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Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have been in the upper room when Jesus appeared? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have been with those disciples on the road and to have Jesus walk and talk with you!
That’s what we would like to think. But what did we hear today? When Jesus suddenly appeared in the room with the disciples, they were terrified and frightened just as they had been on the mount of transfiguration. When John saw Jesus in his vision we call the book of Revelation, he was so frightened that he fell before Jesus as though dead. Remember when God came down on Mt. Sinai and spoke to Israel directly? They too were terrified. They begged Moses to ask God not to speak to them directly anymore because it was too frightening.
In his love and grace, God agreed. He doesn’t want to frighten us to death in his holiness. But he does want us to know him. So, he promised that he would reveal himself to us indirectly. He would speak to prophets who would be guided by the Holy Spirit to accurately relate to us what God had said to them. He would hide his glory in the flesh and blood of Jesus so that he could speak to the Apostles directly without terrifying them, and so that he could back up his words with actions – his miraculous signs and wonders that proved he is the Son of God, his suffering and death on the cross that proved how great his love really is, and his bodily resurrection that proves we too will rise.
In Luke 24 Jesus makes it clear that there is something more wonderful and more important than seeing his resurrected body. He makes it clear that the most important thing is being connected to the Scriptures.
When he walked and talked with the disciples on the road, he hid his identity from them. He did that because he wanted the opportunity to show them from the Scriptures that he was the promised Messiah, the Savior. He said to them, “How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Only after they were connected to the Scriptures and convinced by the word that Jesus was the Christ did he let them see him.
Notice what Jesus told the group in the upper room after he quieted their fear with his word of peace and ate a fish to show them he wasn’t a ghost. He said, “These are my words that I spoke to 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.” He connected them to the Scriptures. He reminded them that he had told them over and over again that he would be betrayed, handed over to the Gentiles, be crucified, and then rise from the dead. He reminded them that Moses had prophesied that God would raise up a prophet like him. He reminded them that Psalm 22 talked about piercing hands and feet and casting lots for clothing. He reminded them that Isaiah had talked about being silent like a lamb before the shearers and being pierced for the transgression of others; being with the rich in his death, but then seeing the light of life. It was all there in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, in the Scriptures.
So why didn’t they get it? Why didn’t they see it while it was unfolding right before their eyes? The Devil, the influences of the sinful world, and our own sinful nature that can only see the things of God as foolishness, are powerful forces. They do all they can to blind us to the truth.
The Devil was happy to inspire the Jewish leaders to threaten the disciples. He wanted them to fear for their lives because when you are afraid you don’t think clearly and it’s easy to forget the promises of God.
The sinful world had distorted the promises about the Messiah to the point where most were looking for a Messiah who would drive out the Romans and re-establish the earthly kingdom of Israel to the power and glory it had under David and Solomon.
The sinful nature was telling them that a bodily resurrection is impossible, and even if it was, how could Jesus ever forgive them for forsaking him.
Still today Satan is happy to inspire powerful people to threaten us, to make us think that the future is uncertain, or that if we continue to follow Jesus and what Scripture says about morality we will be shunned, cancelled, or even fined and jailed. Satan knows that when we are fearful, we don’t think clearly. We tend to forget the promises God has given us.
Still today the sinful world distorts what Scripture says about Jesus. They hold him up as simply an example to follow, not a savior. They try to tell us that if Jesus were here, he would be tolerant of all kinds of sin. Or they claim that the things the Bible says about Jesus were just made up by the disciples. They deny his virgin birth and his resurrection and mock us for thinking such things could happen.
Still today our sinful nature considers the things God says to be foolishness, or tells us that if they are true, then we are doomed because we can never be forgiven for the sinful things we have done.
The disciples, like us, had the devil, the world and the sinful flesh working against them. Like us, they too had been born dead in trespasses and sins, hostile to God, spiritually blind. So, what did Jesus do? He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He took away whatever was hindering them, fear, false ideas, guilt, so that they could make the connections between prophecy and fulfillment, and put it all together. He turned on the light in their hearts and minds so that they could say, “Yes! I see it now. The suffering and death of the Messiah was foretold. It was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die because he came as our substitute. He came to take on himself the punishment we deserve. It was necessary for him to suffer first, and then rise from the dead so that his resurrection would be evidence, proof, that everything that had been written about the Messiah in the Law, the Prophets and the Palms was indeed perfectly fulfilled.” Like the two on the road to Emmaus their hearts must have been burning with an indescribable peace and joy as Jesus connected them to the Scriptures.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. How is it possible to believe without seeing? Well, Jesus made sure that even those who did see were connected to the Scriptures. He made sure that their believing was not just based on sight or emotions. They weren’t going to keep seeing him. Their emotions were high at that moment, but after he was gone, when they faced trouble and persecution, their emotions would not sustain them. Jesus made sure to connect them to the Scriptures, to the certainty that comes from hearing God’s promises and then knowing that those promises are fulfilled. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He connected them to the Scriptures through which the Holy Spirit performs a wonderful miracle. He works through the Scriptures to create and strengthen faith.
I spoke with a young man a while back who was struggling with questions about God and faith. He was just hoping that God would give him a vision, or let him see heaven like some claim they have. I’m sure there are times when we can identify with him, times when we would like some proof, a vision, a certainly feeling. But remember what Jesus said. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Remember what Jesus did. He made sure to connect the Emmaus disciples and the disciples in the upper room to the Scriptures. Remember what the rich man in hell was told about someone going back from the dead to warn his brothers. They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them. `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”
In our world today many people are all about the science. They are convinced that science can give them all the answers they are looking for. Many are very disillusioned right now because it has become obvious that although science is helpful, it can help us come up with vaccines, it can’t provide all the answers, and the answers it does provide often change, or contradict a previous answer.
Many others are all about feelings. When someone answers a question today often the first words out of their mouths are “I just feel like.” Unfortunately, all too often what they feel is not anywhere close to what is true.
God says through Isaiah, To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. The light of dawn is what Jesus commissioned the disciples to proclaim and what has been proclaimed to us in the Scriptures. It is that everyone needs repentance. Everyone needs to confess the truth revealed in Scripture, that we are by nature sinful, that we have sinned against God and our neighbor, that we cannot save ourselves. It is that everyone needs forgiveness of sins, and there is only one way to have forgiveness. In the name of Jesus. In the fact that he suffered and died for the sins of the world and that he rose again in victory in the third day.
By God’s grace, you are here. You are connected to the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit has opened your mind so that you believe and confess that Jesus lived, died, and rose again for you. Now stay connected to the Scriptures because the Devil, the world and your sinful nature is working to separate you from them. Stay connected to the Scriptures because when you face trouble, or sickness, or persecution, or death, science and feelings will fail you. The only thing that can and will sustain you through whatever you face in this life is being connected to the Scripture. Then, when you do face trouble, sickness, persecution and death, the Holy Spirit will remind you of his promises, of truth you can count on. He will comfort and strengthen you with promises of forgiveness, supernatural help, and eternal life which you know are true because God said so in the Scriptures.