"The Lord Appears"
Lesson Text: Luke 24:36-53
Background Scripture: Luke 24:36-53
Devotional Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Luke 24:36-53 (KJV)
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
To understand that we serve a risen Lord, sovereign King, Who assured the disciples that His death and resurrection were the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy.
To believe "in our heart" Jesus' resurrection from the dead, and to know that this fundamental truth is vital in our "effective witness to others."
To be prayerfully alert for daily opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Time: A.D. 30
Where Does God Live?
Many parents have been challenged by a small child who asks innocently, “Where does God live?” Our answer may reflect a struggle to answer on the child’s level. We might say, “God lives in our hearts,” only to be met with a quizzical, “How?” We might say, “God lives in Heaven,” only to be asked, “Where is Heaven?” We might say, “God lives in the church,” only to have the child wonder which church in town that might be.
Where does God live? The problem with this question is that the one asking it may assume that God has a physical need to live somewhere, and our answers may reflect this. How we answer may be true in one sense but inaccurate in another sense at the same time.
Our desire to understand “where God lives” is addressed in today’s lesson, which concerns the ascension of Jesus Christ. That was a dramatic moment unlike anything ever witnessed (with the possible exception of 2 Kings 2:11). Jesus did not rise from the dead to resume His earthly life and eventually die again. He rose to be with His disciples for a short time and then return to the Father.
The ancients believed in an “up-down” universe. “Below” was the underworld that housed the dead; “above” was Heaven, the realm of celestial beings. When Jesus returned to the Father, He ascended—that is, He went up into the sky. Everyone who witnessed this would have understood that to be the proper way to reach Heaven (compare 2 Corinthians 12:2).
Even so, we know that there is no physical “place” in the sky (or anywhere else) where God lives because we understand the abode of God in a spiritual, nonspatial way (not having the nature of space), as Paul did (see Acts 17:24). Thus when reading of Jesus’ ascension, we should not be sidetracked by trying to account for all of the physical characteristics of His departure.
What is important is to grasp the significance of Jesus’ ascension and to remember His final words just before that event. In so doing, we share the faith of those who heard those words as confirmation that Jesus had been dead, had come back to life, and then underwent an amazing transition.
In last week’s lesson, we saw Jesus joining in mysterious fashion two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:15). He later disappeared from their sight after they recognized Him (24:31). These disciples returned to report their encounter to the larger group in Jerusalem (24:33). In today’s lesson, Jesus appears to the disciples in a startling way.
Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection (Luke 24:36-43)
1. Why are the disciples terrified when they see Jesus (Luke 24:36, 37)?
We are given the impression that this appearance of Jesus is sudden, and no further explanation of that fact is offered here. As we try to understand this, we can note a couple of things.
First, there is no sense that Jesus opens a door and walks into the room (compare John 20:19, with the detail given of a locked door). This is not depicted as Jesus walking through walls, but as the reality that walls and locked doors cannot keep the risen Lord from appearing in the room.
Second, we can see that Jesus’ appearance is completely unexpected and startling. These disciples know for certain that Jesus had died, and to see Him standing among them causes shock and fear. They recognize Jesus immediately—that’s the very reason for their terror! His identity is not hidden as it was in Luke 24:16 (last week’s lesson).
Just two verses prior, the gathered disciples had affirmed that “the Lord is risen indeed” (last week’s lesson). Thus we see a mixture of belief and unbelief when that statement is placed alongside the fact that the disciples now interpret His appearance to be that of a spirit (compare Matthew 14:26). The lingering unbelief of those gathered is about to be thoroughly dispelled.
Jesus’ greeting “Peace be unto you” is not just a way of saying “Hello,” but is intended to calm the fears of the disciples (compare John 20:19-21). He wants to bring peace to their hearts.
2. Why does Jesus question the disciples' thoughts and doubts (v. 38)?
Jesus does not ask His questions because He needs information that He lacks. He already knows why they are troubled. The questions are for the benefit of the disciples—they need to examine their own doubts, their own hearts. Their doubting hearts make them unwilling to trust what their eyes see. It is a critical moment, the line between belief and disbelief. Jesus fully intends to give the disciples cause to believe that He is risen from the dead so they will put their faith in Him, the risen Lord.
