36. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39. Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
42. And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43. And he took it, and did eat before them.
44. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46. And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48. And ye are witnesses of these things.
49. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
50. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
52. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
53. And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
I want us to look at some of the special preparations that the Lord Jesus made as He was preparing to leave this world and turn over the work of Christianity, the work of the church, the work of God into the hands and lives of disciples and people that He had been with only a few years. What does a person do when He is about to move off the scene of action where He is no longer visibly seen as a leader? What does He do in order to prepare for the work of God to continue? I suppose that some of the greatest work that we could ever accomplish in this world is to make it possible for somebody else to carry on our work, our ministry after we are gone. I know there was a time in my own life when I felt the heavy hand of God upon me to try to prepare so that I might be able to minister to other, and in particular, be able to minister to people who are in training for ministry. Like the apostle Paul said when he was writing to Timothy, you teach others who in turn will teach others and then in turn, they will teach others. It sets up a chain reaction so that probably the greatest work we could ever do is that when our time comes to go, there is really not much of a vacancy because somebody else is ready to step right in and carry forth in the Name of the Lord. I think that is a tremendous step of success if we are able to somehow call somebody else to have a testimony to share, cause somebody else to have a song to sing, cause somebody else to have a message to deliver and it just keeps going on and on and on. That seems to be the way that God does it down through the ages and has done it down through the ages. That is certainly what Jesus seemed to have uppermost in His mind as He was about ready to leave. He did this in several different steps that I want to talk to you about.
First of all, there was divine visitation upon these disciples. We talked last time about Him talking with two of the disciples, and then they had returned to Jerusalem and they told everybody that Christ had risen. There had been some women who had told them and people didn’t quite believe them. Then there were other witnesses saying they had seen Him. They were there explaining all of this to these disciples and some of them still doubting about whether or not Jesus had risen from the dead when we take up at verse 36. While they were speaking and talking about this, Jesus Himself came and stood in the midst of them and He said, ‘Peace be unto you.’ Now there are several times when Jesus comes to fearful and frightened disciples and the first thing He has to do is speak peace to them. This indicates that in this world there are frightening experiences. When He came to them walking on the sea during the storm, the first thing He said was ‘Be not afraid, it is I. Peace.’ When He entered into this room when He was about to leave, He tells them ‘My peace I leave with you, I give you.’ John describes His words in the last scene here with His disciples before His ascension. One of the outstanding things that Jesus always does is come in with His presence and then He speaks peace.
Don’t you love that old song we used to sing, “He whispers sweet peace to me. When I am cast down in spirit and in soul, He whispers sweet peace to me.” The voice of Jesus can speak to you in a time when you are frightened, in a time when you are unsettled, in a time when you are under stress, in a time when you don’t know exactly what decisions to make, He can speak to you then in such a way as to give you perfect peace of mind. I’ve seen it when I was so torn inside, I hardly knew which way to turn when trying to make decisions and just simply say ‘Lord, you must help me because I can’t get it to go straight in my own heart and mind.’ And in a moment’s time, His spirit would come and suddenly I knew.
That is exactly what happened next that He is going to confirm that He is alive and then He is going to clear up some of their questions and doubts and fears. That is the work of our Lord. He will come to you even when there is fear and when there is trouble. When He comes with His presence, you know He is there. The first thing that happens, He will tell you ‘Don’t be afraid and I’m bringing you my peace. Peace be unto you.’
The next thing He did was to give them divine confirmation that indeed He was alive. Now, here are disciples who knew that He had died. Some of them had seen it. They knew He had been buried. They knew He was missing from the tomb now, but they did not know for sure where He was or what had happened precisely. Suddenly, He is standing in the midst in visible form. One thing this does is let us know what it’s like to cross over into the supernatural realm of the hereafter. The Bible has given us a few close, clear insights into what it is like over there, beyond our world and beyond our own life and death existence here, but into the new resurrected transformed existence. There is Jesus appearing and can be seen in bodily form. They think they are seeing a spirit, or a ghost as we might say. Naturally, that adds to their fright and their fear to think that here comes a ghost. The whole world now is caught up with all kinds of things about ghosts and I think Hollywood must be in love with ghost stories because they keep bringing out all kinds of programs and movies that have to do with ghosts and people who seem to be able to understand them and deal with them. The fact remains that they are playing upon the fears and the anxieties of a lot of people and giving them thrills that to some people are hard to live with.
