Archive for June, 2015

1 Corinthians (Background) — There are cities today that are known for their wide-open lifestyles, Las Vegas and Amsterdam come immediately to mind. Las Vegas makes it part of their advertising campaigns by saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” If the city of Corinth back the 50’s (no, not the 1950’s, the original 50s, when our years only had two digits, had an advertising agency to draw in tourists, they may have used this phrase to describe their city.

Las Vegas and Corinth have some things in common. As you know, Las Vegas was a created city. It originally was simply a railroad crossing where two railroads met. It was not until the 1930s with the building of the Hoover Dam that it became a real city. With all that influx of unattached men, the city became ripe for raucous entertainment and increasingly degraded morality. Anything went in Vegas in those days. If you wanted to find immorality there, you did not have to look far. Although Vegas may have cleaned up its image a great deal in the last 20-30 years but Vegas is Vegas and if you are looking for immorality there, you can still find it with maybe just a little more effort than back in the wild days of the 1930’s-1970s.

Corinth was similar in that it was a created city. It had been destroyed by Rome in 146 BC and lied in ruins for around a century with virtually no inhabitants. However, in 46 BC, Julius Caesar saw its strategic importance as a seaport and how it could enrich the empire so he began to rebuild it. It quickly grew into a very cosmopolitan city and by the time Paul was there in 50 AD or so, it was a large thriving city. Because it was a seaport and was located on an isthmus between the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, people from all over the Roman Empire and other non-Roman quadrants would on occasion pass through Corinth. It was kind of like the Atlanta airport – people from all over the place would be there at any given time. Add to that, it was home to a Temple to Aprhodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Part of the worship at that temple included the ability to have sex with one of the thousands of temple prostitutes who worked at and often lived close around the temple. Additionally, sex of all kinds was easy to find in Corinth. Homosexuality was equally easy to find.

Needless to say, Corinth was a wide-open city with loose sense of morality. Things were so morally degraded there, to live a life of debauchery and sexual immorality was often referred to in the Roman Empire as “corinthianizing”. People from all over could come to Corinth and have a weekend like what was depicted in the movie, The Hangover. Las Vegas may even seem tame compared to Corinth. In Corinth sex was on full display. Amsterdam of today is very similar in the way that it advertizes sex in certain quarters of the city. It was the most unlikely of places to start a church plant. It was not the easiest place to start a church much less maintain one. With this backdrop, we find this canonical first letter to the church at Corinth. There were believed to have been four letters Paul wrote to this church during his Christian ministry but only the second and fourth ones are in the Bible as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. No wonder there were four letters to this church, it was in the sin city of all sin cities. Young Chrisitians in a city that glorified immorality and physical pleasures. It was a tough place to be a new Christian, especially those who had Roman or Greek backgrounds and did not grow up in the Jewish tradition.

Tomorrow, we will get into the first passage, but today I wanted us to understand a little bit about why this letter was written and in that fact we find something that we can identify with. Many of those who do not know Christ as their Savior and even sometimes those who are followers of Jesus often see the Bible as not speaking to issues that we deal with today. But the downright truth of it all is that man has not changed a whole lot between those days and now. Oh sure, the technology has changed. But the basic nature of man has not changed. When you read about the background of Corinth, you go, wow! Man, that’s not a whole lot different from the way things are now.

Corinth was not too different from the society in which we live today. We now live in a culture that glorifies sex outside of marriage. We now live in a society that glorifies homosexuality. We now live in a society that glorifies premarital and extramarital heterosexual sex. Anything went in Corinth. Anything goes now. Whatever felt good in Corinth, you did it. Whatever make you feel good today, you are beckoned to do it. Physical pleasures are glorified. The world tells us today that whatever makes us feel good we have an inalienable right to do it. In Corinth, those who saw sex as sacred between a husband and a wife were considered square and were most likely ridiculed. It was really hard being a new Christian in that environment and it raised many questions for them as to what being a Christian really means in a world that seems to be opposite of what Paul had taught them. Sound familiar?

