Sermon for Sunday, April 17th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament Reading
[Psa 16:1-11 ESV] 1 A Miktam of David. Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
New Testament Reading
[1Co 15:1-8 ESV] 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
[Jhn 20:24-29 ESV] 24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
[Luk 24:1-49 ESV] 1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. 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. 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. 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. 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?” 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. 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. 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. 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?” 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. 36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
There’s a popular genre of videos online called “reaction videos.” Usually they are reactions to a person hearing a great song for the first time, and the smiles and joy that it brings. Other reaction videos consist of children seeing the ending of The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, and hearing those shocking words of Darth Vader “Luke, I am your father.” Those are particularly interesting reactions, when the connection is made for the first time – “oh, no.” Your response might be just like Luke Skywalker’s – “No, that’s not true. That’s Impossible.”
While in the broadest sense, we human beings react to everything that comes our way — even sitting still is a reaction — the strongest reactions occur when something out of the ordinary happens.
And certainly in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the disciples experience something out of the ordinary. So what were their reactions? How did they respond to this incredible event?
A man, Jesus of Nazareth, has risen from the dead. How did the disciples respond? What were their reactions to this most profound event in human history?
I want to look at their reactions today under two categories. First, those reactions we might easily expect. And second, those reactions perhaps quite surprising to us.
Looking into their reactions we’ll see just how true to human nature they are. We have to remember, these disciples are people just like you and I. There reactions ring true as the same that we might very well have had ourselves. So this attests to the truthfulness of the Gospels.
First, let’s look at the reactions of the disciples that we might easily expect.
I. Expected Reactions of the Disciples
There are three I want to look at in particular. Two from Luke’s Gospel in our passage, and one from John’s Gospel.
Here in Luke we read that “Peter marveled” (Luke 24:12) and we read that the disciples were “Frightened.” (Luke 24:37)
A. They Marveled
We might think “OH I’D BE MARVELING.” But you just don’t know how you’d response to a situation you’ve never been in before. In a war we might want to say “Oh, I’d be brave” but when it actually comes who cannot BUT BE FRIGHTENED.
So we have those polar reactions, but which ring true. Peter marveled and yet the disciples (all of them, presumably including Peter) were frightened.
It makes a lot of sense that they marveled. Who has ever seen something to tremendous. A man who has died, three days ago, has come back to life!? Here, I use not the exclamation point or the question, but both of them. The “interrobang.” That’s the name of the exclamation point crammed together with the question mark. An interrobang. It questions and it surprises. That’s the sort of marveling that the disciples must have experienced. Marveling over what has happened, but also marveling over Jesus himself. HE has conquered death. HE IS RISEN!
B. They were frightened
And when such a thing happens, by a power totally beyond your knowledge, might not you be frightened? The disciples were. And this is not because they were peasants of the ancient world, and we “enlightened moderns” would not be so frightened. But yes we would. We might even be more surprised, as the realm of the supernatural is argued out of all our thinking in the academies and public institutions. They say everything has a natural explanation.
And this is true. Everything has a natural explanation. …. Until something doesn’t. Then it is supernatural. And in the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have something supernatural. Men just simply do not rise from the dead! The world has seen countless men come and go, but they never come back again.
It is as if the sun rose one day and were purple instead of yellow. Every day the sun rises in the east and its yellow, or yellowish, and we come to expect that. And every year people die and are buried. Then one comes back to life.
I think we’d be frightened too.
So those are two of the predictable reactions – marveling and fear.
C. They Doubted
Then another comes from John’s Gospel. Doubt. The story of “Doubting Thomas.”
This is a predictable reaction as well. When something extraordinary happens you might tend to doubt it happened at all.
The Apostle Thomas thinks “Did I really just see Jesus Christ back from the dead?”
Have you ever had a “Did I really?”
Did I really just see that?
Did I really just do that?
Something particularly surprising makes you doubt what just happened, even questioning your sanity.
Thomas was a doubter. Well, until the Lord said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.”
So the Lord had to work a little harder with Thomas, but he, just like the other disciples, came to believe in Christ and in the resurrection.
Those two really go together – To believe in Christ and in the resurrection. Without the resurrection Jesus would have just been a philosopher, a rabbi, a sage. But his resurrection proved that he was the Christ, the very son of God. The resurrection is the stamp authenticity to his words and his ministry. The resurrection proves that Jesus IS the Christ.
A tremendous event no doubt, causing the disciples to marvel, to fear, and to doubt. Natural responses indeed.
II. Unexpected Reactions of the Disciples
But there are also some reactions that we might call unexpected. And there are two of note:
First, it is said in Luke 24:8 – “They remembered his words.”
And second, in Luke 24:52 it is said “They worshipped him and had great joy.”
