Resurrection Evidence; Commissioning; Enlightenment
Luke 24:30–45; John 20:19–25
Matthew Lesson #199
May 6, 2018
“Father, we’re thankful that we have Your Word. As the Psalmist said it is ‘a lamp unto our feet and a light into our path.’ But Father, in order to have that illumination we need to be walking by the Spirit, we need to take time to study, to reflect.
“We need to be taught, we need to actively learn, and we need to take in Your Word, which is not just a passive sitting and listening, but is an active engaging of our thinking, so that we can truly come to understand that which You have communicated to us.
“For we cannot believe what we don’t understand, because understanding something is a precursor to belief.
“Father, we pray that as we continue our study of the post-crucifixion, the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord, that You can help us to understand these things because they are laying the foundation for the ministry of the Church Age believers in this dispensation.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to John 19. We continue to look at the evidence of Christ’s physical bodily resurrection.
Remember, the Apostle John lived into his 90s, lived to the end of the century—and had the opportunity to see some of the heresies that came up, what we refer to as Christological Heresies, that began to be taught about Jesus during the early Post-Apostolic period.
One of these was that Jesus really didn’t die physically or that He didn’t rise from the dead physically, but He just appeared to. He appeared to have died on the cross. There’s a group today that still teaches this, advocates it, believes in it. I wonder if you can think of that group.
Anybody know which group that is that believes that it wasn’t Jesus who died on the cross? Actually what they teach is that it was a substitute—it was Judas—that died in His place. It’s Islam. That is the Islamic belief—it just appeared that He did.
The word for this idea that Jesus just appeared to suffer and appeared to rise from the dead because He didn’t really actually die is called Docetism, from the Greek word DOKEO meaning to appear.
John really does focus more than the other Gospel writers on the evidence of His physical appearance. That’s why he alone records that episode with Thomas, and he makes it so clear, saying that Jesus says, “Here” and He points to His hands, to the nail print, which would’ve been on the wrist because the word for hand includes both the forearm, just as the word foot would include the ankle, and He points to it and says, “Go ahead, Thomas, stick your finger in there.”
I like Caravaggio’s rendering of this scene because you can see the folds around the wound, and he has Thomas sticking his finger in it and pulling back. Now the text doesn’t say that he did that, but I think Caravaggio is making a point that that this was real, this was physical.
That’s the point that John is making. As soon as the Lord says, “Here, stick your finger here, Thomas,” Thomas is like, “Okay, I believe. I don’t actually need to do that.” Seeing the risen Lord was enough to convince him. We are looking at these evidences.
We’re also going to see in this section that He commissions. This is the first of several times when He states the mission that the disciples are to have in the coming Church Age.
Then there’s an interesting thing about the Holy Spirit that I believe relates to the enlightenment of the Scriptures that Jesus is emphasizing here.
We have seen so far the first five appearances of the Lord. We are in the middle of the fifth one, which we began last week in the Luke passage. Today we will spend more time in the John 20 passage.
- Jesus appeared to Mary.
- He appeared to the other women.
- He appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
- He appeared to Peter.
Not much is said about that because this was a private meeting. Peter had denied His Lord three times, and so this is the time when Peter realizes the Lord’s forgiveness.
- Jesus’ appearance to the Ten. Luke 24:36–45; John 20:19–25
They are the Ten, even though Luke calls them the Eleven, because the Twelve was a title. Whether they were all there or not was irrelevant. John later will call them the twelve, even though Judas is dead by this time. It’s just the name of the team.
When they are reduced by one, they’re called the Eleven; again, it’s the name of the team. But in the Luke passage, it’s this same appearance that we have in John 20:19–23, and it’s not the appearance where Thomas is. Thomas doesn’t show up till later, so we know that it’s only the Ten at this particular appearance.
We’ve learned some things about our Lord’s resurrection body that will be true of our resurrection body. People are often curious, “Well, what are we going to be able to do? What is our body going to be like?”
It’s going to look a lot like what we have now, but it’s going to have additional abilities. It will be able to have a material physical form and function, but we can do other things.
- It appears normal and has normal function.
- The resurrection body is able to eat.
It is not going to be food dependent as our body is today. Of course, some of us are more food dependent than others, but that’s another issue.
- The resurrection body will be able to materialize and de-materialize at will and probably move at the speed of thought.
Luke 24:36 is where we will begin, and then will come over to the John 19 passage.
