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!