Although Easter may already be an afterthought for many, the reality is that Easter continues its celebration every day. Whether or not we continue its celebration is another matter, but the angels do, and the saints in heaven do, and above all, God does.
In other words, Jesus’ death and resurrection were not just one-time events that only impacted the people of the moment. Jesus’ death and resurrection were one-time events in that they will never be repeated, but what they brought about, that is, what they achieved lasts for all eternity.
So, every day the believer is saved. Even on our worst days there is no need for Jesus to die for our sins again and again. They are already all forgiven. Neither is there a need for Jesus to rise again from the dead. With his first and only resurrection he has conquered death forever. Which means that even if you were to die this very night, you will go to heaven.
But it is so hard for us to believe that. And by “believe” I mean to be absolutely convinced of it. Well, as we said last week, if you are not convinced of it, you will have an unhealthy fear of death. And as we are going to say today, if you are not convinced of it, you will be paralyzed when it comes to the Great Commission, and the spreading of God’s Word will suffer as a result. Entire churches are paralyzed when it comes to the Great Commission. Why? Because it hasn’t yet gone from the head to the heart how Easter changes everything. And I mean everything.
What if the first disciples were not convinced of Jesus’ bodily resurrection? They would never have become apostles. An apostle is one who is “sent out” to preach. Well, no one is going to preach unless they really believe what they are saying. They will just keep quiet. And they certainly won’t expose themselves to public ridicule (or worse) if they are not convinced that Jesus is alive, and therefore real. They’ll just stay home in their own house, behind closed doors where it is safe.
And that is where we find the disciples: paralyzed and behind closed doors where it is safe. You say, “That that is where they were last Sunday.” Yes, I know. But today we are looking at Luke’s account. And Luke includes details about that evening that John does not include. Does that mean the two Gospels contradict each other? Of course not. The Gospels supplement each other. Which is why we need to familiarize ourselves with all four of them. Which is precisely the application of today’s sermon: if you want to be convinced of what you believe to the point that you are willing to let other people know about it, then you need to marry yourself to the Word of God. For only the Word of God has the power to convince you that it is true.
Now, what we have here in these verses is Jesus preparing his disciples for their future duty. I use the word “duty” on purpose because it means that the disciples would have been unfaithful and disobedient were they to shirk their God-given duty to go into all the world and gather disciples.
Don’t ever say that you don’t have a God-given duty. The very fact that you are a disciple of Jesus means that you have a God-given duty to participate in the Great Commission. Which is why it is so important that you involve yourself in a congregation. For you may say, “But I’m not able to talk about Jesus!” (Not true.) But, you see, when you are part of a congregation that proclaims Jesus, you are being faithful to the duty God has given you. For the very fact that you participate allows the Gospel to be proclaimed. You can’t preach if there is no one in the pew. Churches can’t go and gather disciples unless the entire congregation is involved. Now back to the text.
Jesus has big plans for his disciples, but first they must be convinced. So, he shows himself to his disciples, not as a spirit, not in a vision, but with his physical body. To prove to them that it was a real, human body, he invites them to touch him. Spirits don’t have flesh and bones as the disciples could plainly see that Jesus had.
But then Luke adds the detail that Jesus eats a piece of broiled fish. The reason he ate it in their presence is because Luke says they still had a hard time believing even after touching him. You see how difficult it is to believe.
Now, here is the key to this text: Jesus moves his disciples from his visible body as proof of the resurrection to the spoken and written Word. He says, “‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (vv. 44, 45).
Now, this is very important: everything that God has said about the Christ has come to pass. That is what Jesus is saying. He says to them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day … You are witnesses of these things” (v. 46, 48). You saw it all happen. It had all happened just as God said it would. So, the Scriptures are reliable. You can trust them. You can believe them—so much so, that you can go out and proclaim them.
You see, Jesus knew that he wasn’t going to visibly be with his disciples for much longer. That was never the plan. So many times, we lament, “If only I could see Jesus!” But that was never the plan. The people in the Old Testament never saw Jesus, right? Only a few people in all of history were blessed to be able to see Jesus with their own eyes. So, what about everyone else? What about you and me? We have the Word.
Do you really think it took Jesus by surprise that he was going back to heaven? No, he knew he wasn’t going to stay in this world after his resurrection. That was always the plan. The disciples didn’t know that, but Jesus did. Which is why from this very moment on Easter Sunday Jesus emphasizes with his disciples the necessity of the Word. Soon he would remove his visible presence from them. And so, he moves his disciples from focusing on his visible body to the everlasting Word of God.
That is where he wants our eyes to be. Is that where your eyes are focused? You see, it’s not that people no longer look for Jesus. Everyone looks for God. The question is where?
Well, the Good News is that Jesus tells us where to look for him. He says, “Everything that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (in other words, the Scriptures) must be fulfilled” (v. 44). In other words, “the Scriptures are about me!” And then he opens the disciples’ minds so that they can understand. And they do.
Do you? Do you get it? You say, “Well, I don’t know. I mean, I get some of it.” Then keep reading. Keep listening to the Word of God. For it is in the Word of God that the Lord Jesus opens our minds so that we understand what God is saying to us.
And what is he saying to us? First and foremost, that the Christ, the Messiah—Jesus—suffered and died for the sins of the world. And then he bodily rose from the dead as proof that the wages of sin is no longer death for the believer. Why not? Because Jesus has paid the penalty via his own death. Which is how God is able to forgive us. And he does forgive us! Every single one of you is forgiven! Do you believe it?
Well, “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14, 15).
Who are the people that bring the Good News? You. Me. Everyone who is convinced that these things are true. The apostle Paul says, “I believe, therefore I have spoken” (2 Corinthians 4:13). And then he says, “With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.”
Do you believe? Are you convinced of what you believe? Is Jesus alive, and therefore the Savior of the world? Well, then you will speak. Whether that is individually or as part of a larger group. You will participate. You will gather. You will worship. You will praise. And with all of God’s people you will say, “This is what I believe!” Amen.