Walking in a new world (Luke 24)

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Do you remember the total strangeness of a first day? First day at school, or college. First day at a new job. First day after the first baby has arrived. Everything is odd and takes some getting used to. Everything is indefinably different.

When Luke tells the story of the first day after Jesus rose from the dead (in Chapter 24), he does so with a kind of masterly simplicity and down-to-earth detail. But you identify the strangeness straight away.

He tells of a couple of guys walking home from Jerusalem. A seven-mile country walk back to their village. They are sad for all that has happened. They had hoped for great deeds from Jesus and instead they had witnessed a kangaroo court and a squalid execution. They were desperately sad. Someone walks along side and joins the conversation. Why are you so sad? What are you talking about?

Why don’t they recognise Jesus? Are their eyes full of tears? Are they just staring at the ground?

Jesus comes as an unknown traveller. He shares their conversation without revealing himself. Instead, he begins to reveal the Hebrew Bible to them. His thesis is: Didn’t you know that the messiah had to suffer? And he tracks through the Bible -our Old Testament- pointing to what it speaks about Christ.

I tried this out at church once: “How would you speak about Jesus just using the Old Testament?” They were brilliant -obviously motivated by the large bag of chocolate eggs by my side. Jesus the lamb, the Passover Lamb, the Exodus, priest, the High Priest, the “one like Moses”, “His name shall be called wonderful…”, he “bore our sin”,  “I know my redeemer lives,” the son of David… We settled down to the familiar three-fold division, that Jesus is PROPHET, PRIEST and KING.

But not only so:

He is the Prophet who speaks the Word of God,  but he is also the Word itself.

He is the King but also the kingdom.

He is the priest, but also the sacrifice.

So perhaps Jesus spoke of some of these things. He didn’t reveal himself just then, but he revealed the Scriptures instead and allowed the words to explain things. Later, when the traveller and the walkers shared a meal, he broke bread and offered it to them and then they recognised Jesus. He “was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

How do you respond  to Easter Sunday, to the first day in a new world? Luke realises that the concept of resurrection is very very strange. It seems much more reasonable to keep your head down, burdened by the many sorrows of life, and to fail to recognise the one who walks along side. Luke was writing to a new generation, I think, a generation who wouldn’t have seen Jesus in the flesh, so he offers them three ways of receiving resurrection truth.

The first is to recognise Jesus through the words of the Bible: let the word of God speak to you and challenge you. God is known through his word.

The second, according to this passage, is to recognise Jesus when you take the sacrament of bread and wine. Perhaps for those first guys something jogged their memory and opened their eyes. Perhaps it was a very familiar gesture. But for us, something truly astonishing happens when in humility you take bread and wine and focus upon Jesus: on his death and resurrection.

The third “proof” of the resurrection comes right at the end of Luke’s Gospel and links in to the book of Acts. It is the coming and abiding of the Holy Spirit.

God in us. The Apostle John spoke in great detail (John 15-17) of the power and impact of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately it is God’s Spirit in my spirit, teaching me of Christ and empowering me to live in Christ’s way. Nothing less than that.

And that is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a whole new world.

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