Luke 24:44-45

Jesus is the alpha and the omega!

Jesus went out of his way to present to his disciples as a group, the physical evidence that will make them eye-witnesses to his resurrection. He physically appeared to them showing them his scarred hands and feet. He demonstrated that he was not a ghost by calling them to touch him and see that he had flesh and bone. He then added to the evidence by calling for some food and eating in their presence. He left them marveling in joy and ready to tell everyone what they had experienced, but before Jesus left them he had something else to say. Luke 24:44 says, “Then 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.”

The focus of the Old Testament from God’s divine perspective was the coming fulfillment of his original promise to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God would send a redeemer who would save his people from their sins. Jesus is referring to the complete Old Testament when he uses the three-fold division of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Psalms was the largest and longest book in the so-called “writings” and was often used to refer to the entire section. Thus Jesus is saying again, the whole Bible in all of its parts is about him in one way or another. He told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus some of the things that were about him and how that was so but it is not exhaustive. The writer of the book of Hebrews goes out of his way to help us understand how the sacrificial system along with all of its objects were about their eventual fulfillment in Jesus.

The next verse says, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” I would argue that it requires a divine act of enlightenment for us to see Christ in the scriptures. I’m convinced that he is there. The writer of Hebrews found Jesus in the priestly order of Melchizedek. He spent several chapters explaining that to us. If this obscure figure from Genesis chapter 15 can enlighten us that much about Jesus, what else might we find if we look. Paul even argues that the Old Testament scriptures were clear enough about Jesus that it could in and of itself lead us to salvation. This is what he told Timothy, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is not absent from the Old Testament. No, Jesus is every letter written in the whole Bible. He is often called The “alpha and the omega.” He’s the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet and all that’s written is about him. May the Spirit open our minds to see him!

Luke 24:40-42, Exodus 16:31, Revelation 19:9

Looking forward to a great feast day!

Jesus invites the disciples to come close and become physical witnesses of his resurrection. Luke 24:40 goes on, “And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” There was no mistaking the body of Jesus for anyone else. The marks of the nails make it clear to all that this was indeed Jesus. This made the great change in them from fear and disbelief to joy and disbelief. Luke 24:41 says, “And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’” You’ve heard that if it sounds too good to be true, it is!! Well, I think that’s the joy of the disbelief that’s mentioned in this passage. There was no longer fear, but joy in their incredulity. But Jesus further dispels their disbelief by eating! Ghosts don’t eat. Verse 42 says, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”

Luke is the only one that tells us what Jesus was given to eat. That stands to reason because in the prologue to his Gospel he makes it clear that he did diligent research to get all the facts straight. But there is a problem with modern translations. The King James and even the Catholic Douay Rheims Bible include the phrase “and honeycomb.” Jesus was given both fish and honeycomb to eat. This points to the food of angels. Psalm 78 refers to manna as the food of angels. It says, “Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.” Manna was described by Moses in Exodus 16:31. He says, “Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” At one point in his earthly life, Jesus took two fish and five small loaves of bread and fed 5,000 and then again on a separate occasion fed 4,000! Fish and honey bread: the food of heaven!

Since Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection and all believers will follow, we’ll have incorruptible, immune from disease bodies and will also be able to eat the food of heaven. In Revelation 19:9, John is told “And the angel said to me, Write this: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” There will be one great feast day of all the fish and bread you can eat! As a kid, I grew up with Joe Tess’ carp dinners on Friday nights. My dad would bring them home almost weekly. Along with that meal came a slice of black rye bread as I remember it. I used to enjoy both the fish and the bread. It seems almost blasphemous to compare the fish and sweet honey bread of the banquet in heaven with the fish of Joe Tess, but I just couldn’t help it! As much as I enjoyed those fish dinners, I can hardly wait to partake of the heavenly one that is yet to come!

Luke 24:39, 1 John 1-2, 1 Corinthians 15:50

The Resurrected Body is Immune!

