Notice the way Luke writes his Gospel emphasising what it was each of these people have seen in the appearances that he lists. Everything is on the basis of what they have heard and seen related to Jesus and His resurrection. Not only the physical evidence they have seen and heard but the conclusions they need to draw from it. We can know the facts but it is how we interpret those facts that really counts. As I have shared with you before “the children of Israel knew the acts of God but Moses knew His ways. (Psalm 103:7). In all of these appearances it was important for the disciples to be able to rightly interpret what was going on and the reasons behind Jesus’ death burial and resurrection. So Jesus explained it to them a number of times.
Once you fully understand these things then you are in a position of being able to be a witness to someone else. Something I have just realised in doing these Gems in detail is the difference between Luke and John’s accounts. Luke is focused on what was failing in their faith, whereas John looked at the true basis of their faith and how it comes to the point of being on-going, never wavering faith in the One who gave Himself for them. What is interesting to me is that John and Peter themselves exemplify this in their belief and approach to Jesus actions on their behalf. Peter makes his grand statements as to who Jesus is and the strength of his love for Christ. John on the other hand is the “disciple who Jesus loved”. Do you see the difference between the two? One is fixated on his love for Jesus and makes lots of bold claims. The other quietly accepts Jesus’ love for him. Peter could be called “the disciple who loved Jesus” while John was called “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. When you comprehend the magnitude of Jesus’ love for you, the only response is to rest in His love for you, yes to love Him back but it is not dependent on your love for Him. It is His love that works within you to bring about His purposes. You are witnesses to these things in order that you might BE a witness. God’s focus is always more on being than doing. John had that revelation while I don’t think Peter did until later. We will pick up his story in Acts when we move on to that book. In the meantime keep the idea simmering in your thinking.
What is important now is to look at the issue of who are to be the witnesses and to preach: The Eleven or the wider group of disciples? Again this is one of those times when the one merges with the other. Yes at times the focus is on the smaller band of the eleven disciples and other times it is widened to larger group of disciples.
Remember what John wrote:
- 17:20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message.
- 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me.”
Jesus has a wider purpose in mind. This is not just for the immediate Eleven but for on going generations of disciples. If you are a disciple you have an obligation to BE a witness. Where? In my local area? Or in the wider world, even to the end of the earth. BOTH AND and all points in between. The context of Acts is Jerusalem AND Judea AND Samaria AND the outer most parts of the earth. Jesus is not offering you a choice of focus of where you might be involved. A true disciple of Jesus is a global disciple. They hold the big picture and the local details in mind and in tension at the same time. Become a global Christian, don’t think involvement in your local area with people who are already believers is sufficient. I am sure you get my point, so I won’t press it anymore (until we look at Acts 1:8).
Notice also the recurring themes of authority and presence that are included with this Commissioning. His authority comes with the accreditation and approval of of the Name of Him who has the authority. Note the repetition of this element in each of the Great Commission passages. Does it remind you of something else in the Gospel of Luke? Does any passage come to mind? It sure does for me. Instantly! Do you recall the sending of the 12 (Luke 9:1-6) and the Sending of the 72 (Luke 10:1-12)? And don’t forget their reaction then the 72 returned Luke 10: Maybe you should reread Gems 895–897, 936–940 and 941 and 943. Do you see how all this fits together? Do you also see how ministry to the Samaritans is sandwiched amongst these passages? Does that ring a bell with the focus that Jesus now brings to the disciples at the end of the Gospel and the beginning of the next book? It all goes together. As I tell people in Deeper Bible, while we can separate off Sense Units at lower levels, there is also a sense in which whole books come together in a unity that is awe-inspiring. But don’t forget also that the Bible itself is a full and complete sense unit.
There is much more to say about all of this, so much that I could write a book on it all. But suffice to leave it all there for the moment. Lots for you to ponder between the close of Luke and the beginning of Acts. Now let’s consider something else that I introduced above. The theme of presence. Authority and presence go together which incidentally is why it is important to BE and not DO. To be still and be loved and not run around loving and doing. But that is yet another theme or story. Let us for now concentrate on the presence element in the Great Commission. Do you realise that presence is expressed through such elements as “I am with you always”, miraculous signs and power from Heaven and how all of that is expressed? Through the Holy Spirit of course. How else does Jesus promise to be with them until the end of the age, except by the Holy Spirit? Jesus told them this numbers of times through the four gospels. It is all one story. I asked the question in a previous Gem, what is the promise of the Father and when was it made? I am sure you all have your favourite parts of the Bible to turn to. Some will go to Joel, some to Isaiah, some may even go as far back as Genesis. Yes the original Presence of God is being restored. While all of these are valid, my mind turns to Jeremiah and Ezekiel as well as the passages of the New Testament which refer to the work and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The verses that came to mind for me were in Jeremiah 31:31 ff and Ezekial 23 and Acts 2 which describes the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is the Promise of the Father. The return of the Holy Spirit of God to dwell again with mankind.
“The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put My instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.Jeremiah31:31-33
The time when “My tent [will be] in her”. When God’s Presence dwells within man. This is what Jesus is telling the disciples to wait for. With the indwelling Presence of God comes power and the manifestation gifts of the Holy Spirit. As Mark describes, the power to do miracles. But the power or ability doesn’t come with “doing” or practice. It comes with dwelling or abiding in Him. The branch doesn’t have to DO, the branch just has to BE. The branch doesn’t have to run around actively doing things, it just has to be connected and allow the life to flow. That is why John 15 talks about the dead branches being cut off. Not because they haven’t DONE anything, but because they haven’t BEEN connected in order for the life to flow. Oh I feel another book coming on, time to stop. Suffice to say, we won’t be eye-witnesses of Jesus in the true sense of the word. But we will and ought to see and know the reality of the risen Christ as we feel His Presence working within and giving to us revelation and ability to to ensure the Kingdom of God is not a matter of mere words but of power. It is the Power of God working in us and through us which turns us into witnesses. Time for you to think about all this.
I will pick up on one more question of “yours” before I finish this Gem leaving us one to go to cover Luke related to the Ascension. That question concerns the matter of the disciples being told to wait in Jerusalem. “If that is the case then how come they go to Galilee?” There are two aspects to this. One is that Luke appears to have telescoped the events and makes them read as though they happen in a few short days. We know that Jesus departure happens 40 days after the resurrection. Many things were happening in this time. It was not a problem for the disciples to be in Galilee again (WITH JESUS). They have not ignored the instructions to wait in Jerusalem. There is still time for that. All these events and appearances are listed as though they happened one after another to advance the overall theme and intent of the passage. Why is Jerusalem in focus? It is in focus for many reasons, it’s the capital, the place where most of the action has taken place. It is the focus of Acts of 1:8 and where the action starts from. But there is another reason why the action starts in Jerusalem and why the Holy Spirit is poured out in Jerusalem. But I won’t tell you now, I will tell you until the last Gem on the text of Luke’s gospel. In the meantime you take time to ponder why Jerusalem would be the focus.
That is enough for today. This Gem is already long enough. The unanswered questions I will leave you to ponder.
You are who God says you are. Spiritually alive. Heavenly positioned. A billboard of mercy. An honoured child. A witness to Him who is within you.Anon
You regularly trust power you cannot see to do work you cannot accomplish. Jesus invites you to do the same with Him.Max Lucado
The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.William Booth
Learn to focus more on being loved by Him than how much you love Him; on BEING and ABIDING rather than doing and serving.Ian Vail