Preparing For Christmas (Part 4)…
Though Christmas was over a month ago, it is never too late to celebrate God becoming human to die in our place!
To continue celebrating Christmas after the egg-nog has run out and the merchandise sales have ended, let’s dig into Luke 24:13-47.
Now you might be thinking, “Hmm. Why are we reading a Bible passage that occurred right after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead? This post is supposed to be about Christmas! Does this guy think it’s Easter?” 🙂
- As we have been preparing for Christmas over the four Sundays last December, we have been looking at the ways that Christmas is directly connected to Good Friday (when Jesus was crucified) and Easter (when Jesus rose again from the dead). To get the full, Biblical perspective on Christmas, we have to remind ourselves of this connection, and our first passage in Luke this evening reminds us of this, that Jesus was born in order to die…
- But this passage in Luke also highlights what will be the main point of the sermon tonight—how Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection were planned by God the Father since the beginning of the Bible (and before!) and how the entire Old Testament points to the fact that eventually, in God’s perfect timing, God would send His Son to earth to be born as a full human (though without sin) while remaining fully God in order to die in our place, the death that we deserve. Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are the hub/center around which the entire Bible rotates, the center toward which all the spokes of the Bible point. Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are not just three events among many in the Bible; they are the foundational and central events of the Bible, the main attraction!
Luke 24:13-47 (NIV)
(God’s Word in italics, my words in regular font)
On the Road to Emmaus
“13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
[Jesus shows up in our Bible studies, though we might not realize it!
Meet regularly to dig into the Word & discuss Who Jesus is & all He has done!]
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “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. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 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.
[We had hoped…we thought Jesus would do things our way…we thought He would make OUR dreams come true…that hasn’t happened, and so we are sad, discouraged, lost, uncertain, hurting, and confused. We are ready to give up…
We had hoped since following Jesus that He would heal our marriage, or bless us to GET married! But that hasn’t happened…and it has been so many days since I began following Jesus.
We had hoped that Jesus would increase our finances but the bills keep piling up…
We had hoped that Jesus would heal our loved ones, but they are getting worse or have already died.
We had hoped that Jesus would make life easier, but it seems to only be getting more difficult…
We had hoped…
Loved ones, my heart weeps and breaks for all of the unrealized hopes represented here…truly…
But let us bow down at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus with no agenda other than knowing Him, chasing no dreams other than His dreams, with no expectation other than HIS will being done, receiving Him as our Savior on HIS terms, not ours, according to His purposes and promises not our cares and conditions, according to His method not ours. Let us bow down by faith and worship Jesus as the wise men did, offering Him not our gold but our guilt, not our frankinscense but our failure, not our myrhh but our mess…]
22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
[Jesus lovingly but firmly diagnoses correctly the root of the men’s discouragement:
their lack of faith in all that God has revealed in His Word!
But Jesus doesn’t just leave them feeling guilty, He doesn’t just walk away from them shaking His head at their lack of faith…He stays with them and patiently/lovingly/Truthfully shows them in the Bible, from the beginning to the end, how all of the Bible points to Him! Deep, verse-by-verse Bible study with Jesus is the Doctor’s cure for the men’s lack of faith and thus the cure for their confusion, sadness, discouragement, hopelessness, etc.
Why do we think Jesus would prescribe a difference cure for our discouragement in the 21st century?
“But I don’t have time,” you might be thinking. YOU DO, you just might not realize it yet. Jesus taught the men AS THEY WERE TRAVELLING, as they were going to their houses/village/families. They didn’t retreat from the world for five years to a monastery to study the Bible, Jesus taught them as they learned to focus on Him as they were living their lives! Now of course this means that they probably bypassed some of the exit ramps and attractions and marketplaces along the road they were traveling—and we will have to learn also to turn down the volume of the culture in order to hear the voice of Christ. They couldn’t do ALL of their normal activities AND listen to Jesus! But they had time to dig deeply into the Bible in an era without ANY of the time-saving conveniences of modern life. They had LESS time than we do but still time for what mattered most! Cut out t.v. and movies and social media for seven days and watch how much time you have to listen to Jesus…]
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
[When they arrived to their destination they didn’t thank Jesus and politely ask Him to now leave them alone! They continued on with their life but with new priorities, with new purpose, and under the direct control of Jesus! They rearranged their schedules by asking Jesus to stay with them, to keep teaching them, to befriend them and eat with them and live with them! Jesus wasn’t a hobby, He became the guest and Master of their house!]
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
[Oh loved ones, we often don’t give the Holy Spirit a chance to dry out the wet wood of our hearts and light a fire within us through God’s Word! I’m not saying that every time you read the Bible your heart will blaze and burn with the power and love and Truth of Jesus—let’s not chase a feeling or physical experience from Jesus…that is idolatry. But isn’t it worth reading the Bible deeply and regularly and prayerfully over our lives because of the distinct possibility of Jesus setting our cold hearts on fire!? We work SO HARD to lose a few pounds or win our fantasy football league…why not transfer that energy to work hard with the Holy Spirit so He can ignite a fire in our hearts for Christ!]
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
[Digging deeply into Scripture with Jesus birthed faith in these men—they now believed that the resurrection was TRUE! Do you read the Bible trying to disprove it or allowing Jesus to prove it to you? Are you waiting to read the Bible until you have faith or are you reading it asking Jesus to use it to give you faith?]
