Would you read a great and engaging book, only to stop and close it before reading the final chapter? Would you watch a movie, find yourself enthralled, but then turn it off before it concludes? I hope not! Without the end, a story simply isn’t complete; it may not even make a lot of sense. Of course, sometimes we may think we’ve come to the end of something, but then it turns out there’s still more. As baseball season begins, we’re reminded that some will leave a game before it’s really over, thinking the winner is already determined, only to find out later that the ninth inning included a dramatic comeback. They wish they’d stuck around for the end.
I wish it wasn’t so, but I fear that many Christians are missing the end of the story, the end of Christ’s story, that is. And if it’s Christ’s story, then it’s ours, too. Please! Don’t miss the end of the story!
Thankfully, Jesus is wonderfully committed to his story, and to our knowing it in its fulness. Even the first disciples might have missed it had Jesus not intervened. Surely, the deeply disturbing death of Jesus on Good Friday must have seemed like the end to them, but then, as we know, the risen Lord Jesus came to them. He showed them his crucifixion scars. “It is I myself,” he told them. Astonished and overjoyed, they sat and ate with the resurrected Lord Jesus, just as they’d done in the past. What could be better than that? But then Jesus told them: there’s still more!
Luke’s Gospel recounts for us how Jesus shared with them the rest of the story. He explained to them that the story – his story, and theirs – was set in place, and even written down, long before any of them had been born. God was the author: “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,” Jesus explained to them. He then
opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’Luke 24:44-49 ESV
Did you catch the next part of the story, the part that comes after Christ’s suffering and resurrection? According to Jesus, we’ll even find it in the Old Testament. We just need our minds opened to it, just like the disciples. This next part completes the story; it’s really the reason Jesus came, died, and rose again. And it’s big! The forgiveness and new life that Jesus won for us will be proclaimed around the planet. Not just the Jews, but people everywhere will be given the opportunity to turn back to God and be saved! It’s not a supplement or addendum to the story. Nor is it optional. It’s the essential piece that leads to the beautiful culmination of God’s redemptive plan, when the redeemed from all nations will stand before the throne and give praise to Jesus, the Lamb of God. (see Revelation 7:9-10) That is the glorious end of the story that Jesus foretells.
And here’s one of the things that’s so amazing about this ending: we are part of it! You and I, we have a role to play, as did the first disciples. It’s as though Jesus said to them, “Dying and rising from the dead. I did that. Now this next part is yours to do. This story began here in Jerusalem, but for its finale, the story’s going global! You and those who come after you will be my witnesses. You will go all around the world and share with all peoples what I have done for them, inviting them to repent and believe.”
You and I, we’ve heard the story of Jesus over and over. We’ve received it in faith and we’re greatly blessed because of it. Praise God! But here’s the end of the story: the Good News about Jesus makes its way around the world, to all people! This part of the story we don’t just hear. We’re meant to do it, to live it!
Jesus, of course, knew that we couldn’t and shouldn’t do this alone. He knows full well that we need the Holy Spirit guiding and empowering us for our part in the story, and so he sent, and still sends, the “power from on high” that was promised by God the Father. The Spirit knows this final chapter and the part you have to play. Maybe you’re to travel far away. Maybe stay and say what you know of Jesus. Maybe send. Maybe pray. Well, definitely pray. That’s a great place to start with the glorious end of the story. Don’t miss it!