Risen — But Still the Same
“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. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 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. 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. 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: 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. 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. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.” (Luke 24:36-53)
We generally assume that what a person has been he is and will be. With men that is sometimes a mistake. Men do change and are changed. But, with regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, that is neither an assumption nor a mistake. He does not change and cannot be changed. What he has been he is now, and he shall forever be. Our Lord Jesus Christ is “the same, yesterday, and today, and forever.” He declares, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” It is he alone of whom it can be said, he “is, and was, and is to come.”
The two disciples who had walked with our risen Savior along the Emmaus road, after the Lord Jesus made himself known to them, were so overwhelmed with joy that they seem to have forgotten why they had come to Emmaus. They immediately returned to Jerusalem to tell their brethren the good news (Luke 24:33, 35).
Then, in verse 36 we read, “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them.” The disciples were gathered together, probably in the same large, upper room in which the Lord Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper. How troubled and perplexed they were. Then, “as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them.” Our blessed Savior loves to meet with his saints when they are gathered together. He delights to reveal himself to us when we most need him.
In verses 36-53 Luke gives us a brief summary of those forty days between the resurrection and the ascension of our Redeemer. During those forty days, “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: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me” (Acts 1:3-4).
Let’s look at the first appearance of our risen Lord in the midst of his assembled church described in verses 36-43. “Jesus himself stood in the midst of them,” uninvited, unexpected, undeserved, but most welcome. He stood in the center to be near to them all. He appeared in the midst of them to bestow peace upon them all (vv. 36-43).
“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. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 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 showed them his hands and his feet. 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.”
The Lord Jesus had now finished his blessed work of redemption. He had entered in once into the holy place. He had, with his own blood, obtained eternal redemption for his elect. And now he appeared in the midst of his disciples in exactly the same character and nature in which he had walked with them before, to bestow exactly the same blessing he had bestowed upon them in the days of his earthly ministry. Our risen Redeemer is the same in his person and grace as he has ever been. — “Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (See John 14:27.)
This is particularly blessed when we remember the men to whom these words were addressed. Our Lord Jesus spoke these words to those very same disciples who three days before had shamefully forsaken him and fled. They had broken their promises. They had forgotten their professed readiness to die with him. They had been scattered, “every man to his own,” and left him to die alone. One of them had even denied him three times.
They were all “backsliding children” (Jeremiah 3:22). But the Lord Jesus had promised, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4). Therefore, “Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” Not a word of rebuke is spoken. Not a single sharp reproof fell from his lips. Calmly and quietly he appeared in the midst of them, and spoke peace. — “Peace be unto you!”
How free his love must be! Truly, his is love that passes knowledge! It is his glory to pass over iniquity, transgression, and sin! He “delighteth in mercy.” He is far more willing to forgive than we are to be forgiven, and far more ready to pardon than we are to be pardoned. There is in his great, almighty, infinite heart infinite forgiveness. Though our sins have been as scarlet, he makes them as white as snow. He has blotted them out, cast them behind his back, buried them in the depths of the sea, and remembers them no more.
Though, like these poor disciples, we are constantly stumbling and falling, constantly “backsliding children,” his forgiveness is free, full, and undeserved forgiveness. The peace and forgiveness he speaks to our troubled hearts is the same peace he spoke to them. It is peace obtained by the blood of his cross, flowing from our crucified, risen Savior, the peace of complete redemption, perfect atonement and absolute forgiveness. He speaks peace to our souls, saying, “I have blotted out thy sins!...Fury is not in me!” Christ is the Savior who gives peace to needy sinners. In his pierced hands there is mercy enough and to spare. He raises the dead, revives the languishing, restores the fallen, and heals the wounded. There is forgiveness with him, that he may be feared (Psalm 130:4).
Though he spoke peace, these poor souls were still incapable of enjoying it. — “They were terrified and affrighted” (v. 37). Then our blessed Savior gave these poor, troubled souls undeniable proof of his accomplished redemption, by which he assured their hearts, causing them to experience the peace he spoke (vv. 38-43).
“And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 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 showed them his hands and his feet. 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.”
