All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
April 8, 2018
Text: Luke 24:36-49
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen
We often forget that just as we spend forty days in fasting and in repentance that following Easter Sunday we have forty days of celebration of the resurrection of the Lord. This long season of joyful remembrance of Christ’s resurrection is to help us recall the importance of the life we find in Him. It reminds us again and again of the broken, false expectations and the renewed promise of His resurrection and coming again.
As we read the New Testament lesson this morning, we are reminded of the fear, and the intrepidness of the disciples on Good Friday and Holy Saturday and we find them yet again hiding in a room somewhere wondering what has happened. However, now they know that they are standing on the edge of something monumental. They’ve found the tomb left empty, they’ve heard rumors about a couple of men who walked with and ate with a man that they were claiming was Jesus. The disciples were there, and our translations writes “they thus spake.” This speaking is discussing the mysterious events that are happening around Jerusalem. They are wondering, could it be true? Saying to each other remember how he said something about the third day?
I know that I’ve returned to the theme of disappointment in the world and joy in Christ quite a bit – but it is of the utmost importance, and our hearts are fickle and prone to wander and so, I think, regular reminders are good. We are all prone to make the mistake of the disciples, to place our hope in anything but Christ. The entire earthly ministry of Christ we see the disciples thinking that Christ was going to overthrow the Romans, going to restore the earthly Jerusalem, yet the whole time he kept pointing to the kingdom of heaven, kept pointing to serving God with abandonment.
It doesn’t click for the disciples until they touch his hands and eat with Him. It is then in His teaching and blessing them that their hearts are lit on fire.
There are a plethora of earthly hopes we can let our hearts chase and often they aren’t even intrinsically bad, but we manipulate them into mini-gods. Surely, the destruction of an oppressive government wouldn’t have been bad, yet God had a higher plan to make a spiritual nation of believers, a nation that knew no bounds and were tied together not by race or geography but by the Holy Spirit.
We can make other gods too, surely, for those of us who are single, the desiring for a spouse isn’t bad, but desiring it inordinately buys into the lie that I need something more than God for my joy and contentment. Desiring a warm, comfortable, and nice house isn’t bad, but when we desire the security of a house we own over trusting in the Lord for our eternal security we miss out on His goodness. Financial soundness is certainly a good thing, but even in this, we can start to hoard our earthly treasures at the cost of the heavenly riches.
We can easily see how our desires and affections can grow out of control, can turn into little gods that rule our hearts. So, with the disciples we are called to lay down these affections, to bury them with Christ, that our hearts might be raised with Christ, and focused all the more intently on the worship and service of the Lord.
Very often, when we earnestly seek after the Lord, we find that we need to go through a Good Friday of the heart, the disappointment of seeing our affections shattered on the cliff side in a storm in order that we might know the Lord more deeply. Yet, for all the pain we might experience in those moments we find that after passing through this death of desire that we come to the Easter morning of our hearts. We come a point of deep and renewed joy. When the sun starts to rise on our hearts, starts to warm us from the sorrow and disappointment, we join with the disciples and start to wondering, to see that he is really resurrected, and that resurrection holds the promise that we too will be resurrected.
This whole hearted desire to know and follow God brings us to the room where the disciples are locked in, awaiting, wondering what all of this means. For often we need to be reminded again, and again that our hearts are to be singing out the song the Psalm this morning proclaims boldly: Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord oh my soul, wherever He may bring me, praise His holy name.
So, now we are with the disciples, surprised to find a risen Christ, surprised to find Him in our room of heartache. Surprised to find him on Easter morning saying “peace to you!” Yet, why were they surprised? Why are we so often surprised when we give our hearts to the Lord that he not only destroys our sin, but raises our hearts from false idols?
The disciples, I think, were starting to understand that Christ’s death was not the end, but the beginning, but they did not want to get their hope too high. So, suddenly the man they loved and followed appears in the room they were hiding in, it was unexpected. It was so unexpected they think that they are seeing a ghost.
And who could blame them? One moment they were alone in a locked room and the next Christ is there. He has come in without warning, and this is often how it is in our life. We lock ourselves up in our hearts, and don’t let anyone or anything in and then Christ pushes his way in, does not allow us to wallow too long in our self-pitying, misery, or lostness.
So he holds out his hands to them, holds them out that they may touch and see that he is really there, not an apparition or ghost, not some spiritual presentation, but he was really there, risen not only in spirit but in body. Last week we dug into some of the reasons we can have a sure belief that Christ was really raised from the dead. Here, again, we see a subtle proof.
