Sunday Service was led by Peg Bowman and the Sermon was titled “A New Covenant”.
Luke writes, 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, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. The scriptures that Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to were the ancient Jewish scriptures, what we now call the Old Testament or the Book of the Law, although these names are sort of misleading because God’s promises to God’s people have always rested on faith and grace, not on the law, even in ancient Israel. The law was given to lead people to God’s grace.
But Luke’s point is that Jesus dug into the nation’s history. There are times when understanding history is really the only way to understand what’s going on in the present. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a history buff. I am.
But I like history because it is the story of real people doing real things. and there’s always something to learn from it. For example, today is Native American Ministry Sunday, and today we remember a part of our nation’s history that we’re not proud of. I can’t help but wonder how different America would be if our ancestors had been wise enough to learn from the Native Americans rather than trying to push them back further away.
If they had understood and appreciated Native American belief in treating land and animals with dignity and respect, how much cleaner would our water and air be today? How many animals would not be threatened with extinction today? Native Americans understood and still understand what it means to be good stewards of God’s creation, which is something, quite honestly, Christians have not been very good at on the whole throughout history. But knowing what has happened in the past can, if we’re paying attention, improve the present and the future. In our scripture for today, Jesus likewise finds himself in a moment where knowing history is absolutely essential. Of all the lessons that Jesus taught his disciples, this one is probably the biggest and most important.
To set the scene, it’s late afternoon on the day after Jesus’ resurrection. In the morning, some of the women had gone to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty and guarded by an angel who told them to tell the disciples Jesus was alive and to go meet them in Galilee. The disciples didn’t believe them. Later in the day, a couple of Jesus’ followers walked to the town of Emmaus, which is about seven miles away, and bumped into Jesus on the road.
They didn’t recognize him right away, but they talked with him for a long time. And when Jesus broke bread with them, they remembered the Last Supper and realized who he was. And then they ran back to Jerusalem and told the other disciples Jesus was alive. Disciples didn’t believe them.
But while they’re talking about all this, Jesus appears among them. He shows them his hands and his feet. And the disciples are terrified. They can’t believe what they’re seeing.
They think they’re seeing a ghost. And Jesus says, Why are you afraid? Does a ghost have flesh and bones? And then he asks if they have anything to eat, which is something a ghost would never ask. After the disciples settle down and realize that this is really happening, Jesus begins to explain from the scriptures, from the Old Testament, what has happened in the past three days. Luke tells us that Jesus talked about everything written about himself in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms.
There are many, many references to the Messiah in the Old Testament, so this would have taken some time. I like to imagine all the disciples sitting around the table to a fish dinner while Jesus is talking to them. Luke doesn’t tell us which passages Jesus pointed to, but we can take an educated guess as to what some of them would have been. Jesus probably started with Genesis chapter 3.
After Adam and Eve ate the apple and were confronted by God for disobeying his command, God says to the serpent who deceived them, Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals. I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel. Hidden within God’s judgment on the serpent is a promise.
One of Eve’s offspring will crush the serpent’s head. Take a look at how one artist has rendered this, the spiritual reality behind the prophecy. On the left we see Eve holding an apple in her hand and weeping. And you can see the snake has twirled around her feet and her ankles, tripping her up as she’s trying to walk.
And on the right we see Mary, who’s pregnant with Jesus, holding Eve’s hand to her belly, with Mary’s foot on the snake’s head. You see that? Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Adam and Eve that one of their children would defeat the serpent. Jesus is the one whose death on the cross pays the price for the human race’s addiction to sin. Jesus probably also talked to the disciples about Abraham.
