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, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds so that they might come to understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ was to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am sending on you what my Father promised. But stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”Luke 24:44-49
Are you getting the feeling that you have heard all this before? I imagine that you do. It is hard to escape really. You HAVE heard it before; imagine how they felt at the time. This is the third time we have encountered this input in this closing text of Luke, not to mention the number of times it has arisen throughout the gospel. This is virtually what Luke told us happened initially on the road to Emmaus as Jesus explained to Cleopas and his mate as they neared the town. Then the disciples were told what Jesus explained to the Two after they made the journey back to Jerusalem and met with the gathered followers late at night. Now the disciples are being told the same thing again by Jesus Himself but for Thomas’ benefit. The inference is that Cleopas and his mate have heard the explanation twice and have passed on the explanation to the disciples themselves. The disciples have heard it three times, once from Cleopas and his mate, and twice from Jesus Himself. Thomas has heard it once. When something is important it is worth repeating over and over. I have told you before both Hebrew and Greek language uses repetition for emphasis. But this is not a language or linguistic feature. This is Jesus making sure these eleven disciples get the message. (I wouldn’t mind betting that Matthias, the future disciple who was Judas Iscariot’s substitute was present at the larger of these meetings as well.)
The disciples are in disarray because they don’t believe what is happening around them. They had lost perspective. They had been told numbers of times by Jesus Himself that the Messiah had to suffer and be crucified, but that three days later He would rise from the dead and enter into His glory. As I have said over and over they were caught between the two motifs the Bible paints for the Messiah. Messiah the Son of Joseph (Ha Messiah ben Yoseph) and Messiah the son of David (Ha Messiah ben Dawid) – Messiah, The Suffering Servant and Messiah the Reigning Victorious King. The Jews could not reconcile the two. How could the Reigning King suffer? It was unthinkable. But what they failed to realise was that this was to happen in two stages. He would come first to die and secondly to reign. We are caught between the stages. His Second Coming is just as assured as His First Coming. As I used to tell people in God’s Awesome Book, you can bank on the fact that He is Coming Again. It is as good as history, even though it is prophecy. Why? – because to the Jew history and prophecy are one. History is merely fulfilled Prophecy and Prophecy is simply History written in advance. But it was this aspect of their own sacred book that the disciples didn’t get. Yet they had to get it in order to believe their own Scriptures.
Note that Jesus meets with the Two on the road to Emmaus and stays long enough to ensure they get it, to ensure that they recognise who He is. As soon as that happens He disappears. He reappears again when? At the precise moment that the Two have finished explaining that which Jesus has explained to them on the road to Emmaus. And what exactly was that? That “the Messiah had to suffer these things in order to enter into His Glory.” He stays long enough for them to touch, feel, test and prove that He is who He says He is. But we are told that Thomas was not present at that time. Thomas hears secondhand what the others are telling him but states clearly and forthrightly that he won’t believe unless he can verify the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet and side. So Jesus appears again to do just that – to give to Thomas the verification he wants. Jesus has made numerous appearances to individuals – Mary, Peter, Cleopas and his mate. He could just as easily have appeared to Thomas wherever he was. Do you think Jesus didn’t know Thomas was struggling with this whole scenario? Of course He did. Jesus didn’t need anyone to give testimony about man because He knew what was in man. (See John 2:23-25 ) Which is of course followed by an example of Jesus “reading Nicodemus like a book”. There is a discussion about salvation, the point of all this and the discernment of natural things and spiritual things (John 3) and a change between the second person singular pronoun and the plural pronoun. It is clear this was a lesson for them all. I am talking about what is written in John 2 and 3. Now look at John 4. Here is another example of Jesus reading a human being (the woman at the well in Sychar) like a book and then telling her to go call her husband, after which she goes back to tell the villagers of Sychar, “Come meet a man who look right into me and told me everything I have ever done – Could this be the Messiah?”
Now let me ask you the question: Do you think this current scenario and explanation is all for Thomas benefit? No, of course not. The fact that Thomas is wavering between belief and unbelief, faith and doubt simply mirrors what we have been told about the disciples experience. Thomas is no different. Rather than appearing to Thomas alone, Jesus comes back for them all, using Thomas as the reason. He once again tells 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, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” Note on this occasion Jesus adds the Writings. The explanation is now complete via the Law, the Prophets and Writings. Luke tells us, He opened their minds so that they might come to understand the Scriptures. This is not the first time He has done this. He keeps doing it over and over. UNTIL THEY GET IT ! These are the ones He is going to entrust the precious treasure of the Gospel. It is essential they get it. So He told them again, “Thus it is written, that the Christ was to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day . . . “
Only this time note Jesus adds, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am sending on you what my Father promised. But stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Now you know why this passage seems so familiar. Remember what I said above. Are you getting the feeling that you have heard all this before? I imagine that you do. It is hard to escape really. You have heard it before. This is all a major repeated refrain of the Bible. Its all about the gospel and the fact that we are the ones who are commissioned to share it. Now it is time for me to sum up this section and leave you with some questions to ponder. Just as the message of Jesus death burial and resurrection is a continuing theme of the Scriptures, so too is the fact that we are to be gospel bearers. Those who have experienced repentance and forgiveness are to be the one to share the message of repentance and forgiveness with the world out there. This message is also clear. The two themes go hand in hand through out the Bible.
Now for my questions to you. Have a look at what I have already given you, but coloured differently.
Robertson in his arrangement of his Harmony has served us up “a commission given” with “another commission given”. My question to you is, are there two different commissions or one?
There is much debate among the Bible experts about the fact that Luke’s Gospel doesn’t include a Great Commission as such.
- Why is Luke’s ending so different?
- Why does it lead Robertson to call it “another commission”?
- Is the Great Commission missing from Luke’s Gospel as some experts conclude?
Take time to ponder this before the next Gem. It is an important question. How do you reconcile the four gospels when it comes to question of the Great Commission? Are they all on the same page or not? Do they all tell the same story and emphasise the same points? Is the main thing the main thing, or does it become Matthew’s main thing compared with Mark’s main thing compared with Luke’s main thing compared with John’s main thing – all of which are different?
Time for you to decide what you think.
If you desire to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world.Anon
The Bible without the Holy Spirit (and the Great Commission) is a sundial by moonlight.Dwight L. Moody
Missionary interest is the discharge of a debt. We owe everyone the gospel.Anon
The Gospel does two things: It comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.Anon
The needle of God’s law brings with it the thread of God’s Gospel.David Pawson