Jesus, The Triumphant LordErwin W. Lutzer | April 24, 2011
Selected highlights from this sermon
The disciples of Jesus were sad, almost in despair, after the crucifixion. They didn't want a dead Christ. But God had other ideas. He not only gave them (and us) a living Christ, He gave us a resurrected Christ—a Christ victorious over despair, the devil, and death itself.
So since Jesus has taken care of our eternity, everything else is manageable until we get there.
Let me begin today with a very honest question. Have you ever been disappointed with Jesus Christ because he hasn’t answered some prayer or done something that you think he should have done? I’m thinking of a student who came to me one time in despair and said, “I’m disappointed in Jesus.” He had financial issues and health issues and life just seemed to break in on him in so many hurtful ways.
Being disappointed in Jesus is not a new phenomenon. Let me give you the account in Luke 24. Jesus was crucified there in Jerusalem and three days later women came to the tomb. The tomb was found to be empty and then Peter and John came and they discovered that the tomb was empty, but some of them had seen Jesus and others hadn’t. There were two disciples who were not part of the original twelve but there were many people who were followers of Jesus. They did not hear that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and they lived in a town that was about 7-1/2 miles from Jerusalem northwest, a little town called Emmaus and they decided that they would just go home and take the two hour walk. Now as they were walking along a stranger came alongside of them and they didn’t know that this was Jesus. In fact the Bible says that their eyes were so beholden that they weren’t able to recognize him. And so this stranger is walking along and he says to them, “What have you been talking about?” and that’s where we pick it up in verse 17. “Jesus said to them, ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’ And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas (we’re not sure who the second person was), answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened these days? Didn’t you know that this man who was attested with miracles and signs was put to death?’” You’ll notice it says in verse 21, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” We put our confidence in him. We thought that he was going to be king. He had the credentials of being a king and we thought that he was going to kick off the Roman Empire and its occupation with all of its soldiers (that were in the land in that time). We expected redemption but his life ended on a cross and it was a tragic end of what we thought was a beautiful life.”
No wonder they were sad. Imagine how sad it is to put your confidence in Jesus and then he appears not to come through.
Well, as the account continues, Jesus walks along with them and begins to explain to them that in the Old Testament it was predicted that the Messiah would suffer and then enter into his glory. And they are beginning to understand this, and then they get to Emmaus, their town, and Jesus, the Bible says, makes as if he would go further.
I’m now in verse 28. “They drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening (This was Middle Eastern hospitality.) and the day is now far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.”
What is the real answer to the issue of disappointment? Well, twice in this text you have the word opened. This is the first time it is used. Their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. And in these two references to the word opened, we will show that there is a shaft of light that can come to the darkest soul.
They’re having supper there with Jesus and suddenly he takes the bread and breaks it and the one who was the guest now becomes the host. It’s as if he’s in charge and then they suddenly see him. They say, “Voice, face, hands! This is Jesus,” and then he disappears. Their eyes were opened to the fact that Christ was raised and he was with them.
The first answer to the question of disappointment is to recognize the presence of Jesus with us. As they were walking along the road they didn’t know that Jesus was with them. Just like those who trust Christ and afterwards wonder whether or not he is with them, so we too sometimes have our doubts. But what Jesus was really doing here and the reason that he disappeared is he wanted those disciples to understand that he was just as much with them when they couldn’t see him as he was when he was visible or beside them. Either way he was with them for he says later, “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” *And those disciples, even though it was late at night and undoubtedly they were tired, the text tells us that at that very moment they started back to the city of Jerusalem. I’m sure they took the trip back much more quickly than they had come because they had seen the risen Christ and they wanted to announce this news to the disciples.
And now we pick up the story of what happened next. You see, just as these two had to be convinced that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, now in the very same way the eleven disciples plus others had to come to grips with the resurrection as well. So let’s pick up the story in Luke 24:36. “As they were talking about these things (that is the two who went back to Jerusalem along with the eleven who were gathered together), Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. (One translation says a ghost.) 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.”
