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Third Sunday of Easter


[Luke 24:44-46] …Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead…”

 

Fulfilling the Scriptures

One way to lift ourselves up is to bring others down, right? Of course, we learn that it never really works. Yet, there are ways in which we do it to the Lord our God.

To lift up our own reason or opinions – our own way of thinking – decisions we’ve made or actions we would like to take – to a higher rung of the ladder, we are tempted to bring the Scriptures, God’s Word, to a lower place than where they belong.  

For some, the motive is to cling to traditions or what we’re familiar with. For others, it’s to avoid Scripture’s moral commandments. Others struggle with the severity of God’s judgment as expressed in Scripture. And yet others struggle with the generosity of the Gospel’s free forgiveness as expressed in Scripture.  

And, we might remember in the Easter season, that for many individuals, it’s those big, miraculous things in Scripture – like the six-day creation in Genesis – or the flood – or Jonah swallowed by the fish – or the virgin birth of Jesus – His many miracles – or, His bodily resurrection from the dead on Easter – that are hard to believe, and we are tempted to bring the Scriptures lower.

In various ways, to lift up our life-decisions, our opinions, our ways of thinking, or our human reason to a higher rung on the ladder, we are tempted to put Scripture, the Bible, lower than where it belongs.

Why bring this up on the Third Sunday of Easter? Because in our Gospel reading today, the risen, living, resurrected Jesus Himself points to the Scriptures in regard to His resurrection.

As the Church, we can look to the perfect Man, the risen, living Jesus Christ, to see at what great height He holds the Scriptures – and, therefore, at what great height we ought to hold them.  

On the evening of His resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples. He shows them His hands and feet. They handle Him to see that He is flesh and bone. At first, they doubt for fear. Then, they disbelieve for joy.

But Jesus tells them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me – “Scripture” means “the writings” – in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms – a way of referring to the Old Testament Scriptures – must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead…”

At what height does the risen Shepherd of the Church hold Scripture? In reference to His resurrection from the dead, Jesus tells His disciples, “I was fulfilling Scripture.” Jesus, risen from the dead, stands in front of His disciples and points to Scripture, saying, “There I am.”

Jesus then opens their minds to understand the Scriptures. With their minds opened to the Scriptures, then they can understand what they’re looking at in front of them on Easter.

Scripture is held at the highest heights on the day of His resurrection, and Jesus tells His disciples that it was necessary for Him to fulfill them.

In fact, from His conception to the events surrounding His birth – to His preaching and miracles – to the details of His humiliation, suffering, and death – and to His bodily resurrection from the dead – it is repeated again and again, throughout the four Gospels, that He did these things – and that these things happened – in order to fulfill the Scriptures.

The Scriptures had to be fulfilled – they had to be kept and accomplished – because they are God’s Word. Jesus came to do the will of His Father in Heaven, and has done it completely.

Jesus said of the Scriptures, “Scripture cannot be broken [John 10:35]. The apostle Paul said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God [2 Timothy 3:16]. The apostle Peter said, regarding the authorship of Scripture, that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:20-21].

(And in the time of the apostles, they were already regarding the New Testament writings as Scripture – 1 Timothy 5:18; Luke 10:7; 2 Peter 3:16.)

Scripture is the Word of God. And Scripture, all throughout, is about Jesus – “everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms…”

More amazing still, the Bible is God’s Word written – and Jesus Himself is God’s Word made flesh [John 1:1-14]. That’s a mystery beyond understanding. But a lower view of God’s Word in Scripture leads to a lower view of God’s Word altogether, even in the person of Jesus.

What does all this mean? Does it mean we throw out every proper use of human reason? Does it mean we throw out all human observation and thought as worthless? Of course not.

But it does mean we rejoice that in Scripture we have something that is more and greater than everything else. Greater than all other words. Truer than all other knowledge.

The Scriptures are true and reliable in every respect. If they’re not, then we have no reliable record of a single word of Jesus either. But if Jesus is true, then Scripture is also true – because the risen Jesus pointed to the Scriptures to show us Himself.

Every person has very basic questions that need to be answered: “What am I?” “Where did I come from?” “What am I worth?” “I know certain things are wrong and certain things are right, but what is it based on?”

“What about my wrongs, my sins?” “What can be done with those?” “Am I forgiven?”

And, “What about when I die, what happens?” “What happens to my body?”

In Scripture, you are not an animal. You are created. You are made in the image of God. You are accountable to God. You sin, and are not the person you ought to be, because we are all fallen in sin, fallen from that image.

In Scripture, you see that the Son of God, Jesus, died for you – in your place, for your wrongs. You see that He paid with His life for you. That gives you tremendous worth. It means that you are forgiven. Jesus has accomplished it.

 And you see in Scripture that your body will not end ruined in the grave. Jesus has conquered death. He is risen from the dead to never die again. He will “swallow up death forever” [Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54]. “Because I live, you also will live”, Jesus says [John 14:19].

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” [Matthew 24:35]. No matter what the struggle with faith is, we can never lift ourselves or others up by setting Scripture lower.

Instead, in the Scriptures we have that which is greater than our doubts and struggles, greater than heaven and earth. There, the risen Jesus still opens minds and hearts to know Him and all He has done for us. Amen.   

 

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