Articles

It is Better that He Ascended (Luke 24:36-53)

Luke 24:36-53 (ESV) — 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? 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. 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, 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 and 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.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.

Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: “You are my hands.”

What do you think about when you hear that story?

Does it ring with a sense of the truth or is there something that troubles you about it?

There’s a certain kind of sentimentality to some ideas that makes them seem to ring with truth because of how they make us feel when we hear the story.

Is it true that we need statues of Jesus to remind us of Him or to make Him more present to us?

Is it true that Jesus now has no hands now? While we’re at it, is it true that Jesus has no arms, head, torso, legs or feet?

Let’s turn to our passage to see what we might learn about Jesus’ body.

Beginning with verse 36:

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? 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.

At this point in the Gospel of Luke, Christ has risen from the dead but only the women at the tomb and the disciples on the road to Emmaus had encountered the risen Christ.

The disciples to whom Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus hurried back to inform the disciples that they had met Christ and, while they were talking, Jesus appeared to them.

If anyone ever tells you that people in the 1st Century expected men to rise from the dead, there is something you need to know about that kind of belief.

It’s completely bogus.

People who died stayed dead in the 1st Century as well.

Jesus’ appearance shocked them.

He was suddenly among them and announced: “Peace to you!”

Imagine the jaw dropping and terrifying scene.

They were so amazed and frightened that they thought they were seeing a ghost.

Jesus tells them not to be frightened and to believe that He was really there.

He invited them to touch His hands and feet.

He practically invited them to poke Him and confirm that real flesh and blood was standing right there in front of them.

“Look at my hands and my feet…” was His invitation.

Verse 41 continues…

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.

I still remember, as if it was yesterday, the evening I returned from a long deployment to Kuwait and Iraq at the beginning of the war.

I walked into the house and there was Sonya holding James, who was now several months older and had only seen pictures of his father for many months.

He had a stare of amazement on his face that I was standing there. I don’t know what an 11 month mind was thinking but I can appreciate the idea of joy mixed with doubt in the disciples mind when they suddenly saw Jesus: “Can this really be Him? Has he really arisen?!” It’s too good to be true.

It’s one thing for a father to return from war but it’s another for a Man to rise from the dead.

Jesus broke the stunned silence by basically asking for something as mundane as: “Hey, do you have something to eat?”

The reason I believe there were women present is because men would have been totally useless at this point but, thankfully, someone gave him some broiled fish and he ate it.

Why is it important to know this?

Why is Luke making the point that Jesus ate fish and showed His hands and His feet?

It’s important because a real Man had died for sin.

A Man of the same substance as us. He was truly like us with flesh and bone.

And that same Man truly rose with a physical body.

That real man had two hands with nail scars that could be touched.

Verse 44 continues…

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.”

Jesus now begins to unpack His ministry. He had spent three years living with them and teaching them and it is not until this point that things can all make sense.

What does He point to as the basis for His teaching?

All the books of what we now call the Old Testament.

The three divisions of the Scriptures at the time were the Law, the prophets, and the writings. The writings included the Psalms and so He’s using shorthand that they would understand.

Jesus’ point was that the entire Scriptures pointed to Him..

Now that doesn’t mean that every single verse has a specific reference to Jesus but what it means is that the entire unfolding of Revelation was always intended to aim at the ministry and work of Christ.

Verse 45 continues…

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,

I can’t emphasize enough how important this is to our understanding of the Word of God.

It is Christ Who opens minds to understand the Scriptures.

We like to think that had we walked with Jesus we would have just seen where all His teaching was heading.

The Gospels, however, repeatedly emphasize how everybody, including His own closest disciples, did not understand that Christ should suffer and rise again on the third day.

That understanding required the actual resurrection of Christ and, until that happened, nobody understood.

That understanding further required that Christ opened up their minds to understand everything.

Imagine all that they had heard and seen suddenly falling into place in a pinpoint blaze of understanding!

