English service - November 20, 2022
Messenger: Pastor Jim Allison
Finding God’s Faithfulness Through Telling the Good News
Whether you are at home, here at Open Door, or wherever, I’m glad to be linked up with you today to spend some time in God’s word together. We are nearing the end of a series of messages about people in the Bible who are used by the Lord to keep the promises He has made in prophecies. Often they do not even know they are part of His great work of saving His people, stretching over century after century. So this sermon series is “God’s Unwitting Witnesses.”
Recently we have been seeing how God keeps His word related to the five main areas of church life. We have learned about His faithfulness related worship, community, and service. Next month I hope to focus on spiritual growth, or developing in our relationships with God. Today I want to focus on telling the news of Christ, or evangelism. This is another part of our life as Christ-followers where we can find God at work fulfilling prophecy. He keeps His promises. Learning that in deeper and fuller ways shows us His faithfulness. It can bring us into closer relationship with Him, teaching us through our experiences to trust Him. Let’s keep that in mind as we go through the story step by step.
We enter it at the point Jesus has been with one of His disciples, named Cleopas, and another unnamed follower. They are not in the “inner circle” of 12 disciples (11 now that Judas has taken himself out of the group), but likely some of the 72 that Luke has told us Jesus sent out to heal people and spread His teachings (10:1). (Some translations have it as 70.)
Cleopas and “No Name” have been eating dinner together with a guest when the two finally realize that they have been talking with the resurrected Christ. They recognize this when He breaks the bread and hands it to them. That may be their first hint that something special is happening. After all, guests don’t give food to hosts, but this One does. Maybe when He extends His hand to give the bread it exposes the nail scars there and they recall His death. Or perhaps it’s just remembering all the other times when He did the same thing at so many other meals. But they know. And at that instant, He disappears.
This is hot news. They give up on their plans for spending the evening in Emmaus and go all the way back to Jerusalem—apparently on foot at night—to find the other disciples (v. 33). Have they finished eating? Maybe not because the breaking of the bread comes at the beginning of the meal, and that’s when it became clear to them that they were talking with someone who was dead hours before. They may simply have lost all thought of eating. How safe is it walking that road in the dark? They don’t seem concerned about anything like that now. In other words, they can’t wait to tell the big news: Jesus is alive and well and on the move!
When Cleopas and “No Name” arrive, they find that they are not the only ones with big news. The others tell them (v. 34), “It's true! The Lord has risen! He has appeared to Simon [Peter]!” They are learning what Paul is going to write later in I Corinthians 15:5. “He appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to the Twelve.” We never learn the details of that conversation from the Bible, though it would be fascinating to hear.
By the way, how do you think the two guys who just finished their second 11K walk feel when they are upstaged by other people with a really similar story? Maybe they feel frustrated, confused, excited? Probably all of these at once.
Actually, the guys in that room are not the first ones to tell the story that Jesus is alive. Luke has already told us earlier in the chapter (v. 10) that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other ladies with them were the ones who told the apostles originally. But they didn’t believe it (v. 11). It might not be surprising to see people in this culture and time not taking the women as seriously as they should have. (Some people here might be shaking their heads up and down and saying, “It’s still happening today!”) In Jesus’ day, women were given low status, not generally trusted as men were—for example, not allowed to give testimony in court. But when Simon Peter, the man who apparently was the leader of the disciples, told basically the same story, people began to believe it.
Now the guys from Emmaus show up and give independent support (v. 35) to the larger story that is taking shape. The whole group might rightly take some time to apologize to the ladies for not accepting their story in the first place. But before anyone knows what is happening, Jesus suddenly appears there with them (v. 36) and is saying, “May peace be with you!”
Can you see what is happening here in terms of telling the gospel? These Christ-followers are already becoming evangelists. They are already announcing the good news. They may not yet think of themselves that way at all. They probably never imagined when they began that day that they would have a key role in telling the gospel that God would use to save many, many people around the world and across the centuries. But that is exactly what is starting to happen. God is keeping His promises and using them to do it.
To be sure, they are all telling the message in somewhat different ways. None of them understands fully enough the content or how to communicate it best. Not one of them is a model of purity, maturity, or wisdom. Yet something very important has happened, and they have to tell what they have seen and heard. Announcing the good news of Christ isn’t something they have to push themselves to do. They almost “cannot not do it.” It comes out of them naturally because something on the inside has changed dramatically.
When Jesus sends His followers, including us, out to spread His teaching, He wants us to be like His first followers in at least some of these ways. More than telling about Him because “I have to say something,” He wants us to speak with the feeling of “I have something to say.”
