“Christ’s Resurrection Is Foundational for the Church”

(Luke 24:36-49 – Easter 2 – April 24, 2022)

Luke 24:36-49 – 36Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” 37But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” 40When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43And He took it and ate in their presence. 44Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnesses of these things. 49Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

Dear fellow Redeemed in the name of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ:

“On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.” So we sing in the familiar hymn. Christ’s Church is built on the rock-solid foundation of our Savior and His truth. As the apostle Paul says of all believers in Ephesians 2:19-20: You are… fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”

When we confess this scriptural truth about Christ as the Church’s one foundation, we have in mind all that He has accomplished for our salvation. This includes the perfect life God’s Son has lived to fulfill the law and all righteousness for us; as well as His innocent suffering and death on the cross to pay for all our sins. But our hope in Christ does not stop there. It must also include His resurrection; for without this, what would His saving work amount to?

We may take that for granted, but many do not. Many claim they are preaching the Gospel and building up Christ’s Church; yet, they deny the miracle of His resurrection and push that truth aside. Such denial attacks the very foundation of Christ’s Church and our hope in Him. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19: If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

In our text, Jesus shows Himself alive to His disciples the evening of His resurrection. He would continue to appear to them the next forty days, giving many convincing proofs that He was alive, until His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:3). Why? Because everything He has done for our salvation, and everything His Church is about, is closely tied to His resurrection. “Christ’s Resurrection Is Foundational for the Church.”

1) It proves that He is the true Savior

First, because it proves that He is the real Savior. Here, the disciples were gathered together, discussing reports that Jesus had appeared alive to some of them that day. When suddenly, Jesus stood among them. At first, they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit” (vs. 37). But He proved that it was He Himself, resurrected from the grave, returned to them in His flesh and bones. He was no ghost, and no figment of their imagination. He showed them His hands and feet with the nail wounds. He even ate food as they watched.

By this proof, Jesus demonstrated that He is the true, living Savior, not just another false prophet who proclaimed dead hopes. On the cross, He really had borne our heavy load of sin. It had crushed Him down to the grave, but not permanently. It had not swept Him into that eternal night of destruction, as it would any sinner. If Jesus had sunken down in defeat under the load of sin and death, how could He be a Savior for dying sinners? No resurrection would mean no real Savior, and those who trust in Him would have to be pitied more than all people.

But here He was alive! That meant the sin He had borne was gone. He was glorified, leaving death and the grave conquered behind Him. What a joyful conclusion follows for His disciples, as we can declare with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20: But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Now, all who are joined to Jesus by faith are gathered around Him in His Church as those who are saved from death. Christ’s resurrection proves that we have a real Savior, a rock-solid foundation for eternal life.

2) It proves that He gives us true peace

Second, Christ’s resurrection is foundational for the Church because it proves that He gives us true peace. This is why He appeared to His disciples with the words: “Peace to you” (vs. 36).

Without the crucified and resurrected Christ, we would have no peace with God. We would still be left in our sins. God’s Law declares His wrath against sin. It tells us that the soul who sins must die (Romans 1:18; Ezekiel 18:4). Many false prophets try to soft-pedal that Law and preach: “‘Peace, Peace!’ When there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). They do not rightly condemn sin, but make sinners feel comfortable in their sin. Therefore, they do not turn sinners in true repentance and faith to Jesus’ blood atonement. They do their listeners no favor with this false sense of peace. Unless God’s wrath against sin is quenched, all thoughts of peace for sinners are empty. It is as if a criminal who has broken the law imagines that, just by wanting peace, he can escape the penalty of the law. He might outrun the law for a time, but when it catches up with him, he will be punished. Likewise, no one can outrun God’s Law and find peace by wishful thinking.

Haven’t we all felt that lack of peace that comes with the realization of our sin and guilt? Often we feel it in a troubled conscience with thoughts like, “I should have… I should have been there for my spouse, my child, my friend; but instead I thought only of myself. I should have helped that person, or at least said something comforting; but instead I left them alone in their time of need.” Or we feel that lack of peace in a troubled conscience with thoughts like, “I shouldn’t have.… I shouldn’t have gossiped about so-and-so; now all I did was betray them and hurt their reputation. I shouldn’t have acted in such a dishonest or shameful way; now I feel so cheap and dirty.”

