LUKE 24: 44-53
COMMISSIONED AND EMPOWERED WITNESSES
Having assured the disciples of His physical resurrection (vv. 36-43), Jesus now gives them the great commission. In these final instructions Jesus declares the church's mission of worldwide evangelism and discipleship. Jesus has completed His mission of dying as the Lamb of God for the sins of the World (Jn. 1:29). Now Jesus commissions His disciples with a mission. Their mission is to proclaim in Jesus' name the gospel and call people everywhere to repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; 17:30).
Now disciples everywhere in all generations are commissioned to be Jesus's witnesses proclaiming what they have seen and heard starting in Jerusalem and continuing until all peoples have received the opportunity to respond to the gospel. To enable them for this mission they will receive divine power from God the Holy Spirit, [but for that power, they must wait in Jerusalem until Pentecost (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-8). Luke will retell the ascension of Jesus in the beginning of Acts.]
[In Matthew and John as well as the longer version of Mark there is a final commissioning also (Mt. 28:19-20; John 20:21-23; Mark 16:15-16).]
I. The COMMISSION, 24:44-47.
II. The PROMISE, 24:48-49.
III. The ASCENSION, 24:50-53.
In verse 44 Jesus leads them to recall His words and life which are the fulfilment of Scripture. "Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (NASB).
Jesus reminds them that everything that had occurred had been prophesied by Him. His words and life have been a fulfillment of Scripture. Often as Jesus taught the disciples they did not truly understand. One example is in Luke 9:45 where we read, “But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.” Later in Luke 18:34 when Jesus had explained to His disciples what was going to happen to Him we read, "But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken."
Have you ever been confused? I mean really confused? You may be like the university student who was seen with a large "K" printed on his T-shirt. When someone asked him what the "K" stood for, he said, "Confused." The questioner replied, 'you don't spell "confused" with a "K." The student answered, "You don't know how confused I am." [Source unknown -www.bible.org/illus/c/c-121.htm]
Not wanting His disciples to be confused Jesus revealed to them the things written in the Old Testament about the Messiah. The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms are the three divisions of the Old Testament as sometimes referred to in Jesus' day. [More often "Moses and the Prophets" were said to comprise the OT, V. 27.)] He showed them from different parts of the Old Testament (e.g., Deut. 18:15; Pss. 2:7; 16:10; 22:14-18; Isa. 53; 61:1) that He is the Messiah and that He must suffer and rise from the dead (Luke 24:46; v. 26). "All things" meaning all the facts and prophecies concerning the Messiah's first coming had been fulfilled by Him. Jesus is the complete fulfillment of Scriptural promises and hope. What God promises He brings to past. [Bock, Darrell. The IVP NT Com. Luke. InterVarsity Press, Dover Grove, IL. p.388.]
Jesus also in verse 45 opens their mind to understand His explanation of Holy Scriptures. "Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,"
I pray that Christ may give us all the grace to understand and feel the significance of these historical events. Until the Lord takes the opaque casing off of our minds, we can scarcely perceive the significance of the ascension at all. That's why the apostle Paul teaches that, unless Christ takes it away, a veil lies over our minds, concealing the splendor of His work (2 Corinthians 3:14).
Here Jesus opened their minds by a supernatural enablement to comprehend and interpret Scriptures, particularly concerning those things which relate to Christ. This understanding included the Scriptures concerning His purpose for coming. He had performed many miracles, and healed many sicknesses and diseases. However, that was not His purpose for coming.
Now that they could more fully understand the Scriptures He states in Luke 24:46 & 47 His true purpose for coming using three themes [seen in the Greek infinitive forms]. In verse 46 we learn first that the Christ had to suffer and second be raised again the third day. "... and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, …"
Jesus had predicted His suffering [pathein] repeatedly (9:22, 44, 17:25; 18:31-33, 22:37). Scripture had predicted His death. Luke has quoted Psalm 118 in describing Jesus the cornerstone's rejection. The suffering portions of Isaiah 53 had been referenced. Psalms 22, 31, 69 were reference concerning His suffering.
Second the Messiah would be raised [anastçnai] from the dead (Psalms 16:10, 110:22-26). Right before their eyes and ears the disciples were experiencing this miraculous truth.
In verse 47 the third yet to be accomplished purpose for coming is so that He could commission His followers. "... and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (NASB).
The mission statement consists of five elements. First Jesus disciples are called to proclaim [kçrychthçnai] the gospel. The disciples began this task the day of Pentecost and to this day the church is still proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Second, our message is a call to repentance. The Hebrew concept of repentance is turning or an "about face." The Greek term [meta / noia] indicates "a change of mind." Repentance is a call to turn to Christ in faith thus turning your back on your former way of life. Coming to God involves the awareness that the way one was living and thinking was wrong.
The third element of our commission is to offer the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. There is no longer an obstacle between humanity and God because of sin. As we turn to God through Jesus God offers the forgiveness of sin. God cancels the debt of sin that Jesus paid (Rom. 3:21-31).
All the authority for our mission resides in Jesus' name. It means representing Him or go going in the presence, power and character of our Risen Lord. It is for and in Jesus Christ Himself that we carry out this mission.
The fifth element of our commission is to take this message to "all nations." [Bock, p. 389.] God wants to all men every where to repent (2 Pet. 3: ).
Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, the message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem by His for witnesses. The carrying out of this commission becomes the outline for Acts, Luke's second book (Acts 1:8). Note, Jerusalem as the center from which the mission to the nations is to spread (Isa. 2:3; Acts 1:1-8).
II. The PROMISE, 24:48-49.
With the mission defined, Jesus calls His disciples to be His witnesses in verse 48. “You are witnesses of these things.