That is the beauty of God’s Word. It is ageless and timeless. It is God’s Word after all. It spoke to man in the original 50s and it will speak to man in 2050. It is the inspired truth of our Creator. His Word will never change and that is something we can count on. That is something that we can count on in a world where the bar of morality is lowered with each generation. God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. Man is the one who changes morality to fit his current needs and desires. So, let us dive into 1 Corinthians tomorrow and look the guidance of Paul to a church full of new Christians living in a world seeking self-pleasure. We will find that this letter to the church at Corinth could have easily been written to churches in 2015. See you back here tomorrow. And as Paul would often open his letters, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give your grace and peace!” See you manana!

Luke 24:50-53 — Here we are at the end of the Gospel of Luke. The end of another book of the Bible, another book of the New Testament. But it is not the end. The gospels are only the beginning. At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ true majesty is revealed and we see the beginnings of His church. This passage is open ended even though it is the conclusion of Luke. The ascension is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. It is like leaving the movie when the credits roll and missing the outtakes. With its open ended ending, it is like these movies today that beg for a sequel by how they don’t really wrap up and resolve everything at the end of the movie. That’s the beauty of it all. This story is nowhere near over yet.

The first thing that you will notice here in the concluding passage of Luke’s gospel is that Jesus blesses them. He gives them benediction, a good word with which to be sent forth. Jesus lifted his hands to heaven to bless them. He was calling upon the glory of heaven to be marshalled into his blessing of these men that, though sometimes cowardly and clueless, had risked it all to be with Him for three years. It reminds me that Jesus will bless our obedience to His call. Many of us are overcome by fear and do not follow the call that Jesus has on our lives. We are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary. We are not willing to leave our comfort zone. Regardless of their failures, though, Jesus’ disciples had risked it all for the man they loved and admired and the man they believed to be the promised One. They had followed Him. They had worked with Him. They had spent nights sitting by campfires with Him. During their time with Him, they had seen the miracles. They had seen the evidence of God’s power and provision. For all their inadequacies and lack of formal theological education, they had risked it all to follow their call. And, here, we see Jesus blessing them. God blesses those who have a greater love for Him than they do for their own comfort. Are you following God’s call on your life? Have you made excuses for why you cannot? Have the trust of the disciples, my friend. Somehow they knew and trusted through Jesus that God would provide for them and their families. The Lord will provide and He will bless your humble obedience to His call. He will make a way for you. You simply must trust Him and follow. He will bless you.

The second thing that you will notice in this final passage of the Gospel of Luke is that Jesus returns to His glory in heaven. As Dr. Ralph Wilson says at about this passage,

“As Jesus ascends from the earth into heaven, he is ascending directly into the presence of the Almighty Father. As the Son of Man he appears before the Ancient of Days to receive an unshakable Kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14), reinstatement of his former glory (John 17:5), of which he had voluntarily “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7). Now it is fully restored.”

His ascension reminds us that He was and is of the same and one essence with the Father. He is one and the same with the Father. Now, consider this, Jesus walked the earth as a man and had set aside His full glory while here and lived as we lived. He felt things we feel. He experienced everything we experience. He lived the human existence. But now He is returning to His mighty glory. The combination of these two things is what make me love Jesus all the more. He is God and all that it entails. He is ageless, timeless, the Creator of all things, the possessor of all knowledge, the ruler of the universe. But at the same time, I know that He understands what its like to live every aspect of the human existence. I know that He is my advocate in Heaven. He knows what it is like to be in human flesh. He knows what it is like. He understands. Him returning to His glory equipped with His human experiences gives me confidence that when I fail and when I disappoint and when I need His comfort and His advice and His direction, He knows. He knows what it is like to live in my human flesh. He is all powerful and yet He knows.

The final thing that we notice here as we conclude Luke, the story is not over. It is not the end. Luke’s story seems open ended and begging for a sequel, much like many of the serial movie franchises that are out right now like the Hunger Games and Twilight. The ending of the movie sets up the hunger for the next installment. Here the story is not over. They returned to Jerusalem with joyful worship. The story is not over. It is just beginning. There is no sadness at Jesus’ ascension. He empowered them to go forth. They are ready and awaiting the next step. The final two words of Luke’s gospel are “praising God.” How fitting is that. The final verb is present tense. That means this is not over. They are praising. That is the point of everything to be in the present and praising God. The job is ahead of us and the point of it all is praising God. God is the point of it. Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus came to earth to be with us, live among us, experience what we experience, and to be the sacrifice for our sins and is now our advocate in Heaven. Is there no wonder the disciples were joyfully worshiping and praising God. They have got the good news and they will spread it. The story is not over. It is our turn in our time to be joyful worshipers, praising God, spreading the good news. The story is not over.