It is one thing to hear the words, “Peace be unto you;” but it is something else to experience peace in your soul. And our Savior causes his own to experience the peace he gives. He doesn’t just say, “Have peace.” He causes us to know his peace in the blessed experience of grace, in the sweet experience of knowing him. — He gives us peace!
He said, “Behold my hands and feet…touch me and see.” He stood before them, stretched out his nail pierced hands, and pointed to his wounded feet, through which the nails had passed, by which his body had been fastened to the cursed tree. Then he took “a piece of broiled fish and of an honeycomb…and did eat before them.” By these things, the Lord Jesus removed all their doubt and all their fear. So it is with us. We enjoy the sweet peace of redemption, forgiveness, and everlasting salvation as we handle our Savior personally by faith in the sweet experience of his grace (1 John 1:1-3).
Those very same wounds, with which our Redeemer gave peace to these disciples, convincing them of his accomplished redemption and of his triumph over death by his resurrection, are the wounds he perpetually and everlastingly spreads before our Father in heaven for us. There, as our mighty Advocate and Great High Priest, our Savior pleads the merit of his sin-atoning blood and substitutionary death for our everlasting salvation.
Yes, the crucified, risen Christ has returned to heaven, “to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24). His blood speaks to God for us (Hebrews 12:24). There he stands forever the “Lamb which had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Christ is our great High Priest before the mercy-seat. He has our names engraved upon his heart as he stands before God, making intercession for us (Exodus 28:29-30). That which the saints of old passionately desired and looked for has come to fruition in the intercession of our mighty Advocate. He has set us as a seal upon his heart, as a seal upon his arm, because of his love that is stronger than death (Song of Solomon 8:6).
What a blessed encouragement this is to me in times of spiritual barrenness and leanness of soul! There is One whose pierced hands and side plead for me, when I have no power to plead for myself. — “If any man sin, we have John, an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2).
Our Lord might have commanded his disciples to believe that he had risen. He might have sharply reproved their unbelief. Instead, in great mercy, he stooped to their need. He stooped to their weakness, and said, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold (Literally – You shall behold!) my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see (Literally – You shall see!); for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (vv. 38-39).
What a great example our Savior is to us in all things. When we are dealing with one another, let us ever remember his gracious dealings with us. Weak disciples are disciples still. Weak brethren are brethren still. They need to be taught and led with patience, not upbraided and handled roughly. To the weak, let us become as weak that we might minister to the weak (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Christ in the Midst
Verses 36-43 describe our Lord’s first appearance to his assembled church after the resurrection. Here we see the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of his brethren, assembled with his saints. He appeared in their midst, he visited his church, when his disciples had acted very shamefully, fleeing from him at his betrayal and deserting him at his trial. They were unprepared and unbelieving, doubting his promise and refusing the testimony of his messengers. They greatly needed him, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. Yet, they had come together in his name, as his disciples, in loving memory of him. They lamented his absence and greatly desired him. Some among them testified that they had been with him, and told others what they saw, experienced, and heard him speak.
When he appeared in their midst, he spoke peace to his disciples, showed himself to them, permitted each of them to handle him, and proved himself to them again. Are not we in the same condition as these disciples? May we not hopefully look for our Lord Jesus to appear in our midst?
This is what we miss when we absent ourselves from the assembly of his saints. — There was one disciple, a true disciple, a true believer, who was not present at this assembly. Thomas was not with his brethren in the house of God. We are not told why he was not present; but he was not there (John 20:24). Perhaps he thought he had something more important to do. Perhaps he was overcome with unbelief. Perhaps he was in a very low condition. We do not know. But this we do know: — When his Redeemer appeared in the midst of his brethren, Thomas was not there. I do not know, but I doubt Thomas ever missed another service. When you absent yourself from the house of God, you absent yourself from the ministry of the Word and the fellowship of your family. And you may absent yourself from the blessedness of Christ’s manifest presence, from the indescribable privilege of seeing him, hearing him, handling him, and feasting with him.
