Series: Luke

A Blessing

April 28, 2024 | Peter Rowan

Passage: Luke 24:50-53



In  the first chapter of Genesis, the very first book in the Bible God speaks and brings the world into existence. He places all things where he wants them. At the end of his creative work God makes us. He makes humankind, male and female. He makes us after his image. And what we read there, right at the very beginning, is that the first thing that God does is he blesses us. “And God blessed them.” We are made for God’s blessing – it is what we each long for. It comes to us in Jesus.


Ok, I feel like there is a lot that I want to say, but I also just really want to say one thing. Let me keep it simple at first. 

What we all long for is the blessing of God and that is what we have in Jesus.
What we all long for is the blessing of God and that is what we have in Jesus. 

So, I want you to think back to the garden with me. Think back with me to the very first chapter of Genesis, the very first book in the Bible. God speaks and he brings the world into exist and places all things where he wants them and at the end there he makes us, he makes humankind, male and female he makes us after his image. And what we read there, right at the very beginning, is that the first thing that God does is he blessing us. “And God blessed them.” 

When Genesis 5 tells us the genealogy that came from Adam, is begins like this: 
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them. 

If you go down a few more chapters in Genesis, right after the flood, in Genesis chapter 9, we read “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. Which is a reiteration of the blessing of God at creation.  

Again, if you go down a a few more chapters to Genesis 12, we have the calling of Abram out from his hometown of Ur of the Chaldeans and there we read that God blessed Abram and that he said through Abram all the nations of the earth would be blessed. 

Think with me for a moment what happens between these turning point.  

Many of you might know that the first 11 chapters of Genesis is referred to as protohistory. It’s not prehistory, before history, but it is before much written history. But that time there in those chapters is telling us of creation and the blessing and the fall and the curse and then the effects of that fall and that curse. The murdering of a Able by Cain. The wickedness that spread upon the earth before the flood. The tower of Babel where humankind seeks to be God in rejection form the true God. And in the middle of all of those moments, in the very places where the deep fear of a world entirely unsettled seems to be taking over,, in the midst of that kind of situation, God says that his desire for humankind, male and female made after his image remains blessing. Genesis 1. Genesis 5. Genesis 9. Genesis 11.  

There are a good many wedding happening in our community. Jason and Tori were married yesterday. I actually did a wedding here a couple weeks back for someone not in our church. Jess and John get married this coming week! And then Hannah and Andrew and Kristi and Joshua at the end of May. So I saw this meme that I shared with my pastor cohort that I really wanted to work into a wedding ceremony, but I don’t think I can. I might try to, but I don’t know. 

But I want to tell you about it.  

So in this meme, in this picture is a minister. He’s got his robe on and his stole. He has his Bible and a really cheesy smile. Then on either side of him are a bride and groom and the groom is placing a ring on his bride’s finger. At the top of the picture it read this: “Intends to read 1 John 4:18 at a wedding” and beneath the picture it reads “Accidentally reads John 4:18”. This is obviously a pastor joke (bear with me), but maybe you will get it when I tell you what 1 John 4:18 is and then what John 4:18 is.  

So 1 John 4:18 is classic wedding stuff. It read, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Perfect.
John 4:18 read like this, “for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Those are very different passages.  

But you know what, that second passage is said to the woman at the well in John 4. And if you remember that story, there is this woman who Jesus meets at a well at the hottest part of the day. She is alone, which woman do for their own safety and she is there at the hottest part which she wouldn’t normally do for her own health. But she is there at that time because she has constantly been rejected, but her townsfolk, by her friends, by men.  

And it is into that fearful situation of a man coming to her at the well where she encounters perfect love, love incarnate. And at that meeting there at the well, her life was changed. She went back to the place of her fear, she went back to the town of her rejection and she said, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” Which is the wildest evangelistic message ever especially for a women who has had five husbands, unless it is the case that he was able to hold all that she did in perfect love that drove out her fears! 

What she needed, and she knew this was the case of the very people who had estranged her, was the blessing of God! 
“[F]or you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” but “perfect love casts our fear.” 

Let’s turn our thoughts and our attention to Luke.  

The word “blessed” happens quite a bit in Luke.
Elizabeth blessed Mary in chapter 1 when the child inside of her leaps at the presence of the child inside Mary.
Zechariah blesses God when his mouth is loosed and his son is named “John”.
Simeon blesses God when he hold the Christ child at the Temple in chapter 2.
Jesus speaks in his teaching of the beatitudes in chapter 6 of those who are blessed: the poor, the hungry, those who weep, those who are reviled, those who are cursed, those who are not offended by him.
Jesus blesses the loaves and fish in chapter 9 before feeding the 5,000.  