Luke 24:44-49 — In this next to the last passage of the Book of Luke, Jesus explained the prophecies that He fulfilled, that He was the suffering Messiah predicted in the Old Testament (OT), and that this fact must be preached to the whole world because it is through His sacrifice that all the world may come to salvation and restoration to a right relationship with God. Jesus is the point of it all.

This scene reminds of those post-game shows after a major college football game where the analysts try to tell what the implications are for the winner and the loser of the game. Here, Jesus is telling them what all of the past three years were about and what the implications for the future are.

None of the past three years would have made any sense if Jesus was not the Messiah, the promised Savior. Jesus walked them through the OT. He showed them that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), check. He showed them that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), check. He showed them that the Messiah was to be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15, 19), check. He showed them that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem in a triumphal entry (Zechariah 9:9), check. He demonstrated that the Messiah would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:1,3), check. He even showed them that the Messiah would be betrayed by one of His own followers (Psalm 118:22, 41:9), check. The Messiah was to be tried and condemned (Isaiah 53:8), check. The Messiah was to be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7), confirmed. The Messiah was to be struck and spat upon by His enemies (Isaiah 50:6), yes that happened. The Messiah was to be mocked and insulted (Psalm 22:7-8), yep. The Messiah was to die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:16-17), that’s an affirm. The Messiah was to suffer as and with criminals and yet at the same time pray for his enemies (Isaiah 53:12), this is recorded. The Messiah was to be offered bitter wine as He was dying (Psalm 69:21), got it. The Messiah’s clothing would be subject of gambling bets among His captors (Psalm 22:18), check. The Messiah’s bones were not to be broken (as was often the case in crucifixion to hasten on death) (Exodus 12:46), yes. The Messiah was to die as a sacrifice for our sins (Isaiah 53:5-12), we know this. The Messiah was to be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10), we are reading about it right now.

Jesus showed them that He was the fulfillment of all OT scripture. He was the Messiah. He was all the things that God promised. That’s the point. Anything else, his 3 year mission was too short, his death was meaningless, and his resurrection from the dead unneeded. He is not just another prophet. He is the Messiah who came to earth for the express purpose of fulfilling prophecy which includes Him being the sacrifice once and for all time for our sins. When we believe in the Messiah, we are restored to a right relationship with God. That’s the message. That’s the good news!

What’s the point of all of it? What are the implications for the future? Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus fulfilled all of the above OT prophecies and others that are not named above. He is the real deal. He is the Son of God. He was the culmination of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. He is the point of it all. Jesus came to be the agent by which we can be restored to a right relationship with God. This is what the OT predicted. God has been working His plan through the ages and Jesus was the culmination of His Promise and His Plan. God never does random. There is purpose. Jesus is the way in which all things are culminated and He is the way in which we are made right with God.

What are the implications for the future? Jesus tells us right here that we must go forth and share the story of redemption through Himself. Without the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus, there is no hope for our eternity. With and through Jesus, we have hope. We are made right with God through Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the Messiah. God keeps His Word. This is the message we must share with the whole world.

Unless it is about leading people to see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise as the Messiah, the Savior, the Anointed One, there is no point. We can touch the world around us with nice acts of charity and do big free events to get people in our doors, but if the end game is not about showing them the Messiah, showing them the Jesus who died for their sins to make them right with God, then, there is no point. Close the doors. Send everyone to charitable agencies and to the kindness of the good people out there. The point of Jesus’ church as Jesus Himself says in Luke 24:47 is that “it was also written that this message be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem.” We have our charge from our boss, and that’s the point.

Luke 24:36:43 — Jesus said, “Why are you frightened? Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As He spoke, He showed them His hand and feet (vv.38-40).

