Yom Shishi, 27 Tammuz 5777 — יוֹם שִׁשִּׁי כז תַּמּוּז ה' תשעז Friday, 21 July 2017
Luke 24:33-53
New Year - Old Reality

This passage kind of starts mid story - the two mentioned are followers of Jesus - Cleopas was one of them. We don't know a lot more about them. But we do know that the life and death of Jesus was major news in Israel, because they say to Jesus, "are you the ONLY one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?"

Need to remember that the backdrop to this passage is not an insignificant event in a backwater town that nobody really paid attention to. This was the major event of the time. It was the main news, like 9/11. EVERYONE knew what was going on. And yet, rumours have started Jesus' body is missing - that He has risen from the dead. Can you imagine how hard the Romans and the Jewish authorities would have tried to find evidence to show this wasn't true. If you have difficulty, think of the effort the world made to find Osama bin Laden. This was major and the implications were major.

Also interesting on the 3rd day, because in Jewish tradition significance was given to this. One reason was from Gen 22, when Abraham on the Third day, set out for Moriah with Isaac and the events to follow, including Isaac's metaphorical deliverance from the dead. Another is from Gen 42, when Joseph first meets his brothers and puts them in prison for three days. On the third day Joseph says, "do this and live and fear God..." The Rabbis in Bereshit Rabba 91 (commentary on Genesis) infer from this that God never leaves the just more than three days.

But we're not going to major on the evidence for Y'shua rising from the dead, or the timing of it, and the fulfilment of the festival of firstfruits in Lev 23. There's plenty of evidence for those who have questions. We're going in the passage we read, to focus on the consequences of Y'shua rising from the dead.

Luke 24:33-53:

And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.

And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.

And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.

And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?

And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

And he took it, and did eat before them.

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved [the Messiah] to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 0And ye are witnesses of these things.

And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.

And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

There are three major areas we're going to focus on in looking at this passage. The first area is the hearts of the disciples. To understand what's happening we need to set the scene and we can do this by looking at the parallel versions of this event in the other Gospel accounts. The eleven remaining disciples were gathered together with these two from Emmaus. John 20:19 shows us that they were gathered together virtually in hiding. "When therefore it was evening on that day, the first day week (Yom Rishon - Sunday), and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jewish religious leaders...". We see a small, impotent, fearful group, just trying to remain anonymous and insignificant.

Suddenly, their hero, Y'shua the Messiah, is in their midst. Wow! Peter and John must have remembered their encounter with the angel earlier that day. The two from Emmaus must have already shared the story of their encounter with Jesus. They must have shared all the messianic prophecies Y'shua shared with them, showing He had to die and rise again. This must have brought back the words of the Messiah himself to the disciples. All the proof for His death and resurrection was there, in the Tenach, in Jesus' own words and in the testimony of several of his followers. So when Y'shua shows up you'd expect spontaneous rejoicing. Now they have seen the proof themselves. But what happens?

They freak out. They think they are seeing a ghost or spirit - something unreal, a shadow from a dark world. And what is the source of their problem? Jesus says to them - Why do doubts arise in your hearts?" The problem isn't their eyes, or their heads - it's with their hearts. This is a very Hebraic and Biblical way of thinking, at odds with our philosophy today. You know, our education system, like Judaism of the last 1000+ years has been invaded by Greek philosophy. Greek philosophy separates our head and our hearts and says we understand with our brain and we feel with our hearts.

The Bible says however, we reason with our hearts, we understand with our hearts, we act from our hearts, think from our hearts, have idols in our hearts, harden our hearts. Our actions and understanding and thoughts are all linked. That must be why David says in Ps 86.11 - "Unite my heart to fear your Name". It must be why King Solomon when asking for a gift, asks for a Lev Shomea - a heart that listens. Jesus repeats the prophecy of Isaiah to Israel, "For the heart of this people has become dull. With their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return and I would heal them." This is what the disciples did. Just think about it. They didn't really believe the rumours. Though they heard Peter and John and had seen the angel, they didn't believe in their heart. They'd heard Jesus' own words and the words of Scripture but they didn't perceive. Then Y'shua appears before them and if frightens the living daylights out of them. They think they're seeing a dibbuk or ghost.

