Clothed With Power - April 12, 2015 Sermon - Luke 24:33-49
It’s the first Sunday after Easter, and I’m going to ask us all here today to use our imaginations, to engage our minds and hearts and souls as we consider what it means to live in the light of the resurrection of our Saviour.
Today is the first in a series of messages about just that: “Living in the Light of the Resurrection”, where we’ll consider how life changes when the reality of God’s love, so beautifully expressed in Jesus’ willing sacrifice for us on the cross…when that really starts to sink in. So…
Imagine yourself, living your life as normal, just think about the week you’ve just had. You know, dealing with life’s ups and downs, struggling to make peace...with yourself, with your past, with other people, with your own heart, worrying about stuff, mad at some folks, focussing on your own life, living with life’s ups and downs because, well, that’s what you know.
And then imagine yourself being invited into a friendship, a relationship where the other person is so interesting, so not run-of-the-mill, so different from you but still so approachable, and who keeps reaching out to you to draw closer.
Well, that was the experience of the band of people who followed Jesus. Of course there were the 12, who we know as Jesus disciples who were among that band of people,
But we also know there were many, male and female, who journeyed with Jesus for the 3 or so years of His public ministry.
They witnessed His miracles, they heard his teaching, which turned conventional thinking on its head, normal wisdom was turned upside down by Jesus. What do I mean?
Normal says, “Nice guys finish last”; Jesus says “In my kingdom, the meek will inherit the earth”
Normal says, “People who are confident and self-assured get ahead”; Jesus says “In my kingdom, it’s the poor in spirit who come out on top”
Normal says, “The purpose of life is to be happy”; Jesus says “In my kingdom, people who mourn are blessed.
Normal says, “You have to get people to like you!”; Jesus says “In my kingdom, you’re blessed when people persecute you.
Normal says, “Adultery is really bad”; Jesus says “In my kingdom, looking at somebody lustfully is just as bad.
Normal says, “Murder is really, really bad”; Jesus says “In my kingdom, calling somebody a fool is just as bad.
Normal says, “Divorce is always an option”; Jesus says “In my kingdom, marriage is a permanent union, and divorce is a last resort in extreme cases”
Normal says, “If somebody hits you, hit ‘em back”; Jesus says “In my kingdom, We turn the other cheek, We love our enemies, We pray for the very people who make our lives miserable!
So these people that followed Jesus kept following Him. They kept wondering at His teachings - wondering what life would be like to live by them.
Just like us.
They followed Him, pursued Him, as He moved around the countryside, from town to town. They saw His compassion as He healed broken people, as He gave hope to condemned people, as He demonstrated what could only have been, His followers slowly realized, the power of God.
And on top of that, Jesus began making it clear that He’s divine. He’s God in the flesh.
Imagine yourself journeying with such a One.
Imagine your life connected to such a person. Now, some gave up on the journey. As His teaching got a bit harder, a bit less ‘in your head’ and more ‘you gotta live this out’.
As He started to invite people deeper into Himself, foreshadowing what we know as communion by telling people that they needed to eat His body and drink His blood, the crowd started to thin out.
As the demands on them got bigger, there were fewer and fewer followers. In fact it says in John chapter 6:66 that after Jesus first taught about the Eucharist or communion, “66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him”.
But say you’ve stuck it out. You maybe haven’t fully grasped what He’s been saying, but it’s starting to make sense. You’ve started to really care for this fellow. You’ve started to love Him, and you’re starting to even enjoy some of the other people who have been following Jesus.
But then, last week, 10 days ago - Good Friday, happens. This fellow who was so amazing, so special, so dynamic, so powerful and yet so gentle...He gets drawn up on fake charges, judged all wrong, beaten, mocked and murdered. And left to hang for the vultures on a cruel cross. You’d be, I’d be messed up.
This ‘kingdom of God’ that Jesus was talking about that gave power to the poor and the weak, that gave dignity to children, that honoured instead of used women...
This kingdom, this way of life that had been growing in your imagination...it might have started to die in your mind even as its teacher died on the cross.
If that had been me, I would have felt confused, upset, angry. I would have wondered if I just wasted the last 3 years of my life.
I would have not known what to think. I would have been just like the people who followed Jesus were after He was killed.
But then, after a couple of days, news starts to leak about something very weird happening. People are starting to say: “He’s alive! He’s not dead”.
The huge stone that sealed the tomb was rolled away and His grave clothes were neatly folded. And He appeared to some of His female followers.
I know...my heart would have started racing. I would shake my head and pinch my skin to see if I was dreaming. And while I was pinching the skin on my forearm, while the others are talking out loud about this...well, let’s pick up in our gospel reading today:
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
Well, yeah. Of course. Out of nowhere, Jesus, who’s suppose to be dead. Come on guys...we saw Him be dead...He’s standing here, right with us. And He says: “Peace be with you!” [Jolted]
Yeah, right. We’re startled and were frightened. ‘Freaked out’ is a word. It’s gotta be a ghost. This is... unsettling, at the least. Most unexpected. We don’t know what to do with it. The Scripture continues: 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?
