February 8, 2004
As the disciples desperately tried to make sense of Jesus’ death and the report of the empty tomb, they vacillated between hope and fear. Alistair Begg points out that all people find themselves faced with the same quandary: What do we do with a risen Jesus? As Christ’s own words make clear, it’s easy to spend time in His company and yet not recognize Him. Only when God opens our eyes to His truth can we see the big picture and understand our purpose.
Sermon Transcript: Print
“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
“He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’
“They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?’
“‘What things?’ he asked.
“‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’
“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
You may want to keep your Bible open there.
Father, we pray now that as we turn to your Word, turning to you, the Lord of the Word, we ask that you will be our teacher, and that in hearing we may understand, and in understanding we may believe and obey. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.
Well, we have just read together at least part of one of the best loved of all the resurrection narratives. Luke, unlike Matthew and Mark and John, does not introduce us to a variety of resurrection appearances. He chooses instead simply to focus primarily on this one appearance and to deal with it in significant detail. He does so presumably because in this account we have aptly summarized essentially all that was going on in the hearts and minds of the followers of Jesus on this first Easter Sunday afternoon—and that was a violent struggle, if you like, between hope and fear, trying to make sense of life in light of all the events through which they had gone, and particularly in light of the experiences of the last few hours. And Luke gives to us this wonderful little story addressing for us this peculiar challenge in the lives not only of these two individuals but in those whom they represent.
I think it’s worth mentioning just in passing that in this one respect, the agitation of these individuals is representative of the kind of intellectual and emotional struggle that is performed in the minds of men and women all the time. And some are here this morning, and if you are honest, you have been trying by a variety of measures to try and salvage some kind of meaning and purpose out of life. You thought, when you were a high school student, that it would all fall into line with graduation, and then perhaps this college degree would do it, or the particular area of apprenticeship to which you had gone; maybe marriage, or a committed perspective on singleness, or whatever it might have been. And here you are along the journey of your days, and if you’re honest, you’re just bouncing between faith and fear. You’re not sure that you have a grasp of why you even exist. And when the songs that are still familiar come on the radio, at least on the easy listening channels, you find yourself saying, “Well, I can understand why The Moody Blues, for example, in the early ’70s, penned the words, ‘Why do we never get an answer when we’re knocking at the door? With a thousand [different] questions…’” And the refrain, “I’m looking for someone to change my life, I’m looking for a miracle in my life.” Or from Broadway: “[What is] it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?”
Somebody said to me last night that he was planning on ending the day with a few good beers and his favorite pizza. “Well,” I said, “it sounds like quite an end to the day.” “Yes,” he said, “some of my friends have said to me, ‘You may die doing that.’ And I said to them, ‘What the heck! What a way to go—beer and pizza, and good night.’” Now, presumably he has asked the question, “What is it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?” and answered “Yes!” Or perhaps he and others like him have embraced the stoicism of the ’60s and Paul Simon:
Gazing from my window
Into the streets below
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock can feel no pain,
And an island never cries.
“Don’t worry about me. I’m okay.” Or perhaps, in unearthing that Shakespeare from high school or college literature, we find ourselves reading again those words. Is this really life? Is Shakespeare right? A fluttering candle, a “poor player” who “struts and frets his hour upon the stage,” “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,” and “signifying [absolutely] nothing.”
Now, I say to you again that these two individuals bouncing between faith and fear are not so far removed from us as geography and history would suggest. And if we do not find ourselves in this category, rest assured that many amongst whom we will spend time this coming week are exactly there. And we have an opportunity in learning from the Bible to be able to speak in turn to others about the Bible.
Now, essentially what this passage affirms in relationship to that is that life does have meaning, and that meaning is found in Jesus. Now, to the extent that that is true of these verses, it is equally true of the whole Bible. There is no surprise in that at all. But that is not the emphasis that we are discovering from the passage as we go through it this morning. I essentially have two points to make for you: one is to identify the basic problem, and the other is to understand the big picture. So it’s very straightforward: basic problem, big picture.
Well, let’s start with the basic problem. What is this basic problem for these two individuals? It’s summarized in their words in verse 21—at least part of verse 21—when they say, “We had hoped that he was the one.” “We had hoped that he was the one,” past tense. Now with that in mind, let’s go back and just follow the story line as we read it there in verse 13. We’re identified with the timeframe; it is the “same day,” the same day as that which has been described in the preceding twelve verses with all of the activity at the empty tomb. And two of them are going to a village, the village called Emmaus, which is about sixty stadia, a stadion being eleven kilometers, a kilometer being five-eighths of a mile, hence the NIV gets us to “seven miles from Jerusalem.” And the individuals, we’re told, are talking. And they are not talking to themselves; they are “talking with each other,” and they’re “talking with each other about everything that had happened.”
