He Is Risen!
Welcome to our Resurrection Sunday gathering! He is risen! He is risen indeed!
I want to welcome all of you who are joining this morning – it is a blessing once again to gather with you. I think we all would have loved it if the ban on large crowds were lifted for this Sunday morning, but we are thankful for the technology that allows us to gather this way.
But the disappointment of having Easter service online just points us to the fact that this world isn’t as it’s meant to be. The longing that we feel to be together again is actually a longing for heaven, where everything is right again, we belong, we have joy, we can be part of a community… all of which will be perfectly realized in the presence of Jesus. The fact that we’re on a video call for Easter points to the truth that this world is not our home.
If you are jumping on the call and you’re new to River City, we’re glad you’re here too. I know it takes courage to jump on a video call and not know what you’re getting yourself in for, so I appreciate you being with us.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 24. Friday night, at our Good Friday gathering, we read Luke 22 and 23 together, and this morning we’ll be looking at most of Luke 24.
So let's jump into this together.
Jesus was arrested on Thursday night after celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples. It was there that he instituted the Lord’s Supper as something we should continue to observe. Jesus was put through an all-night trial that included several miles of travel in the dark, and Friday morning he was nailed to a Roman cross. By afternoon he had given up his spirit and died.
Friday at sundown was the beginning of the Passover, so two followers quickly put Jesus in a tomb and would come back on Sunday morning to properly embalm him. That’s what the women are coming to do in chapter 24 here.
Put yourself in their shoes for a minute: Jesus’ body is beaten and whipped almost beyond recognition. They have been dreading this moment. It is not going to be a fun morning.
Luke 24:1-12 CSB
The disciples are amazed, perplexed. And you can see in verse 11 that those who didn’t see the empty tomb thought it was nonsense.
To these good Jewish men and women, the idea of a dying Messiah, especially on a cross, is nonsense. In Deuteronomy 21:23, the Old Testament law says anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed. In their mind, Jesus can’t be the Messiah, the blessed Son of God and be cursed at the same time. The cross is humiliating and shameful. That’s not the way a Messiah goes down.
Secondly, for a good Jew, the word resurrection pointed to something more than just a person coming back to life. The Jews believed that people coming back to life is something that would take place in the last day, at the end of human history, where all of God’s people would be fully restored to life in a renewed creation.
So when Jesus said “I will rise” they thought, yeah, we all will. When the women said, Jesus is alive again, he’s risen! They thought, that’s nonsense. The world hasn’t been restored. The Messiah hasn’t ushered in the kingdom of God. We still have a Roman king. Tax collectors and sinners are still here. You’re crazy.
Maybe you can identify with them. You look around the world, and you wonder how can God be in control, how can his kingdom be here on earth, when sin is still present? We still have human trafficking, still have dictators, still have child abuse, still have divorce and sickness and cancer? Yeah, we know heaven is coming, but what about today?
Luke 24:13-24 CSB
 Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.  Together they were discussing everything that had taken place.  And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them.  But they were prevented from recognizing him.
Now maybe God does something to prevent them from recognizing Jesus, I don’t know. But just like the women who went to the tomb, the last time these two saw him, just a few days ago, Jesus was in pretty bad shape, had died, and been placed in a tomb. It’s not a stretch to say they weren’t looking for a fully restored Jesus walking and talking again.
 Then he asked them, "What is this dispute that you're having with each other as you are walking?" And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.  The one named Cleopas answered him, "Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn't know the things that happened there in these days?"  "What things?" he asked them. So they said to him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him.  But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it's the third day since these things happened.
So two things you see there:
- We were hoping he was the one who was about to redeem Israel.
- Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve given Christianity a chance, and it didn’t do anything for me? I tried Jesus, and it didn’t work.” That’s kind of what they are saying. We went all in on this guy. We thought he was going to save us. We thought he would rescue us from the presence of evil, to push the darkness out of the world, and he didn’t.
- That is just dripping with irony, isn’t it? We thought he was going to give us hope. We thought he was going to rescue us. We thought he was going to usher in a new kingdom, and look – he got himself killed. But what they don’t realize is that is EXACTLY what Jesus was doing!
- Besides all that, it’s the third day since this happened. He said he’d rise on the third day, and well, we haven’t seen him.
 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb,  and when they didn't find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn't see him."
Now, the first thing to see here is that Jesus enters into their story. He walks with them. Talks with them. Hears them out. Listens to their sorrow, walks with them in their doubt. He’s not put off by it; he’s not ashamed of them. He doesn’t angrily turn on his heel and say, “Unbelievable. You guys. I spent how much time with you and you still don’t get it.” As Proverbs 18:24 says, He stays with them, closer than a brother, and gently points them to the truth.
And as these two disciples talk, maybe they are expecting some sympathy from this stranger on the road, an arm on the shoulder and an “I’m sorry for your loss,” but instead...
Luke 24:25-35 CSB
 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Wasn't it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?"  Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.
