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The Full Gospel

Date: Jul. 18, 2010

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Luke 24:36-53

Key Verse: Luke 24:46-47

“He told 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.”

Today, we reach the end of Luke’s Gospel.  We’ve been studying it for over a year and a half and we’ve learned a lot about Jesus.  We saw the good news of great joy that his birth would bring.  We saw his miracles, his healings, and heard his teachings.  He taught us how to pray, what it means to love, and how great God’s love is for his children.  We saw Jesus change a man in Jericho and enter Jerusalem with a triumphal fanfare.  Jesus rebuffed all attempts to discredit him.  We saw Jesus betrayed by Judas and arrested in the middle of the night.  We saw the mockery of his trial, his crucifixion and his death and burial.  And, finally, we saw that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and death could not keep it’s hold on him.  All this was recorded and all of it was foretold in Scripture.  We saw all that; we heard all that.  Is that the end of the gospel message?  The climax of the message is Jesus’ death and resurrection, but it is not the end of the gospel.  The full gospel includes a little more.

At the beginning of this passage, Jesus’ disciples are still together.  In fact, they were still talking about what the two who went to Emmaus had seen.  Right in the middle of their discussion, Jesus just appears next to them and says, “Peace be with you.”  Then, the disciples “were startled and frightened, thinking that they saw a ghost.” (37) Jesus didn’t walk up and say hi, he just appeared, instantaneously, in the room.  Have you ever walked in a room and been startled to find someone else already there?  It was a little like that but more intense, since Jesus just appeared.  They thought they saw a ghost because people don’t normally just appear in rooms.  We don’t have Star Trek’s beaming technology.  People have to walk through a door to get into a room.  It might have even given one of them a heart attack at the shock, but Jesus talks to them afterwards, “He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’” (38-39) Jesus knew their thoughts and while, the disciples’ reaction might make some sense from a human standpoint, it showed that they had doubt about Jesus.  Therefore, Jesus addresses their doubt by calling it out and then inviting them to look closely at the evidence and to touch the places where he was pierced.  He really wanted to reassure his disciples that he was flesh and blood.  Jesus didn’t change into energy that is able to permeate all existence, he still had a body, but that body was the same one he was crucified in, complete with the scars from the cross, and he showed it to them.

With that, the disciples’ mood changed.  They were no longer frightened; they were filled with joy and amazement at the fact that Jesus was with them in the flesh, but they still doubted.  It might be a little hard to understand how the disciples could be filled with joy, amazement and doubt all at the same time.  But they thought that it was just too good to be true.  The one that bled and died on the cross was now standing right in front of them.  It was just too good to be true.  It’s like fighting a long hard battle with classes and when it is over, it feels like it is too good to be true.  You’ve been battling so long and now the battle is over and you are victorious.  It’s unbelievable.  Here we can see that doubt is not only a product of despair and sadness, but also doubt can come when we are full of joy, just like the disciples.  But Jesus took the extra step to put all doubt to death by eating a piece of broiled fish in front of them.  This simple little act of eating a fish is very important.  Many times we like to talk about the spiritual things and understanding Scripture, but Jesus came to them eating a fish before opening the Bible.  They had to see the example before they could understand what is meant.

For us, that means a few things.  First of all, it means that we have to be the example of the gospel before we can expect others to understand.  We have to invite people into our lives and let them see every part: to touch our wounds and see that we are still flesh and blood.  What I mean is that we have to be honest with our lives in front of others.  Last week, at the conference, we heard from six families how God was using them, including their hardships and arguments.  Their honesty about their issues and the great things God had done makes the gospel very desirable and believable.  If we always talk about our problems in the past tense (I have this problem and God solved it completely), and never talk about our current struggles, it’s not believable and many people wonder what is wrong with them.  Those words don’t glorify God; talking like that makes God out to be a liar.  That’s not the gospel.  We are forgiven immediately, but we become purified and healed over the course of time.  We are not perfect, but we are being made perfect and we have to share the bumps along the way to encourage others that these imperfections are a normal part of a life of faith and it is a continuous process of healing.

The other thing that believing-before-understanding means to us is that, when we have doubts about Jesus, he does what is necessary for us to believe.  He shows us that he is God; he has the power to do all things; that he died and that he came completely back.  When we have doubts wondering if Jesus really solves our sin problem, or if he actually will provide for our family, or if we actually get out of college, or should we commit our lives to him, Jesus comes and eats the fish in our presence.  This means that Jesus did die and he did rise.  It’s like he’s saying, “I did die for your sins, but I came back.  I didn’t stay dead because I have the authority to die and to come back to life.  If I have the authority to do that, then I can take away your doubt.  Look and believe.” 

