Sermon on Luke 24:44-53
Witnesses of Christ the King
Text: Luke 24:44-53
I’ve witnessed some amazing things in my life. I’ve stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon. I’ve stood 15,000 feet up in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve gazed at Mt. Rushmore. I’ve seen hurricane force winds blow trees sideways. I’ve watched Michael Jordan play basketball in person. I’ve sat next to Hall of Fame baseball player Reggie Jackson in my own car. I’ve been present for the marvel of childbirth twice. Most recently, I’ve seen my wife give birth in 31 minutes and I’ve seen the Lord pluck my daughter out of the depths of hell through the waters of baptism. I’ve witnessed some amazing things in life.
I’m sure you have your favorite memories and moments that you have witnessed, too: the extraordinary sights of God’s creation or the wonders of human invention or the unique achievements of your family and friends or that certain celebrity you always wanted to meet. I’m sure you have witnessed some amazing things in life as well.
Could you fathom trading eyeballs with Jesus’ disciples. For all the wonders that we have witnessed in life, try comparing that with the wonders they witnessed! We may often witness the power and might of ocean water, but could you comprehend someone walking on that water? Or changing it into wine? We may have witnessed an incredible recovery from a sickness or even cancer, but could you fathom seeing a cripple getting up to walk? Or a blind man being touched and seeing? We may have tasted some of the finest cuisines at the fanciest of restaurants, but could you imagine a few loaves of bread and some fish feeding more than 5,000 people? Oh, the things they witnessed!
Yet that’s only the tip of the divine iceberg. We may have witnessed tragedy before. We may have seen death. We may have lost loved ones. But the disciples were present as their beloved teacher was whisked away under arrest. One of their own friends had betrayed him. Some, if not all, saw their dear friend nailed to a cross. The hope of a nation, the shepherd of many, the compassionate Teacher was dead and buried. No more miracles to witness. No more wonders to see. No more teaching to hear. So they closed the doors, shut the windows, and locked themselves in a room. Unsure of what to do next and afraid of what might happen to them next, they hid together in complete fear.
Then suddenly he was there! Living and breathing, moving and talking—Jesus was standing right in the middle of the room! They had to touch the holes in his hands and feet. They had to see him eat a piece of fish. They could hardly believe what they were witnessing.
So Jesus said in the gospel for today, “’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.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 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. You are witnesses of these things.’”
Perhaps they were a little awestruck with what they were seeing. The disciples needed a little reminder that Scripture had prophesied that this would happen. Jesus had taught that this would happen. In fact, just a few days before this Jesus told them that this was going to happen. But being dense disciples, they still didn’t get it. So now Jesus finally “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The unimaginable had happened. The Savior had come. He died and he rose. Forgiveness of sins had been won. It would be completely and utterly unbelievable except for one thing—they were Witnesses of Christ the King.
Times have changed. But feelings and emotions, fears and concerns have not changed. We have our own fears and worries today. We are afraid of terrorists. We are afraid of the future of this country. We worry about money. We worry about our family. We fear the unknown. We fear pain and death. We worry about the wrongs we have done. We worry that we haven’t shown God enough love. We worry that we have sinned too much. Where’s Jesus? Where’s Jesus with all of these problems in the world? Where’s Jesus with all of these problems in my life? Times have changed, but we might like to join those disciples and lock ourselves up in a room.
Well open your eyes. Open your eyes of faith and see Jesus on the pages of Scripture. See what is written about him in the Old Testament, in “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” See that he fulfilled what God had promised. See that he suffered. See that he died. See that he rose again from the dead.
It sounds incredible and implausible. It sounds like fiction and fantasy. God comes to earth and takes on human flesh? Miracles are performed? One man gives his life on behalf of all? He dies and comes back to life? It sounds like a good Sci-Fi novel or an interesting movie. And it would be completely and utterly unbelievable except for one thing—the disciples were eyewitnesses. They saw him with their own eyes. They heard him with their own ears. They touched them with their own hands.