Now I understand!

Without Christ we would be hopeless as well.

His work and words would remain obscure to us apart from our eyes being opened.

But we, beloved, have the risen Christ and have eyes that have been opened if we have believed.

But what else was it that was now revealed to them and to us?

Verse 47:

47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

What is to be proclaimed in the name of Jesus to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem?

Repentance and forgiveness of sins.

I’ve been teaching the Junior High students through the Westminster Shorter Catechism and last week we considered Questions 86 and 87.

Question 86 asks: “What is faith in Jesus Christ?”

Question 87 asks: “What is repentance unto life?”

They are paired in the catechism because they are two sides of the same coin.

When a person truly repents unto life he is turning away from sin and turning to life.

As we wrestled with repentance, I explained to the young men and women how much we require the grace of God to repent.

If you ask anyone you meet, there’s always something they wish they could improve.

But it’s not repentance to simply dislike something about yourself and wish that you were somehow a little different.

The kind of repentance that Jesus proclaimed requires a recognition that your sin deserves the wrath and curse of God.

It is not something that is on the surface that mars an otherwise attractive life.

It’s not just some mole on the tip of your nose that needs to be surgically removed.

Your sin, apart from Christ, permeates every aspect of your being.

Everything about us, apart from Christ, makes us God’s enemy and deserving of His wrath and condemnation.

We’ve been studying the 10 commandments for the last couple of months and perhaps you’ve grown weary of hearing all the do’s and don’ts.

Perhaps you’ve even been offended at the implication that there’s something that you love to do that the God of the Universe hates.

Perhaps you think that the Law can’t possibly make that kind of demand upon you because, after all, nobody is perfect and I can’t possibly be expected to obey with that level of detail.

If you got that impression let me assure you that things are not that bad.

In reality, the situation is much, much worse.

Not only are you required to mind every detail but the very fact that you were born in sin means you were already under the wrath of God from your conception and a slave to sin.

Think about this beloved.

Why did it require the very Son of God to become flesh?

Why did the Son of God, from all eternity, come down from heaven, obey the Father as a real man, suffer the scorn of the world, and be crucified and buried?

If you and I were OK then something as radical as the death of the Son of God is utter nonsense.

But Christ’s very words and work open our minds.

Suddenly we see with new eyes.

We suddenly see our lives as an utter reproach to a holy God.

Every thought, word, deed is covered with the filth of our unrighteousness.

We rightly conclude that a just God must condemn.

He is right to condemn for our open treason.

Our mouths are stopped.

Is there no hope?

Must I bear the crushing consequences of my sin?

We suddenly realize that we are slaves of sin but how can a holy God approach a wretched slave who is a sworn enemy of Him?

But then we see the Son of God hanging on the Cross.

Why Jesus?

Why are you hanging there?

What are you doing up there?

You’ve been proclaimed to be guiltless but the Scriptures proclaim that cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree.

Christ invites us to take the heavy chains and reproach of our sin and offers to take the load from us.

Give the Curse to me child.

The Father has loved you and has permitted me the honor of offering My body as a sacrifice for sin.

And as the Son becomes a Curse for us the Father issues His malediction on the Son of God.

The Lord Curse you, Jesus.

The Lord cast you aside, Jesus.

The Lord cast you into outer darkness, Jesus.

The Lord execute the full wrath of sin on you, Jesus.

The Lord turn away His face from you, Jesus.

The Lord give you the torments of hell itself, Jesus.

The wrath of God passes us over and His full fury rests on the willing victim.

Jesus willing dies for sinners.

It is finished.

Are you a sinner?

Do you sense your need of Him?

Our repentance is simply a hatred of our sin and turning to Christ to give it to Him and cling to His righteousness.

This is good news and it is to be witnessed throughout all the earth to every nation because every man, woman, boy, and girl needs Jesus.

Apart from Christ, we would all perish in our sins.

Verse 48 continues..

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.”

