Tag Archives: repentance

John Singleton Copley - The Ascension, 1775

Luke 24 – Christ Fully Revealed

Here we come to the end of the Luke’s account of the life of Jesus. In Chapter 24, we find the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

The last chapter ended with the women resting on the sabbath after having prepared the spices for Jesus’ body. On the morning of the first day of the week, we now find them heading to the grave to anoint the body with spices. To their surprise, when they arrived, they found that the stone that had been placed in front of the tomb was moved. They then stepped inside the tomb to look closer and discovered that it was empty.

Now, it is interesting that one attempt that has been made to explain this is the claim that the women had gone to the wrong tomb. I think that this was apparently a rumor that had been floating around at the time that Luke was writing, and this is why he made a point at the end of chapter 23 of saying that the women had seen the where and how the body was laid. Luke wants to drive home to us that the women had genuinely found the tomb, where Jesus was laid, empty.

Luke continues by telling us that while the women were wondering what had happened to the body, two angels appeared to them. The women were justifiably afraid, but the angels said, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen” (Vv 5 – 6, NASB). They then reminded them that Jesus had told them that everything that had occurred had to happen. As they reminded the women of these things, they remembered.
The women immediately headed back to meet with the disciples and tell them what had occurred. John mentions the names of three women; Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James. Who are these three women, and why does Luke name them specifically. The first is, of course, Mary Magdalene. She had traveled with the disciples and had been a key member of their circle during Jesus’ ministry. The second is Joanna, who had also traveled with them during Jesus’ ministry. The last one listed is Mary, the mother of James. The James in question is most probably the apostle James the less. I think that Luke records these women by name to support their credibility. These were not some random women, these were disciples themselves.

So they return to tell the 11 apostles, but their “words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.” (v11) Yet it is interesting that Peter went to the tomb to see for himself. He found what they had described and returned home, amazed at what he had seen.

Luke now steps away from the 11 apostles and follows 2 other disciples who were traveling to Emmaus about seven miles away. While they were talking to each other about the events of the last few days, they were joined by a third traveler. Luke tells us that this third traveler is Jesus, yet the disciples were prevented from recognizing him.

Jesus asks them what they are talking about. They are quite surprised, and the one named Cleopas asked if he was the only one who was unaware of what had transpired. When Jesus asked what things, they began to recount things for him. They said, “we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” (v 21) They even recounted the events of the women finding the tomb empty that morning.
Jesus “said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?'” (Vv 25 – 26) He then lays out everything the Old Testament had spoken of him.

As the approach Emmaus, Jesus acted like he was going to continue on his way. The disciples encouraged him to stay with them because it was getting late. As they reclined around the table, Jesus took the bread and broke it. Suddenly they realized who Jesus was, and then he vanished. As they recounted the events of the day, they realized that they should have known it all along.

They immediately returned to Jerusalem, where they met with the apostles and the others who were with them. They told those assembled all that had occurred and how Jesus had appeared to them. Here we find the name of the other disciple, Simon. I think the reason for listing both names is to affirm the truth, as, under the law, it required two witnesses for something to hold up in court.

While they were there with the apostles, Jesus appeared in the midst of all of them saying, “Peace be to you.” (v 36) In spite of all the events of the day, they were still taken aback and thought he was a ghost. Jesus invites them to look at the holes in his hands and feet. He also invites them to touch him and confirm that he is not a ghost. They were still having trouble believing it, so Jesus asks them for something to eat. He then took it and ate it to prove once and for all that he was physically present among them.

Now that he has proven that he is really there, Jesus reminds them of the things he had said before his death concerning what was written about him in the Old Testament. He opened up their eyes to understand, and “He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.” (v 47) He then told them that they would be witnesses of what had happened to the world, proclaiming “repentance for [the] forgiveness of sins . . . in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (v 47)

The last thing that Luke records Jesus saying to the disciples was that he was sending the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to them. Here he is promising to send the Holy Spirit. But he tells them that they need to remain in the city until that time.

Luke concludes his account by telling us that Jesus “led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” (v 50) Luke then tells us that Jesus was carried away into heaven. They worshipped there for a while and then returned to Jerusalem. They were then continually in the temple praising God.