Now, I want you to notice that little phrase “everything that had happened.” They refer to it again in verse 18: “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened?” I point this out to you to remind you that here in the Gospel records, we’re dealing with history; we’re not dealing with invention. This is not the description of a mythology that was invented a few hundred years after the existence of a person called Jesus of Nazareth. That is, of course, what liberal scholarship wants us to believe. That’s the kind of thing that you get routinely in Newsweek and Time magazine whenever the religious festivals come around: they go out and ferret somebody in who foists on us the notion that what we have in the Gospel records is nothing other than human invention and that there is a gap between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. And the notion is that since we cannot know anything about the Jesus of history, the only thing we have to go on is the Christ of faith, and the Christ of faith is an invention of the early church, giving us someone nice and palatable in whom we might believe.
Now, you’re sensible people, and you need to take that and then go to the Bible and say, “Now, does the Bible—does the record of Scripture—concur with that kind of idea, or does it challenge it?” And the kind of phraseology that is used here speaks to the reality of Luke’s desire in writing his Gospel to make it the result of careful investigation, to provide an orderly account in order that we might have certainty in regarding the things that he conveys. And for Luke there is no doubt in his mind that the Christ of history and the Jesus of faith are one and the same. And what we have here is the record of what had happened.
Now, when it says, “They were talking with each other about everything that had happened,” I’m sure that the primary reference is to the immediate events. That would be most obvious, wouldn’t it? The things that are buzzing in the community, the questions that are on people’s lips: “Now, where did Jesus go if he’s not in the tomb? What was happening there in the crucifixion? Why did he shout and make these amazing statements? Wasn’t it amazing when he said to the individual, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’? I wonder what he meant by that. I wonder where he went. I wonder if the thief on the cross went to the same place.” And back they may track: “I wonder if he is really the fulfillment of the things that he said.”
And to the extent that they were familiar with the Gospel record, this story of the life of Jesus, they may have gone all the way back in their reckoning to Luke chapter 4. And you can turn there for just a moment if you wish to see it. Because in Luke chapter 4 we have the record of Jesus going back to Galilee and going to Nazareth. And in Nazareth he goes to the synagogue; it was his custom to do that. I hope it’s your custom to come routinely to evening worship and to the celebration of Communion. It certainly was the custom of Jesus to do this. And he was given the opportunity to read from the scroll, from the Bible, from the Old Testament, and he read from Isaiah. And having read about the Spirit of the Lord being on the servant of the Lord,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news ….
… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
… recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
having rolled up the scroll, giving it back to the attendant, he sat down, and everybody waited to hear what his sermon would be. And he began his sermon with a fantastic introductory sentence, one that they would never have reckoned on at all: “Today,” he said, “this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And the people said, “You mean to say you’re the Messiah? Are you saying for a moment, Jesus from the carpenter’s workshop, that you are the one in whom there is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah here?”
And these two, as they had the discussion, to the extent that they may have referenced that kind of thing, if not that express instance, may have said to one another, “Fulfilled it? He finished it! It’s finished! I mean, for a time we followed him, and we knew that his sermons were terrific and his miracles were brilliant. But it’s all come to a crashing halt. He’s dead.” I mean, they knew that the Messiah, when he came, would overturn the pagans, that he would restore the temple, that justice would be established. They maybe said to one another, “You know, on the great day of the feast, we thought that he would finally stand up and say, ‘This is it!’” That in reference to the cleansing of the temple, when he had gone in and cleaned it out and said, “This is a house of prayer,” that they might have anticipated then that this was the forerunner of the fact that the temple would be reestablished, that the pagans would be overturned, and that justice, as the prophet Amos said, would roll down like a vast and overwhelming river. But to the extent that they may have anticipated that, it’s all over now, because he’s dead. And even the accounts from the women, they didn’t know what to make of them at all. They were inexplicable. They were worrisome.
Now, I want you to notice that here, as we confront this basic problem, it is a conversation between two individuals whose hopes were dead and buried. Isn’t that true? I mean, that’s how it comes across: “We had hoped that he was the one. He’s clearly not the one, and we’re having this discussion about it,” going back and forth and so on. And verse 15 tells us that “as they talked and discussed these things,” in their animated interaction, they are joined by a stranger. Joined by a stranger.
