36. Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.”
As these two disciples relate every detail of their experience with the Lord, suddenly the very One they were talking about appeared in the midst of them! He reappears, just as He had disappeared before.
Some have suggested that the Lord’s ability to appear and disappear this way must be something that is inherent in resurrection bodies, and that we will be able to appear and disappear this way as well in the resurrection. Yet I do not believe that this is the case. The fact is that this was the Lord Jesus Christ. He had the power of God, and He just as easily could have appeared or disappeared before His death and resurrection as afterwards. In the same way, if we disappear from one place and appear in another in the life to come, this too will be because God gives us the power. There is no reason to think that this is something inherent in resurrection bodies.
When the Lord appears, He greets them. His words, “peace to you,” were a common greeting in that part of the world. In Hebrew, this probably would have been “shalom.” In Greek, however, the word is eirene, from which we get our name “Irene.” Eirene “peace” is not just a cessation of fighting, but a true union. It was a true union, with God and with each other, that the Lord had come to bring to His disciples.
37. But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
In spite of all the testimony to the contrary that they had received, and even the story the two disciples had just told of the Lord disappearing into thin air, the sight of the Lord appearing there in the flesh is still too much for the fledgling faith of these disciples. They just cannot believe that this is really the Lord Jesus before them in the flesh, and so they assume He must be a spirit. They had never actually seen a spirit before, of course, and so had no idea of what one looked like. In today’s language, we would probably say that they thought they saw a ghost, and that would not be far off from what these disciples were thinking and feeling at this point.
It seems to me that often we as believers are much the same way as these disciples were. Although we speak with great confidence of the resurrection, it all seems to us as if it’s in a “land far, far away,” and to actually see a person who once was dead alive before us in the flesh is something we just cannot conceive of. Yet this is a lack of faith on our part, for this very thing will happen in God’s future Kingdom, when men who have long been dead will walk this earth again in the flesh in their new, glorious bodies.
38. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?
The Lord gently chides them, not for their terror, but for their lack of faith. Why are they troubled by His appearance? Why do doubts arise in their hearts? Having already learned of His resurrection, and indeed even believed it, why are they so frightened to see Him before them now? They needed to put away their fear, and grow in their faith. This was not a time for fear, but for joy!
39. “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.”
The Lord now proves to them that He is not a spirit (or a ghost,) as they were supposing Him to be. He shows them His hands, and displays to them His feet, probably pulling up His long robe to do so. Remember, His hands and His feet had had nails driven through them when He was crucified, and now they still bore the prints of the nails, as we learn from John 20. They could see these things, and know that it was Him, indeed. Then, He calls upon them to not just look, but also handle Him. When they touch Him and realize that He has flesh and bones, they will realize that He cannot be a spirit, for spirits do not have these things.
It is amazing that in spite of these verses, some can still claim that Jesus Christ was a spirit in the resurrection and not a physical being! One has to blind one’s eyes to the truth of Scripture to believe anything but that the Lord was just as much flesh and blood in the resurrection as we are. It seems we cannot get past the Platonic idea that physical bodies are somehow bad and sinful. Yet this is not the case. Physical bodies are not bad, just OUR physical bodies are bad, and that is because they have been corrupted by the poison of the forbidden fruit. But God created us with physical bodies, and if they were as He meant them to be they would be a very good thing. They are the way God has made us, and there is no reason for us to desire to do away with the bodies God gave us and to become spirit beings.
Some have argued with me that God is a spirit, and if we were spirits we would be closer to Him. That is like saying that in order to understand the ocean, I would have to become water! Yet water doesn’t understand anything. Just becoming a spirit would not make me understand God better. In order to understand God, I have to do it by understanding Jesus Christ, the One Who is the Word or Expression of God. That can be done just as well, if not better, in a physical body as it can be done as a spirit.
Some take the Lord’s statement here that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” and take it that He did not have blood. For, they say, the usual phrase is “flesh and blood,” and since Christ did not use “blood” here He must not have had any. He shed His blood, they say, and so now in the resurrection His veins are filled with spirit rather than blood. Then they argue that we will be the same way in the resurrection. Yet is this the truth of what is being declared here?
