Friday, April 25, 2014

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 27, 2014

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FROM SUFFERING TO GLORY
(Understanding the weight of our sins and JESUS’ sacrifice)
(Luke 24:13-53 & Isaiah 52:13-53:13)

Isaiah 52:13-53:13, is the fourth, and, quite frankly, most compelling of Isaiah’s, so called, “Servant Songs”. It contains the Old Testament’s clearest description of the suffering of CHRIST, which was to occur some 700 years later in Jerusalem, and culminate with JESUS’ “death walk” to Golgotha, and HIS subsequent earthly expiration on the cross.
In Acts chapter 1, verse 3, as expressed in the original Greek, the word Luke uses for “passion” is “pascho” (pas-kho), and it means “to experience the sensation or impression of pain”. This is the only time in Scripture that this particular word is used for “passion”. There, it describes the suffering of CHRIST that is depicted in the “Passion Narratives” of the four Gospels (Matthew 26 & 27, Mark 14 & 15, Luke 22, & John 19). These particular passages represent the fulfillment of the prophecy of this fourth “Servant Song” that was spoken and recorded by Isaiah all those years ago in Jerusalem.
Theologians of the Post-Apostolic age often struggled to find an explanation as to why JESUS CHRIST had to die. This passage, by Isaiah, gives us perhaps, the clearest “explanation of why” that Scripture has to offer. Here, Isaiah tells us, in effect, that CHRIST was offered up as a “guilt offering”, or “offering of atonement” for the sins of man, past, present, and future (53:10-12). It was the only offering that could be acceptable to GOD THE FATHER. And so, we see a “theology of atonement” being developed here in this passage.
Isaiah tells us in 52:13 that JESUS (the SERVANT) was so badly beaten and bloodied, that, one would have a hard time recognizing if HE was even a human being. He tells us in 53:2 that there was already nothing beautiful or majestic about HIS appearance that would draw a person to HIM. Isaiah tells us in verse 3, that, in addition, CHRIST would be rejected and despised, and would be a man of sorrow, all too acquainted, with bitter grief, and, that we would not recognize that it was our weaknesses and sorrows that weighed HIM down (verse 4). We would think first that HIS troubles were a product of HIS own sins, however, we now understand more clearly, that HE was wounded and crushed for our sins instead.
JESUS was beaten so that we might have peace, and HE was whipped, so that we might be healed (verse 5). In verse 7, the prophet tells us that, “HE was oppressed and treated harshly, yet HE never said a word. HE was led as a lamb to slaughter. And, as a sheep is silent before the Shearers, HE did not open HIS mouth” (NLT). And finally, Isaiah tells us that JESUS would be buried like a criminal, but in a rich man’s grave (see Matthew 27:57-60 regarding Joseph of Aramathea, the rich man, who buried JESUS in his own tomb).
Our LORD and SAVIOR’ JESUS CHRIST’s suffering was a unique event in the annals of human history. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that, HE is the SON of GOD, and that HIS vicarious sacrifice was what won us our Salvation. No one, and nothing else, could have provided us with such a precious gift. HE was counted among sinners, but in reality, HE actually bore the sins of sinners, and interceded for all mankind in general, and all Christians, in particular.
In Luke chapter 24, verses 13-34, the author of GOD writes of the seven-mile walk, of two of JESUS’ followers, from Jerusalem to Emmaus, just hours after JESUS’ Resurrection victory over death, and satan. Here, Luke gives his unique and, now famous account, of the story of Cleopus and an unnamed follower of JESUS, who were walking along the road to Emmaus, a town just west of Jerusalem.
As they walked along, they were discussing all the events surrounding CHRIST’s arrest, trials, Crucifixion, death, and now, reported Resurrection, that had occurred over that historic weekend in Jerusalem. Suddenly, JESUS appeared and began walking along with them. Here Luke tells us that GOD kept the men from recognizing who JESUS was. Knowing that the two were discussing HIM, JESUS asks the men, “What are you so concerned about?” They looked at JESUS with sadness in their face, and one of them, Cleopus, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem, who has not heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days”.
When JESUS replied, “What things?”, the men went on to tell HIM about all the events that had taken place in the previous three days. JESUS then says to them, “You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the Prophets wrote in Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted by the Prophets that the MESSIAH would have to suffer all these things before entering HIS time of glory?” JESUS then began to quote Scriptures explaining those writings of Moses and all the Prophets that where pertaining directly to HIMSELF.
As they neared the end of their journey, the men begged JESUS to stay and have a meal with them, and perhaps, stay the night, because it was almost dark and too late to travel back to Jerusalem. JESUS accepted their invitation, and as they sat down to eat, HE took a small loaf of bread, asked GOD’s blessing on it, broke it, and then gave it to the two men. Suddenly, their eyes were opened (spiritually), and GOD allowed them to recognize who JESUS was, and, at that same moment, JESUS disappeared. Within the hour, the men were on their way back to Jerusalem, despite the fact that it was now dark.
