Summary: The centrality of God’s message to the human race in general (and you and me in particular) is grace…forgiveness and reconciliation with the God who made us.
44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:44-53
In the matter of intelligence and leadership, it is said that there are three types of people:
• Those who make things happen…
• Those who watch things happen, and…
• Those who wonder what in the world has happened!
The disciples of Jesus would fall into that last category. (Me too!)
After the resurrection Jesus met with his disciples on several occasions. In our text, which is the final meeting, the Lord helps them understand what has happened. He shares with his followers how to get their minds around the events of His life and ministry and death; he also talks to them about strategy for continuing to follow him, and the future mission of reaching the world with His good news.
As Jesus unfolds these instructions for his followers, his theme (as is the theme for the whole of Scripture) is forgiveness. The Lord opened their understanding – turned on the light bulb; he made it clear about forgiveness from a personal standpoint, all the way to the global concept of redemption for the whole world.
Forgiveness! There are many things for which we need forgiveness. The fellow that told me the following story is a case in point: Early one morning, a farmer was milking his cow. The farmer was just starting to get a good rhythm going when a bug flew into the barn and started circling his head. Suddenly, the bug flew into the cow’s ear. The farmer didn’t think much about it, until the bug squirted out into his bucket. It went in one ear and out the udder!
I’m not entirely certain I can forgive the guy for telling me that!
The centrality of God’s message to the human race in general (and you and me in particular) is grace…forgiveness and reconciliation with the God who made us.
The first time I ever saw the statue outside Duke Divinity School’s Refectory I knew one day I would display it in a sermon. It is entitled simply, “Reconciliation”. It is the picture of one man’s anger towards another man, with yet a third man interceding. That is the gospel story. You and I are the first two; Jesus is the third.
I see that statue every day I’m in school in July. It reminds me of my job as a minister, but more, as a believer in Christ, to work for reconciliation.
This passage is a sharp reminder of our main task as believers, followers of Jesus Christ. It tells us at least four truths about forgiveness:
TRUTH #1. FORGIVENESS IS NECESSARY
Everything about why Jesus came into this world, and how He lived and died, and rose again is about our need for forgiveness from sin. In fact if forgiveness was not necessary, Christ’s death was a mistake.
But God’s wisdom knew that any time there is an offense there must be forgiveness to set things straight. Jesus reminded His disciples – Messiah had to suffer and die for the forgiveness of our sin. It is central to Christianity that sin has a penalty,
The person who sins shall die. Ezekiel 18:20 (NRSVA)
…and because of that penalty there had to be a sacrifice:
…and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2 (NRSVA)
In order for God to extend forgiveness for our sin there had to be a death. Jesus became that sacrifice; he never sinned, yet he allowed himself to be executed in our place. Forgiveness was necessary for the broken relationship between God and mankind.
Forgiveness is just as necessary between people as it is between God and people. It’s necessary unless you want continual war and violence. Forgiveness is necessary, and…