Short Meditations on the Ascension: 2. The Foundation
Lk 24:46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day
We have just noted that Jesus is opening up the meaning of the Scriptures to his disciples before he leaves them. They need this foundation of understanding, it is what is at the heart of the Christian Faith, the word of God. Without it we would be lost, unknowing, floundering in a world of uncertainty but, instead, we have the existence and the will of God revealed through the Bible. And so, “he told them,” he teaches them; it is what every Christian leader has to do with the flock of God – lead them with teaching.
Thus he starts this verse, “This is what is written.” He refers back to what we call the Old Testament, the scrolls they had, the truth of God written down: “The Messiah will suffer.” Luke doesn’t expound on this here and so we are left to glance back to the Old Testament prophecies, for example Psa 22 and the anguishes cries of Psa 69 and the suffering servant of Isa 52:11 to 53:12.
Whatever else we as Christians proclaim, the Cross of Christ must always be THE most important element of the Gospel, Jesus dying on the cross at Calvary taking our sins. We are what we are and we only have a future with God because of Jesus dying on the cross for us.
But his death was only one side of the coin, the other was his resurrection: “and rise from the dead on the third day”. There it was hinted at in Psa 16:10 that Peter took and applied in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:24-32). Isaiah had hinted at it – Isa 53:10. By his resurrection Jesus was vindicated. The Old Testament hinted at it, he had prophesied it (Mt 16:21, 17:9,23, 20:19, 12:40, 26:32, 27:63)
The death of Christ on the cross is the unique testimony of the love of God in history. The resurrection of Christ is what marks out Christ from every other man in history, the proof of the Father’s intent (“But God raised him from the dead.” Acts 2:24, 3:15) and validation or endorsement of His Son, a fact that comes down through history to challenge every person, like a banner calling all to their knees.
So as Jesus opens up the Scriptures to his disciples, these are the first two vital elements of The Faith that he puts before them, there in the Old Testament, now worked out in experience and thus proving the love and the power of God as He reaches out to mankind. This is the message that the disciples – and us – need to understand and this is the message they are to bring to the world. There is more to follow but this must be the starting place, this is the first thing they must be absolutely clear about. And us? May it be so!