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The Resurrection Confirmed

Luke 24:33-43.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 5, 2016.

The early confusion of the resurrection will be put to rest by the end of that first day, at least for the close disciples of Jesus.  When you sift through the gospel accounts it is clear that there are at least 5 separate appearances on Sunday that start with appearances to individuals and smaller groups, and then culminates in an appearance to the larger group of His closest disciples.  These can be listed as an appearance to the women, an appearance to Mary Magdalene, an appearance to Peter, an appearance to Cleopas and another on the road to Emmaus, and lastly an appearance to the whole group.  Although we might wonder why Jesus is operating in such fashion, the flow of the day is one that helps them to process their doubts and come to grips with the shocking truth: Jesus is alive!

Throughout history there have been many attempts to discount these many appearances.  Several things stick out in contradiction to such attempts.  First, these are not mere sightings.  They are extensive and interactive dialogues.  Secondly, it is not a single time that can be chalked up to “group hypnosis.”  They happen to many different sizes of groups at different times.  We have at least 12 such interactions within 40 days recorded in the gospels.  Lastly, the disciples went from hiding in fear of their lives to boldly proclaiming that Jesus was alive.  Many of them did so to the point of death, and all without recanting.  It is important for the believer to recognize that God has given us many facts in order that we might put our full trust in Jesus.  He is the Lord of Life and the Conqueror of Death.

Sharing The Good News

We pick the story up again in verse 33.  Here Cleopas and his friend realize that Jesus is alive.  This news is too good and amazing to keep to themselves or let go to the next day.  Thus they go back to Jerusalem to tell The Eleven.  It is important to point out that the term “The Eleven” (as opposed to The Twelve) is a reference to this time between the death of Judas and the replacement of him with Matthias 50 days later.  It is more a statement of which disciples are being talked about then it is the exact number that were present.  Thus Luke here speaks of The Eleven, but we know from John 20 that Thomas is not present.  It is a simple way to avoid the whole discussion of “which disciples are we talking about?”

Though they have news to share, it is the Jerusalem disciples that we hear from first.  They make a statement of fact to Cleopas and his friend, “The Lord is risen indeed!”  They have become convinced by all the evidence they had received that Jesus was alive.  The word “indeed” in verse 34 is used to emphasize the reality of something as opposed to that which is only a conjecture, or worse a pretense.  To them it was no longer a crazy idea, or far-fetched possibility, it was a reality that had been proven to them.

This is then followed up by the disciples from Emmaus sharing their story of meeting Jesus.  Thus we have a kind of sharing of notes and mutual fellowship of those who have witnessed an unbelievable thing.  This sharing of what we have witnessed is a time honored tradition within the Church.  Historically it has been called “to testify” or giving a “testimony.”  You are basically giving witness to what you have experienced in Jesus.  Of course these disciples are sharing a physical appearance of Jesus.  We only share our spiritual experiences that we have had in the Lord.  But the function is just as important nonetheless.  This should never be a situation of one-upmanship, so that we can feel superior to one another.  This only leads to fabrication and pretense.  Rather, this is intended to validate the experiences of one another.  We must not allow ourselves to be separated to the point that we quit comparing notes and sharing our testimony with one another.  It is a powerful benefit that God has given us.

Jesus Provides Proofs To The Larger Group

This situation has led to a much larger group being all in one place.  Ten of The Eleven, plus the two from Emmaus, plus at least 5 other women would give us at least 17 disciples and possibly more.  This is to be the core group that gives witness to the Resurrection.

At this point Jesus suddenly stands up within the group and reveals himself to them all.

Notice his first words, “Peace to You.”  Though they had deserted him in fear, Jesus desires for them and for us to have peace.  He doesn’t just want them to “Fear not!”  But in a positive way he has peace for them.  No matter how you feel, you need to understand this about God.  He wants you to have peace, tranquility, and rest in your spirit.  His death was not a matter to separate us from him, but to connect us to him in a living and loving relationship.  Yes, my sins were the reason he went to the cross.  But he is not holding that over us.  In fact, it is clear from the account that Jesus had told them to meet him in Galilee. The appearances of this day, no doubt, serve to help them confidently know that he is alive and to help them have the faith to travel to Galilee.

Although he had appeared to many of them by now, the overall group is surprised and terrified at his new appearance.  The issue is not about his resurrection, but about the state that he is in.  Is he a spirit or ghost?  Or does he have a real body?  The momentary responses of our flesh to events that happen in our life can catch us by surprise and even fill our hearts with terror.  But the Lord Jesus wants to help our troubled hearts to come to a place of peace.  Jesus describes their inner turmoil as “doubts” in their hearts.  These doubts are surfacing in the well of their hearts, like a boiling pot.  There is a war between belief and doubt regarding what exactly is going on.  Yet, the end of this process is to bring peace to the doubts and strength to the faith.

Knowing their doubts and fears, Jesus begins to allay them.  His presence is itself a proof.  But here Jesus adds a further proof.  He has them look at his hands and feet, as well as touch them.  Although Luke does not explain what they saw, it is clear that it has to do with the wounds of the crucifixion.  Remember that in John 20, Jesus has Thomas also touch his side (the place that the spear entered and pierced his heart).  It seems unlikely that the wounds are still dry and bloody.  Most likely there are scars that give clear evidence to his crucifixion.  This gives rise to the nature of the resurrection body.  Why would he have scars?  Clearly they could have been completely healed.  Yet, the glorified body of Christ still bears the marks of his victory at the cross.  Jesus has them do this so that they can be assured that it really is the same guy who was nailed to the cross and killed.  Also, so that they can know that he is not just a spirit.  Rather, he has a physical body (though as a glorified body it has some differences, 1 Cor. 15).  John would later write in 1 John 1:1-2, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life, the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—.”  To John it was important that people understand that they were not telling fables or hearsay.  They had seen Jesus, heard Jesus, and touched Jesus.  They gave clear witness of a very real event.

It is not that the disciples don’t believe, but that they do not believe to the point of joy, verse 41.  There is a restrained and shocked sobriety over them at this point.  So Jesus continues to prove himself to them by eating food.  The disciples doubt his physicality because they saw him die.  It was too hard to wrap their heads around it all.  This leads to one of the first heresies to crop up in the early Church.  Later groups would deny the physicality of Jesus, not just after the resurrection, but also during his life.  To them the material world was evil, and the spiritual holy.  How could a holy being take on evil flesh?  Of course these preconceived ideas were wrong.  This is typically called “Docetism” from a Greek word that means “to seem.”  They believe that Jesus only seemed to have a body during his ministry and only appeared to be crucified.  The truth is that there are holy and evil spirit beings and there are holy and evil material beings.  Christ is that one perfect and holy spirit that took on a human body and nature, yet without sin.  Thus John also wrote in 1 John 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.  And this is the spirit of Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”  Luke and the apostles went to great lengths to establish the reality and physicality of the resurrected Jesus.

Of course, today our problem is not with a physical Jesus.  In the modern world we are more likely to embrace his humanity, but deny his divinity.  Jesus did not rise from the dead as a most powerful spirit that was putting on a show for humans, nor did the disciples make up the story in order to cover the death of Jesus, the man.  Though we too may have our doubts and fears about exactly what the Apostles witnessed, we must deal with the evidence laid out before us.  Jesus is bodily alive.  He has the ability to go between the spirit realm and the material world.  He is coming back at a future date to judge the world, and elevate his followers.  Which side will you be on?  That is the question.


Resurrection Confirmed audio