You see, to the disciples who could hardly believe that indeed Jesus was raised Jesus said, “I’m giving you some proofs. First of all, look at me. Look at my hands and see that on them are the scars of the nails. Look at my feet and you will see that on my feet there are the scars of the nails. Yes, it is I.”
You remember doubting Thomas who said, “Unless I shall see in his hand the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails I will not believe.” And Jesus reveals himself to Thomas and says, “Thomas, if you need this for proof, here I am. See my hands. Put your hand into my side, and see that that’s where the sword was when I was on the cross.”
So Jesus first of all says, “See me.” Secondly he says, “Touch me because a spirit – a ghost – does not have flesh and bones, but I do,” and then he says, “If you’re still not convinced, you watch me. Give me a piece of fish and I will eat it.”
You can see that the resurrection body of Jesus has continuity with the body that he had before the resurrection. It is the same Jesus. It is the same body that has been recreated by God and put into a different realm, but it is the same person.
You saw your body today when you looked in the mirror. Some of you looked at your body for a long time there in the mirror. That’s the body that you shall some day have when you are raised because the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2 that God is going to take our vile lowly body and translate it like unto his glorious body. And that glorious body had continuity. It also, of course, has discontinuity as well because Jesus was able to travel from Galilee and Jerusalem in a moment of time. He was able to come through closed doors, signifying his ability, and that body that we shall receive that will be like the body of Christ will never weary. That’s why the Bible says that in heaven there is no time - no day, nor night because we never need to rest because finally we will have our eternal bodies. And we will be the same people over there as we are here, fully sanctified, and fully known.
John, whose wife died just three weeks ago today I believe, you will see your wife some day. You will recognize your wife some day. In the resurrection we shall be like Christ. The Bible says that we shall see him and be like him, for we shall see him as he is. So what Jesus is telling these disciples is this. “The answer to your sadness is to understand that you wanted a living Christ. Well God says, ‘I’m not only giving you a living Christ. I’m giving you a resurrected Christ, a victorious Christ.’” Part of the equation when it comes to the matter of being disappointed with Jesus is the knowledge that he walks with us all the time – “I will never leave thee nor will I forsake thee.” Oh sometimes we don’t recognize him, but he walks along with us on the road of life. He is there for us just as much as he was with the disciples so many years ago.
But there’s more to the story. Jesus is discussing this with the disciples, and then in verse 44 he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” And now we come to the second use of the word opened. “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’” then he says that “by the way I am sending you the promise of the Holy Spirit.”
So those are the words of Jesus. Now he gave this very same lesson to the two who were on the way to Jerusalem. I omitted it a moment ago but you’ll notice in verse 25 he asks them if they do not understand the scriptures because every book in the Old Testament and the New Testament speaks about Jesus in some way. So Jesus was saying to them, “Don’t you get it? If you knew your Old Testament you’d understand not only that I am with you (the presence of God) but also the predictions and the promises of God. It would have all fit together like a hand fits into a glove.
Now what might Jesus have said to these disciples? Well, he talked about his suffering and his future glory, but let’s spend a moment and take one verse from each of the categories that Jesus talks about. First of all he says everything written in the Law of Moses about me will come to pass. Well, let’s take a verse. Do you remember Genesis 3:15? It shows, first of all, that Jesus Christ is going to be victorious over the devil. The Bible says God’s prediction was this. He was speaking to the serpent. He was speaking to the devil and he said, “I’m going to put warfare between your seed (Satan) and the seed of the woman and he (that is Messiah) shall crush your head and you shall nip his heel.” In other words, “You are going to try to overcome him but he is totally and completely victorious over you, Satan, and he has won this victory.” That’s one of the promises and predictions in the Old Testament that the disciples should have known – that Jesus is victor over the devil. What that means is that God is able to save us and to deliver us from the occult, yes, but from our own spiritual blindness.
