April 8 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 24)

Submitted by James C. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

DT Text Luke 24:1-53
·  We had hoped

When the disciples thought about the death of Jesus, there was this sense of great disappointment that their hopes had fallen flat. They had high hopes of what Jesus would do for their nation, that the Messiah would deliver them from their Roman occupiers and that he would grant them political freedom. And with Jesus’ death on the cross, their hopes were shattered and once again reality fails to live up to their expectations and their high hopes.

There is something about “we had hoped” that echoes in our lives as well, that even in the best of times, there is always that note of disappointment in the background. There is something about “we had hoped” that is so true to human experience. We all have high hopes for how our lives can turn out, high hopes for the kind of people that we can become, the kind of excitement and fulfillment that we an experience. And yet, we live in a fallen world and reality never seems to pan out to match our hopes and desires. This is really true as I think about how I experienced different points in my life. As I entered into each new phase of life, or new relationships or new beginnings, the sense of expectation and hope never quite panned out as I expected, and at best, there’s this sense of things falling flat and slightly disappointing. And through the years, I also see how I had a lot of hopes for the kind of person that I’d become—someone who can be considered to be a good brother, a loyal friend, a man of character, a sacrificial husband, a caring and inspiring leader—and there is also the same kind of disappointment over myself as well. I haven’t become as thoughtful as I’d hoped, as faithful as I’d hoped, as caring as I’d hoped. Even though there was genuine change in me throughout the years, yet inside I know that so many of the same character flaws and dark sins still lurk in my life. Even though I’ve managed to fight sins in their external manifestations, inside my heart so many of the same sins are alive and hard to root out, and these sins prevent me from really becoming the kind of person that I had hoped to become. And as I think about this, there is that strong sense of disappointment over myself and over the kind of person that I’d fail to become, and I can say, like the disciples, that “I had hoped” but was disappointed.

Yet, like the disciples, my disappointment is over things that are so limited. For the disciples, they felt disappointed that Jesus did not come to fulfill their hopes for national redemption, for political freedom against their oppressors. That’s the extent to which they imagined God working in their lives. For me, it’s about myself and the kind of life that I can experience and the kind of person that I can become. Like the disciples, my hopes and disappointments are still so often wrapped around myself and with a limited understanding of what God should do in my life.

What is it that Jesus came to do in my life? Is it just to fix up my life and fix me up or just to transform me and make a better person? No, it is far grander and far more cosmic than that. Jesus came to reconcile me back into relationship with God. This salvation is not at all based on what I could or could not do, but it is offered to me only because of what Jesus did on the cross. And because of this Gospel, I know that regardless of the ups and downs of my life, regardless of what wins and losses I may experience in this life, in the end, God will lead me by his power beyond death to continue in this eternal relationship with him. This is the kind of hope that does not fade over time, but remains true in spite of the ups and downs of my life, or the ups and downs of my own will power and emotions. It is so liberating to know that this gift of eternal life really depends only on God’s power alone. Even though the battle with sin continues in my life, where things often feel like I’m taking two steps forward and one step backward, I know that there will be a day when I will be fully redeemed and rest from this seemingly endless struggle with my pain. Even now as I live in this fallen world where so many things, including myself seem so broken, God is inviting me to put my hope in this Gospel that he has brought into my life. And compared with all of the disappointing realities in life, this Gospel really indeed is the only true source of hope that does not disappoint. Ultimately, only this Gospel has the power to sustain me to the end. What, then, should I do in response? It is to die to my small hopes, which are ultimately disappointments anyway, and to fully place my hope into this salvation that is worthy of all of my hopes and expectations. It involves not paying so much attention to myself, and being so focused on the changes in myself that I either take pride in or feel disappointed about. But rather, to be liberated from the hopes and disappointments of my little life and to see things from God’s eternal perspective so that I can join with him in the things that concern his heart and the people he cares about.

Submitted by Joanna K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church 

DT Text Luke 24:1-53

Luke 24:1

  • What is the significance of the fact that these women took the spices to the tomb very early in the morning, while the disciples were downcast and dejected (Luke 24:18)?  What did the women experience as a result?