If you’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress lately, you will remember how in the journey, as Pilgrim makes his way towards the heavenly city, that he’s engaged in conversations with various individuals, and from time to time somebody just comes up and joins in the conversation. In our context, usually people who do that are crazy or are interfering, you know. But if you live in a rural area, if you walk a lot of places, if you’re out in a fairly small community, then it is not unusual for this kind of involvement to take place.
Now, I hope you notice that it doesn’t say that they didn’t recognize him. You say, “Well, it does say they didn’t recognize him.” No, it doesn’t say they didn’t recognize him. They didn’t recognize him, but that’s not what it says. It says that “they were kept from recognizing him.” I find that very helpful. Because if it had simply said, “They didn’t recognize him,” I would’ve been tempted to say, “That’s weird to me. I mean, how can you not recognize him? Even though you didn’t expect to see him there, even though his resurrection body had different characteristics to the one that he took into the tomb, even given that, you would anticipate that there would be enough about this person that you would recognize him.” And so Luke, with his eye for detail, points out, “They were kept from recognizing him.”
I wonder if what Luke is doing there is something very important—namely, pointing out to us and pointing out to his readers that we cannot see the risen Christ, although he is walking with us, unless he wills to disclose himself. Let me say that to you again: we cannot see the risen Christ, although he may be walking with us, unless he wills to disclose himself. Think about it. Some of us were brought up in Christian homes. Our fathers read the Bible routinely at the end of the meal. We were taken to church. We attended Sunday school. We moved, if you like, in the company of Christ. But we didn’t recognize him. Some of you come routinely to Parkside Church, but you do not recognize him. You may even wonder why it is. It may be that God has kept you from recognizing him, in order that when you do, it may be so clear to you that this is the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in his eyes—in other words, that your own skepticism, your own diffidence, your own sense of “Ah, I don’t know about this” is all swept into God’s economy as he brings you to the point of a great denouement, and you say, “Aha! So this is Christ!” As opposed to, “You know, well, I know there is a Jesus,” or “I know that my children sing the songs about him,” or “I know they bring the pictures home from the Sunday school when I go and pick them up up the stairs, but I need to just get in the car and get on with my life. I don’t recognize Jesus.”
“They were kept from recognizing him.” And he speaks to them; he just asks a question: “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” “What’s the topic of the day?” essentially, he’s saying. “What’s happening? What’s everyone talking about? What are we talking about today?” It’s a fair opening line, isn’t it? Happens all the time. People say on elevators and in airport terminals and on buses and at bus stops, “So, what’s the word on the street, you know? What’s happening?” And they say, “Excuse me? Are you just a visitor to Jerusalem? You don’t know the things that have been happening there in these days?” In other words, “We’re talking about what everybody’s talking about.”
If it had been this past week, if this had taken place on Monday, their response would’ve been, “What? You didn’t see the halftime show?” Well, if eighty million people watched, it’s hard not to encounter that conversation in the week that is gone. I took great delight in saying, “No, I didn’t see the halftime show, the pre-time show, the first half, the second half, no half. I saw nothing. I know nothing!” But that made me weird. I understand that; I’ve been weird in other contexts. But the fact of the matter is, Jesus says to them, “So what’s the conversation?” “We’re talking about what everybody’s talking about.” Jesus comes back and says, “So what’s everybody talking about? So what are you talking about?” “Well, we’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth.”
I love the irony in this. Don’t you? It has the touch of John’s Gospel about it. Happens all the time in John, these little ironies. Luke doesn’t do it very often, but it’s perfect here. So we have Jesus talking to them, asking them what they’re talking about. They’re talking about him, but they don’t know he’s him. Him who? Ha, ha, ha!—whatever it is, all right? It’s fabulous! A child reading this as a bedtime story will get this very quickly, faster than some of us intellectual adults. You say, “Well, I…” While the child goes, “Daddy, does that mean that he…” “That’s right!” “Wow! This is a great story!” And it is a great story.
“So what’re you talking about?”
“We’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth.”
“Oooh, Jesus of Nazareth. Very interesting. Yeah, so what’s the word?”