Why is this important? Because when we're confronted with questions, doubts, difficulties, the unexpected etc. we need to make sure we understand what's going on. It's our hearts we need to pay attention to. The Shema tells us to love God with all our heart. But this is not in our nature to do. God says of Israel in Hosea 10:2 "Their heart is divided..." (Khalak libam). Does this mean we just have to exercise "Blind faith" and have no questions, and pretend the bad things of life aren't really happening? Of course not. That's ridiculous. But often we misinterpret our questions.

I once encountered a man in London. His first question was, can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus? The next question was to do with his perception Christians misinterpret the prophecies in the Tenach. The third question was to do with the fact he was a scientist and couldn't believe in God. After this question, I asked him what the real reason was he was having difficulty accepting the possibility Jesus might be our Messiah. He said his son had died, and he couldn't come to terms with it. This was his heart question. The other three objections were smoke screens.

As the disciples stand there in terror, Jesus turns to them and says, "Why are you troubled? He goes on to lead them into deeper relationship, deeper experience with Him. "See me, touch me, can you understand now, put your faith in my Word - you see you can..." Then the passage says, "Y'shua opened their minds", and in Hebrew thought, we can say, a better translation would be - their minds and hearts. That's the last ingredient we need - God by His Spirit, to touch our hearts and minds so we can understand. My first concrete prayer as an unbeliever was, "God if you really exist, show me in a way I can understand." Our actions and thoughts stem from our hearts. We need God to let us see what is really there, to minister to our hearts' questions, and to lead us closer.

The second area we're going to look at is at the appearance of the risen Y'shua in that room. We need to think a bit more about how Jesus appeared. How did he appear? Did He, like a ghost, melt through the locked doorway, or transform His shape and squeeze through a keyhole, or float through the floor, or beam down from the Starship Enterprise. How did Jesus get in?

A clue to this is found in several descriptions we have of Him in Scripture. For example in Mt 7:24-25 we read about a wise man who builds his house on a rock. When the storms come they will be unable to erode the rock and the house will stay safe because of its foundations in the rock. In 1 Cor. 10:4 we read that Messiah was the Spiritual Rock that kept Israel in the desert. When the Bible gives the character of "Rock" to the Messiah, it is calling him everlasting and divine. God himself is named "Tzur" rock, in Dt. 32:4 - He is the rock, His way is perfect." And we know the "Rock of Israel spoke" to David - 2 Sam 23:13. Again we see the link between the Word of God, being the Rock - solid, unyielding, eternal, unmoving.

So can the rock become vapour and get through the wall into the room with the disciples? Of course not - rocks don't evaporate. So how did Y'shua get there? The reality is He is the rock and the room, the stone building and the disciples are the impermanent creation - the room, walls, doors, locks and even us are the vapour. Stamp on the floor. It seems solid to us, but it's vapour compared to the solidity and permanence of God. CS. Lewis in his novel Perelandra attempts to describe the visit of a fallen man to a planet that had not yet fallen. He says, even the grass blades pierced the feet of this human visitor, the grass was so real.

We need to grasp this concept in our hearts. We need Y'shua to open our minds and hearts. How right Y'shua was when he said, "Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will by no means pass away," just three chapters earlier (Lk. 21:33). Paul talks about this understanding: "While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor. 4:18). These things are seen with our hearts. Like King Solomon hundreds of years before, Paul prays for the Ephesian believers in Ephesians Chapter 1:18ff "I pray that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened to understand the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe". The reality of God's presence with us in Y'shua right now - Immanuel, is greater than anything we can see, hear or touch on a natural level. His solidity - the solidity of God's Word in the flesh is greater than anything we temporary beings can imagine. Y'shua says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away". (Lk. 21:33) Daniel 7's prophecy about the Son of Man - the Messiah - says, "His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed." This is concrete fact. Whatever is facing us is temporary. If the problems are big or small, we can ask the Rock to dwell in these problems with us, because He can't be shaken by the storm. He will surely bring us through.

