and the Scriptures have a practical, day-to-day application for our lives. This gospel helps us cope with today, not just with preparing for eternity. The themes of eternal life are certainly important any time we focus on the work of Jesus but we should also remember that He does not abandon us today. There is a place of calm for you today and it comes through a better understanding of Jesus through the Scriptures. Calm terror, calm from doubt, and even calm from joy.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.