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Weekly Word

Entries in Proof (3)

Tuesday
Jun072016

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

Monday
Jun062016

On The Road To Emmaus

Luke 24:13-32.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 29, 2016.

We pick up the story of the resurrection of Jesus where the disciples are in a mixed state of confusion.  They have experienced great sadness and grief over the crucifixion of Jesus.  And yet, now there is also confusion regarding what happened to the body of Jesus, what the women are saying about a message from an angel.  As we come upon this scene today, we will see much of ourselves in it.  We will see people who are slow to believe what God has said He will do.  We will see people who need their eyes opened to who Jesus really is.  As we look at the evidence today, let us also ask the Lord to open our eyes that we might fully see who He truly is.

Further Proof Of The Resurrection

In verses 13-16 we find the first account that Luke gives of an eye witness interaction with Jesus.  We know from the other Gospels that Jesus would have appeared to the women and possibly to Peter some time before this.  Luke's portrayal of that Sunday morning does a good job of showing the scurrying activity of the disciples in many different directions.  In the midst of all of this Jesus is appearing to different ones at different times, helping them to understand and believe.

Thus we find two disciples who are leaving Jerusalem to go back to their home in Emmaus, which is about 7 miles from Jerusalem.  One of the two disciples is named later in verse 18, Cleopas.  They are at the least headed home after Passover.  However, the death of Jesus and current stories of the women may have spooked them.  They know that the Romans and the religious leaders of Israel will blame someone for the missing body.  Whatever reason led to them going home, it is while they are walking and talking along their way that Jesus joins them.  It is interesting that Luke tells us their eyes were "restrained" from knowing him.  Now it is most likely that Jesus looks somewhat different due to the crucifixion.  We are told that he was heavily beaten and whipped.  Like visiting someone who was in a horrible car accident in the hospital, we can be shocked at how unrecognizable a person is who goes through such things.  But there is also a spiritual thing happening here.  It literally means that their eyes were held shut.  Of course this is about their perception of who he is.  Why would God keep them from perceiving Jesus?  Didn't he want them to know it was him?  I think that this is done on purpose to highlight their blindness (and ours) to His Word and prophecy.  It is important for all who come to believe in Jesus to know that they have been helped over the top of their own blindness.

It is here that Jesus points out there clear sadness (vs. 17).  They were sad that a mighty prophet had been killed (vs. 19).  They had gone 400 years without a prophet from God, and then suddenly John the Baptist and Jesus rose up, demonstrating a clear and authentic connection to God.  Yet, now the leaders have put them to death.  They are also sad that the redemption of Israel would not be happening now (vs. 21).  The messiah was prophesied to free Israel from bondage to the nations.  Like a slave being bought back, God would use the Messiah to purchase Israel back to Himself.  They would not be under His discipline, but rather would enjoy His favor.  Imagine the heights of joy they had thinking about the coming freedom, and then, splat!  Their hopes are dashed in the death of Jesus.  So they explain the death of Jesus and the dashing of their hopes to Jesus unknowingly.  Yet, they also explain the strange events of the morning: an empty tomb, angels saying that Jesus is alive, and the missing body verified.  Verse 24 ends with, "But they did not see."  Seeing is a big part of this passage.  Luke is in essence telling all who would read his gospel, "We were so blind!"

 Starting in verse 25 we see a classic rebuke from Jesus.  They are being foolish.  They path of folly is not to heed the Word of God and they were guilty of not listening to what Jesus had been trying to tell them and what the Old Testament was trying to tell them.  This put them on a path that was different from God's path for them, the path of folly.  Folly always leads to destruction unless we get off the path.  They were also "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken."  It had been predicted that the Christ would suffer and be executed as well as hard wired into the sacrificial system itself.  Isaiah 53 defies all understanding if one rejects that it points to an executed savior.  Daniel 9:26 literally says that messiah would be executed.  Thus Jesus takes the next hour or two of the trip to explain that the prophets were saying this must happen.  Take joy in the fact that even when we are slow of heart to believe what God is trying to tell us that He continues to speak to us in order to help us believe.  The proper exposition of God's Word has an ability to draw people back from the paths of folly and fill their hearts with faith in God and His Son, Jesus.

At verse 28 we see that they are approaching the turn into their village.  But, Jesus begins to go on down the road without them.  They then invite Jesus to stay with them for the night, since it is getting close to evening and he will need a place to stay.  This is another critical juncture that teaches us something about God.  Jesus has poured an immense blessing into these men's lives with His explanation of Scripture and yet He will go on His way if they don't invite Him in.  The phrase in verse 29, "Abide with us," speaks volumes in light of John 15:4.  "Abide in me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."  Their hearts desire to spend more time with this stranger and Jesus will deny no one who bids Him to come into their hearts.

