Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Were Necessary!
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In one of the Old Testament’s most beautiful prophecies, Job recognized that the Promised Christ, his Redeemer, would arise from the dead and live so that all who die might one day also live to see Him and abide with Him!
The two men on the way to Emmaus failed to understand the true nature of Christ and His kingdom. He and it did not seem to conform to their expectations. Christ’s resurrection, as foretold in the Scriptures, clarified everything for them, as it does for us!
Jesus appeared to His disciples that first Easter evening to assure them that He was alive. He had them touch Him. He ate food in front of them. Our faith rests not upon a phantom spirit, but rather upon a risen Lord and Savior—the Son of the living God!
Text: Luke 24:44-45
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
In Christ Jesus, whose love compelled Him, even as it now compels us, dear lovers of our resurrected Lord:
Jesus’ death had dismayed them, disheartened them, and caused them to be completely distraught. Their distress was evident in the way that Cleopas and his friend walked, talked, and looked on that first Easter afternoon as they traveled towards Emmaus. That is why Jesus had asked them: “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” [Luke 24:17] You see, all of their hopes and dreams seemed to have been dashed three days before when Jesus of Nazareth—the man they considered to be a prophet and the one upon whom they had depended to restore Jewish national power—had been in quick succession arrested, tried, convicted, crucified, and then died. How could He have possibly been who they thought He might be? After all—a dead prophet is no prophet, and a dead king is no king!
Jesus, however, had responded to their skeptical despair: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” [Luke 24:25-26] “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things”—those words mirror Jesus’ words from our text: “All things must be fulfilled!” Jesus’ death was not a mistake, a bad break, or a most unfortunate coincidence. Rather, JESUS’ DEATH AND His subsequent RESURRECTION WERE NECESSARY! They were, first of all, absolutely necessary to fulfill everything that the Holy Spirit had caused to be written in the Old Testament Scriptures,identified here by Luke as “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” and they are absolutely necessary, secondly, for us to understand and comprehend our eternal salvation!
God’s Word (the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments) speaks to every significant issue of life and of human existence in this world and after we leave this world. The Scriptures reveal that we are special beings created by God—beings with immortal souls. We are not the result of unthinking forces of this natural world—objects destined to live for a brief time and then cease to exist. That thought strips man of both eternal value and divine purpose.
The Scriptures reveal the one, true God to be the LORD of heaven and earth [cf. Isaiah 44:6]. He is not an impersonal force, nor is He a god who got things started and then departed for realms unknown. Rather, He is the eternal “I AM” God [cf. Exodus 3:14]. He is “the First” and He is “the Last”[cf. Isaiah 44:6]. He is the God of history, who “appointed the ancient people(s)” and who is in ultimate control of all “things coming and (that) shall come” [cf. Isaiah 44:7]. He, therefore, is intimately tied to our lives. As the apostle Paul told the first century Athenians: “in Him we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17:28]. Consequently, it is ludicrous to think that we can live our lives apart from Him or independently of Him, although many people foolishly assume that to be the case! As individuals created by God, we are responsible to God and one day will stand before God to give an account [cf. Hebrews 4:13]. More on that thought in a few minutes!
The Scriptures reveal the reason for evil in this world. That evil originated within the heart of Satan, an angelic being originally created by God, but who rebelled against God [cf. Isaiah 14:12-15]. That evil, however, now resided within every human heart by nature, for our first parents rebelled against their Creator God and that rebellious nature has been imparted to every generation since simply by birth [cf. Genesis 5:3; Psalm 51:5]. The impossibility of any man dealing effectively with sin and its consequences was demonstrated already in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve refused to accept responsibility for their sin and began the “blame-game”—accusing each other and God for their own wickedness [cf. Genesis 3:12-13]. That blame game continues to the present!
It was at that point, after the initial rebellion of our first parents, that God revealed His plan for our rescue from sin and its consequence: death. In Genesis 3:15 God announced that He would send a champion—the Seed of the woman to overcome Satan and undo his wicked works. He would crush Satan, while enduring great, albeit temporal, pain Himself. So began a series of Old Testament prophecies that predicted that a Savior would come. He would come not merely as “a” prophet, as suggested by Cleopas, but rather as “the” prophet announced by Moses—the One to whom Moses said they should listen [cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-19]. He would be “Immanuel” [cf. Isaiah 7:14], God with us—who would sit “upon the throne of David…to order it and establish it with judgment and justice…forever” [Isaiah 9:7], while at the same time He would be the LORD’s suffering “Servant” [cf. Isaiah 52:13], who would be “wounded for our transgression…(and) bruised for our iniquities” [Isaiah 53:5]. The Scriptures prophesied that He would die: “Who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death” [Isaiah 53:8-9a]. But the Scriptures also prophecy, as our opening reading this morning reveals, that the grave could not contain Jesus. The LORD would not allow His Savior—the Promised Christ “to see corruption,” but rather would “show(Him) the path of life” [cf. Psalm 16:9-11], which is a clear reference to the resurrection. My dear friends, JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION WERE NECESSARY to fulfill everything that the Holy Spirit had caused to be written in the Old Testament Scriptures, just as Jesus testifies in our text. God cannot lie and did not lie!
Jesus’ death and resurrection are absolutely necessary, secondly, for us to understand and comprehend our eternal salvation! I mentioned earlier that we are responsible to God as His created beings and will one day stand before His throne of judgment. Are you ready to give an account before God who sees all and knows all? Were it not for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that thought would be terrifying! The thought of our souls being bared before our fellow human beings frightens most of us. Would we really want our husbands or wives, our children or parents, our bosses or employees, or even our best friends to know our every thought, to hear our every word, or to be aware of our every deed? I think not, because every last one of us has and must confess to a multitude of sins. If we fear the reactions of our fellow sinners to our many sins, how much more reason to fear the judgment of a holy God! He has informed us, after all, that “the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23a].
“But,” in view of Jesus’ death and resurrection the apostle Paul goes on to inform us, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 6:23b]. Jesus’ died as our Substitute. He took our place on the cross. He left the just accusations of sin made against us nailed to that cross, having paid the penalty for us [cf. Colossians 2:14]. God assures us that He has accepted Jesus’ work on our behalf through the resurrection. Paul tells us first in Romans 1, “Jesus Christ our Lord…was…declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” [Verses 3-4]. He then goes on to tell us in Romans 4, “Jesus…was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised for our justification” [Verses 24-25]. God has declared us righteous because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We are saved by God’s grace through faith—it is His gift to us for Jesus’ sake! [cf. Ephesians 2:8-9]
My dear friends, it is this message, trumpeted by the empty tomb of Easter, that we are to share with others wherever and whenever we have an opportunity. It is this message which spells the difference between life and death, joy and sorrow, hope and hopelessness! It is my prayer that your reaction and mine to this precious gospel message might ever be that of Cleopas and his friend after they recognized the Stranger who had walked with them was indeed their living Lord and Savior: “Did not our heart burn within us” as we come to understand and truly comprehend the grace of God to be found in Jesus Christ! Hallelujah and amen!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!