Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Christ’s post-resurrection appearances establish its historical reality, its prophetic reality and its evangelistic reality. It really happened - to fulfil God’s plan, promised in the Old Testament. Thus, it is GOOD NEWS for us, to live and to proclaim.

Christ has died …… Christ is risen ……… Christ will come again.

Do you believe it? {Extract a strong affirmation from the congregation.}

In that case, you are a step ahead of the original disciples in those early hours and days after the first Good Friday and Easter morning. They found it very hard to believe.

Christ had died – they had no trouble believing that. They’d seen it happen – even more clearly than Mel Gibson has! The crucifixion of Jesus had become the hot topic of conversation during that Passover weekend, when visitors from far and wide had come to Jerusalem for the festival. Not even David Beckham could have knocked Jesus off the front pages of the Jerusalem Times back then!

Yes, Christ had died – they could say that. Of course, the initial reaction of the disciples was to see the death of Jesus as the death of His mission. They had held high hopes that He would ‘redeem Israel’, that He was the long promised saviour who would free His people from oppression. But, well, now He had been lain in Joseph’s tomb and those hopes had gone.

How do we know that this is how they felt? They’ve admitted it! We read in Luke 24 about how 2 of the disciples spent the first Easter Sunday afternoon. They were walking to a village called Emmaus, 11 kilometres from Jerusalem. Along the way they met someone they did not recognise and Luke records their conversation.

When asked what they were talking about, Luke says, “they stood still, their faces downcast.” They were really gloomy. “We had hoped that Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” they said to the stranger, “but our priests handed Him over to the Romans for crucifixion and nothing happened to stop it. Our hopes died with Him.”

“Furthermore,” they continued, “to make matters worse, His body has gone missing from the tomb where He was placed. To be sure, some of our companions reckon they’ve seen angels who told them He was alive – but they were only women, so what would they know.”

I’m loosely paraphrasing, of course, but this is the gist of what they were saying. Even though the evidence was already beginning to mount that Christ had risen, they didn’t believe it – to the point that they didn’t recognise that the person to whom they were saying these things was in fact Jesus.

It’s tempting for us, isn’t it, to shake our heads and think, “what dodos those guys were! Not recognising Jesus – they must have been blind.” If we thought that, we’d be in good company. It’s what Jesus thought. He rebukes them for being “foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” The word for “foolish” in the original Greek is related to the source of our word “nous”, as in using your nous to figure something out. They weren’t doing this, showing a theological stupidity that Jesus says was unworthy of them. They should have known better.

So, yes, it is tempting to scoff at those 2 disciples for their lack of nous.

However, I’d caution against being too hasty to give in to that temptation. For one thing, the passage indicates that “they were kept” from recognising Him, that God was not yet ready for them to realise that it was Jesus. Only later were their eyes opened, but first they had a lesson to learn.

For another, if the truth be known, I have to identify with them, rather than judge them. I acknowledge that I, too, need God to open my eyes to the truth, as He did for them later that evening. I know, for instance, how slow I was to believe in Christ when I was young, and even in the 29 years since becoming a Christian I know how slow I’ve been to understand things God’s been trying to teach me. Like those early disciples I should know differently, I ought to grasp the resurrection power of God in my life, but the reality is that like them I too am slow to believe all that the Bible tells me.

I suspect that most of us are, too, if we are honest with ourselves.

Christ is risen! For the first disciples this was a slowly made, though joyous, new discovery. But because they have shared with us the story of their discovery – even including the embarrassing details such as not recognising Jesus – we have a great deal of teaching in the Bible about the reality and meaning of Christ’s resurrection.

It seems to me that there are 3 key themes in the many passages of the New Testament that refer to the resurrection – themes that are present in Luke 24 as well.

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