A meal is fixed and served.  It would not be normal for a guest to take the bread, bless it, and distribute it.  However this is exactly what Jesus did.  It is in this act that the restraint on their perception is removed and they recognize that this is the Lord.  His manner is so much like Jesus that they finally see it.  I would encourage us to recognize our own generation's tendency to be slow to believe all that God has said in His Word.  We too often embrace parts that we like and discount parts we don't.  Some find scholars who will twist the meaning of Scripture.  Others will simply disregard it.  Regardless, it is only fellowship with Jesus that opens our eyes to who He is and what He is doing.  This is a powerful point that the first Christians leave for us all these years later.  We only truly saw Jesus by remaining in fellowship with Him.  It is still true today.  Unless we remain in a living and loving relationship with Jesus we will never have the blinders removed from our perception and we will never know the amazing plan of the Lord for our lives. 

Road to Emmaus audio

Tuesday
May242016

He is Risen

Luke 24:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 22, 2016.

Today we are going to look at the resurrection of Jesus recorded by Luke.  As we do this, we will find that God has provided ample evidence for us to believe.  The real problem behind lack of belief is not lack of evidence.  Rather, it is a lack of desire to be like Jesus.  Let's look at the passage.

Jesus is Resurrected

At first the account is about the discovery that Jesus had been resurrected.  While it was still dark in the early morning hours of Sunday a group of women go to the tomb of Jesus.  The end of the previous chapter tells us that these women are those who had come from Galilee with Jesus.  There are also some other women with them, most likely from the Jerusalem area.  Verse 10 gives us the names of three of them: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.  Their main purpose is to dignify the death of Jesus by putting spices upon the body.  I won't delve into the first century burial proces more than to say that the body would be allowed to decay and thus to allow people to visit during their grief, spices would be employed.  Jesus had died right before the sabbath and thus they were not able to do this before.  So that tells us why they went to the tomb.

When they arrived they notice that the stone has been rolled away.  Of course Jesus did not need the rock moved.  This is not so much to let him out, so much as to let the disciples discover that he is gone.  The body is not there, not to mention that the guards are no where to be found.  The point of confusion and cluelessness is understandable given the circumstances.  I would say that it is better to be a servant of Jesus who is clueless then to be among those who reject him completely, because God will always bring His servants to better understanding.

In verses 4-8 we have that very thing.  An angel announces what has happened.  Now it is important to note that there is a common occurrence in the Biblical accounts when angels appear.  They at first are generally referred to as men (that is what they look like).  However, by the end of the encounter things happen that make it clear these are not mere mortals, but rather heavenly messengers (angels).  In this case the women are perplexed and unsure what to think and suddenly several men appear.  Their garments are shining, which causes the women to bow in fear before them.  They immediately know that these are not just men, but angels from God.  Note that the angel asks a question before it gives the message.  "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"  They should have known that Jesus would not be there.  He had told them several times what would happen.  Yet, this statement also becomes a question from God to all mankind through the ages.  Why do we seek for life among that which is dead?  Our world is like people looking for life among the tombs.  Yet, the grace of God provides one who is Lord over death.

The angels then give their message.  Jesus is no longer here because He has risen.  The are also told to remember what Jesus had told them back in Galilee.  He would be arrested, crucified, and rise again on the third day.  

This of course amazes the women an dso they go back to tell the disciples what they had observed.  Here we see that the apostles are slow to believe the report of the women.  Somethings are just simply unbelievable.  Even, though Jesus had proven himself to be quite credible, all of them are just like "Doubting Thomas."  They must see for themselves.  Peter goes and sees the empty tomb and the linen cloths lying there, which begs the question, "Who would unwrap a dead body?"  God had done a work that is a marvel to think about, but even more wonderful to experience.  Thus the amazing work of God takes time to be accepted by the minds of men.  Divinity will not be found in the things of this world.  No matter how hard men try to press the sciences into service, they will fall short of finding eternal life among the dead things of this world.  Only Jesus holds life.  We must look at the evidence and put our trust in the risen Jesus just as those first disciples did.  It is Jesus who has conquered death and promises to all who put their trust in Him that they too shall share in His victory over death.

I pray that today, if you find yourself in such an incredulous state, you will stop, take in all the evidence, and receive the word of the Lord that He is risen!  You will not find life in any other than to believe in Jesus with all your heart.

He is Risen Audio