This is a tough text when you consider what Jesus is doing. He is willingly giving his life, the innocent for the guilty. He is taking the punishment for sin and the condemnation of sinners upon himself. The biggest miscarriage of justice that's ever occurred is happening in these verses. And look at the respond of different people.
The women following him are rightly "mourning and lamenting." Others are "casting lots" over his garments, as if this is some game. The general response is represented by "the people" who "stood by watching." The rulers "scoffed at him." The soldiers "mocked him." One of the criminals who actually was guilty of the crime for which he was being punished "railed at him." And then there is the other criminal, who recognized Jesus' innocence and trusted in him as the Messiah.
I wonder how you respond to Jesus crucified... is Christ on the cross somethign you grieve, play games with, watch indifferently, scoff at, mock, rail against or put your hope in?
A Prayer for Weightiness:
Father, don't let my heart and mind be calloused toward the cross. Don't let my distance from the cross or my familiarity with the cross let me be at all disimissive of the cross. Don't ever let me see Christ crucified as some game... don't let me ever take it lightly or indifferently. Let it weigh on me appropriately. Let my heart be soft enough to grieve the cross of Jesus Christ and wise enough to trust the cross of Jesus Christ. Lord, with the criminal, I would ask you to "remember me when you come into your kingdom." Let the weight of your glory in the cross and resurrection weigh on me always, until I am with you face to face. Amen.
There was darkness over the whole land from the 6th hour to the 9th hour... that's from Noon to 3 p.m. That's a physical picture of life without Jesus. Darkness all around us and darkness within us. Jesus doesn't just bring light or increase light, Jesus is light. And to live without the light that he is and which only he gives to all of life is a darkened reality and a living deadness.
Even with Jesus risen and alive, to live as though he is dead is groping around in the darkness. And at the moment of Jesus' physical death, on the cross, that darkness permeated everything. Seeing the darkness of life without Jesus is really instrumental in seeing Jesus as the light that he is. It was at Jesus' moment of death, with darkness setting in over the land, which the centurion "praised God." It was at the moment of Jesus' death that Jesus' innocence and perfection became visible to the soldier. Darkness is sometimes the uncomfortable, painful, scary, and tragic backdrop against which the light of Jesus shines brightest.
I wonder if you're willing to look for him in the midst of what darkens your existence... he comes to give light and life in the midst of that if we'll open ourselves to him.
A Prayer for Light:
Father, the world is a dark place and darkness certainly lurks within me and around me. But I ask that you would let me see Jesus in all things, and to see all things in the light that he gives, so that circumstances and frustration and difficulties and despair and pain... that none of these things would be seen in and of themselves, but they'd be recast in the light of Christ and the glorious things he has done and is doing and in which he has included me. Don't let my perspective of life, and people, and the world around me be darkened by a sub-Christian worldview... let the reality of the gospel give light to how I see and engage in everything. I ask this through Jesus, who is the Light of the world... Amen.
"He is not here, but has risen..."
"But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them."
The women who first saw the empty tomb and were reminded by an angel of what Jesus had said, predicting these very events, they believed. For the disciples, their testimony and witness to these things wasn't enough. The same information and the same evidence simply does not have the same impact on everyone.
But this is the fact on which the truth of the whole gospel swings... did a crucified and buried Jesus actually rise from death. If he did, then Scripture is fulfilled and Jesus' own claims are validated. If he did not, than, as the Apostle Paul says, we Christians are to be pitied above all... the legitimacy of Christianity rises and falls on a resurrected Lord Jesus.
But our faith in Jesus' resurrection doesn't actually rise and fall with the fact of the resurrection. Our faith rises and falls with the condition of our hearts. The claim of Christianity, is that the fact of the resurrection is made real and reliable to us by the same Spirit whose power accomplished the resurrection.
So we all have our doubts and barriers to faith in Jesus, but the first one is whether or not we're even open to Jesus... do we even want Jesus to have been raised from the dead? Because if we don't, then it's likely we will find reasons to dismiss the idea of the resurrection. And there are all kinds of reasons people don't want the resurrection to have happened. Mostly because it doesn't fit within their worldview and we intrinsically know that if the resurrection is true than I have to adjust some things... so it seems easier not to have our lives messed with in that way.
I wonder if you want Jesus to be alive... I wonder if you're open to him really being alive... I wonder if you're willing to reconsider everything you think you know in light of him being alive... This is either an idle tale which we should not believe, or it is the ultimate reality inviting us into life of a different sort and from a different source.
A Prayer for Belief:
Lord, give me an openness to Jesus and an unwavering faith in Christ. Alleviate my doubts which keep me from walking steadfastly with you. Remove the barriers and skepticism of my heart which keep me distant from you... I have so many things that I trip up on and so many ways that I resist you... I complicate faith and Christianity so much when it really comes down to some simple things... And today, I reaffirm my belief in a risen Jesus... help my unbelief. Make the living presence of Jesus real and personal to me so that I stop holding back and give myself to you completely. Amen.
