Week of April 9, 2017
The Point: The victory we have in Jesus is too big to keep to ourselves.
The Easter Sermon of Jesus Christ: Luke 24:44-49.
 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” [ESV]
“The Easter Sermon of Jesus Christ [44-48]. Easter was over. The women had made their early journey to find the empty tomb. Peter had raced to see the grave clothes. Cleopas and his companion had walked to Emmaus with Jesus, as it turned out, and then back to Jerusalem with their hearts on fire. Jesus himself had suddenly appeared among His disciples, showing them His hands and feet. It was the day of resurrection – the first of all Easters – and it filled the disciples with so much joy they could hardly believe it. Now it was time for Jesus to do what He loved to do as much as anything in the world: preach the gospel of His saving grace [see Luke 4:43]. Maybe Jesus did this on the same night that He appeared to His disciples. What seems more likely, though, is that there is a gap in Luke 24 between verse 43 and verse 44, between Easter evening and all the teaching Jesus did in the following weeks. Luke 24 almost gives the impression that Jesus went back to heaven the same day He rose from the dead. But He was with His disciples for forty days between His resurrection and His ascension as Luke said himself in Acts 1:3. So presumably the end of chapter 24 is a summary of what He taught during those weeks – one long sermon to explain Easter Sunday, everything that led up to it, and everything that would follow. When Jesus says while I was still with you in verse 44, He is hinting that He is about to leave His disciples. But before He goes, He has something supremely important to do, and that is to prepare them to reach the world. The destiny of humanity depended on their faithful witness, so at the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus briefed them on their mission to the world. Only Luke records the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ, in which He preached the gospel of His own resurrection and its implications for the world. It was a biblical, Christ-centered, evangelistic, missionary sermon.
A Biblical Sermon. To begin with, Jesus preached a biblical sermon, in which He proclaimed the gospel promise from the Old Testament. Jesus wanted to give His disciples a complete course in biblical interpretation. He said to them, These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled . Throughout His public ministry Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom. Now, in His last sermon, Jesus wanted to tell His disciples again what He had told them before. When He said these are my words, He was referring to everything He had taught His disciples. This time they were finally ready to hear what He had to say. Jesus had always told them that He would die and rise again, but the disciples had never really understood what He was talking about. Things were different now, though, because they were in the very presence of the crucified and risen Christ. So they were ready to understand the gospel and its implications for the world, as well as their own call to gospel ministry. “Don’t you see,” Jesus could say to them now, “this is what I was talking about. What I did on the cross and through the empty tomb was the outworking of everything I have ever taught you.” What Jesus taught came right out of the Bible, which is where His sermon begins: with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. In briefing His disciples on their mission to the world, Jesus does not begin with their personal spiritual experience. He does not even begin with the physical reality of His own resurrection. Rather, He begins the same place that we should always begin everything in life: with the Word of God. Thus the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ is a biblical sermon. The way Jesus refers to the bible here is by calling it the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. This is the way many Jews referred to the three traditional parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. For them, the Law was the first five books of the bible. The prophets included the Major and Minor Prophets, and also the historical books. The Psalms referred not only to Israel’s hymnbook, but also to other writings in the wisdom literature. Thus talking about the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms was really a shorthand way of referring to the whole Old Testament. Jesus based His life and ministry on everything those writings said about His saving work. In fact, Jesus said that everything in the Bible was about Him. Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the Old Testament. To know the Old Testament truly is to know Jesus, and to know Jesus, one has to know the Old Testament. Jesus used every part of the Old Testament in His own ministry. He taught His disciples many things that were written about Him in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Jesus taught this way because He knew that all these Scriptures had to come true. Everything written about Him must be fulfilled, He said, and the word must expressed a divine necessity. The life of Jesus was governed by the prophecies and promises of the Word of God. In order for God to fulfill His plan – and in order for us to be saved – Jesus had to come into the world the way He came, live the way He lived, die the way He died, and rise again the way He rose again. It all had to happen the way the Bible said it would happen, the way it was promised in the Scriptures. To show this, Jesus preached a biblical sermon at the end of Easter.