The Luke passage begins, “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ “
This is the context of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They have hurried back to Jerusalem to tell all of the other disciples that they had seen the risen Lord. The other disciples say to them, “and He has appeared to Peter also …” That’s how we know He appeared to Peter.
Then right when that is happening, which is the same context as John 20:19, Jesus stood in their midst, and John says, “Shalom Aleichem (EIRENE)—Peace to you.”
This is important because this is the first time He appears to this group. The last time they were together was just before they scattered to the winds and disappeared; only John the Apostle stayed with Him and was at the foot of the cross.
Peter was the most unfaithful of the group because he’s the one who verbally denied the Lord, but they were all in hiding. They were all hoping that they wouldn’t get arrested either and that they would not be crucified.
Now Jesus appears to them, and their response is that they are terrified. They are frightened to death even more than they’ve been terrified.
When we look at the passage in John 20:19, it says it is “the same day at evening,” which is the evening of the day the resurrection. That’s why we know this has to be the same event.
“… when the doors were shut,” the New King James translation. The verb there indicates something that is shut, bolted, locked. They are in fear of the Jews that passage says.
They are not disciples who are anticipating the resurrection, obviously, because when Jesus was going to be crucified, He said, “Guys, after I get crucified, go meet Me in Galilee.” To go to meet Him in Galilee would be an act of faith. They would be believing that He was going to be resurrected.
The boys are not in Galilee; they’re still in Jerusalem because they don’t believe that He is going to be resurrected. They are not in a position where they are believing or being obedient. They’re frightened, they’re hiding, they’re disobedient, they’re cowering away.
Luke 24:37, Now Jesus appears to them, and they think it’s a ghost. They are terrified, they’re frightened out of their minds. They just are not understanding and applying what He has said at all.
Luke 24:38, Jesus said, “Why are you troubled?” Meaning, “Why are you filled with fear? Why are you in high anxiety? Why are you just about to run out the door and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” They are fearful, they’re doubting, and they are not thinking in terms of the Word.
Luke 24:39, Jesus said to them, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.”
He is again presenting that solid evidence. I have a physical resurrection body. You can feel the wounds in My hands and My feet.
The word for feet would include the ankle. As we saw in archaeological evidence of the way paintings and pictures usually portray it is to have the person being crucified with his feet one on top of the other and a spike driven through them.
Whereas the archaeological evidence we have of one individual, the feet were placed on each side of that vertical part of the cross, the stipes, and then there is a spike driven through the ankle bone into the wood so that the feet are on each side of the cross.
Jesus is pointing to them, shows them His hand, His feet, and His side where the spear pierced His side.
John 20:20, “When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad that they saw the Lord.”
I want you to notice this for a reason. John is poignant that they see it, they understand it, and they’re joyful. The reason I’m pointing that out is because of what Luke says in the next verse.
In Luke 24:41, He says, “But while they still did not believe for joy …” Did y’all notice that last week? Kind of an odd verse, when I read the Scriptures. What does it mean “… they did not believe for joy?”
This is an idiom. It doesn’t mean they did not believe. What this is saying is that they were joyful. That’s exactly what John says. They’re joyful because they see and believe the resurrected Lord, but on the other hand, they don’t believe it.
Now you’re saying, that’s a contradiction. How many times has something extraordinary happened in your life, and you believe it, you believe it happened, but you can’t believe it? You’re pinching yourself to see if you’re really awake and that this is true.
It’s not stating a contradiction, it is a hyperbolic way of just stating that they’re so excited and they just can’t comprehend it all yet. They can’t take it all in, and so it’s like “I just don’t believe this can happen.” What they’re really saying is “I do believe it happened, but I can’t believe it happened. This is beyond my ability to understand it.”
It’s a hyperbolic idiomatic way to state how really excited they are, but at the same time they just don’t comprehend it all; they just don’t believe it. Which isn’t a soteriological statement; it’s just a statement of their state of mind at the time. John makes it very clear that they’re joyful and that they do believe it.
Jesus went on to make sure they understood He’s in a physical body, Luke 24:42–43, they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb, and He took it and ate.
Notice how Luke is very clear on this—Luke, the physician. He ate in their presence; He’s making these things clear. He eats the food, so He has physical manifestation. It’s not, again, some spirit or some ghost.
