So in our series here on the Work of Mercy of proclaiming the gospel, we’ve been taking a look, courtesy of Steve Schaefer’s great book, Living in the Overlap, at the eighteen dimensions of universe-rocking change that the prophets prophesied would come on the Day of the Lord—everything from the death of death…to the Messiah ruling with justice, love, and righteousness…to the destruction of the wicked…to God placing a new heart in us to obey him perfectly…to forgiveness of sin and deliverance from evil…to peace, physical wholeness, safety, and security…to healings…to abundant provision and joy.
And we’ve been noting how Jesus in his ministry announced that all these promises were fulfilled in his coming. The kingdom of God, he said, was at hand. And far from roaming about the countryside doing random acts of kindness, Jesus went about meticulously inaugurating each one of these prophecies such that everyone watched and wondered, “Could he be right? Could the day of the Lord be at hand?”
And where we ended last post was with the disciples saying, “Er, no. Apparently not,” as they scattered like mice while Jesus was being crucified. Well, actually, that’s not quite right: we ended with the resurrected Jesus appearing, unrecognized, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They vocalized what everyone was thinking: “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).
And it’s important to see that even though they had heard a report from the women in their company that Jesus was alive (and from the men that the tomb was indeed empty), they were, according to Luke 24:17, sad.
But why were they sad? Was it because they didn’t believe that Jesus had been resurrected? Given that they had heard that the tomb was empty, why wouldn’t they at least be confused, or maybe even a tiny bit hopeful? Why were they simply walking away from Jerusalem? Why weren’t they clinging to the reports of the women and huddled around the TV set with other disciples to see if Jesus indeed showed back up alive? Why are they just sad?
That’s why we have to read the Scripture very carefully. When we do, we see that Jesus does not rebuke the men for not believing the reports of the women. He rebukes the men for not believing all that the prophets have spoken. In Luke 24:25-27 he says, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
And after he breaks bread and their eyes are opened and he vanishes, note that the disciples don’t look at each other and say, “Wow—he is alive!” In fact, the first thing they say to each other is, “”Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
In 1 Corinthians 15, the gospel passage we’ve been learning throughout this year, Paul says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” And then he goes on to say: “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Note that Paul doesn’t just say, “The gospel is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.” The phrase he emphasizes two times is in accordance with the Scriptures.
“In accordance with the Scriptures”–it’s the most important phrase in the gospel that almost always gets left out.
When Jesus is resurrected from the dead, he appears to the disciples in the upper room but Thomas is not with them. So Jesus reappears when Thomas returns, and Jesus says, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side” (John 21:27). Thomas responds by saying, “My Lord and my God!” And Jesus says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 21:28-29). Believed what? Believed the reports of the first disciples that Jesus was raised from the dead? Not only that. Believed all that the prophets have spoken. Believe that everything that was promised by God in the Old Testament has been inaugurated in Jesus Christ.
To be a Christian is to believe that all that the prophets have spoken is now coming to pass in Christ. (That’s why the gospel says, “in accordance with the Scriptures.”) Being a Christian means believing these promises so fully that we live our lives vibrantly in accord with them in our daily lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And that leads us to pinpoint what with no exaggeration is one of the most serious problems facing evangelical Christendom today:
We believe too little.
But as we’ll talk about in our next post, we have good company in that regard: No less than John the Baptist and nearly everyone else who encountered Jesus’ ministry.