2010-01-20 (pm) Service for Christian Unity Luke 24 We are the Witnesses of these Things
“There is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
That’s the reality. Though we make distinctions, identifying our local congregations through different names, the underlying reality is that Christ’s body is one. It is one even though churches are separated by great distances. It is one even though churches are separated by years and millennia. It is one even though churches are separated by different doctrines.
Tonight we celebrate the reality of our oneness in Christ. Yes, there are differences; even so, we are one in Christ, one in the message of Christ. We are united in one purpose: we are witnesses of these things.
We are witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension.
You might wonder, “I wasn’t there, how can I be a witness?”
I’ve heard people say, “I remember where I was when JFK was shot.” They weren’t there, but they heard about it, perhaps even saw it on TV. But even though they weren’t in Dallas, they are witnesses to that event. Even my telling you about people who remember that assassination is a form of witnessing to that event.
As witnesses of these things, we tell people what has happened in history. Jesus, the actual Son of God, took on human flesh, was born of a woman named Mary, grew up, was respected by people, preached and performed miracles. People saw him, and we have their written records to prove it.
Among respectable historical scholars, not a single one will denies that Jesus existed in history. What they might reject is Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God who came to redeem the world from God’s righteous judgement on sin.
That is what we witness. That Jesus lived is credible history. That he is the Son of God is also credible history, actually, it is the only reasonable explanation of the events recorded in Luke 24.
How can we know that this is true recorded history and isn’t just a fairy tale made up? Look at the entire chapter! Does anything sound contrived? Does anything sound false? Doesn’t it make the disciples look bad? Doesn’t it show them doubting, having a hard time believing what they were seeing? Doesn’t all this match every person’s experience?
The women went to the tomb with spices they had prepared so that they could finish embalming the body. But when they got there, the tomb was empty! If there had been a conspiracy, don’t you think they would have been in on it? Or if they had been overly confident in Jesus as the Messiah, they wouldn’t have brought the spices with them.
No, what they show is that they were as surprised as anyone that Jesus’ tomb was empty! Then there were angels who put it so succinctly: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Jesus is alive! Jesus did not stay dead!
Minds blown away by the reality before them, they rushed to tell the disciples. There, Jesus’ closest friends listen in disbelief. Peter runs to see if the women are telling the truth. Again, this reaction is typical for what really happened, it isn’t typical of a cover-up story.
Then there’s the experience of the men on the road to Emmaus. Jesus prevents them from recognising who he is. He patiently explains to them that what happened in Jerusalem in the last week was obvious. God had told his people this would happen. It happened exactly as God said it would. The messiah would be crucified, he would die, he would rise again.
The messiah is the Passover lamb. The messiah is the atoning sacrifice for sin. Forgiveness comes through Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross. It happened so that the punishment that was meant for us, went on him instead. It happened so that we could ask for and receive forgiveness. It happened so that we could repent and be set free!
Jesus was made known in the breaking of the bread. He still is. When we celebrate communion, Jesus is represented in the bread. He is made known through the preaching and the experience of celebrating the eucharist.
Then, Jesus appeared to all of the disciples together. The women, the disciples who couldn’t believe it, to the men who lived in Emmaus, who had just run back to Jerusalem! It was he! He is alive! He proved it!
Then, the chapter closes with Jesus’ ascension. This is the clincher. We know that Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect because like the pleasant smoke from the OT sacrifices, Jesus ascended to heaven. God accepted Jesus atoning sacrifice for sin, and raised him up and gave him the name that is above every name.
This is reality. These are the things we are the witnesses of. This is what we tell others about.
It doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as: “Have you ever done something wrong and gotten away with it? I have. How is that just, though? Shouldn’t I have to pay? But what if no one knows? Doesn’t that seem wrong? Doesn’t justice demand penalties be paid?
If this is true, then something or someone has to pay for my sin? The answer is yes. The wages of sin is death. Everyone who has ever lived, except for Jesus, Elijah and Enoch, has died. Everyone has paid the price of sin. But there is a way to life after death, everlasting life. Jesus’ death makes it possible.
Based on our text before us, the only logical conclusion is that Jesus is who he said he is. He is the messiah. He is God’s Son. He takes away the sin of the world. All who believe in him will be saved, will live eternally.
In light of that, if you do not yet believe, believe. In light of that, go, be witnesses of these things. Get to know people. Ask them questions. Lead them to the truth. Let the light of Christ shine through you! Amen.