Salvation Obtained; Salvation Delivered - Third Sunday of Easter
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 24:36-49
April 18, 2021

Dear friends in Christ, there are two wonderful things that happen in the Gospel reading from Luke 24 beginning at verse 36. The first is that Jesus presents Himself alive to the disciples. This has to do with salvation obtained. The second is that Jesus makes provision for the deliverance to us of the salvation He has obtained. For the salvation He obtained for us in His death and resurrection doesn’t do us any good if it is not also delivered to us. It is delivered to us in particular forms and with a particular content. We have fellowship with Christ and with each other in the kingdom of God in these particular forms and in this particular content.

Let’s talk first about Jesus presenting Himself alive to the disciples.

The story begins with Jesus suddenly standing in their midst “as they were talking about these things” (Luke 24:36 ESV). Who are those who were talking about these things and what are these things?

The ones who were talking about these things were the two that Jesus met on the road to Emmaus. That story comes right before our Gospel reading today. Two of Jesus followers, not of the twelve, were going home from Jerusalem to Emmaus, where they lived. Jesus met them on the road. They did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus engaged them in conversation where they told Jesus that they were discussing the things that had taken place in Jerusalem in the last few days regarding Jesus. They got to where they lived. They urged Jesus to stay with them because it was getting late in the day.

When they were sitting at table to get something to eat, Jesus took bread and broke it. At that point, their eyes were opened and they recognized that it was Jesus. Then Jesus disappeared from their sight.

So they immediately got up and went back to Jerusalem, even though it was getting late in the day. It was not a good idea to be walking the roads after dark. But now they were not worried about that because they saw Jesus alive.

So they were telling the eleven disciples and anyone else there about this and how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of bread (Luke 24:35). It was while they were talking about these things that Jesus Himself stood in their midst.

When Jesus did this, He first had to convince them that He was really alive again in bodily, physical resurrection. And it wasn’t their eyesight that was the problem, that needed to be corrected. It was what they were thinking about what they were seeing, and why they were thinking it. They were thinking that they were looking at a spirit, that is, a ghost. They were startled by the sudden appearance of Jesus in their midst. And as they were startled, they were becoming terrified.

Why did they think they were seeing a ghost? Well, because they were assuming that dead people don’t come back to life. They may have theoretically affirmed the resurrection of the dead and given lip service to it, but when it actually came to seeing Jesus alive again and standing right in front of them, they did not assume the resurrection, but just opposite: dead people don’t rise from the dead. So it must be a ghost. Concluding that it must be a ghost, however, was an interpretation of what they were looking at, an interpretation that stemmed from their assumptions about how things really are.

Isn’t it sad how they had become so accustomed to the experience of death as final that they couldn’t believe the resurrection, at first, when it was literally staring them in the face. But that is the way we humans are. We get accustomed to things as normal that are not normal at all. This can blind us to the faithfulness and deeds of God and bring about interpreting things in a quite non-faith-in God way.

So for the disciples, the one thing that could not happen as a practical matter was the resurrection, even though they theoretically affirmed it. So the one thing that they thought they were seeing must be that they were seeing a ghost, which does not actually happen; there are no such things as ghosts. And at the root of the problem is that they did not believe Jesus’s word and the Scriptures.

Preserve Your Word, O Savior.

So Jesus began to demonstrate to them that He was really alive again in His body, in bodily, physical resurrection. “Look at my hands and my feet. Touch me and see. A spirit does not have flesh and bone like you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

They were still not believing it out of joy and amazement. So Jesus says, “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41). They gave Him a piece of broiled fish. He took it and ate it in front of them. Spirits don’t eat anything.

So Jesus says to them; Jesus says to His church: “Believe. I am risen.” He tells them that these are my words which I spoke to you while I was with you. “It was necessary to fulfill the Scriptures that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. Believe the words I have spoken. Believe the Scriptures. The fulfillment of my words and the Scriptures is happening right here in front of your eyes. If you believed my words and the Scriptures, you would not be having this problem of not believing what you are seeing. Stop not believing and believe.”

