There and Back Again, the Savior’s Journey: Resurrection | Luke 24:1-12, 36-43
Brian Hedges | April 21, 2019
Let’s turn in our Bibles this morning to Luke 24. For those of you who have been with us for the last several weeks, we’ve been looking at the journey of Jesus in the gospel of Luke. Friday night, in a community Good Friday service, we looked at the crucifixion of Christ in Luke 23; this morning we come to Luke 24 as we look at the resurrection.
This series we have called “There and Back Again,” borrowing that title from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, the subtitle of his book The Hobbit: There and Back Again; and we’ve been looking at the story of Jesus, how he came to earth, and then part of his journey while here on earth, and then his journey back begins with the resurrection.
Those of you who know me know that I’m a Tolkien fan. What you may not know is that Tolkien wrote other things besides fiction, and one of the things he wrote was an essay that was called “On Fairy Stories,” and he was thinking about the way fairytales work. In that essay, Tolkien coined a term, and the term was “eucatastrophe.” Eucatastrophe. It’s basically the word “catastrophe” with a prefix on the beginning, the prefix “eu,” which means “good.” It meant “the good catastrophe.”
Now, we know that a catastrophe is a bad thing that happens suddenly, and a good catastrophe, a eucatastrophe, is a good thing that happens suddenly, that’s a surprise. Tolkien said that the good catastrophe was the “sudden, joyous turn, the sudden and miraculous grace which does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure, but denies the universal, final defeat and gives a fleeting glimpse of joy.” In fact, Tolkien, who was a Christian, said that the birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe in man’s history, and the resurrection is the eucatastrophe, the sudden, joyous turn, the good news in the story of the incarnation.
This morning we’re looking at just that. We’re looking at the sudden and surprising good news of the resurrection. The turn in the story. This is the point where Jesus, who has been descending, descending, descending, even to the point of death, death on a cross, and then burial in a tomb — at the resurrection, it all turns, as Jesus rises from the dead. We’re looking at Luke 24; I want to read two passages (those are going to be on the screen for you), verses 1-12 and then verses 36-43. Let’s read God’s word.
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’ And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”
And then jump down to verse 36.
“As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”
This is God’s word.
So I want us to look at three things this morning concerning the resurrection.
First of all, I just want us to consider what the doctrine of the resurrection claims. When Christians talk about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, when they talk about the first Easter, if we want to use that language, what is it that we’re saying? What’s the basic teaching? Then I want to give you some reasons to believe that this is true, and then finally I want us to consider how this doctrine, the doctrine of the resurrection, how it addresses the deepest problems of our hearts and of our world. Okay?
I. What the Doctrine of the Resurrection Claims
So, first of all, what the doctrine of the resurrection claims, and you can see it in verse 6. What you have here are the seven most important words in history: “He is not here, but has risen.” That’s what the claim is, that Christ is not in the tomb, but he has risen.
Now, when you look at the whole sequence of events, it’s important just to see how this fits and specifically what the claim is. In Luke 23 Jesus was crucified, and then he’s buried at the end of the chapter (verses 50-56). Then on Sunday morning, when the women come to dress the body with these spices, they’re embalming the body of Jesus (or that was their intention), they find that the tomb is empty, and then the angels announce that Christ has risen (verses 4-7). Then the women go and tell the disciples, who don’t believe it.
Then we skipped a paragraph, a story here in verses 13-35, where Jesus appears to a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus and there’s a conversation, so this is one of the appearances of Christ. And then we read the end, or kind of the sequel to that story in verses 36-43; and then, at the end of the chapter, Jesus ascends into heaven, he goes back to heaven. So that’s what happens.
But right at the crux of this, right at the center of this, is this basic fact, this basic claim: that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
(1) Essentially, what we’re claiming is this: that the physical body of Jesus came back to life, that it was a bodily resurrection from the dead. This is so important to grasp, okay? So if you’re not really familiar with Christian doctrine, this is important to get.
Christians are not simply saying that Jesus showed his disciples that there’s life after death. Christians are not simply saying that the spirit of Jesus somehow lived on with his disciples. Christians are not simply saying that the disciples saw a vision of Jesus, kind of like a “force ghost” in Star Wars, you know. They’re not saying that! That’s not what we’re saying.
