Sermon: Post-Resurrection Lessons
Teachings of Christ After He Rose
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 30-May-98; 81 minutes
When God set up the holy day calendar for His people, He gave us instructions to count seven sabbaths between the Wave Sheaf offering and the day of Pentecost, and this period, as you probably know, is today. Tomorrow is the fiftieth day. That is why we call it Pentecost. It means "count fifty," and we have counted those seven weeks which come up to 49 days, and Pentecost is the 50th one. It is the same period in fulfillment of these days that fell between Christ's ascension for acceptance by the Father. Remember, on the day the wave sheaf was normally offered, Jesus rose not from the grave, but from the earth, and ascended to heaven for acceptance before the Father, and this was 49 days before the founding of the church in AD 31, and tomorrow, 1,967 years will have passed between then and now.
In that 50-day period, 1,967 years ago, the resurrected Christ appeared to various people on at least ten different occasions. Albert Barnes said "twelve," but he counts differently from what I do. I came up with ten. It really does not matter. Christ probably appeared other times to different people, but they just were not recorded. The number of times is not really significant.
Some of these appearances we know very little about—almost nothing. They are just mentioned, like in I Corinthians 15 Paul mentions that Jesus appeared to Peter, and that is it. That is all we know, except in Luke 24 the apostles mention that Jesus had appeared to Peter, but we do not know what He said, what He did, and why He appeared to Peter. We just know that He did. The same thing happened with the apostle James, and most people think that this James is the Lord's brother—the one who wrote the epistle, rather than James the son of Zebedee. Jesus appeared to 500 disciples at one time, probably on Mount Hermon. That is at least a thought, but that is all we know, that He appeared to 500 brethren.
Let us go to Acts 1 and we WIll read the first three verses and find out at least a little bit why He appeared.
Acts 1:1-3 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs [not just 10, not just 12], being seen by them during forty days . . .
This was from the time of His resurrection, 40 days, and then there was a 10-day period before the day of Pentecost, when He didn't appear, and then this important part of verse 3:
The grave did not stop Jesus from preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and He came back and appeared to His disciples several times so that He could give them a little bit extra of the gospel in that 50-day period between His ascension on the Wave Sheaf day and the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came.
There are several accounts of these post-resurrection appearances that are quite lengthy and very detailed. I am sure He designed these more instructive appearances to impart certain vital information to His disciples, or vital lessons that the disciples needed immediately. Obviously these lessons were recorded in the Bible for us, and as it says here in Acts 1:3, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God."
There are things that we need to make sure we understand and do so that we can make it, so that we can be there in God's Family. Maybe, just maybe, these lessons can be helpful to us as we approach the real return, the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What we are going to be doing today is stringing three of these post-resurrection appearances together and try to extract some of the instruction contained in them that is vital for our reaching the Kingdom of God.
Before we do that, we need to set the scene of this. We need to put ourselves into the sandals, so to speak, of the disciples. We need to shed some of our hindsight for just a bit. We need to try to understand just what had happened, and what they understood, or misunderstood, and how they felt about what had gone on and what was going on. It is not easy to do this.
It is not easy to try to remove ourselves 2,000 years into the past and try to, for a moment, forget what we know, and put ourselves in their sandals, like I said, and feel how they felt, and try to understand where they were coming from. We need to do this because we have to make sure that we do not misjudge them and think low of them for the way they reacted. More than likely we would have probably reacted the exact same way as they did.
Jesus did not pick the flunkies off the side of the road. They were men that were usable. They were men that were intelligent and courageous for the most part. They were men that tried as best they could to love God and to do what was right, but they did not know everything. They were still human. We need to put ourselves in their shoes. I have come up with three things to help us understand this—three elements that we have to understand about them.
1. They were in a state of shock, disbelief, and fear.
Their whole world had just come crashing down around their ears. They had pinned all their hopes and all their beliefs and their very lives on the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, and He had just been taken away from them. He was dead by crucifixion, no less. How shameful—the death of a common criminal, and here He was a prophet, a wise man. Some even thought He was God—God's Son—and it seemed to them that all was lost.
Let us go to Mark 16 and get a little bit of this flavor of the way they were feeling.
Mark 16:9-10 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week [this is not translated very well. We will just skip over that for now.], He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.
This was three days afterward, and they were still mourning and weeping.