I think it’s worth noting, too, that Jesus’ followers become aware of His presence with them when they are speaking about the good news. They were doing that in Emmaus over dinner. Now, in a similar way, in Jerusalem Christ makes Himself known to His people while they are telling the good news that He is alive. Jesus can reveal Himself in any place, time, or situation He chooses, of course. But it is natural and fitting that people come to a deeper, stronger faith in Christ when we are doing things He teaches us to do, such as welcoming guests and talking about His word (as the men in Emmaus did) and telling what He has done for us in our lives (as the people in Jerusalem are here). Telling the news of Christ is for the benefit of the people who receive it, and most of all for God’s glory. But it also helps us when we obey the Lord by giving His word to others.
Jesus patiently shows His stunned followers that He is, in fact, alive. He models for them here how to present the good news to people—differently according to the particular needs and capacities for accepting it that individual people have. When they are ready to hear Him explain it, He says (vv. 44-45),
“This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything written about me must happen. Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms must come true.” He is dividing the Old Testament into the traditional sections and saying that they have all been pointing forward to Him all this time. “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (v. 45). Without that, no matter how hard we try at evangelism, it won’t bring the lasting results that God intends for it to have. With it, nothing can stop the Lord from bringing to Himself the people He chooses to make the next members of His great family.
In this message series, we’ve already seen quite a bit about the Old and New Testament prophecies of Jesus’ death. So I am not going to add to that now. Luke doesn’t tell us exactly which parts of the Old Testament prophecies of the resurrection Jesus showed the disciples. We won’t take time to go into them in detail here, but here’s a good quiet time study guide for you. Go back to the Law (the first five books of the Bible) and see the Genesis 22 story of Abraham preparing to offer Isaac. Look at the Passover account in Exodus 12. You’ll see the same great themes of life-out-of-death in the Psalms, for example 16:8-11.
I know that the LORD is always with me. He is at my right hand. I will always be secure. So my heart is glad. Joy is on my tongue. My body also will be secure. You will not leave me in the grave. You will not let your faithful one rot away. You always show me the path that leads to life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will give me endless pleasures at your right hand.
From the prophets you can see the resurrection promised in, for example, Isaiah 53:10-12.
The LORD says, “It was my plan to crush him and cause him to suffer. I made his life a guilt offering to pay for sin. But he will see all of his children after him. In fact, he will continue to live. My plan will be brought about through him. After he suffers, he will see the light that leads to life. And he will be satisfied. My godly servant will make many people godly because of what he will accomplish. He will be punished for their sins. So I will give him a place of honor among those who are great. He will be rewarded just like others who win the battle. That is because he was willing to give his life as a sacrifice. He was counted among those who had committed crimes. He took the sins of many people on himself. And he gave his life for those who had done what is wrong.”
Hosea 6:1-3 may be another of the passages that the resurrected Jesus points out to His followers as He tells them the good news.
The people say, “Come. Let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces. But he will heal us. He has wounded us. But he'll bandage our wounds. After two days he will give us new life. On the third day he'll make us like new again. Then we will enjoy his blessing. Let's recognize him as the Lord. Let's keep trying to really know him. You can be sure the sun will rise. And you can be just as sure the LORD will appear. He will come to renew us like the winter rains. He will be like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Let’s focus today on the Old Testament prophecies of God’s people spreading His good news. From the Law, we see Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15,17a,18 saying the following about the Christ, the Messiah, who will one day come.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me. He will be one of your own people. You must listen to him. . . . The LORD said to me, “. . . I will raise up for them a prophet like you. He will be one of their own people. I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him to say.”
From the Psalms, we can note 22:22,27,30-31.
I will announce your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among those who worship you. . . . People from one end of the earth to the other will remember and turn to the Lord. The people of all the nations will bow down before him. . . .Those who are not yet born will serve him. Those who are born later will be told about the Lord. And they will tell people who have not yet been born that he has done what is right.
From the prophets, Jesus probably pointed His disciples to teachings such as Isaiah 2:3. It has God’s message about the Temple in Jerusalem.
People from many nations will go there. They will say, “Come. Let us go up to the LORD's mountain. Let's go to the house of Jacob's God. He will teach us how we should live. Then we will live the way he wants us to.” The law of the LORD will be taught at Zion. His message will go out from Jerusalem.
Jesus gives in v. 47 a kind of summary of God’s promises and intentions related to telling the good news of the Messiah: “His followers will preach in his name. They will tell others to turn away from their sins and be forgiven. People from every nation will hear it, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Note that “His followers will preach in his name” (italics added).
It is not that they will proclaim their own beliefs strongly and fight for them. The highest goal here is not self-actualization of the individual. They are not setting up democracy or any political system as their highest goal. This is about Christ and His message. It impacts politics and all of life, but it is much, much more. If we reduce the teachings of Jesus to tools we can use to support our particular political views or other parts of life in this world, we can do great damage to His cause.
What is the good news Jesus’ people are intended to share? A key part of it is that people can “turn away from their sins and be forgiven.” Our sins are disobeying God. Images of sin in the Bible include missing the mark but also wandering from the path and not having a share in something. (It is pictured as making a mistake and in some other more abstract words, too).