Jesus has just call us to His own mission which is to "seek and save" lost mankind. Luke 19:10 says, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." These disciples witness Him do so during His 3 ½ years of ministry. Now He declares that the purpose for His disciples is to be His witnesses to other people. Witnessing, that's what Jesus wanted these disciples to do, that was their new purpose in life, to be witnesses to other people. They had seen all these things happen. As they reflect upon Scripture out of their new understanding of it they too would understand why these things had happened. Their mission now, was to gives witness to the things they have seen, learned, and experienced to other people.
That mission, to give witness to the things we know about Christ, is still the Christian's mission today. There are many obstacles and reasons that Christians do no fulfill Christ's calling and commission. But fulfilling the mission of Christ is the mission of the church and our purpose for living.
[Notice Jesus doesn't call His disciples defense attorneys or judges, lawyers or juries. He calls them witnesses. We often think we have to argue with people, debate against people, present persuasive cases to people. But the Lord doesn't call us to any of that. Jesus simply says, "Share with people what you've seen. Share with people what you've found. Share with people what I have done in and for you."
Witnessing is a joy when you simply share with people that which blesses you. If you have an answer to prayer or an insight into the Word, share it with those around you as if they're already saved. That way there will be a lot less arguing and a lot more sharing. Share with those around you whatever you're learning, whatever you're experiencing. Be faithful in being a witness, and leave the rest to the Lord. [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 424.]
In verse 49 we learn of God's answer to all our doubts and question and His empowering for all who accept this task of being His witnesses. “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."
What is the promise of the Father? It is the Person and power of the Holy Spirit (see Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:25). The Helper, who is the Holy Spirit, "whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said unto you" (John 14:26). Respond to the Spirit's leading moment by moment and your life will be transformed.
Jesus commanded His followers to remain in the city of Jerusalem until they had received power from on high, a clear reference to the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), who was promised by the Father.
The apostles are the first witnesses, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, all believers down through the years are commissioned and empowered to act as God's witnesses. God poured out His Spirit at Pentecost. That Spirit is still a present power in our lives. We are being healed, transformed, liberated, and sent on missions because of the supernatural God living in and among us by His Spirit. If we needed further confirming proof, we could find it in the hosts of creative, bold, caring people throughout history whose only motivating force was the risen Christ in their midst.
III. The ASCENSION, 24:50-53.
Jesus' Blessing and Departure are found in verses 50-53. The gospel of Luke closes with blessing and worship. Notice that Jesus blesses those who followed His lead in verse 50. "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them."
Jesus purposefully led His witnesses to the vicinity of Bethany, that is, on the Mount of Olives. After talking with His disciples, Jesus lifted up His hands to bless them, [as I sometimes do at the end of services].
Jesus parted from His disciples while in the act of blessing them in verse 51. "While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
As Jesus was blessing them He was taken up into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). We might find that our spiritual life would rise higher if we would bless [instead of demeaning] Christ's followers
[If v. 51b is in the original text (the evidence is divided) then this parting was His ascension. [Parting into heaven at 24:51b does not forbid other appearances. But more likely, Luke 24 compresses what is retold more extensively in Acts. [Walvoord, John & Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983, S. 264.]
Verse 52 states that the disciples responded to ascension of Jesus with worship and great joy. "And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
The disciples return to Jerusalem as instructed in verse 49 while awaiting the promise of power from on high. The last act of Jesus after His resurrection was to bless. The first act of believers who received His blessing after His ascension was to worship. People often think worship is the means of getting blessed. True worship, however, is simply responding to what God has already done for us.
The gospel of Luke appropriately closes with worship in verse 53. "... and were continually in the temple praising God."
The disciples responded to ascension of Jesus with worship and great joy and kept on praising God and make the Temple their place of worship. This attitude of joy and praise set the stage for Luke's next volume which began with Jesus' followers remaining in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:4-14) upon them with flaming tongues of fire.
The disciples returned to Jerusalem as before but they were different. Think about that. Before, the disciples had hidden in their houses, afraid of the Jewish leaders. Now, we see them out in public, worshiping Jesus, filled with joy. Why the big change? They had just seen Jesus victoriously ascend to His heavenly throne. There was no doubt in their minds anymore that Jesus was the God of the universe, the King of Heaven and Earth. That’s what filled them with joy. The angry, growling Jewish leaders couldn’t keep those disciples from publicly displaying their joy in the temple courts.
If you're looking for a sense of joy in your life, a deeper, longer-lasting sense of joy, look where the disciples looked. Look to Jesus as Lord, as Conqueror of sin, death, and the grave. Sure, there will be times in your life when you are upset. Things will happen that will anger you, sadden you, depress you. But for a Christian, underneath that anger or sadness, you will find a layer of joy that the world can't take away. "I know God's not punishing me," a Christian can say. "All my sins have been taken away by Jesus. I know I'm forgiven. I know that God will work this problem out. I know that God will give me the strength I need. This world isn't all there is. Jesus has gone to prepare a far, far better world for us." That's Christian joy. The disciples had it after they saw Jesus ascend. May God give that same kind of joy to you
As Jesus ascended into the sky, right before their eyes He eventually was hidden by a cloud. As the disciples were staring up at the sky, two angels appeared to them, and told them that, someday, Jesus would come back, in the same way that they saw Him go into heaven.
We shall see Him no more in His resurrection presence until that day when the whole world will see His return. In the meantime, all the generations of the Lord's people join with those early disciples in living with great joy, -continually in the temple praising and worshiping God. Amen?
Today you revisited the ascension of Jesus. Today, He has reminded you of your purpose. And today, He has offered you a kind of joy that you can't find anywhere else. Don't hesitate to witness, to tell what Jesus has done for you to others. Amen.