If you open your Bibles to Luke 24. Luke, chapter 24 is where we’ll begin. We’re also going to spend a little bit of time in Acts.
What do you want? What are you seeking? At least they were seeking Him. While the disciples wallowed in their grief, the women were seeking their King.
It's the darkest part of the morning, the part of the night that comes just before dawn. They step as quietly as they can down the cobblestone street. They take detours, detours around Caiaphas’ house, Herod's palace. They don't want anyone to notice where they're going. As they walk their minds are too numb to think about much. They're still in a state of emotional shock. They feel detached from this nightmare. They keep replaying over and over again the scenes. Those terrible scenes. Their only reprieve is in whispering to each other all the wonderful things that He did while He was still alive. And they keep obsessing about the stone. Who's going to roll it away? “We’re not strong enough.”
Along with their emotional numbness comes the blur of exhaustion. They haven't slept much in the past three days. Thursday night He was arrested. Friday night, He had just died, and now last night they spent preparing the spices. But their mental state cannot overcome their one desire. They want so bad to be with Him just one more time. They want to touch the One who had touched their lives so profoundly. To hold the hand that had healed their hearts. Most of all they long to give Him the burial that He deserves.
Mary Magdalene approaches the tomb from a different direction from the other women, likely from Bethany where she lived, a couple of miles away. A very easy journey in the morning. Mary had already anointed Him while He was alive, but she’s not content with that. And the same goes for Joanna, who was in the other group. Joanna and Mary helped support Jesus while He was alive. Joanna was the wife of Cusa who was actually Herod's household manager, so they had enough money to provide for His needs while He was alive, and certainly they could cover the expenses of paying to embalm Him.
There's a third woman who comes with them. She's in the group with Joanna. Her name is Mary. We're not sure, but it's likely that she is Mary, the mother of Jesus. Wouldn't you be there if you were His mother?
Soon after they leave the city gates they feel a rumble that vibrates their very core. And then they’re thrown to the ground as the earth heaves about them. They look up and they see a brilliant light shining right over the tomb. And as the ground settles they pick themselves up and they’re running and Mary reaches the tomb first. She takes just one look, and then takes off. I can imagine, she probably passes the other women on her way headed back up to where the disciples are. She probably broke the news to them and they hurry on to see what is going on.
When they reach the tomb they’re out of breath and panic stricken. What has happened to their Lord's body? Carefully they enter the tomb. As their eyes adjust they see that there is no body there. It's empty. They just stand there confused and looking, not knowing what to do. And then they hear 2 gentle voices say, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He's not here, but He is risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise again?’ Remember?” As the bright light fades it begins to dawn on them. Of course. He had said that! Why didn't they remember? What was wrong with them? He’d said it many times. Didn't anybody remember?
And now they're running back, back to the room where the disciples are. Reaching the upper room, they enter to a chaotic scene. There’s Mary. Mary’s crying. Peter and John are white and concerned. The other disciples are arguing. “What we do next?” They have to yell. The women have to yell in order to be noticed. His mother shouts above the noise. "He's alive. He's alive." The room goes silent. John and Peter look at her, concerned. “There, there now,” someone says. “You’ve had a terrible time of it. Perhaps you should get some rest.” “No, it's true,” Joanna whispers joyfully. “We saw the angels. They say that He’s alive.” And then Mary reaches for John. “John, John. He is alive. Please John. Remember. Remember how He said this would happen?” Her eyes search his. Looking for recognition, for agreement, but all she sees is pity and despair. Then Peter lets out a frustrated sob and he bolts for the door. John is right after him.
They head toward the northwest part of the city and the place of their horror. Soon Peter is running alone. John is younger and leaner. Peter is running by himself. He stumbles over the stones in the road. His mind replays his shameful deed. Even if Jesus is alive, can He possibly forgive me? As Peter reaches the tomb he's amazed at what he sees. It is empty, just as the women had said. All that is left are the linen wrappings. Stunned and confused he turns and heads back to the place where he's been staying.
You know, it's really amazing to us now, and yet, I think it's a warning to our self-sufficiency. How could those so close to Him completely miss it? How could they miss the truth? Why couldn't they even believe His own words when they were repeated back to them? Could it be, could it be that they were seeking the wrong thing?
Later that morning, a couple of His disciples decide to head back to their home in Emmaus. They had planned on returning to their home after the Passover anyway. No sense in being a burden to their brethren in their time of anxiety. These 2 are not part of the 12, or now the 11. Although they may have actually been relatives of one of the disciples. One thing is for sure, they were followers of Jesus, and they were devastated by His death. As they leave the city, they habitually turn down the path toward home. They're not really even paying attention to where they’re going. They know the way.