“Well, his sermons were fantastic! Terrific sermons! We were sick and tired of the scribes, the Pharisees. Their stuff was boring. It was horrible! The same old stuff week after week. But when he spoke, people listened. People began to follow him and believe in him. We had done the same thing. And his miracles, wow! We’ve seen lame people get up and take their beds and walk, blind people see. We saw the transformation of a little cheat called Zacchaeus—came scattering down the tree and finally came out of his house, and his whole life was turned upside down. Oh yes! Jesus of Nazareth, fantastic sermons, wonderful miracles. There is no question that he was a prophet. He was a prophet.
“But the chief priest and our rulers, the Jewish authorities, handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. And our hopes for liberation,” verse 21, “all came to a grinding halt. We had hoped he was going to be the one to redeem Israel. It’s now the third day since all this took place. There doesn’t really seem to be any indication of the fact that he is who he claimed to be. The women have gone, and the story is out about the angels and so on. Some of our companions actually went to the tomb. They found it just the way the women said, but him they did not see.”
Now, when you read this, it’s not difficult to catch the perplexity in their voices, the disappointment, the sense of hopelessness that permeates the account. That’s the basic problem.
Now we turn to the big picture. Verse 25: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’” Quite an opening line, wouldn’t you say? To this point, he simply asks questions: “What are you talking about?” “We’re talking about the things that have happened.” “What things that have happened?” “The things about Jesus that have happened.” “Oh-ho,” he says, “fine.” And as he listens to them talk, he then says, “Aren’t you failing to understand, and aren’t you slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken?”
Now, that little three-letter word is crucial. It wasn’t that these folks were unbelievers. It wasn’t that they didn’t know certain things the prophets had said. But in their reading of the Old Testament and in their thinking about messiahship, they had failed to grasp the big picture. They had not been paying attention to all that the prophets had spoken. They had, if you like, and perhaps understandably, focused on only one side of the story: the story of the Messiah who would be a triumphant king, the story of the Messiah as a conqueror and a ruler of his people, the story of a Messiah who would usher in justice upon the earth, a day when the lion would lie down with the lamb. And all of that they anticipated following the revelation of the Messiah, and they had every reason to believe that Jesus of Nazareth had met the bill, was sufficient for the job, if you like. But it had all gone so horribly wrong. They had warmed to the idea of victory, but they had failed to see that glory and victory lay along the path of suffering and of death.
Now, Jesus hadn’t concealed this. We know that from our studies. I’m only going to give you one other cross-reference. It’s Luke 18:31. Jesus had not concealed this. There’s no sense in which Jesus had tried to make it easy for people to be his followers, the way that some of us are tempted to do. Jesus had not said, “You know, come and follow me, and it’s just going to be victorious. It’s going to be triumphant. It’s going to be fantastic.” No, he actually said, “If you follow me, it’s going to mean a radical change in your life. And if you follow me, you’re going to follow me to death. And if you’re going to follow me, you’re going to have to take up your cross every day and follow me and so prove that you’re my disciple.” No, Jesus did not, like some contemporary explications of the gospel, hold out these wonderfully juicy carrots for the silly donkeys along the road. He actually held out a story for the thinking man and woman, despite the fact that they had difficulty getting their heads around it.
Verse 31 of Luke 18: “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.’” And then, to help them, he goes on to work this out: “He will be [turned] over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” And then Luke tells us, “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”
And here we are on this first Easter Sunday afternoon. These peripheral followers of Christ are having their discussion as they make their journey back to this little town seven miles away from Jerusalem. And in verse 27 we’re told that Jesus gave them a systematic Bible study: “Beginning with Moses and,” notice again, “all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” I don’t write in my Bible—this particular Bible. I write in some Bibles. The pages are too thin; it gets very messed up. But in the Bible that I write in, then I’m going to circle “all,” “all,” “all”: “‘How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and … enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Now, this is of vital importance, and it is really here that we’re going to end. As I was preparing this and thinking along these lines and anticipating this morning, I flew home yesterday afternoon from Chicago following Founder’s Week. And in the course of a very short flight, fifty-five minutes or so, myself and the stewardess were engaged in conversation—the details of which are not significant, at least its introduction. But it finally turned on the fact that she asked me, “What translation of the Bible do you like to use?” “Well,” I said, “I use presently the NIV.” “Oh,” she said, “I don’t like the NIV.” And then she walked away with a Diet Coke or a ginger ale or something. And I said to myself, “How interesting! In all the conversations I’ve ever had, I’ve never really had a conversation with somebody whose opening line was, ‘What translation of the Bible do you like to use?’” And in the back of my mind I said, “Here we go.” Well, of course, I was right. Because when she came back with the trolley, I said, “So, why don’t you like the NIV?” “Well,” she said, “because the NIV removes God’s name.” “Hmm,” I said. Immediately I knew who I was dealing with. I was dealing with a Jehovah’s Witness. Right? What she was telling me was that since the name Jehovah appears in the NIV as “Lord,” capitalized L-o-r-d, that this was actually the removal of the name of God, and it had been done seven thousand times.