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
[Many say, “I would believe in Jesus if He would just appear to me so that I could see Him with my eyes!” Well, He DID appear to people and they still doubted, they still had trouble believing!!! Look at His followers in the verses above–they saw Jesus and their immediate response was DOUBT! Most of the people who physically saw Jesus and His miracles did not believe, at least not in a sense of being forgiven, saved, surrendered, re-born. Remember, the demons BELIEVE, but they shudder.
Even if you could see Jesus, you would still need to surrender, submit, agree with Him that you need Him to forgive you, re-birth you, and adopt you, you still would need to tap-out and allow Jesus to be victorious OVER you so that you could be victorious THROUGH Him. This is so difficult for us prideful humans—myself included!—whether we see Jesus physically or not. The issue isn’t if Jesus is real…the real issue is if we will relinquish the facade of control over our earthly and eternal lives…]
44 He said to them, “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.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
[Oh loved ones, the entire Bible points to Jesus—to Christmas, to Good Friday, and to Easter! ASK HIM, urge Him strongly as the two men did, beg Him to open your minds so that you can see the Truth of all that the Bible says, plead with Him to give you faith to agree with Him of your sinfulness and of your need for Him to be Savior, receive His gift of forgiveness and adoption and new life. Give Him all you have—the out-of-tune drum of your soul and life and allow Him to play His song through you…]
Let’s look at just a few of the ways that the Old Testament points to Jesus, points to Christmas, Good Friday and Easter…
Genesis 3:14-15 (NIV):
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
All the way back to the beginning of the Bible, God revealed that He would send His Son as one of the offspring of Eve Who would crush the head of the devil, defeating him and evil and even death itself! Adam & Eve got themselves and all humans into this mess but God would not leave them to try to get out of it—He would clean up the mess through birth, death and return to life of His only begotten Son. The cross would seem like a victory for the devil—the devil would strike Jesus’ heal wounding Him—but the tomb is empty and thus the cross is not the victory of the devil but his defeat. The entire Bible points to Jesus!
Genesis 3:21 (NIV):
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Just a few verses later, God the Father points ahead to sacrificing His Son for the sins of all who will receive Him when He killed an innocent animal in order to provide clothing for Adam & Eve to cover their newfound shame. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was born in order to die and to cover our shame with the clothing of His righteousness, to cover our sin with the clothing of His sacrifice, to cover our brokenness with the clothing of His blood. The entire Bible points to Jesus!
Genesis 22:1-2,7-8,12-14 (NIV):
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you…
…Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together…
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
[This sounds horrific to us, but we must see it in two important ways:
- That God only meant it as a test for Abraham to see if he had allowed his love for his only son to eclipse his love for the only God. God never meant (and didn’t allow!) Abraham to go through with it.
- That God showed that while He DIDN’T allow Abraham to go through with it and sacrifice his only son, God in the future WOULD AND DID go through with it and sacrifice HIS only Son, Jesus. Amazing grace…staggering…
Interestingly, Jesus was crucified very near this spot where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. God truly did provide the Lamb for the sacrifice…His only Son, Jesus…
Loved ones, do you see how the whole Bible points to Jesus?
Do you see how Christmas is NOT boring, is not a holy re-run,
Is THE powerful display of the love & justice of God?]
Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV):
4 “They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[a] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Now this might seem like an obscure/strange reference to Jesus in the Old Testament, but Jesus connects it with Himself in John 3! Right before John 3:16—possibly the most recognized verse in the Bible—Jesus connects His birth and upcoming death and return to life with this account in Numbers 21 of dying people looking to the pole for healing and life. .
As one writer stated, “The people who looked in faith to the snake on the pole in Numbers were agreeing with God’s diagnosis of their problem and looking to God’s way of providing the cure. We do the same when we look to Jesus and His work on the Cross to forgive us of our sins.” https://understandingbooksbible.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/why-does-a-serpent-represent-what-jesus-did-on-the-cross/
John 3:3-16 (NIV):
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again [or born from above]”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit…
…9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?…
…13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
All of the Bible points to Jesus and Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter!!!
Exodus 12:1-3,5-8,12-13 (NIV):
12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…
…5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast…
… 12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
Loved ones, Jesus was crucified the day before Passover in the early 30’s A.D. This first Passover in Exodus 12—and the “passing over” of God’s judgment through the angel of death for the houses that had the blood of an innocent lamb on its doorframes—directly points to Jesus and the Truth that all who claim His blood over their sins will be “passed over” at God’s Judgment at the end of the world.
The entire Bible points to Jesus and Christmas and Good Friday and Easter!
This is ANYTHING but a boring re-run…]
Oh loved ones, may tonight not be just an intellectual exercise, only a stretching of the mind.
Christmas requires a response.
What will you do with this Truth about Jesus and Christmas, about Jesus being born to die…for YOU?
Will you receive Jesus…or reject Jesus?
Hebrews 2:1-4 (NIV):
Warning to Pay Attention
2 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Let’s close with this passage…
John 20:24-31 (NIV):
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
May we celebrate Christmas by believing in & receiving Jesus Christ as Savior & King,
That He was born to die…
May we celebrate Christmas by surrendering to Him
our very sins, our very souls, through simple, child-like faith,
And so have life in His name, full life that lasts forever…
Blessed are those who have NOT seen and STILL believe… 🙂