Seriously? He has to ask? Who wouldn’t be troubled. Who wouldn’t think something really strange was going on? Yes, He’s standing right here. In front of us. That’s the problem. That’s why the doubts. Sure he’s literally right here, but so far it’s not computing.
Then Jesus says: 39 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.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
They thought he was a ghost; some figment of their imaginations. They all saw Him, so was it a shared delusion based somehow on their grief? Jesus invites them to touch and see. He is God in the flesh, still. If seeing is not believing then perhaps touching is believing. Being touched by the hand of God, the Spirit of God.
He was always inviting us in. We all know His voice. It’s His voice. It’s His face. It’s His body.
It’s His hands...and His feet. But they’re all gouged out. The wounds. Where the nails pierced Him.
He wants us to touch Him. He wants us to know it’s really Him. But He’s dead. But He’s here. And we touched Him. That’s no ghost. He was always inviting us in.
41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them,“Do you have anything here to eat?”
So we’re all...what is going on here? Even though we know it’s Him, we can’t believe it. It’s too good. It’s overwhelming. Disciples...overcome with joy.
Too amazed to accept what’s happening right before them. Jesus asks for food.He asks for food!
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
So...this IS Jesus. This IS Jesus. He’s no longer...He’s no longer dead. Though we know He died. Everyone knows He died. Still, He’s here.
And He ate. Ghosts don’t eat. He ate, like they had seen Him eat hundreds of times before. He who was murdered, lifeless on that cursed cross. He is with us now.
Then Jesus changes gears, once He’s eaten:
44 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.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Jesus says it’s part of what He had told them while He was with them. It was part of His message, but it wasn’t part of His message that they listened to or understood. Maybe that’s why Jesus seemed surprised that they still doubted.
They had heard this all before, many times. It’s amazing how slow we are to learn, eh? How many times we need to hear the same thing before it sinks in. But here it says that He opened THEIR minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
So maybe it’s not just that I’m kinda thick sometimes. Maybe part of it is waiting for God to open my mind.
At the right time, the Holy Spirit brings revelation. He brings understanding to our minds and to our souls.
Jesus changes gears, so let’s us change gears for a minute. This is interesting. Jesus says that “everything must be fulfilled that was writing about me in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms.
Jesus is talking about the law of Moses, written by Moses who lived probably between 1391-1271 BC. So the law of Moses was likely written around 1300 BC. That’s 3400 years ago for us.
For Jesus, is was around 1300 years BEFORE He was born. Yet, Jesus says that Moses wrote about Him. And of course that’s true.
There are many examples, many things Moses wrote that foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus, but let’s just look at a few:
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, Jesus is the offspring of the woman that would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15).
Like the manna in the desert in Exodus 16, that was given by God to satisfy their hunger, Jesus is the Bread from Heaven (John 6:51) that satisfies our spiritual hunger and gives us life.
Like the water that sprung from the rock in Exodus 17, Jesus is the living water (John 7:37) that satisfies our spiritual thirst.
Like the snake in the desert that was lifted up that those in the Book of Numbers, chapter 21, who were bitten by deadly snakes could look upon and be saved, Jesus was lifted up so that we who have been bitten by Satan in our sin can look upon Jesus and be saved from spiritual death. (John 3:14-15)
And Jesus is, indeed, the Passover Lamb, like Exodus 12, as those who put their faith in His death and the blood He shed are rescued from the judgment that is to come. (John 3:16-18)
Jesus appears numerous times in the books of the Prophets, in Isaiah 53 for example, and in the Psalms.
We don’t have any more time now to look at this, but on the information table near the entrance today, you can find a detailed list of the references to Jesus in the Old Testament.
Back to our Scripture for today: Jesus gives a summary statement of what Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms say of him.
46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
So Jesus has a purpose in appearing before the disciples. He had a reason to return to them in particular. And this is the heart of the message about Jesus, one that He had dropped lots of clues about: He will suffer to the point of death, and then rise from the dead.
But why the disciples. Why the 12 in particular? Why would He say this to them? Well, in Verse 48 He tells us why: 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Jesus knew that among all His followers, the 12 would still be gathering together, along with the women who played a crucial role in discovering that Jesus had risen from the dead. And the 12 disciples had seen it all. They were personal witnesses to the teachings, the miracles, the suffering and the death of Jesus.
There is nothing like a personal witness to an event.
And even as Jesus looks back and reminds the disciples of what He had already told them, of His suffering and resurrection, He helps them understand, maybe for the first time, the actual purpose of their being followers of His.
And in this way the journey of disciples coming to know Christ is very similar to ours.
They were very unique people. Each came from their own situation.
They each had their own histories, their own burdens, their own pain and their own sins, for that matter. They followed Jesus because He called them.
It was His call on their lives that made them spring to action and commit their lives to Him. But they each also made the decision to follow. And unlike a lot of Jesus followers, they had stuck with Him, even as His demands on their lives became stronger.