What do we do when we find ourselves laboring and heavy laden under a burden of sin and guilt? What do we do when we feel the Law of God, written in His Word and written on our heart, condemning us? David wrestled with this burden of sin and lack of peace it gave him before God. He wrote in Psalm 32:3-5: When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Like David, the only way we can be at peace before God is to confess our sin and hear His forgiveness in Christ.

In our text, our crucified and resurrected Savior proclaims that blood-bought peace from God. He shows proof of that peace in His body, as He tells His disciples: “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself” (vs. 38-39). Behold the glorified wounds of our Savior! Here alone is found true peace. On the cross, the Son of God in our flesh took the full punishment for our sins. He suffered and died for all of them. Now He lives to declare that God has accepted His sacrifice, that we are freed from condemnation and death, and that we have forgiveness and eternal life in Him. The wounds in His body that once bled on the cross are glorified forever. On His throne of glory, those wounds that brought us peace still mark our Savior’s body as the guarantee that we have peace with God in heaven.

Take away Christ’s resurrection, count as nothing Jesus’ wounds, and the Church would have no true peace to preach and no solid foundation. But through faith in our risen Savior’s wounds, He has gathered us to Himself in His Church of forgiven sinners. His resurrection proves that we have true peace with God, and a rock-solid foundation.

3) It proves that He reveals the true Gospel

Third, Christ’s resurrection is foundational for the Church because it proves that He reveals the true Gospel. All that He had been teaching His disciples pointed to His death and resurrection. As He reminded them: “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me… Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (vs. 44, 46).

As Jesus points out, the Gospel of the crucified and risen Christ was no new revelation. The prophet Isaiah had proclaimed it when he foretold the coming Savior who would be led as a Lamb to the slaughter for our sins – yet would live to see the salvation He won for us (Isaiah 53:7-11). The prophets had called the coming Savior a precious Stone who, though the builders rejected, would become the cornerstone and foundation of God’s Church is built (Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22; 1 Peter 2:7) – a promise that depended on His resurrection. The Scriptures had foretold that He would be a High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek – for after sacrificing His life for our sins, He lives to intercede for us at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:17-25).

Here Jesus gave proof to His disciples that He had fulfilled all the Scriptures which had been written about Him. They knew He had suffered and died for sins, that His resurrection proved His sacrifice was accepted, and that peace with God was theirs. But how about the rest of the world – you and me? Indeed, Jesus wanted to reveal the truth of His saving Gospel to all people. As He went on to tell His disciples: “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things” (vs. 47-48).

So the resurrected Christ has revealed His true Gospel to the world through His chosen apostles. To this end, He gave them instructions: Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (vs. 49). They would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, by whom they would be empowered to preach His Gospel to all nations. The apostles would take part in God’s revelation, recording in Scripture the truth of Christ as they were moved by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13). All this Gospel revelation in Scripture, which Jesus has given through His prophets and apostles, centers on the living hope He gives us through His resurrection from the dead.

What happens when false teachers think they have a “more relevant” gospel to preach today? What happens when they remove the very thing Jesus impressed so deeply on His first disciples – that the mission of His Church is to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of the crucified and risen Christ? Then what they preach is no longer the Gospel. What is left is like an empty shell with the nut eaten out by worms. No resurrection would mean no true Gospel, no true Savior, no true peace for sinners, and no true hope of eternal life with God.

But thanks be to our risen Christ, who has revealed the true Gospel as His power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). By that Gospel He has gathered us together – not as members of just another man-made church that comes and goes with changing times – but as members of His eternal Church of believers. Through His Gospel in Word and Sacrament, our living Savior is here to give us His forgiveness and feed our souls with His food for eternal life. As He continues to send His Gospel into all the world, He continues to call more and more souls into His Church by faith. And at last, He will bring us to live forever with Him in His Church Triumphant in heaven.

Therefore, truly you and I can sing: “On Christ the solid Rock I stand.” His Church stands on a true and lasting foundation; for not even the gates of hell can prevail against the risen Christ (Matthew 16:18). Let us join those first disciples, and believers in every age, as witnesses of our living Savior. Let us share with all people the certainty of forgiveness and eternal life in the name of our once crucified and now resurrected Savior.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.