Believe, says Jesus, because there is profound blessing, eternal blessing in seeing with faith. Because what you are seeing is salvation obtained. Death, the Devil, God’s wrath against sin, the wicked tyranny and injustice of human beings is now overcome. The Devil is defeated. Wicked tyranny is rejected and reversed. A way out of God’s wrath against sin is now obtained. Death itself is under the judgment of the One who holds life in His hand. Death itself does not have the last word. And it will be reversed, overcome, in resurrection, Christ’s resurrection.

Here, though, for us, a problem of seeing and believing arises. I mean physically seeing with our eyes. It is not possible for us to see like this with faith because we were not there to see Jesus alive again. And He is not physically visible here for us to see Him. This is why Jesus must deliver the salvation obtained.

Jesus’s death and resurrection took place a long time ago in a land far, far away, and none of us were there. So we don’t have the concern of seeing with faith. We have the concern of hearing with faith. For it is told to us for our ears to hear and then for our hearts to believe, as it was present for them for their eyes to see and their hearts to believe.

So Jesus has made provision for us to hear it. “Repentance unto the forgiveness of sins must be preach in Christ’s name to all the nations,” He says. “You are witnesses of these things,” He says. The “you” here were the eleven, particularly, and those with them. We live in their apostolic testimony. We have no saving faith apart from it. Jesus promised that their testimony would be accompanied with power from on high, the Holy Spirit.

So the Spirit caused the witnesses to preach and write so the story could be preached again and again, down through the ages. Our reading from Acts shows us this. And the Spirit accompanies the preaching and writing and preaching again based on the writing so that what is heard with ears and read with the eyes gets into the heart. This is the life of the church. The salvation obtained becomes the salvation delivered.

This is wonderful for us because if Jesus had not made provision for the delivery and if the Spirit were not empowering the delivery down through the centuries right here to Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Rifle, to you gathered here and to you listening via YouTube, then we would not know the salvation obtained. But you do know it and have it because it is delivered to you through the word.

The delivery has a particular form and content. Its form is word and Sacrament. Jesus mentions the word specifically by referring to preaching. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is alluded to by the breaking of bread, we spoke of earlier. We learn about Baptism elsewhere.

Word and Sacrament has a specific content. We see this in our text from the words “in His name.” That is in Christ’s Name. Name means who He is, what He has done. His word and deed. What He is about, and why he came. The Name means what He came to bring. He stood among them and spoke: “Peace to you.” Peace.

We also see the content in the words repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The Salvation obtained is first a salvation to accomplish forgiveness of sins. As it is such a salvation, it conquers the devil, and tyranny, God’s wrath, and death, for God’s wrath is directed at sin, and His judgment against sin is death. We need forgiveness, so God sent the Christ to accomplish it. He has accomplished it. His rising again demonstrates it.

But there is also a way that forgiveness is obtained where the salvation is delivered. It is obtained through repentance. Repentance means change of mind. Change of mind about what is right and wrong according to God’s law. Change of mind as to where we need correction in our lives according to God’s word. This involves humility and turning the light of God’s law and truth on one’s self. But repentance also involves change of mind as to where to find forgiveness and the grace of God in Jesus. This is because it is repentance for the forgiveness of sins obtained by Jesus. And so repentance, change of heart and mind, wrought by the Spirit, moves toward faith in the Gospel.

And then the Gospel is delivered: peace to you, says Jesus. And hearts believe and are inspired to live toward God in His grace and mercy. Christ intends to work this repentance in us by the Spirit. Praise God this repentance moves in a certain direction: forgiveness of sins.

So let us come in repentance. Let us come in faith in forgiveness. For forgiveness and the life and salvation that accompanies it is the salvation obtained. And Christ delivers the salvation obtained to you here by His Spirit in His word and Sacrament.

Christ our Lord presents two wonderful things to us today: salvation obtained and salvation delivered right here in our midst. Blessed are you for participating in the salvation delivered, for in the salvation delivered, you have the salvation obtained. Amen.


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