In the next paragraph (Luke 24:44-48) our Lord Jesus gave his disciples a summary of his doctrine. He summarized everything he had taught them while he walked with them in the flesh.
“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: 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.”
First, in summarizing everything he had taught, the Lord Jesus now showed these disciples the meaning and message of the Old Testament Scriptures. The risen Savior is the same in his doctrine as he has ever been. — “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” (v. 44).
The most casual reading of the Gospel narratives makes it clear that these men knew the Old Testament very well. They knew how it was written by inspiration of God. They knew how it was compiled and preserved by divine providence. They knew its history and knew its letter. But its meaning and its message was hidden from their eyes, until the Savior said, “Everything that you have read in the Old Testament, all the law, all the prophecies, all the types and ceremonies, all the rituals and sacrifices, and all the Psalms and Proverbs are about me.” Yet, even then, they did not understand his words. But “then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”
The fact is no human being can understand the Book of God except as God himself gives him understanding. Spiritual discernment is the gift of God the Holy Spirit. A man can study Greek and Hebrew, learn everything there is to know about grammar, ancient biblical history, archaeology, philosophy, theology, hermeneutics, exegesis, and rhetoric, and still have absolutely no knowledge of Holy Scripture. The Book of God is a Book of divine revelation that cannot be understood without divine illumination. Only God himself can take the things of God and show them to a man (1 Corinthians 2:9-15).
Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been present, to have heard that sermon, and to have received that blessed enlightenment? What a moment it must have been! What awe the disciples must have felt! How differently the Savior’s words must have sounded! How majestic, how heavenly, how powerful! They now heard him as their risen Redeemer, coming from the other world to open their understanding. Now, for the first time, they understood all that he had taught them. Now, for the first time, they understood the vast, infinite importance of his mission in coming into the world. Now, for the first time, they began to know the meaning of his infinite grace, everlasting love, and immutable mercy as the Christ of God, their God, their Redeemer, their Savior, and their Lord and King!
Then, the Lord Jesus spoke to his disciples about his death on the cross. He had done so many, many times before (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; Mark 8:31-32; 9:31; 10:33-34; Luke 18:31-33). He did not speak of his death as an unhappy misfortune, or as a thing to be lamented, but as a necessity. — And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day” (v. 46). There are three things revealed here that must be understood. These three things are vital. No one understands the Bible who does not understand these three things.
1. The death of Christ was according to the will and purpose of God. — He was delivered to death “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). He died in our place and room, as our Substitute, by the sovereign will and eternal decree of God, because “it pleased the Lord to bruise him.”
2. The death of God’s darling Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was necessary for our salvation. — Without the death of Christ, God’s law could never have been fulfilled, divine justice could never have been satisfied, sin could never have been put away, sinners could never have been pardoned, forgiven, justified, and made righteous before God, and God could never have shown mercy.
The cross of Christ was the only solution of a mighty difficulty, the only answer to that ancient question, “How can a man be just with God?” (Job 9:2). The cross untied the knot. It is the death of Christ upon the cursed tree that makes it possible for our God to be “a just God and a Savior” (Isaiah 45:20). Because Christ once died, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, God is “just, and the Justifier” of the ungodly (Romans 3:26).
It is only by the blood of Christ crucified that sinners can draw near to God with boldness, with full assurance of faith, in confident hope of eternal life. Christ, by suffering and dying as our Substitute in our stead, the just for the unjust, has made a way by which we can draw near to God. — And his death guarantees that all for whom he suffered and died shall come to God by him!
3. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). — How did Christ die? He died voluntarily, by his own will. He said, “I lay down my life…The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Our Lord Jesus died vicariously, as our Substitute in the place of his elect (2 Corinthians 5:21). And he died victoriously, triumphantly, having accomplished all that he intended to accomplish, having obtained eternal redemption for his people (Galatians 3:13).
The cross of Christ is all our hope, all our peace, all our salvation. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the cancellation of all our debt, the restoration of all our loss, the redemption of all God’s elect. — “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” — “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
Upon the cross I see him bleed,
And by the sight from guilt am freed;
Christ crucified removed my sin,
And by His grace I’m born again.
