(A) Introduction. Read: Luke24v36to53

So I come at last to my 102nd and last exposition on Luke's gospel! It has been a difficult but rewarding task. It has been difficult because Jesus' life was so unlike any of ours. He did not share our weaknesses as, for example, Paul did. Sometimes I was not sure quite how to interpret what Jesus taught. The reward has come from feasting on a rich and dense confection of spiritual truth.

It is good that the gospel account ends in triumph. In these concluding verses there are, I believe, five important lessons for us.

(B) The persistence of doubt.

Doubt is as difficult to eradicate as two of the weeds found in my garden - ground elder and bindweed. It does not matter what action I take to suppress them, ground elder and bindweed always come back.

The disciples were not predisposed to believe in the resurrection. Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene, a group of women, Peter and the two on the road to Emmaus. Late in the evening a group, including 10 of the disciples and others, had gathered behind closed doors to talk over the various testimonies. Yet when Jesus stood among them they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. v37. Even after Jesus demonstrated that he was indeed bodily present with them they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement. v41.

Jesus dispelled doubt in three ways: he displayed his wounds, he invited his friends to touch him and he ate with them. What do you doubt? Perhaps, it is your:

(1) Worth. If you doubt your worth to Jesus let the nail prints speak to you. That is how much he values you! He was prepared to endure the cross and despise the shame for the joy of redeeming you.

(2) Ability to persevere. If you doubt your ability to last the course let the nail prints speak for you. They speak for you in heaven. When Jesus intercedes for you before his Father's throne his hands are raised - the marks of his great, saving, finished work - they plead for you.

(3) The significance of your belief. Does it really matter whether you believe or not? Does Jesus really care? Is your faith going to make any difference to Jesus? Let the probing fingers of his disciples convince you. Such was Jesus desire for his followers to believe in the bodily resurrection that he was prepared for them to prod him and poke him. He would submit to any indignity to foster their belief in him.

(4) The value of your service. You may wonder whether you can contribute anything to Christ's church. My friend, let the broiled fish reassure you. Jesus considered this small act of hospitality important. It was a practical task but it still mattered. It confirmed the reality of his presence among his disciples. Every act of service today fulfils the same function; it shows that Jesus is a living reality in the lives of ordinary Christians.

(C) The condescension of Christ.

We should consider for a moment who was in the room with the disciples. It was the risen, conquering son, the fount of life and light of men, the living bread, the King of Kings and Lord of all, our great High Priest, the everlasting word and the blessed Redeemer. I love the way the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus: "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Heb1v3. See exposition on God's spokesman.

Here he is in all his risen glory showing his disciples his wounds, allowing them to handle him and eating with them.

There are other instances of his condescension: permitting Mary Magdalene to hug him, putting up with the women clinging to his feet and both cooking and serving breakfast on the shore of Galilee. Just imagine what would happen if I tried to hug the queen! It is dangerous to give anyone a hug these days. Gestures of affection - especially to children - are frowned on.

Jesus is still the same. He is condescending in:

(1) His approachability.

All sorts and conditions of men have felt able to come to Jesus. We see this in the New Testament. Nicodemus the pompous Pharisee came; Zaccaeus the tax collector came; a weeping prostitute came; the dying thief came just in time; a murdering fanatic came on the road to Damascus; a Roman centurion came with all is household; Jewish zealotes came; a promiscuous Samaritan woman came; the Philippian jailer came and so the list goes on - and on - and on.

(2) His receptivity.

Not only did a strange assortment come to Jesus but he also received them. The amazing thing is, that Jesus accepts those who come reluctantly, doubtfully, grudgingly, selfishly, ignorantly and tardily - like the dying thief. Jesus resembles the loving father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal returned to his father out of self-interest but still he was received. C.S. Lewis in his book, 'Surprised by Joy,' was amazed that God was so willing to accept so grudging a convert as himself.

Jesus will accept people who come to him for a variety of motives - because their lives are in a mess, they have hit rock bottom, there is no one else to help, tragedy has struck or sin has found them out. Thankfully the words of the old Sankey song are true:

            Sinners Jesus will receive:
            Sound this word of grace to all
            Who the heavenly pathway leave,
            All who linger, all who fall

            Sing it o'er .... and o'er again ....
            Christ receiveth sinful men; ....
            Make the message clear and plain: ...
            Christ receiveth sinful men.

(3) His welcome.

So many who come as a last resort, hesitantly and with scant faith get the Prodigal Son treatment. Jesus pours the Holy Spirit into the sorrowful sinner's life giving assurance of the Saviour's love and great joy.

(4) His intimacy

Jesus wants to be intimate with those who believe in him. He longs to be our friend and is pleased when we draw close to him in prayer, meditation and worship.

The well known hymn reminds us:

            Can we find a friend so faithful
            who will all our sorrows share?
            Jesus knows our every weakness;
            Take it to the Lord in prayer

But Jesus also wishes to share in our joys and successes.

I think many men find it quite difficult to be intimate with Jesus. If you listen to men and women in public prayer some women pray to Jesus but hardly ever does a man do so. I have to admit - to my shame - that my prayers are invariably addressed to Almighty and Everlasting God. Rarely do I talk to Jesus.

(D) A message to deliver.

Jesus outlines for the benefit of his disciples the key elements of the message they should proclaim in his name. They are:

(1) Jesus is the Messiah as forecast or prefigured in the Old Testament. "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." v44.

Jesus was:

    (a) The Passover Lamb of Moses. The whole sacrificial system of the Law prefigured Christ's one, great, final sacrifice for sin.