The word “Emmaus”, means “despised people”, and Jerusalem means, “possessor of peace”. These two men, even though they were followers of JESUS, didn’t really know JESUS until that day, during their walk along the Emmaus road. Once their spiritual eyes were open to JESUS, HE allowed them to see their way through the darkness back to Jerusalem. In fact, that very night they went from just being “despised people” (believers in CHRIST), to being “possessors of peace” (true followers of CHRIST), if you get my drift. By the time JESUS was killed, HE had become a “despised person” in Jerusalem. He was despised by the Jewish leaders, and most of the Jewish populace. After HIS “passion” (suffering that weekend in Jerusalem), HE once again, became a “possessor of peace”, as HE ascended back into HIS glory in Heaven.
JESUS always knew that HIS only way back to glory was through the “cross”, and so it is with those of us, who follow HIM. With “open eyes”, JESUS accepted the circumstances of the cross, so that whosoever believes in HIM, would not perish, but rather, would be able to possess the peace of “Eternal Life” in the presence of the almighty “GOD the FATHER” in Heaven.
In Luke 24:25, as expressed in the original Greek, the word Luke uses for “fools” is “anoetos” (an-o-ay-tos). It is used only six times in New Testament Scripture. Five of those times it is used in reference to those who are believers. Unlike the use of the word “fool” in the Old Testament, which is used to describe a person whose problems are moral, this word describes an individual who sees things from a distorted perspective. It describes “one who has not fully adopted the “Divine Viewpoint” of CHRIST.
It is imperative that, we as Christians, not only be believers in JESUS, but also, get to know JESUS, on a personal level. In doing so, we can develop a “Divine Viewpoint”, through that personal, experiential relationship. It is not enough, just to have correct information, but we must also be able to discern and use that information correctly. And when we are able to discern it correctly, it is our Christian duty to then, share it with others. In other words we must first begin to share the mind of CHRIST (the Divine Viewpoint), and then, share that idealism with others. And always remember, the Christian message is never fully ours, until we have shared it with someone else.
In Luke 24, taking up at verse 36, we see chronicled, Luke’s personal written account of the appearance of a post-resurrection JESUS in a physical body. Here begins a passage that stresses the reality of the resurrection of our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, which is the foundation of the Christian faith.
Almost since the very beginning of time, and certainly since the conception of the written Word by GOD, all roads of the hope for the salvation of mankind pointed to a destination in Jerusalem on Skull Hill. It was always in the plan of GOD, and must never be deemed as an emergency measure that GOD incorporated when all else had failed in HIS dealing with HIS greatest creation, mankind. 
Just as the two men who met JESUS on the road to Emmaus were telling their story to the apostles at Jerusalem (v.35), JESUS suddenly appeared in their midst. HE then spoke to the frightened group of men saying, “Peace be with you”. The men stared at JESUS thinking that HE was a ghost. JESUS then asked, “Why are you frightened”? Why do you doubt who I AM?”
To assure them that HE was not an apparition, JESUS invited them to examine HIS hands and feet, and to touch HIS body. HE wanted them to see that “the JESUS WHO died on the cross” was “the CHRIST WHO had arisen from the dead”, just as HE said HE would. Still they stood there doubting, even though they were filled with the joy of seeing their teacher once again. Then JESUS offered them a final proof by requesting fish to eat, and then, eating it in front of them, something that a ghost could never do.
After eating the fish, JESUS gave HIS students a review of all the Scriptures that Moses and the prophets had written concerning HIM, and how they had now been fulfilled. And then, with HIS authority over all Heaven and Earth, HE charged HIS disciples to take the message of repentance to all nations (Jews and Gentiles), beginning in Jerusalem. They were to preach that “there is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to JESUS”. And that, they themselves were uniquely eyewitnesses to all things written in the Scriptures about JESUS.
After commissioning HIS disciples, JESUS re-iterates HIS promise to send the HOLY SPIRIT, and they were not to begin their mission until HE came and filled them with power from GOD (v.49). Here JESUS is stressing the importance of not acting until one is prepared to do the work that one is called to perform. Action without preparation often fails, as there is a definite time to wait on GOD, and, there is a definite time to work for GOD.
JESUS’ ascension back into Heaven (Vs. 50-53), perhaps, will remain one of those things that can never be properly described, even by those who witnessed it. Never the less it represents both, a beginning, and, an end, as it will forever identify the exact moment when the JESUS of this earth, became the CHRIST of Heaven, WHO now shares all power with GOD the FATHER in HIS Heavenly command center. And the disciples stood and worshiped HIM for a long moment, until they were commanded by an angel to obey the order of JESUS that “they return to Jerusalem and wait on the HOLY SPIRIT to arrive”. They were filled with great joy, and they spent all of their time in the temple praising GOD in the interim.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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