3. What things did Jesus do to reassure His disciples that they were not seeing a spirit (vs. 39-43)?
The next thing Jesus did to calm them was to show them His wounded hands and feet
as factual evidence that He had physically risen from the dead (v. 39). The disciples knew that disembodied spirits could not be touched. Jesus, however, could and that’s why He invited them to look at His hands and feet, which carried the scars of His crucifixion. They could see that Jesus was no hallucination or figment of their imagination (v. 40). Here was indisputable proof that Jesus had conquered death.
After examining Jesus’ body, the disciples were overcome with joy and amazement. Though the proof of His resurrection was clear, they still remained baffled. They could not deny that Jesus was standing before them, but His resurrection did not fit their preconceptions (v. 41a).
Before we are too critical of these disciples, we should put ourselves in their place. Imagine that you saw a person die right before your eyes. Then you attended an open-casket funeral, after which you witnessed the casket being lowered into the ground and the grave being filled with dirt. Then you gather with others somewhere for a memorial meal. Over the course of time, some people show up claiming that the deceased is alive again—you’re confused. Suddenly, the person whose body was buried appears in the living room and begins to talk with you. You would be hard pressed to understand immediately what is happening! That is what is going on with these disciples.
Rather than get annoyed and impatient (as perhaps we might do), Jesus remained calm with His disciples. The Savior asked for something to eat (v. 41b). After being given a piece of fish, He ate it, thereby proving that He was not a ghost (v. 43). Through this and other appearances, Jesus thoroughly convinced His disciples that He had indeed risen from the dead. John 20:20 adds that once the disciples recognized their Lord, they were “glad.”
Scriptures Fulfilled (Luke 24:44-47)
4. Why did Jesus explain the scriptures for the disciples' understanding concerning divine prophesies which "must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44-47)?
Jesus reminded His followers that while He was previously with them, He told them how the messianic promises recorded in the Old Testament were ordained by God to be fulfilled. The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms—the three major sections of the Hebrew Scriptures—reveal truths about the Redeemer that had to occur. Luke 24:44 affirms that there is a strong interrelationship between the Old and New Testaments. Succinctly put, the triune God brought the universe into existence; humankind sinned, bringing moral and spiritual corruption to themselves and their world; and now the Godhead has made redemption possible through the atoning work of the Son.
At this point, Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to comprehend the Scriptures (vs. 45-47). While the specific texts are not listed in this verse, it’s possible they included the many Old Testament passages appearing elsewhere in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. The threefold thrust of those prophecies was that the Messiah had to die on the cross (see Psalm 22; 31; 69; 118; Isaiah 53), rise from the dead (see Psalm 16:10; 110:1), and have the good news of salvation heralded to the lost (Luke 24:46-47; see Matt. 28:19; Mark 13:10).
Now they began to understand the necessity for His suffering and death and how the Cross related to the promise of the kingdom (see 1 Peter 1:10-12). What a privilege it was for them to listen to Jesus expound the Word!
Jesus’ comments on this occasion and that of Luke 24:27 indicate the importance for Christians to study the Old Testament for a full understanding of the Messiah. The fact that the New Testament authors quote extensively from the Old Testament further establishes the importance of studying the Old Testament.
What Do You Think?
What improvements do you need to make in your study of the Old Testament?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In frequency of study | In depth of study
The Promise of the Spirit (Luke 24:48-49)
5. Why did Jesus declare to His followers that they were witnesses (v. 48)?
The coming of the Son of God into the human sphere is only one phase of God’s plan. It was prophesied and therefore intended that Jesus should die and be resurrected, but this is not the end. The disciples are now witnesses who can testify about the resurrection. They are therefore commissioned by the risen Lord to begin the next phase: the preaching of repentance and the resulting remission of sins to all nations (compare Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Timothy 3:16).
