Week of April 17

Give Them a Resurrected Christ and a Glorious Future!

Read:1 Samuel 19; 1 Chronicles 7; Psalm 59; Matthew 4
Resurrection Sunday Reading: Luke 24
“As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them,
and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’”
Luke 24:36, ESV


Grief was at its highest in the immediate aftermath of Christ’s crucifixion. The inner circle and wider band of disciples were numbed by the brutality and suddenness of the crucifixion, then perplexed and overjoyed by the early reports of the resurrection. I have no way of describing the turmoil that characterized that scene except to say that I have felt it on numerous occasions as a pastor whenever a beloved church member died in tragic circumstances. Shock was followed quickly by numbness, then agonizing soul pain as the deceased’s loved ones were convulsed by wave upon wave of grief. How may we dare to carry on, much less hope, when similar tragedy strikes us? The Luke 24 narrative offers us an example of how to triumph over tragedy.

Understanding the Bible Context

The objective in Luke 24
Luke’s accounts of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus are recorded in 24:1-53. This chapter represents the seventh and last section of his Gospel (NAC). Douglas Stein helps us to gather the various threads of Jesus’ earlier statements to tie a bow over the events in this chapter. Jesus had predicted His suffering (9:22, 44; 17:25), His departure (9:31), and His appearance to His followers and His entering into glory (9:32; NAC). Luke’s literary approach is masterful. He places the events in this chapter within a same-day framework, geographically around Jerusalem, and focusing on Jesus’ resurrection. The narrative more than qualifies the disciples as eyewitnesses of the risen Christ (1:2; NAC)! Their example provides us with steps to take when we encounter a great tragedy.
Turning tragedy into triumph
There is nothing in the passage that calls us to brace ourselves, stiffen our upper lips, and carry on despite the bitter loss. The joyous reality, whenever tragedy strikes us, may be found in the resurrection statement, “He is alive.” Christ is alive, and He is the Lord of the living, not the dead (read John 11:23-27).

First, whisper to your heart, “Jesus is alive” (24:6; 30-31, 36). The road-to-Emmaus encounter is one of five resurrection accounts in this chapter (24:1-12, 13-35, 36-43, 44-49, and 44-49). We move from an empty tomb to a worldwide commissioning to empowerment by the Spirit to fulfill the mandate (24:24:2-3, 45-49, and 50-51). All of these truths point to the facts that those disciples had a reason to look forward to tomorrow. We do as well!

Secondly, rely upon the word of God. The word of God provides comfort, instruction, and the all-important forward direction when we are emerging from a tragedy (cf. Acts 1:3, “speaking of the things of the kingdom of God”). The Scriptures provided the disciples headed to Emmaus with critical strength for that day and the coming journey (24:32, “hearts burning. . .while he was explaining the Scriptures.”). I am well aware that the ministry of presence is key in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy (24:29, “He went in to stay with them”), but I also know that the Scriptures will soon comfort and guide the timid first steps following sudden grief (24:27, 32, 45).
The point: leading resurrection lives
It was evening time, but God’s glory was about to burst forth into a dawning of new understanding. Like many contemporary Christ-followers, those first disciples had hearts that were gripped with darkness, but rejoicing would soon flood that room and their lives with the light of the present Christ. We will never know whether the disciples began to think that a messianic revolt might once again be in the works because Jesus’ first words are about “peace.” He, Himself, had just won the decisive battle with evil and suffering, and He declares that the door leading to the fullness of God’s blessing is now thrown open wide (cf. Acts 10:36). These followers of His will soon know this fullness in super-abundance and will be commissioned to advance with this message of peace to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8; Acts 2:1-3).

A great reversal takes place in this moment. In the Old Testament, a divine appearance (theophany) engendered fear and was followed by the calming word of “peace.” A commission would soon follow. Here, in this context, the disciples were already afraid! They needed to hear the Lord say, “Shalom!” (NAC). The resurrected Savior has arrived not to bring judgment, which often was a part of a divine appearance, but to announce God’s salvation. Sadly, we all too often give the world a mixed message about Christ’s appearing with our messages of judgment. There is no time for war-making when all of our time is spent peace-spreading (cf. Matthew 5:9). The disciples would spend the balance of their earthly lives sharing the joyful word about the dawning of the Messianic kingdom.

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

We cannot describe the mood swings that took place on the third day following Jesus’ horrific death on the cross and His glorious resurrection appearances! However, we do well to be reminded that, barring Christ’s immediate return, there will be times when we are also left numb by the tragedy of suffering and death. Timothy Keller writes, “We should not assume that if we are trusting in God we won’t weep, or feel angry, or feel hopeless” (Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, 242).

I recall an occasion where I rushed to a hospital room to stand with a family whose loved one had died suddenly in a tragedy. We were all so pressed by the pain of the loss that we had no breath in our lungs to speak. What could we say, even if we had been able to voice a single word? I do recall that we joined hands and expressed our hope in the resurrected Christ and asked for His peace to comfort our grieving hearts.

Perhaps, like me, you see how many believers today have become engulfed by the darkness of this age. They lead lives overwhelmed by grief and seem to stumble about looking for some reason to carry on. Perhaps you feel this way. On this Easter Sunday, countless people will enter our houses of worship bruised and battered by the events of the previous week, then leave without even a faint glimmer of hope. Here is what we should offer in our songs, prayers, and messages to their sorrowful souls.

We should offer people an encounter with the living God! The psalmist writes, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). People may need an extra word of encouragement at times between the belief that “God is my strength” and experiencing Him as “my portion forever." Many tragedies fall between what we have learned about Christ and when we will one day live with Him in eternity.

We should offer them eternal hope (see 1 Thessalonians 4:10-13). In other words, give people the promise of a future that comes with new life in Christ. Timothy Keller writes, “Do you believe in ‘new heavens and new earth?’ Do you believe in a Judgment Day when every evil deed and injustice will be redressed? Do you believe you are headed for a future of endless joy?” (Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, 315). Christ offers us the hope of a future where believers experience victory over evil, suffering, and death. Give people a future when they gather to worship!

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. Perhaps you are walking today in silent grief over a tragic loss. Take time to write a paragraph about your experience and your emotions. Now, take time to write key verse references from Luke 24 beside each part of your expressed grief. Ask God for His comfort.

2. Draw a deep breath and consider that people are reading your “life journal” each day by watching how you have carried forward following your loss. Ask God to cause “joy” to permeate your entire being and to empower your witness to the resurrection life each day. Others will be encouraged by your testimony.

3. For Families: Today, we arise with winged hearts. Today is the Sunday we have waited for. Greet your family members with the ancient phrase: “He is Risen!” and its response, “He is Risen indeed!” Have a special Easter Sunday breakfast, dress for church, and wend your way to Celebration services! Ask your children to count the “Pearls” that they find at church today and remember them for later.

A “Pearl’ is something that God speaks especially to their hearts, or something wonderful that they did not expect, or a surprise that happens that makes their hearts glad. Pearls are treasures that God gives to us whenever we gather with other believers in our communities of faith. When we expect them, and seek them, God allows us to find them. During your family’s Easter luncheon or supper, let everyone around the table take a turn to share their “Easter Pearls,” like eggs in a basket, with everyone present. Listen and rejoice as your family expresses their special Resurrection praises.Christ is risen! What an incredible Savior we serve!  

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock