God's End Game - Part 32
Series: God's End Game
July 28, 2019
In honor of the title of the series I’m preaching through right now, God’s End Game, I feel compelled to announce a major milestone in our culture and time: The Avengers End Game movie has now become the highest grossing movie of all time. No clapping?
Avengers End Game is about the plan of earth’s mightiest heroes to set the universe back to rights after Thanos collected the six infinity stones and used their power to wipe out half of all life.
God’s End Game is about how the sovereign, all powerful creator of the universe plans to set his good world gone bad back to rights, including us. And this isn’t a movie; it’s for real.
We are digging down deep into the most important play in God’sEnd Game strategy: the resurrection. Everything else God is up to with us and the world flows out of that event in Jesus’ life. You might, in a way, say it’s all about the resurrection.
We’ve been using a theology book’s definition of the resurrection to help us unpack it’s meaning and scope.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is that central moment in human history that serves as the foundational doctrine of Christianity. After having truly assumed human nature and submitted to an agonizing and shameful public death, the eternal Son of God was truly raised from the dead in his glorified physical body, no longer subject to decay and death. His resurrection validates his identity as the divine Son of God, demonstrates his irrevocable victory over death and the grave, and secures both the present salvation and future physical resurrection of believers.
The resurrection really happened. It’s the hinge on which all of Christianity swings. Paul said as much or more in 1 Corinthians 15 where he proclaimed that if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead we are still in our sins and without hope in this world.
In that chapter, Paul taught us a critical truth about the resurrection of Jesus, one that intersects with our lives now and our future as Christ followers. It’s found in…
1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV) — 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Paul taught the resurrected Jesus was the firstfruits of the coming last day (AKA the resurrection) when everyone who put their trust in God will be raised. Whatever is true of the firstfruits is true of the coming harvest.
If Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, then whatever is true of his resurrection will be true of ours and our lives following!
If that’s true, then we need to go back and examine all the events surrounding the resurrection looking for clues. That’s what we are doing.
Now, if you had a smart pastor, he’d organize all these appearances — these clues — in a clever way so as to artfully paint a beautiful picture to behold. But you do not have a pastor like that.
We are approaching this the way my granny Carl approached a puzzle. She’d pour it out on the table and start by patiently looking for the edge pieces. Then she’d slowly and randomly pull other pieces out looking for a match, all the while drinking Tab and eating cheese curls.
So this is me kind of randomly showing you what we glean from the resurrection appearances, which are pieces of the puzzle, and you taking those pieces along the way and putting them together. When you’re done with a puzzle you get to see the puzzle no matter the method you used in putting the pieces together. Now if I just had a Tab and cheese curls.
Last week we looked at the Easter morning resurrection appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. She stood right in front of her Lord and didn’t recognize him. It couldn’t have just been because of her emotional state. This same scenario will happen again and then again as the disciples are in the presence of Jesus but don’t realize it at first.
When Mary saw the resurrected Jesus she didn’t think he was a ghost or an angel. She didn’t think she was in the presence of someone or something otherworldly. She thought she saw a gardener. Something familiar and ordinary.
I believe this tells us…
Jesus’ new resurrection body was the same yet different from his old body. We’re going to go way more into that next week.
Now if Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection and whatever is true of his resurrection is true of ours, then that means our resurrection bodies will also be the same yet different.
Which tells us our heavenly bodies won’t be unfamiliar to us. They’ll be different for sure, but they’ll be much like what we knew of our old bodies. This text also gives us a taste of our future heavenly experience, what life in the new heavens and earth will be like BECAUSE if our resurrection bodies are familiar to us then they must be made to exist in a familiar place as well, a place the same yet different. More on that as we put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Mary did not recognize Jesus in his new resurrection body by sight. But when he spoke her name, something she had heard him do many times before, it clicked. This tells us in the new heavens and earth the essence of who we are(were) remains the same. What makes you you won’t be obliterated or wiped out on the last day.
That was the Easter morning appearance of Jesus. Now let’s begin looking at the appearances following and try to mine more truth and insight about our resurrection experience.
Go with me to an Easter Day appearance account which most likely occurred that afternoon. It’s recorded by Luke in the verses following last week’s text…
Luke 24:13–35 (ESV) — 13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
We know who one of these two were: Cleopas (v. 18). Not much is known about him except that he was one of Jesus’ disciples. It is speculated that his companion might have been his wife.
They were traveling from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus, and they were talking about the tragic events surrounding Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. It was fresh and raw on their minds and hearts. We can only imagine.
15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
This is just incredible and ironic and unexpected. Jesus decides to show up and join two of his followers fretting over what had happened in Jerusalem. He was right there, but they didn’t know it.
