John T. Willis

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jesus Appears to the Eleven, then Ascends into Heaven--Luke 24:36-53

The Gospel of Luke concludes with a paragraph recording the event in which Jesus appears to the Eleven, gives his commission to the Eleven, and finally ascends into heaven. This account is related in Luke 24:36-53, and naturally falls into three parts.

I. Jesus proves he is the Risen to the Eleven. Luke 24:36-43.
   a. After Cleopas and his friend bring Jesus to the Eleven and their companions in Luke 24:33-35, while they were talking, Jesus stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." "While they were talking" shows this was still on the first day of the week after Jesus arose from the tomb. Luke 24:1, 13, 33. When Jesus said this, the Eleven were started and terrified and thought they had seen a ghost. 24:36-37.
   b. Jesus rebuked the eleven, saying, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts rise in your hearts?" Not accepting the obvious truth that Jesus is right before his own Eleven disciples is a deep heart issue. 24:38.
   c. Jesus then PROVED beyond a doubt that he was indeed the risen Jesus Christ. They challenge them to LOOK at his pierced hands and feet. They told him to TOUCH him and SEE, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as they see that Jesus has. Later, John, who was himself there as one of the Eleven emphasizes this truth to one community of faith in 1 John 1:1-3. Jesus clearly showed his disciples his hands and his feed. 24:39-40.
   d. Although the Eleven were in JOY, they still disbelieved and still wondered about whether this is actually true. Jesus then said to them, "Do you have anything to eat?" They gave Jesus a piece of broiled fish. Jesus took this fish and ate it in their presence. Here Jesus used every means imaginable to prove God the Father had raised Jesus Christ from the dead: they SAW him, they TOUHCED him, they SAW him eat the fish. What more could he do to prove them that God the Father had raised him from the dead. 24:41-43.

II. Jesus Commands the Eleven to Proclaim His Message to All Nations. Luke 24:44-49.
     a. Then Jesus told his disciples that they must remember all of his teachings during his earthly ministry, declaring that everything written about Jesus in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Similar ideas appear in Luke 24:25; Acts 13:29; John 5:39; 12:16; 20:9. Luke does not specify which texts of the Hebrew Bible are in mind, or HOW he is using the Hebrew Bible. Like all New Testament speakers and writers, he begins with the events, parables, miracles, and teachings of Jesus, then applies Old Testament texts allegorically or typologically following the ways in which Rabbis and members of the Qumran Community used the Hebrew Bible using the principles of Midrash and Pesher. 24:44.
     b. Then Jesus opened the minds of his disciples to understand the scriptures, saying, "THUS IT IS WRITTEN," and specifically names: (1) the Messiah must die and be raised from the dead on the third day; (2) Jesus' disciples must proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus to all nations beginning from Jerusalem; (3) Jesus' disciples are witnesses of these things; (4) Jesus' disciples must remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon them in power. Texts of the Hebrew Bible call to mind Isaiah 2 Samuel 7:1-17; 52:13-53:12; Psalms 2; 89; 132; etc., but Luke does not enumerate any specific text. This announcement of Jesus points to the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus in Acts 2. 24:45-49.

III. Jesus is Carried Up into Heaven. Luke 24:50-53.
      a. After giving his final commission, Jesus led his disciples out of Jerusalem as far as Bethany, a small Jewish village located approximately 2.7 kilometers east of Jerusalem (see Luke 19:29). There Jesus "lifted up his hands," which is the normal way God's people approach God in prayer (as 1 Timothy 2:8 and many texts in the Hebrew Bible show--for example Psalms 28:2; 143:6; Lamentations 3:41; and very often). Then Jesus blessed his disciples, then withdrew from them "and was carried up into heaven" by his Heavenly Father. Acts 1:9-11 reiterates this very important event. It is very interesting that groups of people now claim that Jesus will return to earth, renovate or restore earth, and this is where all God's people will live. This is based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of texts like Revelation 21:1-4; etc. Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; and many other New Testament texts clearly teach that, like our Lord Jesus Christ,  God's people will be caught up into heaven and live with him eternally. People should not spend time pondering over such issues. There are too many important matters to address so we can become closer to God through Jesus Christ. 24:50-51.
     b. After Jesus was carried up into heaven, his disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Jerusalem temple praising God. The appropriate response to God is to worship God the Father through Jesus Christ the Lord. This small gathering in the Jerusalem temple is the nucleus of the church which is to spread throughout the world. 25:52-53.

Share YOUR comments and thoughts and reservations and doubts and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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