Mark 16:11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
He was dead. They had all seen Him. He died. He had been taken away. He had been tried. He had been scourged. He had been crucified. They saw that He had been put in the tomb. He was dead.
Let us go to Luke 24. This is a similar situation.
Luke 24:9-12 Then they [the women] returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.
He kind of walked away in a daze, still not quite sure what had happened, and how he should react to Jesus' body not being in the tomb. But they did not believe.
Luke 24:36-38 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. [They thought they had seen a ghost.] And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?"
Here they were seeing Him, and He could tell that they were still doubting, and still fearful and troubled, and so He shows them His hands and His feet.
And then He had to go and eat a piece of food to show them He was not a ghost. Ghosts cannot eat food. But still, even though they were joyous at seeing Him, they still said "It's too good to be true."
John 20:19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews . . .
They were afraid that a price was on their heads. Not only were they troubled and confused, they were in fear for their very lives because they felt the Jews were going to come and treat them the same way that they had treated Jesus—at least with scourgings, and maybe with crucifixion itself— because they were known to be His disciples. It had all come down so hard and so fast. Their heads were spinning. They did not know what to believe, how they should react.
2. Their background had conditioned them to disbelieve.
Even after their three and one-half years with Jesus Christ, hearing Him speak, hearing Him teach, seeing all that He did, once He was dead and they were in this state of confusion, they fell back on their Jewish upbringing, on their Jewish education. See, that was something solid that they could reach back to. It was not something that was going to go away, like Jesus did. As they may have thought in their turmoil, "At least we have the Scriptures. At least we have what we were taught in the synagogue." What had happened just did not fit with their background as they had been taught by the rabbis what was supposed to happen with the Messiah. Messiah was supposed to come back and lead them all to national greatness once again. Christ was dead. This was not the way it was supposed to be.
Let us go back to verse 9 of John chapter 20. This was when John and Peter ran to the tomb. Look at what verse 9 says.
John 20:9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
They could not see it in the Scripture. Jesus had told them. He gave them the sign of the prophet Jonah, that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, but that was not solid enough, because Jesus died. They did not see it from the Scripture, which was what they fell back on. Their Jewish education and upbringing of how they had been taught in the synagogues did not square. They were just thinking like carnal Jews of the day.
Let us look at Acts 1, verse 4. We will pick up where we left off.
Acts 1:4-6 And being assembled together with them, He [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem [at the end of the 40 days], but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John [the Baptist] truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying . . .
Now listen to this. This was after He had appeared to them more than ten times and gave them all these lessons that we will go through later on. Listen to what they said:
Acts 1:6 . . . "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
Picking up a little bit from Mike's sermonette, just like Jonah, they were thinking "nationalistically." They were thinking that the Messiah's main job was to come and restore the glory of national Israel, and He had to say, "It's not for you to know the times for this. You go and do the work I've given you to do." But look, ten days before the day of Pentecost, they are still thinking like carnal Jews, still thinking in terms of national Israel.
3. They were still unconverted.
They were still unconverted as late as Luke 22:32. This was the time that Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times. Jesus told Peter that his conversion is still future. He says, "Peter, when you're converted, strengthen your brethren." So they were not converted during Jesus' ministry. They were with Him, and they had His influence, but they really were not converted yet. They could understand a little bit, but obviously their reaction when He died showed that they really were not converted. They were on their way, but they had not hit that point yet.
The earliest their conversion could have taken place was sometime within the 50-day period between the Wave Sheaf and Pentecost. Maybe in John 20:22 where it says He breathed on them, and He said to them, "This is the promise of the Father," but I do not think so. I think that was just a sign or a type of what was going to happen. He was giving them a bit of a preview of what was going to happen on the day of Pentecost. It was like "breath," breathing on them.
Of course in Acts 2 we find out that it was a "rushing mighty wind." Blowing a little bit of breath is kind of a small symbol of that rushing mighty wind. It was on the day of Pentecost, as it says in Acts 2:4, that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. What this means then is, that during this 50-day period during Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, and then all the appearances, they did not have all the tools they needed to really understand and to react properly.
So there are these three things: (1) They were in a state of shock, disbelief, and fear. Their emotions and their minds were terribly crumbled. (2) Their background conditioned them to disbelieve, because they were thinking still as carnal Jews, and (3) They were unconverted. They did not have all the tools they needed.