The significance of the fact that these women took the spices to the tomb very early in the morning, while the disciples were downcast and dejected was that through obedience they were able to experience God in a deeper way.  I’m sure the women were also feeling as disillusioned, sad, and dejected as the disciples.  However, since they loved Jesus and wanted to honor him by giving him a proper burial they pushed through their emotions and just were faithful to the task at hand.  They were indeed very faithful as they did not wait until later, but left very early in the morning to tend to Jesus’s body.  As a result, they were the first witnesses to the resurrection and amazing news that Jesus rose from the dead came to them through the two angels.  The women ran back and were honored with the role of being apostles to the apostles.

This shows me that there is something to not caving into my emotions that I am feeling in the moment.  Sometimes when I am faced with some discouraging truths about myself, I just want to run away, and disappear.  Doing extended time of reflection or daily devotion is not something I want  or feel like doing.  However, if I push through and just be faithful with the daily devotion time then I can experience a strengthening from the word of God that I never would have been able to experience otherwise.

Luke 24:5-7

  • What did the angels remind the women? 

The angels reminded the women of the words that Jesus spoke, foretelling what actually happened, that he would be crucified and raised again on the third day.

  • What is the role of remembering God’s word in recognizing God at work?

The role of remembering God’s word in recognizing God at work is that it helps us make that connection between things that are happening in our lives and God at work when see it confirmed in the word of God.  For these women, even though they heard Jesus say before that he was going to be crucified by sinful men and then rise again they did not understand it then.  Now, they were even more confused because of the trauma and emotions of seeing Jesus die on the cross, and it was their intention to even prepare his body for a proper burial.  So, even though they saw the stone rolled away and the body missing they still did not remember or believe Jesus’ words.  It was only until the angels reminded the women what Jesus said, and only then after everything happened did they remember his words and start making those connections.

It is the often the case that even though I know God’s word and heard many messages on the same text, it’s only when I go through something and then am reminded of the word of God do I really experience the word of God to be true.  For instance, I’ve heard many times that in losing my life I will actually gain it.  However, most of the time I’m trying to preserve my life.  But during times when I am forced to expend myself for the gospel like on mission trips or during welcome week, and then I hear these words of Jesus, they come alive and I really experience it to be true.  Only then do I recognize God’s work that when I expend my life, God fills me with true joy that I cannot attain when I pamper my body or seek comfort.

Luke 24:12

  • Why do you think only Peter got up and ran to the tomb?

I think Peter was the only one who got up and ran to the tomb because he already experienced Jesus’ words coming true, but in a kind of painful way.  Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times, and even though Peter never would’ve believed it, it happened.  So perhaps from this experience, Peter had more trust in Jesus’s words that he would actually raise again just as he said.  Perhaps Peter also put more hopes in Jesus rising from the dead because he felt guilty for denying Jesus and really hoped that his sin would not be the last word, and that Jesus really did rise from the dead. Perhaps he also longed for that chance to reconcile his relationship with Jesus and make things right between them.

  • What is the difference between Peter and the rest of the disciples who did not go to the tomb?

The difference between Peter and the rest of the disciples who did not go to the tomb was that Peter was willing to risk the possibility of looking foolish for entertaining the thought that perhaps Jesus really rose from the dead.  His hope and longing for Jesus was greater than his pride, stubbornness, and downcast emotions.  For the rest of the disciples they gave in to their despair and cynicism and just dismissed the women because they sounded like nonsense to them.  The men did not want to expend their energy and get their hopes up only to feel foolish.  However, in doing so, the disciples forfeited getting one step closer to the amazing truth that Jesus really did rose from the dead and that the fulfillment of all of Jesus’ words actually came true.  Even though Peter risked looking foolish he was rewarded with experiencing the resurrection a little more than the others, and inched closer to the truth.

·         What conclusion should Peter have come to when “he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves,” given all that Jesus had warned him about?  Why did he wonder even after what he witnessed?

