April 30, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
As you just heard, this is the grand finale and the last sermon in the book of Luke. We started this series in November 2015 and more than 70 weeks later we are wrapping everything up. Let me tell you why it is important that we studied through the book of Luke the way we did. What you read in the middle of this book is heavily influenced by the beginning of the book. What we are going to read today in the last few verses of the book of Luke is largely influenced by the middle of the book. Bible scholars have said when it comes to understanding the Bible context is king. This means when people take a verse of the Bible and distort it or misinterpret it it’s almost always because they took it out of its proper context. So, we have spent 72 weeks now in the book of Luke. Today we will wrap the whole thing up.
In order to wrap up the book of Luke, I want to show you a picture. Something is missing on this picture. Can you figure out what’s missing? This isn’t one of those “Where’s Waldo?” pictures. It’s a picture of our city. I think it’ll be pretty easy for y’all to figure out. See if you can tell me what’s missing from this image? There is a cross shaped hole in this picture. Today we’re going to talk about our city a little bit. When I talk about the city I’m really talking about the Chattahoochee Valley, including Fort Benning, Phenix city, and Harris County. This refers to all of us today. This is true of me and this is true of you. I got issues; you got them too. Everybody has this cross shaped hole inside their heart. This is not a hole that our city government can fix. The city can’t pass laws that are going to fill that gap. It’s not a hole that big business can move in, create income, and make life better. The medical community can’t give you pills or do surgery to reconstruct this hole. This hole sits on the inside of the human soul. There’s only one person who ever lived that can fill that hole. His name is Jesus. Today Jesus leaves Earth and goes back to Heaven. It should cause you to ask the question, “What happens to the cross shaped hole when Jesus leaves Earth and goes back to be with his Father in Heaven? Who fills that hole now that Jesus is gone?” The answer to the question from the Bible today is you do, I do, and his church does.
I. Jesus is in the midst of his church
This means even today he still gathers to meet with his people when they gather to meet with him for worship. Last week two of his disciples were walking along the road and Jesus casually came up alongside them. Today he shows up right in the middle of them.
35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!
To put this story into its proper context, Jesus is teaching his disciples. He tells them ahead of time, “I am going to die. They are going to crucify me and three days later I’ll rise again.” Jesus has already shown up and appeared to some folks along the road. His disciples are struggling to put the pieces of the puzzle together. In fact, the ladies showed up at the empty tomb and told the disciples, “He’s risen! We haven’t seen him but we know the tomb is empty.” Two of the disciples have seen him in the flesh and still the rest of the group is struggling to put this whole thing together. If you read this account in John 20:17, John says that these guys are scared because they’re afraid that what happened to Jesus will happen to them. So they lock the doors of the room. As they’re meeting together in this room with the doors locked, Jesus shows up right in the middle of them. Picture this for just a minute. Let’s say that it’s you meeting in a Life Group at a coffee shop this week and Jesus shows up in the middle of it. Ladies, while you’re playing Bunco together Jesus shows up right in the middle of the Bunco game. It will radically change the conversation. In fact, if you’re leading this group you’re probably going to say, “Excuse me for a second. I need to go use the bathroom. I just wet myself.”
Jesus has a message for his church. Jesus shows up right in the middle of his disciples. He’s reminding them, “I’m about to go away but even though I go away I’m not going to leave you alone. I am there in your midst even after I’m gone.” You can imagine how frightened they were. In fact, Luke tries to describe it for us. They were terrified. So, trying to get them under control Jesus says, “Peace. Be still! I have something that I want to tell you but you’ve got to calm down in order to listen to me.” Jesus is still showing up and he is still meeting with his people when his people come together. He is doing it in the form of his Holy Spirit, who is just as thick in this room as when Jesus showed up in that room with those guys. My prayer is that when somebody walks in the doors of our church off the street who doesn’t even really believe in Jesus when they leave out of here on a Sunday morning they may say, “I’m not sure I believe in Jesus but I’m sure those people believe in Jesus. I’m certain they believe that he’s real. They made it absolutely clear to me when I was with them today that they believe this guy, Jesus, was once dead and is really back from the grave.” Jesus shows up in the midst of his church and then he gives them something to do.
II. Jesus gives his church a message to share
He gives them a message to share with the world. This message is who he is and what he came to do from the beginning.
38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched. 44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
You need to understand what Luke is doing here. These guys have heard that the tomb is empty. These guys have heard that somebody has seen Jesus in person but they’re still not sure if they believe it. Now Jesus shows up right in their midst and this becomes the moment that they start to believe. Still right in front of them, they’re not sure they believe what they’re seeing with their own eyes. So, Jesus asks them, “Why do you still doubt? To show you that I’m real and that this isn’t a vision or I’m not a ghost. Look at my hands and my feet.” Why did he choose his hands and his feet? They stilled bared the scars of the cross that he was hanging on.
