Jesus tells us what the Bible is all about.
Hesham Shehab: How Do We Understand the Bible’s Message?
Sermon text preached by Rev. Hesham Shehab
Sunday, April 18, 2021
(Sermon on Luke 24:36-49)
Have you ever thought about what the Bible is all about? I mean, if you had to boil it down to just a few short sentences, what would you say is the main message of the Bible? You know, a lot of people have a lot of different opinions about the Bible and what it is saying. They pull this verse or that verse out of context and twist it to make it suit their purpose.
People approach the Bible with their presuppositions and then find in the Bible what they want to find. But what really is the main message of the Bible, if you had to sum it up? And how would you know if you had summed it up correctly?
I believe there is no need for guesswork or random speculation, because Jesus tells us what the Bible is all about.
The first thing to note here is that man on his own, according to his sinful nature and apart from the Holy Spirit, cannot rightly understand the Bible. The Bible will always remain a closed book to the unregenerate man, that is, to the person who has not been born again by water and the Spirit. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
So, our minds are in darkness, spiritually speaking, until Christ shines the light of the gospel into our lives. Then the Holy Spirit removes the veil and enlightens our understanding, and we begin to grasp the purpose that God has for us in giving us his Word.
You may recall what St. John said toward the end of his gospel in summing up the purpose of his accounts and really of all the Bible. St. John says: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” St. Paul likewise told Timothy that the Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” You see? Faith in Jesus, trust in him, to know who He is and what he has done for us to give us life and salvation–that is the purpose of the Scriptures.
So, it is this risen Christ, Jesus raised from the dead, who now tells his disciples what it all means. He reminds them that he had already told them that there must be a fulfillment of everything written about him in the Old Testament: “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.”
Yes, Jesus had already said that he was the one prophesied in the Old Testament, namely, the Messiah to come. Jesus had already said that the books were about him. Jesus had even told his opponents, those like the scribes and the Pharisees, who wrongly thought they could merit salvation by their keeping of the Law–Jesus had told them: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
The scribes and Pharisees were reading the Old Testament, but they were missing the main point, the chief purpose, which is to point us to salvation in Christ!
So, Jesus is telling his astonished disciples that everything prophesied about him in the Bible had to be fulfilled, including both His crucifixion and His resurrection.
Now Jesus puts it all into perspective for them–and for us. Jesus “opens their minds to understand the Scriptures,” it says. And to do so, He proceeds to sum up in just a few short words what the Bible is all about. He says: “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, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Remember that death was the curse that fell upon mankind because of our sin, our rebellion against God.
The whole rest of the Bible, then, is about how God would undertake a rescue mission, to save us from the misery we had brought upon ourselves. And God would do it by sending a Savior, the seed of the woman. So, overcoming death by dealing decisively with sin, and that this would be God’s own doing–that really is the story of the Bible. The resurrection of the Christ is essential to God’s plan. It is the dawning of the new creation, where life now has the upper hand.
Dear friends, this resurrection is for you! Christ has won it for you! We don’t understand the Bible until we see your place in it. By trusting in Jesus, you will share in his resurrection victory! And notice, this is a physical resurrection. You will be raised bodily on the day when Christ returns. No more sickness or sorrow or infirmity to cloud the picture. Thus, it is written, that the Christ should rise from the dead–and guess what, we will rise too!
So, here’s how Jesus has summarized the Bible so far: “Thus it is written, that a) the Christ should suffer and b) on the third day rise from the dead.” And now Jesus adds a third point to his summary of what is written. He says: “and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Jesus says that this too is what is written, that the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness in his name will go out to all nations.”
Think of it: Isn’t that what the Lord told Abraham way back in Genesis 12? “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” In other words, through Abraham’s offspring, through his seed, the blessing of the Lord would go out to all nations. And Jesus is that seed of Abraham in whom all the nations are being blessed.
The blessing comes through the proclamation. The preaching of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name is what does it. God calls us to repentance. We need to give up on ourselves, on the notion that we are good enough to deserve salvation.
Today Jesus, our risen Lord, has come here in our midst, and he has opened our minds to understand the Scriptures. Amen
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