Study 30 - Luke 24: 13-End
The Appearances and Ascension of Jesus.
We need to take an overview of all the major events that appear in this passage: the life and ministry of Jesus, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension; and consider their inter-relations.
Question 1: Why is it absolutely essential that the crucifixion and the resurrection did not happen until after the earthly ministry of Jesus was completed?
Who Jesus was – the representative and completely faithful Israelite who was also identified as God by the nature of the works he did, Messiah, Son of Man, Son of God – all this had to be firmly established before he could enter into his work of redemption. This is what the difficult phrase at the end of Rom 4: 25 means. Jesus was resurrected, therefore he was the Messiah, therefore he justifies us – brings us in Him into the Abrahamic family of God’s true people. Furthermore the Kingdom of God had to be announced, inaugurated and its establishment commence – a work that would not be completed until after the end of this age.
Question 2: What did the resurrection add to the crucifixion?
Two things. First proof. Dying on a Cross was easy! All you had to do was upset the Romans. So the resurrection looked back validating the crucifixion showing that it was not just another death but THE death, fundamentally important for everybody on this earth. Secondly it looked forward indicating that Jesus had inaugurated the days of the New Life possibility Rom 6: 4 – 11. Now we can be truly alive: slaves to righteousness and to God, no longer slaves to sin.
Luke may well have been getting near the end of his scroll by now so he tells us about just two carefully chosen accounts of appearances. The first of these (v 13 – 35 which we now read) is particularly full of theological and practical significance.
Question 3: Why did Jesus apparently threaten to move on? What does that say to us?
Not all the movement towards faith had to come from Jesus. The two disciples had to do something however slight to show that they were moving in heart and mind towards him. Exactly the same is true of us. We need to do something to show that faith is beginning to grow in our lives.
It was only when Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, presumably using the same words and gestures he had used in the upper room, that they recognized him. But even as they saw who it was - were their mouths still wide open with shock - He disappeared.
Question 4: Why? Not why did they recognize him, that is pretty obvious, but why did he disappear at just that moment? Again, how does that translate into our experience, our lives?
John reported that Jesus said to Thomas “because you have seen me you have believed.; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus was following the principle behind that statement: faith is a matter of the will and conviction, without the simplicity of certain knowledge. Jesus constructed a situation that speaks directly to us many centuries later. We are to say “my Lord and my God” as Thomas did and will be even more blessed than he was.
Now we read Luke 24: 36 – 49.
Question 5: What is the main thing Jesus stresses in both these appearances, and that Luke is careful to stress in his accounts? He is obviously giving us the strongest possible hint as to how the church is to act through the ages? How well do we apply this to our context?
Jesus explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself on the road to Emmaus and he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures as they sat and ate in the upper room. This website is full of teaching about the scriptures. That is totally deliberate – this is what we were instructed to do in these verses. The old book of Common Prayer says of the scriptures we are: to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
I can’t say it better than that!
Finally we read Luke 24: 50 – 53.
Question 6: Why was the ascension important – couldn’t Jesus have just stopped appearing any more?
Jesus had to be seen to ascend to heaven where he would take his rightful place at the right hand of God, begin his rule as the Lord of all, and start his work of interceding for us as we struggle on here on earth. The Holy Spirit will come as Jesus said when he told them to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” He will have the power to enable us, you and me, to live the true life of the ages. Also this is the end of one great episode in the story of Redemption, the mission of Jesus, and the beginning of another, the mission of the Church.
Question 7: Why did Jesus leave them in the middle of blessing them? Can you see any long-term significance in that?
There is unfinished business to be done which they had to do from Jerusalem to the ends of their world and we have to do in our world!
And so we come to the end of our long journey through this fascinating Gospel. May you have received as much joy and blessing in hearing and reading and thinking about these things as we have had in the preparation of these notes. We hope to do the same thing with the second volume of Luke’s – the Acts of the Apostles – we hope you will join us on our journey through that fascinating book.
But before we sign off at the end of these notes here is a final question for you: we finished the last study with a challenge to you, particularly if you are not already a follower of Jesus, to think deeply about what you have heard. What conclusion did you come to?
If, perhaps, you have decided to start following Jesus from this time on we would like to encourage you to tell someone else, probably another follower of Jesus, about your decision. Doing that will help to fix the decision firmly in its place – in your mind, the mind of others and above all in the mind of the Lord God. Another way of doing that would be through this website, but that is a weaker way because we are not close to you seeing you living day by day.
Whatever you have decided and whatever happens from now on – may Jesus, the Lord, be with you and bless you. Amen.