“Thus It Is Written, Thus You Shall Preach” (Luke 24:44-53)

The Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, May 18, 2023

“Thus It Is Written, Thus You Shall Preach” (Luke 24:44-53)

During the forty days from Christ’s resurrection to his ascension, our Lord met with his disciples on a number of occasions. Jesus was preparing these disciples to be his apostles, his sent-out ones, who would preach and teach and begin to carry out the church’s worldwide mission. So he needed to instruct them, to make it clear to them what their mission would be. And that’s what we find going on in the reading today from Luke 24. Jesus makes clear what the content of their preaching and teaching will be, and he tells them how to deliver that message to people and apply it to their lives. And so our theme today, Jesus saying to the disciples and to us, the church: “Thus It Is Written, Thus You Shall Preach.”

You know, these boys hadn’t always understood very well what Jesus was teaching them. They were a little slow on the uptake. Jesus would tell them that they’re going up to Jerusalem, where he will be handed over to sinful men and be killed–and then, right after that, the disciples would be arguing about which of them was the greatest. I’m guessing Jesus had to do the face palm any number of times. “You boys just don’t get it, do you?”

But our Lord was patient with them, just as he is with us. Because we can be a little slow on the uptake, can’t we? We hear the word of God being preached and taught in our church, week after week, year after year–and that’s even assuming we’re in church week after week, year after year–but even so, it seems a lot of the time, God’s word goes in one ear and comes out the other. What the Lord is telling us in his word, we don’t let sink down deep into our minds and hearts and shape the way we live our lives.

We, like the disciples, can suffer from a kind of spiritual brain fog. But Jesus is here to clear up our thinking and get us going on the right path. That’s what we find Jesus doing in our text. He is going to make clear and make plain what he says the Bible is all about and how that should govern the church’s mission.

First he says: “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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Jesus had told them what was going to happen, that he would suffer and die and rise again, that this was in fulfillment of Scripture, that this was going according to God’s plan–he had told them those things, but they hadn’t really grasped what he was getting at.

And now Jesus is saying that all this had been prophesied in the Scriptures. When Jesus says, “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” he’s referring to the Bible as it was at the time, what we call the Old Testament. And Jesus is saying that the whole Old Testament was written about him! That’s a pretty audacious claim! But it’s true. The whole Bible is about Jesus. The Old Testament, the history of Israel, the sacrifices for sin, the prophecies of a Messiah to come–the seed of the woman, Abraham’s seed, the Son of David, the Suffering Servant–all that was pointing ahead to what now is fulfilled in Christ.

“Everything written about me,” Jesus says, “must be fulfilled.” Then, it says, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” You see, without God opening our minds, the Bible will remain a closed book. Oh, lots of people can read the Bible. The scribes and Pharisees searched the Scriptures, but they refused to believe that they bear witness about Jesus. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and all the heretics throughout history can quote some Bible passages, but they don’t get Jesus right. There are self-proclaimed Bible teachers who teach the Bible as though it were a book of principles for having a happier life, and they miss the main point. The Bible is about Jesus, who he is and what he has done for us. So, lots of people use the Bible for lots of reasons, but unless the Lord opens our minds to understand the Scriptures, the Bible will remain a closed book.

Now Jesus tells us what the Bible is all about. “Thus it is written,” he says, and he lists several main points as to what is written. The first thing: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer.” So, Jesus says, the Bible is about a suffering Christ. This is the same thing Jesus had told the Emmaus disciples earlier in this chapter, when he opened the Scriptures to them: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” It was necessary, but that’s not what people like to hear. We don’t like to hear that our sins are so bad that we need a suffering Savior to redeem us. “No, no, I’m not that bad! I’m basically a good person.” But the truth is, it is indeed necessary that the Christ should suffer for us. We cannot attain righteousness or peace with God in any other way.

So God’s merciful plan was for the Christ, that is, Jesus, to suffer and die for us lost sinners. It takes the holy precious blood of God’s own Son to atone for my sins, for your sins, for the sins of the whole world. It was necessary, and thus it is written. The suffering Christ is written in Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53: “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Thus it is written.

The second thing that is written: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer . . . and on the third day rise from the dead.” The resurrection of the Christ–this also is written. In Psalm 16: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” Again, in Isaiah 53: “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” The resurrection of Christ shows the victory over sin and death he has won for us and shares with us. Thus it is written.

And now the third thing that is written: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, . . . and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” The preaching of this central content of the Bible, and applying it to people’s lives–this also is written. The message of repentance, the message of forgiveness, that this message will go out to all nations–this also stands written in the Holy Scriptures.

Repentance. Ezekiel 33: “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

Forgiveness of sins. Psalm 103: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. . . . as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Jeremiah 31: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

That this word of the Lord would go out to all nations, not just to Israel. Isaiah 42: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Repentance, forgiveness, the worldwide proclamation–Jesus is saying that all of this was already written in the Old Testament Scriptures. And now Jesus is about to send out his apostles to undertake this mission. “Thus it is written, thus you shall preach.”

Because Jesus tells them they are witnesses of these things. They have been with the Lord. They have seen his mighty deeds. They have heard his life-giving words. They have seen his suffering. They now have seen him risen from the dead. Their minds have been opened to understand the Scriptures. And now, as witnesses, they are to go out and tell others what they know to be true. “You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus tells them. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The mission will begin in Jerusalem not many days from then. The ascended Lord Jesus will pour out the Holy Spirit on the church on the Day of Pentecost. And so it will begin. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The church’s witness began in Jerusalem, and it has gone out into all the earth. You and I are here today, as Christians, because Jesus has sent out his preachers to give that gospel witness. What a blessing! We can never thank him enough!

“Thus it is written, thus you shall preach.” Dear friends, our ascended Lord Jesus is still speaking to us through his word. The life-giving message of our crucified and risen Savior stands written, running through all of Holy Scripture, Old Testament and New. The application to our lives, calling us to repentance, giving us the gift of forgiveness–this still rings true and powerfully works in our lives to this day.

And so, on this Ascension Day, we give thanks that Jesus makes it so. Our Lord is clearing up our spiritual brain fog, even as the clouds have hidden him from our eyes. Thus it is written, thus it is preached!

Published in: on May 18, 2023 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: