O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
HOW THE RISEN JESUS COMES TO PEOPLE TODAY
HOW THE RISEN JESUS COMES TO PEOPLE TODAY
Based on Lk. 24:44-47
Preached on April 19, 2015
Treasured sisters and brothers! It is urgent that you not put Easter behind you too fast. Jesus did not make that mistake. After He came back from the dead, He kept appearing to His disciples over a 40-day period. He had reasons for doing that. He used the time to convince them beyond doubt that He is truly alive again. He spoke to them about the kingdom of God. In other words, this Easter season was teaching time. He wanted them to know how the Lord operates in the lives of people. He wanted them to understand how they should spend the rest of their lives after Jesus Himself would return to heaven at the close of those 40 days. If you ask me, the church did a very smart thing by not limiting Easter to one day. Long ago the church echoed Jesus' way by setting up a 40-day long Easter season on its calendar. You're in the middle of it right now. As you focus on the lessons Christ taught during that time, you benefit in a big way. On the basis of the text just read from today's Gospel, you're learning "HOW THE RISEN JESUS COMES TO PEOPLE TODAY" I. He does it when believers hear and understand His Word; and II. He does it when the church proclaims repentance and forgiveness. I. For the longest time, Christ's men simply did not understand what He is all about. It wasn't mere side issues that had them confused. They didn't get it when He told them - not once, but repeatedly - that He would be arrested, condemned, executed, and then would rise to life. THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANT, the Bible records. At least one of them - you guessed it, it was Peter - even pushed back and told Jesus He was wrong about that. They were so hung up on the idea that Jesus must be a great warrior-king like many others, should knock the tar out of His enemies and take power in the land, that they couldn't get their heads around the idea how anything good could possibly come from His suffering and dying. In today's Gospel reading the resurrected Christ appears again during the Easter 40 days. He's teaching His disciples: THIS IS WHAT I TOLD YOU WHILE I WAS STILL WITH YOU: EVERYTHING MUST BE FULFILLED THAT IS WRITTEN ABOUT ME IN THE LAW OF MOSES, THE PROPHETS AND THE PSALMS. (By the way, that's a Hebrew way of talking about the "Old Testament" ... they called it "Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.") After Jesus said this, THEN HE OPENED THEIR MINDS SO THEY COULD UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES. HE TOLD THEM, "THIS IS WHAT IS WRITTEN: THE CHRIST WILL SUFFER AND RISE FROM THE DEAD ON THE THIRD DAY..." He gave them this understanding as a gift. Now they had a mind to grasp it, and the eyes to see how it all fits together. The apostles took this understanding they had received from Jesus, and passed it on to us. Remember that's what St. Paul told us; we preached about it here two weeks ago on Easter Sunday. WHAT I RECEIVED ... I PASSED ON TO YOU AS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE, HOW CHRIST DIED ON BEHALF OF OUR SINS ... HOW HE WAS BURIED ... AND HOW HE WAS RAISED AGAIN ON THE THIRD DAY, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES. You believers in Christ today - right now! - hear His Word and understand it whenever you cling to that wonderful gift of understanding Jesus during the 40 days of Easter gave His apostles, who transmitted it to us. And what is the big insight He gave them? It's this: That the Bible, from beginning to end, Old Testament and New - all of it - is really about Jesus Christ. The Bible is not simply a book of ancient history, although it does have history in it. It is not primarily a manual of laws, rules and regulations, even though it does set forth laws for people's conduct. Most of all, the Bible is not a book that tells you how you can save yourself if you just try hard enough, doing this, saying that, and obeying it sufficiently. Try to make sense of it that way, and you'll get the opposite of understanding. In fact, it will make your mind dull, said St. Paul, almost as though a veil were draped over your eyes. The Bible - all of it - is really about Jesus. Jesus Himself said so: THE SCRIPTURES ... TESTIFY ABOUT ME. He was talking about the Old Testament when He said that; after all, those were the only Scriptures they had at that point. Even the Old Testament, though it was written before He was born, points the way to Jesus. That's why you read in Romans, chapter 1, about THE GOSPEL [GOD] PROMISED BEFOREHAND THROUGH HIS PROPHETS IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES REGARDING HIS SON. I've often told friends the story of our family's Christmas years ago, when my big sister was headed for her high school graduation the next spring. She wanted a class ring for Christmas in the worst way. It was far from a sure thing that she would get it, because it cost $45. That was big money in a blue collar family like ours, where my Dad had four kids to support. On that Christmas morning, all the gifts had been passed out except for one with her name on it. Her heart sank, because it was an enormous box, nothing like the little jewelry boxes class rings came in. She unwrapped it, and found it was a shipping box a washing machine had been sold in. It was full of tissue paper that she unraveled, only to find another box inside. I forget how many there were, but she unwrapped a whole series of boxes, one nested inside another, until she got to the prize ... a tiny little jewel box containing a ring with the inscription: "Whitmer High School - Class of 1968." Could she tell clearly what the contents were when she first looked at that huge container? She could not. The prize, however, was in there the whole time. As she unwrapped and unwrapped, the jewel got clearer. That can remind you of the Old Testament. To begin with, the details of the prize were not clear, that His Name would be "Jesus," that a young virgin girl would be His mother, that it would happen in Bethlehem, and all the rest. But as the Old Testament unwrapped God's gift more and more, the details started to show. Still, the little jewel, the Saviour of our fallen world, was there the whole time, just waiting to be unwrapped all the way. The Old Testament is about Jesus. As He said, THE SCRIPTURES TESTIFY ABOUT ME. Christ's men should not have been so shocked when He kept telling them how the promised Saviour came to our world to suffer and die. God's man Isaiah had written it all down, 700 years before. Already then he said about Jesus, HE HAS BORNE OUR GRIEFS. HE HAS CARRIED OUR SORROWS... HE