Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
It Ends as it Begins
Have you ever experienced something that is simply too good to be true? I remember just a couple of years ago I was in a position waiting for news that could be really good or really bad. I remember having this very surreal feeling when I knew I was going to learn the answer. The news was incredibly good—so good in fact that I felt like I was just floating and it took days for it to sink in. That’s just a little bit what the disciples must have felt on Resurrection Sunday. Last time we looked at the story, found only in Luke, of Cleopas and his companion headed home to Emmaus from Jerusalem—discouraged and despondent. They’d lost their King. But their despair turned to delight when the man who’d joined them and explained so much to them about the real role of the Messiah—turned out to be Jesus, their crucified Lord, come back to life.
They immediately went back to Jerusalem to tell the rest of the disciples and just as they are finishing their story of how they recognized Jesus when He broke bread—the Lord appears to them as well.
36 – 37
So Cleopas is in the middle of relating his story, and the other disciples are sharing about Jesus revealing Himself to Peter—all now centering on a risen Jesus, yet when He suddenly appears to them—likely behind locked doors—they are shocked. The Holman rendering of the two verbs here is pretty good. To “startle” comes from a Greek word that can mean “to fall” or “to fly away”. You know that feeling you get when you suddenly fall, right? “Frightened” comes from phobos where we get the English phobia. So they were both in fear but also startled at the suddenness of His appearance.
It’s a good thing He said “peace to you”. Though the Greek word is different, it’s likely He said “Shalom” which also means peace and prosperity. This was a common Jewish greeting but very appropriate in this case because their fears were allayed in a big way and they were about to experience prosperity like they never imagined.
The appearance frightens them because the fact that He suddenly came into the room made them think He was a ghost—a spirit and not really Jesus. They don’t yet understand the differences between a mortal and resurrected human. This isn’t the first time they’ve thought Jesus was a ghost. In Matthew 14:26 when Jesus walked on the water, they also thought He was a spirit.
38 – 40
Jesus challenges both their agitation (“troubled”) and doubting hearts. To prove that He is a physical being, Jesus offers them His hands and feet which will forever bear the scars of the crucifixion. When I personally think of that, I get a little sad because those scars are there because of my sins. But Jesus is wanting them to rejoice because it means they are free forever from the penalty of those sins.
41 – 43
That apparently didn’t do the trick. Luke tells us that two things were still going on—they were “amazed” which means to admire or marvel, and they were “disbelieving.” They weren’t trusting their senses. But note here the reason: it was because of their joy. Jesus’ resurrection was simply too good to be true so their minds were just not processing it fully. That’s why Jesus does what He does next:
Jesus asks for a piece of fish and eats it before them. A spirit couldn’t do that—you didn’t see the fish as it went down His throat or anything. This tells us a couple things: the resurrected body is a physical body, just made up of a different type of physicality. And two: we’ll be able to eat in heaven! Revelation 22:2 tells us that in the New Jerusalem there is a “fruit of the month club” tree that provides healing.
Next Jesus gives them a little Bible lesson similar to what He did on the Road to Emmaus.
44 – 49
First Jesus reminds them that none of this was done in secret or should have been a surprise. Not only did Jesus tell them on numerous occasions exactly what was going to happen (9:22, 44; 17:25; 18:31-33; 22:37) but also that it was in line with what God had said centuries earlier.
He opens their minds to understand the Scriptures by unlocking the fact that the entire Old Testament speaks towards the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus. And specifically the suffering Savior part of the prophecy is what concerns the Lord here. No doubt He shared passages such as Psalm 22 and 69, Isaiah 52:13-53:12; then on the resurrection: Psalm 16:8-10, Psalm 110:1.
Not only that, but verses 47 and following tell us the next step in that process—that people are called upon to 1) repent and receive forgiveness and 2) tell others about it. Repentance is interesting. Often we think about repenting from our sins (to change our mind about them)—and that’s there. But I like one scholar (Darrell Bock in The NIV Application Commentary of Luke’s Gospel) who says that repentance is a change of allegiance, from dead idols to a living God.
Jesus introduces the concept of saved then sent. Receiving forgiveness through the blood sacrifice of the Messiah is only the beginning. They, the Apostles, had witnessed all these things. They touched the nail-scarred hands and feet. They saw Him die and they saw Him alive. They witnessed the miracles and heard the words of God right from His mouth. Their testimony becomes the foundation for our reception of the gospel as well.
But I like that Jesus also promises a tool to make that witness more potent: The Holy Spirit. They were to stay put until God Himself would come upon them. Because Luke wrote Luke and Acts, he saves the details of this and the ascension for the latter (Acts 1:4-11).
50 – 53
We know that Jesus actually hung around for a bit before ascending. Matthew tells us that He and the disciples even travelled to Galilee. Eventually, though, it was time for Jesus to return to the heavenly dimension. For that He took the 11 from Jerusalem up a familiar path to the Mount of Olives to Bethany, home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. He blessed them and then ascended. In Acts two angels tell the men that in the way He left, so shall He return. Zechariah 14:4 tells us that in His Second Coming, He will touch down on the same place and the Mount of Olives will actually split in two.
So I love the ending. The disciples have now fully recovered from their original shock and disbelief. Now they spend time worshiping after Jesus leaves, then they go back to Jerusalem and spend time worshipping in the temple complex. That’s the proper response to what Jesus did—not fear or disbelief, but wonder and worship.
To conclude Luke’s gospel—looking at this idea of the great joy and praise of God going on, I want to look back at the first place in Luke we hear about the coming of Jesus.
Luke 2:8-14 (HCSB) 8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:
11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” 13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: 14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!
It started out that God’s messengers about the Messiah were angels (which means “messenger”). The news put men into fear but the promise was of great joy which was for “all the people”.
Now at the end, it is the people who are filled with joy, being sent out to proclaim this good news to all the people as God’s messengers. The shepherds were surrounded by angels praising God. Now it is the people themselves who go to the temple and fill it with praise for God’s Messiah.
It’s a great bookend to this great gospel and emphasizes the fact that, in the end, it is all about praising Jesus and sharing what He has done.
Let that be the focus of our lives as it was theirs.