    (b) The Suffering Servant of Isaiah. All God's despised and rejected servants from Joseph to Daniel illustrate how God brings redemption through suffering.

    (c) The Royal Son of Psalm 72. He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations. v5. He will be like rain falling on a mown field. v6. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed. v17.

    What wonderful, beautiful words these are and how applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ.

(2) The fact of his death and resurrection. The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead the third day. v46.

It did not take Peter long to proclaim this after the Day of Pentecost. He said to the crowd that gathered after the crippled man was healed at the temple gate called Beautiful: "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life but God raised him from the dead." v15.

The FACT of Jesus' death stands as a stark testimony to man's sin. Jesus really died because wicked men killed him. We ALL have a share in the death of the author of life!

The FACT of Jesus' resurrection is the plainest possible evidence of God's grace. He accepted the offering for sin Jesus made and raised him from the dead as the firstfruits of them that sleep.

I can remember years ago as a boy at the King Edward Sixth Grammar School in Bury St Edmunds being taught History by a fierce little man with bushy eyebrows called Dr Wood. We all referred to him as Splinter - a name that suited his abrasive personality! When he went through our History essays - many of which were woefully done - Splinter would say, "What I want is the facts, not waffle, not opinions but facts. Give me the facts." He would spit out the last phrase with a ferocity guaranteed to imprint it upon our minds for life!

Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important for the destiny of mankind than these two facts: Christ died and rose again. They are the facts that matter.

(3) The purpose of Jesus' death and resurrection. "And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name." v47.

When I retired as a teacher I was due a lump sum payment of several thousands of pounds. What a relief when it was credited to my account; when I was in possession of it; when it was mine.

Jesus' death and resurrection mean that if we repent of our sins and put our faith in him, forgiveness will be credited to our account. Our debts will be cancelled. In the words of Philip Doddridge's hymn:

            'Tis done! The great transaction's done!
            I am my Lord's and He is mine.
(4) The challenge. "Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." v47.

For 2000 years the challenge has been met. In 1868 Dr Clarke took the gospel to the Naga tribal people in the mountains of North East India. The Naga were slow to convert from animism to Christianity. However, after 1947 when India gained independence and missionaries were forced out of India mass conversions took place and now 95% are Christian or nominally Christian. Today the Naga are the most effective missionaries to Buddhist Bhutan. This is just one illustration of the wonderful way the gospel has been taken to all nations.

(E) The power to succeed.

The disciples had to wait in Jerusalem to be clothed with power from on high. v49.

For the apostles to be effective it wasn't enough to possess:

    (1) Knowledge. They had knowledge aplenty having been with Jesus for three years.

    (2) Natural ability. Someone like Peter was not without ability as a forceful speaker and leader.

    (3) Devotion. Without doubt all the disciples loved Jesus dearly.

    (4) Faith. Their faith was strong after the resurrection.

No, to be effective the disciples needed THE POWER.

Power is necessary:

    (1) To get things moving quickly. A horse can pull one carriage slowly. A deisel express can pull twenty carriages at great speed. Power makes the difference.

    Alexander Fleming discovered the therapeutic benefits of penicillin. He had the knowledge. Other scientists showed great skill in developing the best variety of mould to produce the antibiotic. However, the only way penicillin was made widely available in the Second World War was by the big pharmaceutical companies taking it up and manufacturing it. They had the resources; they had the power to save millions.

    (2) To overcome resistance. Power is needed to overcome gravity and friction. Huge amounts of power were needed to launch men into space. Suffolk farmers use huge, powerful tractors to pull 12 furrowed ploughs through the heavy clay soil.

    (3) For dramatic results. If you want to light up a whole city - you need the power. In China huge and magnificent military displays are put on to show the world who has the power.

If the church was to grow rapidly, overcome superstition and persecution; if it was to turn the world upside down - the apostles needed special power.

They waited 10 days for it. Why 10? Why not 3 or 33? We don't know. The Spirit blows where he wills. He comes when he thinks he will!

In Britain we are in the same situation as the early church. If revival is to come and the church is to grow rapidly and become a force for good in our society we need a Pentecostal outpouring of power. And we have to wait for it! This doesn't mean that there is nothing for us to do. It doesn't mean that conversions aren't occurring or some churches prospering. But for the long-term decline in the church to be spectacularly reversed WE NEED THE POWER. See exposition on revival.

(F) A happy ending and a new beginning.

I have dealt with the ascension in my series on acts - (See Acts1v1to11). I will confine myself here to a few comments that echo William Barclay's conclusion to his commentary on Luke.

The ascension was:

(1) An ending.

The day came when the disciple's faith no longer depended upon the presence of Jesus in the flesh. It seems to us that they lost much. Nothing ever compensates us for the loss of a dearly loved one. But this was not the case for the disciples.

(2) A beginning. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Lk24v52.

Why were the disciples joyful? Here are four suggestions:

    (a) They were glad for Jesus. He was going home - back to where he belonged by his Father's side. When my dear mother died I felt sorry for my father and for myself but I was genuinely glad for my mother. She had gone to be with the dear Lord she adored.

    (b) Jesus had gone to prepare a place for them. He told them: "And I go and prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." Jn14v2and3.

    (c) Jesus had promised a better Counsellor. He said: "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." Jn16v7and8. See exposition on John16v5to16.

    (d) Henceforth heaven would contain the sinner's friend - a great High Priest to intercede for us - a man in the position of supreme authority. Who better to take our part in the Courts of Heaven than the man, Christ Jesus.

    In the inimical words of Charitie L Bancroft:

              Before the throne of God above
              I have a strong, a perfect plea;
              A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
              Who ever lives and pleads for me.


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