Well, very fortunately, I had recently heard a sermon on this in which the pastor explained that when the Hebrew was translated into the Greek, some seven thousand times in the Septuagint version of the Bible they translated YHWH—the unpronounceable name of God—they translated YHWH as Kurios. Remember? Kurios Iesous. And they did so in order that it might be absolutely apparent who Jesus is, so that Paul’s great declaration, “At the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” is God, is YHWH. He understood what he was saying. He was a monotheistic Jew, and he was declaring the reality of the divinity of Christ.
And, of course, fortunately, because I’d heard that sermon—I actually preached it—but fortunately, because I heard that sermon—because I also hear what I preach—fortunately, I was able to say, kindly, “Yeah, I understand your stuff about the tetragrammaton and all these other things. Don’t do that to me, and don’t try and baffle me with Hebrew and with Greek.” I didn’t say that, but essentially I said that. And as the conversation unfolded, I said to her, “You know, why are you so concerned that Jesus would not be the person he claimed to be?” And she didn’t have any answer for that at all. But what she had was a series of proof texts. So she went to the standard stuff that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to go to: “The Lord said to my Lord,” and then she tried to tell me about what that meant, because in fairness to her, that is exactly the instruction that she has received. And coming out, as she told me, of a moribund, deathly Roman Catholicism which had done nothing for her at all except make her feel guilty, she had found great release in this discovery of the Jehovah’s challenge and the energizing opportunity of trying to convert erstwhile little Scotsmen as they’re sitting drinking their Diet Coke on the plane back to Cleveland.
I said, “Well, I’m so glad that you feel it necessary to convert me, because I am equally committed to converting you.” And she said, “But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could agree?” I said, “No, it would be terrible if we could agree. Because our disagreement is fundamental. It is absolutely vital. Because if you are right and Jesus is a created being, then he is not God, he is not Savior, he is not alive, and salvation history has ended in the cul-de-sac of a Palestinian tomb. But if the New Testament is right, then in actual fact, you may know him.”
Now, why do I mention that? Because the way to be able to deal with the Jehovah’s Witness, with the Mormon, is not the way it is usually suggested in the books in the bookstore: “If they say this, you say that. They say this, you say that.” So what it ends up being is a big proof text thing. “Well, I think…” So it’s like chess, you see? And you move the thing, and eventually one of the two of you gets frustrated, flips the chessboard right on the floor. “Forget the whole thing!” Isn’t that how it goes? “Look, get outta my house! I gotta cut my grass. Go on! Get outta here!” Right? Or maybe that’s only me.
But here’s the deal, before we criticize them: some of us are hanging by our fingernails with a proof-text Christianity. We’ve got about three or four verses that we understand and have memorized, and the rest of the Bible, we haven’t a clue what we’re doing with it. And we need the explanation that Jesus provided in this systematic, biblical exposition. We need the information that comes by the studying of the Bible. That’s why we study it in books. That’s why we’re going all the way through Luke’s Gospel. That’s why, when we turn from this and go back into other things, we’re going to work our way systematically through them. Why? To prevent us from doing the very thing that others are tempted to do to us. The necessity of the big picture.
Genesis all the way to Revelation is the story of God’s amazing grace. It’s the story of the fact that God has purposed from all of eternity to redeem a people that are his own and that it is the utterly undeserved privilege of all who believe to be included in that great company. That in Genesis, when Adam and Eve discover their nakedness and they hide from God, God comes and pursues them, and discovering them in all of their nakedness, he provides them with a covering for their nakedness, pointing out in the very infancy of things that there will eventually come a day when he will provide a robe of righteousness, the very robe of his Son, so that we may, “in royal robes we don’t deserve, live to serve his Majesty.” That all of those big, amazing, dramatic stories in Leviticus and on about the sacrificial system and blood and smoke and curtains and bells and all of these things, they’re all pointing to the fact that God is wholly other than us, that he cannot tolerate to look upon sin, that because he’s so incredibly holy, sin must be punished, because he is so amazingly loving he provides for sinners a sacrifice of atonement, so that from the very beginning all the way to the end, the focus is ultimately found in Jesus.
