Thursday, April 4, 2013

Promises Kept

“I, (Sarah/James), take you (Sarah/James), to be my (wife/husband), to have and behold from this day on, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”1 These oaths were announced before God and various witnesses. What happened to the promises in some of the cases? Was it a lack of faith? Various studies on the US rate of divorce show significant differences when a comparison is made in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd marriage breakups in America. The marriage breakup rate in America for first marriage is 41% to 50%; the rate after second marriage is from 60% to 67% and the rate in America for 3rd marriage are from 73% to 74%. Reports also say that couples with children have a slightly lower rate of breakup as compared to couples without children. This is due to the fact that being childless is one of the prime causes behind divorce in America. Also, the children of divorced parents are prone to divorcing 4 times more than the children of couples who are not divorced. Rates have been dropping during the last few decades. It is believed that the current rates trend might go down more in coming years as more and more couples prefer a live-in relationship.2 A commitment (covenant, promise) seems to be of lesser and lesser importance in the marriage domain. Our lesson this week is a study of the post-Resurrection appearance and ascension of Jesus Christ. We are reminded of the promises He made that were kept. This lesson is the third of a six-part study under Unit II, Resurrection Hope, for the Easter season. The text is recorded at Luke 24:36-53. The devotional reading is recorded at 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.

"And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you.” But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit." Luke 24:36-37 As apostles and other followers spoke among themselves regarding the different post-Resurrection appearances of the day, Jesus appeared among them to leave no doubt that He had risen. He greeted them in the typical Hebrew greeting of peace and prosperity. It was especially good that He greeted them in this fashion, with love and friendship, because He left them with His peace as an inheritance before His death. See John 14:27 Even though they knew His voice and He greeted them in the customary manner, they were afraid. They had the doors closed and locked in fear of reprisal from the Jewish leaders. How did He get in? They assumed He was a Spirit despite the accounts of post-Resurrection appearances some had actually witnessed or heard had occurred.

"And he said unto them, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” Luke 24:38 Jesus mildly rebuked them as He calmed their fears. Many of our mistakes cause troublesome thoughts. They thought they saw a Spirit, but they had not given any thought to their faith. Why did they doubt in their Lord? Hadn’t He, the prophets, and the Scriptures foretold his death? Were they not discussing his post-Resurrection appearances moments ago?

”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.” And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet." Luke 24:39-40 The resurrected body of Jesus was a literal, tangible body of flesh and bones. However, it was no longer subject to death. To continue to calm their fears, He offered them the opportunity to handle/feel His body for physical evidence to remove all doubt that He had indeed risen. They saw and felt the nail wounds in His hands and feet. They saw the pierced side. A spirit would not have wounds. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Tim 2:5-6 Were His apostles convinced yet?

"And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, “Have ye here any meat?” And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them." Luke 24:41-43 They were not fully convinced that their Master was in their presence in the flesh. The news was simply too good for them to believe. Jesus asked if they had anything to eat. This was to provide them another form of evidence that He was not a spirit. They gave Him broiled fish and honeycomb, which was probably a sauce for the fish. Upon receipt of the food given by them, Jesus sat down and ate in their presence. The proof of His Resurrection changed the disciples of Christ. They lost their fear and regained their faith because they realized Jesus had kept His promise. They knew their experience with Jesus’ Resurrection was different from the resurrection of Lazarus, who physically died again. Jesus was Resurrected and alive forever.

Luke’s reporting of events in Luke 24 gives the impression that all the events occurred on the same day. His second volume, however (the book of Acts), clarifies that from the Resurrection (see Luke 24:1-3) to the Ascension (Luke 24:50-51 below), there was a period of forty days. The appearance of Jesus reported in Luke 24:36-43 above is the same one reported in John 20:19-23, when Thomas was absent. John 20:26-31 reveals that Jesus again appeared to the disciples when Thomas was present eight days later. "To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:" Acts 1:3

