Sermon preached on Luke 24:25 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 4/1/2018 in Novato, CA.
Foolishness and the Resurrection
Okay, I couldn’t resist. Being that today is both Easter and also so-called April Fools’ Day, I decided to preach on Luke 24:25. Here Jesus rebukes two disciples to not be fools but to believe in the resurrection of the Christ! More specifically, he says these disciples were both foolish and slow of heart to believe in all that the Bible had said about Jesus. Besides this clever reference to foolishness here, this I arguably my favorite passage about the resurrection because here Jesus speaks of the resurrection in the context of all the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus basically says that the Bible is Christ-centered, and that excites me because it brings the whole Bible into focus as we study it.
So then, let’s begin in our first and main point for today to see why Jesus says these disciples were foolish and slow of heart. We’ll then come back to think about their foolishness and slowness of heart. Look at the reason given at the end of verse 25. He speaks of all that the prophets spoke about. What’s he referring to? Well, look at verse 27. It defines these prophets further by mentioning Moses as first of all the prophets, and then he equates all the prophets with the Scriptures as a whole. It makes sense for Jesus to talk about Moses first when thinking about the Scriptures, because Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Later in this chapter, we see this spoken of in a similar way in verse 44. There it speaks of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. So, what’s Jesus point here? Their foolishness and their slowness of heart had to do with what was in their Bible. They had the Old Testament and Jesus says that all those Scriptures they had spoke of Jesus. The could have and should have read and believed what was written about Jesus in them. Then they would not have been so perplexed about Jesus’ death on the cross and the reports of his resurrection.
To further clarify things here, look at verse 26. “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” What Jesus is saying is that not only did all the Scripture speak of him, but they spoke of exactly what these disciples were confused about. These Scriptures spoke about how the Messiah would have to first suffer, and then enter into his glory after that. 1 Peter 1:11 says the same thing about the Old Testament, that it spoke of Christ’s sufferings and subsequent glories. Suffering then glory. That’s what Jesus says here that the Old Testament spoke about. And then look at verse 27. Then Jesus proceeded to show them! He walked them through the Old Testament Scriptures and explained to them how they spoke of Christ’s sufferings and subsequent glories!
And indeed they do. Start for example with Moses’ testimony in Genesis 3:15. There, we have the first promise of the Christ to come, described as a future seed of the women who would confront that serpent who tempted them into sin. There that future Christ is described as being victorious over the serpent by striking the serpent’s head, while also being struck on the heel by the serpent. Right there, you have the Christ involved both in suffering and glory. What a wonderful picture of the cross, where simultaneously both Satan and the Christ are striking out at each other, with Christ being the ultimate victor. There in the beginning, we see the problem. There is an enemy of Satan, and there is the problem of our sin. From that point on in the Bible, we see those things being worked out, with the hope of the Christ to come to deal with these problems and sin and Satan.
The very next chapter in Genesis presents these same issues. When Adam and Eve in Genesis 4 first have children, Cain shows himself to really be of the serpent and strikes and kills Abel: that’s suffering. But was that the end of their hope? No, God appointed another seed of the woman and Adam and Eve could continue to hope that even after suffering, there would yet be glory when the promised one comes. Keep going in Genesis. In Genesis 12, God makes a covenant of grace with Abraham and promises of an offspring that would come that would secure blessings for Abraham and the world. Three chapters later, God confirms this covenant with a mysterious ceremony of a fire pot and slain animals, suggesting that God was guaranteeing the covenant at his own sacrifice. Obviously, Abraham believed that, because in Genesis 22, Abraham said that God would yet provide a sacrifice, even when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Abraham in a sense received Isaac back from the dead when God provided the alternative sacrifice there of a ram. And yet that anticipated what God would do later. God would sacrifice his only Son and after that bring the resurrection. These things with Abraham showed that out of suffering and sacrifice, God would bring joy and blessing and glory.
Keep going in Israel’s history, and we see how they as a people keep demonstrating the idea of suffering first then glory. The pattern is especially seen in Exodus. There it speaks of how God took his suffering people out of their slavery to Egypt and redeemed them into glorious freedom. Yet going forward they would keep finding themselves back in suffering again, followed by periods of relative glory. That was in the wilderness wandering of Numbers followed by the conquest of Canaan. That was time and again during the time of the judges and kings. It especially came with the exile and subsequent return from exile. These many cycles of suffering then redemption pointed to the problem of man’s sin. Man needed a solution for their sin, even as they needed a solution for the evil in the world. All this called for God’s promise in Genesis to Abraham; that God must provide the sacrifice for sin to end his people’s suffering and bring them to glory. That’s what Jesus did. Like how Leviticus showed the need for a sacrifice to atone for sin. Or like in the first Passover at the Exodus, the lamb was sacrificed so the people could be saved. Well, God ultimately brought that sacrifice for his people’s sins in Jesus. That meant Jesus had to first suffer for his people and then he could usher in glory. Jesus takes this repeated pattern and lesson in Israel’s history of suffering then glory and identifies with his people. Israel’s history becomes typological. Jesus lives out that history in a way that brings that pattern to a climax in redeeming his people while simultaneously defeating Satan.
