How do you end a gospel? Luke began this gospel writing to Theophilus an orderly account concerning the life of Jesus. Particularly, Luke wants Theophilus to “have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” Luke has recounted for all the world to read that Jesus has risen from the dead. There are two final teaching points for Luke as he concludes his account of the good news: (1) declare the resurrection and (2) instruct what to do because of the resurrection.
Declaring the Resurrection (24:36-43)
Verse 36 begins, “As they were talking about these things.” This refers back to what we studied in our last lesson. The two disciples who had gone to Emmaus and seen the risen Lord had returned to Jerusalem to tell the disciples there all that had happened. The disciples declare that the risen Jesus had appeared to Peter and the two men from Emmaus describe seeing the risen Jesus also. So while the disciples are talking to each other about these resurrection appearance, Jesus stands among them and says, “Peace to you!” This is startling and frightening to have Jesus, who was laying dead in a tomb yesterday, standing suddenly among the group of disciples. They think they are just seeing a spirit and not the risen Jesus. Resurrection from the dead is hard to believe. It requires belief in a miracle. Again I want us to see that there are no disciples who are expecting resurrection. No one is like, “I totally expected this to happen.” This is important for the notion that people have these days that the disciples so badly wanted to believe that Jesus rose from the dead that they thought they saw him, but actually did not. No one was expecting Jesus to be alive. Listen to the words of Jesus which proves the mental state of the disciples. “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” They are not immediately believing. They are skeptical. They are so skeptical that they do not believe they are seeing the risen Jesus, but just his spirit.
Jesus does two things to confirm to the disciples what they are seeing. First, he tells the disciples to touch him. A spirit does not have flesh and bones. This is not a spiritual resurrection. This is not a spirit. The disciples are not looking at an apparition or mystical vapor. It is not even a new body. They recognize it is Jesus by looking at him. Further, Jesus instructs them to examine his hands and feet, for this would have wounds from the nails that were driven into those body parts. Second, Jesus eats broiled fish with them. This is a second proof to the disciples that this is the physical resurrection of Jesus. When Peter is preaching to Cornelius and his household, he told them how they ate and drank with the risen Jesus. Jesus has risen from the dead. Now what does this mean for the world?
What The Resurrection Means For Us (24:44-53)
Jesus now tells the disciples what we learned in our last lesson. The scriptures were all about Jesus. Everything from Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then Jesus opens their minds to understand the scriptures. John’s gospel records that Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). These seem to be parallel accounts. Jesus is giving the disciples what was promised in John 14-17 to understand the scriptures. This should caution us against suggesting that the disciples are mistaken in their question to Jesus 40 days later in Acts 1:6 regarding restoring the kingdom to Israel. Jesus has opened their minds to understand the scriptures. They are no longer the disciples that do not understand the scriptures. Once Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples understood Jesus’ teachings and the scriptures that pointed spoke of him. Now what? Jesus is proven to have been risen from the dead, not simply because of these witnesses, but because the scriptures all spoke of these things. Is it enough to simply believe that Jesus rose from the dead and do nothing else? Jesus now instructs his disciples further.
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46–47 ESV)
Now that Jesus has risen from the dead according to the scriptures, repentance and forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed through Jesus to all the nations. The mission was going to start in Jerusalem, which is what the prophets foretold (cf. Isaiah 2:3). “For out of Zion shall go the teaching, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3) So they are told to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. Then they will be clothed with power from on high. We see this coming to fruition in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit falls upon the apostles. This was the sign to the nation that the restoration of the kingdom promises had arrived.
Disciples of Jesus go and proclaim Jesus everywhere. It is this directive that we read being fulfilled in Luke’s sequel work, the book of Acts in our scriptures. The book of Acts begins where this gospel ends, with the disciples being taught by Jesus after the resurrection and waiting for the Holy Spirit to come with power upon them in Jerusalem. The book of Acts records the disciples of Jesus going out into the world proclaiming Jesus to all people. But the book of Acts ends in a seemingly strange way. It does not have an ending. It just seems to suddenly stop with Paul in Rome. The reason is that the mission is not finished with the apostles. The mission was not completed in the first century.
We learn that evangelism is not for the few. Evangelism is not for a particular department or group within the church. Evangelism is not something that is hired out. Evangelism is not an outreach project. Evangelism is not in hanging banners or advertising through mailers and newspapers. Evangelism is the natural response for receiving forgiveness of sins through our risen Savior. We are proclaiming to people that forgiveness of sins is available because Jesus rose from the dead. The scriptures have no concept of a Christian who does not share the message of forgiveness of sins.
What is your Acts 29 chapter? The problem is that we often think of the mission in terms of large outreach projects. We think of the mission in terms of sending ministers to other countries to preach the gospel. We think of the mission often only in terms of missionaries. Too often we think of the mission as something done outside of ourselves. But what do we see in the scriptures?
1 And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:1,4 ESV)
This is what the mission looks like. Wherever you are and wherever you go, share the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins through the risen Jesus. This is your Acts 29. What will you write as your chapter? How will you share this message to the people you know? Illustration: When I was in Minneapolis with Andy Cantrell last year, we were talking about the work that we do. It was useful to be with him and talk about how we share the same strains from this work. We share the same disappointments. We share the desire to regularly quit what we are doing. We share the feeling of total inadequacy for the work we try to do. But as we talked about these things, we talked about if we quit, what would actually change in our lives? What would we be doing differently? Even if I was not the “preacher” here at this congregation, what would be different. There is only one thing that would be different: I would not be giving lessons before you each Sunday from the pulpit. Nothing else would change. I would still be teaching. I would still be teaching Bible studies at night. I would still be talking to our weekly guests and trying to get Bible studies. I will still be trying to lift you up. I would still be doing everything I could to reach out and help one another in the word of God. I would be doing as much as I could, but I would have a lot less time to do it. This is one of the great privileges that I appreciate you giving me is that you afford me to the time to do as much as I can possibly do in all these areas. I help people because that is what Christians do. I teach because that is what Christians do. I offer leadership because that is what Christians do. Being a Christian means accepting the mission. The resurrection of Jesus is not merely a celebration of Jesus conquering sin so that we can have forgiveness of sins. The resurrection of Jesus is the acceptance of the mission. Your mission is share the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins wherever you are. It is not a duty, but our joy to declare Jesus to all. The greatness of Jesus and our joy in Jesus cannot terminate on ourselves but must be extended to others.
Finally, you have one other joy to experience. Jesus walks with his disciples. As he blesses them, Jesus parts from them and ascends to heaven. So what do the disciples do now that Jesus has ascended to the Father? “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:52–53 ESV) Worship Jesus and continually bless God. The good news of the risen Jesus must not and cannot be contained when implanted in fertile hearts. The good news propels us to worship and propels us to participate in the mission.