An Easter Message from the Risen Lord
Luke 24:36-49; 46-49
While reading some opinion articles in the news this week, I was startled by poll results presented by columnist Zachary Wolf. The poll asked Democrats and Republicans whether or not they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of our country. "Toward the end of the Trump administration, strong majorities on both sides of the political aisle (67% of those who lean toward Democrats and 77% of those who lean toward Republicans) said the country’s best days were ahead." By contrast, today, "Just 30% of all Republicans and Republican-leaners say the country’s best days are still ahead of it." (Source available upon request.)
Many, probably most, Banner readers consider themselves at least "Republican-leaners." Have we, too, become pessimistic about the future? I know, the first response is that I am optimistic about God and pessimistic about Biden. But is that truly possible when we believe God is in charge of everything – even the government? Have we fallen into the trap of dividing our lives into compartments that we view as unrelated?
If you had asked the disciples at the cross, "Are the best days of Christ-followers ahead or behind," I do not doubt that the pessimistic view would have prevailed. Jesus seems to have felt that way also, so in Luke 24:46-49, He gives them what could be called a "pep-talk" about the future. The Church of today might need to listen in on that message.
There is some suggestion that these verses are Luke’s summary statement of the teaching of the risen King. They were words designed to instruct, encourage, and challenge the little band that would soon go forth to change the world. In these words, I see a message of commitment, promises from one who has proven His word is true.
As His death was for us, His resurrection was also for us. For bound up in His resurrection is a series of commitments to our world.
Commitment #1 New Life for the Individual (v. 47).
We live in a remarkable scientific age. Virtually every day, researchers seem to make outstanding discoveries that change the projectory of life. But with all our discoveries, one crucial link still baffles the scientific community. We cannot create life. We can combine all the ingredients for a human body, but we cannot produce the spark that makes our invention live. That is one reason why it is so difficult to discuss the resurrection rationally. Some people cannot accept that this body could be dead, the spark of life gone, and then live again.
But human researchers have another baffling problem: trying to find a way to bring abundant life out of physical existence. Despite our scientific advancements, our world is still full of hatred, prejudice, bitterness, unforgiveness, and selfishness. We are locked in a dreadful dilemma. We are trying to find the secret to creating physical life when we have failed to find meaningful life for those already here. That is what makes these words of Jesus so brilliant in our dark sky. He committed Himself to provide abundant life for all.
But to achieve the goal, humans must accept the requirement of repentance; must be willing to turn about where they are and head in a new direction. U-turns are permitted on the highway of life. In fact, they are essential if you want to experience the new life the risen Savior offers.
Quality of life is a phrase made necessary by the medical progress of our generation. But ultimately, the quality of your life is determined by your acceptance of the remission of sins that Jesus here promises. The risen Christ commits Himself to make every life that is bankrupt of meaning rich and rewarding. He arose to make new life a possibility for every person. And because He did, our best days on earth are ahead!
Commitment #2 New Hope for the World (v. 47b. 48).
There is no ingredient of life more necessary than hope for the future. If the polling data mentioned earlier is accurate, the last five years have seen an alarming loss of that valuable commodity!
I do not need to tell you that earth is not heaven. The disobedience of our first parents ensured that it never would be. But just because earth is not heaven is not conclusive proof that there is no heaven. For sin and hope have met head to head in the ring of Calvary. There was no number of rounds assigned. This was a fight to the finish. Sin delivered a staggering blow; hope went down. And as the world looked on, it appeared that hope was down for the count; sin, it appeared, had KO’d hope. But when the count reached nine, hope rose from the canvas of Calvary and with one mighty swing, dealt a death blow to sin.
“Death could not conquer the giver of life.”
The commitment of the risen Savior is that this message of forgivenss and restoration would reach all nations, without restriction. There are no "priority people." Those who are sitting in darkness must see the Great Light. Quality life is available to all. The days ahead are bright because we have the privilege of being the agents of change in a pessimistic world. But to do so, we must have the light of hope burning brightly in our own lives. Joining the voices of hopelessness will not likely convince anyone to listen to what we offer!
Commitment #3 A New Presence for the Christian (v. 49).
No one has ever walked away from the grave of a dear friend or loved one without feeling emptiness. “This person was such a vital part of my life, how can I go on?”
I am sure the disciples felt that way as they walked away from the garden tomb that Friday night. “But then came the morning!” Jesus was back! They felt Him, saw Him, ate with Him, and listened to His message. Perhaps as the euphoria over the resurrection began to wear off, they began to wonder. “Is He going to stay here this time? Or are we going to experience this again?”
Jesus knew their needs better than they did, so He added a third commitment to His resurrection morning message. "The Spirit of truth dwells with you, but He shall be in you” (John 14:17).
We are no match for sin, but John tells us, “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.” Jesus’ commitment is “Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
No greater Easter message will ever be preached than the one the risen Lord Himself preached that morning. He committed himself to making new life available to all; to spreading the message of hope to the world; and empowering us for life through His presence in our lives.
We need to look long at Calvary, for only then can we see the awfulness of our sin. But don’t stay there. For next to Calvary’s bloodstained hill, there is an empty tomb. The stone has been rolled away. The best days of the Church ensued, as the story is told in the Book of Acts. Yes, persecution came, but still, the Church went forward.
I do not know how the political landscape of the US will work out, but it really doesn't matter. Whatever happens, Jesus' Easter message is still in force. Christians and the Church can thrive and grow. Sin can be defeated. Let's put hand-wringing out of style, and replace it with the song of triumph. The tomb is empty; the Holy Spirit is with us. Our best days are ahead!