The Marks of Love.

We are continuing our meditation on the Lord Jesus, after His resurrection, appearing in the room where the disciples were eating (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). Here’s the passage again:

36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence (Luke 24:36-42).

When one considers all the evidence that the disciples had heard that day, why would they still doubt? Was it the lack of evidence? Was it a lack of faith? What causes people today to doubt the resurrection of Christ?

Many people do not try to find answers to the doubts that they have. For some, it is not just doubts; it is unbelief, which rests more in the will than the mind. They make a conscious decision not to believe. Unbelief is a sin when it is a choice of the heart. The enemy, Satan, is quick to sow doubtful thoughts and suggestions into our minds. We are presented with a choice as to whether we will listen to God’s Word or Satan’s doubts. If you have doubts, do not hesitate to examine and seek out the facts where the Gospel is concerned. There is evidence at every step for the Christian faith, but there is a point where one must cast themselves into the hand of God and choose to believe or reject the Gospel. Martin Luther said: “The art of doubting is easy, for it is an ability that is born with us.”[1]

God doesn’t have a problem with your doubts, but He does have a problem with willful unbelief that shuns the truth, refusing to reach a conclusion when presented with the evidence. Henry Drummond once said: “Christ distinguished between doubt and unbelief. Doubt says, ‘I can’t believe.’ Unbelief says, ‘I won’t believe.’ Doubt is honest. Unbelief is obstinate.”[2] If you lack evidence as to the faith, be sure that the Lord is near and ready to confirm you in your faith, if you are willing. If, in the deepest place of your heart there is openness to the truth, the evidence will come if you seek Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Jesus manifested Himself in their midst, and twice we are told that He showed them His hands and feet (Luke 24:39-40). I wish I could have seen their faces as He had them look on His wounds. Maybe, one day we will be able somehow to view those marks of love when we finally get home! Luke notes the joy and amazement on the faces of the disciples as they took in all the evidence of the visible, bodily presence of Christ (v. 41). They must have wondered if what they were seeing was too good to be true. They felt the nail prints as He held out His hands to them while going around the room.

Have you ever wondered why the scars remained in the hands of Jesus even though His body was totally healed and resurrected? The marks of love remain for all to see. How wonderful that the God we serve bears the marks of love on His body.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 66 at this linkJesus Appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-53). Keith Thomas.

[1] John Blanchard, Gathered Gold, Printed by Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Herts, England. 1984. Page 71.

[2] John Blanchard, More Gathered Gold, Printed by Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Herts, England. 1986. Page 79

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

We are continuing to think about Christ’s appearances to the disciples after He was raised from the dead. After the two disciples from Emmaus realized who had been talking with them on the road, they decided to return to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. We can only imagine what their joy must have been like as they hastened back to Jerusalem to share about their encounter with the Lord Jesus. It must have been late in the evening when they finally covered the seven miles uphill to the room where the disciples had gathered. They had to knock and whisper to the eleven and others inside to get in, for the door was “locked for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). When they burst into the room testifying to the fact of Jesus’ walking and talking with them, they found out that Peter had received a personal appearance of the Lord (Luke 24:34). How beautiful of the Lord to confront Peter on his own. We are told nothing of that conversation, and that is how it should be when a man is confronted with his failure. We can only imagine the wide eyes in the room as the two Emmaus believers shared their experience of talking with and seeing the risen Christ.

We are not told where the disciples were gathered that Sunday evening, but it is quite likely that it was the same upper room where they had eaten the Passover meal. It would have been a very poignant picture. The last time they had shared a meal together, Christ had told them that He would be taken from them and that He would be betrayed by one of them. They had shared the meal together, not wanting to believe the things that He had been saying. Then, there they were, discussing the possibility that He was alive again. Mark adds the fact that they were eating at the time (Mark 16:14). The news from Cleopas and his friend caused a stir in the room, and they were still discussing these things when Jesus Himself appeared before them in the room.