A. They Remembered His Words
The disciples had spent considerable time studying under the feet of their Teacher Jesus. They didn’t always “get it.” They didn’t always understand. And they didn’t always have faith. Probably, it seems, they didn’t always understand what Jesus was getting at. But when the resurrection occurred, they put it all together.
He had only been gone 3 days. They remembered his words, not from just the Friday before, but from the entire time He had taught them.
They remembered that Jesus had said: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)
They remembered that Jesus had said: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
This all made sense to them now. Jesus died and three days later rose again. The disciples remembered and now they understood.
And if there was anything they didn’t understand, now Jesus spoke to them clearly explaining all things.
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.
Anyone might marvel or be fearful or doubt, but only those whose sat at Jesus’ feet, who followed his as disciples, would remembered his words. So this is a reaction unique to the disciples. When others in Jerusalem heard of the resurrection they wouldn’t be able to remember Jesus’s words, because they never heard Him. Some of the people heard Jesus some, no doubt, but others may never seen or heard him. But the disciples knew him well. Even though the people might not have any remembrances of Jesus to fall back on, they had the Scriptures. That is where Jesus went for proof, and that is where the Apostle’s went for proof. As it says in Acts, they gave many infallible proofs. They looked to the Old Testament and said, “Look, this all had to come to pass.” And it did. Jesus died for the sins of man and rose again from the grave. It is no fable, it is a fact of history. He is Risen Indeed!
B. They Worshiped Him.
The other unexpected reactions of the disciples to Jesus’ resurrection is told is that “they worshipped him and had great joy.”
That “great joy” is similar to the “marveling” of before, but perhaps not only in a state of of shock, but genuinely reveling in what has happened.
But the fact that they worshipped him, that is astounding.
This is connected to the fact that they remembered his Word, and that they knew the Old Testament. They worshipped Him because He was God incarnate.
And I just don’t know what Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. do with a text like this. They worshipped him. And you don’t worship anyone other than God. You can do the logic – Jesus IS God.
The order of the disciples reactions is natural, from marveling, fear and doubt, which are immediate reactions, and then remembering his words and worshipping him, two reactions which takes at least some moments reflection.
A perfectly holy person might immediately worship Christ, but normal man has to come to the realization first of the truth that Jesus is Lord.
III. Reactions of the Enemies of Christ
But not all reacted as the Apostles did.
Many, but not all, of the Pharisees and other religious leaders refused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
Their reaction was to persecute the Christians.
And the reaction of the religious leaders was to pay money to the Roman soldiers to have them say that the disciples stole the boy of Jesus.
They weren’t seeking truth, but opposing it. They were trying to cover up the truth, to save their exalted rank amidst their refusal to allow any other authority but their own.
See, if they had the body of Jesus, all they would need to do to end the movement of Christians would be to present his dead body. But they didn’t have it, neither the Jews nor the Romans. So they invented the lie that the disciples had stolen the body.
The tomb was empty, the body of Jesus was nowhere to be found.
But then, he made himself known. He visited the disciples and others in a number of post-resurrection appearances proving that He who died is again Alive.
IV. Our Reaction to the Resurrection
I cannot but ask, “What is your reaction to the resurrection?”
Do you marvel?
Do you have Fear?
Do you have Doubt?
Even believers doubt from time to time. We say like the man in Mark 9:24 – “Lord I believe; help my unbelief.”
But you need not doubt, for there is far more than sufficient warrant to believe in the resurrection.
The reasons to believe in the resurrection are plentiful and powerful:
1. First, only the resurrection explains how devout worshippers of God came to believe that Jesus was in fact resurrected. No other alternative narrative has found any plausibility.
2. Then, as Paul said, over 500 people saw Christ alive. He said to his readers, in effect, “If you doubt it, go ask one of these many people in Jerusalem who saw Him alive again.” It was not just the apostles who saw the resurrected Christ, but many many people.
3. Then there are the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding Christ, which simply cannot be covered in this sermon but necessitate their own study.
4. Then there are the changed lives. Not only of Paul who was once an enemy of the church, but changed lives even today. Changed by the power of the Gospel to trust in Christ and believe that one day too we shall participate in the resurrection, rising as he did with glorified bodies.
5. And finally, another reason to believe in the resurrection is Christ’s words themselves. As the Apostles did, so we remember the Words of Christ. Everything points to Him as truthful, the ver bases of all Truth.
Finally then, knowing these things, believing these things, we, like the disciples ought to worship Christ, the risen King.
This should be our reaction. Worshipping Christ. Not only for an hour on Sundays, but in our entire lives, for the effect of the resurrection is not limited to 1 hour in the week, but should extend to every moment waking or sleeping. The resurrection changes everything.
Death is conquered. It is the Death of Death.
We now, being united to Christ, have an assured hope of life eternal, for we are promised that as he was raised from the dead, so also shall we be raised, with bodies imperishable and glorified, forever with the Lord.
This leads us to worship the Lord, for great things he has done.
For He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed. Let us pray.