Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 24:50-53 – The End of a Beginning

Grace For The Journey

We have been studying through the Gospel of Luke, the longest book in the New Testament.  As it is the longest book in the New Testament, it has taken us a long time to study through the 24 chapters.  Some of you will therefore be glad to know that our next study will be of a book that has 16 chapters, the Book of Romans!  I look forward to our study of Romans, a book that encourages us to hang tough during times of persecution and suffering.

We are at the close of the Gospel of Luke and we are studying today about the ascension of Christ.  Some of you may be hearing that word “ascension” for the first time.  The ascension is, as one preacher called it, “one of the most neglected essentials in the New Testament.”  We do not generally hear many sermons preached on the ascension.  We hear many sermons preached on the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, but not nearly as many on the ascension.

What is the ascension?  The word “ascension” contains the word “ascend” which, of course, means “to rise up, to go up, to ascend.”  Christ goes up, He ascends into heaven.  Here is a good definition of the ascension taken from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (ed. Walter Elwell): “That act of the God-Man by which he brought to an end his post-resurrection appearances to his disciples, was finally parted from them physically, and passed into the other world, to remain there until his second advent.”

During the Second World War, November 10, 1942, after England won a significant victory, a battle Winston Churchill referred to as the, “Battle of Egypt,” Churchill made these remarks as he addressed the people, “Now this is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

While the ascension occurs at the end of the Gospel of Luke, the ascension is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.  The ascension of Christ “bridges” the Gospel of Luke to Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts.  You will remember that Luke wrote both books.

Luke begins Acts chapter 1 in verse 1 and following by saying, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up.”  Luke goes on to say that before Jesus was taken up, or ascended into heaven, that He had “presented Himself alive,” appearing to the disciples in His resurrected body over a period of 40 days as He continued to speak to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Luke 1:3).

After Jesus was raised from the dead, He appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days before He ascended into heaven. That’s why some churches who follow the traditional church calendar celebrate what is called “Ascension Day,” the 40th day after Easter.

Luke tells us in Volume II of his writings, the Book of Acts, that after the 40 days are over, the disciples are assembled together in Jerusalem and Jesus says to them in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Then Luke records a few more details about the ascension in Acts 1:9 to 11, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’”

Remember again, that definition of the ascension we read earlier, the ascension is, “that act of the God-Man by which he brought to an end his post-resurrection appearances to his disciples, was finally parted from them physically, and passed into the other world, to remain there until his second  summarize the period of 40 days, telescoping the events of the days preceding the ascension, in keeping with his intention to provide an “orderly account” (Luke 1:3) of the Gospel.

There are three main events taking place between Christ and His followers, we note the verbs: He “blesses” them, He “parts” from them, and they “worship” Him.  I want to use these three actions as descriptive headings for our passage and then I want to share with you the significance of the ascension, what it matters to us today.

Note first . . .

I. He Blesses Them.

Verse 50 tells us, “And He led them out as far as Bethany (on the foothills of the Mount of Olives), and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.”  What an awesome thing to do for a bunch of guys who had frequently doubted Him, denied Him, forsaken Him, and failed Him – think about that . . . He “lifted up His hands and blessed them.”  In fact, verse 51 indicates that it is in the very act of His blessing them that He is parted from them and taken up into heaven

The picture is that of a priest in the Old Testament, someone like Aaron who, in Leviticus 9:22, “Lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them.”  Maybe Jesus even spoke the so-called “Aaronic blessing” of Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

Jesus blessed them with nail-scarred hands.  Though in His resurrected body, the scars from the crucifixion serve as an eternal reminder of the priestly sacrifice of His death for their sins.  He blessed them.

Secondly, the Bible says . . .