Now I want to read a quote from Lady Gaga. (laughter) I have never heard her sing. She is not a part of my repertoire, but I saw this on the news and I needed to share it with you. She has a new DVD called Judas. Isn’t this sad? My heart was touched for her brokenness and confusion. She says, “I’m in love with Judas. I’m in love with Judas. I’ll wash his feet with my hair. I’m just a holy fool. Oh baby, he’s so cruel, but I still am in love with Judas.” Notice this. “In the most biblical sense I’m beyond repentance, but something is pulling me away from you. Jesus is my virtue. Judas is the demon I cling to, I cling to.”
Do you know what? When Jesus Christ died on the cross his death and resurrection was such a victory over Satan. He overcame the curse that we are all born with. Jesus Christ speaks to us today and says, “I can recycle your garbage.” He says, “I can take a prostitute and make her into a virtuous woman.” He says, “I can take an alcoholic and I can make him sober.” He says, “I can take a confused young woman and instead of her being in love with Judas she can be in love with Jesus.” He is able to do that today. (applause)
The cross and the resurrection are proof that Satan does not get the last word. Sin does not get the last word. Jesus proved that he is King of kings, Lord of lords and God of all gods. He crushed the head of the serpent.
Now Jesus talked about the law, which is the first five books of the Bible, and I used this passage from Genesis as an example. What about the category of the Psalms? When we get to the Psalms we read in Psalm 16:10, “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” What’s going on there in the text, as pointed out in the New Testament when Peter is preaching at the Day of Pentecost, is simply this. That’s a reference to Jesus because everybody else who goes to the grave stays there until the day of future resurrection, but when it says that you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption, the Jews had the idea that if somebody was in the tomb three days their body would see corruption. Lazarus was in the grave four days. He already saw corruption but Jesus was raised three days later, and this means not only did he triumph over the devil, but he also triumphed over death, which is our final enemy. You see, what Jesus was saying is, “I will never expect you to walk through a dark room that I have not gone through myself,” and the darkness that exists on the other side of the curtain is a darkness that has been parted by Jesus who took the veil of the Temple and ripped it in two, and he’s the one who has the keys of death and of Hades, and he says, “I have conquered them and now you can actually die a conqueror.”
Think for a moment about Stephen. Stephen is being stoned as the account is given to us in the book of Acts, and the Bible says that as these stones were being hurled at him before he died he looked into heaven and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father. This is the only time in the New Testament when Jesus is spoken of as standing at the right hand of God the Father. Elsewhere it is Jesus seated at the right hand of God the Father. But Jesus was there to, in effect, welcome Stephen, and to say, “Stephen, in a few moments when you are dead on earth you’re going to be more alive in heaven than you have ever been.” As a matter of fact, those are the actual words of D.L. Moody who founded this church way back in 1864. Before he died he said, “Soon you shall read in the newspapers that D.L. Moody is dead, but don’t believe it because in that moment I shall be more alive than I’ve ever been.” And then before he died he said, “Earth recedes. Heaven opens. If this be death it is glorious.” Jesus is on the other side.
I love to tell that true story about a pastor in the state of Iowa by the name of Sandborn who visited a young woman who was dying. He was there on a Saturday morning. It was actually September 16th, and she was dying but sometimes she opened her eyes and it was as if she could see the gate of heaven. You know years ago when people died without sedatives you used to see this more often. She said, “I want to go in, but Mimi is going in ahead of me.” And she put her head down for a little while, and then she said, “I want to go in but Gramps is going in ahead of me,” and then the pastor left and she died. So later on he wondered who these two people were. He did some investigation with the help of the family and discovered that Gramps was somebody who had moved to the southwest. Mimi was a friend of the family who moved to New York, and they both had died that Saturday morning. Heaven is just that close.
