Archive for the ‘42-Gospel of Luke’ Category

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 http://www.jesuswalk.org 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!

Luke 23:50-56 — Why does Luke include this mention of “the women from Galilee” and how they followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed and then they left. Why is this important? From John 19:33-34, we know that Jesus was dead. Certainly, what was left off the life force in his body was taken away when the Roman soldier took a spear and rammed into his chest between his ribs. Jesus was dead. His lifeless corpse was taken away by Joseph and Nicodemus and they personally anointed the dead body with lotions and wrapped it in linen. And, now, the women followed and knew exactly where the grave was.

Why is this information important? These people were eyewitnesses to the death of Jesus. They were there when they crucified my Lord. They were there when they laid Him in the tomb. Each knew specifically where Jesus’ body was laid. The ladies followed so that they could see where it was at so that there would be no mistaking which tomb it was when they returned. The Gospel writers give us this detail so that we can know with certainty that Jesus’ resurrection is no error, no mistaken identity, no fluke.

There are those who will say that Jesus did not really die and that He was unconscious. Yet, these are the same people who will accept that Roman scourgings were as brutal almost as crucifixion. A criminal would wish for death when tied to the whipping post and having their flesh made like mince meat or shredded barbeque meat by the metal barb and bone chard tipped whips. They will believe the historical record and modern research of how crucifixion kills you in the very slow and agonizing way that it kills. Yet, with all of that Jesus was just unconscious. The efficient Roman army missed this one. They were experts at this crucifixion thing, but they missed this one. These guys at Golgotha had killed many a Jew during their occupation of Palestine so there was a high level of proficiency about their craft but they missed this one. Jesus was dead. We can be sure of it because we continue to be amazed by the Roman Empire – its sheer efficiency, its advanced technology for its time, the civil organization, their military organization, the development of laws, the amazing engineering. They would have most likely been very certain that the criminals on their crosses were completely and utterly dead.

Why does this matter? Without the death, there is no resurrection. Without the resurrection, people throughout the centuries sense have died for a lie. Wow, all two billion of us suffering from a common delusion. People continue today to die for a lie. Even with all the debunking that has been tried to squash out the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the resurrection lives on in generation after generation of believers. Since it is accepted scholarly fact that all of the New Testament books were written within the lifetimes of those who were participants in the stories contained in those books, both friend AND foe of Jesus.
There are those that say that you have to be stupid to believe all of this and certainly will take great pains to demonstrate why. Yes, we are all called idiots by these “crash Christianity” folks but yet the Word lives on.

We have believed in a collective lie for centuries. Yet, why is it that all other fabrications in life never stand the test of time. Just maybe, this whole resurrection thing is true. The funny thing is as that someone said recently to me that I could not be thinking if I believed any of this. Thank God I have this delusion. Thank God that I believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Thank God we, all two billion of us, have worked together through the centuries to build this mountain of lies that I have to be stupid enough to believe.

I thank God that we have all conspired through the centuries to keep this lie alive. I thank God for all the stupid martyrs through the centuries that died for this lie. Since I feel great comfort in the fact that man does not possess all knowledge even though we think we do at every point in history, I believe that my stupidity will be borne out to be wisdom in the end, whether it be at my physical death or when the end of time comes – whichever comes first. In the meantime, I glory in my stupid of belief in a dead man whom I believe to have risen from the dead because this was no ordinary man. He was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for my sins and who rose from the dead to give my hope of eternal life. If believing that is being stupid, let me glory in my stupidity. Let me be delusional. I am willing to bet my eternity on my delusion!

Luke 23:50-56 — Joseph places Jesus’ body in his brand new tomb that he had built as his family’s burial . Nicodemus brings 75 lbs of perfumed ointments and aloes (John 19:39) used first century Palestine for burial preparation. The ladies who were disciples of Jesus not only helped finance his earthly ministry (Luke 8:1-3) but they saw where they had laid their Master and went home to prepare burial spices from their own resources. These people really loved Jesus a great deal. They went out of their way, some risking political disaster, to ensure that Jesus was honored properly in death. The didn’t care that it was going to cost them their own resources. They wanted to use their own resources to give glory to their Lord.