We’re saying that the body, the same body of Jesus that was crucified, that was nailed to the three, that that same body that was laid in the tomb and was there from Friday until Sunday morning, that that body came back to life! That the corpse was no longer a corpse, that the body of the crucified Messiah rose, and that Jesus is alive.
Now, you see an emphasis on the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection body in this passage, and it’s why I read the paragraph at the end, verses 36-43. When the disciples see this (this is so important to grasp, okay?), the disciples didn’t believe it at first! I know it’s hard to believe. The disciples didn’t believe it at first! When they saw him, they didn’t believe it at first. They thought he was a ghost. So Jesus reassures them, doesn’t he? What does he say? He says, “See my hands and my feet; it’s me. It’s I myself. Touch me, and see. A spirit, a ghost, does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” He had flesh, he had bones. He’s not a ghost, he’s not a spirit; he is embodied.
Verse 40 says, “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” And they are still disbelieving for joy. I think that means they’re kind of halfway believing. They’re thrilled, they’re thinking, “If this is true, it’s the best news in the world,” but they can’t quite grasp it.
And then Jesus does something so ordinary it almost feels like it’s not fitting in the story: he asks them for breakfast. He says, “Do you have something to eat?” and they give him a piece of broiled fish. Such detail in the story! Why would you say it’s broiled fish? Why not just say fish? Because they’re remembering the specific details, they’re giving us all of the sensory details, the color of that story. And he takes the fish and he eats it in front of them. Jesus Christ, the same Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross, that same Jesus came back to life.
Now listen. If you don’t believe that, you’re not a Christian. If you do believe that, it changes everything. There are some people in the world - and I just want to counter this idea - there are some people in the world who want to say, “Listen, I’m okay with Jesus. I like the teachings of Jesus. I like the things that Jesus says. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’; we should all do that. Let’s live by the Sermon on the Mount; that’s a great thing. But forget the resurrection bit, okay? Let’s do away with that.”
There’s actually a guy who wrote about this a few years ago in Newsweek (his name is Eric Reese), and the title of the story was “Save Jesus, Ignore Easter.” He was trying to say, “Let’s take the teaching of Jesus, but forget about Easter.” Listen, you can’t do that with Jesus. You can’t do that with the story, because part of what Jesus taught - in fact, at the heart of what Jesus taught, we even saw it in the passage, he taught that he must die and rise again on the third day. That’s part of his teaching, and that’s indeed what he did.
I think even one of the greatest critics of Christianity is more on the mark when he says this - this is Christopher Hitchens, one of the late New Atheists who wrote a book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Listen to what Hitchens says. Hitchens is right on this point. This is what he says.
He says, “If you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah and that he rose again from the dead, and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re not really, in any meaningful sense, a Christian.” Amen, Christopher Hitchens! Who knew, the pastor agrees with a New Atheist!
Now don’t go around telling everybody that I’m a New Atheist! I agree with his statement about Christianity - he understood Christianity, and tragically he did not believe it, and he died in unbelief. But he’s right: if you don’t believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead physically, you’re not a Christian. To believe that, and for that to change your life, is what it means to be a Christian, by definition.
(2) Now listen: if this is true, if Jesus is alive, then that means that Jesus is who he said! It means that he really is the Son of God. It means that he really is the Messiah of Israel, it means that he really is the Lord of the world, it means that he is your King, and it means that you have to believe that his teaching is true. All of Jesus’ teaching stands or falls on this basic claim: if he rose from the dead, you accept everything else.
If he didn’t rise from the dead, then he was either a deranged megalomaniac, he was crazy, he was insane, because sane people don’t go around saying that they’re God. Sane people don’t go around saying, “Yes, I’m going to die, and then three days later I’m going to come back to life.” That’s not what a sane person does. So if he’s not who he said he was, he’s either insane or he was a fraud of the worst sort, he was a charlatan, he was a deceiver. If that’s the case, we might as well throw our Bibles in the trash and consign the teaching and the memory of Jesus of Nazareth into the garbage bin of history. But if he is who he said he was, then you have to take everything Jesus said seriously.
(3) Here’s one more thing: if he really did rise from the dead, then it means he’s alive now and it means that he’s coming back to judge the living and the dead. That’s part of the claim of the resurrection, that is Jesus is alive, he’s also coming back, he’s returning. He will reign. He is the King, he is the world’s true Lord, and he is the Judge of the world.