“Who are you talking about?”
“We’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth.”
“Well, it doesn’t seem to be doing you much good, does it? You’re too slow to believe all that the prophets have written.”
You got the big picture? The awfulness of sin and the deep, deep love of God combining to make Calvary inevitable.
And their hearts began to burn within them—at least that’s what they said later on. Their ears started to burn first, I’m sure. Their cheeks flushed. Whew! Dear-oh! And then their hearts stirred, learning, listening, saying, “Oh! That makes perfect sense. Now I understand Psalm 22. Now I understand Psalm 22!” We just read it this morning. I hope you understand it: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “I can number all my bones. They’re attacking me like wild dogs; they pierce my hands and my feet.” Christ on the cross quotes the Bible. Christ on the Emmaus Road teaches the Bible. And there will come a day when, in all of his kingly power, the lion will lie down with the lamb. But for now, they need to get this, and so do we.
Well, that’s it: facing up to the basic problem. Facing up to the basic problem. “We had hoped that Jesus was this, but he is apparently not.” They needed to have that notion corrected, and some of us this morning need that corrected too. And then, finding the big picture.
One of the things I resolved as a result of listening to this sermon is that at my earliest convenience, I’m going to do an evening series. I think it’ll be an evening series, although I can’t be certain. Essentially, we’ll call it Finding the Big Picture, and we’ll trace the story line of the Bible all the way from Genesis to Revelation. Because I think there is a possibility that some of us can’t see the wood for the trees, that we don’t really know how the Chronicler fits in, where First and Second Samuel go, what is happening with Nehemiah, “Where did that go? Was Romans really written before Matthew? I thought since Matthew was first, it must’ve been first. Oh, it wasn’t first? How did Mark slip in there in the middle and it was first? What about Revelation? How does it all work?” We’ll spend a few Sunday nights on that—spend enough time till we finally understand it. Which, of course, could be a long time. But the reason is the same reason, so that Jesus says, “Guys, the problem here is not that you don’t believe. The problem is that you don’t believe properly.” That’s the problem for some of you. It’s not that you’re unbelievers. You’ve come out of a background of orthodoxy. You’ve been taught the creeds. You believe that Jesus was the Christ. You believe that he was the Messiah. You spend time in the company of Christ. But have you recognized him, in the way that Saul of Tarsus recognized him? “Who are you, Lord?” That is the name of God. Don’t tell me the NIV removed “God.” Here he is, Kurios, Yahweh.
Well, the dialogue, the narrative continues. They are approaching the village, and then it gets exciting from there, and then they have a meal together, and if you want to come tonight, then we’ll deal with the mealtime during our little mealtime. And if you want to talk about Jesus and what it means to trust him, then you can come to our prayer room, and we’ll gladly do that with you.
Father, thank you for the Bible. Thank you for its clarity and its power. Thank you for the fact that it confronts our basic problem, as it did those individuals, and thank you too that when we get a grasp of the big picture, we find that it forms up ultimately in this wonderful portrait of Jesus.
Thank you for reminding us that life does have meaning and that that meaning is found in Christ. Grant to us eyes to see, ears to hear, minds to think, hearts to welcome, and wills to obey the Lord Jesus Christ.
And may grace and mercy and peace from the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit be the abiding portion of all who believe, today and forevermore. Amen.
 Justin Hayward, “Question” (1970).
 Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “Alfie” (1966).
 Paul Simon, “I Am a Rock” (1965). Lyrics lightly altered.
 William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 5.5.
 See Luke 1:3–4.
 See Luke 23:34, 43, 46. See also Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; and John 19:30.
 Luke 23:43 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 4:18–19 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 4:21 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 19:46 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17.
 See Amos 5:24.
 See Psalm 118:23.
 See Luke 5:17–25. See also Matthew 9:1–7; Mark 2:1–12; John 5:1–9.
 See Luke 18:35–43. See also Matthew 9:27–31; 20:29–34; Mark 10:46–52; John 9:6–7.
 See Luke 19:1–10.
 See Isaiah 11:6.
 Luke 9:23 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34.
 Philippians 2:10–11 (NIV 1984).
 Matthew 22:44 (NIV 1984).
 Jarrod Cooper, “King of Kings” (1996). Lyrics lightly altered.
 See Luke 24:32.
 Psalm 22:1 (NIV 1984).
 Psalm 22:17 (paraphrased).
 Psalm 22:16 (paraphrased).
 Acts 9:5 (NIV 1984).
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.