Now dropped into those same circumstances, you and I would have fared no better. We would have probably reacted just as they had done. In times of turmoil and confusion, it is a natural human reaction to fall back on your most fundamental beliefs, what you grew up with, what we feel is safe and trustworthy. We look for an anchor you know, a knot tied at the end of the rope, and hang on as best we can, and that is what they did. To the disciples, what was trustworthy and reliable was what they could see and hear and touch, and what they had learned growing up, and what was reasonable to their human nature, and what was provable by scientific processes, or by debate, by reason.
Now I have got to give them the credit that they truly loved Jesus as much as they could. He was their Master. His trial, His betrayal, His scourging, His crucifixion, the contempt that He had suffered, had cut them to the quick. They were devastated and grieved. Words like "grief" and "mourn" and "weep" and all those things come up frequently. Their best Friend and Master was gone in the prime of His life—thirty-three years old.
They remembered what He had said, but how could that be? He is dead. They knew He had done fantastic miracles, but how can a dead man raise Himself from the grave? Sure, He had raised Lazarus, but Lazarus was the dead man, not Jesus at that point. Now Jesus was dead. How would He be raised? There was no one to raise Him. All was lost. Like I said, they themselves had confessed that He was the Son of God, but did they really believe it? I do not think so. Maybe mentally they believed it, but deep down, once His death occurred, they doubted. And though He had proved it countless times, they still thought of Him as a mere man. A good man—but a man.
As much as we would like to make excuses for them though, in many of these post-resurrection appearances Jesus chastises them for their unbelief. They should have known better! They should have believed. We will see that He calls the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus "fools!" and "dull of heart." That is pretty strong language. He chides Thomas for needing to see Him and touch Him physically. He browbeats Peter into exasperation, asking him if he really loved Him. Jesus expected a lot more from them than He got, just as He expects more from us than we often give Him, and so He has to instruct them in certain areas.
Let us now take a look at these three appearances in chronological order. The three we are going to go through are the three I just mentioned: 1) The road to Emmaus, 2) Thomas sees and believes, and 3) By the shores of Galilee.
Please turn to Luke 24 and verse 13. There is a great deal of detail in this story about the road to Emmaus that I will not be able to mention, but if you have a chance to go through it on your own, it makes a very interesting study. As we go through this, one of the disciples' names is Cleopas. I want you to notice his confusion and his astonishment, his bewilderment at the things that Jesus had said, the things that he knew had not turned out the way that he had thought they would. You can hear it in what he says. It is very interesting. He was so discombobulated that he cannot see the proofs for what they are, that they are direct incontrovertible evidence of Jesus' Messiahship. They are staring him in the face. He is saying them, and he still does not get it.
No one knows where Emmaus was. People have some ideas, but if it is seven miles away, none of the cities quite fit, unless it is seven miles round-trip, and they do not think that is what Luke meant. There was a city called Emmaus, or what they thought was called Emmaus, three and one-half miles away, but that is not seven miles, or 60 stadia, as it says in the margin, so we do not know where Emmaus was exactly. We do know that it was within walking distance, and seven miles for a person who is used to walking is only about a two-hour trip, so they could do it without any problems. It would be a tough commute, but they could do it, let us say, if they had good sandals!
Some think that the disciples were already beginning to disperse back to their homes, but I do not think we can prove it from this. I think they were just going home, probably to take a breather from what they just experienced. They were coming back. They were close enough that they could go home and kind of get away from the other disciples. I think that is what they were doing here. They were just walking out to Emmaus to kind of get away from the scene just for a bit. It says here in verse 29 that one of them had a home there, or it is at least implied that one of them had a house in Emmaus, so it was a way to get away from what had just taken place.
Luke 24:14-15 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
Luke uses three different words for what they did. They talked together, they conversed, and they reasoned. Using these three synonyms kind of heightens what they were doing. They were really agitated, and they were discussing it back and forth. They were trying to make sense of it, and might have even been debating or arguing about things, trying to set the matter straight between themselves so they could get a handle on it. What this was, was an intense conversation. Very intense. So intense that they did not notice that they had a companion walking next to them, listening in to their conversation.