If a story teller were to tell this story it would go like this, Christ comes in and says hello and everyone is happy. No, even in touching his hands, the disciples still doubt that he is real. They are confused by his presence, they can’t grasp that he is really there with them. Yet, there he is.
Striving to set their minds at easy, he says to them, give me a bite to eat, let me show you that I am really here, that I am really raised from the dead. So they give him a little fish and some honeycomb and he eats! As he eats he explains the scriptures, explains that they might know with sureness that all that must occur that they might have life has come to pass.
But first, what do we do with this resurrected man, he was unrecognizable by people that knew him on the road to Emmaus, he somehow walks through a closed door, and seems a ghost to his disciples, yet he can be touched, and eats. This gives us a very small hint to the nature of the resurrection. For he still has the holes in His hands, yet there is something new about him, something that is unrecognizable, something glorified.
When this age comes to an end and we finally join in the resurrection we know that we too will have renewed bodies. We know that we will be freed from the pains that so often plague us. Yet, I think the scars born in martyrdom will be made into crowns, the pains and anxieties which we suffered in, and passed through in sanctification will be turned to glory.
So often, we are prone to think disappointment, discouragement, and hardship are punishments for some malfeasance that we can’t figure out. So often, in our trials we become Job’s friends and look for faults within ourselves. Yet there are times when no fault is found, and immediate suffering as a result of wrong doing doesn’t seem to be completely backed up in scripture. Certainly, our God is a just God, and justice will be served, but sometimes suffering seems to just happen for no rhyme or reason. Often, we pass through these dark days that we might know what life in Christ is, that we might trust in Him fully, and I think, as with the holes in his hands and his side – these days of trials will become crowns that we will wear in heaven. So in our darkness and discouragement, take heart, for the Lord uses that to bring us into glory and take heart, for he is by your side.
And now, with renewed hope we come to Christ opening their understanding, showing them what scriptures say. We often want to look at a single verse, or a single passage and not the whole witness of Scripture. So often we want to cling to one little portion and to an extent this isn’t bad, but it can be manipulated and turned that we get out of it what we want, not to have a deeper understanding of who the Lord is and who we are in Him.
We see this with those people who are called prosperity preachers. Those who tell their followers store your treasures up here on earth, put your hope in your earthly possessions because they will give you happiness. We see those who would manipulate scriptures to testify to their own agenda. No, when we read a single verse, or a short parable we must read it against the backdrop of the whole witness of scripture.
This is what Christ is doing here, he gives them the understanding to see what he has been teaching all along, he helps them to see architypes and foreshadowing’s to him in the law, in the prophets, and in the psalms. He shows them that the Christ must come, that the Christ must die, and that the Christ must be raised again.
For our own edification, let’s look at one poignant example found in Psalms 22, 23, and 24. We know that these Psalms had significance in the time they were written. They even provide comfort in our trails and joys. Yet – let’s take a moment to trace our way through these Psalms to see what I am talking of.
Psalm 22 starts with the familiar phrase - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? These are the familiar words of Christ on the cross. He knows that he is pointing back to this Psalm, he is clinging to the word of God, though he is the Word he clings to truth gives up his spirit. From our Christian point of view, as we read through this Psalm it is hard to not see Christ raised up on the cross, crying out to God.
Then we turn to Psalm 23 – and we read those ever comforting words:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Christ truly walked through the shadow of death, in fact he died, he was buried. How we are reading it today, we understand the valley of death to be His sepulcher bed. Yet even then, he was not abandoned. He died that we might be spared the true spiritual death. He died that we might have true life with Him.
Finally in Psalm 24 – the Psalmist cries out:
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory!
Christ is the king of glory! Christ is the king of Glory that has come into His rightful place in the kingdom. Now he sits at the right-hand of God the father. In the Orthodox Paschal liturgy they use this portion of the Psalm as they celebrate the light of Christ being resurrected and brought back into the church. There is a profoundness in it, as the church proclaims with joy that the king of glory has come in.
Even from this little example we can see how we get glimpses of the coming glory of the Lord. So when we read scripture we read it with different lights. First, of course we read it as inspired words written by Moses, or David, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or by the saints, Matthew, Mark, or Luke, or by John or Paul. These men either wrote or dictated to scribes the words passed down from generation to generation until they reach our eyes and ears. Certainly, the words were written for a specific purpose in a specific time, and we read them as such, but we do not read them in a vacuum. Instead, we read them with our understanding as Christians and we start to see the history of salvation.