WAS PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS, HE WAS CRUSHED FOR OUR INIQUITIES. THE PUNISHMENT THAT BROUGHT US PEACE WAS UPON HIM, AND BY HIS WOUNDS WE ARE HEALED. The whole Bible - Old Testament and New - is there to lead you to the One Who died for you and was raised again. How does the risen Jesus come to people today? He comes as believers hear His Word, and understand it. That understanding was a gift Jesus gave to the disciples during the first 40-day Easter season. It's a gift the apostles have passed on to you. II. Jesus came to our world on an urgent personal mission. THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THE LOST, He said. He did not come just as a philosopher, to talk and write and speculate. He came looking for people. He came to rescue them in the deepest way we all need rescuing. After He came alive, He told the apostles on Easter Sunday night, AS THE FATHER HAS SENT ME, I AM SENDING YOU. So God's people, we members of the holy Christian church, have a mission, too. It grows out of Jesus' personal mission. The Christian church is not present in the world just to memorialize some dead hero from the past, or to keep observing a few old-fashioned customs. The Christian church - and our own local congregation - is present in the world to get out there and to seek people. How do we do this? Easter's great Lord has the answer. CHRIST WILL SUFFER AND RISE FROM THE DEAD ON THE THIRD DAY, AND REPENTANCE AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS WILL BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME TO ALL NATIONS, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM. That's what you do, Jesus told His men, when I've returned to the world above. You sound a message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Yes, the God of heaven and earth calls everyone back to Himself from the evil, self-destructive way human beings always go when they've lost their connection with Him. We call this "repentance." It's not just going through a few token changes on the outside, while inside you still think and feel whatever you like. It's not something you do once so that you can get it comfortably out of the way and then go on to other things. To repent is to have a radical change of mind that cuts so deep it cannot help but begin to change your words and all of your actions. It's a radical turn away from everything you are and everything you have ever done to thwart God's will in the world, and to turn from everything you are and have done to wound other people. And even if you imagine you're not really bothering the Lord and other people all that much, not criticizing nor hurting them actively, God's call is still to turn away from a mind and heart that puts yourself first and lives your life in a way often self-centered and self-absorbed. This typical way of men and women and boys and girls in a fallen world is not to be rationalized or excused or soft-pedaled or explained in trendy new words that make it seem as though it's not really all that bad. God commands people everywhere to repent, in other words, to make a clean break with sin, to name it for what it is - even if that stabs at my own precious ego - and to renounce it without delay, excuse-making, or compromise. That's the Lord's call to you very personally. It is His call to me, and the call He commissions His people to sound to others. It is not destructive to repent like that. On the contrary, it clears the way to healing so that the Lord can finally get through and lift the load off your back with the forgiveness bought and paid for with holy blood when Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many. AS FAR AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST, SO FAR HAS HE REMOVED OUR TRANSGRESSIONS FROM US; that's one way the Bible describes forgiveness. WHO IS A GOD LIKE YOU, asked the prophet Micah, WHO PARDONS SIN AND FORGIVES TRANSGRESSION ... YOU DO NOT STAY ANGRY FOREVER, BUT DELIGHT TO SHOW MERCY. And He does! God does not forgive sin because He's a wimp, or because like some feeble old Grandpa He just hasn't got the nerve to lower the boom and make good on His threats, or because He somehow owes it to you to let you off the hook. REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS WILL BE PREACHED IN [CHRIST'S] NAME; that's how Jesus put it. God forgives sins through Jesus, because of Jesus, and on the basis of what Jesus has done for fallen people. John the Baptist called Jesus, THE LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD. Through faith in Him, people acquire God's own pardon. They get a slate wiped clean, in spite of the fact that you still struggle with sin and weakness and failures, just as I do. Through this message the risen Jesus comes to you today as you hold it close to your heart and put your trust in Him. The risen Jesus comes to others, too, as our church - and its individual members - keep on preaching and speaking this message. REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS WILL BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME TO ALL NATIONS, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM, Jesus said. Yes, He even wanted Jerusalem to have this message, even those violent people who had schemed to get Him killed and laughed at Him on His cross. Jesus had prayed for them on that cross, FATHER, FORGIVE THEM; FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO. He even wants people you and I find very unlikely. He even wants 21st century people in a country like ours, which has turned away from a lot of its Christian past and seems so resistant to Him at times. Although you and I don't see the risen Jesus since He ascended, He is very real. He is still actively working in the lives of His people. He is strengthening and sustaining them across the entire world, including in places where they are under pressure this very day. He also strengthens and sustains you as you let Him in and embrace His call to repentance and the forgiveness of sins. He has furthermore given that mission to this particular church-family of ours on St. Mary's Road in Winnipeg. He has preserved the sounding of Christ's Good News on this piece of ground for decades now so that we will see our neighbourhood as He does, and see our friends, relatives and acquaintances as He sees them; in other words, they are people He hopes to reach with the word of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. When that word gets sounded, the risen Christ is really there, carrying on the great mission that brought Him to earth in the first place. May God keep it alive in your life and in our midst for as long as we're here, and until He comes again in His glory. Amen.
Robert Bugbee Pastor