This is stated explicitly in Scripture, and I want to give you just one passage, Acts 17:30-31. This is the conclusion to the apostle Paul’s sermon to the Greek philosophers in Athens, on the Areopagus, Mars Hill, a place known for its debates of philosophy. Paul preaches there; this is what he says. He says, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed. And of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” You see the connection there? Paul says you know the judgment is coming because God raised Jesus from the dead, he appointed Jesus to be the judge.
Years ago I read a story about a man in Long Island who had always wanted to buy a barometer. He was interested in weather and the measurements of weather and so on, and he always wanted to buy a barometer, and finally he did. He saved his money, he bought a barometer.
He was immediately discouraged and frustrated and disappointed, because the barometer didn’t work. The needle of the barometer was fixed on the sector that said “hurricane.” He pounded on it, trying to get it to work, get it unstuck; that didn’t work. He was very frustrated, so he wrote a scathing letter, and the next morning on his way to work in New York City he mailed the letter to the vendor from whom he had bought this, complaining about the poor product he had bought. And when he came home that day, his home was gone. It had been blown away by a hurricane! And the barometer was gone, too! There was the needle pointing, and he didn’t believe what it said.
I want you to know that the resurrection of Jesus is the needle on the barometer of history that is pointing to the conclusion, a final resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Jesus taught this in John 5. Both the righteous and the wicked will rise; the righteous will rise to life, the wicked will rise to be judged and to be condemned.
The resurrection of Christ says that Jesus is alive, it says that Jesus is the judge, it says that Jesus is coming again, and you better listen to Jesus and repent. “God now commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed. And of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
That’s what Christians mean. That’s the basic teaching. That’s right at the heart of the Christian gospel. Now, is it true? That’s the real question, isn’t it? Is this true? If it is true, it changes everything! If it is true, you can’t live the way you lived before you encountered this message. If it’s true and you really believe it, if it’s true and it really lands on your heart with power, then it changes everything. So the question is, is it true?
II. Why the Doctrine of the Resurrection Is True
I want to give you some reasons to believe that it is true. We could spend the entire message on this, and there are great books that are [really] thick that do so. You could read Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, or maybe even better, The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N.T. Wright; 800 pages of serious, academic history showing that the resurrection of Jesus bodily from the dead is the only thing that makes sense of the data. He’s writing as a historian and as a theologian. If you have doubts, you ought to read that book. I mean, this is serious enough that if you aren’t sure, I would think you would want to be sure. You don’t want to roll the dice on this one. If Jesus is who he said he is, that changes everything; if he’s not, well then, go on your merry way, but you need to know.
So, we could spend a lot of time on this. I’m not going to spend a lot of time; I’m going to give you basically two lines of evidence, really quickly, two lines of evidence.
(1) The first is this: the eyewitness testimony. You have that in verses 1-12. I’m not going to read it all again, but let me just kind of recount some of the details. One of the first things you notice is that nobody was expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. That’s not why the women went to the tomb. They didn’t actually think it was going to happen. Jesus had taught it, they didn’t believe it, they didn’t think it was going to happen, their hopes were gone. They were going to the tomb to embalm the body of Jesus; that’s why they went with spices, right?
When the tomb is empty, they didn’t immediately think, “Oh, he’s alive!” It says that they were perplexed by the empty tomb. They were confused by this.
And then, when the women had received the message of the angels, who said, “He is not here, but he is risen”; when they had heard that message, they went and told the other disciples, and it says that their words “seemed to them an idle tale,” and they did not believe them! So the disciples, even when they first heard the eyewitness testimony of the women that the tomb was empty and the angels had said, “He is risen,” and by that point Mary Magdalene had actually seen Jesus, we know from John 21; they still didn’t believe it. It seemed to them an idle tale.
Now, then you have the actual appearances of Jesus, where he actually does appear to the disciples later in the story, as we’ve read. They see him, they touch him, they see him eat the fish, and so on.
So, when you put all those records together you have lots of detail, you have lots of eyewitness testimony, and get this - here’s the deal: the way it’s written shows that it’s real. Some people want to say, “Oh, the resurrection of Jesus is just like a legend.” But the thing is, this doesn’t read like a legend. You can read an ancient legend, okay? You could go read Homer, The Odyssey… You can read ancient legends and stories. They don’t sound like this! They don’t have this kind of rich, sensory detail, they don’t have this kind of realistic detail, and in legends you don’t have characters that are like these disciples. The disciples actually come out not looking very good. So if they fabricated this, they wouldn’t have written a story that made them look so bad! The disciples look like dufuses, right? I mean, they just don’t seem like they’re very smart! Slow on the uptake; they’re not picking it up. Slow to believe.