John 20:19–20 describes some of these details I’ve already mentioned, “the same day at the evening—which is the evening of the crucifixion—being the first day of the week—so that’s clearly Sunday—when the doors were shut, locked, bolted where the disciples were assembled, because they we’re afraid of the Jews. Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ ”
So it’s the same incident, but it’s pointing out several things. Let me just run through some comparison contrasts between the two accounts.
Luke tells us that it was at least the Ten minus Thomas and Judas. But also in Luke 24:33 he indicated there’s a broader number of disciples; there are others with them in this room.
Tradition says this is the upper room. This is the same house, the same place where they had observed the first communion, the Seder meal with our Lord. Later tradition says it’s John Mark’s mother’s house. We don’t know that; that’s the tradition.
But they are meeting there together, and there’s more than the Twelve. There are some other disciples that are present, probably some of the women as well.
John emphasizes that it’s the same day, which is an important chronological clue. Jesus has been busy; He’s appeared to four other groups by this time. This is the fifth appearance.
John also emphasizes more than Luke, that the doors are locked. It is a verb that’s in the perfect tense, indicating it’s something that was already done. He’s indicating the present reality of a past completed action—it’s been shut, it’s been bolted. They’re in secret; they’re fearful.
One writer, an archaeologist, points out that locked doors have been discovered at that time that were equipped with bolts and locks, which were designed to keep anyone from entering that wasn’t supposed to. So, it’s very likely that this is the strength of this word.
Both accounts emphasize that Jesus said, “Shalom Aleichem!” He’s emphasizing peace. This is because they have deserted Him and He’s emphasizing that He’s not coming to judge them, He is coming to welcome them. They are forgiven, there is peace.
He goes beyond this to state that not only is there peace and they’ve been forgiven, but they now have a mission. Even though they haven’t been faithful to go to Galilee, God is gracious enough to meet them where they are in their unbelief in Jerusalem.
There is an important application there that we fail just as badly, and God always meets us where we are, not where we should have been or ought to have been. When we sin, we confess sin and we’re forgiven, the Lord meets us in grace where we are, and He still has a mission for us. As long as we’re still alive, God’s plan is still in effect, and He still has a mission for us.
John 20:21, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
There are several times in these post-resurrection accounts when Jesus is stated to be sending them. There’s some confusion here. Before we’re done this morning, we’ll look at the Luke account; towards the end of the Luke account, there is a compression; there’s a summary of what happened.
Luke doesn’t go into all the details and by the time that we get down to about Luke 24:44–46, it sounds an awful lot like what’s going on in Acts 1. I think there’s a compression there.
The later commissioning that Luke has recorded there is comparable to what happens in Acts 1. Here John is stating clearly that this happens on this first day, so this is the first clear statement of their mission in the Church Age.
We know that this doesn’t bleed over. Some people have said that John is bleeding over, conflating accounts, bringing in Acts 2 material into this event, and there’s no reason for that whatsoever. Most of that comes in because of the statement about receiving the Holy Spirit in John 20:22.
But here, John 20:21, He is telling them the Father sent Him and He is sending them; they have a mission. This is on the same day, right? John 20:19.
I want you to notice if we skip forward a little bit to John 20:26, Jesus will appear again and when He appears to the disciples when Thomas is there, it is eight days later. So, if you count this inclusively where this Sunday is the first day, then the next Saturday would be the seventh day, so eight days later is the next Sunday.
But that tells us that this statement Jesus makes is the day of the resurrection. So, there are several of these statements where He’s reiterating to the disciples that they have a mission and that He is sending them on the mission.
When He states this He says, “The Father has sent Me. Now I am sending you.” There’s an important connection here. God has a plan and a purpose. He has a purpose in sending Jesus, and part of that purpose is that Jesus, in turn, is going to send the disciples.
This is the foundation of a biblical doctrine of Apostolic Succession. When you’ve heard that term Apostolic Succession before, it refers to the heretical doctrine that is dominant in the Roman Catholic Church—that it is a succession of people. What we learn here is that it is a succession of mission.
The mission of Jesus is to come to the earth, to die on the Cross for our sins. Then the extension of that mission is to tell people about it. That is given and delegated to the apostles, who in turn are to make disciples and to “… teach them to observe all that I have commanded you … ,” Matthew 28:19–20.
That is the extension of that mission. It is an apostolic succession, not of the gift of apostle, not of the person, but of the mission which is to make disciples. That is what the Bible teaches.