After seeing “the strips of linen lying by themselves” Peter should’ve concluded that Jesus indeed rose from the dead, especially considering all that Jesus warned him about again and again that he would actually rise from the dead.  However, Peter still wondered even after what he witnessed because of his refusal to believe Jesus’ words and to stick to what he knew and what his life experienced told him.  He never saw someone beaten and bloodied up as bad as Jesus and rise from the dead, even though he did witness several people Jesus raised from the dead (the widow’s son, Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter).  He saw with his very own eyes Jesus powerlessly being beaten and crucified, and that probably stuck in his mind that Jesus and all he stood for was defeated.  He also experienced his own personal failure, that even though he thought of himself as this brave, committed, loyal person he turned out to be a coward and a betrayer.  So everything Peter experienced and knew was that life just disappointed and that the situation was rather hopeless. He could not conceive of life being different or think that God could completely turn things around.  Peter could only focus on the negative, on what went wrong, on how he personally failed and could not at this point remember Jesus’ words or any of the wondrous things and miraculous things that he was witnessing with his own eyes.

 ·      In what ways do I find myself “wondering” even despite all the evidence of God at work in my life?

I find myself “wondering” even despite all the evidence of God at work in my life because I tend to focus on all the negatives, and I think that’s one of the sad aspects of human nature.  Even though God miraculously saved me and I’ve experienced so many timely provisions by God, I still doubt that he can change me, or change a situation when it seems hopeless to me.  I just focus on my own failures, how other people disappointed me, how the majority of times people do not respond to the gospel, etc.  However, when I do that I am ignoring a huge aspect of reality that God is real, that he has proven himself again and again to be real, active, and engaged in my life and in the lives of others.

Luke 24:21

  • Think about the words: “we had hoped…”  How did the cross of Jesus dash their hope?

The cross of Jesus dashed their hope in that Jesus disappointed their hope that he would be the one who was going to redeem Israel because he ended up not being able to stand up to the Romans, and was in fact crucified by them.  They wanted Jesus to be this strong political figure that would destroy all their political enemies and make Israel a strong nation again.  However, seeing Jesus helplessly pinned on the cross like a criminal totally devastated that hope.  However, I could see how that false hope needed to be dashed because Jesus never intended to be that political Messiah and it was so difficult to communicate that to people while he was alive because people were so enamored by his power and his potential to be their political deliverer.   It was only when the disciples’ false hopes were completely destroyed by witnessing the cross could they be more open to their true needs and their true hope which was forgiveness of their sins through the very cross that seemed to dash their hopes.

  • In what ways do my false hopes get in the way of recognizing my true need and therefore my true hope?

I see that my false hopes get in the way of recognizing my true need that I am a sinner and my true hope for forgiveness that can only happen through the cross of Jesus. One false hope that is so entrenched in me is the hope that I could live a suffering-free life.  I seem to stubbornly and naturally just want to avoid any kind of suffering in my life.  I want my life to go smoothly, to not be tired, to not experience stress, and for me to be financially comfortable.  Especially when it comes to ministry, I think that what would be the best for me is for everything to go smoothly, for people to respond to me, for people to just respond to the Word of God and grow without me doing anything or risking anything.  However, even if my life were to be “perfect” and I would have that completely comfortable life, the problem is not my circumstances, but the problem is me.  Even if I did not allow any stress in my life that I perceive as stressful such having a lot of responsibilities or people to take care of, the problem is that I would still be miserable because I am still me. I am still going to be the impatient, irritable, low capacity, selfish person that I am now.  The only difference would be that I would be stressing out and being a terror to people around me over much more trivial matters such as my child’s school and extracurricular activity schedule, and upgrading my home and lifestyle, etc.

 ·      What are the false hopes that I need to let go of?

