We love stories with a great hero and a great villain. On Easter weekend of 2016, it was interesting that the movie Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice released. It provided a great illustration that, though we love a good good versus evil story, we actually have a hard time telling one. Our heroes always have a character flaw. But not so with the Easter story. In it, the true and better hero arrives. There’s just one problem: he died. Let’s look into Luke 24 and find out a bit more about Jesus death and resurrection.
Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
The disciples knew that Jesus died. Many of them had witnessed it. It was common knowledge around Jerusalem. His death is one of the most undisputed facts in human history. In Luke 24:13-16, two of Jesus’ followers had left Jerusalem and were walking to the village of Emmaus. Along the way, they were arguing about the nature of Jesus’ death and the reports of the empty tomb. The resurrected Christ joined them but they did not recognize Him. In verses 17-21, Jesus asked what they were arguing about and they told Him of the reports they heard.
Why Jesus died is not a mystery to us. The Bible is quite clear about its reasons. He gave His life as a ransom (Matthew 20:28). His death was to absorb the wrath of God against sin (1 John 4:10). He died so we might be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10). But can it be true that Jesus was raised from the dead? In 1 Corinthians 15:17-19, the apostle Paul explained that if Jesus is not raised from the dead then Christians are the most miserable of all people.
But He is risen from the dead. Christianity is the most populous religion in the world and its leader’s body cannot be found. The Roman Empire would have paraded his body around to prove His death… but they could not. Witnesses testify to it. Many of them died for their testimony. The mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal reportedly said: “I believe the witnesses who get their throats cut.” There is simply no compelling evidence that leads us away from the resurrection. So, if I have to choose a side, and I do, I’m going with the one who gets up from the dead.
What Does the Resurrection Mean?
The two disciples on the Emmaus Road had hoped that Jesus would restore nationalistic prominence to Israel. Jesus had more in mind. He does want His glory among the nations. God does want His people to be distinct against the empires of the world. But He is interested in redeeming people, not nations. In Jesus’ resurrection, He is offering you forgiveness and a right relationship between you and Himself.
In the comic book hero show Daredevil, the main character is Matt Murdock, a blind vigilante with the ability to sense everything around him who has been trained to fight like a ninja. In one scene, Matt attends a funeral and then privately talks with a priest afterward. He has early told the priest about his alter-ego and questions him about the guilt that he still feels. After defeating so many villains and doing so much good, why does Matt still feel guilty. The priest replied, “Guilt can be a good thing. The soul’s call to action. An indication that your work is not yet finished.”
It is a painfully true statement. We feel guilt when we’ve not embraced Jesus’ payment for our sin. When we are still working to erase the debt in our ledger book of sins against a holy God, our work will never be finished. Not in a thousand eternities can we work away the guilt. But since He is raised from the dead, He has the power to give life and forgive sins. The resurrection means that you no longer have to carry guilt, shame, regret, and the payment for sin.
The Whole Bible is About One Idea
Jesus took these two disciples on a whirlwind tour of the Bible from Moses through the prophets (verses 25-27). He helped them to understand that the whole Bible is about one central thing: Himself. From the beginning, God was working to redeem people and would send the Savior to do the work necessary for our salvation. The Bible hangs together with this one theme that God sends a Savior.
The two disciples are so overwhelmed by this message that they beg Him to stay with them. They wanted more. When Jesus breaks bread for their dinner, they finally recognize Him. At that, He disappears. It is so they will now act on what they know to be true. Their response is to speak of how their hearts were ablaze when Jesus was explaining everything to them (verse 32). Then, they got up and headed right back to Jerusalem. They were compelled to do something about this message of redemption. They traveled back to Jerusalem at night, when bandits roamed the land, to confirm Jesus’ resurrection to the other disciples.
When we encounter Jesus, sitting around with your feet propped up is no longer an option. John Stott wrote in The Radical Disciple, “Christianity is a rescue religion. It declares that God has taken the initiative in Jesus Christ to rescue us from our sins.” It was time for these two men and its time for us to join Jesus in His rescue mission for those around us and the rest of the world.