 36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence (Luke 24:36-42).

They were in the middle of discussing all the evidence when the Lord Jesus materialized in the center of the discussion. It must have been an alarming experience to have somebody appear in the middle of the room. It sounds like something out of Star Trek or some other sci-fi series! Their first thought was that He was a ghost, perhaps due to the way He arrived among them. One of the first things He said to them was: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” (Verse 38). How did He know they were troubled and had doubts about His being raised from the dead? He was listening, of course! Where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is, in the middle of them (Matthew 18:20). The Lord listens in to our conversations. He knows exactly where each of us is in our faith walk. He knows our needs even before we ask.

Although we cannot see Him, He sees and listens to all that we say and all that we do. Nothing escapes His attention. He knows the pain and heartache, which we may be experiencing right now. He knows our loneliness; He sees how we are being treated at work or at home. He never leaves us when we are having doubts and when questions arise in our hearts. Be honest with God. He listens not only to your every conversation but also to every thought.

1O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD (Psalm 139:1-4).

Just as He came among the disciples while they were having doubts, He longs to do the same for us. He is a good listener. He had listened to the testimony of the two Emmaus disciples even when they did not realize who He was.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 66 at this linkJesus Appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-53). Keith Thomas.

The One Who Waits for an Invitation

We are continuing our meditation on the two disciples walking to the village of Emmaus. The risen Lord Jesus had come alongside them and walked with them, going over Old Testament Scriptures that spoke of God sending a Suffering Servant who would deliver them from sin. But as they approached the turn off to the village they were going to, Jesus went to carry on down the road:

28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread (Luke 24:28-35).

Why would Jesus act as if He were going farther? Why did He wait until He got an invitation? This is not the first time that the Lord acted as if He would pass them by. In Mark’s Gospel, we are told of a time when He went alone to a place to pray through the night. While praying in the dark, He saw that they were having difficulty rowing the boat against the wind on the Sea of Galilee, so He went out to them at three o’clock in the morning:

48He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50because they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” 51Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished (Mark 6:48-51).

Why would Jesus be about to pass by them? Perhaps, it speaks of the gift of free will that God has given us, i.e. that He will not come into the boat or into our homes and walk with us without invitation. If we want Him to be with us or, more truly for us to be with Him, we will have to lower our defenses and invite Him to come to us. How wonderful that Christ took the time to eat a simple meal of unleavened bread with them (the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted seven days). He would not force Himself on them; it was only due to their fearful cries and invitation on the Sea of Galilee that He turned and came to their boat. Our God delights in being wanted not for what He can do for us but for Himself. He gently awaited their invitation to come to the house where they were staying.

Have you invited Him into the house of your heart? Does He live within? He has given you the gift of free will and longs to walk this road with you, casting your sins behind His back, if you will openly confess where you are. Give Him full control of who you are and everything you own. He wants to come and dine in sweet fellowship with each of us reading this message. At their strong invitation, He went with them.

As they ate with Him, their hearts burned within them as Jesus continued to open their understanding of the Word of God. He was connecting with their hearts as He talked. Their later confession was, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us” (Verse 31). The fire burns within our hearts when the Spirit of God breathes on His word as we meditate on the Scriptures. “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned (Psalm 39:3). Do not underestimate the power of simple reading, meditating, and musing on the Word of God. How about you, dear reader? Have you invited Christ into your home?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 65 at this link, Jesus on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35). Keith Thomas.

He is Not Here, He is Risen!

While Mary Magdalene was returning to the tomb after Peter and John had left, the other women had arrived at the tomb with spices. Mark tells us that there were three: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Mark 16:1). They had brought spices with which to anoint the body. While on the way, they began talking among themselves as to whom they would ask to roll the stone away (Mark 16:2). When love is involved, difficulties, such as a one-ton stone to remove, were not considered until they were near. Obviously, the stone was too large for the three of them to move. They proceeded to the tomb, regardless, believing that they would find a way. Their love and dedication to Christ compelled them to give Him a proper burial and put more spices over the body. It was the least they could do in this terrible situation. As they drew near, Matthew tells us what they witnessed:

2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay (Matthew 28:2-6).

