Good News for All Nations

We are continuing our meditation on the days after the resurrection of Christ (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). Jesus appeared in the room where the disciples had gathered. He had an important message for them:

 44He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:44-49).

Christ then opened their minds to the Scriptures (v. 45), reminding them that faith in God must be based on the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Jesus reminded them of the things that He had taught them while He was with them—things that were prophesied in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms that had to be fulfilled by Christ. Just as He did with the Emmaus disciples, He did the same with those in the room, taking them through Old Testament passages and explaining the plan of God to redeem not just Jewish people but Gentiles, too. The Plan of God for salvation was unfolding before their eyes, and they saw the reason for Jesus’ suffering and voluntary sacrifice.

In His conversation with them, Luke now gives us the expectation of the Lord that is before every one that bears His Name:

46This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:46-48).

The task that is before all the Church is to preach repentance and forgiveness of sin to all nations beginning at Jerusalem, their home (Verse 47). The Lord’s expectation is not for us to make conversions, but disciples. Matthew’s Gospel makes His word clearer as to His command:

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 Emphasis mine).

We are to teach all nations to obey everything that the Lord taught the disciples in the three years He walked with them. Luke gives us Christ’s strategy in the Book of Acts. We are to teach and make disciples from ever-widening concentric circles from one’s home town.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The strategy is to begin to share the Good News in your own home town. You need to be willing to start where you are! Often, this is the most difficult place to start. Even Christ himself was not accepted in His home town. If opportunities come to sow seed in fields more distant, then that precious seed of the Word of God must be sown.

Jesus gave them specific instructions about waiting. They were to learn dependency and faith from the very beginning of their mission. They were told to wait until they received the promise of the Father: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The promise of the Father is the Holy Spirit Who would come and rest on them and be in them on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover. The Resurrection of Christ came three days after Passover. I estimate that means that they had to wait another forty-seven days before they could go and preach the kingdom of God. Let’s talk about why they had to wait in our meditation tomorrow.

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 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 Joy of the Disciples of Christ

We are continuing to meditate on what it was like for the disciples of Christ to understand that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation).

It was Sunday evening, the day of the resurrection of Christ. The weekend had been full of tears, depression, arguing, and controversy. During this dark and confusing time, some unusual things began to happen. It had started that Sunday morning with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, claiming that they had gone to Jesus’ tomb and reporting to them that Christ was alive and risen from the grave (Luke 24:4-10). Matthew also records the scene at the tomb and that an angel appeared to the women, telling them that Christ was risen and would be going ahead of them into Galilee and that He would see them there. They were told to report this news to the others (Matthew 28:7). As they went to tell the good news to the disciples, Matthew proceeded to write that Jesus appeared to the women and briefly talked to them. In sheer delight, they had fallen at His feet and grasping hold of Him, not wanting to ever let Him go again.

When the testimony of the women came to the disciples, the news was met with skepticism, and some even thought it was nonsense (Luke 24:11), for who had ever conquered death? John and Peter ran to the tomb, but they did not see Jesus; however, they found the burial strips of linen lying in such a way as to convince John that something supernatural had occurred. When they returned to the room where they were hiding from the Romans and Jewish leaders, the eleven disciples and others with them were in a state of confusion.

We call this state of mind cognitive dissonance, i.e. a frame of mind so overwhelming that everything they believed was being challenged. How could it be possible for Jesus to be alive when they had so clearly seen Him die? As the day wore on, the doubts had started to creep in again. They began to question the things they had seen and experienced. They were suffering from the trauma of the recent events. Discouragement and hope battled for position in their minds as they continued to recall events and conversations, remembering things that Jesus had told them in the past. As I try to put myself in their position, I imagine that they were afraid to believe. Their hopes for the kingdom they expected Jesus to usher in were gone, and now He was gone. Could something so wonderful be true: could He really be alive?

Two of the disciples, Cleopas and his friend, had left discouraged and had begun their walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). They concluded that what the women had seen was just a vision or, perhaps, wishful thinking. When Jesus walked up alongside them and asked them questions about what they understood concerning the events of that morning, they were shocked at the thought that this stranger did not know of the events in Jerusalem. When the Lord revealed Himself to the two disciples at the breaking of bread, they could not remain in Emmaus even one night. Their faith now rested on the plan of God as revealed in Scripture as Jesus unfolded truth from the Old Testament Scriptures. It was already dark when they determined to get back to Jerusalem and tell the eleven disciples of their encounter with Christ. They could not keep the good news to themselves. This is often a good indication of conversion, i.e. when one cannot keep the Good News to himself! Maturity in Christ is recognized by what people do with what has changed their lives. Let’s talk about their arrival back at Jerusalem tomorrow.

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.

Walking by Faith and Not by Sight

We are continuing our meditation on Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. When the turn off the road to Emmaus came, Jesus said goodbye to them, but they would not have it. They invited Christ to eat with them, and He did. He continued to share the Scriptures with them around a table. What a model the Lord Jesus is to each of us. After His resurrection, He took time to be with the ones and twos, teaching them the Scriptures and building them up in the faith. As the two disciples sat around the table waiting for bread to be brought, I’m sure they were convinced that this stranger must be a Rabbi to know the Scriptures and expound on them like Jesus did, but they were still not aware that it was Christ.

Usually, the host will break the bread and bless the food before his guest, but in this instance, Jesus is invited to bless and break the bread, praying over the food. As the unleavened bread is broken, the blessing is pronounced, “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the world, Who has caused bread to come forth out of the earth.” At the blessing of the bread, their eyes were opened, and they recognized that it was Jesus. As their chins hit the floor and they mouth the word “Jesus!” He disappeared before their very eyes! Why would the Lord disappear upon their recognition of Him?

We are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). His disciples had been relying on His visible presence, some of them for three years, but now it is time to begin to lean on His invisible presence. Later on, when the news was shared that the Lord had risen, the disciple Thomas was trusting in only what he could see and experience through his senses. The disciples were entering into a new relationship with Jesus, one that would require them to walk by faith, not by sight. Thomas wanted to see and feel before he would believe that Christ had, indeed, risen. When the Lord appeared in the room and invited Thomas to feel the nail marks in His hands, Thomas no longer needed to feel the nail prints or the spear hole, and he fell to his knees, saying, “My Lord and my God!”

To Thomas’ credit, once he saw Jesus, he did not hold back but immediately worshiped Him. Unlike Thomas, not all believers will have evidence given to their senses. There are those who will not take a step of faith because they are waiting for a supernatural sign or a prophetic word from the Lord. The Lord may on occasion give a person confirmation in an unusual way, but we should step out in faith on the objective Word of God and the inner confirmation and peace of the Spirit inside us. We must live by faith and not by sight. Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). If you are a believer, Jesus was speaking about you!

In the fictional C.S. Lewis book, Screwtape Letters, a training session is going on between a seasoned senior demon and a young demon. The young demon is in need of advice on his first assignment trying to disrupt and destroy the faith of a new Christian. C.S. Lewis offers interesting insight as to a Christian learning to walk by faith and not by sight:

He [God] wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand, and if only the will to walk is really there, He is pleased even with the stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.[1]

Those who have not perceived by the five senses but still have believed express the kind of faith for which God is looking. What about you? Will you believe that you are special to God and that the Messiah, Jesus, would come alongside you this day and lift your heart to behold Him? Perhaps, you would like to prepare bread and even a glass of juice and ask Him to come close and reveal Himself to you as you break bread. Give Him the weight of your troubles. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and refresh your life with His presence.

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

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Co., 1959), page 47.