"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.” Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:” Luke 24:44-46 Jesus reminded them they had been told while He was still with them that He would be delivered by the chief priests to the Gentiles for execution until death when they reached Jerusalem. This was in fulfillment of the law, prophets, and the psalms which was the Jewish division of the whole old covenant of which His apostles and followers were familiar. Jesus then began to teach and open their spiritual understanding. They were not completely in the dark because they were familiar with the Scripture, but they had not an understanding that Christ had to suffer to receive His glory of Resurrection from the dead. He had to make sure they knew that life for Him was not about pleasure, pain, accomplishment, or taking over the Roman government. It was about seeking eternal life. "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;" Philip 1:29

“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. 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.” Luke 24:47-49 Jesus continues to teach and issue instructions to His apostles and followers. They were instructed they must preach in His Name the duty of all people to repent (have a sincere sorrow for their sins and a desire to give them up) and the resulting privilege to be received in the remission (pardoning, forgiveness) of sins. Their duty to preach repentance differed from that of the prophets in the Old Testament in one respect. The prophets preached to the Jews. Jesus gave His apostles and followers the correct message to teach and preach. It was about repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Matt 28:19-20 Also, Jesus instructed that their preaching and teaching was to begin in Jerusalem. Why? Perhaps one reason is that the apostles and followers had witnessed many events surrounding the Passover, Crucifixion, and Resurrection in Jerusalem. Another reason can be found in that the Word of the Lord must go from Jerusalem. Isa 2:3; Joel 2:32 The enemies of Christ in Jerusalem needed to be confronted with truth. This would provide an example of the forgiveness of Christ. Jerusalem was also the city where the holy temple of God had been built and the gospel was first preached. Although the apostles were witnesses of the Resurrection, they were not able to spread the glorious gospel news as yet. They first had to wait for the Promise of the Father by staying in the city until they were clothed with the Holy Spirit which gave them power from on high in order to take on the vast mission given them by Christ. Isa 44:3; Ezek 36:27; Joel 2:28

"And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." Luke 24:50-51 Luke does not mention in either of his books the fact that Jesus ordered the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. See Matt 26:32; Matt 28:10, 16; Mark 14:28; Mark 16:7; and John 21:1. Almost forty days had passed since Jesus had appeared to His apostles and followers in Luke 24:36. He was now leading His disciples to Bethany. Bethany was located east of the Mount of Olives and was a place of favor with the Lord. It was here that Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived and He was always assured of great hospitality, lodging, and meal(s). It was there where he got upon the ass and rode into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29) and His sufferings began. Just as they had witnessed the beginning of the suffering, Jesus would lead them to the place where the sufferings had begun in order that the disciples witness His ascension in glory. He lifted up His hands and blessed them in love just as a high priest would bless the people (i.e. King Melchizedek Gen 14:18-20) or as Jacob when he blessed his sons (Gen 48:9; 49:28). The apostles had much work to do in imparting the Gospel message of Christ to the sinful world, both Jew and Gentile alike. In the midst of the blessing, Christ ascended into heaven in the clouds. It was glorious. The heavens opened to receive Christ in vs. 51 just as He had opened an understanding to the Scriptures (vs. 45). The apostles were now dismissed to go to all ends of the earth and preach and teach to all nations as He had commanded them. "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb 12:2 Christ parted from them, but the blessing did not discontinue. Jesus continues to intercede and bless his followers to this date.

"And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen." Luke 24:52-53 This was probably the first true worship service of Christ. The apostles were overflowing with joy because they had now witnessed the Ascension of their Resurrected Lord. They now had full proof that Jesus was the expected Messiah! The apostles had walked, talked, and dined with Him while He was yet on earth. They had witnessed Him working miracles, healing, teaching, etc. He would be their physically absent Lord, but He would always be present in their spirit. Halleluiah! Praise His Name! As he commanded, they returned to Jerusalem to wait for the great promise of the Holy Spirit from the Almighty Father. For the next ten days, they spent much time in the temple praising and blessing God. They were no longer afraid of the danger and worshipped freely in the temple. The disciples would experience much pain, suffering, and trials as witnesses to the risen Lord. They would be sustained, however, by the blessing of Jesus and their being filled with the Holy Spirit.


Written by Deborah C Davis

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