Scripture Reading: Luke 23 - 24 …
Finishing the Gospel of Luke is like finishing a chapter in a book. It is not the end of the book, but it completes what the author of the book has been saying up to that point … with more to follow. Jesus' death and resurrection were the fulfillment of all that had occurred since Adam and Eve sinned against God in Genesis 3. God had cursed Satan, the serpent, and had promised that a Savior would come from the seed of the woman who would crush Satan's head! That "seed" of the woman was Jesus … God in the flesh. God had promised that a King would come who would rule over His kingdom and now we find Jesus before Pilate and he asks Jesus the question: "Are you the King of the Jews?"
What would Jesus say? His answer was clear and true: "Yes, it is as you say" (23:3). The chief priest and the other leaders of the Jews continued to judge Jesus and to make one accusation after another, but Pilate said, "I find no basis for a charge against this man" (23:4). Pilate sent Jesus to Herod and he tried to get Jesus to do a miracle, as though He were a circus act. Herod and his soldiers mocked him and then sent him back to Pilate, who said again, "I have found no basis for your charges against him" (23:14). But finally, after attempting to release Jesus one more time, Pilate gave in to their demands and "surrendered Jesus to their will" (23:25).
Let's think about that for a moment … was Jesus really surrendered to the will of those who wanted to crucify Him? It is true that they were seeking to kill Him, and that ultimately they were responsible for their sin … yet, was there more going on here? Going back to Isaiah 53, as you read about the one who "took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows … who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities" (53:4-5), you also read, "It was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand" (53:10).
It was impossible to satisfy the justice of God in any other way than by the suffering and death of the "second Adam," the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ, God's anointed One, the Messiah, the King! The suffering of Jesus on the cross was beyond what believers can ever imagine, for we will be spared from the judgment of hell. Like the thief on the cross who confessed his own sin, we will be with Jesus in paradise, in the presence of God in heaven. As darkness covered the land and the curtain in the temple between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant rested, was torn in two, Jesus cried out, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit" (23:46) … and it was done. My salvation was accomplished, once and for all.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was confirmation of what had been accomplished on the cross. DEATH and the power of death to enslave was defeated for all who would believe in Jesus. Now the next chapter in God's plan was about to begin. Those who had been chosen to begin the Church must understand the message they were to proclaim … a message that would carry with it the very power of God to save those who believe from His coming judgment. So Jesus not only rose from the dead, but spent the next forty days appearing to His disciples and others so that the testimony of His death and resurrection would spread throughout the entire earth in the centuries to come.
First the women, then Peter and John, then the two on the road to Emmaus and finally the rest of the disciples saw with their own eyes what seemed only days before to be impossible: the King ready to take His throne. But first, Jesus taught and equipped the disciples to be His witnesses. "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" (24:44).
Christianity is not a new religion, but rather, the fulfillment of biblical Judaism … of all that is written in the Old Testament Scriptures. (Check out "Judaic Christianity: the One True Religion" ). Jesus did not come to begin a new religion, but to bring the one true religion to a time of fulfillment and to begin what the Bible calls, "the last days."
Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to finally understand these things and then said to them, "This is what is written: 'The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.' You are witnesses of these things" (24:46-48). But first they would need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1-2), and so it would begin … the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world, to all nations. And the conclusion of God's plan lies in the future … what appears to be the near future.
"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations …" In the last few decades millions have heard the Gospel for the first time through modern technology. The time is drawing near for Jesus' return and all who reject the Gospel or who attempt to devise their own way to approach a god they do not know will face God's judgment.
WE are now witnesses of these things and are sent into the world to tell others. There is still time … how much we do not know … and Jesus has promised that not one of His sheep will be lost. Pray that God would use you to share the good news with someone who may be moved by God to respond. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is STILL “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!” (Romans 1:16).
Thank God for His amazing grace and live to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love!!
"Our Father in heaven, every time I read of Jesus' death and resurrection I am in awe all over again that Jesus suffered and died for ME. I am so unworthy to receive Your gift of forgiveness and life, for apart from Your work IN me, I would be utterly foolish, blind and lost … forever. I repent of my sin and rest in Your promise of forgiveness, desiring now to be Your witness and to tell the world that Jesus saves!! I thank You, Father, for opening MY mind to understand these things by Your Spirit. My life is Yours, now and forever!! In Jesus' name, Amen"