Not only that, the names of the women themselves I think are important, because in jurisprudence (that is, in legal matters, laws of the day), for both Jewish people and for Greeks and Romans, the eyewitness testimony of women was not accepted. So for the gospel writers to make the key first eyewitnesses of the resurrection of the Jesus to be women shows they wouldn’t have fabricated this, because nobody would have believed it! If you test this in court, nobody would believe the testimony of women.
This is what Josephus said. Ladies, don’t get mad at me for reading this, okay? This is Josephus, this is not me; I don’t think this. This is what Josephus said. Josephus was a Jewish historian. He said, “Let not the testimony of women be admitted on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.” Josephus thought what basically everybody thought! Jesus didn’t think that way; I think one reason Jesus chose the women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection was to elevate the status of women in the world.
Other people say, “Well, you read these stories, it’s really just like realistic fiction. There’s detail here, but it’s still just a story, it’s still just a fabrication.”
So, there’s a guy, many of you know his name, C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis was a professor of literature who became a Christian after he was an adult. He was an agnostic for many years. He knew literature, and he knew it well, and listen to what C.S. Lewis concluded about the nature of the literature, the New Testament records. He says that they couldn’t have been legends, myths, and they couldn’t have been realistic fiction, and here’s why.
He says, “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this. Of this text,” this gospel text, “there are only two possible views: either this is reportage” (that is, eyewitness testimony, reporting on events), “or else some unknown ancient writer, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of the modern novelistic, realistic narrative,” which wasn’t invented until something like the 18th century. It’s not fiction.
It’s not fabrication. It’s not a legend. It’s history. This is history. The same kinds of reasons why you believe that Abraham Lincoln actually did deliver the Gettysburg Address, those same kinds of reasons would lead you to believe that Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead. That’s the first line of evidence.
(2) Here’s the second one, more briefly: the birth of the Christian church. The very existence of the Christian church, because the Christian church was born out of Judaism, and Jewish people were monotheists, which means they only worshipped one God. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one!” They worshipped one God. They didn’t believe in the Trinity the way Christians believe in the Trinity today.
But then when Jesus came and rose from the dead, they were worshipping him. They started worshipping him! This new movement grew out of Judaism, this Christian movement, a new body of people, a new family. In fact, they called it the new race, the third race, because it was Jews and Gentiles together. Jews and Gentiles didn’t have anything to do with each other, but then Jesus brought them together. And the very fact that there has been this movement called the Christian church for 2,000 years, worshipping Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God, as one with God in being and yet distinct in personality, the doctrine of the Trinity - because of that, there has to be some reason for why that happened.
Here’s what N.T. Wright, the scholar who wrote the big thick book I mentioned a few minutes ago, this is what N.T. Wright said. He said this after commenting on how many different messianic movements there were, okay, in the first century. Lots of people claimed to be the Messiah; we don’t know any of them today.
Wright says, “In not one single case do we hear the slightest mention of the disappointed followers claiming that their hero has been raised from the dead. They knew better. Resurrection was not a private event; Jewish revolutionaries whose leader had been executed by the authorities and who managed to escape arrest themselves had to options: give up the revolution, or find another leader. Claiming that the original leader was alive again was simply not an option...unless, of course, he was.”
So the fact of this whole movement is an evidence for the resurrection of Christ and a reason to believe it is true. We could go on. There are many other reasons to believe, and again I commend you to the books, to the literature, and especially to the gospel records themselves.
By the way, if you’re here this morning and you’re not a Christian, you’re not a committed Christian, or you don’t know where you stand with Jesus, here would be a good next step for you: just take the gospel of Luke and read it start to finish. It’ll take you a couple of hours. You could read a chapter a day for 24 days. Invest a little bit of time into investigating the claims of Jesus; see what God may do.
III. How Does the Resurrection Address Our Deepest Problems?
I want to end by asking, how does it address our deepest problems? The resurrection. It is a stupendous claim, that Jesus rose from the dead bodily. There are good reasons to believe it is true. Here’s why, if it is true, it changes everything. I want to give you three reasons. It addresses the deepest problems, and I think the deepest problems - there are different ways to express this, but basically, the deepest problems in the world are the problems of evil, the problem of suffering and death, and the problem of meaning.
