All the Reassurance We Need

The Gospel of Luke 2  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:50
1 rating
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
INTRO: Imagine being there, among the first disciples.
You have experienced the amazing ministry of Jesus—teaching and acting with unrivaled power and authority from God. Because of this, you and your brothers (and sisters) around you were becoming increasingly convinced that he was indeed “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). Yes, admittedly, Jesus said enigmatic things about it being necessary that he suffer and rise again, but he also taught in parables that weren’t always easy to understand either.
And then, when your messianic hope was at its highest (he had raised Lazarus from the dead and then entered Jerusalem with the crowds shouting Hosanna!), the worst happened: the religious leaders wrongfully slandered and turned him over to be crucified by the Romans.
Not only are you despondent and disillusioned, but you feel ashamed for deserting him in the hour of greatest suffering. He told you not to defend him by force, but look what happened. And now he is gone. Is not hope gone with him?
Misery gives way to amazement and confusion on the Sunday after his death, because it has been reported and confirmed that the tomb is empty, reported by angels and confirmed by some witnesses in the group already that the Lord is risen indeed, just as he had told you that he would do.
The core group who had remained his disciples is now gathered together on Sunday night. As you listen to the animated testimonies, questions, and debates, you sit in silence, asking: Can it really be so? Can it be that he has literally fulfilled even this prophecy about himself? Are we out of our minds to be thinking and talking like this, or is he even better than we could have hoped or imagined?
Luke 24:36–53 ESV
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 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.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. 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.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 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.” And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
This is the last resurrection appearance in Luke, and the final section of his Gospel. The sequel to it is the book of Acts, in which this author shows the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise and command in the lives of the Apostles and first followers. The beginning of Acts overlaps with this conclusion in Luke, emphasizing confirmation, commission, and completion—confirmation of the resurrection, commission to spread the gospel by the Spirit’s empowerment, and completion of the Son’s earthly ministry in his first coming to now begin his heavenly ministry of intercession for his people.
So Luke will leave us with a sense of anticipation for what God is going to do next through this small band of followers whom Jesus has prepared to be his witnesses.
But in order for that to take place, they must be totally convinced of the resurrection and fully understanding of Christ’s coming and of his purpose now for his people.
If you were in their shoes (sandals), what would you need Jesus to do for you? Or living in the time and place that God has given, what reassurance can we have that Jesus is indeed the Lord who died and rose again and is interceding for his own even now?
Stated more broadly…
How is one moved from wavering confusion and disbelief concerning Christ to resolute confidence and determination in belonging to him and being used by him?
What will it take for you to be convinced (initially, and then again and again), so that you can walk humbly but confidently in the grace of God? What will it take to live with assurance that God has made you his own, and that he is maturing you, and that he will complete what he has begun? What will it take for his people to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ with all courage, knowing we will face inevitable trials and persecution for it?
It would take a miracle… a big one. … How about the sinless Savior resurrected from the dead?!
And it will take a miracle to change a hard heart that is dead in sin and make it alive to God. How about the miraculous power of the risen Lord, by the work of the Holy Spirit, giving you spiritual life and opening your eyes to spiritual truth?
We see in our text that Jesus does this very thing for the apostles and their fellow disciples—the first generation of the New Covenant Church in the Lord Jesus Christ.
To go back to where we started, then: Jesus’ closest disciples have become so distraught and downcast and disillusioned by the crucifixion that they are still disbelieving and doubting, despite the reports of this day. So…

Jesus offers them substantive proofs of his physical resurrection. (vv. 36-43)

