Sermon Notes, First Sunday after Easter, St. Luke 24:36-49, 3 April 2016 Anno Domini
St. Andrews Anglican Church (AOC), Enterprise, AL 36331
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them. 44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
Luke 24:36-49 (KJV)
Today’s text expands upon the post-resurrection appearances of our Lord. In the present text, our Lord appears to the disciples who are secluded in a closed room (the door being shut according to St. John 20:26) of Jerusalem eight days following the resurrection. It is worthy of note that our Lord always includes all of the company gathered together if He will sup with them. On his first visit to the disciples in the room at Jerusalem, He did not sup with them for Thomas was absent. He supped with those gathered as a single company by the Sea of Galilee on another occasion; and He supped with the party of two at the home in Emmaus. So, here, He also sups with the gathered party as Thomas is also present. The Church partakes of the Holy Communion together.
Though most of this little group had been made aware of our Lord’s resurrection (except doubting Thomas), they were nonetheless full of worries and confusion. What did it all mean? Have we not all faced this same dilemma in our own lives when things simply do not make sense even if the revolting development was of God? But as we bear on course and weather the storm, the calm seas and following winds ahead reveal our successful arrival at our intended destination. Being of feeble understanding of the mysteries of the Spirit, we often need a little extra inspiration from our Lord. The grandest exultation of the Spirit may arise out of devastating circumstances. In all conditions, we may say together with Horatio Spafford – “It is Well with My Soul!”
As the disciples, being alone without the former physical presence of Jesus to direct them, pondered what comes next, a presence appears among them. Having experienced the same appearing only one week earlier, except Thomas, should not have been surprised. But we are slow of mind and understanding. The Lord often must teach us through constant reminders and repetition. Have you ever noticed how often the same lines are repeated in Holy Scripture? Why do you suppose that is the case? It is because repetition aids retention (a well known law of learning). “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” Have you considered how often this greeting is repeated in Scripture, or words to the same effect. It is a common greeting of Christ when men were frightened at the sight of Him walking on the Sea, or appearing behind locked doors. Remember the message of the Heavenly Angel to the shepherds overlooking Bethlemen at the birth of Christ, “Fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.” When God appears to us, He never comes for the purpose of striking fear in our hearts. He always means goodwill to men. The fact that we may not recognize Christ walking beside us does not change the fact that He is indeed there.
“But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” This reaction seems a bit trite after so many miraculous appearances of Christ to these disciples, but we are all often blind to His presence in the mundane nature about us. We are so accustomed to the barren wilderness we have made around us that the paradise of His presence before us seems odd. But our Lord nonetheless will alleviate our fears at each moment of their emergence. “And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.” When our faith fails, He may bring solid, physical evidence to the bar to dispel doubt. But He always wonders why we are troubled since we believe in Him. If we believe enough, we should know that “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose.” (see Romans 8:28)
A great mystery, too, is revealed – not only in His physical appearance, but in His physical reality. The appearance of Christ to the disciples is not merely an apparition, but the Person and physical Body of the Lord. A spirit cannot be touched, handled, or possess flesh and bones. Jesus rose from the grave with a glorified Body that is mysteriously the same as that with which He was buried. We, too, shall rise with a like body. Though our bodies will be free of blemishes, scars and twisted limbs, His body will be the only one to retain the scars and piercings of His Passion for us.
“That is simply too good to be true!” is a common English expression. It most often does not indicate doubt of the goodness or joy of an event, but is intended to express the magnificence of it. “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered.” Unbelievable it was, yet they knew it to be real and yet wondered for the absolute grandeur of the reality. To further open their eyes to His physical presence, He next “said unto them, Have ye here any meat?” Now this last comment of our Lord makes me very happy. We shall enjoy eating in our resurrected bodies! If there is food in Heaven, it makes all of sense in the world that there shall be CHOCOLATE! And as much of that edifying commodity as the soul desires! To remove any remaining doubts of His physical being, our Lord actually eats with the disciples. “And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.”