Jesus walks with them, telling them how he’s the better Moses, who leads his people out of slavery to sin and into the Promised Land of God’s presence; he’s the better tabernacle, the very presence of God making his home with his people; he’s the better High Priest, who intercedes for the people without having to make sacrifices for his own sin; He’s the better sacrifice, that doesn’t just cover sin, but forgives it and removes it; he’s the better Ruth, willingly leaving his home in heaven to live with his people; he’s a better King David, whose throne really lasts forever; he’s the better Solomon, eternally wise and unpolluted by the temptations of the world; he’s a better Israel, completely obedient to his Father’s will; he’s the better Esther, mediating between God and the people; he’s the better Daniel, never defiling himself in sin. He’s the better Jonah, who preaches repentance to his enemies. He’s the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, carrying the sins and sorrow of you and me.
And as he was speaking...
 They came near the village where they were going, and he gave the impression that he was going farther.  But they urged him, "Stay with us, because it's almost evening, and now the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
Maybe they wanted to hear more.
 It was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.  They said to each other, "Weren't our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?"  That very hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and those with them gathered together,  who said, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"  Then they began to describe what had happened on the road and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
And while they are talking, Jesus appears to the disciples again, and in verse 44 tells 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, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. That same conversation he had with the two guys on the road, he now has with all of them, showing them how all of the scriptures point to him.
Luke 24:46-49 CSB
 He also said to them, "This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day,  and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high."
- Repentance for forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed to all the nations
- You will be the witnesses of the suffering, the rising, the repentance.
- I am sending you the promise of the Father – don’t try this on your own strength. Stay in the city until you receive power from God.
Now that’s all well and good, right, that’s a great story. But to a world wrestling with a global pandemic, surrounded by fears and worries and doubts, struggles of ordinary life, how does a dead guy on a cross help anything? It’s great that Jesus can explain how the whole bible points to him. In fact, it’s pretty cool that he came back to life. Great story!
So what? What does that have to do with us today?
Think of it like this: according to Isaiah 53, when Jesus went to the cross, he was carrying more than just a piece of wood on his shoulders. He was carrying the sin and shame and the brokenness of creation on his shoulders. The punishment for our sin was on him. The payment for sin is death, and Jesus was writing the check for our rebellion.
- That’s good news! If Jesus doesn’t go to the cross, God either excuses our sin, “eh, it’s not that big of a deal”, and he is no longer qualified to be righteous and holy, or God punishes us for our own sin and we die the second we choose something that doesn’t honor him.
Now if I write you a check to pay for groceries or some work you did, it’s all well and good, but the check on its own isn’t any good unless there are sufficient funds in my account. It’s not until that check clears that you can consider the transaction complete.
- The resurrection, then, when God brings Jesus back to life, is declaring that the cross worked! There were sufficient funds in Christ’s account – there was enough righteousness in his account to pay for anyone who would believe!
1 Corinthians 15:17 says, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is worthless; you still lose. Death and hell win. The next verse says if Christ hasn’t been raised, then none of your family members who already died are in heaven. They perished in sin, separated from God for eternity. The verse after that says if we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, that if Jesus is just a good guy we should try to emulate or believe that he died to make life here on earth amazing, then we are a pathetic bunch. People who drive by our churches on Sundays should shake their heads and say, what a deluded bunch of whacks.
But, the apostle Paul goes on, as it is, Christ HAS been raised from the dead, and is the guarantee that anyone who is in Christ will also be made alive.
The first Adam ate from a tree in rebellion, and we all died.
The second Adam hung on a tree in love, and we live!
But some will think that’s crazy talk. It’s nonsense that someone would love me that much. It’s nonsense that someone I never met dying on a cross 2000 years ago makes any difference to me today. The cross is nonsensical to the modern man or woman. Romans 3 tells us that our greatest problem in life is not a virus, not liberal politicians, or any other world leaders, it’s not cancer or sickness – our greatest problem is that we fall so far short of God’s glory that not a single person will be made right with God by just trying to do what’s right, or making sure that our good outweighs our bad when we die.
Sin doesn’t make you bad. It makes you dead.
When we come to Jesus by faith, and receive the free gift of his grace, that he served the sentence we deserved, the cross and the empty tomb are no longer nonsense, but they are the power of God to bring you to life and save you from your sin! Don’t wait a minute longer – cry out to God right there in your living room, and let him raise you to new life in him.
Or maybe you’re on the call this morning, and the cross in all of its horror and agony and blood, and the empty tomb where Jesus once laid, are the most precious things to you because they are your salvation – It is from God that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us –
- our righteousness (you have a right standing with God, not because of how well you’re hanging in there during the coronavirus, not because of how well you’re doing at homeschooling now, or parenting, or marriage, or at your job, or how many Facebook friends you have – you have a right standing with God because Jesus gave it to you!),
- he is our sanctification (we are being set apart, being made holy, getting closer all the time to the image of God we were meant to be),
- and he is our redemption (he paid the price to buy us out of the kingdom of darkness, and has transferred us to a new team – the kingdom of light).
Our hope is not in how good a Christian we can be, but in the fact that there was one man who lived the Christian life perfectly in our place. He is our hope and our salvation! And it’s the empty tomb that gives us the confidence that we have been saved, are being saved, and will eternally be saved! Let’s pray.