Today, we are looking at Luke 24:36-53. There is a mystical quality to all life transforming experiences. They are not ordinary. We should not, therefore, expect that our experience of the Risen Christ would be on the level of our experience of a Diet Coke. It is deeper, more central to who we are and will be. It is mysterious and sacred–and in being so such an experience is transformative.
I would like to begin by sharing a story about a young man named, “Frank.” Frank was born into a prosperous, business family. His father dreamed that Frank would be a businessman and take over the family business. As Frank grew up, there was reason to believe that his father’s dreams would come true. Frank was a natural businessman. He was also extremely likable. Frank was kind and gentle with people. There were stories of him chasing down some of his father’s customers just to treat them fairly or give them a gift. Frank’s father did not particularly like the part of Frank he regarded as overly generous; however, he did like Frank’s business skills.
Friends and neighbors used to say that Frank could get away with almost anything because he was so likable. He was also handsome and attractive to the girls. In the end, Frank became something of a party boy. He drank too much, he partied too much, and he spent too much time chasing girls. Along the way, Frank began to dream of glory and decided to be a military person. It’s at this point that Frank’s life began to go astray.
He participated in a small battle, and ended up a prisoner for a year or so. He decided to make the military his career. Along the way to rejoin the army, he had a dream. In his dream, Christ appeared to tell him that he was going in the wrong direction. He returned home feeling foolish. Later, he heard God’s voice tell him to build his church; however, mistakenly he felt it was to rebuild a particular church, and to fund his enterprise he used his father’s money. His angry father disinherited him. Most of the people of his hometown loved him, but they had come to see him as a bit unstable.
At this point Frank began to truly and from the heart seek God’s will for his life. Eventually, St. Francis of Assisi found his destiny to renew the church.  Giving up everything for Christ, he spent the rest of his life sharing the gospel in building the Roman Catholic order called the “Franciscans.”
From the Word to Worship
Luke contains a complete account of the resurrection of Jesus and of the events of the first Easter. Early in the morning, Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb. They found the tomb empty, and an angel told them that Jesus was alive. The angel went on to tell them that Moses, the author of the Torah, the Prophets, and other writers of Scripture had foreseen the events of his death and resurrection. Later that day, Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus, and began to explain to two disciples the meaning of the events they had witnessed in Jerusalem. Once again, Jesus explained that his death and resurrection were a part of God’s plan. The two disciples ran to tell the Twelve, who did not believe their testimony. Then, Jesus appeared among them.
This is how Luke tells the rest of the story:
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:36-53).
Prayer: Come Spirit of the Risen Christ that we too may see you and hear you speaking to us from your Bible. In Your Name we pray, Amen.
The Personal Word.
The story of St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most precious stories in Christian history. Scholars point out that St. Francis was never studious. Of course, growing up in a Catholic country, he went to church. As the son of a well-to-do businessman, he went to school and he learned to read and write. However, Francis never demonstrates a desire for abstract knowledge. He was fundamentally a social and practical person. He wanted to make things happen and enjoy being with people. Francis was what we would call, “a people person.”
I suspect that Peter and the apostles were pretty much like Francis. In fact, I’ll bet they were more like St. Francis than like your pastor. These were fishermen, tax collectors, and small businessmen. Yes, they went to their little synagogue in Capernaum or wherever. Yes, they could read and write. Yes, if they were required to, they could read a bit of a scroll during a worship service, but, they were not scholars.
Their conviction that Christ had risen from the dead was not based upon something they read; t was based upon something they experienced. The Gospels are unanimous that when Jesus was arrested the disciples deserted him. In addition, they were afraid they would be arrested too. When the women came to announce that the tomb was empty, they had a hard time believing it. Peter had a hard time believing it even after seeing the empty tomb (Luke 24:12). The first Easter evening, they gathered together to discuss the day’s events. While they were there, they were confronted by the Living Word of God, the risen Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Even then, they didn’t believe right away. He had to speak with them, show them his wounds, and even eat a little bit of food before they could see that he was indeed risen from the dead.
At the end of Luke, Jesus has ascended to heaven. There is no seeing the physical Jesus anymore. However, we can and do experience the living Christ in our hearts, minds, and spirits. As I mentioned last week, Mark ends by telling us that the disciples went into the entire world and Jesus went with them (Mark 16:20). In other words, Christians have always experienced the presence of the risen Christ. I’m not going to give you my testimony this morning; however, I believed in the risen Christ on the basis of my experience as and before I learned all the Bible and theology I know today. The experience of God is as important today as on the first Easter Sunday. 
The Written Word.
This does not mean that the Bible is not important, nor does it mean that we do not need to read our Bible in order to be the disciples God wants us to be. Notice that, immediately after Jesus proves that he is risen, he teaches the disciples from Scripture. In Luke 24:44-45 we read: He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. This is the exact same experience the women had and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had earlier in the day (Luke 24:6-8; 25-27). Their experience needed to be supplemented with knowledge.
