Sermon: Thus It Is Written, Fulfilled, and Proclaimed
SCRIPTURE: Luke 24:36-49
Do you want to know what the Bible is all about? Do you want to know what Jesus came to do? Do you want to know what the church’s preaching should emphasize? If so, then I’ve got good news for you. The answers to all three of these questions are given in today’s Gospel reading from Luke 24, specifically, in these verses: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘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.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘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. You are witnesses of these things.’”
The Bible’s meaning, Jesus’ mission, and the church’s message–all summarized right here in one text. Thus our theme for today: “Thus It Is Written, Fulfilled, and Proclaimed.”
First, “Thus it is written,” that is, here is the Bible’s meaning, what it’s all about. Jesus himself tells us what he sees as the subject of the Scriptures. And it is . . . himself. Yes, Jesus makes the audacious claim that he is the central theme running through Holy Scripture. Listen to what he says. He reminds the disciples that he had spoken to them concerning “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opens their minds to understand the Scriptures, and says, “Thus it is written, that the Christ,” and so on. In other words, Jesus is saying that he is the Christ, the Messiah, the one prophesied throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus is saying, essentially, “The Bible is about me.” This is not bragging; it’s the truth, and it’s for our benefit.
“Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” This is a way of referring to the three main divisions of the Hebrew Bible: the Law of Moses, the Torah, the first five books of the Bible; then the Prophets, which consisted of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets; and finally the Psalms, which stood at the head of the section called the Writings. Jesus here is talking about what we call the Old Testament, and he is saying that the whole thing is about him.
How so? How does that thread run through the Old Testament? Well, track it along with me. Think of the first promise of a deliverer, given by God right after the fall into sin: the seed of the woman who would strike the serpent in the head, even the serpent strikes his heel. Or think of the promise to Abraham, that in his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. The seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham–that’s Jesus. Then there are the types of Jesus found in Israel’s history, those who prefigured his ministry: Moses, who led the children of Israel out of bondage. Joshua, Moses’ successor, who led them into the Promised Land. Aaron, the High Priest, who offered up sacrifices by which the people’s sins were forgiven. David, the King, to whom it was promised that one of his sons would be the great King, the Messiah, who would have an everlasting kingdom. The Scriptures of the Old Testament are replete with promises, prophecies, types–persons, institutions, and events–that all pointed ahead to what would finally be embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.
It was all there in the Scriptures that the disciples had, it was right there under their nose, but still the disciples didn’t get it, they didn’t put it all together. Until after the resurrection, when Jesus here meets with them and opens their minds to understand the Scriptures. And that’s why Jesus gives his “Thus it is written” statement, as a short summary of what it all boils down to if anyone is going to understand the Bible . He sums it up as follows: “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.” Jesus is saying this is what the Bible is about, what it’s aiming at. If you don’t understand the Bible this way, you don’t understand it.
Three things here in Jesus’ summary of the contents of the Bible: that the Christ should suffer, that he should rise on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness should be preached in his name. That the Christ should suffer? Where is that in the Old Testament? Certainly the Suffering Servant prophecy of Isaiah 53, the Servant of the Lord who would be “wounded for our transgressions” and “with whose stripes we are healed”–this is the outstanding example of what Jesus says is written concerning the Christ’s suffering.
The resurrection? Psalm 16, a prime example: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” The preaching to the nations? “The word of the Lord shall go out from Jerusalem,” and “nations shall come to your light.” The suffering and death of the Christ, his bodily resurrection to life, and the preaching that will go out in his name–Jesus says this is what is written in the Scriptures, this is what we need to understand.
And so, if this is what is written, this is what Jesus came to fulfil. Thus it is written, thus it is fulfilled. Jesus came as the Christ to suffer and to rise for our salvation, so that there would be forgiveness of sins for the church to proclaim. This he did, the eternal Son of God coming in the flesh to suffer and die and rise again on our behalf. Ever wonder why the Apostles’ Creed skips ahead from “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary,” zooming fast-forward over about 33 years to “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried”? Why? Because that’s where the four gospels and where Jesus himself put the emphasis. After establishing his person, who Jesus is, namely, the Christ, God’s Son in the flesh, the focus is on Christ’s sacrificial suffering and death. Because that’s where the salvation is. Jesus came to be the one who delivers all of sinful mankind from the bondage of sin and the curse of death–to deliver you and me by means of his atoning death on the cross. Only that would get the job done, to free us from the impossible death-trap we had gotten ourselves into. So that’s where the emphasis lies, in the gospels, in the Creed, and in accord with the summary that Jesus gives right here,
Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer.” “And on the third day rise from the dead.” Jesus came to fulfil that, too. The resurrection from the dead. That is the proof that what Jesus suffered was sufficient to take the sting out of death and give us life, eternal life, in its place. This is what we are celebrating during this Easter season–Christ’s resurrection. For it’s the guarantee of life not only for him but for us as well. Christ shares his resurrection life with us, all who trust in him and are baptized in his name. This too is what is written in Scripture and fulfilled in Christ.
Thus it is written. Thus it is fulfilled. Thus it is proclaimed. The preaching, the church’s preaching, what it should be about–this is what so naturally follows. “And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” Repentance–the realization that you are stuck in your sins apart from God’s grace, that you have no hope in yourself, that you are damned and doomed and rightfully so. Repentance is when the weight of your sins comes crashing down on you and you cry out to God, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Law has to do its work on your heart if you are to see your need. But then the preaching doesn’t stop there. Then comes the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins. This is what Jesus has won for you, and he wants you to have it, to know it, to receive it. And it is through the foolishness of preaching that the gifts get delivered to your door. The Word of God is alive and active, and as the forgiveness is proclaimed in Jesus’ name, that same Word is effective to deliver the goods and to give you what it says.
hat’s what Peter does, isn’t it, as we read it in the lesson from the Book of Acts? Peter follows Jesus’ preaching outline very closely. He preaches the death and resurrection of the Christ, and he preaches repentance and forgiveness in his name: “You delivered Jesus into death–you killed the Author of life, that’s how badly you missed it–but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of his resurrection. What God foretold by his prophets, that the Christ would suffer, this he fulfilled. Now listen. You need to repent, turn from your sins, and your sins will be blotted out, forgiven, wiped from the record. There is life in this Jesus that I am telling you about. Believe in him and be saved.”
That’s a summary of the preaching Jesus would have his church do. And so I proclaim to you, to you here today: Jesus Christ died for you. It was your sins he was bearing on that cross. You have no hope in yourself; your sins would condemn you. Death and God’s judgment is all you would face. But Christ died for you. He took your sins and carried them away, paid for them in full. God is merciful, and he forgives you your sins for Jesus’ sake. Your Savior now is risen–Hallelujah!–and you will rise with him. New life now, and an even better, eternal life after that–glorified bodies, restored creation, no more sin, perfect fellowship with God and with all his people–this is what is in store for you, you who trust in him. And I preach this now to you in Jesus’ name. You can take it to the bank. This is the sure hope you have in Christ.
Thus it is written. Thus it is fulfilled. Thus it is proclaimed. Thus it is believed. God is quickening this faith in your heart right now. Give him thanks that you know your Redeemer lives. And because he lives, you shall live also. Thus it is, and thus it will be. Amen.