“. . . Turn away from their sins and be forgiven.” It is not that human beings need to “turn away from their sins and so be forgiven.” Repenting, or turning away from our sins is not the cause of our being forgiven. Repenting does not pay the penalty of sin. It does not satisfy the requirement of God’s law to uphold justice and righteousness. Our tears for the bad choices we have made do not wash them away. Even Christ’s tears for His people do not. But His blood does pay the price of our sin. It meets the requirement of God’s law. It is the act of God’s love that alone can provide the forgiveness that we must have. The good news of Christ is that we can honestly confess our sin. We then do not stop at confession but have a way to repent, forsake our sin, turn away from it. Through that, we can be sure to receive all the forgiveness necessary for us to live in the freedom and peace that God wants for His people.
Then Jesus promises (v. 47), regarding His name, that “People from every nation will hear it. . . .” That phrase “from every nation” contains only three little words, but look at how much has flowed out of them for the 2000 years since Jesus said this. Open Door is part of that. Every one who is a member here has received the good news. We did not think it up or just decide it was the best way to go. Someone passed it down to us. In my case it was my parents, pastor, and many others in my church and community. For others, it may be a friend or coworker who told you the message of salvation in Christ.
We meet here each week to share the good news of God’s saving love for the people of Fukuzumi, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, and the world. We are planning to meet again on Saturday this week to celebrate and proclaim the good news, the gospel, through gospel music. Our future as a church will depend on our faithfulness in sharing the message of Christ, especially with people of younger generations. If we stop sowing the seed, we have a good idea how many healthy, strong plants will grow. But if we sow the seed under God’s guidance, He will lead people here who will make up the family of faith at Open Door in the days ahead. All this is part of the great movement of God’s saving work to bring lost human beings back to Himself, which has continued for thousands of years.
It’s true for us, too, as it is in a little different way for his disciples when Jesus tells them (v. 48), “You have seen these things with your own eyes.” They have the advantage of literally, physically seeing Him. We have the advantage of having the written New Testament and testimonies of millions of Christ-followers since then to help us know the living Christ. But all the same, we are witnesses. All of us who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior are. He didn’t create a special category of witnesses and put the work in the hands of church leaders or people with special training. We all have our unique stories of faith, given by God so that we will all use them as He leads us. In the NIRV which we use, it says that “People from every nation will hear (the name of Jesus). . . .” But in the original Greek and many translations, it says in noun form that we are “witnesses.” (Literally, it’s “martyrs”—like people who give witness to their faith by dying for it.)
As people who have met the risen Christ in our own way, we do witnessing when we tell people about Him. But even more, we are witnesses. We may be good ones or very poor ones, faithful or unfaithful, but we as Christians present an image of Christ to people by the way we live. That’s who we are. That’s why Jesus tells His people in Acts 1:8 (italics added), “. . . You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem. You will be my witnesses in all Judea and Samaria. And you will be my witnesses from one end of the earth to the other.”
There is a saying that you may hear came from St. Francis of Assisi (the Catholic saint, from whom San Francisco in the U.S. gets its name). “Preach the gospel at all times. And if necessary, use words.” There’s something attractive and true in those words, isn’t there? But there’s a problem, too. They didn’t come from St. Francis, apparently. Members of the Franciscan order inside the Catholic church do not accept these words as coming from him. He did write, in his Rule of 1221, “All the Friars . . . should preach by their deeds.” But somehow he has come to be quoted widely as teaching that faithful actions can replace faithfully speaking to people about Christ’s teachings. Christ’s message is not an either-or but a both-and message of works and words. St. Francis is not our guide to life, anyway, but Christ is. And He clearly used both deeds and teaching to tell and demonstrate the good news of God’s saving love. That’s what we are called to do, too. So let’s ask the Lord to help us learn more and more to live as His witnesses.
Living, loving, saving God, thank you for reaching down and lifting us up out of our sin to yourself and your kingdom. We take the great gift of the opportunity to repent and now turn away from all that keeps us from walking by your side. Help the good news to truly be good news in our hearts, minds, words, and actions every day. Transform us through it into people of peace who live by the power of your love. Change us more and more, from the inside out, so that we will have good news in us to share with those around us. Then use us for the continuing work of spreading the word of your saving love available to all who will receive it through your Son, Jesus Christ. In His name we ask it. Amen.
Buttrick, G. A. (1952). The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8. Luke. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
Gill, J. (1746-1763). John Gill's Exposition of the Bible. Retrieved November 13, 2022 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills- exposition-of-the-bible/luke-24/
Macarthur, J. (2008). “The Living Christ Dispels All Doubt.” Grace to You. Retrieved October 31, 2022 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPEeS2dWkzY