It seems that the disciples gathered to discuss the stories of Jesus sightings by the two men on the road to Emmaus as well as the message the women received from the angel at the empty tomb. Peter may have also had his post-resurrection appearance and was putting in his two cents worth in the discussion about the resurrection, when Jesus miraculously appeared in their midst and shut down the argument. After lovingly commending peace to his gathered disciples who might deserve a rebuke, he then assures them that they need not let the “troubles” and cares of life get them down. They need only believe in Him and His resurrection. But these disciples had a purpose to fill in God’s plan. He was going to make them eye witnesses to the fact of his resurrection. So in Luke 24:39 Jesus says, “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.”

In the Preacher’s Commentary we read, “I would suggest that there is far more evidence for believing that Jesus was raised from the dead than for not doing so. First of all, there is no logical reason why any of the principals in the Gospel narrative would steal the body. How the Pharisees, faced with this great spiritual awakening that threatened Judaism, would have loved to produce the corpse and give the lie to the Resurrection rumor. They could not. Surely the soldiers were held accountable for the disappearance of the body they were guarding. You can be certain that leaves were canceled, promotions denied. They may have been imprisoned or killed for their negligence. The soldiers would be extremely eager to produce the body. It’s inconceivable that the disciples might have stolen the body. They were a broken, defeated, demoralized group after the Crucifixion. With the appearance of the risen Christ they were filled with a holy boldness which endured for the rest of their lives. If the Resurrection was a myth, there is no way to explain psychologically the actions of the early Christians – some of whom were crucified or fed to lions as a result of their faith. The evidence is overwhelming that something supernatural occurred.[1]

This group of disciples did indeed become eyewitnesses as God had planned. John tell us “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 John 1:1-2). The disciples saw with their eyes the resurrected Jesus who proclaimed to be “flesh and bone.” It wasn’t flesh and blood because all human life is in the blood. But some commentators suggest that there is also “death” in the blood because of the transmission of sin from Adam to every following generation. Every drop of Jesus’ blood, the only disease-free blood, was poured out intentionally for our sins on Calvary. 1 Corinthians 15:50 makes it clear that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” An incorruptible body is one of flesh and bone but not blood! As Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection we too will be like him in being “flesh and bone.” There will be no blood in which COVID-19 or anything else can infect us. I can find peace in that!

[1] Bruce Larson and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Luke, vol. 26, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 354.

Luke 24:37-38, Psalm 103:13-14, John 14:1

Peace to You in spite of COVID-19

Jesus doesn’t rebuke his disciples for deserting him when he first appears to them as a group after his resurrection. Instead he expresses his love and forgiveness in three simple words – “Peace to you.” He doesn’t send “guilt” upon them. He doesn’t shame them with what they did, he simply wishes them peace. Psalm 103:13-14 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” The passage I’m looking at now, Luke 24:37-38, informs us that the disciples sure do “fear the Lord.” It says, “But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” You’ve heard the expression “he looks like he had seen a ghost.” Well these disciples must have truly looked that way because they thought they did see a ghost. Half the translations I looked at used the word “terrified” instead of “frightened.” I suspect it was a pretty profound emotion.

Then in verse 38, Jesus asks them a question. Now we have to see this as a legitimate question. Sometimes we see Jesus’ questions as the kind of questions our parents asked us, or a teacher, or a policeman or our bosses. Jesus once asked his disciples “Why do you call me Lord and not do what I tell you to do?” That’s been seen as an accusation designed to arouse shame so they would try harder. My father asked me questions like that: “Why did you do that? What were you thinking?” But his questions were indeed designed to arouse shame and to guilt me into becoming a better person. That might have worked for a little while but not for long.  I’d argue Jesus never stooped to such tactics. He truly wanted his disciples to think about their true sinfulness so that they’d become more deeply aware of their need for a Savior. Jesus wanted them to come to repentance and then he’d step up as the Savior.

The question in verse 38 is stated this way, “And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?’” He wasn’t trying to shame them or arouse guilt, but to get them to think about “why” they were afraid, why they were troubled and doubted. You see, there was no need to be afraid. Jesus is our Savior and theirs. He did come back from the dead. He did conquer the grave. They did not need to worry or be troubled. He had it all under control. It reminds me of His words to them before the crucifixion. He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). The resurrection assures us of our eternal destiny and therefore God wants us to be at peace with all of our “troubles” and cares in this life, even COVID-19! He knows our frame and that we are but dust. He understands us and our trials but still says to us “Peace to You.”

Luke 9:34-36, 2 Peter 1:16-18

Give more attention to Jesus!

