Evidence not enough
He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27, NIV)
What was it that transformed dejected, bewildered disciples into a force ready to spread the gospel to the world? Since Luke 24 starts with the former situation and ends with the latter, we’d expect that chapter to help us with the answer.
We might assume that a big factor in transforming the disciples was that the risen Jesus appeared to them. And we’d be right. The chapter records the women finding the tomb empty, and two separate occasions on which the risen Jesus came and talked to his people. There is also mention of a third, to Simon Peter. Along the way, Luke is fascinating as a source of evidence; this chapter should compel our attention for this reason alone. Jesus was and is risen, and alive; death could not beat Him!
And yet it took more than appearances of the risen Jesus to transform the disciples. They also needed an explanation of all this. I find it fascinating that in each of the three main episodes in the chapter, the centrepiece is an explanation of how the Son of Man (v7) or the Messiah (vv26, 45) had to suffer and die, and then be raised. In each case, the road from bafflement to understanding lay in showing how the apparently bewildering facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection lay in God’s plans.
Jesus is the Saviour of the world - this is why He had to die, in accordance with the Scriptures. And He is Son of Man and the Messiah - two terms for the great king and judge God had promised of old to send into the world. So of course death could not keep its hold over Him!
We should learn from Luke 24 that in speaking of the resurrection, we need to stress BOTH the evidence AND its explanation. Taken on its own, the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead should certainly grab our attention - but is in danger of getting no further than the ‘unexplained phenomena’ corner of our minds. Then there is the question of “OK, if Jesus was raised, why did He have to die in the first place?”
We will never make sense of the resurrection just with a book of evidence like Who Moved the Stone (valuable though such studies are). We need the Bible explanation of Jesus as Lord and Saviour. We need the gospel! The same applies as we explain this to others.
When we see that context, we will understand as never before how Jesus’ resurrection points to Him being not just alive, but Lord of all. We’ll grasp why He died. And we’ll understand, in the light of this, how we are to respond, just as Jesus says: ‘…and repentance [our response to Him as Lord] and the forgiveness of sins [our response to Him as Saviour] will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’ (v47)
It was BOTH knowing that Jesus was alive AND understanding the significance of all this that transformed the disciples - and which can transform us!
We start a new series on the fascinating Luke 24 this Sunday morning.