II. He Parts from Them.

Verse 51 says, “Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”  Jesus slips away and is taken up into heaven.  In Acts 1:9 Luke writes that, “a cloud received Him out of their sight.”  This cloud was the visible expression of the glory of God, often referred to in the Old Testament as the “Shekinah glory,” the dwelling or the settling of the divine presence of God.  Moses had encountered that cloud of glory on Mt. Sinai.  It is the same cloud of glory that went before the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert.  It is the same cloud of glory that surrounded Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Luke writes here in verse 51 that it is while Jesus is blessing the disciples, “that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”  Greek scholar AT Robertson says that the word “parted” here means, “He stood apart and he was gone.”  It describes a dramatic exiting of our Lord Jesus into heaven.

It is not that Jesus just goes up and up and up into the sky and became smaller and smaller so that one could no longer see Him, the way one watches a rocket take off and go up into the sky and become smaller and smaller until it can no longer be seen.  It is rather that Jesus goes up into the sky but then is carried away, enveloped into the very place of heaven itself.

CS Lewis, trying to understand the ascension pictured Jesus, “. . . being withdrawn through a fold in space like an actor who, having taken his bow, appears to vanish into a fold in the stage curtain, but in actual fact he’s just stepping into a gap in between two of the curtains.”

If you like physics, you might prefer that Jesus entered into the fourth dimension!  This is entirely biblical, of course. The physical universe cannot contain God.  Solomon referred to this truth in His prayer during the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8:27, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.  How much less this temple which I have built!”

He blesses them; He parts from them. Then the response of the disciples, number three . . .

III. They Worship Him.

Verse 52 tell us, “And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”  They worshiped Him.  At first reading, this statement may not seem to follow.  Jesus has just been taken away from the disciples.  Why would they be glad about that?  We might expect they would be sad.

This joy followed their understanding of what they learned from the Scripture.  We have read over the past couple weeks that when Jesus appeared to the disciples in His resurrected body that He explained to them the need for His death, burial, and resurrection.  In verse 45 we read where Jesus had, “Opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”  He told them about His entire mission, how they would tell others about that mission once the Holy Spirit had come upon them, and the “power from on high” about which Jesus had spoken at the end of verse 49.  

It is all clear to them now.  Joy follows understanding.  Joy is the blessing that follows the understanding of Scripture.  When we understand what we are reading in the Bible, as the Holy Spirit teaches us, we are filled with great joy.  This is one of the reasons why careful Bible reading and study is so important.  It redounds to great joy!

Verse 53, tells us, “And were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.  Amen.”  Where were the disciples praising God?  In the temple.  Luke returns us to where the Gospel begins, in the temple (Luke 1:8-9).  The Gospel of Luke begins with people praising and blessing God in the temple and it ends with people praising and blessing God in the temple.

He blesses them; He parts from them; they worship Him.

What is the significance of Christ’s ascension?  What does it mean for us today?  Let me give you these four things.  They are not exhaustive, but represent at least four things the ascension means.

First, the ascension means . . .

1) He Presides Over Everything And Sustains Everything.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:22 that Christ, “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”  The right hand of God is a metaphor for omnipotent power. Jesus Christ is now at the right hand of God, the Father.  It is the place of power and authority.  He is presiding over everything.  He is “Lord.” Listen to what the author of Hebrews says about our ascended Lord in Hebrews 1:2-3, “(God), has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;  who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Christ presides over everything,

And He sustains everything.

Secondly, the ascension means . . .

2) He Sympathizes With Our Weaknesses.

The Bible reminds us in Hebrews 4:14-17, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

He is our great High Priest!  He is the One who knows what we are going through, having suffered the horrors of beatings, crucifixion, and death.  He was also tempted just as we are tempted.  He knows what we are going through and, He is willing to dispense to us daily supplies of mercy and grace in our time of need.

He sympathizes with our weaknesses.  What else is significant about the ascension?

Thirdly . . .

3) He Intercedes For Us As Our Eternal Advocate.