I guess that would be difference between these two men and these women and how most of us view giving of our resources to Jesus’ church. We see it as giving from what we have left over rather than giving what is from our best or from our best efforts. The people in this scene put all cares of the day aside and focus on giving Jesus their best. They focus on giving Jesus the best of their time, the best of their talents, and the best of their resources. Nothing else is more important to them than that. How many of us give the one who gave us life the leftovers of each of those things, time, talents, resources.

Many of us, myself included, struggle to find time to do the work of Jesus Christ. We say we do not have time. We say that we would love to share the gospel with others but we do not have time. We say we would love to help others who are need but we do not have time. We say would love to show others the love of Jesus Christ but we just do not have enough time. We prioritize time for the things that are important to us. I may be able to work it out where I can go to several games of my beloved Clemson Tigers this fall (football season starts in 14 weeks, woot! woot!, but I digress), but yet I may not be able to work it to work with the child of a single mom that needs male leadership. I may be able set aside time to watch a Clemson game on television but not have time to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my co-worker over a meal after work. I may have time to go to the beach for vacation but not have time to go on a mission trip to share the gospel in Japan. I may have time watch Monday night football but not have time to go a Monday night meeting of the Ironmen men’s ministry at church that same night. You get the point. We spend time. We prioritize time. We use time, the precious and limited commodity that it is, where place the greatest importance on its use. Let us analyze our time. Where are we wasting our time on things that do not matter in eternity. What is the legacy that we want to leave behind? Let us invest our time in those things that bring glory to Jesus Christ.

Many of us decide that we have other priorities for our talents as well. These ladies in this passage use their talents to create the spices necessary for a fitting burial for Jesus Christ. They gladly directed their talents toward that which would honor Jesus. They wanted to honor Him with the talents that they had. Why is it that most of us are not willing to be like these female disciples of our Lord. It is easier to simply be a consumer at church rather than one who serves. It is easier not to get to the church at 7:00am like the leader of our parking team does and make sure that parking lot is free of debris and that the sidewalks are clean. It is easier to sleep in and go to only the 11:00am service that it is to be there like the manager of all the Sunday ministry teams at 7:00 to make sure that each team leader has everything that they need for a successful Sunday morning worship service. It is easier to just sit in the crowd rather than be there for both services and run a camera, or work the sound board, or the light board, or the video switcher. It is easier to use my talents for personal pursuits rather lead a ministry team. Isn’t easier to ignore God’s call to a ministry. Isn’t easier to wear a red X on my hand or shirt to protest sex trafficking than it is to go to India and actually work with the victims of this horrible industry. It is easier to give to a church planting initiative rather than move your family to Connecticut and develop a church from scratch. It is easier to talk about how fatherless children lack direction than it is to use your talents at mentoring by being a Big Brother or a Big Sister. It is easier to complain about the destruction of our cities when riots occur than it is to use our talents to solve the problems of social injustice and lack of quality education. It is easier to not use my talents to give Jesus glory than it is to use them. It is easier not to serve that it is to serve. We prioritize the use of our talents in ways that are most important to us. Let us examine how we are using our talents to give our Lord glory. Are we pursuing the calling He has given us through the talents He has given us to make this world a better place. Are we walking by a hungry man and saying that we will pray for Him or are we stopping to feed and clothe Him as we tell Him about Jesus Christ?

