By Sam E. Stone
This month’s lessons continue to emphasize the Christ-ian’s undying hope. Today we review the resurrection and next week the beginning of the church on the Day of Pentecost. The remaining lessons in April look to the future with Paul’s encouragement for the Thessalonians.
The appearance of Jesus reported in Luke 24:36-43 is the same one reported in John 20:19-23. The apostles are called “the eleven” (Luke 24:33), since Judas was then gone. In his Gospel, John explains that Thomas also was not present that evening.
The two who had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus had arrived and given their report. Others were sharing both their testimony and their questions. Suddenly Jesus was in the room with them! He greeted them in the usual way, “Peace be with you.” Lewis Foster notes, “Luke made no special note of Jesus’ refusal to allow the locked door to stop him; but the disciples’ amazement at seeing Jesus alive and at the manner of his entrance was registered in their reaction. They were terrified, and they thought he was some kind of a spirit with no physical body.”
Immediately Jesus moved to correct this impression. “Look at my hands and my feet. . . . Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” To provide further evidence he even ate a piece of broiled fish to prove that he was physically present. Having seen the marks of the nails in his hands and feet, having heard his familiar voice, touched him, and even watched him eat some food, the disciples were convinced!
The Lord then summarized the message he had been teaching them during the past three years. All Old Testament Scriptures about him must be fulfilled. This includes everything in the Law of Moses (the first five books of the Bible), the Prophets (both the major and the minor prophets), and the Psalms (this category was known as “the Writings” by the Jews and included all of the remaining Old Testament books).
Earlier the two walking to Emmaus had been unable to recognize Jesus; now it is just the opposite. A. T. Robertson points out that the same verb is used in verse 45 as in verses 31 and 32 speaking about the disciples’ eyes and the Scripture. He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Foster adds, “The difficulty the disciples had in understanding Jesus’ prior statements about his suffering, death, and resurrection may not be entirely because of dullness or stubbornness on the part of the disciples. From this statement in Luke, it would seem that God had formerly kept these matters from being discerned clearly, just as the eyes of the two from Emmaus had been kept from recognizing Jesus until the proper time arrived.”
Imagine hearing the Lord himself clarify the messianic message of the Old Testament! Jesus compared his time in the tomb with the time Jonah spent inside the big fish (Matthew 12:38-40). The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. Those who witnessed his resurrection were given the responsibility to preach “repentance for the forgiveness of sins . . . in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” This command is repeated in Matthew 28:19, 20.
When he wrote the book of Acts, Luke began just where he left off in his Gospel. When the two passages are studied together (Luke 24 and Acts 1), the meaning is clear. It is evident that 40 days intervened between the first resurrection appearance and the final one described in today’s text. This time interval allows for Jesus’ return to Galilee as well (John 21:1-14). When the disciples came back to Jerusalem, they went to the area around Bethany, near the Mount of Olives. This was the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and a favorite place for Jesus.
As he blessed his followers, Jesus lifted up his hands in the posture of prayer. Then he ascended into Heaven “before their very eyes” and a cloud hid him from their sight (Acts 1:9). This time their response was not one of wailing, wondering, and waiting; instead they worshipped him. In this spirit, after the ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy (see John 14:28; 16:22).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.