In the early church they began with that idea up through the early part of the second century, but then it gradually began to be perverted into the idea of a succession of people, and eventually that developed into the idea that the papacy is the focus of the apostolic succession.
Now as part of this statement—unfortunately, we have a verse break there, but it continues—John 20:21, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ”
This act of breathing on them and giving them the Holy Spirit is connected to the mission and fulfilling the mission.
What’s interesting here is there’s a lot of confusion about what’s happening here when Jesus breathed on them and said receive the Holy Spirit. What exactly is going on? What ministry of the Holy Spirit are we talking about here?
We have several options that are presented, there’s probably more, but these probably the five most prominent.
- Is it a symbol?
First of all, there are those who say, “He really doesn’t give the Holy Spirit. He is going to give the Holy Spirit in about 50 days, but right now He’s just giving a symbol. This is symbolic of what will happen.” I don’t think there’s good support for that. I found the arguments totally unconvincing.
Because there’s a lot of confusion, there are many people who think that terms like “filling” and “indwelling” and “baptism” are just all synonymous. They’re not very rigorous in their study or their understanding for the reason that different words are used: it’s because they’re emphasizing different ministries.
- Is it the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
The disciples are getting it now, and others get it on the Day of Pentecost.” Well, wait a minute, it appears to me if you read Acts 2, that the disciples are receiving a plethora of spiritual ministries at that time. That’s the beginning of the church, not here.
- Is it a contradiction between John and Luke?
John is telling us it happens on the day of the resurrection. Luke tells us that happens on the Day of Pentecost. There’s a contradiction here of two accounts. Again, they’re not paying close enough attention to the details of Scripture.
- Is John just combining these accounts?
As I pointed out earlier, John is very clear. This happens on the day of the resurrection. The next week there’s going to be more, and then after these things, the disciples will eventually go up to Galilee, and Jesus shows up and has breakfast with them in John 21.
So John is not confused; he’s making a point here: Jesus is doing something that’s preparatory for what He will teach during the next 40 days.
That’s what I believe is the correct answer, the last option,
- Or is this a distinct, temporary giving of the Spirit for a specific reason?
Let’s look at the options.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is something that is true for every Church-Age believer. Two key passages for this are Romans 8:9 and 1 Corinthians 3:16.
In Romans 8, Paul has been contrasting walking according to the Spirit and walking according to the flesh, and that’s talking about a different ministry of the Holy Spirit. But in Romans 8:9 He says, “But you are not in the flesh—that is, still carnal and spiritually dead—but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you”—a very clear statement that the Spirit of God dwells in every believer if they are regenerate.
That was not true at any time prior to the Day of Pentecost.
1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul reminds the Corinthian believers, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
Every believer is permanently indwelt by God the Holy Spirit from the moment they’re saved until they go to be with the Lord. That is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is not the same as the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
Although for the disciples, it happened at the same time as it does with us in the Church Age. But for them it happened not when they were saved, but it happened on the Day of Pentecost, marking the beginning of this new dispensation, this new age, the Church Age.
Paul reminds the Roman believers of this in Romans 6:3–4, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
Baptism is a word that has a literal meaning of immersion, usually in water, sometimes in a dye or something else, but it had a figurative significance. It meant identification with something, so that baptism into Christ Jesus means that we are immersed in Christ. There’s an identification that takes place with His death, burial, and resurrection, with the result that we are freed from the power, not the presence of the sin nature.
Paul goes on in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
The significance of baptism is that by being identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, we are able to live this new life that is to characterize the Church-Age believer. That’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
That’s not the indwelling. It doesn’t say anything in Romans 6:3 about the Holy Spirit being in you. Those are distinct, but you’ll find some writers and some preachers who confuse the two. Neither of these is what is happening with Jesus and the disciples in John 19.
Another reason that it isn’t (the same) is in John 7:39. Jesus said, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit—previously talked about the coming of the Spirit, and He says—whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
What that tells us is the giving of the Spirit, which occurred on the Day of Pentecost, should not be confused with what happens in John 19 because Jesus can’t be giving the Holy Spirit as indwelling or baptizing because He hasn’t yet been glorified.
That’s why the ministries of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and all believers begins at Pentecost, because it had to wait for the ascension and the glorification of Christ ten days before Pentecost.
I believe what is going on here is a temporary infusion of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of illumination to what Jesus is going to teach during the coming 40 days. That doesn’t mean it’s making them understand it, because clearly they don’t understand everything.