I need to allow my false hopes of a comfortable, suffering-free life. I need to completely let go of this false hope precisely because it’s false.  I see so many people my age chasing after the American dream, trying to be as comfortable as possible, but they avoid the real issues in their lives which is their guilt and regret from all the sins they have committed and their sinful nature that they will never be able to get rid of. It is the same way with me. Unless I stop my preoccupation with avoiding suffering and seeking comfort, I am going to avoid the only thing that will actually deal with my true need, which is forgiveness from my sins.  This can only happen if I genuinely try to relate with God.  But to really relate with God is painful and brings discomfort because God wants to relate with me in truth, and the truth is that I am a wretched sinner through and through.  The truth is that my sins deserve the punishment of the cross and that the comfort that I seek is actually sin and offensive to God because he is supposed to be my sole source of comfort.  I need to really face the cross and the process of repentance is really painful and uncomfortable, but it’s what I need to go through in order to really experience the freedom of being forgiven and the joy of having my relationship with God restored. This is indeed what I’ve experienced when I do face the cross and allow it to show me the truth that I am just a sinner in need of forgiveness.  It’s only then my true need is met, and I am like a rebellious child reconciled with my heavenly father and welcomed home.

Luke 24:25

  • Why were the disciples “slow of heart to believe” the Scriptures?

 The disciples were “slow of heart to believe” the Scriptures because they were so used to living like practical atheists.  Even though for three years in following Jesus they said they believed he was the Christ, that he was God in the flesh, and that he could do the impossible, their actual beliefs that they held onto was that God is not real and that they are alone in this world to fend for themselves.  That’s why they were going back to their hometowns to tend to their “real” lives. Witnessing Jesus’ death on the cross maybe only confirmed their ingrained belief that God was not real and that what truly mattered in the end was just living a comfortable life here on earth.  Now that their adventures were over with Jesus, it was time to tend to more practical matters that would actually affect how they were going to live.

·      What are some attitudes I hold onto in my heart which the Scriptures repeatedly contradict, but which I am slow to let go of?

Some attitudes that I hold onto in my heart which the Scriptures repeatedly contradict, but which I am slow to let go of is that suffering is bad and must be avoided at all costs.  Even though Christianity centers on a crucified Savior, and that all the heroes of faith attested to the huge truth of the gospel that “to die is to gain” I still find myself just wanting to avoid suffering in my life. So even though I know that to take on more responsibility and more suffering I’ve experienced so much more fellowship with God I hesitate to take on more responsibilities in my life and I choose to not get really involved in peoples’ lives lest it impinge my own comfort.  However, I pray that through this Passion Week that I would experience the cross anew and really put to death this stubborn attitude that is contrary to the gospel.

Luke 24:32-35

  • What made their hearts burn?

The disciples recognized that their hearts burned when Jesus was on the road with them opening the Scriptures to them.  It was when they started seeing that God’s words were actually true, that they were true in the midst of all the chaos and suffering that they just witnessed.  They were getting so excited that God was actually real and despite their own blindness to the truth of God’s word, God’s word was being played out right before their eyes.

 ·      What made these two disciples get up and return at once to Jerusalem?

The two disciples got up and returned at once to Jerusalem when they realized that Jesus rose again and appeared to them. They could not contain their excitement because of their discovery that all their hopes were not dashed but were fulfilled in Jesus.

  • The disciples had no option but to hasten back to Jerusalem and share with others how they encountered Jesus.  How does the Gospel have this kind of effect on a person’s life, turning him from the path that he is on and compelling him to share the good news with others? 

The Gospel has this kind of effect on a person’s life, turning them from the path that he is on and compelling him to share the good news with others because when you encounter Jesus the path that you’re on doesn’t make sense anymore.  For these disciples they were going back to their old lives because they were disillusioned with Jesus, with being a religious “fanatic” and focusing on spiritual things too much. However, when they experienced a genuine encounter with Jesus then the path that they were on completely doesn’t make sense now.  They experienced the resurrected Christ, and it meant that to be a religious “fanatic” was actually the right path all along because God was real, and that Jesus conquered death, and he was really who he said he was.  It’s something so mind altering and life changing that they felt compelled to tell others about it.  It would be foolish and just wouldn’t make sense having that personal knowledge of Jesus and just going back to their mundane lives.

  • Is this true of my life?