The ascension follows the work of the atonement and guarantees the continual effectiveness of the atonement.  The Bible says in Hebrews9:24-26, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another – He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

The ascension is God’s guarantee of the work of His Son, the perfect effectiveness of the finished work of the atonement, the effects of which last forever and ever.  The ascension is God’s guarantee of that work.  The ascension is God’s stamp of approval upon everything that Jesus has come to do, His entire mission is a mission accomplished.  It is this truth that gives you and me the assurance of our salvation.

Speaking of the atonement, the Bible says in Romans 8:33-34, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”  Paul imagines somebody speaking against your being a Christian, whether that someone is another person, your fearful heart, or the devil himself.  He imagines someone accusing us the way a person might stand in court and speak against our case.   Someone stands and says, “I object!  I know this so-called Christian!   I have seen the way he lives.  He has many faults.  He cannot be forgiven.”   The Bible says, “Who will succeed in bringing a charge against God’s elect?  Who is worthy to condemn the Christian?”

Maybe you once felt secure in our faith.  Maybe you have trusted Christ and all was well.   But then, you stumbled and fell.  You do something you know is wrong.  In fact, you find yourself struggling with this particular thing.  You hate it.  It is a sin and you hate it.  And you find yourself battling it all the time.  The Bible pictures you are standing before God at the judgment.  You are a Christian, but there is this on-going problem.  God knows our hearts, our tendency to somehow think that the blessings of forgiveness apply to everyone else except us!  There we stand before God and the devil stands up behind us in the courtroom and he says, “This person cannot be one of yours!  I have seen the way he lives.  I have watched the way he/she behaves.  I charge this so-called Christian with hypocrisy.  I condemn this person for being the hypocrite they are!”  Oh, listen again to the effects of the atonement guaranteed by the ascension in Romans 8:34, “Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

The Bible is tells us that no matter how hard the devil or anyone else may work at trying to condemn you, you have this wonderful Advocate – the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ – the One who stands at the right hand of the Judge. He stands there forever, always “making intercession” for you. 

It is not that He must speak continually in your defense, giving a counter-argument to the devil’s charges. 

Christ’s just being there

Is the counter-argument!

Christ is always and forever standing there.  He need say nothing.  God the Father forever looks at Christ His Son, and on the basis of what His Son did for the Christian on Calvary’s cross, God then looks at the Christian and says, “Not guilty,” every single time.  All sin is forgiven.

The significance of the ascension: He presides over everything and sustains everything; He sympathizes with our weaknesses; He intercedes for us as our eternal advocate.

Finally . . .

4) He Prepares A Home For Us.

Jesus says in John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  The ascension means that Jesus Christ, our ascended Lord, is right now in heaven preparing a place for all Christians, all true followers of Jesus.

What will heaven be like?  I do not know, but it if Jesus is preparing it, you can be sure it is going to be absolutely wonderful!  Imagine: every Christian, every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, one day will be, like our Lord before us, “carried up into heaven” where we will spend eternity.  Will you be in that company?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 24:36-34 – It Is All Really True

Grace For The Journey

We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke and we are nearing the end of our study here in the last chapter of this Book.  We have been studying the resurrection accounts and it is helpful to remember this because the first verse of our passage – verse 36 – begins with the phrase, “Now as they said these things,” and that phrase should prompt at least two questions; the first being, “Who are they ‘they’ here?” and the second question, “What things were they saying?”  To discover to whom this pronoun refers, who the “they” are, as well as the subject of their discussion, we need only look at the verses preceding.

You recall from last time, in the verses preceding this text, that Jesus had appeared to two men who were traveling to the village of Emmaus, and He eventually revealed Himself to them as the resurrected Christ.  They are excited about this and run back to Jerusalem where the 11 disciples are and they all tell one another that they had seen Him, they had seen the risen Christ.  Now verse 36 says, “Now as they said these things.”