Luke 24:16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
Many people say, "Why didn't they know who He was?" "Why couldn't they recognize Him?" Well, if you go back to Mark 16:12, Mark says that Jesus appeared in a different form. Somehow there was a supernatural disguise that Jesus had, that He did not quite look like He normally did. Nobody knows really what He looked like either way—His normal way or His disguised way—but they at least did not quite recognize Him. Their eyes were restrained too. So there was a disguise, and their eyes were restrained somehow. I do not know how it worked, but maybe their vision was clouded when it came to noticing details about Him. I do not know.
The third thing is that they did not expect to see Him. They thought He was dead. When somebody has died, you do not expect them to be walking with you. You expect them to be dead. So there were three things working against them: (1) God did something supernaturally, (2) Jesus was in a disguise of some sort, and (3) They did not expect to see Him.
Luke 24:17 And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?"
Some translations have it, "What kind of conversation is this that you have as you walk? And they stood still, and were sad." It just depends on which early version of the Bible is being used. Other versions have a slightly different wording. It was patently obvious that they were troubled, and their faces were long. They were speaking remarkably, meaning that the way they were conversing Jesus had to remark about it, and it gave Him his opening obviously to the conversation.
Luke 24:18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?"
"Where have you been, buddy?" That is basically what he said. "How could you not know about what's gone on?" You can see how agitated he was. He kind of snapped at Him a little. "Don't you know?" But his reaction gives Jesus the opportunity to draw him out a little bit. Jesus was great at this. He always used somebody's reply to get in there and get to the heart of the problem.
Some people think that this "Cleopas" is a form of "Alphaeus." Remember James, the son of Alphaeus, one of the disciples, one of the apostles? Well, they think this may be Alphaeus. It is the same form in the Greek, I guess. One is kind of a Hebraic word, and the other one is a Greek word, but they both are the same person, the same name—Cleopas and Alphaeus. There is a slight possibility that this really could come as ironic, if that is the case, that he might have been Jesus' uncle. It just depends on how you read one of the verses. It says, "Mary, the mother of James." In John 19:25, it says, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene." If that is the case, it says there that she, this Mary, was the sister of Mary. I just bring it up to heighten the intensity that they did not recognize Him at all. This could be His uncle, and he still did not recognize Him. But that is uncertain. I just mention it, to throw it out.
We will continue now in verse 19. This is Cleopas' answer. Now listen to his answer. Just listen to the rush of sentences he gives. He just spills his entire heart to this "stranger." After Jesus says, "What things?" they reply:
Luke 24:19-24 "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see."
He just blurted out the whole rush of events that had happened between the crucifixion and the resurrection, and a few things that just happened after the resurrection. He just gave Him the whole story, like Jesus did not know what had gone on. I guess he believed He was the only stranger in Jerusalem that had not heard these things. But we can see the inner turmoil of Cleopas here. I listed six things that he did not see here that struck me.
1. He could not see that Jesus was anything greater than a genuine Prophet. He said, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people." That is all he could see, that Jesus was a genuine Prophet. But he himself mentions proofs that show that He was more than a Prophet.
2. He mentions that things had transpired just as Jesus had foretold, but he could not put two and two together because he was so confused. He mentions that the chief priests and the rulers delivered Jesus up to be crucified. Remember Jesus said that He would be raised up? Remember Jesus said that He would be three days and three nights in the tomb? And "this is the third day," Cleopas says. He is mentioning all these proofs, and he is just kind of putting this to one side.
3. He said he hoped that He was the One. Now that does not sound like "We believed He was the One," or "We trusted that He was the One." It is a much lower form of belief. It was just a hope. "We were hoping that this was the One, but I guess it wasn't," is the implication here. Obviously he did not recognize all the signs that said that this was the Messiah, and that this is what the Messiah should do, all those redemptive things He needed to do, redemptive spiritually.
4. He disregards Jesus on the sign of His Messiahship. I already mentioned this, that He would be in the grave three days and three nights. "This is the third day," he says, meaning that it was the third day since the last things that transpired that Jesus had talked about. (If you want proof of that, read the booklet I wrote, "After Three Days," but that is not here nor there.) What it means is, "Three days have passed that Jesus said He would be in the tomb, so why hasn't something happened?" Well, something had happened.
5. He disregards the women's testimony. They had gone to the tomb. They had seen the body was not there. They had talked to angels who had told them that He had risen! The angels reassured them, but these disciples did not believe it. They had all these witnesses, all these proofs, and they just shook them off in their confusion and their turmoil.