On a practical level, this reassurance comes through God’s word.  When I was without a job, there were many times that I was so afraid and uncertain about my future.  Everything looked so bleak.  I couldn’t find a job and the temp job wasn’t paying much.  But then, as I was leading the Habakkuk studies on Friday, the Lord put his word into my heart.  Habakkuk 2:4 says, “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith.” And the end of the book says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19) Through God’s word, my fear subsided, as I trusted in the Almighty God.  He has plans that I cannot understand, but by faith I can trust in him who gives me strength and my doubt disappeared.  That was Jesus eating the fish in my presence.

Then, Jesus spoke to them again.  “He said to them, "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.” (44) Bob talked a couple of weeks ago about Jesus fulfilling Scripture, and here Jesus tells his disciples that everything that is written about him has to be fulfilled.  Quite a while ago, we heard that there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus and everyone of them had to be fulfilled.  They had to be fulfilled because, if Jesus didn’t fulfill them, then he would not be the Christ; Jesus would not have saved anyone from his sins; and God would be a liar.  God promised to send a Savior to redeem his people and God called the Savior his son, and in Luke 9, as Jesus is transfigured, God calls out from a cloud, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35) If all that is written about Jesus is not fulfilled, then God just lied about who Jesus is.

Jesus, then, opened their minds to understand what he was talking about.  “He told 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.’” (46-47) What Jesus was specifically talking about was his suffering, death and resurrection that is recorded in Scripture.  It is written in Isaiah: “Yet 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.  After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11) As it is written, Jesus suffered at God’s hand to make him a guilt offering for our sins.  He was crushed and beaten and battered and nailed to the cross.  He died for you and for me, just like God planned.  But Jesus wouldn’t stay dead.  After his suffering, Jesus would see the light of life once more and he justifies all of us.  When Jesus opened his disciples’ minds, he helped them to understand that it was God’s will that Jesus died.  It is so hard to understand why it had to happen, but it is Jesus who opens their minds to comprehend his words.

But there is more that is written in the verse. “He told 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.’” (46-47) Jesus talks about the preaching of the gospel just like he talked about his death and resurrection.  How Jesus phrases his statement here really makes it sound like the preaching of the gospel is part of the gospel.  Look at it.  Just as Jesus’ death and resurrection is written down in Scripture, so is the fact that repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations beginning at Jerusalem.  In Isaiah 2:3 it says, “The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”  God’s word would be spread to the whole world beginning at Jerusalem.  That word is the gospel.  Without preaching the gospel, Jesus’ death and resurrection are meaningless.  If the gospel is not preached, then there was no reason for Jesus to suffer and die on the cross.  If the disciples had experienced the resurrection and not preached, then billions of Christians would not exist and we would all still have sin festering in our souls.  If you don’t want to preach, then you don’t want the gospel, because the full gospel includes sharing God’s words with others.  It sounds like such a hard burden and I don’t think many want that burden.  You want to grow in your own faith and walk with God, but honestly, the gospel is not about you.  The gospel shows us that we have to follow Jesus and not our own ideas.  Jesus has done so much for us.  How could we not give it away so freely?

Honestly, it is not that hard.  Jesus said it himself, “You are witnesses of these things.” (48) To preach the gospel is simply to be a witness.  We’ve got about three lawyers in here right now.  What does it mean to be a witness?  What does a witness do?  A witness simply tells what he has seen or heard.  A witness does not give his own interpretation of events or include unnecessary information.  All the witness gives is just the facts.  The same holds true when being a witness for Christ.  Some people think preaching requires a seminary degree and big fancy words and knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Latin.  Others think that preaching requires great theological arguments that can refute all counter-claims.  But how many people do we know that understand Hebrew, Greek or Latin?  I don’t know anybody.  Jesus tells us to simply be a witness of what we have seen and heard and experienced.  Just tell the story of what God has done for you.  That doesn’t seem so hard.  You don’t need anything more that what already has been given you.

Even then, we are not a witness on our own.  Jesus told his disciples, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (49) Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit.  In order to be a witness, we have to have the Holy Spirit.  He gives us the strength to stand before anyone and tell what Jesus has done.  Jesus said, “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you.  They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.  This will result in your being witnesses to them.  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” (Luke 21:12-15) Jesus promised that he would provide word and wisdom in order to be witnesses; that would come through the Holy Spirit.  Being a witness is not a hard task, and we don’t have to be afraid because of the Holy Spirit is there to help give us the words that we need to say.