In this scene in this passage, we see people giving the best of their resources to give glory to Jesus Christ. Imagine if we were really like Joseph, Nicodemus, and the ladies. What if we gave the best of our resources to give glory to Jesus Christ? It is certainly far easier to give the leftover $5 or $20 bill that we happen to have in our wallets on Sunday and feel good about having given to the church. It is easier to think that the money I make is to glorify myself than it is to see that we are given talents by our Creator through which we earn our livings. All God asks is that we are obedient to His command. We are to give Him the first fruits of our labors not the leftovers. We are to give God the best of our resources not what we can squeeze in. Everyone of us who attends LifeSong Church is honored to be a part of this body and are often amazed at the impact that our church has on the community and the world around us. However, imagine if we were not a church of leftover $20 bills. What if we were a church of people who have learned to live off of 90% or less of what we make and give the first 10% or more to God through our local body. Imagine the impact then. Instead of 2 church plants, 20. Instead of 550+ Thanksgiving meals given away, 1000. Instead of 3 mission trips per year, 15. Imagine sending missionaries out to long-term missionary assignment to far away places like Kenya, long-term missionaries in Japan, in Haiti, in Iraq or Iran. Imagine what would happen to our local ongoing ministries like LifeSong Cares where we could help more people and have to turn less away. Imagine the ministries that we could create that are actually out in our communities making a difference in people’s lives by showing them the love of Christ through uncommon acts of love and kindness. Imagine if all churches, not just LifeSong, gave obediently to the Lord. Joseph and Nicodemus didn’t think twice about giving the best of what they had to honor Jesus. Let us examine what we place our priorities financially. Let us seek to move to that place where we honor Jesus with the first fruits of our finances rather than that leftover $5 bill that you didn’t use at the monster truck event on Saturday night. Let us be a church honors Christ and empowers the spread of his Word through the use of our resources.

Father in Heaven, help us to be a people like Joseph of Arimathea, like Nicodemus, like the female disciples who have no second thoughts ever about honor Jesus Christ with the best of our time, the best of our talents, and the best of our resources. May we honor Him with the best of who we are. May we honor Him with the excellence with which we represent Him in all things that we do in His name. May we honor Him with the love that we share with the world around us without expectation of being loved in return. May we honor Him by living lives that draw people unto Him. May we honor Him by living lives that demonstrate His love of others even in the face of hateful opposition or even deadly opposition. May we honor Him with everything about our lives! Amen.

Luke 23:50-56 — This passage is important for several reasons and we will spend a few days here. For today, we will talk about making the choice to be counted among Jesus’ followers. Tomorrow, we will talk about using our resources to honor our Savior. And finally, the day after tomorrow, we will look at why Luke paid so much attention to the burial of Jesus.

So, for today. Let’s talk about making choices. Let’s talk about standing up against the tide of popular opinion. There are times that we must make a choice. We must stand up and be counted. There are times that we must be willing to be singled out as Christ followers regardless of consequence or ridicule. When it’s crunch time, where will you be. Will you blend into the crowd? Will you hide like the disciples? Or will you stand up like Joseph of Arimathea? To personalize this passage for myself, I drift back to childhood and my teenage years at home.

This passage reminds me of times when I was living at home with my parents as I was growing up. My brother, God love him, was a bit on the socially awkward side. He was a highly intelligent little guy, a Sheldon Cooper of sorts. He didn’t understand social interactions and the nuances of such very well. He had no filter for his thoughts either. He was for all intents and purposes, the quintessential nerd. I was fairly smart guy growing up. Whereas I would make 5 A’s and a B and have to work really hard at it, my brother would make straight A’s and it was a breeze for him. My brothers lack of social skills and his ease with which he embraced academia made him an easy target for ridicule. You know the drill. The crowd would make fun of him. But, yet, he would invite it at times with his lack of social skills and such. Me, I was a crowd pleaser. I tried to blend in as much as I could. We were Methodist preacher’s kids so we were always the new kids so I became skillful at quickly blending in and making friends with those that seemed to be in the in-crowd. My brother just wasn’t like that. Therefore, there were many times in which I had to make a choice between the safety of the crowd and standing with my brother, my blood. More often than not, I chose the safety of the crowd and joined in the ridicule of my brother. When my father would get wind of it, he would let me hold it. He would say that family is the most important thing. When you don’t have anything else you have family. You should have the courage to stand up for your brother. I would argue with him that my brother invited ridicule. I would argue that he always had to let people know how smart he was and how dumb they were. I would argue that he would bring it upon himself. My dad would only have one response to all of it. He’s your brother. He’s your brother. He’s your brother. You must protect your family. I knew he was right. When the moving van would pull up to the parsonage to move us to the next town, guess who would go with me to the new town, my brother. Not the friends from the town I was leaving. It was my brother who went with me. Like him or not, he was my family. I must stand up and be counted as his brother even if it cost me everything and to me everything was my popularity at school, in our neighborhood, and among the church youth.

