Preached by Jason Abbott
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.”
1. What about the title?
When I was a boy, we used to visit my grandmother (my mom’s mom) in her little cape cod on Hazelton Avenue in Jefferson City. Mostly, when we visited, she would be sitting on a little loveseat in the main room, where you’d come into the house, and watching Major League Baseball.
And there was always an antique coffee table sitting in front of her loveseat. On that coffee table, there was always a large print Bible. On that large print Bible, there was always a magnifying glass. The Bible and the magnifying glass always went together—they could not be separated.
As a kid, of course, I liked to play with the magnifying glass. I’d magnify anything and everything. You can set stuff on fire with a magnifying glass, so that was pretty cool.
However, as I grew older, I recognized that that magnifying glass was much more than a toy. It was a tool. It was, in fact, the tool by which my grandmother was able to read her Bible. Without it, she couldn’t study God’s word. Without it, she couldn’t fully understand her salvation—what God had done in Jesus Christ.
Sometime later, during my time at seminary, I recognized that what was true of my grandmother’s magnifying glass (that having it was essential to her Bible reading) was similarly true of Jesus Christ and reading the Bible. Here’s the point of this title. If we attempt to read our Bibles in isolation from the person and work of Jesus Christ then we really cannot read our Bibles at all!
In fact, I think Jesus teaches his disciples this. Just think about it.
- When Jesus begins his ministry, he goes into a synagogue and is given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He reads the prophecy: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor / He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, / to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Then he sits down and preaches a very short sermon: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
- Jesus says that he is the fulfillment of what Isaiah predicted. He says that the prophet Isaiah was pointing to him.
- When he preaches the sermon on the mount, he begins with a statement concerning the purpose of his coming as it regards the Old Testament. Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (just a shorthand reference to what we call the Old Testament); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).
- Jesus wasn’t simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah said; Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of what the Hebrew Scriptures have said.
- Or, think about the two dejected disciples from last week’s sermon. They are on the road to Emmaus. They unknowingly encounter the resurrected Jesus and relay to him the sad story of the crucifixion and how their hopes have been dashed. But then, Jesus responds, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then Luke tells us, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).
- Jesus reads the Scriptures and understands the Scriptures according to what he has done and who he is.
Do you want to understand your Old Testament? Then, you must view those Scriptures (Jesus says) through my person and my work. This is why I entitled this sermon: Our Magnifying Glass. Jesus is the magnifying glass. He has to be the lens through which we read our Bibles.
Let’s move to another question.
2. What does Jesus do in this passage that’s strange?
Well, it may not immediately jump out at you when you first look at the text, but the resurrected Christ does a very interesting and peculiar thing here! He teaches a survey of the Old Testament in order to establish his identity and his authority. Now why is that strange? It’s strange because he does not simply rely on the profound miracle of the resurrection to establish his authority! Instead, he relies on the resurrection’s fulfillment of what was previously said in the Old Testament to establish his authority.
Wouldn’t you think the miracle of the resurrection would be enough to establish his authority?
If you could do a miracle—even the smallest most insignificant miracle, don’t you think you’d immediately have some authority? Even bad superpowers are better than no superpowers, right!
I Googled terrible superpowers and found a plethora of them listed online. Did you know there’s a Marvel superhero named Squirrel Girl. What’s her power? You guessed it…she can control squirrels. Now, that’s a pretty lame superpower. Nevertheless, if I was able to control squirrels I’d gain some authority in your eyes. You wouldn’t ask me to verify my authority with documentation.
Yet, Jesus doesn’t only say: “Look! I’m back from the grave; I’ve died and risen again! Now go do what I say!” Instead, he teaches an Old Testament survey course on how his person and work and authority are established because of what Scripture says! “Believe!” Jesus says, “because it’s written in God’s word!”
Look at the text with me:
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… (vv. 44-45).
Jesus tells his disciples the storyline of God’s redemptive work from Eden through the present day, and he connects the story’s entire meaning and purpose to his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus tells them that this is God’s story and that he is that story’s main character.
A narrative without a main character is really no narrative at all. Conversely, a main-character without his story is no main character. The two must go together in order to make meaning!
Have you ever wondered why so many people think that Buddha, Mohamed, and Jesus (or any other religious founder for that matter) should be able to co-exist with equal authority? Well, part of the reason is that these people have divorced each leader from the storyline which establishes that particular leader’s authority. These people have cherrypicked the narratives for the things which they like best. They’re writing revisionist history. They want the stories and the main characters in those stories to say the same thing.
In contrast to such relativistic history, Jesus says, “This is the world’s story. It’s revealed by God in the Scriptures. It’s the one true story about ultimate reality, and I am the main character in it. There is no other hero.”
Think about all the narratives competing for your attention every single day. Think of all the voices telling you what to think. Where do they get their authority? And, who are you going to listen to? I like what Shane Stacy says:
Today’s social media world has turned everyone into a storyteller. Each post points to a different main character…. Every photo depicts…a competing storyline…. But the pages of Scripture tell…a different story. In this Story of all stories, there is only one main character [, Jesus]…. [And] God has created us to be supporting actors in [his] never-ending, epic tale.1
- Who is narrating your story?
- Who is the main character of your life’s narrative?
- Are you the hero?
- Can you be the one who saves the day?
Well, Let’s ask one final question.
3.What’s the big point here?
Well, if Jesus is the hero, if the Bible is all about him, then the big point here is that we should always point to Jesus, that we should always follow Jesus’ lead. Or, as John the Baptist put it—Jesus must increase, we must decrease (John 3:30). The spotlight must be on Christ. The story must always be about Christ.
As we close, meditate on what Jesus says here.
“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 and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things (vv. 44-48).
Notice that Jesus opens his disciples’ minds—in order that, they might understand the Old Testament Scriptures; in order that, they might see that those Scriptures taught that he had to suffer and die and rise from the dead; in order that, forgiveness might be preached to all the nations. Friends—The Scriptures testify about Jesus in order that we might follow and preach and magnify Jesus.
Where are you shining your spotlight? Who are you magnifying during work or in your neighborhood or through social media?
- Is it a Bible scholar? Some intellectual Christian?
- Is it a Christian artist? Some musician or poet or painter?
- Is it a celebrity pastor? Some bigtime Bible preacher?
Or, as silly as it sounds (which is exactly how it should sound):
- Is it me or Benjamin or Ben or Carolyn?
Friends, Jesus puts such a misguided focus to death in this passage of Luke. Only he can be the hero. Only he should be placed in the spotlight.
Only Christ Jesus should be magnified.
1 Shane Stacey, “Shaped By The Story” in EFCA Today, 3.