When I first read these verses again yesterday morning and again this morning, it hit me that Jesus does invite us to question Him. He wants us to ask questions. He wants us to be inquisitive about Him. He asks the disciples to touch Him. He asked them to give Him food. Jesus invites our doubts. You do not have to lose your mind to believe in Jesus Christ. He does not want you to just blindly believe in Him just because it’s the trendy thing to do, or because it’s what your parents did. He certainly doesn’t want you to confuse blind observance of religious rituals. He wants to be in a real relationship with you. He does not want you to be a robot and just blindly follow the flow when it comes to Him. He wants your questions. He wants your doubts.

He wants you to question His existence so that through study you can come to the conclusion that He did in fact exist. We can prove from extrabiblical sources who had nothing to gain or lose by mentioning Jesus’ name that Jesus did in fact exist.

There is so much common acceptance that Jesus existed that every man-made religion has to have a position on him while the theology of Christians stands on Jesus alone and has no need to respond to the human founders of religions. Buddhists often see Jesus Christ as a spiritual master or as one who has achieved enlightenment but has chosen not to enter nirvana (a bodhisattva) so that he could lead others to enlightenment but He is only one of the many paths to enlightenment. The first one is that Jesus was one of the incarnations (avatars) of God.

Most Hindus believe that God, specifically Vishnu, took on human or animal forms at various times in order to perform certain feats that would preserve true Hindu teaching (the dharma). Whereas Christians generally believe that Jesus was the one and only incarnation of God, this view would hold that he was an incarnation, just not the only one.

Islam absolutely dismisses the identity of Christ as the Son of God. Second, Islam seems to attempt to further lower the status of Christ even as a man, through Mohammed revelations about his visit to heaven. While sleeping, he is awoken by Gabriel who takes him to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There he meets with Moses, Jesus and other prophets to pray. Afterwards he is shown a ladder and he and Gabriel climb it and ascend through the seven heavens. On each level they meet an important person. At the bottom, level 1, is Adam. Level 2 is both Christ and John the Baptist. Level 3 is joseph, level 4 is Enoch, level 5 is Aaron and level 6 is Moses. Finally, in level 7 he meets Abraham and then is given instructions by Allah. At each level of Heaven Mohamed comes closer to God. Each level has a person of greater significance as he gets closer and closer to God with Abraham, the first Patriarch, being closest. Christ is only at level 2 and is below Joseph, Enoch, Aaron, Moses, and Abraham. Also, Jesus isn’t alone on the second level of Heaven.

So there is common acceptance among most if not all man-made religions of the world that Jesus did in fact exist. Each one reacts to Him in some way and gives Him some sort of acknowledgement at least as a holy man. Why do they do that? They acknowledge his existence. So if it is commonly accepted that Jesus existed then there are two other questions that arise. Research it. Question it. Jesus invites it. He doesn’t want you to just dismiss Him without researching Him or accept Him as Savior blindly. Jesus is ready to reason with you. So, then, if we accept the evidence that is there that Jesus existed, then you must deal with who He was and what He said.

In today’s world it is trendy to say that all paths lead to heaven. No matter what you believe, it is OK. If I choose to believe in the tall tree outside my house as god then that’s OK. We go to heaven no matter what. Just try to be good. It’s OK. Man, does that take the pressure off or what! But Jesus said that He is the only way to the Father. No one comes to the Father accept through Him. If all roads lead to heaven, then Jesus is lying, right? He invites your questions on this subject. He wants to work it out with you. It is a relationship after all. We do not get drafted into the army of believers, we volunteer for the assignment. So, it must be a choice and Jesus wants you to have made an understanding choice. It is only through understanding that He is who He says He is that our faith deepens and is not shaken by those who question our beliefs. Jesus wants you to question. He wants you to seek answers. He wants you to understand why you believe what you believe. Because this is a relationship and not religion. Study and understand why this Jesus, who actually existed as the evidence suggests, is really and truly the one and only true way to the Father in heaven. He invites your questions. He wants you to seek and find. He wants you to knock and have the door opened.

In earthly relationships, the ones that are healthy are ones where we can question one another, reason with one another, have debates with one another. It would not be much of a relationship otherwise. Jesus stands before the disciples. He invites them to question. He is in relationship with them. That is what Jesus wants from us, a real relationship with Him. Not robotic rituals of religion. Certainly, rituals can have their place as long as you fully are invested in praising our Savior and giving God glory by doing them rather than just mindlessly, thoughtlessly doing them. Jesus wants to be right there in the room with you. He wants to know when you are mad at Him. He wants to know when you have questions about God. He wants to know when you have questions about what you believe. He is there in the room inviting you to touch His wounds, watch Him eat. He is right there in the room with you ready to answer your questions. That is relationship not religion.

