Doubts and Understanding

Morning Message – John Cline

Luke 24:36-49

Our Maundy Thursday Worship Service was taken mostly from Luke 23, focusing on the events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and finishing in the Saturday of cosmic silence. Today, we will carry on with Luke’s account and dive into Resurrection Sunday, today. Easter Sunday in Luke 24 is divided into three sections, the first which Lois Halls read for us (based upon the events at the empty tomb) the second section being the events on the road to Emmaus, and the third being where Jesus met with his followers later on that Sunday. We will go through those three sections of the Luke 24 accounts, but before we do, I want to first talk about the German word for “resurrection” which we said in our phrase, “Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!” “Christus ist Auferstanden! Wahrhaft auferstanden!”

The name Easter (in English) comes from the old German word “Oster” or “Ostern”, which means “the rising of the sun”.

Oster comes from the old Teutonic (really, old German) of auferstehen (or, auferstehung) which means resurrection.

Auferstehung comes from two old German words: Ester, which means first, and stehen, which means to stand.

And these two words combine to form erstehen, an old German form of auferstehen, which is the modern German word for resurrection.

And, from auferstehen, we get auferstanden (resurrection).

Unfortunately, there have been ignorant books written that have taken hold in public thought in which it is claimed that the word “easter” is of pagan origin, specifically from Babylonia, from the Babylonian goddess named “Eostre/Ishtar”, a goddess who was associated with light and fertility and bunny rabbits and eggs. I want to say that I am proud of our congregation now in that there are no more mentions of Easter bunnies but when I first came here there was an elderly, long-time member of our church who told me how she knew the Easter story was real because she had seen a bunny in her yard that Easter Sunday. She believed God had sent her the Easter bunny! Honestly, I felt like kicking her! I was so insulted for the Lord. In any case, this denigrating of the Easter message by the public and by fake narratives such as in those earlier mentioned writings is a tedious attempt to discredit Christianity but itself is the thing that has no credibility. So, don’t listen to those lies and don’t be worried about them! Easter is a German word meaning resurrection in its original form as we have just seen, and Jesus was the “first to stand” at the “rising of the sun”.

That kind of shoddy questioning put forward in those books will never lead to truth because the people involved in them don’t want to know the truth. However, in Luke 24 are recorded three groups of people who did find truth and understanding about the resurrection of Jesus after initially being confused and doubting. The first groups of people who questioned the factualness of the resurrection were those read about by Lois Halls in verses 1-12: 1. the female followers of Jesus, and 2. the male apostles. There was Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of King Herod’s treasurer, Mary the mother of the apostle known as James the Less, Salome the mother of her sons, the brother apostles James and John, there was an unnamed lady who was the wife of a man named Clopas, plus a Mary who was related to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and finally, Mary herself, the mother of Jesus. Those women didn’t see the resurrection of Jesus happened – no one did. The people closest to seeing the resurrection itself were the Roman guards who felt an earthquake, saw a brilliant flash, and then witnessed an angel rolling the stone away from the mouth of the tomb, an event that the Gospel writer states, “left them so afraid that they shook and became like dead men”. The women later saw the stone rolled away – it was rolled away not for Jesus to get out but for others to go in to see that the tomb was empty – and when the women went in they saw that same angel who informed them that Jesus had risen. And, then he told them to go and tell the male apostles. That they did and, so from that second group of people, the apostles, mentioned in the first part of Luke 24, two of them, Peter and John, ran to the empty tomb to see for themselves. They arrived at the tomb, saw that it was empty and that Jesus’ graveclothes and linen were there, and they left scratching their heads in confusion at what they had seen. Did you notice that this first section of Luke 24 doesn’t actually say that anyone yet believed that Jesus was alive?

Moving on to the second section of Luke 24:13-35, we next come to two followers of Jesus, a man named Cleopas and one another – possibly his wife or possibly a friend – who were disciples/followers of Jesus. These two people were not apostles but they had been with the apostles when first the women, and then Peter and John came and reported that the grave was empty and that an angel was reporting Jesus was alive. Cleopas and the other disciple decided to clear their heads by walking seven miles from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus but, as they were walking, a man joined them. John Cross from Olds, Alberta, has put together a cartoon video on this second section of Luke 24:13-35 that we will view now.