And they notice even less as a stranger joins up with them. "May I walk with you?" "Of course." They hardly speak as each man struggles with his own thoughts. You know, they should have recognized Him, but the Bible says that their eyes were restrained so that they did not know Him. As they grow comfortable with the Stranger, they began to recall the events of that dreadful holiday. Finally, they begin talking about that extremely crazy morning. “Did you hear what Mary said?” “Yeah.” “And Joanna, and his mother. Those poor ladies. They must be in shock.” “Yes. And his mother. Bless her heart. What a loss.”
And the Stranger's voice reminds them of His presence. "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another, as you walk and are sad?" They’re shocked. “Are you the only stranger in town, in Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which have happened there in these days?” “What things?” “What things?!” Had this Man missed the Passover? Where had He been? How could He possibly not know. “Why, the things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people. And how our priests and rulers crucified Him after condemning Him to death. But we were hoping that He would be the one to deliver Israel. And besides that, this is the third day since all these things took place and now some of our women came running to us saying that they'd seen angels, who said He was alive. And some of us went to the tomb and found it empty, just as they said. But they did not see Him.”
As they continue to walk the 2 hang their heads. They're not expecting a reply. They just thought He ought to know. “You foolish people, and so slow to believe the prophets. Wasn't the Christ supposed to suffer these things, and then enter into His glory?” At that moment the Sun of Righteousness begins to shine. Listening intently, the 2 feel their hopes rise as their companion quotes the Scriptures. Familiar passages burst with new light as they're applied to their Lord. The Messiah was supposed to suffer. Could it be? Could they possibly have hope? And as the sun arcs down toward the great sea they find themselves nearing home. They pause as their Friend finishes His thoughts and then as they turn up the garden path toward home, the Stranger makes as if He's going to continue on. “Wait. No, please, stay with us.”
Supper is simple. You know it's the feast of unleavened bread, so they had leftovers. After everyone is seated, they hand the bread to their Guest and then He does something they will never forget. Slowly, methodically, He breaks the bread. That's interesting. He does that. just. like--and at that moment the man stretches out His hands for the blessing. They both start back in astonishment. They stare at the gaping holes in His wrists and then for the first time they look into His eyes. Those eyes. Those eyes! And then their eyes were opened, and now He's gone.
Moments later, they're racing back up the way they'd come. Back up the ridge trail, 18 miles, back to Jerusalem. Back to the disciples.
“He is alive. He’s risen. He is the Messiah.” They shout to each other and to the hills, and though they cannot see Him, He's there. Carefully He protects every fall, every step. Every time they go off the path. His presence is lost on them but like never before, they found Him.
Reaching Jerusalem, they have to pass just west and then south of the cross, of where the cross had been, and His now empty tomb. How they praise God at what those places now mean. Hurrying on, they rush past Herod’s palace and Caiaphas’ mansion. They wonder what these rulers will think when they find out. Soon they're climbing up the stairs to the upper room and pounding on the door. “Let us in. Let us in.” But there they’re met with a surprise of their own. They didn't even get a chance to speak. “The Lord is really risen and has appeared to Simon,” someone shouts. But before the others are done, they grab them and say, “He appeared to us, too. We recognized Him when He broke the bread. We walked with Him all the way to our home and at first we didn't know Him. All along the way He explained the prophecies. He’s supposed to suffer.”
“Peace be to you.” And at this point, the disciples don't have the desired reaction. Instead of being joyful, they freeze. They're terrified. It's one thing to talk about Him being alive, but He just suddenly appeared in the room. What is this? A ghost? “Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I, Myself. Touch Me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” They hold their breath as He shows them the scars on His wrists and His ankles. The scars are fresh and red as if they're still tender. But they still can't believe it. Some are holding onto His hands and crying. Others are shouting, “Hallal, hallal,” which means, “Praise, praise.” Others are looking from His face to His hands and back to His face again and saying, “I just can't believe it.” Finally He sits down and says, “Well, do you have anything to eat?” They start to laugh. It is Him. He’s as hungry as ever. Someone finds a piece of cooked fish and hands it to Him.
It seems strange to us now. Again, why didn't the disciples recognize Him? Why weren't they prepared for this? Why weren’t they hoping for Him to rise again? He had even predicted how long He was going to be in the grave. The priests and Pharisees remembered that. Why were the disciples caught by surprise?
I think the answer comes to us as the story continues in the book of Acts. You know that Luke and Acts are really almost like one book. They’re companion volumes. And if you want to turn to Acts, chapter 1. You know that Luke is really the most prolific writer in the New Testament? I thought it was Paul, but it's Luke. He wrote, apparently, about 25 percent, one quarter of the New Testament when you combine these two books together.