But, here are men and women who are frightened, thinking they are seeing a spirit. Jesus understands at seeing they are so terrified. He understands why they are, and so He confirms His life and that He indeed is living and is not just a spirit. He says to them ‘I want you to look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. I want you to handle me for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see me have.’ Apparently, according to this, the resurrected body can become visible and appear as flesh and bones. Later on, to take this a good bit further, He says to them ‘What have you got to eat?’ And they bring Him some broiled fish and some honeycomb and Jesus ate. That is a tremendous confirmation of what the resurrected body is like. The Bible teaches that we are to share in Messianic banquets with our Lord. We call it the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We get some insight into what it is like to be resurrected. At the same time, to be transformed in a supernatural way but also be able to be visible and have a body of flesh and bone that is absolutely governed and kept alive or motivated by the Spirit of God.
Notice He didn’t say flesh and blood. He said flesh and bones, which indicates the Holy Spirit must be that life-giving force that gives eternal life. We know it is the Holy Spirit because when we are born again and born of the Spirit, we have eternal life right then. John would put it like this: ‘Now are we the sons of God. We don’t know what we shall appear, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.’ Everything we get of the supernatural comes through a spiritual operation, the new birth, so that we become sons of God and citizens of another world, citizens of heaven with our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Oh, thank God for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit! Amen!
He confirmed His divinity and His life to them, and invited them to handle Him and see. I know the Scripture would teach us that seeing is not believing. Seeing is just seeing. But at the same time, I am impressed with the fact that the Lord Jesus understands us and our doubts and fears enough that He comes to us in ways to simply wipe away doubts and fears. Even if He has to do something that we can see with our eyes or feel with our senses and experience. That is one thing that has made Pentecost so powerful and wonderful throughout the world, the fact that it is a dynamic experience and especially the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Such a dynamic experience that you can feel throughout your whole being. It is so powerful in what it does to our senses that it can even take over and take charge of even the most unruly member of the human race and that is the tongue itself and use it to enable us to be able to speak in a heavenly language which may be unknown to us or to other people.
One of the most marvelous things in all the world is the fact that the Lord pours out the Holy Spirit and baptizes people with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. That is one of the greatest miraculous experiences that has come to this world, especially after the new birth because the empowerment of the Spirit is the thing that Jesus paved the way for here in this last visit just before His ascension. What is He thinking about? He wants to drive away their fears and worries. He comes to them with a divine visitation. He answers their questions. He pushes back the clouds that have come over them of fear and doubt. He is wanting them to open up their lives for the fullness of the power of the Spirit. That’s the way He will operate His church as Head of the Church. After He has left this world, it will be through the dynamic leadership of the Holy Spirit. So He says ‘I want you to see this, see Me, and feel and handle…’ and He showed them His hands and His feet. While they were still wondering, He asked for something to eat.
The next thing He did was give a divine explanation related to the Scriptures. Now you and I will never, never, never get away from wanting to be sure we have a definite experience of the supernatural in our lives. We cherish the experience. But along with that in perfect balance, Jesus comes to explain the Scriptures to the disciples. He did that with those two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. Here He explains that ‘…now you need to understand that all the Scriptures had to be fulfilled and must be fulfilled concerning Me. Everything that is written, and He says there are things written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), in the Prophets, and in the Songs concerning Me.’ One of the outstanding things we will see in the early church and especially in the Book of Acts is that many times they quote their Scriptures, which is our Old Testament. They quote from that to show that the Scriptures have been fulfilled about Jesus Christ. As a matter fact, that is the main point of every sermon they preached. Look at the sermon of Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The first thing he begins to say is ‘This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel…’ and he begins to quote from Joel, explaining ‘…here’s what it is that he was talking about, this outpouring of the Spirit and that God was going to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and sons and daughters would prophesy…’ He quoted from the Scriptures and that’s where the sermons of the people of the early church in the Book of Acts began, by saying the Scriptures are fulfilled. If they were preaching to Jews, they would say ‘Your Scriptures have been fulfilled and they have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His life that He lived, His ministry, His death and resurrection and ascension.’ They included it all and then they would say that He is coming back. They would add that on as one of the main points of the sermons. Nearly all the apostolic preaching had the same number of points: the Scriptures are fulfilled, they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, His life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and He is there interceding for us and He is to come again and receive us. So therefore, repent and be converted and get right and get ready to meet Him. I don’t think you can improve on that outline much anytime, anywhere in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. That sums up our whole faith and hope and all that Christ has done or is going to do for us. So, he talks about the Law, and he talks about the Prophets, and he especially refers to the Songs. You will see in the writings of the apostles in the New Testament that often they are quoting from the Old Testament and saying this is the fulfillment in Jesus Christ when He says this or does this. They are constantly bringing us up-to-date to say that the Scriptures are fulfilled.
