He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them. 44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
There’s no historic figure whose character and cause has been shaped more by the opinions of people than Jesus Christ. Virtually everyone you know has ideas about who Christ is, what He did and why…many without having ever read the Bible. Jesus is the most talked about Person who ever walked the earth. The Book containing His story has been published more than any other ever written. Artists have painted, sculpted, and written songs about Jesus from their imaginations beyond anyone else before or since His earthly ministry. Every major religion acknowledges Him…some with admiration.
This same Christ has been maligned, misrepresented, and misunderstood by more people than anyone else. His words have been used to call for justice and injustice. To revive the church and revile its enemies. Christ’s truths have been invoked by ministers and madmen for more than 2000 years. His words have shaped nations…inspired wars…and comforted the families of dead soldiers of those wars for generations. The scope of Christ’s impact on humanity is beyond measure. Those ideas often inform our own perceptions of Him…for better or worse.
Parents have tremendous powers of persuasion when it comes to their kid’s notions about Jesus. His diminished role in the social construct of our country continues to be an important contributing factor regarding its moral decline. Even His absence makes a difference. It is, in fact, Jesus’ physical absence…His resurrection that forces the issue of faith on us all. If He’d stayed in the tomb our great concern would be whether or not to make a pilgrimage to Israel. Like going to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
- A solemn tourist attraction
- Revered but not religious
But by all accounts, He didn’t stay in the tomb. And Jesus’ resurrection demands a response. Today’s passage presents four responses to the resurrected Christ. They represent ways people may react to what they’ve heard about Him.
Let’s consider how to respond to the resurrection…not from what we’ve heard…but from the sufficiency of Scripture.
He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.
People tend to avoid what they fear. If I have a fear of heights I don’t get up on the roof of my house. People will avoid public speaking because their knees knock whenever they’re called on to share with a group. My fear of spiders means Diane has the responsibility of flushing the little critters at our house. We tend to avoid what we fear.
Many people, like the disciples’ initial reaction to the resurrected Christ…
- Fear Him
Not for the same reason as theirs…But because Jesus reminds them of their own mortality. The inevitability of death. Though His resurrection secures eternal life for everyone He saves. Most prefer to die without that security rather than face the realities of death. Understand that the realities of death are this:
- Everyone dies
- Death apart from Jesus condemns a person to hell
- Dying in Christ leads to heaven and eternal life
These are universally inescapable truths. They apply to everyone…everywhere…all the time.
- No exceptions
And these truths fuel the fear that many have when it comes to the resurrected Christ. Some fear giving up their religion and its traditions. Others are afraid of abandoning their own homespun belief system because of pride. Still others are intimidated by the idea of “confessing” that they’re a sinner. On and on and on…humanity can imagine virtually an infinite number of reasons to avoid the realities of the resurrected Christ and death. Because they are afraid. Many respond to Him out of their fear. Then there is the response of the flesh.
And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them.
Others respond to the resurrected Jesus from the flesh. We can think of this in a couple ways. For instance, most followers of the other major religions acknowledge that Jesus was a living historical person.
- Jews and Muslims easily admit Jesus was a real person
- Buddhist and Hindus would do the same
But this is where all of them stop. He was a man…in the flesh…but not the Son of God.
- Not resurrected from the dead
A variety of theories have been devised to explain how Jesus did not die on the cross, therefore didn’t resurrect from the grave. The often-repeated Swoon Theory is familiar (Swoon means to faint). It concludes that Jesus never really died on the cross. Either His executioners thought He was dead and took Him down, or they intentionally took Him off the cross before He died. Jesus was then placed in the tomb where He remained for a couple days regaining His strength then came to His disciples claiming resurrection. Another popular story is that Jesus’ body was stolen by some of His followers and they concocted the resurrection scenario.
Most groups that disagree with the biblical account agree that He was an exceptional teacher and influencer.
- Even miracle-worker
But not the Christ as Luke records. Many accept Jesus in the flesh this way. Others accept Jesus in their own flesh. What do I mean? Simply that they respond to Him as their flesh desires. They recognize Jesus only on their own terms. For them…Jesus is the convenient Christ. The convenient Christ appears when and as these people want Him. Convenient Christ doesn’t demand anything, only wanting to bestow blessings.
The convenient Christ doesn’t judge, correct, or condemn anyone. He approves of all our thoughts and every lifestyle. His standards are subject to our preferences. Convenient Christ happily receives everyone into His heaven, no questions asked. He’s amoral because convenient Christ doesn’t want of offend anyone. Except moral people.
He’s the god of tolerance and inclusion. This is Jesus of flesh and bones…the flesh and bones of sinful men. Now you may think this is a rare version of responding to the resurrection. I hate to disappoint you. It’s been my experience…convenient Christ is how many…if not most people with their names on church roles respond to Him. He’s there when they’re born, baptized, betrothed, and buried. Throw in few funerals and weddings for friends, some Christmas and Easter services, and that’s about it.
When Jesus showed Himself in the flesh to His disciples, He proved His resurrection to them. People who respond to His resurrection solely basis of their own flesh cheapens His rise from the dead…Every bit as much as the bogus theories I mentioned before. To them, He’s not Lord. For them Jesus is just an emotional and spiritual handyman.
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
So far, I’ve shared how people respond to the resurrected Jesus by fear and the flesh. Many are afraid of death’s reality so avoid everything to do with Him. Others respond to His flesh, Jesus’ humanity, while denying of His divinity. Even more respond to His resurrection from their own flesh.
