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HE HAS RISEN!

Luke 24:1-24:53
Key Verse: 24:5b-6

Let’s pray: Father, thank you so much for forgiving us through Jesus’ death on the cross and through his prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” It’s amazing how well you know us and understand us—we do not know what we are doing, and indeed, we do what we do not want to do. You know, you understand, you see our sins—and yet you forgive us. Father, thank you for this demonstration of your certain and unconditional love. Because of your love, we also want to love and serve you. But unless we know the Risen Jesus, we can’t live changed or new lives. But because Jesus rose again from the dead, we have a living cause; a living purpose, a living person to which we can dedicate ourselves and live for. Father, have mercy on me. I could not prepare as thoroughly as I wanted to. But I pray that now, it may not be me speaking, but you and your words. I am your servant and your instrument. Help each of us to very personally and newly meet the Risen Jesus tonight and be transformed by this encounter. Be present, Lord. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

From Jemmie’s message, we could learn about the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross—for our forgiveness. At the same time, however, if the gospel ended in Jesus’ death, it would be a somewhat sad story. And we might wonder: what next? But this story is not over yet! In order to fully understand the meaning of Easter and the gospel, we have to learn that “he has risen!” In this passage, angels appear to a group of mourning women telling them that Jesus has risen; Jesus himself appears to, walks with, and talks with two resigning disciples; and then Jesus appears to and blesses his apostles. This passage’s thorough account of these 3 encounters gives us the opportunity to ask 3 questions:

1. Who is the Risen Jesus?

2. How can we know the Risen Jesus?

3. What does this mean practically?

1. Who is the Risen Jesus?

I’m sure we’ve all seen the banners for UofT’s “Boundless” campaign hung around campus.

The point of the campaign is to raise money so that UofT’s students and scholars might have boundless opportunity to learn and contribute to the world. I think “boundless” is the perfect word to describe the Risen Jesus.

Jesus was not bounded by the mourning women’s expectations of him. Look at verse 1: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” Why did the women take spices to the tomb at the earliest opportunity they had? I think this was their way of mourning and showing their love for Jesus. We can imagine how sorrowful they must have been. They believed that the Jesus they so loved and wanted to serve was dead. They wanted to honour and preserve his memory, and so, took spices to the tomb, expecting his body to there so that they could embalm it.

But look at verses 2-3: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” Jesus’ body was not where they had expected. As they were confused and worrying about whether his body had been stolen, two angels appeared to them and asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Why did they? Obviously, because Jesus had died and been laid in the tomb—where else could they look for him? Likewise, we look for Jesus where we expect him to be. But the angels revealed this truth: “He is not here; he has risen!” How counter-intuitive! Could you ever even conceive of the idea that a dead person could be raised again and leave a tomb of his own accord? But Jesus did it! He completely and utterly surprised the mourning women. The Risen Jesus is not bounded by death, sorrow, or even logic or physical human capacity.

The Risen Jesus was also not bounded by the two apostles’ understanding of him. The two apostles on the road to Emmaus unwittingly revealed their disappointedness to Jesus. Verses 20-21 say: “The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” The two were obviously crushed that Jesus did not turn out to be the triumphant national redeemer that they had hoped he would be. They had clung to their hope that Jesus would beat all the bad guys and lead Israel to independence from Rome—only to find themselves dismayed when Jesus died.

Yes, it is true that Jesus did not turn out to be who they had hoped and expected. It is true that he was handed over, sentenced to death, and crucified. But on the third day, he rose from the dead. He transcended their expectations and fulfilled what was written in the Scriptures, becoming more than the mere national leader that they had hoped him to be.

Jesus was also not bounded by the apostles’ unbelief. When Jesus appeared to his apostles in Jerusalem, at first they were startled and frightened. They thought they were seeing a ghost. Why? Because they knew that Jesus had died. And, according to their logic, there was no way that they could be seeing him—unless he was a ghost. Like the women, they thought death was the sad and decisive end. But Jesus appeared to them, in the flesh. He proved himself, saying, “Look! Touch! See!” And he ate in their presence.

The Risen Jesus is boundless, meaning he is above the bounds of our expectations, logic, or emotions. He cannot be confined within the boxes of our minds or even our hearts, even if our understanding and intentions are good. In the Risen Jesus, there is no despair, no disappointment, no uncertainty, nor fear. We, ourselves, are the only things that box and limit Jesus. And this means there is no limit to knowing Christ. So the apostle Paul said, “I want to know Christ,” even though it seems like Paul is the foremost expert on Christ.