I don’t know why people can’t see that. I don’t know why Jewish people in the world can’t see that. I can’t understand why they have to push Christ aside even to this day, and will not have the New Testament as the Word of God. It seems so realistic and clear to us, those of us who have experienced new life through Christ Jesus, it is not hard for us to accept the New Testament as our rule of faith and discipline – not at all. We wonder why they couldn’t see Jesus in the Old Testament like Jesus explained and the apostles later taught.
The Bible says here that He opened up their understanding. This lets me know that a lot of people can read the Scripture and don’t really understand what it is saying. They know a lot about it. I know of theologians who have studied the Bible from historical, critical standpoints. They are able to ‘tear it all to pieces,’ they say! But when it comes to comprehending the voice of God speaking and the Word of God that is coming through that Word, they seem to be void of that kind of understanding. That is sad; for people to give their entire lives in the study of theology and never quite know the God who is behind it all.
I’m reminded of an old story I heard years ago. There was a young man who was to quote the 23rd Psalm and he was so eager. He got it all down. He had his inflection, intonation and his rhythm, his enunciation was perfect, and he really shined while he quoted the 23rd Psalm. Nothing happened to the congregation. After awhile an old gentleman who had preached the gospel for many years got up and he quoted the 23rd Psalm. People wept all over the house and were moved and touched and blessed. The young man was upset. He asked ‘Why in the world when I quoted the 23rd Psalm didn’t it have any effect on the people?’ A fellow tapped him on the shoulder and said ‘Young man. You know the 23rd Psalm. That man knows the Good Shepherd.’ It does make a difference.
He opened up their understanding. Oh hallelujah! I have read Scripture and it would be just like a blank wall and then get touched of God and read it again and it comes alive. How many of you have had experiences where you read over something over and over and it didn’t much of anything, but later on your knees or in some situation it leaped out at you and the Lord opened up your understanding and let you see far beyond anything you had experience before. You understood what it means and what He is saying to us.
He opened up their understanding to the Scriptures. Here is part of the understanding that He opened up to them. It had to do with a divine commission that He was going to give them and did indeed give them right before His ascension, as Luke tells us in the Book of Acts, first chapter.
Here’s part of the understanding, not only about His death and rising again on the third day, because they fought that idea to the very end. That repentance and remission of sin should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. If there is any one thing that we ought to understand, it is the foundation of the gospel of Christ it is the fact that God grants to us the privilege of repenting of our sins so that they may be remitted or forgiven. A lot of mixed up people in this world would soon get straightened out if they would just repent of their sins and be forgiven and receive God’s peace. How many loved ones and friends do we have and we know that all they need is to pray and repent and get right with God and get His peace and everything would be alright with them? We attempt to try to tell them, and sometimes they are impatient and don’t want to hear it. In reality that is exactly what they need, the good news of the gospel of Christ. That is indeed the good news, that sinners, people have the opportunity to hear the good news and repenting of their sins and having their sins forgiven them. This is one thing that was so different from Jewish teaching of the day. The Jews in their proselyting, they would latch on to people but hold them at a distance and say you’ve got to go through this ritual and this ceremony and abide by these laws before we will ever accept you. Before you can join in with us, you’ve got to go through years of apprenticeship as a God-fearer, as a proselyte. It is a process that takes a long time before we will ever finally accept you. That is not the way of Jesus and that is not the way of churches that preach the gospel. They come to people just where they are. We take the song “Just As I Am” as one of our theme songs. We say that the Lord will come to you just where you are, just as you are. When you repent, He forgives and you are brought into the kingdom of God. Thank God! Thank God!
I’m so glad that when Jesus comes to you offering power to be delivered from anything, including tobacco or alcohol or drugs, including sins of any sort, He comes to you to receive you. Aren’t you glad He did? Hallelujah!