So then, we find the other prophets speak of this as well. Daniel, for example, receives a prophecy in Daniel 9:26 that the Messiah will be cut off but yet ultimately establish a new covenant. Isaiah, in Isaiah 9 spoke of a coming Messiah in great glory, one who would be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace” who would reign over a glorious kingdom that would have no end. But Isaiah also spoke in Isaiah 53 of how that Messiah would first have to suffer as a sacrifice for the sin of his people. He would be wounded for our transgressions; he would be crushed for our iniquities, but by this God’s people would have peace and be healed. And Isaiah 53 says that after that suffering, God would prolong his days – a reference to the resurrection, Isaiah 53:10. Or consider what Zechariah 12 says. This is the passage that talks about Israel piercing God, a passage looking to the suffering of Christ on the cross. But Zechariah goes on to talk about how God will use that to bring about repentance and renewal for God’s people. It goes on in Zechariah 13 to talk about how the shepherd would be struck; again a reference to Jesus and the cross. But then it goes on to talk about the judgment that God would bring that ultimately results in the Lord being established as king over his people in great glory. These are just some of the examples in the prophets that speak first of the Messiah’s sufferings and then his subsequent glories.
Similarly, we find this in the psalms. Remember we recently saw in Hebrews chapter 1 some great examples of Psalms that spoke of the Christ. Those in Hebrews 1 were largely about Christ’s exaltation and glory. That chapter quoted Psalms 2, 45, 102, and 110. There are also many psalms that look to the suffering of the Christ like Psalm 41:9 that spoke of how Jesus would be betrayed by a close friend. Some psalms bring out both the suffering and the glory. Like Psalm 118:22 that spoke of the stone the builders rejected that became the chief cornerstone; a psalm that said that in the context of the Messiah coming to save God’s people. Or, like Psalm 16 that speaks of suffering and even death, but then in 16:10 speaks of the resurrection afterwards; Acts 2:31 says that was about the Christ. Or Psalm 22 is especially a great example. It starts off with the cry that Jesus picked up on his lips at the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It goes on to describe great suffering that looked to the suffering Jesus experienced on the cross. But that psalm ends describing the Lord’s victory, speaking even of the praise that will come from one who dies. That again looks to Jesus in the full, and to all who have the hope of resurrection life in Christ. For as Christ has entered now into glory at the resurrection, we all as Christians will one day join him. And then, even after our deaths, we will yet praise him for the glorious salvation that God accomplished through him!
I could go on. I would like to walk you through each book in the Old Testament and speak of different lessons that I could show you about Christ. Maybe if we had the seven mile trip between Jerusalem to Emmaus we’d have time to go into more detail. But hopefully this small snapshot from the Old Testament affirms what Jesus said. The Old Testament had many predictions of the Christ. Some spoke of his suffering. Some spoke of his glory. Some spoke of both, how he had to suffer then enter into glory. We’ve just scratched the surface with them today. But we’ve established enough to now go back to Jesus’ rebuke to these disciples. First, he rebuked them for their foolishness. This word for foolishness is the opposite of being wise. It has to do with someone doing something without understanding or without thinking.
The point Jesus is making is that it was foolish of the disciples to be surprised at the reports. If they had the knowledge from their Bibles, they should have known that Jesus was going to have to suffer first and then rise from the dead. I remember one time one of my children was concerned when we didn’t pick them up from a daycare setting as soon as they thought we should. I realized I should have explained our planned schedule to them better ahead of time, then they wouldn’t need to be worried. Next time that was going to be the case, I did, and then they weren’t worried. That’s the point. God had told his people what to expect ahead of time. These disciples expressed how confused they were in verses 19-22 that they thought they had found the Messiah, but then he was put to death and then reported as resurrected. Jesus calls them foolish because they should have expected this.
We can be foolish when we ignore clear revelation that God has given us. May none of us be foolish enough today to miss all the clear and repeated testimony that we have about Christ today. We have both the Old and New Testament Scriptures about Christ’s death and resurrection. Let us not be fools and miss this clear testimony from God about his Christ. That’s easy to do, for example, if you neglect Bible study. You could imagine how a disciple like this might not have known the Scriptures well enough, hadn’t studied them enough, to know ahead of time what they actually said. For them to combat such foolishness, they would have to start with a more close study of the Scriptures. That too must be the case today. Foolishness regarding the things of God must begin to be resolved by a closer study of all God’s Word.