But they really haven’t understood a lot that He’s taught so far, and they need the spiritual illumination to begin to grasp what He’s teaching them.
What we see here is nobody—even with the ministry of the Holy Spirit—seems to grasp what the Scripture teaches “like that.” That’s mysticism.
These guys have to think about it. Paul had to take, with his knowledge of Scripture, his rabbinical understanding, he had to go off into the wilderness for a couple of years to rethink everything.
See, knowledge of Scripture, understanding it, doesn’t come apart from a study of the Word. You don’t just pick it up, read it, and go “I know what that means!” God the Holy Spirit’s illumination works with our mental sweat. It doesn’t replace our concentration and our meditation, but it works in and through that.
Why do I say this is illumination? Because when you compare what happens in John 20 with what happened at the same time in that room with the disciples in Luke 24, it involves illumination.
Turn back in your Bible briefly to Luke 24. I want to point out some important things that happen here. It’s the same situation, same upper room.
Jesus said to them in Luke 24:44, “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.’ ”
Does that sound familiar? What’s just happened contextually in Luke? He’s on the road with the two disciples to Emmaus, and He opens up Moses and the prophets and tells them all the things in the Scriptures that related to Him, to Jesus. That’s only for those two guys.
Now He’s got the ten disciples. He’s going to do it again. Repetition is important. The other two, Cleopas and His buddy, were probably still here, and he’s going to take them through this lesson again, but now He’s primarily focused on the Ten.
“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you …’ ” but you didn’t get it. You’re still not expecting the resurrection, although it is beginning to dawn on you that it’s actually happened.
“… that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms [concerning Me].’ ”
The Jews divided the Old Testament into three sections. They had books, they didn’t have chapters and verses at that point, but they had the books. They grouped them into the Torah, which is the Books of Moses, written by Moses: the Pentateuch, the first five books.
The second division were the Books of the Prophets, the Nevi’im. You had the former prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings; and you had the latter prophets, which were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve.
Daniel was part of the writings. The first book in the writings, the Ketuvim, was called the Psalms, and just as they would title books with the first words or first phrase in the book, so they titled the section called “The Writings” by the first book that was in the writings, and that was the Psalms. The writings would be Daniel, the Wisdom literature, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes.
Jesus takes them all the way through the Old Testament. Notice none of the books the Apocrypha were ever accepted by the Jews as part of those three divisions. By Jesus saying that everything that was written in the Law of Moses—the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, He excludes the Apocrypha as being part of the Old Testament Canon.
In the Roman Catholic Bible, the Apocrypha will be included in the Canon: Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, Maccabees, Tobit, Judith. Those books are listed in the Roman Catholic Bible as part of the Old Testament, but they were never part of these three divisions that the Jews had.
Jesus is clearly excluding the Apocrypha from being a part of the Canon of the Old Testament. It’s good history, not good for studying theology. It’s good for backgrounds.
Look at what Luke 24:45 says, “And He opened their understanding.” How did He open their understanding? Luke doesn’t tell us; John tells us. John says He breathed on them the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word that he is using for breathing is the same Greek word used in the Septuagint in Genesis 2 when God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul. Jesus uses that word and John uses that word so that we make a connection between this breath of the Spirit given in John 20 and the breath of life in Genesis 2.
Jesus opens their understanding: this is an intellectual thing. It involves the intellect, not the emotion, not the will. It involves the intellect: He opened their understanding. So the role of the Spirit is to help us understand what the Scripture says.
Actually, the word here for understanding is the word NOUS, which means mind. He opened their intellect. He opened the thinking part of their brain, so that they could comprehend. That’s the word SUNIEMI, which means to think correctly about something. The object of the verb is the Scripture.
Jesus is giving them a temporary gift of the Holy Spirit to enable them to start comprehending and thinking correctly about what the Scripture says. That must’ve been incredible! This isn’t an emotional experience.
They might have felt some emotion afterwards. They might have felt a little regret in how stupid they were. They might’ve had elation about how wonderful it was to truly understand the Word of God and what great insight it was, but that’s what’s going on here. Jesus is illuminating them.
Luke 24:46, “Thus it is written—which is a phrase related to the authority of Scripture—Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead the third day.”
If you are using a New American Standard, English Standard Version, ESV, RSV, NIV, a number of other translations that are based on the Critical Text and not the Majority Text, then you don’t have this phrase “it was necessary.”