I could go on and give you more examples, but what I want to get at in these examples is that for all of the blessings that take place and all of the blessing that is spoken over people, Jesus never in the gospel of Luke speaks his blessing over his disciples until the passage that we have just heard, until the very end.

And when we turn to this very end of Luke, what is unquestionable the main point is that when Jesus departs from them he wants them to receive his blessing and as they do so they bless him in return. 

Listen to the entirety of it again:
50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.  

Think of this, here at the very end of the Gospel of Luke Jesus takes his disciples out and right when he is going to leave them he blesses them and they rejoice. 

Ok, really, think about this. What has been the emotional state of the disciples recently?  
If I can put it in one word, I would say “fear”. 

Peter reacts in fear at Jesus’ arrest in the garden and cuts Melcheus’ ear off. The disciples react in far at Jesus’ and scatter. Peter reacts in fear and denies Jesus three times.  

Last week’s passage Jesus spoke to their fear with reassuring them of his physical suffering for them. 

We have other emotions, but they are similar. Cleopas and Mary were despairing on their way back to Emmaus. Thomas was doubting at the idea of a dead body that was raised to life. 

But what happens at the blessing of God, even when Jesus is being taken from them, is worship and joy!!!! And they even return to the place of Christ’s death and the place where they had lived out of all of this fear with great joy!! 

Why? How? I mean, I know that they had heard Jesus’ tell them in the upper room that it was better for him to leave that the helper would come, but I have a very very difficult time believing that any of them really believed that until this moment because I myself have such a very very difficult time believing it! 

But the blessing of God here is a turning point for them! It changes them and it changes them completely.  

Now, I want to take a moment and speak to my own short leaving for a bit. Can I just say that I have a lot of fears going on surrounding my sabbatical. I mean, I’m grateful for it and I know I need it. Since October 22 I’ve had 1 Sunday off and of course lots of other things going on. I need a break from preaching. And there is a real beauty about pastoring and something that I really cherish, but something that is also very hard, almost every aspect of my life is tied up in being a pastor. I had the great joy of playing golf the other day and having a great conversation with someone and inviting them to church. I love that, but I need a break from my job. It so easily becomes my identity and a lot of times I function around here (and not in a good way) like this community revolves around me and it doesn’t. I am not the head of this church, Jesus is. And we are a body. Each one of you is an important part of this body. I have fears around some of you all checking out and the body needs you. It does. We do not function when when you all are not around. So I resonate with leaving out of fear and part of my hope for myself in this time is that I will receive the blessing of God and know his perfect love and that all of that fear will turn into joy.  

I also hope for you all. I hope that you all don’t just think that you need to hear my blessing. You don’t. You really don’t. You need Jesus’ blessing and it’s really good that you are going to hear that from other people than me because sometimes Jesus’ blessing can get confused with a pastor’s blessing and they aren’t the same. And I hope that as you hear Jesus’ words from others this summer that you will grow. That your fears will subside into joy and that you will, just like the disciples did here, move toward the place of God and move towards corporate worship.  

I’m not every planning to not be in worship this time away and I hope you aren’t either. I won’t be here with you, maybe my family will some, but Melise and the kids will have a lot of say in that, but I will always be in gathered worship on Sundays. And I hope you will too. Think about it. If there was a time when the disciples could have said, “Man, this has just been exhausting!! The triumphal entry of Palm Sunday, Jesus taught and turned over table in the Temple the next day, we planned for the Passover and had sleepless nights of prayer in the mount of Olives, Jesus was arrested and people claimed we were with him, he was on trial, He died. We hid all tougher in the upper room. Some women claimed he rose from the dead.” You get my point, I think. It’s exhausting just thinking of how exhausted they were. And yet when they returned to the place of their fear Jerusalem, and right to the heart of it, the Temple itself, they were continually there blessing God. For all of the reasons you might think up, please do not neglect the gathered place of worship and blessing. It will always be to your harm.  

Ok, what I want you to hear in all of this, what I want myself to hear, is that we all long for the blessing of God because the blessing of God is what we made for and this is what we have in Jesus. And when we have the favor of God upon us in Christ it turn our mourning in rejoicing and our fears into courage and it always moves us to the place of worship. To be blessed by God is to become one who blesses God in return. And that is what we were made for. 

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Series Information

The Gospel of Luke is best described by its author in the first four verses of the book: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

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