We have to start sharing the word from where we are.  Just as the disciples are in Jerusalem, we’re here at IIT.  The law will go out from the Godbox, and the word of God from IIT.  It’s already happening.  The word of God has come out of here and gone all around the country and around the world.  Look at our list of people who have gone out from here and are sharing the gospel where they are now.  There is Johan Leonard in New York, Mike Staats in Germany, Sarah Leingang in Korea, Ison Hong in Springfield, Peter Mugisa in Uganda, Sam and Grace Jang in Minnesota, Tom Li in New York, and Christian Leonard in Urbana/Champaign and soon, Ping Yang will be in Albany and Michelle will go to Korea.  In a very short period of time, we will have sent ten people out from IIT to the ends of the world.  Not bad for a three-year old ministry.  But there is more work to be done.  There is a whole campus that needs to hear the word of God.  There are freshman that are coming in five weeks that we really need to reach.  And there are seniors that we will have one last opportunity to reach.  There are countless people all around us who have not heard the gospel because they have not seen the gospel.  Who will show them the gospel?  Who will be a witness to the people of this campus?  Do you want to wait for someone else to start?  Do you want to sit on your hands doing nothing while others share?  Do you say, “Someone else will take care of it,” or, “I’ll do it”?

I know that my calling, my family’s calling, is to serve this campus with the word of God.  When I lost my job, I didn’t look outside of Chicago because I knew that I was to serve right here.  I probably could have found a job in my field somewhere else, but that wouldn’t be my mission.  I’ve been called to be a witness of who Jesus is and what he has done to the students of this campus.  For me to do that, I have a job in IT, doing web development type tasks when I spent 9 years in school earning various degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering and going into six-figure debt.  I could probably earn nearly twice as much somewhere else if I was working in my field, but God called my family to serve IIT.  I am not saying this to make myself look good or holy, but it is my commitment to God and it is God who called me to be a witness and raise disciples.  I stand here, sharing God’s word because I have been called and I do it willingly.  It’s not about me, but my standing here is a part of the gospel because as it is written, the word of God is going out from our Jerusalem…that is this chapel…that is this campus.

So, do you want to be a part of it?  Look at verses 46 and 47 again, “He told 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.’”  Look at those words.  Jesus speaks very plainly about will happen, but unlike the Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel, this isn’t a call to go; it’s a fact that will happen because it is God’s will that the gospel will be preached.  So whether or not you want to participate, the gospel will be preached at IIT.  The only real question is whether you want to reap any of the harvest?  Like was said earlier, if you don’t want to preach, then you don’t want the gospel.  It is really meaningless to you.  But if you are part of the gospel, and share how God has worked in your life, then you are part of the harvest and you will be able to be with Jesus in heaven.  Also, being a witness for Jesus is a continuous process.  As time goes by, he reveals more of himself to us, so we should keep revealing more of Jesus to others.  Therefore, I will ask you one more time: do you want to be a part of the gospel?  Do you want to be a witness?  If you do, please stand up and let’s see you and be held responsible for our decision.  So please, if you want to be a witness, stand up?  If you don’t have that calling, don’t stand.  If you are new, don’t stand.  But if God has moved your heart, stand up and be counted as a witness.

Like was mentioned earlier, when you are a witness, God gives the Holy Spirit and there is proof of that.  You see it at the end of this passage.  “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” (50-51) In order to send the Spirit, Jesus needed to return to his throne in heaven, so he was taken up.  And unlike anyone else who ascended into heaven, like Elijah, Jesus is ascended to become ruler of creation by taking his seat at the right hand of God.  Jesus predicted at his trial, “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” (Luke 22:69) And it is written of him in Hebrews, “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12) So, Jesus is at the right hand of God ruling so that he could send the Holy Spirit to enable us to serve as witnesses.

We see the Holy Spirit working in the disciples.  Right at the end of the book we see, “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (52-53) At the beginning of the passage, the disciples were frightened, in a locked room, and full of doubt, but here we see them full of joy and going to the temple to praise God.  That’s a big difference.  What can account for that?  That is the gospel living in them through the Holy Spirit.  They didn’t have fear or complacency.  They were excited by the fact that Jesus went back to heaven and couldn’t do anything but freely share what they had seen or heard.  They weren’t ashamed of the gospel, they embraced it and shared it freely even in a hostile environment.  Now look at yourselves and ask yourselves if you are excited to share the gospel.  We are getting ready to prepare for the new semester.  So I encourage you to help with the preparations: to come up with ideas on how to reach students and carry out those plans, because that is the gospel living in your life and on this campus.

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