It was going to be hard for these Jewish disciples to embrace this gospel to that extent. It is still hard. It is very easy for some people to become so self-righteous in their own mind until they are not quite willing to share the gospel with others. They want saints to begin with and that’s not the way it happens. That’s not the way evangelism is. That’s not what evangelism is. Evangelism is taking the good news to the lost so they can be found and brought into the fold, into the kingdom of God.
He explained the Scriptures, opened up their understanding to their commission and said in verse 48 ‘And ye are witnesses of these things…everything that I have said and taught and done you are going to be eye-witnesses, in fact. You will tell people that you were there.’ John will say ‘We handled the word of life. We saw it. We heard Him. We handled it. We know what we are talking about. We know He is alive.’ The apostle Paul will say ‘He came to me at different times and to others and I saw Him and I know.’ Oh, he came to me as one born out of due season, unworthy, but still He came to me.
This is Jesus’ work just before His ascension. Then He gives them a great promise and a great command. He has just opened up their understanding to the Scriptures about being witnesses and about the great commission of preaching the gospel to everybody. Then He says ‘I am going to send the promise of my Father upon you:’ Luke will explain further in the first chapter of Acts what that promise of the Father was. He will explain that that is the promise of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Those are the words that the resurrected Son of God used. He used the word baptized. ‘You will be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.’ That is the day we keep hollering and carrying on so much about the baptism of the Holy Ghost because Jesus did not want them to do anything. He said ‘tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued (or clothed upon) with power from on high.’ That’s what that word endued means. It literally means that you put on your clothing. You get up and get dressed. You put on clothing in the morning. He says ‘Don’t go out to face the day, to preach the Word, to do anything until you are clothed with the power from on high.’ He is saying that you can’t do what I want done without the power of the Holy Ghost. You can’t preach it. You can’t witness. You can’t pray. You can’t live the life. You can’t overcome. You must have the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life if you are going to come to your full potential as a Christian in this world and as a Christian witness. This is the last thing He has on His mind before He ascends to the Father and leaves out of their sight. He says ‘You tarry here. Stay until you be endued with power from on high.’ They did it. They obeyed Him. When you get ready to be filled with the Spirit, that is the first step you have to take is to understand what Jesus is saying and simply obey Him and wait on Him because He is the baptizer. Simon Peter, in that first chapter of Acts, says ‘He’s the One that has poured forth this which you see and hear.’ So many people, in seeking for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, get their minds on a lot of things, when what they should do is just look by faith to the baptizer and let Him pour it out upon them.
So then, He led them out of the city; out of the old Jerusalem, away from the temple and He led them out as far as Bethany. You remember Bethany, don’t you, where He raised Lazarus from the dead? That seems to be a hallowed place where resurrecting power operates. Even though Lazarus wasn’t resurrected in the sense of the resurrection, he was raised from the dead. He would die again. He will be resurrected with the saints of God. To be resurrected like Jesus means you have a supernatural body that can ascend to God. He led them out as far as Bethany and He blessed them. His last act upon this earth was to bless somebody. Somehow I am touched by that! His last great act upon this earth was to lift His hands and bless them. While He was blessing them, He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. They watched Him. Angels came and said ‘Why do you stand here gazing? This same Jesus will so come in like manner.’ They worshipped Him. I don’t know exactly what they did. They may have first fallen on their knees as they looked up to Him and worshipped Him as He went away and went out of sight. They may have been so excited that they went running and worshipping and praising God as they entered into the city because it says they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. I know this. When you’ve had your heart opened to the Scriptures, and you’ve been in the presence of the Lord and somehow by faith you have seen Him, and He has reached forth His hands and has blessed you and you have been empowered and received great joy, you come from that place with strength and boldness because of the joy of the Lord and the power of His holy presence. It doesn’t soon go away. Thank God, it doesn’t soon die down. They were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.
That’s the way Luke ends this great gospel that he writes. Let me close then with this simple admonition and instruction here tonight. If you have fear, if you have frustration, if you have questions about life after death, if you have doubts, allow the Lord Jesus to come to you with His peace. Stay there long enough until He gives you insight into this Word. Go to this Word and live in it. Live in it until He begins to open up your understanding through the power of the Holy Spirit. The first thing you know your eyes of faith will be seeing clearly and you will be blessed of Him and you will worship to the fullest extent and have His great joy; because you now have a faith and an understanding of the Scripture that is based upon Jesus’ presence and experience with Him and what He has taught Him.
Will you please stand tonight.
Find more sermons by