Perhaps you’ve heard the advice, “Buy what you’re selling.” You wouldn’t expect a Ford salesman to drive a Chevy. On the threshold of a new year Christians may well want to ask, “If we are not convinced that Christ fulfilled prophecy (last week’s lesson) and also rose from the dead, will a watching world believe us?” We end this month’s lessons where we started—with the resurrection of Jesus. It is the centerpiece of our faith.
Doubts Give Way to Satisfied Minds
Christians may not have all the answers to their doubts, but they can have a “satisfied mind” (Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict). On the day of his resurrection Jesus appeared to two of his followers en route to the village of Emmaus and engaged them in Bible study from the Old Testament concerning himself (Luke 24:13-30). These two were so excited that they returned to Jerusalem, found the apostles, and told them that Jesus was alive and had appeared to them (vv. 31-35).
As those two were giving their testimony to the apostles Jesus suddenly appeared and greeted the whole group, “Peace be with you.” Jesus had said these same words in an earlier resurrection appearance (John 20:19). It was probably more than a typical Near Eastern greeting. Since he was really alive they could have genuine peace (Romans 5:1).
No less than six different words indicate how stunning this appearance and greeting was. The apostles were startled (terrified) and frightened (phobic) and thought Jesus was a ghost (spirit) and troubled (emotionally stirred up) and had doubts (considerations of the mind) and were full of amazement (marvel). But Jesus wanted the apostles, and us, to have an informed faith. The resurrection invited investigation. Jesus was not afraid of the scrutiny of evidence. Our faith is not blind. Faith always begins with eye witness testimony and an assessment of whether or not the source of that testimony can be believed. Doubt can lead to unbelief, but doubt and unbelief are not the same. Doubt can invite healthy inquiry.
To satisfy the apostles’ minds Jesus did two things. First, he called them to look at his nail-pierced hands and feet and actually showed them to the apostles (John 20:24-29). Next, he took a piece of fish (see 21:9-14) and ate it in their presence. Ghosts do not eat fish or anything else. Jesus gave evidence beyond reasonable doubt of his bodily resurrection from the dead. Our witness for Christ will have greater passion when we have a satisfied mind that Jesus is alive.
Confusion Gives Way to Witness
As he did with the two followers on the Emmaus Road, Jesus held a Bible study concerning himself. He took the three parts of the Hebrew Bible (the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms) and exegeted himself as the fulfillment of those Scriptures. The texts bore witness to Jesus (John 5:39). He opened their minds to the Scriptures. He might have done this miraculously or just through his teaching.
One of the most difficult things for the apostles to wrap their heads around was the concept of a suffering Messiah. He no doubt spent time explaining Isaiah 53 and how God chose to get the world back through sacrifice. But the passion of Calvary and the victory of the empty tomb became the impetus for Luke’s version of the great commission.
The Gospels and Acts give us a five-fold commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:47-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:6-8). Each of the four authors nuance it differently. Matthew’s account underlines the authority of the king. Mark’s account emphasizes the extent of the kings’ reign. John’s account stresses the solidarity between Jesus and his witnesses. Luke’s account gives us the aspects of salvation.
There are three aspects of salvation in Luke’s call for worldwide witness. First, there is the aspect of repentance (changing of the mind, belief, behavior, and desires) and forgiveness (sending away) of sins (see Acts 2:38). Second, there is the aspect of preaching (heralding the king’s message) and being witnesses (one who testifies to what has been seen or heard). Third, there is the aspect of waiting (stay in the city) and empowerment (clothed with power from on high). Reverse these aspects. Empowered witnesses preach with passion and achieve good results.
The concluding paragraph of Luke’s Gospel tells of Jesus’ ascension to Heaven. That is the icing on the cake of his resurrected glory. May we all resolve in this New Year to witness to all nations (ethnic groups) for the glory of God.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.