Summary: In this post resurrection appearance, Jesus reveals the programme of God
The Revelation of the Programme of God
Professor Charlie Moule, the famous NT theologian once said:
"the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church ... remains an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the church itself - the resurrection."
C.F.D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament).
Most Sundays we profess our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead when we say the words of the Creed:
“ I believe ..….in Jesus Christ,
his only Son our Lord who was
Conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead and buried
He descended into Hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead”
(The Apostles Prayer - BCP)
The Resurrection is a major pillar of our faith – for example St. Paul put it like this:
“..if Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is futile” (I Cor. 15: 17)
Yet, have you ever been surprised how little space all four Gospel writers give the post Resurrection appearances of Jesus?.
St Matthew devotes one Chapter out of 28
St Mark devotes one Chapter out of 16
St. Luke devotes only one chapter out of 24 &
St. John devotes two Chapters out of 21.
St. Luke only records two post Resurrection appearances.
- one of these was Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) and
- the other is found in our Gospel reading this morning.
We know from St. Paul, that at least 514 men – not to count the women such as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (as St. Matthew calls her) - saw the risen Lord (see 1 Cor. 15:3-8).
So the question I asked myself as I prepared was
" Why did Luke pick this Resurrection appearance
to record as one of the two key Resurrection appearances of his Gospel?"
What was so special about it?
To answer that question, I will have to pose another and that is:
What was St. Luke’s aims when he wrote his Gospel?
As you all know, St. Luke was a consummate historian.
He wrote his two volume treatise (Luke-Acts) on the Christian faith with - I would suggest to you - three aims in mind.
1. His first aim is to give a reliable explanation of the origins of Christianity.
That is to say Luke sets out to tell the story of Jesus and its continuation in the life of the church.
2. His second aim, I believe is to show the relationship of Christianity to Judaism.
In other words, St. Luke sets out to show how Jesus was the fulfilment of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures.
3. And finally the Gospel - and its sequel Acts - were written to show how Christianity moved from Judaism to embrace the Gentiles.
And interestingly, the post Resurrection story of our Gospel reading this morning meets all three of these objectives.
1. Firstly we read, in the story of Jesus, of the veracity of the Resurrection.
The resurrected Jesus was seen by the disciples –probably the eleven remaining apostles.
Luke is telling us: Jesus really bodily rose from the dead.
We read of the Resurrected Jesus saying to his petrified disciples
“Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have….Do you have anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence (Lk 24:39, 41 &42).
When we say in the Creed that “on the third day He rose again” we are assenting to our belief in the resurrection of Jesus, as recorded by the Gospel writers.
2. Secondly we see the relationship of Jesus with the Old Testament Scriptures of Judaism
St Luke records:
“ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
And, as an aside - by the Scriptures St. Luke meant the Old Testament as none of the New Testament books had been written by this stage).
He told them: This is what is written; The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. (Lk 24: 46, 47)
Jesus was the fulfilment of what God promised centuries and even a millennium before - in the Old Testament.
3. And thirdly we see how Christianity moved out from Judaism to the Gentiles.
Luke goes on to say that:
“…repentance and forgiveness will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.
You are my witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high”