In these verses we continue our journey with the disciples during the days from the resurrection to Pentecost. As we look at Luke 24:36-49 we need to keep in mind what had just happened leading up to these verses.
On Thursday night Jesus had the Last Supper with His disciples. He had then been arrested as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. At that time Jesus’ followers had scattered. Jesus was then tried, beaten and crucified on Friday. Saturday Jesus had lain dead in the tomb. Early Sunday morning the women had gone to the tomb to put spices on the body, but when they arrived they found the tomb open and were met by two angels who told them that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Luke then wrote how the women “returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.” To those who heard the report, “these words seemed to them like an idle tale, and they did not believe.” (Luke 24:11) Peter then had run to the tomb and found it empty. He then went home marveling at what had happened.
That was Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon two of Jesus’ followers who had been there to hear the testimony of the women, had left and were walking home to a small village called Emmaus about a 2.5 – 3 hour walk from Jerusalem. While they walked, they discussed everything that had happened the last several days. At one point in the conversation Jesus appeared and began to walk alongside them, “but they were kept from recognizing Him.”
He asked what they were talking about and in the midst of their sadness they told how Jesus, a prophet from God who was strong in word and deed had been arrested and crucified by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They were saddened because they had believed that this Jesus was going to be the redeemer of Israel.
At that point Jesus had commented on their lack of knowledge of God’s Word and their slowness of heart to believe all that the prophets had said about the Messiah. Jesus then, beginning with Moses and the prophets, taught them all of what must happen concerning Himself.
As they drew near to their house in Emmaus the two travelers invited Jesus into their house to stay with them. Jesus accepted their invitation and they ate together. At one point in the meal Jesus took the bread and broke it and in that moment their eyes were opened and they realized that He was Jesus. He then vanished and they got up and went back to Jerusalem to tell the others.
They arrived at night and began to share what had happened.
It is at this point that we find today’s story. It is a continuation of the previous stories, occurring at the end of the day of the resurrection.
Luke 24:36-38 continues with these words:
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
John 20:19 gives a little more information of the same event. It tells how the apostles and additional followers of Jesus were together behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jews. The Jewish religious leaders had persecuted Jesus and had Him crucified and now they were afraid that the same might happen to them. In the midst of their confusion, sadness and fear they hid.
As they were talking about all the events of the day, the women’s testimony, the Lord’s appearance to Simon and Jesus’ visit with those walking to Emmaus they marveled at what they heard. They were beginning to believe that the resurrection might actually be true. It was at that moment that “Jesus Himself stood among them.” How startling that must have been. It is one thing to get excited about secondhand information but to have Christ, Himself appear in their midst, must have been mind-blowing.
You would think that the previous events earlier in the day would have convinced them of His resurrection, but it had not. As we read the story, knowing how the story ends, we would expect them to be celebrating, hugging Jesus, hugging each other, and praising God, but they don’t. Instead, scripture tells us that they “were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” From Jesus’ words we see that they were troubled and still doubting in their hearts. From earlier verses it seems like they were moving towards belief, but were not totally convinced yet.
They were viewing the situation in the way that you would expect when a person is living in the “reality of man,” only trusting in what is seen and can be explained by human logic. People don’t come back to life, especially from a crucifixion and three days in a tomb. People don’t just appear in locked rooms without opening the door. In their earth-bound thinking this was too good to be true. It was great that Jesus was back, but surely it was only His spirit because there was no other way to explain it. Resurrection is impossible. But Jesus was ushering them out of “the reality of man” and into “the reality of God.”
They had seen glimpses of it before. Jesus changing water to wine. Jesus healing the leper. Jesus walking on water. Jesus calming the sea. Jesus raising the dead. But this was so far beyond any of that.
Jesus, knowing what was happening in their hearts, greeted them with “Peace to you!”
Now we must remember the last time this group had seen Jesus. It had been as they fled for their lives during Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:50). Since the resurrection, this memory had probably haunted them. In Jesus’ darkest hour they had not stood by his side but had fled into the darkness to save themselves.
If you were Jesus what might have been your first words? Words of correction trying to put them in their place? Words of disappointment of how they had failed in your time of need? But Jesus’ first concern was to minister to their hearts. To grant peace to their struggle. To reconcile them to Himself. It is somewhat like a parent who catches a child in disobedience, disciplines the child and then takes the child back into his arms, reassuring the child that they are still loved and everything is fine between them. Peace or “Shalom” had been restored. They were invited to draw near to Christ once again as He offered them peace.
It is the same with us. Even with our patterns of sin and struggles with temptation, as followers of Christ we are invited to, “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”(Hebrews 4:16). Jesus has died for our sins. Sin no longer separates us. We are forgiven and have been reconciled to God. Because of this, in spite of our past disobedience, God invites us to draw near.
These verses tell us how they were “startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” They likely were thinking something like this, “Surely resurrection is impossible, so, even though a spirit or ghost seems rather unlikely as well, it is probably the best explanation.” They still were living in the “reality of man,” not yet in the reality of God.
Jesus then met them in the midst of their doubts and led them into faith. We read about this in verses 39-43.
39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
Jesus knew they were still living in the reality of man and He sought to lead them into the reality of God. To prove that He was more than a spirit he talked of his flesh and bones. He showed them His crucifixion scars on His hands and feet and even asked for fish and ate it in front of them so they would be convinced that His body had been resurrected and He had been brought back from the dead.
This was of vital importance. If it was only His spirit that would mean very little. When we look at scripture we see that we were all spiritually dead in our sin, but once we turn from our sin and trust in Jesus Christ we are forgiven and made alive in Christ. For the first time we are now spiritually alive. That is the beginning of our eternal life. Now that the Spirit lives within us when our body dies our soul and spirit will continue on into eternity with Christ.