He appears visibly among them and greets them with “peace to you,” a common greeting and blessing from God which here likely has a deeper meaning of intent also to quiet their agitation and fears. But they are startled nonetheless. And frightened. They think maybe he’s a spirit (an apparition).
They wouldn’t have had weird ideas about ghosts like our wonky versions from ghostbusters or Casper. They believed that spiritual beings (angels) existed and that God might allow a now deceased and disembodied person to perhaps appear visibly while not being present bodily.
But that isn’t the case. No, Jesus fulfilled what he had said with a real bodily resurrection, so he will correct them and demonstrate that he is not just a spirit. He begins by first asking a question: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
What is Jesus doing with this question, because he’s asking something he already knows the answer to? They’re troubled (disturbed, distressed) and have doubts (a reasoned dispute with oneself by considering something unlikely based on logical deliberation, an internal argument or quarrel)… they’re troubled, and doubts are arising in their hearts because of both their human frailty and feeble faith.
Although Jesus does point out these tendencies, he is also compassionate. Jesus shows compassion toward our failure because he knows we need him to give us courage, him to give us clarity, him to give us confirmation. He will soon give them clarity and courage, but first he offers them confirmation, reassurance that he has arisen with a physical body.
How does Jesus prove to them that he is bodily resurrected—even if it’s a glorified body, no longer subject to the imperfections of a fallen world? Two ways: Touch me, and see. Look, I’ll even eat something for you.
This part is so neat because we can picture it and sort of reenact it. Touch your hands. Wiggle your toes and bonk your feet together or tap them on the floor. [Then reread 39-40.] And this would have taken several minutes because there could have been as many as like 50 or 75 or 120 (Acts 1:15) people gathered together, all confirming by sight and touch the risen Jesus.
Although they are indeed slow to accept the resurrection (“still disbelieving for joy and were marveling”), that language indicates a shift in posture—doubt that is turning to amazed joy. [It’s the difference in tone between saying the same thing in two different ways: ‘It can’t be true, can it?’]
While they’re still shocked by joy and marveling (the truth is still fresh and unsettled), Jesus offers yet another proof: What do you have around here to eat? See this broiled fish, it’s going into a physical body.
I picture them watching him intently, everybody moving to get a view, standing on tiptoes, craning their necks to see. As they look on, he pulls off a bit of the flaky flesh from the fish, puts it in his mouth, chews it, and swallows. Would a disembodied spirit eat? No. Look, he’s eating. I picture them looking at each other now, nodding with growing conviction.
What about us? What evidence do we have?
While we do not get to see Jesus bodily resurrected, both the OT prophecy and New Testament witness offer substantial confirmation of the Lord’s sacrificial death and bodily resurrection. (which we will talk about next this morning and in the months to come when we begin Acts)
What graciousness from God for our human frailty and faltering faith that he so compassionately confirms to our heads and hearts that he is always faithful and true, and that Jesus is the only means of access to an immeasurably good God.
Such reassurance anticipates a right response. When God has offered substantial evidence of the crucified and resurrected Christ, he expects the same answer that Thomas gives: (8 days later, according to John, because he had missed out on the first Sunday night appearance - see Jn 20:24-29)
John 20:27–29 ESV
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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas’s doubt and disbelief changed to confident resolution. His is the only right response, which doesn’t stop with just confirmation that it’s true, but it leads to worship: “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus now adds to this physical confirmation further confirmation and clarity from the Scriptures concerning himself and their future mission based on that revelation and its fulfillment.

Jesus opens their minds to understand clearly from the Scriptures that his crucifixion and resurrection was God’s plan and that this message now becomes their purpose. (vv. 44-47)