‘Alive with a Roar’ –

So, Cleopas and the other unnamed disciple had been present throughout the events of Jesus’ arrest on Thursday, his crucifixion on Friday, the stifling silence of cosmic nothingness which occurred on Saturday, and finally, the events of that Sunday morning, and they were confused but then filled with hope at the message that Jesus was said to be alive. They were trying to make sense of it all as they walked to their home in Emmaus, but they couldn’t make sense of it, not until Jesus appeared to them and explained for them how Old Testament prophecies had pointed to what had needed to happen to the Messiah,, prophecies which had been played out exactly those past few days. Cleopas and his companion found their minds starting to understand but it was not until Jesus broke bread with them that their spiritual eyes were fully opened and they recognized that the man with them had been Jesus and that he was alive, resurrected from the dead, just as had been claimed. At that realization, they rushed back to Jerusalem to share with the apostles there that what had been said about Jesus was true, that Jesus is alive, only to hear the apostles responding with, “We know! Jesus appeared to Simon Peter, as well.” I am sure that Cleopas and the others were all hoping to see the risen Lord themselves. Reading now from verses 36-49, we find that happen in the third section of Luke 24:

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “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.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the

forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36-49)

In the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel, John reveals that Thomas, the one who would forever after being known as “Doubting Thomas”, was inexplicably absent from this encounter with the risen Lord that Luke here describes in this third section of his 24th chapter. Thomas’ time of believing would come one week later in another encounter with the risen Lord Jesus, but for all the people mentioned in Luke 24 – the female disciples, the male apostles, Cleopas and the other believer, as well as any others gathered there – do you notice that their initial reactions to the news that Jesus was alive were filled with doubt and confusion? Yet, all that negativity and wonder gave way to joy and belief. Why the change? It was because they had met the risen Lord!

I was 19 years old and had grown up in the church, a pastor’s kid. I knew all about Jesus but I was uncertain about the factualness of his physical resurrection. I liked the sentimentality of the Easter story but it meant nothing to me personally, until the day I personally met Jesus, the risen Lord. That next Easter was like no other for me because I now understood that not only had Jesus been raised from the dead but that he was and is alive today! My questions and doubts were replaced by understanding. Nothing has been the same for me ever since. But, you see, my realization of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection took me years to believe, finalized once I finally met the risen Lord. But, since that day, and like those first believers who met the risen Lord, my faith has never wavered. Consider that for those first women and men, the knowledge that Jesus was alive transformed them from being cowardly, fearful individuals to fearless evangelists of the gospel. Even when threatened by prison and death at the hands of the Roman and Jewish authorities, they never wavered in their belief. There is no record of any of those early Christians ever recanting their faith. Why not? Because they knew what was real: Jesus was and is alive! The grave had been conquered! Before Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day, the disciples had all accepted that Jesus was a good teacher, a fine man, in fact, that he could well be the Messiah or the king of the Jews. But all of those positive-sounding thoughts would have come tumbling down in the fact of persecution or opposition. However, their belief-system about Jesus changed into a rock-hard faith after they encountered the resurrected Lord. And this truth of Jesus’ resurrection also has effect for us who have not seen Jesus face-to-face for, as Jesus said to Thomas one week later, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” In a sense, we have a stronger faith than the early disciples in that we have met Jesus spiritually and have been transformed by him. That is where giving one’s life to Jesus has such effect! We meet him spiritually and yet we know him personally!

The story has often been told of the days following the Soviet revolution in the early part of the 20th century where Russia went about taking over the neighbouring countries to create the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR. The Russian Communist leaders were determined to stamp out Christianity by adopting a theism – the belief that there is no God – as the official belief system in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR. Christianity was to be wiped out. The story goes that Ivanovich Bukharin, a powerful Russian leader, travelled from Moscow in Russia to Kiev in the Ukraine, the Ukraine being one of the countries that Russia had taken over in creating the USSR. Bukharin is said to have travelled to Kiev to deliver an address to a large crowd of Ukrainians on the subject of atheism. After an hour of delivering his best arguments against the Christian faith, he asked if there were any questions. One man raised his hand and was asked to come up onto the podium at the front. Going to the microphone, instead of asking a question, the Ukrainian man, instead simply loudly proclaimed the traditional Easter greeting, “Christ is risen!”, to which the crowd of Ukrainian believers roared back, “He is risen, indeed!”

Only a fool would believe that people once they have met the risen Lord would turn away from him or the faith. That Jesus is alive makes all the difference! I have read about a certain pastor who closes each worship service by saying, “Remember, we live a world where a resurrection happened.” What a simple but profound line! The resurrection of Jesus has changed everything! So, as we close today’s sermon, let’s say that line together:

“Remember, we live in a world where a resurrection happened.”

Let’s pray…

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