So in chapter 1 in Luke, the disciples asked an interesting question. “Lord, is it at this time You're restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus has been spending time with His disciples and He's trying to show that He is alive and that He is the promised Messiah. But what's wrong with them? Don't they get it? Are they still looking for Him to overthrow the Romans? Didn't His death prove that He wasn't what they thought He was about? And His answer, I think, helps us understand what they were missing. He says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” It's as if he's saying, stop worrying about the kingdom. Start seeking the Holy Spirit and a connection with Me.
And then we remember what He has spent most of His time doing after the resurrection. Explaining from the Scriptures about Himself. Jesus was working hard to help the disciples know the real Him. And this is what the disciples were missing. They were missing a desire to know their King. Sure, they loved Him. Who wouldn't? Well, I guess there's a lot that didn't. But their hopes were set on His kingdom, not on Him.
Why were they surprised by His death and resurrection? The answer is, they were seeking the kingdom more than the King. The disciples were caught off guard because they wanted a kingdom more than a King. They wanted Him to take His throne, not their hearts. They wanted Him to crush the Romans, not their pride. They wanted Him to heal armies, not their souls. They wanted a kingdom more than they wanted a King.
Unfortunately, they are a lot like me. How about you? Have you ever done this? Have you ever found yourself so consumed with the second coming that you forget Who's coming? Have you ever studied Revelation so much that you forget to pray? I have done that. You know, I think we Adventists are not far from where the disciples were, at times. You know, it's a mistake to think that the Jews were just ignorant. They knew the prophecies. The problem was, was that they focused far too much on just one part of the prophecies. They were concerned with the coming kingdom, but not so much with what the King was going to be like. They forgot to focus on the parts that talked about His suffering. They neglected to notice that He would be a sufferer before He was a sovereign. They totally missed that He would be the Lamb of God.
I'm afraid that many of us are headed down the same path. How come we don't understand those things now? But I think that we can be so consumed about His second coming that we forget about Him. I think it'd be a real pity if, when Jesus comes, we don't recognize Him. Just like the disciples.
Let's take this a little deeper. You know, the main thing that the disciples missed about Jesus was that He was a sufferer. That His lot included suffering and that He would have to suffer before He took the crown. Now I realize that we recognize that before He comes we’re going to suffer. We'll go through the time of trouble, right? But I don't know about you, but I'm more than happy to let that be then. Ok? Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. Right? I want to have as much happiness and peace and trouble-free life as long as possible until that day. That's me. I find that I struggle to sacrifice for the good of others. I struggle to give up my pet pleasures. My leisure.
We want the crown, but not the cross. We want the reward, but not the labor. We want the paycheck, not the job. We want the privilege and not the pain. Which I suppose is only human. Even Jesus pleaded with His Father to spare Him from the cross. And yet, He did go through with it. And He's calling us to follow Him. And the only way we can ever do it is if we’re fully seeking Him, and if we’re seeking Him before everything else.
Seek your King. Get it? That's the main point. Seek your King. Stop seeking the crown. Stop seeking pleasure. Stop seeking the kingdom above the King. Seek your King.
And now Jesus is in Jerusalem once again. Another feast is drawing near. It will soon be Pentecost. This is the feast that celebrates the wheat harvest. Takes place 50 days after the Sabbath that falls during Passover. Incidentally, it's also the day when God burned like fire on Mount Sinai and when He handed the 10 Commandments to Moses. When the mountain shook. And now, very soon, God will burn again, but this time in their hearts. And He'll write His commandments, His law, on their hearts, instead of in stone. Instead of shaking the mountain, He's going to shake the world.
And a strange sight can be seen that day. A Man who was supposed to be dead is walking down the trail through the Kidron Valley, which is the little valley there in front of the walls of Jerusalem, and He's surrounded by a few of His followers. His closest friends. These friends who should've been crying and gloomy and sad, but instead they're filled with joy and laughing. And as Jesus leads them up the mountain they pause a moment as they near Gesthemane. Mrs. White talks about this. All around they can see reminders of His sacrifice. There is the very vine that He spoke of when He used it to describe the connection He was to have with them. There's the rock where His sweat and blood dropped. There’s the place where the disciples slept. I can imagine the regret that they feel thinking of how they ran away. If only they’d been seeking Him before His kingdom.
They continue on. It's not a long hike. Just a couple of miles. Soon they’re at the top of the Mount of Olives. I can imagine they look back one more time as Jesus looks out over His beloved city. And then they continue on across the summit toward Bethany. And they pause. It's as if it’s just a moment of rest. A pause in their journey. And then He turns and begins saying kind and tender words to each one of them. And as He speaks His face begins to glow with the light of heaven and He begins to rise. Slowly at first, and then faster and faster. The disciples are looking up, enraptured. And as He disappears into the clouds, they hear His voice calling down to them. “Lo, I am with you always. Even unto the end of the world.”