This is the place that I think we find Joseph of Arimathea. We know from each of the four gospels that Joseph was a member of the Jewish high council. He, up until this point had been a closet follower of Jesus Christ. But there comes a time in life where we must publicly identify ourselves with Jesus Christ regardless of the consequences or the ridicule. We also know from the Gospel of John that Nicodemus (who had previously met with Jesus under the cover of the night) joined Joseph in taking a risk. Both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus put their lives and reputations on the line as they assist Jesus. Joseph of Arimathaea could easily have remained safely anonymous and securely on the sideline, but he found within himself the courage to do what the Twelve could not. I believe one of the most lacking things in American Christianity today is courage. As Martin Field says in his sermon at http://www.sermoncentral.com entitled Christian Courage,

“In this modern world…we are surrounded with and by those who insist on political correctness, moral relativism, and an all-options-are-the-same approach to faith. It is not easy to stand up as a Christian in many parts of our society. It is not comfortable to share ones faith evangelistically. It is not risk-free to buck the crowd or the trend or the current fad. It’s infinitely easier to go along.”

May of us are like the disciples, scurrying for cover when the heat is on. Many of us might be scared away by humanistic bullies who in the name of tolerance of all things are intolerant of anything to do with Jesus Christ. But Joseph and Nicodemus had come to the point that they could no longer blend in. They saw that the crowd was wrong and were willing to say I don’t care about my social reputation, my wealth, my position. I am going to stand against the tide. I will not wash Scripture away just to be a part of the crowd and to avoid ridicule. I will stand and be counted as a follower of Jesus Christ. The same situations present themselves to you and I today. Am I willing to be counted as Jesus follower when I encounter situations that are totally against God’s Word. Certainly, the first thing that comes to many a mind is protesting “Christians”, note the quotes, who spew hate while using the Bible falsely to support their own hatred. No, I am talking about when you are faced with situations where you must choose between God’s timeless Word and the ever changing and slipping moral landscape of man. Will you blend in and participate. If you were to lose your job because you had a choice between that which is morally right and that which is deceptive, what would you do? If I were among a pit of atheists that I knew would ridicule my belief in Jesus Christ as God in the flesh, would I keep quiet. What if you were placed in Jordan or Iraq right now as a Christian, how long would that last if you were being starved to death just for being Christian? What if you were living there and your 7 year old daughter was ripped away from you by ISIS radicals and were forced to watch her be raped and sodomized right in front of your with a gun to your head? How long would you and I be counted? How long would you and I be willing to be counted if you had a blade to your neck. These are extreme but real examples from our world today.

Even in the cushy comfort and wealthy excess (by comparison to the rest of the world), there is a day coming where it will cost us something to be a Christian. Where will you and I be then? If it cost you your freedom to show up at LifeSong Church’s community outreach events, would you? If it cost you your job to been seen walking into the doors of our church, would you? The days in which being a Christian in America was an advantage is at best neutral now and the days are coming in which it will eventually become a disadvantage to be counted as Christian. In our land of increasingly intolerant tolerance, there will come a day when you and must choose to be Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus or just blend in. There will come a day when you and I must be Mark that stands up for his brother or throw him under the bus. There will come a day when we must stand up and say I am Christ follower and I don’t care what it costs me. We are just temporary travelers here. We must begin to live our lives with our eternal home in heaven in mind. Take risks. Be ridiculed. Stand up for Jesus. Matthew 10:33 time is coming. Stand and be counted. I pray that there is enough evidence of my love for Jesus Christ that I am ridiculed for it by those who do not believe in Him as their Savior.