Matthew tells us that an angel of the Lord came down, rolled the stone away right in front of the soldiers guarding the tomb, maybe before Mary Magdalene arrived. Matthew says that the guards were terror stricken, trembled, and acted like dead men not wanting to move as the angel rolled away the stone. I presume that this all happened just as the women arrived, because the women themselves were overwhelmed at what happened (Matthew 28:5), and they were the witnesses to the soldiers lying on the ground. The angel showed the women the evidence of the vacant tomb while the soldiers, hardly daring to breath, acted like dead men. Jesus didn’t roll back the stone; He had already risen. Mark indicates that, when the women arrived, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was already gone. The angel rolled the stone away to show the women that He was risen, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:6).

The angel told them to go and tell the disciples the good news that Jesus had risen from the grave. It is possible that there were two groups of women that had arranged to meet at the tomb at daybreak, but they arrived separately. After talking with the angel, the women met the Lord on the way:

8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:8-10).

Luke tells us that several women reported what had happened to the disciples: “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles” (Luke 24:10 –emphasis mine), but the disciples were incredulous at their words: “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 23:11).

Matthew tells us of the guards being fearful for their lives on losing a prisoner. They went to the chief priests and told them exactly what had happened. The Jewish leadership devised a plan to keep the guards quiet; they paid them a lot of money to tell people that the disciples came during the night and stole the body. If Pilate didn’t find out about it, they were in the clear. They probably kept the money for a few days so that they could say that they were bought off by the priests if they did not back them up before Pilate (Matthew 28:11-15). This story has been spread among the Jews to this day (Matthew 28:15).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 64 at this link, The Resurrection of Christ (Luke 23:50-24:12). Keith Thomas.

What is the Rapture of the Saints?

13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV).

There are some Christians who do not believe that there will be a rapture of the saints. I don’t know how they get around the plain understanding of these verses. Sure, I agree with them that the word rapture is not found in the Bible. The word Rapture is a word we use to describe the church, the people of God, being caught up to heaven. The English word comes from the Latin word rapere, meaning rapid. The Latin word rapere is from the original Greek word, harpazō, translated as “caught up” in theKing James Version and English Standard Version, as in the passage above. Harpazō means: “to strip, spoil, snatch. To seize upon with force; to rob. It is an open act of confiscatory violence…to snatch or tear away, yank away, pluck out of, remove by swiftly and aggressively grasping.”[1] There is coming a time when the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout (how those that have refused and scorned His grace and act of love will tremble), and at that instant we will be snatched from this earth and changed as we are gathered together to be forever with Christ. It goes along with what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the change in our nature:

“in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

This word, changed, what does it mean? That which is on the inside, the real you, the character that God has been working on throughout your life, will someday be revealed. Our new bodies will not be the same as our old nature that we inherited from Adam; Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). It will no longer be perishable but imperishable (15:53). We won’t all sleep; there will be some who are transformed instantly without going through the death process. This is the rapture or being caught up, whichever word you wish to use. When Christ comes, in a flash, in the batting of an eye’s time, we will be changed from having a perishable body to being clothed with an imperishable body (Verses 51-52).

…the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21 Emphasis mine).

Isn’t this your longing and desire, to be like Jesus?—I hope it is. What a wonderful thing. This word that is translated transform is the Greek word Metaschēmatizō. It is a construction of two Greek words. Meta means a change of place or condition, and schēma meaning shape, or outward form. To transform, change the outward form or appearance of something, refashion, reshape.[2] There is a rapture of the saints at the coming of Jesus, a transformation. That which is on the inside will be revealed—and it will be glorious:

2Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:2-3).

Taken from the series The Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column. Click on the study, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG publishers. 773 Harpazō.

[2] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Page 1651.