If you have ever experienced something unique or something unusual happen to you, you know that you are challenged in convincing others that the thing really did happen.   You take care to explain what happened first, and second, and so on. You talk about what you saw, heard, touched, or maybe what others told you that they saw, heard, and touched.  You carefully explain that these things happened in order for another person to understand and grasp the truth of the experience.

This has been Luke’s aim since the very beginning of his Gospel.  You will remember back in his introduction in in Luke chapter 1 in verses 1-4, where Luke is writing to his friend Theophilus these words, “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.”  Luke writes this Gospel account so that his friend Theophilus – and everyone else reading the Book of Luke – “may know the certainty of the things” concerning Jesus Christ.  

Today’s passage stresses the certainty of Christ’s resurrection body and the certainty of the Scriptures.  It is as if Luke is saying, “I want you to know that it is all really true.”  There is something pretty neat to note here: the narrative parallels what precedes it.   What we studied last week with the two on the road to Emmaus in verses 13-35: an appearance of the resurrected Christ, an explanation of the need for His death and resurrection, and then the eating of food – Those three elements occur again right here in verses 36-49: an appearance of Christ, an explanation of the need for His death and resurrection, and then the eating of food.   In some sense we will parallel that sequence in our study today.

The passage highlights Luke’s repeated attempt throughout his writing of the Gospel to provide certainty of the things concerning Jesus Christ.  Luke is saying again in these verses, “It Is All Really True.”

The truth of Christ’s resurrection leads us to at least three considerations . . .

I. Consider God’s Powerful Work: Verses 36-43.

By that I mean mainly the work of God’s raising a real body from the grave, Christ’s resurrection body.  God raised Jesus Christ from the dead in bodily form.  It is a powerful work of God as the God of all creation, as Lord over all matter.  Jesus was raised not as an immaterial spirit or ghost.  God’s powerful work was such that Christ’s body – though beaten and bloodied – was raised from the dead in a new form, a glorious body that would never again break down in any way.

This is a unique work.  It had never happened before.  People had been raised from the dead before, but it was different.  You will remember that Lazarus had been raised from the dead, and the son of a certain widow from the town of Nain had been raised from the dead, but they were raised up in their old bodies and so, in the words of CS Lewis, “They had their dying to do all over again.”  Lazarus died again later, and the widow’s son died again later.  But something different is going on here.  Christ who died was raised in new bodily form – and as such – He is what the Apostle Paul calls ‘the first-fruits of all who die in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:20).  In other words, because Christ was raised in new bodily form, so will every follower of Christ be raised in new bodily form.

We will take a closer look at this as this is what Luke wants us to see here beginning in verses 36 to 40, “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’  But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.  And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do doubts arise in your hearts?  Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.  Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.”

So Jesus is saying, “I am not some immaterial spirit; I’m not a ghost!  Look at Me.  See My hands, see My feet.  Handle Me, that is, touch Me.”  Jesus appeals to their senses, their sight, hearing, and touch to demonstrate the reality of His resurrected body.  He is saying to them, “Come closer, look, come on reach out, touch Me, get over here you knuckleheads, let’s spar a little. See that it really is I.”

But Luke says in verse 37, “they are terrified and frightened.”  I suppose they were afraid first of all because of the way in which Jesus just suddenly appeared.  Here they were just a moment ago talking about how some had seen Him and then . . . Boom! . . . there He is!

And do not miss this – the first words out of the mouth of Jesus are, “Peace to you.”  The Hebrew word is “Shalom.”  The Greek word for “peace” us “Shalom,” and it conveys much more than the absence of conflict.  It carries the notion of blessing, especially the blessing of a right relationship with God.  That is particularly significant when we think about what happened during the course of the previous three days in the lives of the disciples. These guys had abandoned Christ, had denied Christ, and had forsaken and fled from Christ.  Then Christ appears and the first words out of His mouth are the words, “Peace to you,” Shalom, be blessed to be in a right relationship with God.” That is strikingly gracious and merciful, isn’t it?