What do we do about evil in the world and in our own lives? Is there a life after death? Is there any hope in the face of suffering? Is there any purpose in life? Those are three big questions I think every religion, every philosophy’s trying to address. Christianity, and especially the resurrection, addresses all three.
(1) Number one, the problem of sin and evil. The resurrection shows us that Jesus faced evil and defeated it, so that evil does not get the last word. It doesn’t specifically give us an explanation for why evil exists. You have to read the whole biblical story to try to get at that question, but in the resurrection, in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, what you see is that God, who became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, did not keep himself immune from the ravages of sin and evil, even though he was sinless himself, but he rather faced it personally. He let evil do its worst to him, and he defeated it. Evil does not get the last word.
So it gives us an answer to the problem of evil by showing us the defeat of evil in the cross and in the resurrection of Christ, and it also gives us an answer personally, because the resurrection of Christ is the assurance, it is the proof, that what Jesus did on the cross in dying for our sins was sufficient.
As one Dutch theologian named Herman Bavinck put it, the resurrection is the “amen” of the Father to the “It is finished” of the Son. One of Jesus’ last words on the cross was, “It is finished,” and I think he meant that the atonement was accomplished, that he had died for our sins, he had paid the price. The Father says, “Amen,” and raises Jesus from the dead.
Paul says in Romans 4:25 that Jesus was delivered for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Our justification! That means that we might be declared “not guilty” in the sight of God, even though we ourselves are sinners.
Get this: the resurrection of Christ is the answer to the problem of evil and of sin in our own lives, because it not only proclaims that we can be forgiven of our sins, but the resurrection of Christ shows us the power that changes us! The writers of the New Testament talk about this all the time. Paul talks about the power that raised Jesus from the dead, which he says “is at work in you who believe” (Ephesians 1:18). He says that we are “baptized into his death” and we are “raised to walk in newness of life.” We are baptized in him and we are raised in him.
In Philippians 3:10 he says that his one ambition is “to know Christ and the fellowship of his sufferings and the power of his resurrection.” The power of his resurrection. There is resurrection power that changes lives, and the initial exhibits are those first followers of Jesus themselves; Peter, who denied him but then was restored and became the boldest preacher in the early church, a coward before, bold after; or James, the brother of Jesus.
Did you know that Jesus had brothers? And James, the brother of Jesus, didn’t believe in Jesus until he saw Jesus risen from the dead. I think I would take some convincing! I have two brothers, and I love them, but I don’t go around thinking either one of them’s God. But James thought his brother was God, because he saw him alive! It utterly changed James.
Or Saul of Tarsus, who was the avowed enemy of Jesus Christ. He was the chief persecutor, the prosecutor of the early church. He was trying to throw Christians into jail, until he met Jesus on the Damascus road. He saw him alive, and it utterly changed his life, and he became the greatest missionary the world has ever known.
There are dozens of you here in this room that can testify to the power of the resurrected Jesus, who has changed your life, rescued you from addiction, from sin, from slavery, from bondage, from despair of all kinds, and has changed your lives. The problem of sin and evil is dealt with in the resurrection.
(2) Then the problem of suffering and death. Jesus defeated death; that means that suffering doesn’t have the final word, either. In fact, it means even more than that; it means that our suffering gets redeemed. The very wounds that Jesus bore on Calvary become his glory in his resurrection. All that we suffer for the sake of Jesus, or all that we suffer in service and obedience to Jesus as we live in this fallen world, all of it gets redeemed! Lewis says our very agonies are turned into glories.
I think one of the most beautiful examples of this is Joni Eareckson Tada. Many of you know her story; she was 18 years old and, in a diving accident, she became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. The Lord used that to change her life, and for years now she’s had an amazing testimony of faithfulness to Jesus.
I want you to listen to what Joni said. She’s talking about what it’s going to be like when she finally meets Jesus. She says, “I always say that, in a way, I hope I can take my wheelchair to heaven with me. I know that’s not biblically correct, but if I were able I would have my wheelchair up in heaven, right next to me, when God gives me my brand-new, glorified body, and I will then turn to Jesus and say, ‘Lord, do you see that wheelchair right there? Well, you were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that wheelchair was a lot of trouble. But Jesus, the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you, and the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. So thank you for what you did in my life through that wheelchair.’” And then she says, “‘You can send the wheelchair to hell if you want.’”