A Christ-Centered Sermon. Jesus also preached a Christ-centered sermon, as any biblical sermon ought to be. The main thing that Jesus had taught His disciples – from the Old Testament – was the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Christ. In other words, He preached the gospel, because these are the two basic facts of the gospel: the dying and the rising of the Savior whom God promised. In His Easter sermon, Jesus preached that same gospel again: Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them. ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead’ [45-46]. The gospel promise that was given in the Old Testament – the promise of the Christ – finds its fulfillment in Jesus and His saving work. These were all things that Jesus had told His disciples before [see Luke 9:22; 18:31,33]. But even though Jesus said these things, the disciples did not understand them. When He said the Son of Man would be delivered over to death, they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it [9:45]. Similarly, when He prophesied His death and His resurrection on the third day, they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said [18:34]. The minds of the disciples were closed to the gospel. We should not be surprised, therefore, when people have trouble understanding the gospel or believing in Jesus today. It did not seem all that important to the disciples at first either. They really did not understand what Jesus was talking about. Then Jesus actually did what He always said that He would do: He offered His body for suffering unto death, and then on the third day He rose again. At that point one might think that the disciples would believe the gospel. Yet they still did not understand! When Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection, they thought they were seeing a ghost [Luke 24:37], not a living Savior. Somehow they were still missing something. What made the difference for these disciples? How did they ever start trusting in the cross and believing in the empty tomb? Luke tells us that Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures . What these men needed – what everyone needs – is the mind opening work of God. Christianity is rational, but understanding the gospel is not merely intellectual. It takes a work of God for anyone to know Jesus in a saving way. The Bible says that the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned [1 Cor. 2:14]. It does not matter how smart we are; we will never understand the message of God’s salvation unless and until God enables us to understand it. This is what Jesus did for His disciples, and what He will do for anyone who sincerely asks Him for understanding; He will open our minds to see His salvation. Knowing Jesus is the work of God the Holy Spirit – a work He does when the Bible is preached in a Christ-centered way. Jesus knew that God does His saving work by the Word. So He went back to the same Scriptures He had always preached, and preached them again. Here is an example for our own evangelism, in which we should always trust the Word to do the real work of our witness. When Jesus preached His Easter sermon, He preached Christ crucified and Christ risen, Christ suffering and dying and rising again. He preached Christ from all the Scriptures, opening minds to understand the basic facts of His saving gospel. Jesus did what was prophesied, and then He preached what He had done – His saving work in human history. This is the basic message of the whole Bible: Jesus the Christ suffered and died and rose again.
An Evangelistic Sermon. If we believe the gospel, as promised in the Scriptures and accomplished by the Christ, then we must repent of our sin. This too was part of the Easter preaching of Jesus Christ. His biblical, Christ-centered sermon was also an evangelistic sermon – a sermon that called people to respond by repenting and receiving forgiveness for their sins. Jesus thus ended His ministry the same way He began it: by preaching repentance [see Matt. 4:17]. The biblical gospel is more than a set of facts. We need to know that Jesus died and rose again, of course, but we also need to understand what those facts mean and respond to them in a saving and believing way. This too was promised in the Scriptures. The same Old Testament that promised the sufferings and the resurrection of the Christ, also promised repentance and forgiveness: and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name . Ever since Adam and Eve committed the first sin, God has been calling His people to repentance. The biblical prophets were forever telling the people of God to turn away from sin. And the message of the Old Testament was that God freely offers forgiveness to anyone who is truly sorry for sin. Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, the Scripture says, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy [Prov. 28:13]. Now repentance and forgiveness are to be preached in the name of Jesus on the basis of what He has done on the cross and through the empty tomb. This is how we know that the ancient promise is true, that by the saving grace of gospel repentance, all our sins will be forgiven. We are sure of this because Jesus went to the cross for us, and said, Father, forgive them [Luke 23:34]. We are forgiven through the merit and the mediation of Christ. We know that His sacrifice has been accepted because God raised Him from the dead. It is not only the crucifixion that guarantees our forgiveness, but also the resurrection. The way for us to respond is to repent and believe, and then we too will be forgiven.
A Missionary Sermon. This message of repentance and forgiveness is for everyone in the whole world, which is why Jesus ended His biblical, Christ-centered, evangelistic sermon by turning it into a missionary sermon. First we believe the gospel for ourselves, confessing our own sin and trusting Jesus with our own faith. Next we proclaim that gospel message to others. So Jesus told His disciples that repentance and forgiveness should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem . Then He said, You are witnesses of these things . Like all the resurrection stories in Luke, this one ends with witness. Thus the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ is a missionary sermon for the world. This had been God’s plan from the beginning. He was never the God of the Jews only; He had always had a heart for the world. This too was written in the Scriptures. The same Old Testament that said the Christ would suffer and rise again, and that promised repentance and forgiveness, also said that this saving gospel would be preached throughout the world. It would start in Jerusalem, of course, because that is where Jesus died and rose again, and also because that is what the Scripture promised [see Isa. 2:3; Joel 3:16]. But the gospel would go from Jerusalem to the nations. We see this missionary promise in every part of the Old Testament. We see it in the Law of Moses, which promised that God would bless all nations through the son of Abraham [see Gen. 12:2-3; 17:1-17]. We see it in the prophets, who said, I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth [Isa,. 49:6]. We see it perhaps most clearly in the Psalms. Psalm 22, the same psalm that prophesied that Christ would suffer a God-forsaken death, also made this promise: All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you [Ps. 22:27]. So it was written. The Old Testament promises of God included the missionary age of the church. Now the time had come for all the ancient promises to be fulfilled. Just as it was promised that the Christ would suffer and rise again, so it was promised that forgiveness would be preached to all nations. As far as the plan of God and the fulfillment of Scripture are concerned, the missionary work of the church is as necessary and as important as the cross itself, and as the empty tomb. The Bible thus teaches three great redemptive acts in history: the cross, the resurrection and the missionary work of the church.