But the majority of manuscripts—that’s why it’s called “the Majority Text”—along with one of the Egyptian Codices, Uncials, Alexandrines, all have this phrase in it. The three big old ones don’t.
Basically, the philosophy of the Critical Text was if these three agree, then it doesn’t matter how many other ancient manuscripts have something, we always go with the big three and I don’t buy that at all.
This is part of the original text, “… thus it is written and thus it is necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead …” Because it was written; it was prophesied. It was necessary for Jesus to fulfill the prophecy or He wouldn’t be the Messiah.
The prophecy in the Old Testament is that He is to suffer, Isaiah 53, He to rise from the dead the third day.
So He is teaching that in the Old Testament, Jesus had to suffer, He had to rise from the dead, and that, as a result, Luke 24:47, “… and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.”
What this tells us is that His use of repentance and His instruction to the disciples and His use of the term remission—which means forgiveness; it is the same word usually translated forgiveness, APHIEMI—that repentance and remission derive their meaning from the Old Testament.
Now that is particularly significant because what the Old Testament prophets taught was that in future days that Israel would be apostate and reject the truth, and before the kingdom could come, they would have to turn back to God. That’s repentance. They would have to turn back to God.
Remember, the theme of Matthew: presentation of the King, the offer of the kingdom. John the Baptist said, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” That’s that term “repent”. Turn to God, away from the lies, away from idolatry, away from whatever secularism is controlling your assimilation to Hellenism, turn to God. “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Jesus at the beginning of His ministry said the same thing, same words, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Then when He sent out His disciples, Matthew 10, to the tribes of Judah and the tribes of Israel, and prohibited them from going to the Gentiles, He said this is your message, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
What happens in Matthew 12? The Pharisees say, “You’re not the Messiah. You’re doing all these miracles in the power of Satan.” Jesus said that was the unforgivable sin.
They’ve rejected Him as the Messiah, and that generation would suffer the consequences. It would be irreversible and unforgivable. Basically, He’s announcing the judgment of AD 70 was now an irreversible fact because they rejected the Messiah.
Then there’s a shift starting in Matthew 13, and they’re beginning to be taught in parables in order to cloak the truth from those who weren’t positive, and it would provide truth for those who are really interested in learning.
The message is Jewish, Luke 24:47, repent for the forgiveness of sin and that this should be preached to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. These are the two words METANOIA, meaning to change your mind, APHESIS (from APHIEMI) meaning to forgive.
Then what does He say? Luke 24:48, “And you are witnesses of these things.”
Where do you see similar language? Can you think about it? Where do you find almost identical language to these two verses? Acts 1 and Acts 2.
In Acts 1:2–3 we read that “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 …”
Put your fingers into the nail prints, look at the wounds in My feet, look at where the spear penetrated My side; and He ate … all of these things. These are the infallible proofs that Luke is talking about, “… being seen by them during the forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”
Acts 1:4, “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem …”
This is where I stopped in Luke; he’s beginning to summarize and he just slides right into the same thing he’s talking about here in Acts. He begins to summarize and compress everything starting in Luke 24:46, because he gets down to the Ascension, immediately; just flows right into the Ascension of Acts 1 at the last four verses of Luke 24.
Acts 1:5, “John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized”—future tense, so ten days before Pentecost, they still had not been baptized by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
This is the same thing that He is saying in Luke 24:46–47, “Thus it is written and was necessary for the Christ to suffer and 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.”
See Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, the uttermost parts of the earth.
Luke 24:48–49, “And you are witnesses of these things—same language here—“Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you—which is what? That’s the Holy Spirit—I send the promise of My Father upon you, but tarry—or stay—in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
That’s the parallel to Acts 1:8. Then the last four verses have Jesus taking them to the Mount of Olives, and then He ascended.
John has Him saying something that He doesn’t say to them in Luke 24. Look back at John 20:23. He makes this statement, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Now that makes a lot of sense to you, right? See if you’re not Jewish from the Second Temple period, and you don’t understand Pharisaism and Rabbinism, then you don’t have a clue what’s going on here.
This is a formula statement very similar to a lot of things that are said in the Mishnah and the Talmud that the Pharisees made. This was what they would say about their authority. Jesus is saying almost the same thing to the disciples.
He is saying, “The spiritual leaders of Israel no longer have this authority, but you have this authority.” That’s the big idea of what this statement is: it is a conveyance of authority to the apostles as the leaders in the new church.