I think this is one of those events where you’re so heartbroken. You’ve put all your hope in this man, Jesus. You watched him die in front of you. Then you hear the reports and rumors are going around that he might not be dead. You don’t want to really believe it because, if you believe it and it’s not true, you’re afraid your heart is going to get crushed all over again. So these guys are still struggling to believe. So, Jesus says he’ll prove it by eating a meal in front of them.
Last week I told you that Jesus is asking his people get into the Bible and get the Bible into you. You will start to look different because of what you’re reading in the Bible. Jesus shows up in the middle of his church and when he shows up he has a message for his church. He wants this message to go to the ends of the earth. Literally, that’s what he tells us today.
III. Jesus has a mission for his church
What Jesus does next is to take his mission and hand it to his church before he leaves them to go back to Heaven. Jesus has a mission for those of you in this room who claim to be his followers. You are his church and he hands you his mission. The mission for Jesus’s church is called the Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28. Many people believe this is Luke’s version of the Great Commission.
46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things. 49 And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”
Jesus is sending his church out today. This language is not new to us. In Luke 9, Jesus sent the twelve disciples saying, “Go teach this message. Go tell everybody to turn from their sins by turning to me.” In chapter 10 he sends seventy people out. Today he’s sending everybody. He’s sending everybody until every person on the planet has had the privilege of hearing that Jesus really did die for your sins, was laid in a grave, and is alive today. He changes lives today like he did 2000 years ago.
Do you want to know why our church gives away so much money to missions? We give away money to the work of Jesus here in our city, in our country, and around the world. Last year 16% of everything that you gave went to tell people about Jesus in our city, around our country, and around the world because we take these words really seriously. Jesus says there’s no one on the planet that doesn’t deserve to hear this. Can I remind all of us who are not Jews and living halfway around the world, if it wasn’t for this mission that he hands to his church, none of us in this room would know Jesus today. That church took it seriously and they started spreading that mission. By the time you get to the end of the book of Acts the entire known world has had a chance to hear who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.
Really what Jesus is doing today is he sending his church out on the same mission that John the Baptist and he had before he goes up to Heaven. I’m going to show you an image that should help you understand what Jesus is doing today. He is saying, “My church, and only my church, can fill that cross shaped hole. You have a message that nobody else has.” The government can’t pass laws that are going to fill that hole. Business can’t create enough money to fill that hole. That hole is inside of us and, church, you have the answer to that hole. Only you have the answer to that hole. If you don’t share the message or take up the mission, nobody else can do it. It’s only Jesus’s church that can fill that cross shaped hole in our city. Jesus is sending his church out on the same mission that he had.
One of the greatest scholars on the book of Luke put it this way. What we’re reading today Bob Stein said is really a summary of the entire book.
5 ways this passage summarizes the Book of Luke:
1. Jesus’s message to believe and repent is given to the Church. Luke starts telling us that John the Baptist taught this message and they killed him for it. Then Luke tells us Jesus taught this message and they killed him for it. Then he is us telling, “Church, Jesus gives you this message.” The message to believe and to repent is now the church’s responsibility to take everywhere on the planet.
2. Salvation now refers to the forgiveness of sins.This is important because before Jesus showed up these Jews were oppressed by the Roman government. They thought, “We want a rescuer who will help us be delivered from the Roman government. We want a political revolutionary.” By the time Jesus leaves they realized they needed rescue from themselves more than they needed rescue from the Roman government. They needed rescue from the sin that was inside of them. Now salvation doesn’t mean rescue us from the Romans it means rescue me from me.
3. The worldwide nature of the Gospel message. You cannot find anyone on this planet that doesn’t deserve to hear Jesus died a brutal death on your behalf for your sins so that he could buy you back to God. That is the worldwide nature of the Gospel message that his church has and only his church has.
4. Salvation comes only through Jesus. Do you know why we don’t sacrifice an animal on Sunday morning in this church like they did on Saturdays in Jerusalem? It is because it would be a great offense to God who gave the ultimate sacrifice the sacrifice of his Son. Now salvation doesn’t come through following the Old Testament law. It doesn’t come by sacrificing animals. Now it comes only through the blood of Jesus.
5. We are called to be witnesses to the truth of the Gospel. When you’re standing on the side of the road and there’s a car accident in front of you, you’re just a bystander to the event until you tell somebody what you saw. It’s when you tell somebody that you become an eyewitness to the events of the car accident. Jesus is asking his church to be eyewitnesses. Tell somebody what happened to you. Make an impact in somebody’s life like somebody made an impact in your life. Be a witness to the truth of the Gospel. It’s as easy as just simply saying, “Can I tell you what Jesus did in me and what Jesus did for me because he can do it for you too?”
IV. Jesus changed the method our worship
When Jesus left Earth to go back to Heaven his church is never the same again. They are changed forever. Even the method of their worship has been changed because of it. They don’t go back to Jerusalem, back to the Temple, and worship the same way again. The very method that they worship is changed because the man that they worship is now Jesus. You’ve heard what goes up must come down. In Jesus’s case, what comes down from Heaven must go back up to Heaven. That’s what we read in these last couple of verses in the book of Luke.
