Jesus Appears to All, Then Ascends to the Heavens
[Luke chapter 24, verses 36-53]
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Last week when we concluded part two of Luke chapter 24, the two apostles and those with them had encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus, but had not recognized him until they all sat down hours later and broke bread together. At that point Jesus disappears from their midst, and they all go running back to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven and the other disciples. “It is true!”, the others had excitedly told them all; “Jesus is alive!” At this point things are proceeding fairly quickly by first century A.D. standards, as we will see as we reach the conclusion of our study of the Gospel of Luke. So let’s take up where we left off, beginning at verse 36.
“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’. They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still did not believe this because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.” (Luke 24, verses 36-43)
Just like before when they were breaking bread at the house in Emmaus when Jesus disappeared from among them, Jesus suddenly reappears to everyone all at once! This understandably unnerves everyone at best or terrifies them at worst. “He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’” So here we have Jesus trying to reassure the apostles and disciples that he really is who he seems to be, while the apostles and the others are incredulous, disbelieving their own eyes. You know, it just occurred to me that I would give anything to be in that room with the rest of them, viewing the risen Lord and Savior. Someone probably muttered something like, “I can’t believe my own eyes”, or something to that effect.
“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still did not believe this because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’” A jumble of joy, amazement and incredulity, mixed with considerable skepticism and disbelief (“but this is impossible!”), was swirling around inside the heads of everyone present, especially the remaining Eleven, who had stood at a distance and watch our Lord and Messiah die on the cross. In what must have sounded like an afterthought to everyone there except for Jesus, our Redeemer asked for something to eat. I guess any of us would have been hungry too, after spending three days in a grave! So someone – it doesn’t say who – cooked up a fish filet from the morning catch and presented it to Jesus. I’m quite certain that Christ the Lord thoroughly enjoyed that freshly cooked piece of fish! I am equally certain whoever cooked up that perfectly prepared delicacy is currently enjoying their mansion in Paradise! And now let’s move on to part 2 of today’s study.
“He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that was written about me in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’” (Luke 24, verses 44-48)
“…. he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Remember when Jesus caught up with the two apostles on the Emmaus road from last week’s lesson? After they told what had happened to Jesus while walking along, without realizing that it was Jesus they were speaking to, Jesus explained everything about the Law and the prophets as they walked towards town. Now, here he is doing it again, this time for the benefit of everyone there, probably a couple dozen people or so, maybe more. “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” Our Savior and Redeemer wasn’t talking about the Bible as we know it today, because it didn’t exist yet. He was referring to the prophets of old: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, David, Zachariah, Joel and many more. It is for this reason that I continue to maintain when we read and study God’s Word, it is imperative to include the Old Testament with the new, since we really can’t have one without the other. The Old and New Testaments are inextricably intertwined with one another!
“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Jesus was telling them in no uncertain terms that our sins could be forgiven, a previously unheard-of concept before Jesus Christ came along and abolished all of it. So not only were the Apostles still trying to wrap their 1st century brains around Christ being raised from the dead, they found themselves equally confounded by the new concept of the forgiveness of sins – not by our own acts of contrition, but by the Supreme Sacrifice of Christ the Lord! It was a very big deal back then, and it still is today. And the apostles, Jesus said, “were witnesses of all these things”. And now let’s conclude today’s study starting at verse 49.
“‘I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the Temple, praising God.” (Luke 24, verses 49-53)
Jesus was instructing the apostles and those with them to remain in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, which Jesus referred to as being “clothed with power from on high”. Speaking from personal experience, having received my own Holy Spirit baptism in western Texas some 10 years ago, ‘power from on high’ is a very accurate description. Experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ flowing through you is similar in some ways to an electrical current, except that the Holy Spirit can’t hurt you, with the possible exception of conviction for wrongdoing. “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” Blessed them? Jesus was congratulating all those who were with him for a job well done, and to keep up the good work. They had learned their lessons well, they had made the grade, and Jesus’ ascension was tantamount to a graduation ceremony for them first, and for the rest of humanity second. First for themselves since they were the appointed apostles of Christ Jesus here on earth, and 2nd for the world because of the new salvation available to all who will embrace it while turning away from their evil ways, destructive habits and wrong thinking.
“…. they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the Temple, praising God.” If there is anyone out there who doesn’t feel renewed about the ministry of Jesus and his message of joy and peace, I recommend you find out what is holding you back, or keeping you separate from it. If you’re not sure why, or if you know somethings is wrong but don’t know how to define or label it, remember there is no shame in asking for help. Moreover, help is close by and in many forms, just search on the internet or phone, or you can find my contact page by clicking here. The main point I wish to make, then, is that the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, after being dead and entombed for 3 days is the chief motivator for Jesus followers everywhere. Our separation from God by the sin of Adam and Eve has been rectified by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, so humanity is no longer under condemnation (see Romans 8: 1-2). So now you know why this Book of Luke is called the “gospel”, or “good news”. And so that concludes our exhaustive study of the Gospel of Luke. Next week, as we continue our Chronological study of the writings of the apostle Luke, we will move on to the Book of Acts, which will hold plenty in store for us all. It is my sincere hope that everyone who reads these studies finds them enjoyable as well as educational. Many thanks to the thousands each week who follow along!