We see humanity created, created to be image bearers of God, to be witnesses of His goodness, mercy, and justice in the world and in this we understand the sanctity of life. Yet, this image becomes tarnished with sin, we see mankind choosing to be their own god, and we understand the brokenness we feel inside, we understand the cruelty we see in the world around us as stemming from sin first welcomed into the world by Adam. We see attempts to recapture that call to be image bearers, we see men come close, and fail so brutally. Yet the promise stands – that one will come to crush the head of the snake. One will come that will overcome death and destruction and this promise keeps being made again and again. Then one comes – He is the Christ. He has trampled down death, he has died that we might live.
Throughout the witness of scripture we see this promise again and again until, finally it is fulfilled in Christ – and then he points forward – he commands his disciples, and by extension us in what we are to do until his coming again. The witness of scripture ends with a promise of his coming again, a promise of resurrection from the dead, and a promise of a new heavens and a new earth, where we will yet again walk with God, yet again live freed from sin. Live truly as image bearers of the Lord.
So, what is it that the disciples and by extension we are called to do while we look forward to the return of Christ? We are to preach repentance and the remission of sins. Let us therefore look at each of these, that we can both fully live them, and that we may be able to give an account of that which we believe.
First repentance, we hear this word day in and day out in our reading of scripture, in praying through the prayer book, on Sundays in worship, but what does it mean? The great Anglican theologian JI Packer writes:
Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.
In an interview on the same subject he also said:
In the military, nobody doubts what is meant, halt, about turn, quick march, it means that the soldiers are being told to turn their backs on the direction on which they are going and to start marching in the opposite direction from the way they were going before, and that’s what repentance is.
He goes on to explain that our instinct, because of our fallen nature, is to walk in the opposite direction of God, our instinct is to walk independent of God. However, we are called to this about face. We are called to repentance that we would be walking towards God. Running towards our heavenly father.
So, how do we preach this? First, we live it, we live daily repenting of our sins, daily fleeing them and fleeing onto the Lord. At times the draw of sin will seem too strong, and following the Lord will seem hard. Yet, as we learn to flee from our sins, as we learn to walk deeper and deeper with the Father, we find a joy that is so much better than our sins, a joy that is the freedom we do not find in any worldly temptation.
As we live this repentance out in our lives we will start to come alive and it is in that life, that we will delight in sharing with others what the Lord has done for us. We needn’t be pushy, we needn’t force others into the corner and batter them with our beliefs, but we do let the light of Christ which has come to dwell in us, shine brightly. We do let others see what this pattern of repentance has done for us. When we experience the Lord working in our lives, it is hard not to share it with others.
Likewise, repentance is meaningless without letting Christ come into our lives. We recall when he talks of cleaning the demons out of a man’s lives, and if something doesn’t fill this life, several more wicked will come in. When flee from sin, the sin that we so often cling to, if we do not let Christ fill the cracks and crevices left by the sin now absent, just as much sin, if not more will come flooding back in. No, we are not called to moralism, but to life in Christ.
So in the same manner that we turn away from the sin, in the same manner that we take repentance seriously, we take walking with Christ seriously. For he is to be our first love, the light of our world, the one from whom life flows. We let nothing else take his place. For he has swept clean our hearts from the sinful affections, and place in it himself.
This is the gospel which we believe, live, and preach – that mankind, being created in the image of God, chose himself over his creator. The first man, Adam allowed sin into the world, and that sin haunts humanity. But Christ came into the world to call mankind to repentance, to free them from their sins, and to give them life.
This is what we celebrate in Eastertide.
This is what we celebrate throughout the year.
Now, as we look forward, we look forward to the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church. This is what Christ is speaking of when he tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they be endued with power from on high. It is the Holy Spirit that writes the law upon our heart, that sanctifies, corrects, guides, and shows us the way in which we are to go. It is the Holy Spirit that binds the church together, that makes us one body, and gives us one mind. It is the Holy Spirit comforts us in trials. As Pentecost, or the celebration of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church, comes closer we will talk more about how he functions, but for today, we are simply reminded that he is given that we might continue that walk with the Lord.
So now, being bound by the Holy Spirit, made alive in Christ, we are given to a life that is intently focused on the service of our Lord. We are given to a life in which we flee from our sins with hearty repentance, that we might be living boldly for the life which we have in the Lord. We are given to a life where our affections are set before the Lord, that they might be made into something that will glorify His holy name.
So now, let us rejoice in the goodness of the life we enjoy in Him, ever looking forward to His coming again, that on that day we would be given to glorifying Him perfectly and enjoying his goodness forever.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.