Ligon Duncan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, shares an experience from his younger years that is helpful: “My father was a kind and loving man … but when my father was angry there was a fury in him.  I well remember wrecking my first car and my mother taking me to his office where I was appointed to tell him that I had wrecked my first car.  And after ascertaining that my health was intact, he blew up!  He said, ‘You will never drive a car of mine as long as you live!’  I knew it was coming.  A few hours later it was, ‘Well, I’ll let you drive occasionally.’  And that night it was, ‘Son, why don’t you run up to the grocery store and get me some peanut butter?’  It waned after time.  But I was dreading that first encounter.”  I wonder what the disciples thought that Jesus would say to them the first time He saw them after their utter failure to follow Him in faith.  And they find out His first word is, “Peace.” 

What a gracious thing to say to 11 guys who just three days before fled from Him in fear, in shame and guilt.  I hope this encourages those of you Christians who stumble regularly in sin and feel shame and guilt.  When you sin yet again, and you feel so miserable and so undone, preach the Gospel to yourself.  Confess your sin and repent, turn from it and turn to the cross and see Jesus there who died for that sin.  See the resurrected, ascended Christ and hear the forgiving Lord Jesus say to you, “Shalom; peace to you, receive the blessing of a right relationship with God; peace to you.”

The disciples are also terrified, of course, because they had never seen anything like this – a resurrected, glorious body – standing before them alive; not a ghost, not a spirit, but in a new body.  So, Jesus shows them that He is in real bodily form by eating in their presence. Ghosts and spirits cannot eat physical food, but a real body can.

Verses 41 and 42 tells us, But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’  So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.”  This was common food for breakfast in the ancient near east.  Verse 43 says, “And He took it and ate in their presence.”   This was to show that Jesus was really standing there in bodily form, a new resurrected, glorious body.

The Bible teaches how Christ’s resurrected body is the first appearance of a kind of body that every Christian will one day have. You can read about this later in 1 Corinthians 15 where the Bible teaches that each of us will receive one day a glorious body like the Lord Jesus’ resurrected body.

Let’s review our theology here.  When the Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven and his body is buried.  Similarly, when a non-Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to hell and his body is buried.  The non-Christian, the unbeliever’s body, will be raised in the same corruptible form and that unbeliever will stand before God on Judgment Day and hear the final words of our Lord, “Depart from Me, I never knew you” and he will be cast into the lake of fire forever.  The believer, however, has something far greater to look forward to!  When the Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven and one day, God will raise up that Christian’s mortal body and change it “in the twinkling of an eye” and that body will be changed into a glorious, immortal, and incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:50-53), a body like the Lord Jesus’s resurrection body.  The Christian will then live for eternity in that new body, a body that will never again break down or be subject to decay.  It is this body that the Christian will inhabit and live in forever in the new heaven and earth and the Kingdom of God.  I find this truth remarkably encouraging!

Our bodies in present form are subject to the effects of the fall.  Our bodies break down. They get old.  As I age, I can just feel the body wearing down, can’t you?  The older we get the more easily we lose muscle mass.  I am finding that If I do not work out, the more quickly the body breaks down.  I look around at some of these younger guys and they have muscles in places that I do not have places!  In time the body just naturally ages and wears down.

How encouraging to know that one day we will have a new body.  One day we will be in a place where we are no longer subject to the effects of the fall.  How encouraging to know that our loved ones in Christ, family members and friends, whose bodies are plagued by sickness, disease, cancer, and other ills, will one day be forever free from the ravages of the fall.  That will be a result of God’s powerful work, the work of creating a real, new, glorified, body.

Consider God’s powerful work.  Secondly . . .