Every time we see those ‘Boundless’ banners on campus, let’s remember the one who is truly boundless—Jesus Christ who rose from the dead! And let’s never settle for who we think we know Jesus to be, but experience him newly all the time.

2. How can we meet the Risen Jesus?

So if Jesus is truly so boundless, and is indeed in a plane above our own, how can we meet him? We, limited, mortal beings, seem to have no common ground, no meeting point with Jesus who rose from the dead…

But this passage teaches us how! The two angels said to the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Then they told them where they should look: “Remember what how he told you…” (24:5b,6b). This means we can find the Risen Jesus in his words. When the women remembered his words, they knew that he was indeed alive.

And what did Jesus do on the road to Emmaus? Verse 27 says: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself…” Later, he also helped his apostles in Jerusalem, drawing their attention to the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms; opening their minds so they could understand the Scriptures (24:44-45).

The Risen Jesus helped his disciples know and meet him through the Scriptures. In order to meet him, the women and the apostles had to overcome their own beliefs and expectations, doubts, sorrow, and fear, and “Remember” his words.

One might wonder why Jesus did not simply appear to the women, to the two, and to the Eleven at once and have them immediately recognize him. Why didn’t he do that? After all, we’ve all heard of the maxim, “seeing is believing…” But I think Jesus worked in the way he did because he wanted the women and the apostles to encounter him through the Scriptures rather than through the physical meeting with him. Then they could attribute their meeting and knowing the Risen Jesus to his words rather than to the physical meeting. Look at the timing in each case: the women met the Risen Jesus when they remembered his words (8); the two apostles’ hearts were burning within them when the Risen Jesus opened the Scriptures to them (32); and whereas the apostles were startled and frightened when they saw Jesus, when their minds were opened and when they understood the Scriptures, they were filled with “great joy” (45;52). Because they met Risen Jesus through his words, he could be with them all the time and everywhere, even after he disappeared, and even after he ascended into heaven.

And we too can meet the Risen Jesus today, even though he does not physically appear to us. He can also be met through this single passage. I believe we met him, at least a part of him, during Group Bible Study. I pray that as we write our testimonies, we can each meet him even more personally.

3. What does this mean practically?

OK, so what does it mean for us that Jesus is risen? Is it just a case of a ‘cool story’, some

miracle that is detached from our lives? What is the significance of meeting and knowing him? Let’s look at the effect that meeting Jesus had on each of the figures in this passage. When the women realized that Jesus had risen, their plans to embalm him and cry at the tomb were completely overturned. They went back and told the Eleven about everything that had happened (9).They believed in Jesus’ resurrection, even though the Eleven did not and thought their words were nonsense (11)

Likewise, the two on the road to Emmaus had their own plans overturned. We might hypothesize that they were leaving Jerusalem, returning to their hometown of Emmaus because they felt they had nothing for them in Jerusalem after Jesus died. But when they realized they had met Jesus, and that he had risen, “they got up and returned at once to Jerusalem” (33), eager to tell “what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them…” (35).

Finally, when the apostles’ eyes were opened to understand Christ in light of the Scriptures, they “worshiped [Jesus] and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (52-3). Meeting the Risen Jesus completely transformed their fear and uncertainty into worship, great joy, and praise.

In all three cases, meeting the Risen Jesus was so transformative, life-giving, and meaningful. Why? Because Jesus himself had meant everything to them. They had left everything they had to follow him. So, when he died, they were devastated. They felt like their own lives were also over; their worlds were shattered. As a result, the women mourned, the two disciples deserted to Emmaus, and the disciples were unsure of what to do. They seemed pretty pathetic; as if all their sacrifice and effort had been for nothing.

But Jesus chose to appear to these people precisely for this reason. He could have chosen to appear to the chief priests or to Pilate to prove that he was right all long. But he chose to appear to a group of crying women and to the wandering apostles because they had given their lives to him and because they themselves had died when he died. When these seemingly defeated and pathetic people discovered Jesus had risen, and when they believed and knew this, they also were risen. The one they loved most in the world; the one they had invested all their hopes in, was alive! They had a living cause to serve, and a living person to love and thank!

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