But it’s saying more than that. What is this about forgiveness and the retaining of sins? Now I’ve been talking a long time; your brain’s dead, but pay attention. This is grammar; you love that.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.”
That statement “they are forgiven them” really doesn’t make sense in English the way it does in Greek. It’s a perfect tense. APHIEMI is used in both places, so it’s actually translated “forgive.”
The first use “if you forgive” is an aorist active subjunctive, but it’s predicated on this statement, “… they are forgiven them.” It’s a perfect passive indicative. Perfect tense means it’s something that’s already been done; it’s completed in the past.
That’s what that grammar means, so what He is saying is, “If you forgive the sins of any, that forgiveness has already been accomplished beforehand.”
When did that happen? That happens at the Cross legally for everyone, but experientially it happens when you believe. When a person believes, the apostles are saying that’s the basis for your personal forgiveness, and it’s based on the fact that it was already accomplished at the Cross.
The next statement “If you retain the sins of any, they are also retained” is the second verb. It’s the same format that “they have already.” And here, actually, the idea that if you retain them, the idea is that they’re still spiritually dead. The basis for this goes back to the realization of the Cross.
Actually, the language here is very similar to the language when Jesus is talking to Peter in Matthew 16:19, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven—that’s not apostolic succession; the key to Heaven is faith in Christ—I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have already been bound in heaven.”
In other words, He’s giving the apostles authority. They are approving and disapproving of that which has already been established to be right or wrong in the heavenly councils. And what they are being given is the authority to implement that which God has already determined as the leaders of the church.
That’s what that language reflects. This kind of language is used in rabbinical text over and over again to say they have the power to determine and apply Scripture. And what Jesus is saying,
“No, they don’t have that authority; you have that authority and the decisions you make are reflecting decisions that have already been made in Heaven, and you have the revelation from God about what the absolute truth is.”
So when you say somebody is saved, it’s not you personally who is determining their salvation.
But because God has already provided the payment for their sin, and they believed in Christ, you can say your sins are forgiven because they have already been paid for on the Cross, and you’ve accepted that payment.”
You’re going to need to work with that for little while, but that’s okay. It’s taken me a while to work with it. I studied this years ago back in the 80s. In fact, we mention it in the book on spiritual warfare, because these are passages that are often misunderstood, and you have to understand that rabbinical Jewish idiom in order to understand what is going on here.
What are these two things that Jesus says in Luke? Repentance and remission of sins.
They show up when Peter is talking to a Jewish audience in Acts 2:38. “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Now we’ve studied this, and we’ve seen that this is not talking about baptismal regeneration. It is talking to the Jewish crowd on the Day of Pentecost that were responsible, some of them were responsible, for crucifying Jesus. They rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
Peter is saying, “You need to turn away from that, and for those who do turn away from your rejection of Jesus, then you need to be baptized now in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins have been remitted, your sins have been forgiven, and as a result, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” That is, as a result of believing in Jesus, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 10:43—Peter’s talking to the Gentiles, “To Him—that is Jesus—all the prophets witness …” That’s what Jesus did in Luke 24: He showed how Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms all testified to Him.
Peter says, “To Him, all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
There’s not a contradiction in the Bible. What you have is certain key phrases and statements that when you connect the dots, it all makes sense because they reinforce one another.
All of this reinforces the grace Gospel, that we don’t do anything to be saved or to be savable. Jesus did it all at the Cross. He paid the penalty for sin. He canceled the debt, which is forgiveness, so that all that is left for us is to trust in Him.
As Paul said to the Philippian jailer, Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to be reminded of the truth of Your Word, the reality of Christ’s resurrection, the clear empirical evidence that He died in our place.
“He died for us and He was raised from the dead. He had victory over death and that victory over death can be our victory by simply trusting in Him. We don’t have to go through emotional remorse. We don’t have to give up sins. We don’t have to do whatever it is people think they have to do other than simply believe. We just believe that Jesus is the Messiah, He died for our sins, and paid the penalty, and the result is that we have everlasting life.
“Father, we pray that that would be clear to anyone listening to or watching this lesson, anyone who is here today and unsure of their salvation, that they would have that clear understanding of comfort from the Scripture that by believing in Christ we have eternal life.
“Father, we pray that you would challenge the rest of us with the fact that because we have such a certain ground of our salvation, we are to live now to serve You.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”