The continuance of one’s spirit is not a proof of resurrection. It was only as Christ was brought back to life in the body that it showed that the price for sin had been fully paid and that death had been defeated. One can also note that scripture speaks of how the body of Christ would rise in three days and would not see decay (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27).
The Apostle Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 15 even went on to write about the bodily resurrection of Christ as our confidence that we will be resurrected as well. He says that if it were not so then all other teachings of the gospel and of Christianity would be in vain. Without the resurrection our faith is futile and we will all die in our sins.
In 1 Corinthians 15:50 we read, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” Paul writes of our earthly bodies which are dishonorable, weak and perishable because of sin. He then describes our glorified bodies as honorable, powerful and imperishable, that we will receive when our earthly body dies. We don’t exactly know what this new body will be like, but we will be raised in heaven and given a body made for heaven where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.” (Revelation 21:4)
Before we go on to the next verses let’s pause for a moment and consider a peculiar phrase in verse 41. “they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling.” At first it is confusing because we don’t normally talk like this. But let me explain this phrase of “disbelieving for joy” in this way. The Astros are in the final game of the World Series. They are behind by one run. There are two people on base and Yordan Alvarez comes up and hits a homerun and because of this they win the World Series. What do you call that? People are screaming and cheering and saying things like, “I can’t believe it! They did it!” Or maybe you are a student who finally turns in your last assignment, passes your last class and walks across the platform and receives your diploma. That is “disbelieving for joy” still trying to believe that there is no more work that is required. “I can’t believe it! I did it!” Or maybe it has been a long struggle against illness and the doctor comes in and says “I cannot find any trace of the cancer. You are well.” And you sit there, having to pinch yourself to make sure that this is not a dream. That is “Disbelieving for joy!”
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
Like on the road to Emmaus Jesus once again reminded His disciples of what he had said before about his death and resurrection and how the prophetic scriptures about Him had to be fulfilled. The cross was planned, sovereignly put in place to accomplish salvation (Acts 2:22-24). It was prophesied. They were to have no doubt that even when they could not understand it, even when their human logic could not make sense of it, that God was still on His throne. As they looked to scripture it would be made clear.
We then see that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” They had heard the Word before, but it was only as Christ opened the eyes of their hearts and minds that they would be able to understand.
Jesus reminded them of scripture, then connected the meaning of all that had happened.
This principle applies to us as well. The Word of God is “the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). It is wonderful, eternal, life-giving and guides us into reality of God. We are to seek it out and mine its riches, trusting that as we seek it with effort, discipline and a yielded heart that the Holy Spirit will “open our minds to understand the Scriptures” and “guide us into all truth.” (John 16:13)
Christ, had strengthened their faith, granted greater understanding and now explained what would now be required from His followers.
46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
It was predetermined that Jesus would suffer and be raised from the dead. This would make possible the forgiveness of sin as people turned away from sin and put their trust in Christ.
This was to be their message. They were to be witnesses to these things as they proclaimed the forgiveness of sin to all nations beginning with Jerusalem. Jesus then instructed them to stay in Jerusalem until they received the power of God to carry out their assignment.
This whole scene highlights the difference between the perspective of Jesus and the perspective of the disciples. The disciples were still living in the reality of man, but the reality of God would be required for them to be Christ’s witnesses to the world.
We can see this reality of God throughout the life of Jesus, but it doesn’t stop there. We see glimpses of of “the reality of God” throughout scripture as people viewed life with full confidence that God was present.
We see an example when David fought Goliath, when Moses struck the Red Sea and God parted it, when the Israelites marched around Jericho and the walls fell down, when Mary, a virgin, had a baby, and when Paul and Silas sang praises to God in the Philippi jail and an earthquake followed. These are stories of men and women who chose to believe that the “reality of God” was more real than anything this world had to offer. It was a total surrender to the faithfulness of God in the seen and the unseen.
- How will you respond to the peace that Jesus Christ offers to each of us?
- Will you allow Jesus to meet you in the midst of your doubt and lead you into a deeper faith?
- Will you open God’s Word with a humble heart and allow God to grant you understanding?
In your life today what doubts remain?
Living in the reality of God is a spiritual practice of acknowledging that God is always with us. Because of that we begin to view every situation differently. We pray more. We seek His wisdom more. We confess sin more. We are confident in His provision more. We rest in His presence more.
We grow to know His constant accountability while also experiencing a renewed intimacy with Him.
In every situation there is hope because we are not alone. Faith transforms us from looking at life from the limited reality of man, to the blessed reality of God.
For some of you here today this “life of faith” is not yet an option for you. This is because you have never trusted in Jesus Christ. You have trusted so many other things but never in Jesus. Today would you be willing to finally believe in Jesus and receive Him as your personal Lord and savior? He has come to grant you peace and be your companion.
As we finish our time together I would like to add a slight addendum to the story that we looked at today. In John 20 we see the story of Jesus and Thomas one of the apostles.
In today’s story there were only 10 apostles in attendance. Judas Iscariot had hanged himself and Thomas was not there. In John 20, when the disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus, Thomas said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” It is interesting to see how Jesus took him at his word. John 20 tells us that,
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Take confidence that Jesus comes to where we are so that we might believe. We see the example of His coming to the disciples and then even the specific coming to Thomas. This should not surprise us. This is the character of Christ who left heaven and came to us so that we would believe.
If you are a follower of Christ be assured that Christ has come and is always with you. Remind yourself. Keep in mind that every situation you face will be faced with Christ by your side. Every worry is faced with Him by your side. He is present, practical and always working. As we become conscious of His presence may we grow to walk daily in the reality of God, trusting that His presence changes everything. If you are not yet a follower of Jesus Christ, believe today.