Luke 24;36-43 — There are two things that are striking about this passage that are important to consider. First, let us consider that Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”. Second, let us consider that Jesus invited the disciples to touch Him. These things point us toward the fact that Jesus has forgiveness sufficient to cover our failings through our repentance and the fact that Jesus invites us to question Him. Today, we will focus on Jesus’ statement, “Peace be with you!” Tomorrow, we will look at how Jesus invites us to be inquisitive about Him. So, today, Peace Be With You is the subject. Why in the world did Jesus say that to the disciples?

When Jesus appears to them, He is not an angry as one might be if you were in Jesus’ shoes. If you drift back to your teenage years and most of us guys were often mischievous. We would often do things that were either close to breaking the law or clearly over the line of the law. In a group, it always sounded like a good idea, right? And, then, when you were the one that got caught, all your friends scattered like roaches and left you holding the bag. Though Jesus had done nothing wrong as we may have done as teenagers, his disciples scattered on Him like roaches when you turn the light on. They had abandoned Him to die alone. One of them, Peter, even denied that he even knew Jesus. Talk about friends, huh? When crunch time was on, they failed miserably. We, though, cannot condemn them much. We often fail Jesus miserably on a daily basis. Sometimes, we even deny that we know Him rather than feel uncomfortable. But Jesus appears to them and the first thing he says is what? He doesn’t say, “you dogs, you let me down” or “dudes!, you left me hangin’!” No, Jesus, amazingly (after seeing what cowards the disciples had become in that decisive in the Garden), says, “Peace, be with you.” Shalom. The peace that passes all understanding.

Jesus does not rebuke his disciples. He offers them the peace of God. He had every right to dress them down for their failures. He had every right to slap each one of them in the face. He had every right to make them feel about two inches tall. And, by our human standard of tit for tat, we would not have blamed Him. However and instead, Jesus offers them forgiveness. Jesus offers them acceptance. He offers them restoration to His amazing love. Does this not speak loudly to you? Jesus has forgiveness for you even though you don’t think you deserve it. The disciples most certainly felt great shame for their failing of their Master. They probably did fear that He would punish them when He appeared to them. Even though we have shame for how we have been living our lives, if we come to Jesus with a repentant heart and desire his forgiveness more than anything else, He will grant us Shalom. He will grant us peace. He will grant us forgiveness. His love for us is far greater than any disappointment He has in us. Jesus sees what we can be in relationship with Him not what we were before. Just as we as parents see the potential of our children and not their failings. Just as we love our children despite their failings, Jesus is that way about us. He loves us and desires for us to make Him our Savior and the Lord over our lives. He has peace for you and for me!

Not only is how Jesus reacted to the disciples a direct example for us of the forgiveness we find in Jesus, it is also an example of how we should be with other people. Certainly, there are times when rebuke is necessary and required and Jesus often rebuked his disciples. Such rebuke was necessary at times, but He always did it in a way that help the disciples grow not tear them down and stomp on them. However, in this instance, Jesus did not rebuke. He knew the disciples were already beating themselves up. He knew that they were scared. He knew that they were fearful for their lives. We must learn from Jesus. There is a time for loving rebuke but there is also a time when we must simply love and reassure. It is amazing as a parent (we get no formal training on parenting and our kids do not come with customized instruction booklets) that we often do know the difference. Sometimes, we know when our kids need rebuke when they have done wrong and when they need reassurance that they are still loved despite the wrong. Jesus in this instance knew that reassurance was called for. Jesus knew that reaffirming His love for them was called for.