II. Consider God’s Powerful Word: Verses 44-47.

What Jesus does next is to remind the disciples of the truth of Scripture, the truth of the Bible.  In verse 44 the Bible says, Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’”  Jesus tells them everything the Bible says about Him is true.  I talked about this last time when Jesus taught the two men on the road to Emmaus.  He engages in some solid, expository preaching!  Verse 27 told us He, expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Remember He had said to them before on at least three different occasions that He would suffer, die, and be raised the third day (Luke 9:22; 9:43-45; 18:31-34).  But they never quite understood that.  The Bible says, “it was hidden from them.”  Now verse 45 tells us, And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”  He opened their understanding so that the light went on and they grasped how the Bible is what we said last week, “A Him Book” about Him.  They began to understand how all the Old Testament points to Christ.  The writer of Hebrews talks about this when he is led by the Holy Spirit to write about the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant.  Every time an Israelite in the Old Testament came to the temple to offer a sacrificial lamb as an atonement for sin, that lamb pointed forward to a more perfect atonement, the sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:13-14).  It is teaching such as this that Jesus led the disciples to understand.  Christ opened their understanding to the truth of the Bible concerning Himself.

Verses46 to 47 tells us, “Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’” 

Jesus leads the disciples

To understand that

His death on the cross

Was not an accident,

But a divine necessity,

The fulfillment of God’s

Plan to save the lost.

Perhaps Jesus opened up their understanding of passages such as . . .

  • Psalm 22 where Jesus is portrayed on the cross and the psalmist writes in verse 16 that “they pierced [His] hands and feet.”
  • Isaiah 53 where in verse 5 the prophet says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.”

The Lord opened their understanding to the Scriptures.

We cannot understand the Bible fully apart from God’s opening our understanding.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  If we are to understand the Scriptures fully we must be born again.  We must have our eyes opened, our minds opened, and our hearts opened.  We must have the Holy Spirit to be our teacher and our guide as we read His Word.

J. C. Ryle drives this truth home when he says, “He that desires to read his Bible with profit, must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Spirit.  Human commentaries are useful in their way.  The help of good and learned men is not to be despised.  But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ.  A humble and prayerful spirit will find a thousand things in the Bible, which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.”  I have shared with you before this little prayer I like to pray before reading the Bible. It is really simple. Write this down. I simply say, “Lord, open your Word to me; open me to Your Word.”

God’s Powerful Work; God’s Powerful Word.  Thirdly . . .

III. Consider God’s Powerful Witnesses: Verses 48-49.

Jesus had just said in the last part of verse 47, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”  That work of “preaching repentance and remission of sins … to all nations” is not yet complete. Therefore, the work of God’s witnesses continues today.  We are His witnesses.  Jesus said to the first disciples is written for us in verse 48, And you are witnesses of these things.”  He also says to us today, “You are witnesses of these things.”  The work is not yet complete.  God’s desire in verse 47 for “all nations” to hear the Gospel remains an unfulfilled desire.  The goal is still not met.  There are still many who have not heard.

We are God’s powerful witnesses.  We are to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 49 where He says, Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”  When Jesus refers to “the Promise of My Father” here in verse 49 and “power from on high” He is talking about the promise and power of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible has already alluded to this truth in Joel 2:28-32 and picks that same truth up latter in Acts 2:33.  By way of the Holy Spirit you and I are equipped to fulfill our commission as God’s witnesses (Acts 1:8), God’s powerful witnesses.  You can share Jesus Christ with your friends, relatives, and associates when you remember that you are sharing not in your power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are commissioned to be missional.  Our church must continue to work hard to reach the nations with the Gospel.  That is why we have missional efforts from our community to the continents. That is why we pray, give and go to people in our community, state, country, and around the world – because we are His witnesses.

I have been amazed at how God has used this blog to touch lives throughout the United States and in South America, Africa, the Philippines, and India.  Odds are I will never meet these precious souls this side of heaven, but one day we will stand with Him and with all the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation, all people God has delighted to save through the power of the Gospel. 

Are your experiencing God’s powerful work; are you learning and living in His powerful Word; and are your being His powerful witness?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!