Even as His teaching got more challenging and difficult to follow. They would have each had their own reasons for following Him, likely connected to how much better their life was when they followed Jesus compared to before, the purpose, from God’s point of view, of each one who comes to Jesus is not only personal.
It’s not only the drastic personal improvement to life that normally follows becoming a Christian. To put it clearly, the purpose of our conversion isn’t our conversion. It isn’t all the benefits that we get from loving and following God, following Jesus. That’s WAY too narrow for God.
Just like for the first disciples, the purpose of our conversion, the reason we come to Jesus, is so that we can be witnesses of Jesus.
We can testify to others about the love of God and the goodness and beauty of Jesus the Christ.
God wants our lives to live with this higher purpose always in our hearts. To not do so is to become people who just live for ourselves, and to become a church that just exists for its members.
If you've been around much, you’ve heard me say that Church at the Mission does not exist for us. It exists to reach the world, in our case our local community and perhaps elsewhere in Toronto, with the love of Jesus Christ.
So that He, by His Holy Spirit, can transform lives, bringing the gospel, bringing healing to the nations that are gathered in our community.
Our passage today ends with perhaps it’s most important note. Jesus says: “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.”
Someone once rightly said: "We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God."
Jesus wants us to live our lives with power from on high. We know that shortly after this, God sent the Holy Spirit, Who did exactly that…filled the disciples, and as a result they were changed. Before, they had been frightened, kinda sorta committed but also they were easily discouraged, terrified of the personal cost of following Jesus.
After the Holy Spirit came, they were new people…bold, convinced, clearly determined to witness to what they had seen and experienced in Jesus. They became people who were willing to die if necessary so that many would hear the story of Jesus, that many would hear the gospel.
In part it’s because they were fearless in the face of the importance of the message of the gospel, that the gospel spread as it did, and the church grew and even now continues to grow.
But for now, Jesus reveals the secret of such power. They had to wait, wait in Jerusalem until power from on high came upon them. They had to wait for God’s timing. They had to prepare their hearts for the mission they had already received by this point from Jesus.
There are times when waiting seems like a waste of time. But the truth is action without preparation will often fail. There is a time to wait on God and a time to work for God. As we wait, as we draw near to Jesus and live as He calls us to, prepares us for what He wants us to do.
I have a vision for this church. It’s been encouraged by a conversation I had with a former Yonge Street Mission staff member who is gifted in listening to God. This is the first time I’ve shared this with the congregation.
This person said that Church at the Mission has been, so far in its history, the invisible yet essential foundation of the mission. We’re here, every week meeting for worship, every Tuesday meeting for outreach and discipleship and opportunities for personal growth.
During the week many from this church are actively engaged in ministry in this community. Our Elders our active and engaged in serving. Pastor Jan is doing her outreach ministry. We’ve had Rudo serving alongside us doing her pastoral placement from Tyndale University.
Pastor Lee has been incredibly busy, on assignment with New Hope Fellowship and the mission’s ministry to Seniors, while still very involved in the life of the church.
We’re here, but we’re quiet. WE don’t get a lot of press. We’re, honestly, pretty unassuming. Given all the amazing work that the mission does, we’ve been in the background.
The word from this person was that this is going to change. That the ministry of this church is going to grow, very much. Very substantially. And that God will use us to impact this community greatly.
I believe that because it’s very much like the vision that God gave me when I became the Lead Pastor of this church 8 years ago. That God has positioned us here in this community in order to be a profound blessing as we share the mercy and love of God with people, as we are active in the community, as we gain courage to love as Jesus loves the people in this neighbourhood.
Now, we are in a period of preparation. A period of waiting. A time when we need to keep meeting for worship, keep reaching out to the community, keep drawing near to the One who constantly invites us in, invites us to come very close, invites us to live and move and have our being in Him.
And it’s going be mostly in the little things that God
prepares us. Choices we make daily, being trusted by God in ‘small’ things so we can grow to be trustworthy of greater things.
In upcoming months we’ll have the opportunity to go deeper with Jesus as we do an in-depth learning about discipleship. That will start in June, and will follow our Sunday services.
I’m going through a week of intensive training in Kitchener in June related to us, all of us together who wish to, going on a journey called: “The Way of Jesus”. The principles of the Kingdom of God will have opportunity during this time to burrow deep down into our lives.
All this is preparation. Part of the waiting. And as we wait, we also join the first disciples who were told by Jesus to “wait for power from on high.
The Holy Spirit is moving among us. We’ll continue to explore, in this series on “Living in the Light of the Resurrection”, what it is that God is doing among us and how He moved in the lives of the first disciples, as recorded in the book of Acts.
So, may we listen. May we wait. May we each examine our hearts and decide what our response will be to Jesus, who keeps drawing us nearer. Who wants us closer. Who loves us enough to save us AND to give us a mission, His mission, to proclaim good news to the poor.
To proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim that now is the time of God’s favour.