Yesterday I preached from Luke 24 the transforming power of the resurrection. This chapter records that familiar story of the disciples of Jesus who were walking on the road to Emmaus when their risen Savior unexpectedly showed up. What I love about the story is that these two men start out sad, perplexed, downcast and dejected but by the end, they are amazed, filled with hope and joy. The reason is because they have been confronted with an undeniable reality that seems too good to be true (thus Luke’s description that they disciples “disbelieved for joy” (v. 41).
This new reality broke into their lives not through empirical research but through the miracle of resurrection. A dead man showed up and that changed everything.
Sometimes skeptics dismiss the resurrection of Christ merely on the basis of their presuppositions. Rudolph Bultmann, the most influential NT scholar of the 20th century, typifies this kind of thinking when he writes, “It is impossible to use electric light and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries and at the same time believe in the New Testament world of demons and spirits.”
If you intractably assume that a dead man cannot be raised never to die again then it is easy to dismiss the resurrection of Christ as “impossible.” But, if you follow the evidence presented by the careful research (1 Corinthians 15:1-20) and eye-witness accounts (1 John 1:1; 2 Peter 1:16-18; Acts 2:2-24) then humility demands that you at the very least must be open to possibility that it happened.
Jesus did something that enabled the two disciples on the Emmaus road, as well as his other disciples, to believe that he had indeed been raised from the dead. In fact, he did two things for them.
First, he gave them light. “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27). The two men later described this as Jesus opening the Scriptures to them (v. 32). No one will ever believe in the risen Christ without the testimony of the Scriptures. The Word must be made known, which is why we preach and teach it. People need to know the truth and, as Jesus said, God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).
But truth alone will not convince anyone to trust in Christ. That is why, along with light, Jesus gave these men sight. He not only opened the Scriptures to them, He opened them to the Scriptures. Verse 31 says that “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” He was with them as the risen Christ long before they recognized him. Only when their eyes were opened did they realize that the One who was teaching them Christ from all the Scriptures was himself the Christ.
Jesus did the same thing for the other disciples back in Jerusalem when he appeared to them later that night. After reminding them that his resurrection was taught in the Law and the Prophets, as well as in his own pre-crucifixion instruction to them, “then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (v. 45). Not only must the Word be made known but hearts and minds must be opened to receive it. That is why we not only preach and teach, but we also pray.
To recognize and trust the risen Christ people need both light and sight. We need both the Word and the Spirit; both light and sight. When the Spirit owns the Word with power, then those who receive it are transformed by the risen Christ.
That is what happened to the disciples on that first Lord’s Day. They encountered the risen Lord and their lives were radically transformed as they believed. That’s the way it continues to work today.
Edit: You can listen to the sermon here.