6. He disregards the testimony of Peter and John, the two leading apostles, with James. Peter and James had come back from the tomb and said that the body was gone, but the only thing that Cleopas would accept is to see Jesus Himself with his own eyes, "but Him they did not see." So he disregards everything, and says, "I don't believe."
Luke 24:25-27 Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Now we can see why Jesus called them "foolish and slow of heart." What He said there is, "You senseless people! You thoughtless inconsiderate people." Then He calls them "dull of heart," kind of mentally retarded, or whatever. I do not know quite how you would have said it. It means that they were slow learners. They did not get it. They should have gotten it. He chastises them. He calls them names. He was very disappointed in them.
He says, "Even if you throw all these things out that you just mentioned to Me, Cleopas, you should have believed the Scriptures. 'Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things?' Didn't you read your Bible? Did you just throw Isaiah 52 and 53 right out the window? What do you think that is talking about? I had to bear the sins of all the world upon Me, but you didn't get it because you're slow and you're thoughtless." He really gives it to them with both barrels, and then He preaches them a whopper of a sermon.
One commentator said, "Would that God had put that sermon in the Bible." He did not need to, because it had been written already. I am sure He just went and said: "Okay. Do you remember this scripture? (blah, blah, blah, blah, blah). That was talking about the Messiah. Remember this scripture? (blah, blah, blah, blah, blah). That's talking about the Messiah too. Do you remember this just happened a week ago, or a couple of days ago? "Oh yeah!" (blah, blah, blah, blah, blah). This is another Scripture that applies to the Messiah."
It was all there in the Old Testament.
Luke 24:28-29 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." And He went in to stay with them.
They go on into the house and He stays with them.
Luke 24:30-31 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
Now is this not interesting? They go into one of the disciple's houses, and who does the hosting? Jesus! He sits down, He gets the bread, He blesses it, He breaks it, and hands it out, and there was something in this that caught their eye, because that is what Jesus did all the time. He was the Master. It says down in verse 35 that "He was known to them in the breaking of bread," and their eyes were opened. A miracle occurred when that veil was lifted from them, and they instantly recognized Jesus—and as soon as they did, He vanished! He was gone. That was all He wanted them to see. Of course He wanted them to get the tongue-lashing and the sermon, and then He let them recognize Him.
Just as an aside here about the blessing, the breaking, and giving them bread—what is bread a symbol of? God's Word. What we have here is a typical lesson or symbolic action that shows them how we come to understand truth. God gives it to us. He blesses it. He breaks it open for us, and He hands it to us. He hands it to us like on a silver platter, and of course He is the One who gives it.
Luke 24:32 And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"
"We should have known! Why are we so dull, dull of mind, and dumb?" That is kind of the idea here. "Why was I so dumb? He was with us all that time, at least a couple hours on the walk, and we couldn't see through the fog that was fogging our brain. We're going to go back and tell the rest of the disciples, and this is going to be great!" Watch what happens.
Luke 24:33-34 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"
What a blow! They thought they had been the only ones who had seen Jesus, but as soon as they get back, the disciples say to them, "Peter saw Him!" and then they had to wait while those disciples told that story, and then they could tell their own.
Luke 24:35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
So God did not let Cleopas and his friend get a big head. He dashed it as soon as they got there to where the other disciples were, and kind of burst their bubble a bit. And then they told their story.
Luke 24:36-37 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
I already read this so I will not go through it again, but it is interesting here that after they had the testimony of Peter and these two disciples who had walked on the road to Emmaus, they still were not completely convinced. They had to see Him, and touch Him, and see Him eat a piece of fish and honeycomb before they really got it that He was there. Like I said, even then they thought it was too good to be true. Now their heads were really spinning, but this time for joy and marveling.
Luke 24:44-48 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me." And He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things."
Cleopas and the other disciple get it again. Jesus preaches another sermon from the Scripture, showing them how it applied to Him, as Messiah, from all parts of the Old Testament—from Moses, the Prophets, and from the Psalms. He showed that from Genesis to the end of Malachi that it was all speaking about Christ, and He preached them an earful again.
And then He applies it to their commission. "All these things had to occur so that you could go out from Jerusalem and preach these things around the world as a witness." What they had seen, what they had heard, and what they had felt, what they had experienced, what they had discussed over the past three and one-half years had verified all those prophecies and gave them the fodder, the material that they needed to preach to the rest of the world for the rest of their lives. They had been given everything they needed, except one thing.