Listen. The resurrection means that cancer doesn’t get the last word. Some of you have lost family members to cancer. Some of you may be facing it right now. The resurrection means that Alzheimer’s does not get the last word. It means ALS does not get the final word. The resurrection means that miscarriages don’t have the final word and that car crashes and that old age does not get the final word! It means that your body, which will be laid in a tomb, will someday rise in glory. It is the answer; it is the solution to the problem of suffering and death in the world.
“Then came the morning
That sealed the promise;
Your buried body began to breathe.
Out of the silence
The roaring Lion declared,
‘The grave has no hold on me!’”
That’s our hope. Death has lost its claim on the world, itself, which now waits for redemption, and the resurrection loudly declares, “Death, be not proud!” Death has lost its sting, death itself is working backwards; all things will be made new by Jesus Christ.
(3) And then finally, the problem of meaning and purpose. We don’t have time to deal with this fully, but there are some people (existentialists) who basically say you have to create your own meaning. Find a meaning that works for you. That’s where most secular, non-Christian people are today. “Find a meaning that works for you.”
The nihilist says there is no meaning, life is pointless, so make the best of it, but it’s basically a future of despair. The Christian says, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
The Christian declares that because of the resurrection, this needle on the barometer of history which is pointing to the end of time, we know the end of the story, we know the purpose of our existence, we know why we were created, we know why we were redeemed! We know that there is a King, we know that there is a kingdom, we know that there is a world that will be made new in the power of God’s Spirit! We know that there is something worth living for that is greater than ourselves! There’s a mission to accomplish, Christian! There is something worth living and dying for, giving our all to, and we know that, because the King is alive!
That’ll give you something to live for. That’ll give you hope. That’ll keep you working hard! That’ll keep you loving others! That’ll keep you in marriage, that will keep you faithful in parenting, that will keep you serving your neighbor, loving others, because you’re doing it for the glory of Jesus Christ. It is a life worth living.
So we’ve seen what the doctrine of the resurrection teaches, we’ve seen reasons to believe it’s true, and we’ve seen how it addresses the deepest problems in our world and in our own lives. I just want to end in this way.
If you are a Christian, let me urge you, let me exhort you, call you, to share this news. Let’s share it. Let’s spread the word. Let’s tell people about Jesus. Give them a tract, give them a booklet, give them a Bible, give them a card welcoming them, inviting them to Redeemer Church, invite them to read the Bible with you; ask questions, get to know them, become their friends. Share this news! If you’re a Christian, you have news to share; that’s part of our responsibility. Let’s be bold for Jesus’ sake.
If you’re not a Christian this morning, first of all, I just want to say thank you for coming. Whatever reason you’re here, if you’re not a Christian, I’m glad you’re here. Thank you for being here. I want to urge you and exhort you and encourage you to hear and to consider the word of God this morning, to examine the claims of Jesus Christ, and to seriously consider whether this is true. If it is true - I have the best news in the world for you - if it is true, all of your sins can be forgiven. All of them! If this is true, God can and will change your life, if you will bow your knee and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, if you will surrender your life to him and pledge yourself to follow him and become his disciple. I invite you to do that this morning. Let’s pray together.
Father, the seed of your word has now been sown, and I pray that Satan would not come and snatch it out of our hearts. I pray that the seed would go deep into the soil, that it would penetrate through the hardness, that it would find root, that the roots would go deep, that it would spring up into our lives to bear fruit that remains. We’re not content, and it is not enough to merely hear these words. We need to hear and believe, and believe with a life-transforming faith.
So we ask for that this morning. We ask it for each and every one of us. All of us, whether we are professing Christians or not, all of us need constantly to be renewed in the truth of the gospel so that it is changing our lives. So we ask for that, and we pray that you would work.
As we come to the Lord’s table in a few moments, we pray that you’d help us examine our hearts, help us ask ourselves whether we’re in the faith, and we pray that as we take the bread and the juice we would do so remembering both the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection, that we would realize in these symbols, in these signs, the truth of the gospel made visible to our eyes, made tangible to our senses. So draw near to us now in these moments and meet with us, we pray in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.