My takeaways from this chapter are 1) Jesus’ resurrection is a fact. The witnesses and the evidence all make this clear. 2) The whole of the Old Testament points to Christ, his coming, suffering death and resurrection. 3) Jesus’ resurrection was an actual, physical, bodily resurrection. 4) Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the door to the forgiveness of sins for those who repent. And 5) Christ promised to not leave us alone, but to send the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3 – Inaugurating His Ministry

As Luke moves on from his childhood account, he now jumps over an eighteen-year gap. Here Luke begins to lay out the inauguration of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Yet once again, it is not Jesus he starts with, but John the Baptist.

Just like in chapter 1, where Luke begins with the announcement that John would be born to lay the groundwork for the announcement and birth of Christ, here we find John moving into his ministry that is literally laying the foundation for the ministry of Jesus.

Interestingly, Luke appears to want to make it clear that there is no question of the historicity and accuracy of his account. He spends the first verse and half explaining exactly when these events occurred by referencing various leaders, both political and religious, over the region, including the Emporer.

John is the classic portrayal of a prophet, calling the people of Israel to repent and return to genuinely worshiping and honoring God. He wants us to clearly understand that this is itself a fulfillment of prophecy. Luke reminds us of the very words of Isaiah that had looked forward to this day.  In verses 4 – 6, he quotes directly from Isaiah when he writes that John is “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ready the way of the Lord, Makes His paths straight. Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’” (NASB)

John confronts the idea straight on that merely being part of the nation of Israel does not make one a child of God by using a rather unusual image. He says that God can raise up children from the stones if he wants and that trees that do not produce fruit will be cut down. His point is that it does not matter who your ancestors (parents and beyond) are, it is beholden on each of us to turn ourselves to God and follow him.

John then gives us a glimpse of what this true repentance looks like. It is not just something that can be kept inside, but it is demonstrated on the outside. He presents a series of images that those who are genuinely repentant will care for those in need. I am reminded of the word in James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” True repentance is a change of the heart, that can not help but be lived out in caring for the neediest.

To further make his point, John implemented the practice of baptism. This was not a new concept for the people of that time. Baptism served as a physical demonstration of one’s commitment to a particular teacher or teaching. John uses the practice to challenge people to make a public profession that they are genuinely repentant and want to turn back to God.

It is no wonder that many people thought John may well have been the promised messiah. He was shaking up the status quo, forcing people to re-evaluate what it meant to honor God. But John understood that it was not about him. This is a challenge that many of those in ministry find themselves facing. As people look to us for answers, and we find ourselves leading others, it is so easy to begin to think too highly of ourselves. Each of us should seek to maintain the humility of John who tells the people in verse 16 “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This strikes me as a precursor of what we find to be one of the last statements by John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

But everything was not all positive for John. Yes, many were repenting, but we are told that his call to repentance made some enemies. Most notably, Herod, the Tetrarch, or governor of Galilee. John had confronted him of his sin, to which Herod reacted by throwing Joh in prison. This marked the end of John’s ministry, but Luke first takes a step back in verses 21 – 22 to present us with the point of John’s ministry, to inaugurate the ministry of Jesus.

Luke tells us that Jesus himself was baptized by John. Now clearly, Jesus did not need to repent of anything, but rather his baptism identified himself with this new repentance that John had called people to. As such, Jesus now transitions to the lead role in this new teaching, and to solidify this, Luke tells of a unique aspect of Jesus’ baptism. In verse 22  we read, “the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” In case we have missed it to this point, Luke wants to make it clear to us by recording this public declaration. Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Luke finishes this chapter by recapping the genealogy of Jesus through his adopted earthly father of Joseph. The point is to lay out how Jesus fulfills the prophecy to be the messiah. Through this line, he is a descendant of David, giving him the legal right to be king. But this genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, showing that Jesus meets the original prophecy given after the fall in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman. And between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”.  Beyond this, taking the genealogy to Adam shows that Jesus is not just the savior of Israel, but of all people.

As I look at this passage, my take away is Luke’s emphasis that salvation was not simply for the children of Israel, but of the true Children of Abraham. And that the true children of Abraham are not defined by blood, but by faith. A faith that is not just in the heart, but demonstrated in the actions of life. This is the point of the words of the angel in chapter 2, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”