10 days later, the two Jerusalems are bustling. The earthly Jerusalem is in full holiday mode. The women are preparing great food for the feast. The men are out buying supplies. The children are getting lost in the crowds.
And the heavenly Jerusalem is getting ready for a holiday too. It's the greatest celebration she has seen yet. They are about to receive their long-lost King. The eastern sky is filled with travelers. Ancient beings from the universe beyond, coming to welcome their King. All of them longing to see the One whose hands formed and shaped them. And now they're all gathered. Happily they crowd the walls of the city, waiting for that moment, that first moment, when they can see Him. Suddenly a shout goes up. “Behold, He comes.” All eyes search the eastern sky. “Yes, there it is. There's the cloud. There He is! It's Him!”
We read The Desire of Ages, how she describes it. “And as they draw near to the city of God, the challenge is given by the escorting Angels. ‘Lift up your heads, oh ye gates and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors and the King of glory shall come in.’ Joyfully the waiting sentinels respond. ‘Who is this King of glory?’ This they say, not because they know not who He is but because they would hear the answer of exalted praise. ‘The Lord, strong and mighty. The Lord, mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, oh ye gates. Even lift them up ye everlasting doors and the King of glory shall come in.’ Again is heard the challenge. ‘Who is this King of glory?’ For the Angels never weary of hearing His name exalted. ‘The Lord of hosts. He is the King of glory.’ And the portals of the city of God are open wide and the angelic throng sweep through the gates amid a burst of rapturous music.’
And as Jesus approaches His Father's throne, the sons of God and the angels rush forward to worship Him. But He holds them back. Not yet. He must not yet accept the crown. He must first make sure that His sacrifice is accepted. He steps up to His Father's throne looking intently into His eyes, and begins to point to His hands and His feet and His side and the scars on His head. And then He points to those who He’s brought with Him. The saints of old who were raised with Him when He came up out of the grave. And then passionately He says, “Father, it is finished. I have done Thy will, oh my God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.”
The voice of God thunders throughout heaven. He joyfully proclaims that Satan has been conquered. His tired and weary saints on earth are accepted as if part of the kingdom already. They are declared just before God. They stand where Jesus stands. His righteousness is theirs.
Then the Father and the Son can hold back no longer. They step forward into a fierce embrace. The Angels see tears streaming down the Father's beard and onto the Son’s robe. Then they both pull back and place their hands on each other's shoulders, and now they’re laughing and then crying and laughing again. And the Father shouts, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
And as the music and praise reach its highest pitch, something amazing begins to happen. The wind begins to blow around and around the Father and the Son. (This is my imagination. Yes, it is.) Soon They're almost wrapped in a tornado as They laugh and shout for joy. Then the Father looks at the Son and He says, “It's time.”
And the Son looks out as if He's looking at the Wind, and He says, “Go, My beloved, go!” And then the Wind is off, and as He departs you can hear Him call out, “Come, come, all ye who are thirsty. Come!” The Wind blows out of the throne room and down the empty city streets, out of the gates, out into the atmosphere of heaven, into the eastern sky and then out to the stars and beyond, faster and faster and faster. Faster than a million times the speed of light, the Wind blows.
Back home in old Jerusalem, the disciples are waiting. They have been praying all these days, these 10 days. They are praying to Jesus, Who is their Friend, Who is standing at the throne for them. Suddenly there comes from heaven a noise like a violent rushing Wind, and it fills the whole house where they are sitting, and there appear to them tongues as of Fire distributing themselves and they rest on each of them, and they are all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues. Jesus is now closer to His disciples than ever before, because now, by His Spirit, He lives in them, not just with them as He walks the roads of earth.
His kingdom is truly here. He reigns within their hearts. They have sought Him more than His kingdom and now they have both. And they will wait patiently until His kingdom will reign fully in heaven and on earth.
And so here we stand, you and I, just on the brink of that time. On the very brink of events that are too amazing to even imagine. And as we march forward toward that time, let us not forget the lesson that the disciples learned so long ago. Let's remember to seek the King far and above the kingdom, for when we do we’ll get both. Seek your King.
Let's sing our closing hymn.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, to the King of kings, the Lord of lords. Lord, we just praise You, we worship You, we long to practice this sermon, I do. Help us to put our focus on You more than Your kingdom. To trust that we’ll receive that too. In Jesus name, amen.
Hymn of Praise: #167, Alleluia! Sing to Jesus! Scripture: Luke 24:1-9 Hymn of Response: #166, Christ the Lord is Risen Today
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 5/6/09.