We must not just separate this statement about flesh and bones from its context. This statement is preceded by the words, “Handle Me and see.” The parts of Him they could handle were His flesh and His bones. One can touch someone and feel the soft part that is the flesh, and one can squeeze someone and feel the hard structure underneath that is the bones. Yet the blood cannot be handled in this way. The Lord Jesus was asking them to handle Him in such a way that they could feel He was not a spirit. It would have been useless for Him to suggest they handle His blood!
Moreover, this idea assumes that the phrase ought to be flesh and blood. This is the usual phrase in our modern-day English. Yet does this mean that this was the usual phrase for the Hebrews? Adam, upon seeing his newly-created wife, marveled, saying, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23.) Did he mean by this, “Eve, you are looking a little anemic. Are you sure you have any blood?” No, this was not what he meant. Every woman I have met has had blood just like the men do, and I am sure that Eve had blood as well. Yet Adam spoke of her bones and flesh, not her blood and flesh.
If we would look through the Old Testament, we would find flesh and bones spoken of together in Genesis 2:23, Exodus 12:46, Job 10:11, Job 33:21, Psalm 38:3, Proverbs 3:8, Lamentations 3:4, and Micah 3:2, 3. In the New Testament, they appear together here and in Ephesians 5:30. Flesh and blood appear together in Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 6:27, Leviticus 17:11, 14, Numbers 19:5, Deuteronomy 32:42, Psalm 50:13, Isaiah 49:26, Jeremiah 51:35, Ezekiel 39:17, and Zephaniah 1:17. In the New Testament, they are together in John 1:13, 6:53, 54, 55, 56, I Corinthians 15:50, Galatians 1:16, Ephesians 6:12, Hebrews 2:14, and Hebrews 9:13. In light of this, we can say that, while “flesh and blood” is more common in the New Testament, “flesh and bones” are about equal to “flesh and blood” in the Old Testament, and both phrases occur both places. It is just a matter of what is being talked about. To claim anything off the assumption that “flesh and blood” is the correct phrase and “flesh and bones” is something strange or unusual is just foolishness.
Therefore, the Lord was not teaching that His veins ran with something other than blood, like spirit. This is just not a good idea, nor is it the truth.
40. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
After saying this, He showed them His hands and His feet, and let them do as He commanded. As I said above, these still bore the marks of crucifixion. It may be that the Lord Jesus’ body is the only one that will wear scars in the resurrection. To think that our Lord took these permanent marks upon Himself on our behalf is a staggering thought. These scars will stand as an eternal reminder of His great sacrifice for us.
41. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?”
The disciples are still having trouble believing that He is truly there in the flesh, but now it is no longer fear that is holding them back, but joy. This just seems too good to be true to them! This can still be true with the message of the gospel today. It is a wonderful message, and some just have trouble believing that it can possibly be really true. Yet it is true, and the Lord goes on to further demonstrate this to them.
Now the Lord asks them if they have any food there. If this was the same event as in Mark 16:14, then we know that the disciples were sitting at a meal, and so of course had food there. The Lord asks this obvious question to demonstrate to them what He is about to do, which is eat food. One cannot imagine a spirit, a ghost, a dream, or an illusion eating food.
42. So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.
They serve Him some of their food. Probably this was the meal they were eating when all these interruptions started to happen! They give Him a piece of broiled fish, and some honeycomb.
43. And He took it and ate in their presence.
He takes the food they serve Him and eats it in their presence. Again like touching Him, this was to prove that He is not a spirit, but that He is alive in the flesh.
44. 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.”
Now the Lord explains that these things that were happening, even His Own death and resurrection, were all according to the things He had spoken to them when He was still with them before His death. They had not understood these things before when He spoke them. But this was not because they were stupid, or because the Lord did not teach them well. Rather, remember that we have learned that these things were purposely hidden from them.