So now the third and final area that jumps out in this passage - Y'shua's last instructions to His disciples. Y'shua says, right after reminding the disciples, "...it is written that the Messiah should suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day,..." "...that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." Just in case we weren't clear, in the continuation of this Gospel in Acts 1:8 we read, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth."

The Scriptures say repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem and YOU are His witnesses. Folks, that's their job description. It's in fact their only real job description. It's the only thing they could do on earth, that they couldn't do better in heaven.

In Hebrew the word Ed is witness. In the Torah "Ed" means witness, testimony, evidence of things. It was the word used to describe heap of stones or altar set up to memorialise a covenant or important event (e.g. covenant between tribes whose land was east of the Jordan and those to the west). These markers were especially witnesses to the people of God's covenant and the inherent blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. (Dt. 28-32). Here Jesus instructs His disciples to be the same kind of permanent witness of God's immanence (nearness), His covenant, His mercy, His blessings but also His inescapable judgement. The disciples only have one job description - be witnesses - and it isn't even new! Look at the whole reason Israel was chosen in the first place - Gen 12:1-3, Ex 19:6, Dt. 4:6-8. Peter understands this call as he speaks to Jewish believers in the Diaspora. 1 Peter 2:5 "You also as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah." Paul also describes himself as someone "with the priestly duty" of bringing people to the Lord. (Rom 15:16).

So when we look at this we see that our only real job description too, is to be His witnesses, starting with our Jewish people and to the ends of the earth - to everyone we meet. Our job description is to be the vessel through which the transforming power and solidity of God is evident to all. Our job description is to be the emissary through whom, God's message of hope, of purity and of judgement and love is brought. It's a pretty tall order isn't it? And if truth be told we feel pretty inadequate. But that's OK. In God's world, we need to feel like that to be used by Him. All we need to do is ask His help in uniting our heart to serve and stand up for Him, and His Spirit will begin to transform us. We'll find ourselves embarked on the greatest and most fulfilling adventure any human could ever know or experience.

You see God doesn't leave His disciples alone with their daunting job description. He promises they will be clothed "with power from on high" (vs. 49). And then He lifts up His hands and blesses them.

The last verses show that Y'shua even departed from them during His blessing, but this time they are not anxious. They are not afraid of being seen by the religious leaders. To the contrary, they make a beeline for Temple in Jerusalem where they remain "continually in God's presence, praising Him."

In closing I'd just like us to ask ourselves a few questions: Let's personalise it.

1. Do I have any questions, doubts, objections, fears about life and about God at this moment? If I do, where do these really come from? Have I gotten hold of the right question? It's no use, for instance, complaining about God being distant, if I'm still holding onto grudges against my parents for being distant. Are we willing to let God unite our heart to serve Him only? Are we truly willing to let Him bring His answers to us? If you have any questions that you want help dealing with, or on which you'd perhaps value another perspective, feel free to contact the elders here.

2. Do I know the reality of God's presence with me in my life and walk right now? It may be some of us just feel cold. It may be others of us are dealing with some major issues that even seem to control us and threaten to drown us. You know pain and suffering are real, but we can choose to let the Rock dwell with us in our suffering. We can invite Him in, and we will be surprised at how He begins to transform our life. It may be you feel you are in need of the reality of God's presence in your life. If you'd like, and if you think it would help, ask one of the elders to pray with you for that.

3. How am I doing with my job description? Y'shua says in this passage, that it was written that the Messiah would die and rise again, THAT the message of repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name." You know, I have to say at this point, what an incredible encouragement it has been for me to know your support for our work in Jews for Jesus and of your support personally as Cindy and I have been in the process of moving over from London to Boston. And I just want to share how excited I am to think that we will be able to pray together, worship together and stand up together as witnesses, fulfilling our true God-given calling as individuals in our work and families, and together as a community, that our Jewish people here in Boston, the whole of Boston, the US and the world, might come to know the Prince of Peace, our Messiah Y'shua.