The apostles were the first witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and it was entrusted to them to bear witness of the message of repentance and forgiveness based on faith in the work of the Son of God.

But they were not yet ready to be witnesses.

They were told to wait until the received power from on high.

That power was the Holy Spirit.

It was the Holy Spirit promised by Christ in John’s Gospel.

It was the same Spirit that Jesus the Man relied upon for His earthly ministry.

That same Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son into the world at Pentecost and is the promised inheritance of every believer.

Some of you may have heard that Robert Schuller died on April 2nd.

If you are a Christian who has never heard of Robert Schuller then you are better off that you have not.

Can anyone hear remember the name of the show that played on TV’s and radios across the nation through the 70’s and 80’s?

The Hour of Power.

But what was the Power that Robert Schuller proclaimed?

It was the power of positive thinking.

Schuller openly stated that the worst thing the Church ever inflicted upon Christians is the idea that we are sinners.

That’s because, according to Schuller, salvation was found in self-esteem and thinking good thoughts about ourselves.

His Crystal Cathedral in Southern California once held thousands and had a membership of over 10,000 people.

The Gospel, according to Schuller, was to love yourself and that positive thoughts give you the power to accomplish the impossible.

What is the legacy of a Church built on such a foundation?

The congregation scattered shortly after he left the pulpit.

His cathedral now belongs to the Roman Catholic Church.

Surely nobody still believes that the highest good is that we would really learn to love ourselves and think positive thoughts, do they?

Nobody still pursues their own self-worth as their highest end, do they?

Beloved, the Power that Christ promised His disciples is not the ability to love ourselves.

The Promise is the power of God Himself. The Holy Spirit.

The same God Who can create the universe dwells in Christ’s people.

Where we are helpless in ourselves, the Spirit unites us to Christ and His indestructible life.

All that is Christ’s is ours by the Spirit.

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

What I’d like you to notice here is something about Jesus.

What did He lift up to bless the disciples?

His hands.

Yes, Jesus had a real body with hands.

And that same Jesus blessed them as He ascended into heaven.

A human body.

Ascended into heaven.

It is not only true that Jesus had hands.

It is still the case that Jesus the man has hands.

And feet.

With nail scars.

The Son of God is now one Person with two natures.

Fully God from all eternity.

Now also with a fully human nature for all eternity.

Notice also what the disciples did as Jesus ascended into heaven.

They worshipped Jesus.

Because Jesus is God.

And they went away rejoicing.

I have departed from loved ones for months at a time and parting from their presence always brings sorrow.

This was the last time Jesus would be on earth.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to weep as they thought: “I’ll never see Him again….”

And yet, the fact that Jesus, a real man, ascended on high brought them great joy.

That’s because the Son of God ascended is of much greater benefit to all of His disciples in heaven.

Where His physical presence and ministry was once confined to one place, He now, through the Spirit, ministers to millions around the world.

He is still our Prophet.

Through the Spirit, the Word is proclaimed convicting men of sin and causing them to trust in His work.

He is still our Great High Priest.

His perfect sacrifice is now applied to all who trust in Him and He lives to make intercession to perfectly apply that redemption through the Spirit.

He is our Great King.

All authority in heaven and earth is now His.

He subdues all His and our enemies that we might be presented one day holy and blameless.

You are not left as orphans to figure this all out on your own.

The Law that has been preached to you has not been preached that you might learn to straighten yourself out by your own power.

Do not despair of your sins or your perceived inability.

Look to the risen and ascended Lord.

See the nail scars.

He suffered and died that you might never taste eternal death.

Look to the empty tomb and, with the eyes of faith, see the Son of God seated at the right hand of the Father.

A real man, of our nature, reigns and rules for your good.

We can do all things in Him because He can do all things.

Yes, beloved, it is good that He is not here for He has ascended.

But He is here by His Spirit and that immeasurable power is ours by faith.

Let us pray.

Leave a Reply

    No Twitter Messages.
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!