A Parting Gift . The gift Jesus promised to give is the best of all gifts. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. What Jesus meant by the promise of His Father was the Third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit Himself. With this parting gift, Jesus gave His disciples the very power of God. The word promise is the perfect word to use in this regard because God had long promised to send His people the Holy Spirit. In fact, the sending of the Spirit is one of the things Jesus said was written in the Scriptures. Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit would be poured upon us from on high [Isa. 32:15]. Ezekiel said that God would put His Spirit in people’s hearts [Ezek. 36:27]. Joel said that in the last days God would pour His Spirit on all His people [Joel 2:28-29]. Jesus promised the same thing when He said that the Father would send the Spirit in the name of the Son [John 14:16-17,26]. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the promise of God – a gift that would come only if and when Jesus returned to the Father [see John 16:7]. The gift of the Spirit is absolutely essential and totally necessary for any effective ministry. Jesus was sending the apostles out to be His witnesses to the world. As they preached repentance and forgiveness through the cross and the empty tomb, they would be utterly dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit. How could they ever fulfill their calling to reach the world for Christ in their own strength? Without the Spirit, not even the preaching of the gospel would have any effect on people, because faith in Jesus and repentance for sin are gifts of the Holy Spirit. No one ever comes to faith in Christ without His regenerating work. But praise God! Jesus has sent us the Spirit He promised to send. He knew that we could never make it on our own; we need the power of God for ministry and for missions. We have that power by the presence and the work of the Holy Spirit. Our gospel does not come to people in words alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit [1 Thess. 1:5]. The gospel does this because Jesus fulfilled His promise, sending the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit has been with us ever since, clothing us with power from on high, just as Jesus promised. Now, by the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, even our own feeble efforts to share the gospel can bring people salvation. We should never be discouraged, but believe that whatever we do for Jesus may yet succeed by the Holy Spirit, who is the power of God. What greater gift could God possibly give us than the gift of Himself, in the person and the work of His Spirit? To have the Spirit is to know the truth of God’s Word, because the Spirit who inspired the Word also opens our minds and hearts to understand it. To have the Spirit is to know forgiveness, because the Spirit convicts the conscience and leads us to repent of our sin. To have the Spirit is to have eternal life, because the Spirit convinces us of the truth of the gospel and enables us to believe in Jesus Christ. Finally, to have the Spirit is to have God’s comfort in every trial we suffer, because when Jesus said that He would be with us always, He was talking about the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the comforting Helper of God [John 14:6]. When He gives us the Spirit, Jesus is giving us Himself, in all His saving grace. To receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, all we need to do is ask: God has promised to give His Spirit to anyone who asks in faith [see Luke 11:13]. Thank God for this best of all gifts – the one gift that brings us all the blessings of God. Without the Spirit we would never believe the Bible. Without the Spirit we would never confess our sins. Without the Spirit we would never know Jesus for sure or receive eternal life. Thank God for the gift of His Spirit!” [Ryken, pp. 677-689, 694-697].
Questions for Discussion:
- What is Jesus’ view of the Old Testament? What is the central message of the Old Testament? What is the meaning and significance of Jesus’ words: must be fulfilled? How does this impact the way you read and study the Old Testament?
- In this “Easter Sermon” Jesus taught the disciples the same message He had been teaching them during His earthly ministry [see Luke 9:22; 18:31-33]. But this time the disciples understood His teaching. Why? What changed? What is the significance of he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures? What does this tell you concerning the way you should approach the study of God’s Word?
- Note the key points of Jesus’ message: death, resurrection, repentance, and forgiveness. Why is His death and resurrection the foundation of the Gospel? What is repentance? Can you receive forgiveness without repentance? How are repentance and forgiveness connected to His death and resurrection?
- What does Jesus tell the disciples to do with this new understanding of the Gospel? What does it mean to be a witness? To whom are they to witness? What essential promise does Jesus give the disciples so that they can be effective witnesses?
- Jesus’ command to be witnesses extends to all believers. What do you learn from this passage concerning the content of your witness? What necessary resource has God provided to you so that you can be an effective witness? Are you seeking and depending upon that resource?
Luke 9:51-24:53, Darrell Bock, BENT, Baker.
The Gospel According to Luke, James Edwards, Pillar, Eerdmans.
Luke, David Garland, Zondervan.
Luke, volume 2, Philip Ryken, REC, P&R Publishing.