Our faith is not based on conjecture. It’s not mystery or myth. It is true historical fact. God did come to earth and take on human flesh. God did perform miracles. God did die on the cross for all. God did rise again to life. The disciples were eyewitnesses. They wrote down exactly what they saw in the Bible. And now as we read their words, God’s words, we too are Witnesses of Christ the King.
For all the amazing things that I have witnessed in life—the Grand Canyon, the mountains, the oceans, the celebrities, and so on—I’ve probably told the story of each several dozen times. I’m sure you are the same way. You have witnessed your share of incredible things before. But I’ll bet you also love to tell others the true stories of what you have seen, experienced, and done.
It brings up an interesting point about the word witness. Jesus told his disciples in verse 48, “You are witnesses of these things.” The word witness in Greek (and in English) means more than to simply see, watch, or observe. Actually, in Greek that really wasn’t its main meaning at all. The Greek word for witness that Jesus uses here means to testify to, to confirm, to speak about. In fact, that Greek word martyres is where we get our English word martyr.
Jesus had a different kind of witnessing in mind. They weren’t just witnesses who saw, but they were also to be witnesses who spoke. Listen to Jesus: “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. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; bust stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus was promising that God the Holy Spirit would come. As we’ll celebrate next week, he did come in a spectacular way on Pentecost. The disciples were surely witnesses then! They were speaking in their native tongues. They were speaking in foreign tongues. They were speaking about Jesus’ death. They were speaking about Jesus’ resurrection. They preached repentance. They preached the forgiveness of sins. Even Peter, who a few weeks before had used his lips to deny knowing Christ, stood up to use those same lips to preach a bold and powerful sermon to thousands of people. The disciples had become true Witnesses of Christ—witnesses who had seen him and witnesses who testified about him. The disciples were so moved by Jesus’ love and forgiveness that they had to tell everyone they knew. Eventually they even became witnesses, martyres, in the full sense of the word as almost every one of them became a martyr for their testimony about Christ.
Jesus has called us to be witnesses as well—not just witnesses who see and believe, but witnesses to who testify and tell. There couldn’t be a greater joy or a higher privilege in the world! What a joy it is for us to invite our friends and neighbors to church. Sure, it’s nice to tell people about this beautiful church and school we are building. Sure, we will invite everyone we know to the grand opening and dedication service on July 18. But we don’t invite people to church just to see breathtaking architecture and awe-inspiring craftsmanship. We invite people to church so that they can hear that they are sinners, sinners like all of us, sinners who deserve to be in the depths of hell. We invite people to church so that they can hear that God has come to rescue sinners, that God gave up his life and died for sinners, that God has given forgiveness to all sinners.
It is certainly a pleasure for us to talk with our friends and listen to our friends and console our friends. It is a delight for us to encourage our friends who are sad and lonely and depressed. But it is a real pleasure to tell our friends that Jesus is with them. It is a real delight to tell our family and friends that though there may be plenty of problems in this world, Jesus has taken care of our greatest problems—sin, death, and Satan. It is a privilege for us to tell our friends that there is something better beyond this world given to us for free—eternal life in heaven.
This is why Ascension Day is such a wonderful day. We hear in the final verses of the gospel today, “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. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” We hear those words and at first we think, “Why leave? Why leave, Jesus? We need you here!”
But Jesus had something better and far greater in mind for his disciples and for us. He values and treasures and trusts us so much that he is using us to do his work! Jesus is giving us the opportunity to serve him and to carry out his work in this world. Jesus is now using us to go and make disciples of all nations. We are now to be Witnesses of Christ the King. That is the joy of Ascension Day.
This is why Christ the King Church and School exist. Yes, it is a good place to meet new friends. Yes, we’ll have a wonderful building to gather in. Yes, we can provide one of the best educations in town. Yes, we care for students more than any other school. Those are important. But what is more important is that we exist for two reasons. Christ the King Church and School is a place where you come to hear and see Christ who is the crucified and risen Savior. And Christ the King Church and School is a place that reaches out to others with the good news of the crucified and risen Savior. We, Christ the King, exist to be Witnesses of Christ our King.
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