Regardless of whether rebuke is called for or simply uncommon acceptance in the face of betrayal, we must always have our eye on restoration and on reconciliation. Jesus restores and reconciles us to our Father in heaven. We should be the same about the relationships in our lives. If we are called to be little Christs, the literal meaning of Christian, then we can do no less. Everything must be motivated by our love for Jesus and our love for our fellow man. Even when we rebuke others, it must be done in love and with an eye toward reconciliation and an eye toward giving God glory. Sometimes, the situation will call for us to simply tell those that have betrayed, disappointed, or have been evil toward us that we must simply offer them peace. We must offer peace in reaction to hate. We must offer love in the face of evil. We must offer acceptance in the face of betrayal. We must offer restoration the face of disappointment from others. We speak of Christ when we say Peace Be With You to those who have bitterly disappointed us. We speak of Christ when we tell a person that knows they have disappointed us and fear retribution that we love them anyway. We speak of Christ when we restore a relationship rather than throw it away. We speak of Christ when we love when the expectation is hate. We speak of Christ when we seek to emulate our Savior’s behavior in this passage. Amen and Amen.

Luke 24:13-25 — Have you ever been so wrapped up in your own problems that you cannot see things clearly? Often someone has to literally or figuratively throw water in our face to get us to snap out of our self-focus. We often can only see things from our own perspective until someone points out to us what the real deal is. On the road to Emmaus, we see this concept in action.

The two men, one of which was named Cleopas, had been among those who counted themselves as part of the growing throng that were Jesus followers. They were not the direct disciples of Jesus but they were followers. Even though they had heard Jesus preach and teach, these two men had seemingly missed the significance of the moment in Jerusalem. They had missed the significance of history’s greatest event because they were too concerned with their own disappointments and problems. In fact, they are so wrapped up in their own tunnel-vision view of life that they did not recognize Jesus even as He was walking beside them. They were full of disappointment. These followers just like many others had been counting on the Jesus to be some conquering political and military figure that would restore Israel to its former glory under David and Solomon. Somehow the message of the Old Testament prophecies had been idealized given current circumstances. The prophecies clearly state that the Messiah was predicted to die to redeem his people from their slavery to sin. They did not realize that his death was not the end of a political movement but the beginning of the redemption of mankind. They were so caught in the admiration of earthly things of political power and military might that they were blind to God’s kingdom values – the last will be first, the lowly will be exalted, the persecuted will be victorious, life grows out of death.

Sometimes, we make the Messiah what we want Him to be too. My Jesus would do this. My Jesus would do that. May we always compare our concept of Jesus to what Scripture says and not try to mold Him into what we want Him to be. We must not allow ourselves to make Jesus into what we want Him to be. We must conform ourselves to the Jesus of Scripture. We must not alter the Jesus of Scripture to fit the current culture. That means we must study the Bible not just create Jesus into our own image of what we want Him to be. It was only through instructing them on Scripture and how it all pointed to the suffering Messiah that the eyes of the two followers were opened.

Beginning with the promised offspring (Genesis 3:15) and going through the suffering servant in Isaiah (Isaiah 53), the pierced one in Zechariah (Zechariah 12:10), and the messenger of the covenant (Malachi 3:1), I imagine that Jesus sets them straight on the Old Testament. Jesus Christ is the thread that is woven throughout all Scripture. He is the central theme that ties the Bible together. It’s all about Jesus. It all points to Jesus as the culmination of God’s redemptive plan for man. Without understanding that all of Scripture points to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we will miss the importance of his death and resurrection. Without the Old Testament prophecies and without God working his redemptive plan through Jesus, it is easy to mistake Jesus as just a man, as just another prophet, as just a political revolutionary, as just a radical rabbi, rather than the true Messiah. Scripture predicted a Messiah who would die in punishment for our sins and as a result reconcile us to our perfect Creator. Jesus had to be this for mankind.

What are you making of this Jesus Christ? Know Scripture and know the real Messiah. Understand the total picture. Understand why his death on a cross is important for you even if you have not yet accepted Him as your Savior. Understand the significance of the resurrection. It was and is part of the redemptive plan set in motion from Genesis til now til Revelation by God – our loving and yet just God. We can sit and listen to sermons without cracking our Bible open and think we know Jesus. Yes, we need the encouragement and even the challenges of sermons guided by the Holy Spirit, but if you do not study Scripture from beginning to end then you miss the full story of who, what, how, and why God’s redemptive plan points to Jesus Christ.