When we sang earlier today, “Thou hast opened the door of Paradise,” absolutely Jesus hanging on the cross said to the thief, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise,” even reigning in death. So Jesus won a victory over the devil. Jesus won a victory over death, and then it says also the prophets. Well, there are so many different texts we could take from the prophets which are both predictions as well as promises, but I’m thinking for example of Isaiah 53. “Thou hast borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” There is hope for despair. There is hope for that student who struggles with his faith. There is hope for you as you and I face all kinds of issues in life whether it’s financial, whether it’s emotional. We have to keep in mind that Jesus Christ has the answer to despair by his presence. We open our eyes to the fact that he is there. We open the Word and discover that he is there by his promises, so we don’t have to endlessly despair, but we can go on from here knowing that if Jesus Christ has taken care of our eternity, everything else is manageable until we get there.
One day a missionary was explaining to a person of another religion the Gospel and this person said, “Oh, I wouldn’t follow Jesus because I would follow a loser.” Wait a moment? You’re going to follow a loser just because Jesus died? Yes, it is true that he died, but imagine how he was raised.
My friend, today, there was not a tomb that was deep enough. There were not grave clothes that were strong enough, and there was not a stone that was heavy enough to keep Jesus Christ in the tomb. (applause) He was raised to redeem us, and he qualifies as a Savior.
Now in Africa there was a fire in a hut, and some unknown stranger running by saw the flames, ran in and rescued one boy, even though the rest of the family died. And then the stranger took the boy to safety, and then disappeared. The next day the people in the tribe were gathering together to ask who was going to take this boy because they thought indeed he was a very special child, having been rescued from the fire. And one man who had a lot of wisdom said, “I think that he should live with me,” and another man who had more money said, “We have money. He should live with us.” And then into the midst of this discussion came this man who said that he had prior claim. He showed them his hands, freshly burned from the fire the preceding night. And they looked at him and they said, “Indeed, you are the one who rescued him, and because you are the one who rescued him you will have first claim to raise him.”
When Jesus came to this earth it was for a rescue mission. He came to save us from our sins, to save us from ourselves, and to save us from an eternal hell. It is true, of course, that he did die on the cross, but isn’t it wonderful that having died on the cross he forever lives, the Bible says, to make intercession for us?”
The other gods were strong but thou wast weak.
They rode but thou didst stumble to thy throne,
But to our wounds, only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds but thou alone.
Jesus is the only savior with wounds. And these wounds will be the only things in heaven that ever reminds us of sin. All sin will be gone but the man in glory will have wounds to remind us of what he did, to remind us of his resurrection, and to remind us that he came into our hut and rescued us from some very hot flames.
Have you ever flown standby on a plane? I know what it’s like. You pace the floor. You absolutely bug the woman behind the desk. She tells you that when we’re ready we’ll call your name if there’s room, but you don’t believe it and so you go up and pester her before that time because you are unsure. How much better to fly with a ticket! Oh, then you relax. You read the newspaper, and then you know that there will be a place for you on the plane.
The Bible makes it very clear that when it comes to the eternal issue of death and hell and heaven you can have a ticket. You don’t have to fly standby. Some of you, if the truth were known, don’t know whether or not you’d be in heaven or hell quite frankly but you are hoping for the best, like a young woman that I sat beside on a plane this week flying from Atlanta to Chicago. She said, “I hope that I have done enough good things.” I pointed out that that gives no certainty because we are all sinners. The way that we receive Jesus Christ as Savior is to transfer our trust from ourselves and say, “No longer do I trust myself. I don’t trust the sacraments. I don’t trust all the good that I do. I, by faith, receive Jesus as my own. I believe that he died in my place. He was raised on my behalf, and I take that as my very own.” Then you can live life because you know two things. First of all, your mind has been opened to the presence of Christ, and it’s been opened to the promises of Christ, and those promises will carry you all the way home.
Let’s pray together.
Our Father, today we thank you so much that Jesus did not stay in the tomb. We thank you today that we participate in his victory and someday we will be with him forever. Thank you that he came to this world to rescue us and has the wounds to prove it, and we ask for those today, Lord, who have never received Christ as Savior. May they believe even in this moment and say, “Jesus, be mine.” Overcome their doubts. Overcome the darkness, and bring them to the light. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.