Sunday, December 5, 2010

Luke 24, Part Two

His appearance to His disciples (vs. 36-53)--There were at least 11 separate appearances Jesus made to individuals after His resurrection. Luke records one here that none of the writers mention, except Paul in I Corinthians 15:5, if that is a reference to this event in Luke; it's not totally clear. Regardless, Jesus manifests Himself to His followers, and apparently in a miraculous manner. He seemed to suddenly materialize in their midst (v. 36), and some of them were "terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit" (v. 37). But Jesus comforts them and proves His true identity by showing them His hand and feet, and encourages them to touch Him: "for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have" (v. 39). The phrase (v. 41) "they still did not believe for joy" is a curious one; apparently they were so overcome and hopeful, that they just couldn't believe it was true. "Can it really be true? Really?" A joy so wonderful that they simply couldn't believe it was happening. But it was and Jesus gave further evidence by eating some fish and honeycomb (vs. 42-43).

Then He began to instruct them, explaining that He had told them these things before, that His life, death, and resurrection were among the "all things" which "must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me" (v. 44). The theme of the Old Testament is "Christ is coming," and that's what He tells them here. They began to understand (v. 45), but still had a long way to go. After fulfilling the prophetic pronouncements of His suffering and resurrection, now "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (v. 47). This is probably a direct reference to Isaiah 2:1-4 and Micah 4:1-3. The apostles were His witnesses (v. 48) and He tells them, in effect, that this is just the beginning: they should remain in Jerusalem "until you are endued with power from on high" (v. 49). That would happen soon, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon them and guided them into all the truth.

He then took them near Bethany--in sight of it--to the the Mount of Olives. Bethany was on the eastern side of that mountain. Perhaps they did go all the way to Bethany for some reason, and then made the short trip back to the Mount of Olives. Regardless, for the latter location, He blessed them one more time (v. 51) and then ascended to heaven. Luke concludes his gospel with a general statement of their joy and worship of Him. The good doctor will begin the book of Acts where he leaves off here--with Christ's ascension up to heaven.

Thus ends the marvelous gospel of Luke. It's taken me almost 50 posts to get through it, and I certainly did not begin to cover all that this rich book imparts. The central theme that runs through the entire book is priorities (14:26-33, for example). What good does it do to gain the whole world and lose one's soul? Jesus had come down from heaven; He knew its joys and glories, and He was trying--and through His word still is--to get men to focus more clearly on the next life and not this one. Most people won't do that. But then, they will answer to God as to why they did not. And they will have no excuse because the Lord Jesus told us, in unmistakable words, the will and commands of God.

Luke's story will continue in the book of Acts. By the grace of God, some day in the near future, I will examine, in another blog, that book.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Luke 24, Part One

The resurrection of Jesus (vs. 1-12)--The very first thing that happens on the first day of the week is that Jesus rose from the dead. The first and the best--a common theme throughout Old Testament and New. None of the gospel writers tell the complete story, nor necessarily in the same order. Events are what are important here, not chronology, which is never the highest concern of ancient Oriental historians. Verse 1 says "certain other women" came to embalm the body; verse 10 mentions who these women were. Notice, they came to finish Christ's burial, not to look for a resurrected Messiah. The latter concept, because of the Jewish prejudice and teaching, was the farthest thing from their minds. And when they ran and told the apostles that Jesus was indeed alive, "their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them" (v. 11). Overcoming preconceptions can be an extremely difficult thing, which is why so many today refuse to accept baptism for the remission of sins or the concept of only one authorized church. It's just not what they've been taught all their lives. Because of the women's perplexity (v. 4), the two angels explained to them what had happened. Mary Magdalene still had trouble grasping the concept (John 20:11-15), but finally was convinced by Jesus Himself (v. 16). Peter (Luke 24:12), and John (John 20:3), no doubt in hope that the report of Jesus' resurrection was true, ran to the tomb, but Luke indicates that maybe Peter wasn't convinced yet. There was still doubt lingering for sure, however.

The conversation on the road to Emmaus (vs. 13-35)--"Two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem" (v. 13). We learn that the name of one of them was Cleopas (v. 18), the only mention of him in Scripture; the other disciple is not named, but whoever he was, he wasn't one of the eleven remaining apostles (v. 33). Jesus joined them (v. 15), but, probably miraculously, "their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him" (v. 16). It’s not impossible, however, that their preconceived notions were so strong that their “restrained eyes” were a natural event. Jesus converses with them and they express despair over His death, for "we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel" (v. 21). But, alas, they had been disappointed.  Over and over again we get this physical expectation of the Jews for Christ. The two men then communicate chagrin that Jesus' body had disappeared (v. 22), the women having "a vision of angels who said He was alive" (v. 23). A "vision," not reality. Unbelief still reigned in their hearts. Jesus rebukes them for their obstinance, and tells them that His resurrection was the message of the prophets (v. 25), that "the Christ" had to suffer "these things and to enter into His glory" (v. 26). He then explained the Old Testament to them (v. 27).

Apparently, they still didn't recognize Him, but when they drew near to Emmaus, it was "toward evening" (v. 29), and they asked Jesus to stay with them, the common hospitality of the day. Jesus did, ate with them (v. 30), and finally "their eyes were opened and they knew Him" (v. 31). He then "vanished from their sight," apparently another miraculous event. Because of their excitement, Cleopas and his companion immediately went back to Jerusalem--a two hour trip--"found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together" (v. 33). The two who had met Jesus reported that He was truly risen from the dead and had appeared to Peter (v. 34). They then recounted the events they had experienced that day.

The final passages of Luke need a section of their own and will be considered in my final post on this marvelous book.