Does that sound familiar? You’ll probably notice it says their eyes were “kept form recognizing him” implying possibly he did look like his pre-resurrection self but they weren’t allowed to see it. I think, though, based on Mary’s experience, they were kept from recognizing him by his inner self, the part Mary picked up on when he spoke her name — the way he talked, the way he taught. Wait until you see what wakes them up.
Anyway, let’s keep going…
17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
If you just lost someone you loved in a tragedy, imagine someone coming up and asking about it.
18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Twenty-five years after the crucifixion Paul was imprisoned and brought before a Roman official and a Jewish political leader. He shared the gospel with them. Upon hearing of Jesus rising from the dead, the Roman official thought Paul mad. Paul said…
Acts 26:25–26 (ESV) — 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.
Jesus’ crucifixion took place in Jerusalem, a busy, bustling, ancient city housing one of the world’s ancient wonders, Herod’s Temple complex. And it took place at the city’s busiest time, Passover. Tens upon tens of thousands crowding the city either heard about the crucifixion of the prophet Jesus or actually saw it. They were wondering about it. If it was still a well known event a quarter century later, then surely anyone in and around Jerusalem three days after it happened knew about it.
Where was this guy? They thought.
19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.
They had the right idea about Jesus. He was the Messiah, the one prophesied to redeem Israel. Their timing was just off. And they didn’t see his suffering as part of the plan. They should have. You’ll understand that in a minute.
22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
They should have seen it, but they didn’t. The first volume of God’s book, the OT and their Bible, pointed to a suffering Messiah but they missed it. One scholar writes…
“They, like everybody else in Israel, had been reading the Bible through the wrong end of the telescope. They had been seeing it as the long story of how God would redeem Israel from suffering, but it was instead the story of how God would redeem Israel through suffering; through, in particular, the suffering which would be taken on himself by Israel’s representative, the Messiah. When Luke says that Jesus interpreted to them all the things about himself, throughout the Bible, he doesn’t mean that Jesus collected a few, or even a few dozen, isolated texts, verses chosen at random. He means that the whole story, from Genesis [on] pointed forwards to a fulfilment which could only be found when God’s anointed took Israel’s suffering, and hence the world’s suffering, on to himself, died under its weight, and rose again as the beginning of God’s new creation, God’s new people. This is what had to happen; and now it just had.”
Jesus was and is God himself come in the flesh. The God-man Jesus in his resurrected body gave them a theology lesson about himself from the OT. Can you imagine?
It’d be like the author of a two volume book actually entering into the lives of characters in the second book, explaining what the first book was all about!
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.
What was it that opened their eyes? The breaking of bread for dinner. What would have been special about that? They had seen it many times.
Jesus spoke Mary’s name and she recognized him. Jesus broke bread with Cleopas and his companion and they recognized him as well. Another instance of Jesus’ new resurrection body retaining the essence of who he was in his old body. And another indicator of the same for us.
The moment they knew it was Jesus, he vanished, he dematerialized right before their eyes. That’s something his pre-resurrection body didn’t seem to do. I’m pointing that out because we’ll come back to it later. And just so you know, it doesn’t mean he was a haint’, a specter. It doesn’t contradict our theological statement at all.
32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Remember when I told you about Dr. Robert Smith, professor of preaching at Beeson Divinity School, and how in a sermon he said, “I gots the learnin’ but what I wants is the burnin’?
What was it that made their hearts burn. It wasn’t a funny story or a devotional or anything like that. It was when he taught them theology about himself from the OT Scriptures.
This text reveals more than I could ever hope to share.
But get this: if Jesus in his resurrected body could walk and talk with the disciples in their un-resurrected bodies, then on the last day for sure, when all is set to rights and we have our new bodies and we live in the new heavens and earth, we’ll get to walk with him as well. And he’ll teach us about himself. All eternity won’t be enough for us learn everything there is about him.
33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Conclusion: This text surely points us forward to the last day, but it speaks to us about knowing Jesus right now. Time Keller says…
if Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, he doesn’t live on in the way Abraham Lincoln lives on, in his cause, in his writings. No. If Jesus Christ is himself living on, then he can walk with you. It’s beautiful...
In the Bible, walking with God is one of the most theologically significant metaphors there is. You are called because of the resurrection, because he’s alive. You can move on just believing in Jesus, believing about him, or even following his teachings, reading them, studying them, and trying to obey them. You can move way beyond just believing in him to walking with him, because walking in the Bible is a way the Bible sums up the relationship between God and human beings.
Jesus walks with us now with his Spirit and his word, the Bible but only if we have turned to him with faith and repentance.
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