The writer of Hebrews has argued frequently how Jesus should be the focus of our attention. Going back now over a couple passages in the Gospels, this theme becomes even more apparent. At the conclusion of the transfiguration in Luke chapter 9, after Peter speaks up about making some tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, a cloud envelopes them and then in Luke 9:34-35, Peter is rebuked for trying to do something for God and is told to pay attention to Jesus. As Peter was speaking about tents, “…a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’” I found it interesting that the final verse in Luke on the transfiguration says, “And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.” How unusual for Peter to “keep silent” at all. But the rebuke of speaking when he didn’t know what he was saying must have sunk in a little. Later of course, we see him shooting his mouth off again but for now he “kept silent.”

Yet Peter never forgot this incident in his life and he didn’t keep silent for very long. As Peter and the rest of the apostles went about witnessing to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead as mentioned in all of Peter’s early sermons, they often encountered opposition and were accused of making up stories. You must admit, the thought of the resurrection from the dead sounds like a made-up story. Peter had an answer to that as we read in 2 Peter 1:16-18, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”

Near death stories find their way into the news and tabloids often. Why? I think because people long for some news from the other side. Not long ago a young pastor’s son told the story about Jesus in his near-death experience and they produced a book named “Heaven is for Real.” It became extremely popular both in and out of the Christian circles. Whether they believed him or not, everyone wanted to hear what he had to say. But when we have Jesus’ confirmed death, burial and resurrection, why aren’t we giving Him our full attention? Shouldn’t we focus on the one who actually died and came back rather than one who almost died? I’ve never truly appreciated the “Red Letter” New Testaments, but I’m becoming more and more interested the older I get. Shouldn’t we give more attention to Jesus?

Luke 9:33, Hebrews 1:1, Malachi 4:5, Matthew 11:13-14

Jesus is Greater than Elijah!

There’s no question about the superiority of Jesus as far as the author of the book of Hebrews is concerned. He asserts the importance of Jesus over all the characters and rituals of the Old Testament repeatedly. At the transfiguration, Jesus appeared in all his radiant glory along with the personages of Moses and Elijah. I pointed out previously how Jesus out shined Moses and how the author of Hebrews said that Jesus was worthy of “much more” glory than Moses. Even Moses himself was aware of Jesus’ superiority in his prophecy about the “better” prophet, Jesus, would come and be God’s mouthpiece to them. Peter seems to have missed the obvious message from the appearance of Jesus with Moses and Elijah because in Luke 9:33, “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah’ – not knowing what he said.”

I suspect that part of what Peter “did not know” was that the purpose of the appearance of Jesus with Moses and Elijah was intentionally designed to highlight the superiority of Jesus over the Law (Moses) and over the Prophets (Elijah). We’ve already talked about the obvious superiority of Jesus over Moses but what about the Prophet Elijah? The Old Testament Prophets brought God’s message to the people. Hebrews 1:1 teaches us that God used to speak to us through his Prophets in various ways. The various ways included signs and wonders. Elijah and Elisha were big at performing both. It continues “but in these days God speaks to us through His Son.” The Old Testament ends with a final word from the Prophets from God. In Malachi 4:5, Malachi speaks for God who says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” He spoke from God! But who was this new Elijah?

In Matthew 11:13-14 Jesus explains the identify of John the Baptist. He says, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.” An interesting study is the similarities between Elijah and John the Baptist. I’ve argued that John patterned his life after Elijah. They ate the same wild foods. They lived in the wilderness. The dressed the same. They both contended with immorality in the land. There are many other similarities as well but the point is this new Elijah figure, John the Baptist, knew Jesus was the most important one. When the people asked John if he was the Messiah, John replied, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” Moses was the prophet who heard God on behalf of the people. Elijah was the prophet that spoke for God to the people, but Jesus, the living Word of God, did both. God tells Moses in Deuteronomy 15:18, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” He then adds a warning in verse 19, “And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” We better listen to Jesus because he’s greater than the Law giver himself and the prophet Elijah who represents all the prophets.

Luke 9:29-30, Mark 9:3, Matthew 17:2

Jesus is Greater than Moses!