This is true of my life when I do have a genuine encounter with Jesus.  When I first became Christian and realized that God was real, that Jesus wanted to personally relate with me, and that through the cross my sins were truly forgiven and I was given a clean slate, I couldn’t stop telling my friends what happened in my life.  It was so natural, like watching the best movie of my life and wanting to tell others to go see it, but more than that.  So when the opportunity to serve in ministry was offered, I readily and eagerly took it because I thought what other way would be more appropriate given my encounters with Jesus.  Of course people needed to know what I knew, and I had to be a part of sharing this news with others.

However, it’s when it has been a long time since I had a fresh encounter with Jesus that my life purpose to share the good news with others gets a little fuzzy.  I start focusing on my life and the here and now.  I start thinking about how I could make my life as comfortable as possible and I start seeing the task of loving others for the sake of the gospel tiresome.  When I feel this, then it should be a red flag that my relationship with God is not right because a healthy one is depicted here in these disciples’ U-turn from their old path after they encountered Jesus in a genuine way.

Submitted by Amy T. from Gracepoint Hsinchu Church

DT Text Luke 24:1-53

Luke 24:21

  • Think about the words: “we had hoped…”  How did the cross of Jesus dash their hope?

“We had hoped.” These men were downcast as they remembered Jesus. They remembered He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. They had hoped Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And yet, instead, he was handed over by the chief priests and rulers and sentenced to death and was crucified. The cross of Jesus dashed their hope, because they had in mind their own picture of what could redeem Israel. They genuinely believed that Jesus was the true Messiah, that he was the promised one, and yet, their picture of being redeemed was to be finally delivered and free from Roman rule. They had grown excited about the possibility of all Jesus could do, of His power, and that He would finally be the one to save them from their problem of the Romans, for Israel to finally take its place as a powerful nation.

Yet, instead what they find is their Messiah hanging on the cross, subjected to a criminal sentence, he was dead, and no longer able to accomplish what they had hoped. The person they had trusted in, placed their hope in was now gone, seemingly powerless to the cross and no longer able to save them from Roman bondage. And so they were downcast, they were filled with disappointment.

  • In what ways do my false hopes get in the way of recognizing my true need and therefore my true hope? 

We see that it was this false hope that blinded them from recognizing their true need and true hope. It was their focus on these smaller dreams that didn’t leave room to hear the amazing news that the women were trying to tell them. The tomb was empty, Jesus is risen, Jesus is alive! All they could see was the hope they had was dashed, that things didn’t happen as they wanted and expected, and so they remain downcast. They don’t see that Jesus came to do something far beyond just a temporary deliverance from Roman rule. They continue to insist on their own understanding of things, so that they’re unable to receive these truths nor see that hope is right before them.

In the same way, it’s as I have hopes in the wrong things, that it blocks me from seeing my true need and therefore my true hope. Intellectually for Christians, we know that our true hope can only be found in God, and so we would not claim to place our hope in other things. But even though we don’t verbalize it, I think it often comes out in our reaction to things, what frustrates us, what discourages us, what causes us to be downcast, etc. often reveal where we are placing our hopes.

As I thought about the different possible false hopes we try to trust in, I saw how it so quickly blind us to our true need and therefore our true hope. We end up zooming into the wrong things, and may lose sight of what’s most important. If my false hope is in ministry going well, I may think that my need is for people to respond well to the Gospel, to receive our invitations, to readily welcome our presence and want to get to know us, to sign up for our courses, to respond to the Bible Studies, for people not to struggle, for students not to have issues, and end up finding my hope in successful ministry. If my false hope is in my husband treating me a certain way, I may think my true need is that he would always be sensitive and understanding, that he would read my mind and know exactly how I feel without me having to verbalize anything, that he would never be in a bad mood while always being willing to tolerate my bad moods. If my false hope is in my children always being good and never causing me worry, I may think my need is for them to never to be moody, for them to always sleep and wake up according to my schedule, that they would never get sick, that they would never fall down, that they would know automatically when is appropriate to speak up and how to obey. There are so many other things we can place our false hopes–in ourselves, in things of this world, in how people will respond to us, etc.