I LOVE THIS PASSAGE... I love it. If you could transport me to any time in human history and put me in the middle of something, this would be near or at the top ofthe list of places and experiences I'd want to get in on. Jesus himself walked along with the guys explaining all that the Scriptures had to say concerning himself... I would love to hear how Jesus connect the OT to himself. And then to suddenly have the reality of the risen Jesus unveiled right before your eyes as your eating with him face to face... even their own testimony of "did our hearts not burn within us while he talked to us on the road..." to have that exhileration building until the moment Jesus reveals himself fully to them... then the adrenaline pumping as you run to find the disciples and confirm the rumors of Christ's resurrection... what a moment.
This is sort of the description of what it's like to come into personal knowledge of Christ... there is this sense of longing that is tempered by some sort of reality check. But over time, as your heart remains open to the possibility of the gospel, you learn more, your heart slowly awakens. Excitement builds and interest grows but you don't even know why and can't explain what's happening. Jesus starts to make sense of things for you, whether in life or in Scripture, things start to resolve in your own mind and heart as you connect them to Jesus. Then suddenly, you become unshakably aware of him in a personal and real way... the reality of Jesus, crucified and risen, becomes unignorable and your whole life is dramatically changed.
Symbolically, there is something about the moment at which Jesus is actually seen for who he is by these guys... it's at the moment that he takes the bread, breaks it, blesses it and gives it to them. There is no real awakening to the real Jesus until you receive the blessing of his body broken and given for you. It's in receiving Jesus in that particular way that Jesus becomes real. And our faith and intimacy with Christ is continually nurtured as we continue to internalize him as our atoning sacrifice and risen Savior. Luke 24 13-35 is awesome!
A Prayer for Exhileration:
Lord, as I connect with Jesus personally and become more aware of him and surrendered to him, give me the excitement and energy and exhileration which these guys experienced. I don't want dull religion. I want the adrenaline pumping thrill of an ongoing personal connection with the risen Jesus. Not hype... not emotionalism... not theatrics and dramatics... I want the real joy, and the real enthusiasm, and the real energy, from the real Spirit, awakening my wearied heart through a real enounter and real knowledge of the real Jesus... These guys were experiencing life as it was intended in this moment... I want that life that only Jesus can give. Amen.
I just preached on this passage for Easter about 3 weeks ago, so this is a tough one for me to distill down today... I think the three things that
1) Jesus comes to make peace with us
Jesus did not show up resurrected with any animosity or negative emotion toward his disciples who doubted him, betrayed him, abandoned him, denied him, and still didn't believe in his resurrection... even after he shows up here resurrected... he comes bringing peace to our heavy, unsettled, anxious, stressed, fearful, insecure, darkened hearts. No matter what you've done and how you have responded to Jesus, he doesn't come to us now to put us in our place... he comes to offer us his peace.
2) Unbelief is a heart issue, not a head issue
People love to make it seem like unbelief in Jesus is a strictly rational or intellectual conclusion. We convince ourselves that the resurrection is outside of a scientific or naturalistic worldview and it makes sense not to believe in that... we think it's sound reason. But the disciples show us something different here. They know Jesus is dead, and they love Jesus dearly so they want him to be alive. Of all people they should be predisposed to believe in the resurrection even without proof. And yet here they are, Jesus standing right in front of them, alive and well, speaking to them and eating with them, and they are more inclined to believe it's a ghost of Jesus than a risen Jesus, which is also outside the scope of a scientific or naturalistic worldview. They are more inclined to believe in a spiritual phenomenon which would haunt them than in the supernatural reality that will heal the whole world. Proof is right before them and still they were unconvinced.
Jesus had to open their minds because their minds were closed. The resurrection didn't fit their categories just as it doesn't fit in ours, so Jesus had to move upon them and initiate something they couldn't initiate for themselves. Our minds are predisposed to reject the gospel and no amount of logic will change that... we need the risen Jesus to open us up to new possibilities we'd never even consider on our own.
3) The message and means of salvation is the same
Gospel proclamation and gospel response is unchanged. Our witness is still regarding crucified and risen Lord and the only saving response to that is repentance of sin and faith in him and his finished work. And by the way, the same joy-filled worship is the right response to that salvation... may you experience and enter into that this very day.
A Prayer for Power:
Father, clothe me in power from the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised then and still devliers on today. Fill me with the living presence of Jesus to have faith in him, to follow him, to receive forgiveness from him and to bear fruit for him. I want the life and power of Jesus to flow in and through me for the sake of those around me and for the sake of Christ... that he might be worshipped the way he deserves. Amen.