As we looked through the book of Hebrews, it became radically clear that the central message of the Bible is Jesus and His superiority over all the religious symbols of Judaism and all  religions for that matter. That book begins with extolling the superiority of Jesus over the Angels, the Prophets, Abraham, Moses, the Aaronic Priesthood, the Sanctuary, and all of its sacrifices. The superiority of Christ is the basis upon which the writer of the book of Hebrews encourages his readers to “pay close attention” to Jesus. The idea of the superiority of Jesus is flushed out in nearly ever passage of the Bible and as we study the sayings of Jesus over the spring and summer, we want to discover some of them. Today I want to go back to Luke Chapter 9 and take a look at the Transfiguration. This passage also makes it clear that Jesus is greater and better than other religious figures. Luke 9:29-30 says, “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah.”

Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain and when they awoke from their nap they saw Jesus in all His glory speaking to Moses and Elijah. Mark tells us that “…his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:3). Matthew tells us “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:2). We don’t know how the disciples recognized Moses and Elijah but they obviously did. We might glean from that how none of our personal identities will ever be lost and that we’ll be recognized by everyone in heaven. But that’s beside the point. The point seems obvious to me: Jesus is superior to the Law and the Prophets.

Of the three persons in that scene, only Jesus shone with God’s glory. Moses, the lawgiver, had once had a shiny face when he left the presence of God on Mount Sinai but if he had that now it would have only been the reflection of the glorious light of the one that stood with him. Moses didn’t shine in Jesus’ presence, but Jesus shined in Moses presence. We think that Joshua wrote the last part of the book of Deuteronomy because it speaks of Moses in the third person implying someone other than Moses wrote it. In Deuteronomy 34:10 we read about Moses, “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” But Jesus is greater than Moses and the writer of Hebrews confirmed this very thing in Hebrews 3:3, “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses.” Where should our eyes be as we walk along the trail of life? But Moses himself was aware of this when the children of Israel at Mount Sinai were too afraid to hear God speak, Moses took the mediatorial role and listened to God for them. But he said to them in Deuteronomy 18:15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen.” Where should our ears be tuned?

Hebrews 13:25, John 4:10

Jesus is the Grace of God!

The Bible teaches that all believers are “saints.” Numerous times, in the New Testament especially, all believers are referred to as “saints.” The basis of that title is not some miraculous deeds I’ve performed in my life but on one simple truth. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and has purchased for me a place in His kingdom that he offers as a free gift that I can receive by grace through faith. It’s all of grace. It cannot be earned or deserved because that work has been done for us. As any free gift, it can only be received. Faith is the channel through which we accept it. Actually, the word “grace” means free gift and is translated accordingly several times. In John 4:10, he tells us that “Jesus said, ‘If you only knew the free gift of God and who it is that is asking you for water, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’” Paul records this truth several times in Romans. The most famous of those verses is 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Peter calls it a free gift in Acts 10:20. John begins to close the final book of the Bible, Revelation, with 22:17. He says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears this say, ‘Come!’ Let whoever is thirsty come; whoever wishes may have the water of life as a free gift.”

The author of Hebrews closes his book with the shortest verse, sentence in the book. Hebrews 13:25 says, “Grace be with all of you.” According to the handbook for translators, “May God’s grace be with you all may be rendered as ‘May God be good to you all.’ Or, as in the form of a prayer, ‘I pray that God may be good to you all,’ or ‘… show you his loving kindness,’ or ‘… demonstrate to you his love and kindness.’”[1] Saving faith involves believing in three things about God. It’s not just believing that God exists. Satan does that and he’s not saved! To repeat myself again because if the significance of this issue, first, one must believe in a good God. He has our best interest foremost in mind even when it doesn’t look like it. Second, God sent His only Son to die for our sins and through our faith in Jesus, they are all removed as far as the east is from the west. They are not covered over as they were in the Old Testament, but completely forgiven. Finally, God has something great in store for us in the Kingdom to come. These three convictions or persuasions make up the definition of saving faith.

David Allen summarizes the closing blessing for us. He explains “To each and every reader/hearer of this sermon, our author covers them with the blessing of ‘grace,’ that pregnant New Testament word that encapsulates all that God has done for us through Christ in bringing about our salvation.”[2]

[1] Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 339.

[2] David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 632.

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