Luke 24:11-12 — Have you ever heard a story that you just couldn’t believe. To compound it, the story comes from someone or several people in whom you by nature did not trust their testimony. That’s where the disciples find themselves in these two verses.

The first thing that we notice here is that is was two women to whom the resurrection was first revealed. That might not seem like a big deal to us in the 21st century where, at least in Western society, women have, for the most part, equal rights to men and equal access to the protection of the law. However, this was simply not the case in 1st century Palestine and most any society in history previous to this point. In first century Palestine where we find ourselves in this passage, women had little in the way of rights and little in the way of taking care of themselves financially. They were at the mercy of men. Women were considered hysterical and unreliable. It was so such this way that their testimony was not allowed in legal proceedings because of this perception. But, yet, the resurrection was revealed first to first century Palestinian women. So those that were considered the most unreliable of legal witnesses (just a shade above shepherds – to whom the birth of Jesus was first revealed) were the first to report the resurrection. Why in the world in a society where women were not given much merit would Jesus reveal his resurrection to women first? Couldn’t he as God in the flesh orchestrated more reliable initial witnesses? If this was all a fabrication of the church, why not have someone as respected as Nicodemus be the first to find the empty tomb? I think that this says much about the reliability of the gospels. The early church did not care that the first witnesses were women. They did care about being truthful. Sure, it would have been easier for it not to have been women who first saw the Risen Lord, but they wanted accuracy more than the political correctness of the day. The fact that women discovered the empty tomb and this fact was not washed over or covered up gives me confidence in the resurrection, the cornerstone of our faith.

Sure that is true in the long run, but Peter could not believe what he was hearing. After all, the testimony was coming from women. He just thought, we imagine in the day and time in which he lived, that the women were just so distraught that they had just imagined it all. After all, they were women! His understanding of women led him to believe that they were just upset because when women love they really love deep down in their souls. He felt they were just grieving enormously, as he would think in first century Palestine, in the ways that only women can. He felt that they had just let their hysterical female emotions get the best of them. The story initially seemed like nonsense to him. But then, Peter probably remembered how Jesus treated women with respect and allowed them to participate in his earthly ministry without reservation or complaint. So, Peter goes against his nature for the social time in which he lived, and goes to the tomb to check out the women’s testimony. He sees the empty tomb for himself. But still he was blown away by it all. What happened, he thought to himself. Someone stole our Master’s body?

Peter is not unlike us here. Even though Scripture clearly states and Jesus himself predicted his resurrection, when we hear about it the first time, we may need time before we can comprehend it. At first, we may think it is a fairy tale – the happy ending to a tale of murder and intrigue. We may think it is just something the church added later to make Jesus seem divine. They think that it is too incredible to be believed. They think it is a lie. Yet, these are the same people that think the universe just spontaneously created itself out of nothing for no apparent reason without the spark of an intelligent creator.

Many may think it is a nice story worthy of being believed because they would like to think Jesus was who He said He was, but just really do not believe it deep down in their souls. They avoid the subject of the resurrection so that they will not get mired in the debate because really they are puzzled by the claim themselves. These people may believe in an Intelligent Creator that started all this but yet they are not willing to believe that He is actively involved in man’s history. Thus, the resurrection is a puzzling anomaly in an otherwise brilliantly crafted collection of literature known as the Bible.

It is only when we encounter Jesus in a personal way through the Holy Spirit’s action in our souls that we are no longer incredulous about the resurrection. It is only when we see and accept that Jesus is the Son of God that the resurrection is no longer puzzling. It makes sense that the same Creator, that built a universe by His will and gave it His spark to cause it to be created out of nothing and be created for a purpose, can raise His own essence from the dead. We must admit to ourselves that we do not understand the mysteries of the universe. We must admit that we do not possess all knowledge. Each generation of mankind has thought that they knew it all and with each successive generation we find that what we held fervently as true is not (see world is flat folks, etc.). Therefore, our knowledge is limited. We can debunk the resurrection as being a fairy tale based on the knowledge level that we have in the 21st century, but there is a God with limitless knowledge and limitless power. He created the universe and He can then surely raise His Son from the dead. I may not understand how this happened physically, but I trust that it did. Until though, you accept the fact that we are not our own gods and do not know it all and do not know all the answers to life and come to our knees before Christ our Savior, the resurrection is puzzling, hard to explain, and maybe harder to defend.