It is not enough to have read all Scripture, and to have it preached to us – we must UNDERSTAND that Scripture by the educating benefits of the Holy Ghost! “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,” Regardless the number of times I have previously read and studied a passage of Scripture, my eyes are opened more widely with each subsequent reading. The Lord knows that our bottles can hold only so much water of life at one drinking, so He replenishes the bottle from His constant and abundant source so that our joy is multiplied by constant review and study. This does not happen in the study of chemistry or thermodynamics, but is a peculiar property of the Word of God. We may have the mental capacity and tools of knowledge to accomplish a task, but fail in our understanding of how to apply those qualities. So Christ OPENS our understanding of the Words we have read and studied through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Now we could make an entire sermon on the next two verses: “And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” The disciples had languished in abject sorrow and discouragement during the moments before the resurrection. They had no comprehension of the magnitude of the event that had transpired on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem – the very Crux of all time and Eternity. So Christ consoles them with the reminder that all of these things had already been written and prophesied of His suffering and redemption for sinners. “It is written.” Again, the living Word of God is in the constant present – not past or future, but eternal presence – “it is written.”
“It behoved Christ to suffer!” That suffering of the unblemished and sinless Son of God on the Cross was the only means of paying our sin-debt. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (KJV) If we do not pay that debt, we need a qualified substitute to pay it for us, and there is only One qualified – the Lord Jesus Christ! The sacrificial death of Christ fell to His responsibility as a matter of Law and Command, of duty and equity. Because He loved us more than any such torment and suffering, He was privileged (in His own Mind) to suffer for our redemption. And there is another facet of His work that He mentions in the following remark: “and to rise from the dead the third day:” It is fairly obvious that exoneration from sin means little if there is no acknowledgement by means of reward. If we will die daily to self in repentance and truth in bearing our crosses in His trail, we will also enjoy that glorious resurrection whose path He blazed on Easter morning.
If we are made signatories on the bank assets of a corporation, our freedom to sign and to act is based upon the authority and good will on behalf of the corporation. The same is true when we act as emissaries of Christ – we act only upon His authority and will. Any action outside that will and authority is null and void. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” I believe that the great majority of ministers today have forgotten the principle of preaching ONLY in His Name! If we preach error in His Name, we bear a double measure of guilt before the Lord. It is not enough to preach using His Name, our preaching must be IN HIS NAME, i.e., every Word consistent with the Word of God. Wealth, health, and fame does not cut it; and neither does the preaching that denigrates the institution of God-ordained marriage between one man and one woman. Our preaching should appeal to the soul’s urgent desire to repent and turn from the old man’s way of sin. Incumbent, too, upon the minister and laity is the responsibility to reach all nations with the Gospel without dissent or discrimination (among all nations.) But, like the critic of his neighbor’s mote in the eye, we must shore up the beam in our own eye before correcting his shortcoming.
Love begins at home and, if there is no love at home, it is unlikely that any love can be showered from that home on the outside world. So preaching and teaching begins at home (Jerusalem) and then extends to the larger family beyond the walls of our homes.
Truly, we have heard and read the wonderful Words of Life from the Gospels, Epistles, prophets, Law, and poets of Scripture. We are witnesses of that same realized truth which the disciples came to know in our text today. “And ye are witnesses of these things.”
“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you:“What was the Promise of the Father? Was it not the same Promise of a Coming Seed of Redemption made to Abraham and the Church in the Wilderness? And all who believed that Promise, and believe today that Promise, are sons and daughters of Abraham and the True Church of Christ.
“ but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” The ‘buts’ of the Bible have profound impact. Remember the mighty Naaman? “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.” 2 Kings 5:1 (KJV) All of his honor, valor, and victories were nullified by that word BUT! The Apostles were of extraordinary courage, enlightenment and effectiveness as preachers and evangelists of the Word in the years following the Ascension of Christ; however, we are not empowered to act on our own, and neither were the Apostles. They were not yet ready and equipped for the dangers they would surely face. “Tarry (wait) in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with the power on high.” That power from on high was the Holy Ghost given at Pentecost, or Whitsuntide. If not inspired of the Holy Ghost, the most articulate and convincing of preachers is utterly useless. We may know a lot of Scripture and be able to present it in an appealing style, BUT, we are no more than a “tinkling cymbal.” A sweet innocent child will have greater capacity for truth than a hypocritical ministers. Do you have?