The Lord goes on to reveal that these things have happened because the things written in the Old Testament of Him must be fulfilled. This was something very important to the Lord. Every word that God has said must come to pass. If for no other reason, His death was necessary simply because of the fact that the Scriptures had said beforehand that it would happen. Of course, we understand that there were plenty of other reasons for His death, and why the Scriptures had predicted it in the first place. But at this point just the fact that the Scriptures had predicted these things and so they had to happen was enough for the disciples to understand.
Notice that the Lord speaks of “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” Our current Gentile Bibles are divided into four sections in the Old Testament: the Law of Moses, History, Writings, and Prophecy. However, this is an artificial thing created around the time that the Septuagint was translated. The Hebrew Bible of old was divided into only three sections. There was no “History” portion, and the “Writings” were called the “Psalms” after the first book contained in them. Thus the Lord here by mentioning these three really means the whole of the Old Testament.
45. And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
As we said above, the Lord had closed their understanding before. We saw this back in Luke 18:34. “But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.” Now, however, the cloud over their understanding is removed, and they begin to comprehend the Scriptures. Now at last they realize the truth that the Lord had told them over and over before His death.
Many are prone today to blame the disciples for their confusion and lack of understanding after all that the Lord had told them. Yet they had the excuse that the Lord had purposefully hidden these things from them. What, then, is our excuse, when we fail to understand the Scriptures today? How great a cloud is over the understanding of so many who call themselves Christians! Let us pray that God would likewise open the understanding of all true believers today, so that we too might comprehend the Scriptures, even as these disciples did.
46. 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,
Unfortunately, we are not given all of Christ’s explanation here. Instead, we are taken to this, which is really His concluding statement after giving His teaching.
The Lord has apparently finished quoting many Scriptures to them. Now, He sums up by saying that thus it is written. Therefore, it was thus necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, even as He had done. These things were not a mistake, a tragedy, or a departure from the plan of God. Instead, they were all according to what is written in the Scriptures.
The phrase “the third day” does not mean that He rose the third day after He died, for we read in Matthew 12:40 that He was dead three days and three nights, which means He rose the fourth day after His death. As we explained before, this phrase “the third day” arose from the belief in those days that after a person died, his spirit hovered over his body for two full days afterwards seeking entrance back into the body. After that time, it was believed, the spirit left and returned to God. Thus, if one could somehow heal the body within the first two days after death, the spirit would just naturally return to the body. On the third day, however, the spirit had left and gone to God, and only He could restore it again. Therefore to rise “on the third day” had great significance. Because of its attachment with this belief about the spirit, this phrase could refer to the third day OR ANY TIME THEREAFTER, as it was thought that from then on, resurrection was impossible. That was why Mary and Martha thought the Lord Jesus couldn’t heal Lazarus in John 11, even though He had worked resurrections in the past. He had always done them up until Lazarus’ resurrection within the forty-eight hour period, and they could have been considered as relatively normal healings according to their theory about the spirit. Resurrection on the third day, however, was a resurrection that they believed that only God could do.
47. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
The Lord is not done speaking, however. There are more necessary things that are yet to come! The first is that repentance and remission of sins should be proclaimed. The word “repentance” here is metanoian. This word is one that is very important in many different theological circles, and is proclaimed by many as a necessity for salvation. However, we would doubt that very many have a true grasp of what the word means. Most think it means sorrow for sins. Yet II Corinthians 7:10 proclaims that Godly sorrow produces repentance. How can Godly sorrow produce repentance if Godly sorrow IS repentance? This cannot be the proper definition.
The fact is that the Greek word metanoia comes from two Greek words, meta which means “after,” and noeo, which means “to be minded.” So a metanoia is an aftermind. We have compared this to the marriage vow. When you promise that “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health” you are going to stay married to someone, you are saying that no matter what comes after, you are making up your mind right now what you are going to do. Of course, when the time comes, you will prove whether or not you really had the aftermind. A good one-word translation may be “submission,” for that is really what you are doing when you have the aftermind towards a certain person.