Luke 24:49 "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."
They still did not have the power. But once they got that tool, everything was in place and they could go out to preach to all the world, "to every creature," it says. So this was the final proof, the coming of the Holy Spirit that lit their fire and gave them the mind and the energy to do as He had commanded them. It gave them the ability to believe the truth.
So what lesson can we draw from this? One lesson in particular is that there is an over-abundance of proof that this way is true and that God's plan will work out as prophesied. There is no need to doubt. It is just one thing after another, after another, after another. Cleopas did six of them without even knowing it. There is the eyewitness account. There is the earwitness account. There were people who were healed. There were people who were raised from the dead, plus all the teaching, plus all the prophecies that were fulfilled, and then the Holy Spirit came and convicted them all and gave them the power to go out and do.
Let us go to II Peter. I want you to see how this just galvanized Peter for the rest of his life.
II Peter 1:2-4 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
II Peter 1:12-15 Therefore I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know them, and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.
He made sure they had a gospel—the gospel of Mark, and he gave these two letters.
II Peter 1:16-19 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. We also have the prophetic word made more sure, . . .
Meaning it was more sure than even the eyewitness account. The prophetic word, written in the Old Testament, carried on into the New, is more sure than even Peter and James and John and all the other eyewitnesses telling you that these things happened.
II Peter 1:19-21 . . . which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation [like the Jews had], for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
So this galvanized them to do and believe throughout the rest of their lives.
Let us now go to John 20. We will quickly go through this one about Thomas. I think it is interesting, and even a little humorous He let Thomas "stew" about this for eight days, because he was not with them when Jesus appeared to the disciples there in Luke 24. He was elsewhere. Jesus let Thomas be miserable while the rest of them were glad, for they had joy, even though they marveled, but Thomas He would let pout for eight days. I just think that Thomas must have hated to have been around the other disciples, because they were so happy, but he was still doubting and he disbelieved. In fact, most scholars, when they look at the account, think that he probably went off by himself somewhere and only came back for that one day, and Jesus appeared to him the first time he met with the other disciples. Jesus wanted to teach them a lesson.
John 20:24-25 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord."
This was probably the first time that they had gotten a chance to tell him.
John 20:25-28 So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
He finally believed!
John 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
When Jesus appeared to them again, He immediately resolves Thomas' doubts to make a particular point. He said, "Peace to you," and turned to Thomas. He called him by name. Actually He did not. He said that later. I am sure Thomas felt a little withered at that point, because all of Christ's attention was on him. Jesus could not work with His chosen men as He wanted to unless they all believed solidly that He was the risen Christ, that He lived, and He worked. They had to all believe as a solid front. There could be no doubters among them. He had to convict the "doubter" as soon as possible, so He homes in on Thomas before He does anything else.
Thomas' reaction—we will give him this much credit—is very noble, sincere, and complete. "You are my God. I don't disbelieve anymore." And now the most doubting of the apostles was the most fervent. It switched that quickly. Even so, though, Jesus lets him and the rest know that it would have been better—it was more blessed—to believe God without the need of physical proof.
We all think how wonderful it would be to see God, to hear His voice from heaven, to see Him in a form where we could go up and give Him a great big hug and feel His solidity. "This is my God!" Do you know what? That is a lower form of proof than what He requires of us. Taking God at His Word, trusting what He says, and then asking on that trust, is the ultimate in faith, and that is the life we have been called to live.
In Romans 1 is where Paul is going through the unbelief of Israel, and he says that they had things preached to them that should have made them believe. But they did not believe, and he ends that section by saying, "Now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." If you have faith come through your ears or through your eyes in reading, and then you are acting on it, acting on God's Word, you do not need these physical proofs. You trust God who has said it. You believe it, and you do it. That is what we are all shooting for.
Romans 1:1-11 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, through whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established.
Romans 1:14-17 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
In Hebrews 10:35 and 11:1 gives a short section where Paul says that we should try not to cast off that belief that we have, and that we have to live by faith, "for the just shall live by faith," and our reward is going to come because of it. And then he starts the "Faith" chapter with the statement that "faith is the evidence of things not seen." So the lesson here that I want to leave is that we walk by faith, not by sight. (II Corinthians 5:7) Sight is good, but faith is so much better and more blessed, as Jesus says here.
Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
If you want another sub-point on this, or a restatement of it, write down Habakkuk 2:4. "The just shall live by faith." That is the point of His appearance to Thomas. We walk by faith, not by sight, for "the just shall live by faith."
Habakkuk 2:4 Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.
Now onto John chapter 21. Sometime between the conviction of Thomas and this next scene, the disciples had traveled to Galilee on Jesus' order. He had told them in Matthew 28:16 to meet Him in Galilee, and He would appear to them on this mountain, and so they went up to Galilee. It was not that far away that they could not walk and do that in this 40-day period. They must have become a little bit stir-crazy. They had all this restless energy. They had to get rid of some of this nervous tension while they were waiting, and the best way they knew how to get rid of it was to go out and do some hard physical labor. Lots of men do this. If they feel they have a bit of cabin fever, they go out and they chop wood, or they will cut a tree down just because it feels good, or they will go throw a ball. They will go do something physical.
For fishermen, which these seven men probably were, the best way they knew how to get rid of their nervous tension was to go fishing, because fishing was not like we do, you know—cast it out and wait in the boat. Fishing to them was hard demanding labor, with long nets and dragging these nets through the water filled with fish. There was a way they could get their minds off all this turmoil and confusion and all their ups and downs emotionally, and that was to go out and do something.
I do not see any chastisement from Jesus that they were out fishing. I just think He saw it as a good opportunity to teach them another lesson, because He does not come to them and say, "Why are you out here fishing when you could be out there fishing for men?" He does not say that. He says, "Come and eat breakfast," because He wanted to talk to Peter.
John 21:14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.
He takes Peter aside after they had eaten breakfast, and He talks to him. He takes Peter aside specifically. He takes him privately and speaks directly only to Peter at this point because Peter was the leader. As Peter went, so went the rest of them. He was the one who always spoke for them. He was the one who always did anything first, and they followed behind him like ducks following a mother. Where Peter went, the rest would go. If Peter was solid, the rest of them would be solid, maybe with the exception of John, because Jesus knew that John would believe. As a matter of fact he was the first one that believed. If you go back to John 20, verse 8 you will see this.
John 20:8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.
He was the only disciple who really did not doubt. He understood what had happened. John was secure, but Jesus had to get Peter secure. As we go through this, keep in mind that Jesus had said to Peter, "You will deny Me three times." That was still hanging over Peter.
John 20:15-19 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."
Jesus said, "Follow Me," just as He had called him, back in chapter 1. "Follow Me." Very simple words.
Much has been said, much has been made of the different word for "love" in this little vignette. There are two different words for love, agapao and phileo. The first two times Jesus repeats the questions He says, "Peter, do you agapao Me?" And Peter replied, "Lord, You know that I phileo You." It is as if Jesus is saying to him, "Peter, are you devoted to Me more than these?"
We do not know what the "these" were. It could either have been the other disciples, or it could have been all the fishing things that were around him—you know, his former work. It could even mean, "Do you love Me more than these others do?" It does not matter though. The emphasis is on "love" and "Me." "Do you love Me?" And Jesus says, "Peter, are you devoted to Me more than these?" "Devoted to Me?" "Committed to Me?"
And Peter replied, "Lord, You know that You're dear to me. Lord, you know that I have affection for You. You know that I love you like a brother." And then the third time, in the last question, realizing that Peter does not quite get it yet (he does not catch the distinction), Jesus relents and says, "Peter, do you phileo Me?" And Peter says, "Lord, You know that I phileo You." That He can leave for later.
Jesus was trying to get Peter to see that the love God requires goes beyond natural physical warmth and affection. It is a total devotion, a total commitment, a setting of the will to do God's will. I will follow God to the letter, and in the spirit. I will, no matter what, even when things seem to be going badly. This is why Jesus ends this section with the prophecy that Peter would die a martyr's death. See, it goes right through. "Do you love Me, Peter?" "Yes, I love You." "Well then, when you get old, someone else is going to lead you out and crucify you like they did Me, and then we'll see if you truly agapao Me."
That is my interpretation of that. The love that Peter would need to be His chief apostle and do all these things that he needed to do, was the total commitment and devotion in agapao. Jesus did not need to worry about the warmth and affection. He knew Peter loved Him like that, so He says, "Well, at the end of your life you're going to have to finally prove to Me that you agapao Me by giving your all."