“These are my words that I spoke” - Luke has recorded for us that the angels said this to the women at the empty tomb. Jesus predicted this precisely: Luke 24:6-7
Luke 24:6–7 (ESV)
He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
Jesus reminds them again first that this is fulfillment of his own prophecy.
“While I was still with you” means not that he isn’t present with them now (which he has gone to great pains to make clear), but by that he means in his previous physical state as opposed to now his glorified physical state.
He continues that not only had he predicted his death and resurrection, but that everything about him in the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, including that most difficult and most necessary achievement on our behalf: a death of substitutionary atonement and a vindicating resurrection to prove his power over sin and death, that he can grant forgiveness of sin to those who repent and believe in him.
The law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms… is the threefold division of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). In other words, there’s stuff about Jesus in the whole thing! To use my metaphor again — all the tributaries of explicit messianic prophecies, as well as promises and patterns, lead forward and find their fulfillment in the great river, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The metaphor the NT itself uses is even better, of course: These things are the shadow cast by the substance, who is Jesus. Col 2:17 & (see also Heb 10:1)
Colossians 2:17 (ESV)
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
At this point (v. 45) we again hear Luke express that it was necessary for divine intervention to “open their minds to understand the Scriptures.” [two disciples on the road to Emmaus…] Our limited knowledge as well as our fallen condition make this necessary. ***
What did Jesus emphasize in particular for them that is indeed revealed in the OT Scriptures? v. 46 “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” This specifically their Jewish leaders and experts in the law had not concluded on their own, and were not teaching it to the people. As we said last time, they had not connected the triumphant messianic prophecies to the suffering servant prophecies, which indeed show that the Christ’s suffering was intended to precede his glorification. It was God’s plan that he should give himself as a sacrifice to rescue his people and rise again to vindicate his purpose and power to restore people to God.
In God’s providence, we are not given the specific content of which Scriptural references and types that Christ emphasized to make this point to them, but suffice to say that it probably took quite a lot of teaching. We find out in Acts 1:3 that Jesus was appearing to them various times over a 40-day period. Matthew and John tell us that at least a couple of these appearances were back in Galilee… they had returned because of a command that Jesus had told them he’d see them in Galilee, Mt.28:16, and probably to collect more supplies for a longer stay in Jerusalem (in John they’re fishing). So it is likely that this teaching continued in various settings during that time.
Although the remaining points will be our focus next time, I want you to see their connection still to the reassurance Jesus provides for his people, even as he also gives them their directive for the future.

Jesus commissions them to proclaim the gospel everywhere. (vv. 47-48)

Next time we’ll emphasize the particular message they are to proclaim from the Scriptures (repentance and (for) the forgiveness of sins through Jesus) and the scope of where they are to carry that message (“to all the nations”)… but notice connection to the fact that he is telling them that their role too is critical to the fulfillment of Scripture. The Scripture prophesies that this message of the gospel of restoration to God through the unique Seed of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ, is going to go forth to all people. So Jesus own disciples will be the means by which God will propel forward the fulfillment of that Scripture.
And as he told them before he was crucified, he would not leave them as orphans, but provide that the Father would give them another divine Helper:

Jesus promises them power by the presence of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission. (v. 49)

Having given them all this reassurance…

Jesus ascends before their eyes, having completed the purpose for his first coming and commencing his present intercession for believers. (vv.50-51)

This confirmation has it’s intended effect, as we see…

The result for his followers is to worship him and to proceed with joyful confidence & commitment to his command. (vv. 52-53)

In closing, what should we walk away with today from this text of God’s word?
How Sure Can You Be?
God can handle your doubts and disillusionment, your consternation and confusion. What he cannot allow is continued rejection and rebellion when he has offered you restoration through the crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ. What he has done for us has not only accomplished what was necessary by his grace and for his glory, but he has also graciously given us solid confirming evidence of the truth of this Gospel in the collection of Scripture, the Bible. The Hebrew scriptures lead us to Jesus (the Son of God in human form), and the New Testament scriptures confirm the New Covenant inaugurated by the death and resurrection of this same Lord.
And when he regenerates us and we submit our lives to him by faith, God the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives to seal us as his people, to give us spiritual understanding of the Scriptures, to empower us to be witness of the gospel, and to gift us for ministry to the body of Christ, the Church.
We have all the reassurance we need. The Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for our sin and rose again to grant us his righteousness, that we might be restored to God. As we obey our Lord and see the manifestation of the Spirit in our own lives, and especially in his work by God’s people cooperating together to accomplish the mission, we are more regularly and more fully confirmed in our faith.
We are deceived if we don’t admit to ourselves and to one another that we are prone to doubt. But God himself desires to reassure us by our ongoing faith and dependence on him, confirming him again from the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. To him be the glory as he uses us to spread the gospel and mature His church. Amen.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more