So it is that submission and remission of sins is to be proclaimed. Remission is the Greek word aphesin, and this same phrase is translated “forgiveness of sins” in Acts 5:31, Acts 13:38, Acts 26:18, Ephesians 1:7, and Colossians 1:14. It means a forgiveness, a release from a penalty, or a pardon. So the Lord was proclaiming that a forgiveness of sins or a release from the penalty of sins was to be proclaimed.
Moreover, it was not just that it was to be proclaimed, but that it was to be proclaimed in His name. To do something in someone’s name means to do it with that person’s authority. So the forgiveness of sins was to be proclaimed in Christ’s authority. He now had the right to offer forgiveness to sinners, for He had taken their sins upon Himself and had died in their place.
This proclamation, the Lord says, is to be carried into all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. This is indeed how it took place, for we see that very thing happening in the book of Acts. First the proclamation is made in that great capital city of Israel, and then it spreads from there throughout the Roman world. So we see set forth here the purpose of what took place in the Acts period. Also we learn that this too, like verse 46, was a fulfillment of things written in the Old Testament Scriptures. Thus the acts of the apostles were not a mystery or a secret hidden in eons past, but rather were something that had long been a part of God’s announced plan.
48. “And you are witnesses of these things.
Witnesses are very important to any testimony, and all these men were witnesses of the great events which they were going to be proclaiming. This would be very important to the testimony they were going to give. How powerful this must have made their proclamations as they spread the gospel! Today, of course, we have no eyewitnesses of the things that took place then, since so much time has passed since they occurred. Yet praise God, we too can read the eyewitness testimony of these same men, as it is recorded for us in Scripture.
49. “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.”
Now He tells them that He will apostello or commission the Promise of His Father upon them. We believe that this Promise was the one regarding the power of the Holy Spirit, which was to aid them in all that they were to do for Him, and of the Holy Spirit Himself, Who was to be their Comforter, their Paraclete, now that the Lord was leaving them.
Now He commands them what they are to do once He has left them and returned to heaven. They are not to scatter to other places as of yet, as they had been starting to do before He appeared to them. Instead, they are to remain in the city of Jerusalem, waiting for the endowment of power from on high. This is the “spirit holy” that soon was to come upon them. They could never be the witnesses for God that He wanted them to be until they had the power of God granted them to enable them to do it.
So they are to remain in the city for now. Yet soon they will be scattered, and their testimony will go out into all the world. How great were God’s plans and His actions at that time! Yet they pale in comparison to what He will do in the future Kingdom. This was just the beginning…the best is yet to come! Yet it must wait until this current parenthesis of the dispensation of grace is completed.
50. And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
So the Lord led them out of the city as far as the nearby town of Bethany. Remember, this is where they were staying during the last week before the Lord’s crucifixion, and where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the Lord’s friends, lived. They had returned there from Jerusalem every night during the week before His crucifixion, and now He returns there with them one last time. How common these events must have seemed before His death, and yet how different they must have seemed to them now! But we see that in spite of His death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus Himself had changed very little. It is hard to say if He had changed greatly in appearance, or if there was little evidence that any change had taken place at all, if not for the scars in His hands and feet. Yet however much His appearance might have changed, we find it strange from this story that any who know the Bible cannot conceive of a resurrection that brings a person back to the same state he was in before except for a sinless body. This is the clear testimony of Scripture! To deny that this is what resurrection is is to deny the very thing illustrated in our Lord’s resurrection and set forth for our learning in the Word of God.
So the Lord, while He stood with them at their destination, lifted up His hands and blessed them. This means more than that He did some vaguely good thing to them, like we mean when we speak of blessing today. The word “blessed” here is eulogeo, and is the word from which we get our word “eulogize.” When we say that we are eulogizing someone, we mean that we are speaking good things about him at a function like a funeral, or perhaps a retirement party where we eulogize his career, or something like that. But this Greek word does not carry that specific meaning, but rather just means “to speak well of” someone. This is what the Lord was doing for these disciples: He was speaking well of them. What a glorious thing it would be indeed, to hear the Lord speak well of you with His Own mouth!
51. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.
So while the Lord is speaking well of them, something takes place that parts Him from them. We are not told exactly what this was. Then, He is carried up into heaven. It is hard to know how exactly to picture this. Did He drift up into the sky, like a helium balloon when you let go of it? Or was He caught up in some supernatural way into the place called “heaven,” and the disciples were empowered to see Him go? However He went, we know one thing for certain: He will return someday in the same way that He left. This is made clear to us in Acts 1:11.
Now the Lord Jesus’ time with His disciples on earth had ended, but His life had not. It might be hard for us to conceive of it, yet it is true that the same Jesus who walked with His disciples from Jerusalem to Bethany on the day described here lives still and is dwelling in heaven! In our day of lifespans that can barely last more than a century at best, such a thing seems nearly impossible. Yet when we factor into the equation that the Lord was not just a Man, but rather was God Himself, we will suddenly have a different perspective on things. How short two thousand years must seem to One Who has lived for all eternity! And even harder is it to grasp that two thousand years may seem but a short time to us as well someday, when we too live with Him.
52. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
Certainly the sight of their Lord returning to heaven, the place from which He had come, would result in worship! So the disciples worship Him, as well they should have. Then, obedient to His last command to them, they return to Jerusalem. Yet though the Lord has left them, this is not a sad return, like when He left them by dying on the cross. Rather, this return is full of joy, for now they know that their Lord lives still, and is in a place where He can watch over and help them perpetually.
53. and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.
Back in Jerusalem, the disciples spend their time continually in the temple. Yet the passing of the days does not decrease their enthusiasm. They continue there praising and blessing God. The word for “blessing” here is again a form of the word eulogeo. They were speaking well of God, talking, no doubt, of the powerful and wonderful things that He had done so far, and of the greater things promised that were still to come.
Some, in setting forth the activities of the disciples on the subsequent days, would try to make out that their time was spent largely not at the temple, but rather in the upper room where they had eaten the Passover with the Lord Jesus. Those who suggest this are probably trying to promote the idea that they were preparing to begin a new religion. It is most inconvenient for those who desire to teach this that they were continually in the temple, the central feature in the old religion God had given Israel, but having nothing to do with the Gentile church that they would like to believe He was about to create. Yet these men knew nothing of starting a new religion, nor is that what God had in mind for them to do. They were continually in God’s temple, the House He had given to His people Israel, and were preparing, not to begin something new among the Gentiles, but rather to continue the Lord’s work among His people of Israel.
So we come to the end of the book of Luke, but this is not the end of the work of Christ. For, with nothing but a short introduction, the book of Acts starts up right where this book leaves off. As we read in Luke’s introduction to the book of Acts, that book is the continuation of all that “Jesus began both to do and teach.” (Acts 1:1) That work, although at the time they knew it not, was all to culminate in the current dispensation of grace. Yet to them, what they were doing was all to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. And indeed, all that they did was to further the Kingdom and will be of great significance when that Day comes and all the earth at last comes under the rule of our Lord. Yet God had another plan, and we all live not in the Kingdom but rather under the house-law of the grace of God. How glorious is God’s work among us today, although we see very little of it!
So we will learn more of the continuation of the Lord’s work begun in this book of Luke when we study the second book Luke wrote, the book called Acts. We concentrate our studies on that book next, and learn what became of all the things the Lord began so wonderfully in this book of Luke.
Thus we come to the end of this great book, the book that sets forth Christ as God’s perfect Man. In it we have studied many of the Lord’s great works. We have seen how gladly the people heard Him, and how the jealousy of their leaders led them to condemn Him. We have learned that His death did not bring their hopes to a close, and that His return to heaven was only the beginning. For even now the great work that He did reaches us in our sinful condition and gives us hope and a means to forgiveness, life, and reconciliation with God. How wonderful was the work of God’s perfect Man, and how great a Lord He is to us who serve Him! Let us pray that we will ever live our lives worthy of the One Whom we like those long-ago disciples have chosen to call “Master.”