In each of these different scenarios, it plays out in quickly thinking that my true need is for other people to change, that my hope is in others accommodating to my agendas and dreams, and I can end up mistaking my true need and hope in my circumstances changing rather than truly identifying my true need. In many instances, these false hopes boiled down to hoping that both others and I are sin-free, which is impossible. Such a hope will only cause me continual disappointment, as well as cause me to stray farther and farther from what my true need and hope is. The reality is I can quickly blame everyone else, and never see that my true need is to be saved from myself, my pride, my lovelessness, my impatience, my demanding attitude.  And it becomes very possible to lose sight that my greatest need is for forgiveness of my sin, that my true hope is the fact that Jesus died on the cross for my sin and that He has risen.

This is why it is so crucial to continually confess the false hopes that I have. That I cannot be so quick to dismiss my discouragements or frustrations as incidental or an exception, but rather take time to see what false hopes these may reveal, so that I can continually be purified of these false hopes. It’s as I commit to adopting that attitude of the psalmist in Psalm 139, that God would search me and know my heart, to test me and know my anxious thoughts, so that He could expose if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. That it’s truly as I take time to properly reflect, to allow these false hopes to be exposed, to properly repent, that I can be led to the way everlasting as I’m brought back to clarity again and again of what my one true hope and need is

Luke 24:32-35

  • What made their hearts burn?

When Jesus was talking with them on the road and opening up the Scriptures to them.

  • What made these two disciples get up and return at once to Jerusalem?

They couldn’t help but return at once to share with the Eleven and those with them, to acknowledge “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”

The news they thought had completely dashed their hopes was now the one true hope that they could claim. Their eyes were finally opened, as they understood Jesus’ words, and the truths that Jesus had been trying to tell them was starting to make sense. They finally saw things beyond their own narrow agenda, to see the magnitude of who Jesus is, this incredible news that changed everything. They knew He was more than just some good man that was gone, but that He was truly who He claimed to be, and so they had to get up at once to share with the others.

  • The disciples had no option but to hasten back to Jerusalem and share with others how they encountered Jesus.  How does the Gospel have this kind of effect on a person’s life, turning him from the path that he is on and compelling him to share the good news with others? 

It’s this life-transforming news that causes the disciples to have no option but to hasten back to Jerusalem and share with others how they encountered Jesus. This is the very thing we find the risen Jesus doing: looking for his disciples, revealing himself, reminding them of his Word, calling them to remember and return to Him. And it’s as these disciples experienced this personally, as they realize the magnitude of Jesus’ death and resurrection, they cannot remain silent, they can no longer be caught up in their false hopes or narrow agenda.

In the same way, the Gospel is to have this kind of effect on a person’s life, turning us from the path we were on and compelling us to share the good news with others. To see that indeed, the Gospel is my greatest hope, that though God knew the depth of my sin and blindness, still He is always calling me back home, still He is always reminding me of His word, still He is always revealing Himself. And this picture is completely demonstrated by the cross, that He sacrificed for our sins once for all. The amazing fact that though we continue in our sin and blindness, that though we continue to hold onto our false hopes and reject Him, though we continue to do such destruction to ourselves and others and refuse to submit to His proper authority, still He chooses the way of the cross, He chooses to die the punishment we deserved, He chooses to forgive, He chooses to give us a chance at new life, He chooses to allow us that personal relationship with Him. This is the greatest news I can receive, and also the greatest news and hope that I’m called to share with others.

As we experience another Easter, I want to once again claim this amazing hope of the Risen Jesus as my one true hope. As I get older and see myself and my sin more clearly, the fact that Jesus chooses to die a death he did not deserve, the fact that He chooses to forgive us who treat Him as an enemy, the fact that He bears the pain of our continual rejection and refusal to trust in His Word becomes more and more amazing. Even before I knew who He was, when I was still stuck in my blindness and insisting on my own way, already He bore the cross and chose to give me a chance at life. And even after I knew Him, still He knew my pride, still He knew I would continue to struggle with my false hopes, He knew my foolishness and my often being slow of heart to believe, the many trail of victims I left behind and yet still He chooses to forgive me of my sin, still He continues to invite me to remember Him, to embrace His word and to again and again properly place my hope in Him alone.  Truly there is no other true hope in this world, and I commit once again to the awesome privilege of claiming and sharing this good news with others.

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