Peter did not believe it at first and he was right there with Jesus day to day for three years and heard Jesus predict that He would rise from the dead. It is hard to believe. It takes faith more than anything else in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ to believe that He rose from the dead. But when we really walk down the path of life with Jesus as our Savior, we begin to see the validity of the resurrection. Jesus promised it. He did it. He is thus not a dead prophet to be admired like one admires Ghandi or Martin Luther King but a real King, a real Savior, and a living daily presence in our lives. The resurrection is my assurance that Jesus is with me daily. That is faith. Resurrection believed. Jesus with me daily.

Luke 24:1-11 — Why do you look for the living among the dead? That is a question we often must ask ourselves as Christ followers. Do you display the joy of knowing that Jesus is risen from the dead? To those who reject the church, it is often because we as Christians display no joy. Many of us have gotten so caught up in religion that we have become Pharisees. We are so interested in not doing wrong or justifying how our wrongs are not as bad as the wrongs of others or by justifying how are wrongs are just not that bad. We read the Bible because that is what we are supposed to do we think. We join in on corporate church activities because again there is that brownie point system we believe that will help us avoid hell. Attending church is our fire insurance. There is no joy in religion. There is no joy in trying to do all the right things so that men might see. No wonder some folks reject the church. In many local bodies of Christ’s church, you find no joy. Yes, religion sucks the life right out of you. Religion and relationship are two different things. When we have relationship with Jesus, there is an unspeakable joy that comes knowing that Jesus is not just a dead prophet. He is our Risen Savior.

Some of us go read the Bible like it is a chore. Some of us go to church like it is a somber memorial service. That’s religion. It is not a relationship with a risen Savior. There is joy in knowing that He is risen. I am not talking about the joy that comes from earthly pleasures but joy and contentment of the soul. The resurrection is the central fact of our faith. On it, the church is built. Man-made religions including those that perverted Christianity have strong ethical systems, concepts about the paradise and the afterlife, holy writings, and urgings to perform to capture our ticket to a positive afterlife. Only in true Christianity is there God who so loved us that He broke into human history, literally offered himself up to die as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and rose from certain death to give up victory over our sin and to give us our eternal hope.

We rejoice because we worship a risen Savior. There is joy in that! He saved us from our sin nature. He works through the Holy Spirit to a lifetime of changing us to be more like Jesus as we mature in Him. But what makes all the changes and the pain of growing to be more like Jesus daily is the joy of knowing He is risen. God’s power that brought Jesus back to life is the thing that gives us joy in a world that is intent on destroying itself with its own selfishness and evil. It is the resurrection that gives us hope in the midst of trouble. It is the resurrection that gives us hope for the future. It is the resurrection that unites all true believers in a joy that cannot be understood until you accept Christ as your Savior. It is the resurrection that powers us on through personal trials and tribulations. It is the resurrection that gives us our joy. When you get all caught up in doing the busy work of the church, when you get all caught up in being religious, remember the joy. The joy of the resurrection. The joy of salvation that Christ gave you as a gift and it is this Jesus Christ who arose from the grave to give us hope and expectation of eternity with Him. Don’t forget the joy.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, just give Jesus a real chance. He wants a relationship with you. He doesn’t want you to be religious. He wants to be in a relationship with you. he broke into human history to show His love for you. I with you on rejecting religion but I am asking you to give Jesus a chance. Put aside the hurt that you may have received at the hands of religious people and just give Jesus a chance. He came here show His desire to be in relationship with you. He died on the cross for your sins so that you could stand in purity before the Lord. He came to bring the Holy Spirit to you to change you into His likeness no matter how bad you have lived your life. This is not religion, it is a personal relationship. He came to give you hope of eternity through his resurrection. His resurrection gives you joy. This world will claim it is not true but what can the world offer in its place. Worshiping ourselves? How’s that working for ya? Getting true joy from that? Is the world a better place because of that? Call me crazy but I would rather worship a Risen Savior. There is real joy and real hope in that. Let us Christ followers live lives that are characterized by the joy of salvation through our personal relationship with our Risen Savior. That’s joy! Let us not seek the living among the dead!