And Jesus also uses two different words for what Peter is to do with the sheep. He must feed them. That is, he must pasture them, or graze them, meaning he has to give them nourishment, provide for them so they will grow and mature. He also uses two different words for "lamb" and "sheep." He uses "lamb" in the first one. Why? Because when Peter would get these people, needing to feed them, and they needed to feed, they were still lambs. So Jesus says, "In following Me and in loving Me you have to first graze the lambs, because all the people who will be coming to you are lambs."
And then He says, "Tend My sheep." The word "tend" means "to shepherd" or "oversee." And then He uses the word "sheep," not lambs, because once they have been fed and they grow a little, they do not stay lambs. They become sheep. It is just the natural way of things. You grow and mature from a lamb to a sheep. So Jesus says once they have grown and matured to become sheep, they need to be tended, to be overseen just a little bit. They need to be governed a little bit, because He adds the next one. He says again, "Feed My sheep."
See, you do not get all the feeding while you are still a lamb. When you become a sheep, you still need to be fed. All the while you need to be tended as well—governed, overseen, made to move as a unit, as a flock. So Jesus makes sure He shows Peter that this feeding and tending process goes from lamb all the way to full-grown sheep. It does not ever stop, and Peter's commission covers from the very beginning when they are newborn lambs, all the way up till when the sheep go out to pasture.
One more little point here. Peter uses two words for "know." Now this is interesting. "Lord, You know that I love You." In the first and second replies he uses the word oida. It means "to see," or "to perceive fully," and it is usually in the sense of because something is in your physical proximity you can see it, so you know, and that is very basic. So you are sitting there, and I know that you are there. I know because of the expression on your face that you love me. Peter is telling Jesus, "Lord, You can see that I love You. I'm here, am I not? I'm smiling at You. I love You. What more do I need to say?"
But the third time Peter uses a very different word. He says here in verse 17, "Lord, You know all things." Now this is oida again. "Lord, You know everything at its fullness. You perceive everything, God. Why do I need to tell You?" But then he says, "You know." This is a different word—ginosko. That one means, "to understand completely through the growth of a relationship." Very interesting how he comes back to Jesus on this. He says, "Lord—Master—we've been together for three and one-half years. Haven't You experienced by our relationship that I love You? Haven't I shown You I love You?"
Remember, just a week earlier or so he had denied Him three times. I get the feeling like Peter was saying, "Am I ever going to be forgiven for this? Haven't You seen that I love You?" But then in a way Jesus says, "Yes, you'll be forgiven, but you're going to have to die, as you denied Me, and I had to die. Remember what you said? 'Lord, I would die for You! I wouldn't deny You!' " Jesus says, "Prove it. When you're old, someone is going to lead you to the cross just as I was led, and then you will show that you love Me."
Sad in a way, is it not? I do not think He really held it over Peter. He forgave him, but as we see, with every act that we do, there is a consequence, and God wanted to make absolutely sure that His chief apostle really loved Him to the point of the cross, and so through all of his life he would be putting his life on the line, feeding the lambs, tending the sheep, feeding the sheep, preaching the gospel to all nations—and dying. He gave his life throughout the rest of his life. Jesus took him at his word—"Lord, I will die for You!" He says, "You're going to die for Me daily."
So my lesson here that I pulled out is that we too have to show our love for God by doing His work every day, by feeding, and by caring for His flock with complete devotion and commitment to the bitter end.
These are excellent lessons for us today. If you want to, just read I Peter 3 to the end of the book and I think that you will see that Peter felt this deeply. That whole section talks about what we should do, and it talks about suffering for Christ's sake. Who better to talk about it than the man who suffered daily, and would soon give his life for his Master, as he promised? The first words of chapter 5 talk about shepherding the flock, and he says, "I'm going to die soon, so those of you who have followed me, do it this way," because that had been his job for thirty years or so.
There are three lessons:
- We have all the proof we need that God's plan will work out as the Bible shows. So do not worry.
- Live in faith, trusting the invisible God to do as He has said.
This is very similar to the first one. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.
- Show your faith and your love for God by doing your part in feeding and caring for the sheep of His pasture every day of your life.
In doing these things we are assured of being among the firstfruits of God's Family.