This is a key message that Luke wants his readers to hear. Faith must be shared, for the salvation of the world is at stake (compare Acts 1:8). Jesus saves the lost (Luke 19:10) as this message is spread. These words are not simply for the disciples who are gathered to watch Jesus depart; these words are for us too. As we follow the biblical plan of salvation in accepting Jesus as our Lord, we become witnesses who are charged with spreading this good news.
What Do You Think?
How can your church better help people make a connection between the Resurrection story and their daily lives?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Special events | Special studies or sermon series | Through existing programs | Other
6. Explain what Jesus meant by: “the Promise of my Father” concerning the disciples (v. 49)?
In Luke 24:49, Jesus referred to the Spirit as the one whom the Son was sending and whom the Father had previously promised to His people. This divine pledge is rooted in Old Testament passages such as Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezekiel 36:26-27.
Also remember that the Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a two-volume set. The author intends us to read the next volume, Acts, where the promise of the verse before us is fulfilled (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). The power from on high
is the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on the disciples. (This will be the focus of next week’s lesson.)
The Ascension of Jesus (Luke 24:50-53)
7. How long did Jesus stay with His disciples after His resurrection (vs. 50, 51)?
The ascension of Jesus took place 40 days after His first postresurrection appearance to His disciples (see Acts 1:3, 12). In Acts, Luke gave us a fuller account of the event and described Jesus’ activities during the 40 days. Luke 24:50 states that when Jesus ascended, the disciples were with Him at Bethany. This was a small village located two miles southeast of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. The town was on in the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Bethany was the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and it was there that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (see John 11:17-44). At the time of Jesus’ ascension, He blessed His disciples. Then, they watched spellbound as Jesus rose upward until they could no longer see Him (Luke 24:51).
8. Describe the disciples reaction following Christ's departure (vs. 52, 53)?
After Jesus ascended to heaven, His disciples worshiped their glorified Lord and returned to Jerusalem full of joy (Luke 24:52). As the years went by and the disciples recalled the sight of His departure, they must have been thrilled to realize He would be returning in the same way (see Acts 1:11). We know from verse 13 that in the days following the ascension, Jesus’ disciples were staying in the upper room. So when Luke says “they were continually in the temple” (Luke 24:53), he meant they went to the Jerusalem shrine at the regular times for prayer (see Acts 3:1).
Why did Jesus leave the earth in such a dramatic fashion? We may never know for sure, but one view is that it was important for His earthly ministry to come to a definite conclusion. Put another way, the disciples needed to experience a specific point in time when Jesus returned to heaven. Also, by leaving this earth, Jesus was in a position to dispatch the Holy Spirit to minister through all believers everywhere (see John 16:7). The Lord Jesus is now seated at the right hand of His Father (see Eph. 1:20). He speaks to the Father in our defense (1 John 2:1) and is our great High Priest (see Heb. 7:26). In addition, Jesus is preparing a place for us to join Him someday (see John 14:2-3).
POINTS TO PONDER
Knowing the truth about Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection brings peace and joy to the believer (Luke 24:36-43).
The Lord knows that sometimes we need a better understanding of certain scriptures (Luke 24:44-46; Acts 8:26-39).
Witnessing is not something that we do for the Lord; it is something that He does through us! (Luke 24:47-49).
If we keep our eyes on Jesus, our hearts will say on fire with new life! (Luke 24:50-54; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
Where Did Jesus Go?
Where did Jesus go? He did not “go” anywhere in the sense of “not being here,” for He is not far from us (see Acts 17:27; Hebrews 13:5). He did indeed go to the right hand of God, where He serves as our advocate and priest in Heaven (Hebrews 4:14-5:10; 8:1), but Jesus is also with us because this is what He promised (Matthew 28:20).
N. T. Wright has said, “Ascension doesn’t mean absence... it means sovereignty.” We serve a risen Lord, and we serve Him with joyous anticipation of His return. We serve our Savior by heeding His words and taking the message of forgiveness and grace to all the world. We serve the King of kings, the one who has an impact on our lives today, some 2,000 years after the Bethany event.
Father, may we be obedient as we take Your Son’s message to the world. May we be joyous in our service as we worship and praise You. May we be expectant in our waiting, for our deepest desire is to be with You forever. In Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
The risen Jesus is also the present Jesus!