50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.
They went back to what was absolutely normal for them. They went back to Jerusalem and back to the temple but the way that they worship had to be different because Jesus made them different. In fact, they went home with the joy of the Lord on their faces. I’m convinced people noticed these folks were different. It was only a few weeks later that the Holy Spirit showed up and radically changed these men and women. They will take this message of Jesus all over the place because of what he’s done inside of them.
There’s two ways that people show up to church all over the planet. They show up to church with this set of demands and set of expectations saying, “I want church to be like this and this and this.” Ultimately what they’re doing at church is worshiping themselves, their own desires, their own selfish ambition, and their own selfish needs. They’re trying to build a church exclusively for them. These disciples went home and their church experience was very different. They gathered together and they worshiped in a way that brought God joy because God was bringing them joy. They worshiped Jesus and Jesus blessed them because he was blessed by the way that his people were worshiping. I’m convinced after Jesus left to go back up to Heaven the people in Jerusalem noticed there was something special and powerful about these folks. Jesus must be real because of the way these guys and gals are living.
When I was a soldier in the Army I was sent with the Rangers to the jungles of Central America. While I was walking through the jungles of Central America, I stumbled across this plant and it absolutely blew my mind. I stood there with full combat equipment on touching this plant in amazement. I’m sure I looked like a moron to my buddies because every time I touched this plant it moved away from me. I’m not joking. This really happened. I’m sitting there touching it and every time I touch it the plant moves away from me. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life. I didn’t even realize that this was possible. I went back and looked this plant up. The scientific name for this plant is the Mimosa Pudica. It’s referred to as the shy plant. When you touch the shy plant it responds to touch and it moves away from you. You have to get this image in your mind. I’m a grown man with all my equipment on touching a plant and its running away from me every time I touch it. My friends are looking at me like what’s wrong with this guy. This is what was blowing my mind. I still remember it. I’m looking down at this plant, touching the leaves, and the leaves are pulling away from me. Then it dawned on me this plant is alive. It took me a while to remember plants are really alive. When I look at my yard from the front window it just looks like it’s laying there dead. When I saw this plant move I realized there’s life inside that plant. When I touched it, it responded. I was fascinated by what I was watching from this plant.
Here’s what I think people are desperate to see from us. Is there life inside that church? Is there life inside your worship? Does it really make an impact? If you’re in college, I’m convinced that somebody in your fraternity or sorority is struggling right now. They want to know does Jesus make any difference? You may be the only person on the planet that can impact this lady or this guy and show them that Jesus is real. I’m certain there’s somebody that you work with whose husband just had an affair and she has a cross shaped hole inside her soul. She hasn’t told anybody but her world is falling apart around her. She’s trying to figure out how to pick the pieces back up and put it back together. God can use you to fill that cross shaped hole in her soul. Guys, there’s probably some dude who you play golf with whose teenage daughter just got pregnant and his world is collapsing around him. He has this cross shaped hole inside his chest and he doesn’t know what to do next. You may be the person that God wants to step in and to fill that hole. The very reason that Jesus came to earth is to fill that cross shaped hole. When he left Earth and went back to Heaven, he left his church to do it. This week you may have an opportunity that nobody else will ever have. You may be the one who can step in and fill that cross shaped hole in somebody’s life.
I’m going to pray that God will use you to fill that hole in somebody’s heart this morning. I’m also going to pray for God’s people and that he will use you to go out from this place and make disciples until everybody on the planet has heard about the Good News of Jesus. In fact, this is so important to us that when you drive away from our campus today you can’t miss it because we plastered it on the back of the east entrance. Our responsibility is to go and make disciples until everyone has heard the Good News that Jesus can fill this cross shaped hole in someone’s soul.
• I want to be with Jesus in Heaven. Today, I turn from my sins and commit my life to Jesus for the first time.
– I haven’t been giving Jesus the worship he deserves lately. Pray for me to give Jesus the honor that he is due in my life this week.
+ I will be a witness for Jesus to one person this week.
- Have you ever testified as a witness in a court of law? If so, explain to everyone why you were selected as a witness.
- Compare Acts 1:8 with Luke 24:46-49. What are the similarities in these two passages? Compare the Luke passage with Matthew 28:18-20. What is similar? What is different?
- Why did Jesus select his church to be his witnesses?
- What do you think your body will look like in Heaven? (Be specific- explain your answer)
- Do you know someone who has never heard of Jesus before? If not, pray that God would direct you to a part of our city or the world that needs to hear about Jesus for the first time.
- What is your greatest source of joy? Why does that bring you the most joy? When you talk about it with others can they feel your joy?
- Pray that we would witness and worship Jesus in the power of his Holy Spirit this week.