As Protestants, we believe that anyone can read Holy Scriptures on their own and grasp its meaning. We live in a country in which there are almost as many Bibles as there are people. However, most people rarely if ever read the Bible. Even fewer actually study the Bible. When Jesus taught the disciples from Moses, the Prophets, and Psalms, he was leading them into the deepest mysteries of Scripture. As Jews, they believed that God would send them a Messiah. However, they did not understand that the Messiah would suffer and die, that he would be a man of sorrows acquainted with grief, that he would be crucified as a criminal and outcast, and that his kingdom would be a kingdom of the Spirit and not an earthly kingdom. Many people have the same misunderstanding today.
There are similarities between contemporary Americans and the ancient Jews. We are an optimistic society. Most of us, even secular people, believe that hard work, healthy habits, and self-sacrifice will lead to a better life. Some people believe that government will create this better life, and some people believe it will be created by private industry, but almost everyone believes in a kind of earthly kingdom that meets our human expectations and desires. 
Just as the Jews were wrong, when we reduce the gospel to a political, social, or personal agenda we are always wrong. In a culture like ours, we need to be prepared to show people the error of expecting God’s kingdom to be just like our kingdom only wealthier, politically stronger, and more defensible. His kingdom is the kind of kingdom only God could create. it is a kingdom that can only created by love.
The Kingdom of God is not just like the best earthly kingdom we can imagine only better. When Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate, and was accused of opposing Caesar, he replied that his kingdom was not of this world. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to bring his kingdom into this world; it just means there’s more to God’s kingdom in this world will ever know or experience. The Kingdom Jesus began is a kingdom that can only be built on the foundation of the Gospel and a group of people (us) who are trying to live on the basis of the love and wisdom of God, empowered by the Grace of God shown in Christ.
The Disciples Witness.
After Jesus explained from the Scriptures that God’s Messiah was going to look a lot more like Isaiah’s suffering servant then King David, he told them something else. He told them that they are going to be his witnesses. In other words, they are going to tell the world what they have seen and heard over the past three years. They are going to testify to his teachings, his miracles, his healings, his sufferings, his death, and his resurrection. They are, however, not going to do this right away. Instead, they are to go back into the city of Jerusalem and wait for God’s power, the Holy Spirit, to come upon them. In other words, they are going to wait for what comes next.
In Christian circles, when we use the word “witness,” we often think that we are to tell people about what the Bible says about Jesus. This is only partially true. In trials there are two kinds of witnesses. First, there are “fact witnesses.” These are witnesses that have some direct information about what happened. They may have seen the car wreck or witnessed the robbery. Fact witnesses tell the jury what they saw and heard. Second, there are “expert witnesses.” Expert witnesses explain something complicated to the jury. For example, a black powder may have been found at the scene of the crime. An expert witness who is a chemist will testify that it was gunpowder. Or, perhaps the defendant claims he or she was insane at the time of the crime. Expert witnesses who are psychologists or psychiatrists will testify concerning whether the person was sane or insane.
When it comes to testifying about Christ, we need to be both kinds of witnesses. We need to be able to say what it is Christ has done in our own lives. On the other hand, all of us some of the time, and some of us even more of the time, need to be expert witnesses. That is to say we need to study our Bibles and know just a little bit, or even a lot, about what the Bible says.
When lawyers choose witnesses, they always ask whether the witness is believable (or credible) and compelling. Believable means that the story the witnesses telling could be true. Compelling is different. Compelling means that there’s something about this person that will persuade the jury. When Jesus says, “Go into the city and wait to be clothed with power,” he’s really saying to them, “You won’t be compelling unless you have the power of my spirit. Therefore, wait for me to come.” When it comes to the Gospel, no one is compelling without the Holy Spirit.
Worship and Waiting.
Our text ends with Jesus ascending into heaven. Then, we are told, “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:52-53). What began with a personal encounter with the living God, and was strengthened by studying the word, ends in wonder and in worship. We are told that, while the disciples waited for the power of God to come, they were continually in worship. Worship is not a duty. It is a response to the love, grace, and power of God. When we capture a vision of the Risen Christ, we are empowered, even compelled to worship.
The spirit comes to those who worship God as they wait. Those who fail to be captured by the wonder of Christ will not worship the Risen Lord. Yet, those who do not worship often slowly lose contact with the Risen Lord. This is a mystery.
As we wait for what’s next in our lives, the lives of our families, the life of our church, and the life of our nation, we should think about today’s text. We should wonder at the risen Christ. We should ponder all that he is done for us personally. We should study our Bibles. And perhaps most importantly, we should worship God daily, sometimes here at our church, and sometimes at home. We should wait expectantly for the compelling power of the Holy Spirit to come into our lives.
Copyright 2016, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 This basic story of Francis of Assisi is based upon materials that can easily be found on the Internet and in several biographies of the saint. I’ve changed certain minor details to hide the punch line.
 I’ve told many people the following story. Years after I became a Christian I spent a good deal of time with people who did not necessarily believe most of what orthodox Christians believe. It was not my knowledge that enabled me to sustain my faith during that time; it was the experience of answered prayer and fellowship with Christ in the Christian community that sustained my faith. Others have had similar experiences.
 This point is made powerfully in lay language in W. T. Wright’s new book, Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes it Good (New York, NY: Harper One, 2015), 109ff. In the modern world, we are all subject to a culturally reinforced worldview that considers progress to be an automatic result of human striving. Recent history casts doubt on this view. What is needed is a new kingdom not the result of human striving and schemes.