Hi I’m Josh Hawkins, this is Episode 153 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 152, I talked about Jesus’ first two appearances to people after His resurrection on a Sunday in April of 29AD. First, we saw Him appear to Mary Magdalene at His tomb, where she had presumed Him to be the gardener. Her eyes were opened, and she ran and told the apostles in Jerusalem. Then, later on in the day, He appeared to two pilgrims on the road to Emmaus, a city not far from Jerusalem. Upon hearing them disputing about the events that had recently taken place, He continued walking with them and opened up the Law and the Prophets to them, showing them how the final king of Israel first had to suffer before sitting on David’s throne and establishing His kingdom in Jerusalem. Later on as they were gathered around a table eating, their eyes were opened and Jesus vanished from their sight. So they rose and returned to Jerusalem, meeting with the disciples and those gathered with them, telling them about everything they had seen and heard. And that’s where we’ll pick up today, because Luke and the companion passage in John record another appearance of Jesus on this same day. Let’s read from Luke 24:
"As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them."
(Luke 24:36–43 ESV)
So here it is that same evening, Sunday evening according to our modern reckoning, and Jesus just appears in the room in Jerusalem where the apostles and other disciples are gathered. John’s account in John 20 says that the doors were locked for fear of the Jews. The disciples would have likely been the next target of the Jewish authorities, and they knew it. Jesus was crucified as an insurrectionist, and His followers could potentially suffer the same fate. It’s in the midst of this fear and uncertainty that news comes to them from Mary Magdalene and now these two disciples who were on the road to Emmaus. And Jesus just appears in the midst of them and greets them with a word of comfort. Yet they’re startled and frightened, believing they had seen some sort of non-human being. But Jesus assures them by inviting them to touch His flesh, specifically showing them His hands and His feet that were scarred with the nails that had been driven through them. If that wasn’t enough, he asked for food, and he ate some broiled fish before them. This was truly Jesus, a genuine human being with genuine human flesh and bone, not some sort of angel or demon or projection or heavenly hologram. God really had done a miraculous work. This really was Jesus, and He had been raised from the dead just as He said. Now once he had substantiated Himself before them, Luke records some pretty important things that Jesus says to them:
"Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”"
(Luke 24:44–49 ESV)
I want to break down what Jesus says here phrase by phrase, because I think it’s important to understand what He’s saying. First, He says “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”. We can’t forget that when Jesus spoke this, there was no “New Testament” yet. The Apostle Paul hadn’t written any letters or even met Jesus at this point. We also can’t forget that in the minds of the apostles, who were all Jewish, there was a preexisting story and expectation of how the future would unfold for them. God had made covenants with Abraham, with the whole nation through Moses at Sinai, and then with David. Jesus’ first coming did not redefine, rework, or reimagine these covenantal promises. What needed explanation, though, was how Jesus’ suffering and subsequent resurrection could be understood and how He was the means by which those promises would come to pass. This is why Luke says “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ““Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
In this sentence that Jesus speaks, there are three themes developed in the message of the apostles that we see in the book of Acts and in their letters. First, “the Christ should suffer”. Remember all the way back to the supplemental episode following episode 21. “Christ” is not a synonym for “savior”, nor is it Jesus’ last name. Christ, or christos in Greek, or mashiyach in Hebrew, transliterated “messiah” and translated “anointed”, is the throne name of Israel’s kings. From 2 Samuel 7, we know that the final righteous king of Israel will come from David’s line and he would rule from Jerusalem forever. In his explanation of the suffering of the king of Israel, Jesus surely referenced passages like the well-known Isaiah 53, and perhaps the story of Joseph, but also several Psalms that depict a righteous sufferer and the suffering of the nation of Israel - passages we’ve looked at like Psalm 22 and others like Psalm 31, 69 and 118. The next phrase, “and on the third day rise from the dead”, would have brought passages like Psalm 16 to the discussion. In fact, Peter quotes Psalm 16 in his first sermon in the book of Acts to prove that the final king of Israel would not be left in the grave. Check out what Peter says in Acts chapter 2:
"God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses."
(Acts 2:24–32 ESV)
Notice how Peter is quoting David’s words in Psalm 16, saying that David was a prophet and he was actually speaking about Jesus, how God would not leave His soul in the grave. If Jesus stayed in the grave, He couldn’t be that final king from David’s line whose kingdom would endure forever. Why? Simple reasoning - a kingdom can’t endure forever if its king isn’t living and reigning forever. So surely Jesus spoke to the apostles about this psalm, which is why Peter furnishes it as evidence that Jesus is the Christ, that final king who will one day establish an everlasting kingdom and rule from Jerusalem forever.
Now the last part of the sentence Jesus spoke from Luke 24 is “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem”. This is important for a few reasons. First, Jesus is maintaining Jewish priority in the spread of the gospel. Remember, the good news is not primarily about Jesus’ death for sin, as we’ve seen throughout this series. It’s that God has proven His faithfulness and He will bring to pass what the Law and the Prophets said, as He said it. This is a message first to the Jew and then to the Gentile because it’s a message about Jerusalem being restored, the people of Israel being regathered back to the land, the Messiah reigning over all the nations from Jerusalem, the law going forth from Zion, and all the rest of the nations being blessed through Abraham’s descendants. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the proof that these things will come to pass as God has promised it, because God has provided a means for Israel to do this in Jesus, who has been shown to have the name above every other name, the name of the God of Israel. As we see in the book of Acts, “the name of Jesus” is something used often by the apostles. It’s more than just using His name “Yeshua”, but had much more to do with “the name” of Yahweh, the covenantal name that God had revealed to Moses back in Exodus 34. And it’s through repentance - a real turning from sin, not just believing in something - and a real reliance on what God has promised and faithfully demonstrated in and through Jesus that one can inherit eternal life. This is exactly like John the Baptist’s words back at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, and this is something I’ve talked about throughout this series. In order for Israel to inherit God’s promises, they must bear the fruits of repentance. Their ethnicity and possession of the Law is insufficient to qualify them for the kingdom and the age to come.
The next phrase recorded in Luke 24 is Jesus saying “you are all witnesses of these things”. Biblically, a witness is not an observer or onlooker, but rather someone who testifies of something. We have to remember that the witnesses to His words, His life, His death, and His resurrection were all Jews. This is easy for us 21st century Gentiles to forget. Jesus was Jewish, His followers were Jewish, the ones who are telling their story to the rest of the world were Jewish. Therefore, it’s vital that we understand the whole Jewish story, not just what we would call “the New Testament”. The whole story is what these witnesses of Jesus testified to.
And finally, Jesus says in Luke 24: “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” The promise of the Holy Spirit was something Jesus Himself had spoken about back in John 7, and even John the Baptist had mentioned during his ministry. We looked at that back in Episodes 38 and 90. The Scriptures had also prophesied of the coming of the Spirit upon Israel, from passages like Joel 2 and Ezekiel 39. The Spirit is understood by the apostles as the “down payment” or the “guarantee” of their future inheritance in all that God had promised. The giving of the Spirit was a seal or a sign that God had accepted their repentance and faith, and that, if they continued in that reliance, they would receive the promises. Jesus’ words here in Luke 24 are similar to Acts chapter 1, spoken again to them just before His ascension back to the heavens:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight."
(Acts 1:8–9 ESV)
Well, we’re out of time for this episode, but in the next one I’ll look at just a few more of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. If you’ve missed any of the past episodes in this series, you can find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, and come back next time.