The great Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all look to Abraham as the founder of the family of faith who believed in the one true and living God. Abraham predates Moses and therefore predates the law. God says to Abraham in Genesis, I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and will give your descendants all these lands. And by your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
God’s promise to Abraham is for all nations, not just Israel, and that includes the disciples and that includes us. And the Apostle Paul points out in his letter to Galatians that God said to Abraham, By your seed all the nations will be blessed, not by your seeds plural, meaning that the seed is one person, one Savior, who is to come from the line of Abraham. Paul goes on to point out that Abraham’s salvation was by faith in God’s promise, not through the law. Because the law hadn’t been given yet in Abraham’s day.
And likewise, we are promised salvation through faith in Jesus, not through the law. Paul writes, If the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise. But if God granted it to Abraham through promise, so salvation also comes through God’s promise. not through the law in both the Old Testament and the New.
So having reminded the disciples of this, Jesus no doubt would then have gone on to talk about Israel’s experience with Moses. He would have talked about the Passover, how God tells Pharaoh through Moses that the firstborn of everyone in Egypt is going to die if God’s people are not allowed to leave Egypt, and Pharaoh throws Moses out and then God tells Moses to tell the people every household is to take a lamb and cook it and eat it and put the blood over the doors of their homes and when the angel of death comes that night and sees the blood he will pass over the house. And so the people paint lamb’s blood over their doors using a plant called hyssop as a paintbrush. And that night the firstborn of every living thing in Egypt dies except for in those houses where the blood is over the door.
The people of Israel are set free and begin their journey to the Promised Land. The Passover points to Jesus who is the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice and whose blood protects us from death and brings us into God’s promised land of eternal life. Hyssop is also mentioned in the Psalms. In David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51, David writes, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.
David understands that it is the blood of the Lamb over the person’s heart that saves life like the blood of the Lamb over the door. In writing this, David is pointing to the Messiah. David was not just king of Israel. He was also a prophet in his own right and many of his psalms looked forward to the Messiah.
Jesus would have reminded the disciples of Psalm 22, which includes a description of crucifixion a thousand years before it happened. David writes, All who see me mock me; they hurl insults. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. have surrounded me, a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet, I can count all my bones.
People stare and gloat over me, they divide my garments among them and cast lots from my clothing. Jesus directs our attention to this psalm from the cross when he says, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? which is the first verse of the psalm. David has not only predicted the Messiah’s death, but he describes crucifixion, a form of capital punishment that won’t even be invented for another 500 years. Having reviewed the psalms, Jesus would then have turned to the prophets and pointed to Isaiah who said this about the Messiah, Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, fuel for the fire, for to us a child is born, to us a son is given.
And the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Isaiah also predicts the Messiah will suffer.
He says in Isaiah 53, He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death. And after the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied, for he bore the sin of many. Isaiah predicted not only Jesus’ crucifixion but also his burial in a rich man’s tomb, and that the suffering servant would see the light of life after having borne the sins of the people.
Jesus probably also reminded the disciples of the parallel between the prophet Jonah, who was three days in the belly of the whale, and the Messiah, who was three days in the grave. He reminded them of the time that the Pharisees confronted Jesus and demanded a sign, and Jesus told them, A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. These and many other passages Jesus shared with his disciples that night. And so it was a few weeks later that Peter and John are in the temple.
This picks up the story we read from Acts. They are in the temple and they heal a lame man in Jesus’ name. Then they explain to the crowd in the words of a reading from Acts, quoting the history that Jesus has taught them. The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate.
the author of life whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses and by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong whom you see and know. God fulfilled what he foretold through all the prophets that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.
Peter and John now understood the history behind the events of Holy Week, and they were able to speak from that history with authority. They could point to what was written down, to God’s covenants and God’s promises, as the foundation of their personal testimonies. Like Peter and John, we are also called to make the good news of Jesus known, and like them, we do not rely on spoken word alone, but draw from written history. God’s covenant has been written in all ages, starting from Abraham and Moses and moving forward.
Luke says that Jesus called on the law, the Psalms, and the prophets, and so can we. May God add understanding to our minds and hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit as we learn our spiritual history from God’s word and share it with others. Amen. [BLANK_AUDIO] .