- Insisting on the convenient Christ.
Under the heading “fulfilled” we turn our attention to those for whom Jesus satisfies their religious appetite. He’s their religion and that’s as far as it goes. These are often the first responders of the Christian faith. The professional class. Seminary professors, pastors, church staff, and missionaries. They may lead para-church ministries or teach at Christian schools. They’ve immersed themselves in the organization of religion. Probably believing Jesus resurrected from the dead and fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. So, He becomes a figure to be studied, written about, perhaps admired, but not truly worshiped. They worship religion. For these folks…religion is their religion. I realize that may sound redundant. But follow me.
Christianity was never supposed to be an end in itself. For Christians…our religion is supposed to be the means by which we exalt, worship, and serve the resurrected Jesus. Far too many are satisfied occupying themselves with the system of religiosity rather than the Savior. Because systems can be tweaked…even manipulated. Let me give you an example of who I’m talking about.
Diane and I met a salesman at Lowe’s a couple weeks back. The conversation turned to church matters when he found out I’m a pastor. He told us he’s on the finance committee at his church and it’s been a tough time recently. I presumed the challenges are pandemic related. We were surprised to find out that their financial officer had stollen several million dollars from the church. He’d embezzled the money over a long period of time serving in that capacity for 20 years. Keeping two sets of financial records. Though this may seem like an extreme example, earely a week goes by we don’t hear of a ministry leader whose facade of integrity crashes and burns.
Under the weight of their moral corruption. Sometimes it’s an international figure…others are denominational or local. In the end…they all used the religion of Jesus as a means to take advantage of His flock. For them…the resurrected Jesus was just a means to an end. He fulfills their desire for religion.
[Fear, Flesh, Fulfilled]
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”
What we have in this portion of the passage is Luke’s version of the Great Commission.
- Companion to Matthew 28:16-20
His is a record of the Lord’s counsel to the disciples before His ascension.
50-53, And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God.
We also have Scripture’s favored way of responding to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Leading to the forgiveness of sins
The Opened Minds (45)
First, we see that the disciples understand the Scripture…Specifically, the gospel…after Jesus…opened their minds. He gave them an ability to comprehend what they’d heard. This is so important. Knowable…experiential gospel salvation is an act of God’s delivered grace from beginning to end. Salvation is such radical grace that we don’t have the capacity to grasp it apart from God’s enablement. The Lord initiates His grace that brings salvation. Sometimes He ignites it spontaneously while others are a slow burn.
- Drawn out over years
He must take the initiative because the grip of sin is so potent…our minds require His Divine opening. If Jesus is opening your mind to His saving grace…don’t shut Him out.
The Offered Sacrifice
In verse 46 Jesus reminds His followers what the prophets wrote about the Messiah.
- And He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would sufferand rise again from the dead the third day.
Here we have the Lord as the offered sacrifice for our sins. Time permitting…we could start with the third chapter of Genesis and follow the crimson thread of Christ’s shed blood through the entire Old Testament.
Here’re a few references:
- Genesis 3:15, He would be born of a woman
- Micah 5:2, He’d be born in Bethlehem
- Isaiah 7:14, He would be born of a virgin
- Isaiah 53: He is suffering servant
- Psalm 2:7, The Messiah would be declared the Son of God
- Psalm 41:9, He would be betrayed
- Daniel 7:13-14, Christ would return again
Psalm 22 prophesied Christ’s crucifixion.
- Many others
All of these predictions pointing to just one Person.
- The resurrected Jesus
The Obligation of Repentance
(47a) And that repentance for forgiveness of sins….
What Jesus initiates by opening minds and offering Himself as the sacrifice.
He obligates sinners to repent in order to receive the forgiveness of sins.
Repent…the conscious deliberate acknowledgement of guilt.
Guilty of offending Him by your sins.
The weekly Bible studies I lead as a chaplain are ecumenical.
Participants come from a variety of faith backgrounds.
The topic of repentance and forgiveness came up in one of them last week when a Catholic woman said…
“You Protestants have it so easy…all you have to do is say a prayer and your in.”
“I have to work for my salvation,” she said.
She went on to reflect about how hard it is to make confession to a priest.
Is it a greater obligation to repent to the perfect Jesus than to a man who’s also sinned?
Can that man forgive sins…or the One who knew no sin.
There’s a lot of confusion about repentance under the big tent of Christianity.
In the Greek the word translated repent means a change of mind.
To change how I think about myself and Jesus.
This is the obligation to receive His forgiveness.
I must think of myself as needing His forgiveness and ask for His mercy.
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is the Lord’s preferred response to His resurrection.
Frankly, if it were truly easy…more people would do it.
The Obedient Witnesses
(47-48) And that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Responding rightly to the resurrection is a call to obedience.
Obedience to proclaim the name of Jesus…to be His witnesses.
None of the other responses comes with a Divine charge.
They actually don’t require much of anything…which is why they’re so accepted.
How have you responded to the resurrected Jesus?
Everyone does…everyone will.
Are you so afraid of death that you avoid the One who gives eternal life?
Is Jesus just another convenience to you?
- An inanimate object until you need Him
Maybe He fulfills your religious angst but there’s no real relationship there.
Or have you responded to His resurrection by changing your mind about your sins and Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
Responding to the resurrection.
Everyone does…everyone will.
There’s just one saving response.