That being said, Jesus also acknowledges another reason why someone might miss a truth from Scripture. He not only calls these disciples foolish, but also slow of heart to believe what was in the Scripture. You see, even if you are not ignorant of everything in the Word, doesn’t mean that you actually believe everything in the Word. Let me explain further. You see, here in verse 25, when Jesus says they were slow of heart to believe, he doesn’t say that in an absolute way. He doesn’t say that they didn’t believe at all. He didn’t say they were people completely devoid of any faith. In fact, we see here that they were people of at least some faith. In verse 21, they believed God was going to redeem Israel. In verse 19, they believed God had worked through Jesus as a mighty prophet. Even with regard to his resurrection, they weren’t just dismissing the claims. Yet, they were struggling with them. They weren’t quick to believe the claims of the resurrection. You see, the issue Jesus says is that they were slow to believe all the Scriptures. They evidently had some parts of the Bible that they held firmly. But there were some that their hearts resisted in some way. Not only did their foolish ignorance make them miss certain truths in the Bible, but they also had certain truths they had read about, but just weren’t ready to accept them at face value.
This certainly seemed to have been the case for many in Israel. Put yourselves in the people’s shoes back then. You read about the passages of glory for the Messiah with great excitement and hope. Those are passages that they were probably quick of heart to believe in. Those were the ones they hoped in and thought about all the time and when Jesus came they surely focused on those. But then there were those passages that talked about suffering for the Messiah. They probably didn’t know what to do with them. They probably found a way to minimize them, or explain them away, or just disregard them. For example, the passage about the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, some Jews said must be about Israel and not the Messiah, while interpreting other passages about the servant in Isaiah as referring to the Messiah when they spoke of the servant in a glorious way. That’s the temptation with Scripture. It’s easy to try to ignore or reinterpret passages that tell us what we don’t want to hear. Jesus rebuked these disciples here for being slow of heart to believe in all the Scriptures. The Christ came not only for glory. First, he came for suffering.
Applications abound for this today too. What doctrines in the Bible have you found hard emotionally to believe or accept? What teachings in the Bible have you encountered and didn’t want them to be true therefore you basically didn’t believe them. I think of how common that is with the doctrine of predestination; how many are slow to believe it, even though there is so much in the Bible about it. Often such people are slow to believe it because their heart tries to say it’s not fair or right. (To clarify I’m not saying this is true for everyone opposed to predestination, but surely it’s true for many). The same can surely be said for some who advocate women’s ordination, or reject the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual activity, or who come to a charismatic position not because of the Bible’s teachings but because that’s how they want God to operate today. These are just some random examples. Yes, some people may hold non-scriptural positions out of bad interpretation of the Bible. But sometimes they hold them simply because their heart hasn’t wanted what the Bible teaches to actually be true. So, they try to find a way to either overlook it or explain it way. Yet we need to submit our heart and its emotions to the Word of God, instead of the other way around. The Word needs to train our heart, not letting our sin-affected hearts dictate how we interpret the Bible. Let the Bible speak for itself! As I make this application, I pray for the refining fire of the Holy Spirit to grow our hearts and minds in this regard, because how easy it is to deceive ourselves on any particular issue or teaching of Scripture.
In conclusion, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Jesus suffered and die. He also rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended up into heaven. This was foretold by the Old Testament. It is confirmed in the New Testament by various eyewitness accounts. The resurrection itself is a very creditable and substantiated fact. Don’t be foolish and ignore these truths. Don’t be slow of heart to believe in them! Trust in Christ. Confess your sins and your need for forgiveness. Acknowledge that the atonement for sin that Jesus accomplished on the cross is exactly what you have needed. Believe in him and trust your life to him. Turn from your former life of sin and look to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior. For those who have put their hope in him, you have passed from death to life. If you have become a Christian you have been redeemed from sin and death and have the certain hope of glory.
That being said, an important clarification and application should be offered today in light of this passage. As a Christian you have the hope of glory. But right now, you should expect at least some degree of suffering in this life. It may even be a great deal of suffering. Scripture has told us this would be the case. It’s very clear that now after Christ’s death and resurrection, Christians will share in that suffering in this life. Jesus said in John 16:33 that in this world we will have tribulation. In Matthew 24, Jesus predicted the special persecutions that would come for believers. By sharing in that sufferings, it’s part of how we experience our union with him, per 1 Peter 2:21. If we ignore these many verses about Christian suffering, then we are being foolish and will think it strange when such trials come upon us. Similarly, if we see these verses but won’t accept them, won’t believe them, then we are being slow of heart to accept what the Bible so clearly teaches. This is part of the Christian experience here and now. United to Christ by faith, we will share in his sufferings.
But that also means we share in Christ’s subsequent glories. Jesus suffered and then experienced glory. For those united to him, that is our story as well. May that encourage us today amidst the many sufferings we will experience in this life. Press on in faith in light of the coming glory! Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.