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God’s Word for You

Luke 24:20-21 it is also now the third day

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, July 5, 2019

20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over for a verdict of death, and they crucified him. 21 But we were hoping that he was going to redeem Israel. Not only that, but it is also now the third day since these things happened.

The disciples, pausing on the road to Emmaus and talking without realizing it to the risen Lord Jesus, summarize the most important details of his death. The Romans may have been legally and physically involved, but none of it would have happened without the chief priests and “our rulers,” the Sanhedrin. They are the ones who “handed him over for a verdict of death.” The accusative and genitive pairing, “verdict of death,” shows their intention as well as the result of what they did. It fully justifies the statement that “they (the Jewish leaders) crucified him.”

Verse 21 shows the outpouring of their faith. They talk about their hope that this might have been the Redeemer, but their hope is poured out like water poured out into the sand. They saw no way for their faith to be resolved with what happened. But then the words are spoken, and we think to ourselves, can’t they hear the very words that they’re saying? “It is now the third day!” Isn’t that what Jesus was talking about all along?! The third day was the day that they should have been looking forward to; the day that they should have been anticipating.

How often had Jesus prophesied that he would rise after three days?

1, The Jonah prophecy: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-41; perhaps also Luke 11:29).

2, The Temple prophecy: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19; misquoted by his accusers: Matthew 26:61, 27:40; Mark 14:58; 15:29). This is probably the instance cited by the chief priests and Pharisees when they asked for the tomb to be sealed (Matthew 27:62).

3, The “Petra” prophecy (which Jesus made immediately after Peter said, ‘You are the Christ,’ and Jesus said, on this petra [stone] I will build my church”). Jesus said that he “must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mark 8:31; Matthew 16:21). Because of Peter’s objection, this could also be called the “Get behind me, Satan” prophecy.

4, The Pre-Transfiguration prophecy (before Jesus and the disciples went up the mountain): “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22).

5, The Post-Transfiguration prophecy (after Jesus and the disciples came down from the mountain): “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life” (Mark 9:9-10, 31; Matthew 17:12,22-23).

6, The Herodian (“Go tell that fox”) prophecy: “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’” (Luke 13:32).

7, The Perean prophecy: “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:33-34; Matthew 20:18-19; Luke 18:31-33).

There is perhaps even one hint in the story of Jesus’ birth and childhood: “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). Jesus was not now in the temple courts, but the temple had from now on given way to the church. There would be no more sacrifices anticipating the one sacrifice of the Messiah; he had accomplished that, once and for all mankind. But here he was, after three days, with these two who would become teachers, listening and asking questions.

We readers can almost see the twinkle in Jesus’ eye, the delight welling up inside him as he prepares to walk them through what they should already have known. It was the third day! It was time for these disciples on the road to Emmaus to take the road to understanding his earlier prophecies, to draw their hope back up out of the sand, as it were, and hand it back to them like a refreshing drink in the desert.

He is risen! That’s not just a refrain we say at Easter time. It’s the truth that the curious, the wondering, and the lost want to find out about. The great question people want to know about is, what happens when we die? Since no one can reverse the effects of age or disease, we want to know about the other side of the inevitable. Those who claim that there is nothing at all beyond death have nothing at all to support their words; they only wish there would be nothing, but their wish is empty. Those who hope that their good deeds will count for something will have wasted their lives if they’ve done it all without faith. Those who have put their faith in some other god will not be surprised to see a God on judgment day, but it will not be their god, and they will fare no better than the atheist or the agnostic. Only those with faith in Christ will be redeemed. But for all those with faith in Jesus, there is the answer we yearn for the most: There is everlasting joy and peace after death. Because Jesus is risen, we, too, will rise. Because Jesus paid our account in full, we have no accounting to make. Because Jesus conquered death and the grave, we have nothing to fear from death, and the grave is nothing at all except the last bed we will use before rising forever. He is risen, just as he promised; just as he prophesied! And we will rise, too.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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