To see my Savior as He rose
Assures my faith, disarms my foes;
Satan’s assaults I overcome,
By pointing to my Savior’s tomb.
Exalted on His glorious throne,
My Savior makes my cause His own;
No good can I now be denied,
For Jesus lives, and will provide.
He looks, with tender pity down,
And holds for me the conqu’ror’s crown;
Though pressed with griefs and cares before,
My soul revives, nor asks no more.
By faith I see the day at hand
When in His presence I shall stand;
Then it shall be my endless bliss,
To see Him where, and as he is.
Repentance and Remission
In verse 47 our Lord Jesus goes on to tell us that he died as our sin-atoning Substitute, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Notice that our Savior did not say that he died so that we could tell sinners to repent. Rather, he tells us that he died that we might proclaim repentance. There is a difference. When God commands all men everywhere to repent, he commands them to turn to him. But here our Savior, by virtue of his death on the cross, commands us to preach repentance, that is to proclaim the turning of sinners to him. By virtue of his sin-atoning sacrifice, we proclaim liberty to the captives (Isaiah 61:1-3; Zechariah 9:11-12).
The word repentance basically means “reversal.” And the gospel we preach proclaims a complete reversal. The repentance accomplished for us, the repentance we proclaim in the gospel is a reversal of all things for us by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The repentance God commands of sinners is a reversal of our thoughts, minds, and attitudes about how sins are remitted.
This proclamation of reversal is the blessed proclamation of the remission of sins. Everything has been reversed for us, because he has put away (remitted) our sins. His prisoners are sent forth out of their prison, because he has remitted their sins. “And ye,” you who have been turned to him by hearing him declare that he has put away your sins, “are witnesses of these things” (v. 48). Every redeemed sinner is, in his place, Christ’s missionary, his witness, bearing his own testimony to his Savior’s accomplishments, his grace, and the free forgiveness of sins found in him.
Our Savior commanded his disciples to preach the gospel everywhere, to all men, among all nations; and he said, “beginning at Jerusalem.” Robert Hawker wrote…
“Those Jerusalem-sinners, whose hearts were to be called by sovereign grace on the then approaching day of Pentecost, were there; many of whom had joined the Scribes and Elders in his crucifixion, and were now triumphing in having shed his blood. Yet, to this Jerusalem, this slaughter-house of his Prophets, and himself also, Jesus will have the first proclamation of mercy in his death made! Oh! the riches of his grace! Oh! the boundless love of Christ, which passeth knowledge!”
None are beyond the reach of grace. None are beyond the reach of omnipotent mercy. It is the glory of our Great Physician that he heals incurable cases. The things that are impossible to men are possible with Christ.
In verses 50-53 Luke gives us a very brief description of our Savior’s glorious end.
“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. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.”
Here, Luke takes one giant step, moving from the Lord’s resurrection to his ascension forty days later. Here he shows us in simple language the blessed, triumphant climax of our Redeemer’s work on this earth. Our risen Christ is the same in his resurrection glory as he has ever been (John 17:5).
“He lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them.” — He left them when in the very act of blessing them. The high priest in the Old Testament typified Christ in the lifting up of his hands to bless the people. He, however, prayed for the blessing of God upon his people. The Lord Jesus commands it. Our great High Priest ascended while blessing, as if to say that his blessing is forever. And, as in the instance of Manoah, he did wondrously, ascending in the sweet incense of his own sacrifice (Judges 13:19-20).
The Lord Jesus was carried up to heaven, upon the merit of his own blood and righteousness as the Lamb of God slain for our sins, and accepted as our Forerunner to be the Anchor of our souls, to be our Advocate with the Father, and to assure us of our indestructible, everlasting salvation, security, and blessedness (Romans 8:32-39).
When they saw him ascend, after hearing his words and receiving his blessing (his perpetual, unceasing, everlasting blessing), the redeemed of the Lord worshipped him and went away with great joy, because he had “opened their understanding.” Oh, may he do the same for you and me continually! If he will give us a conscious interest in his salvation, causing us to hear the word of the truth of the gospel of our salvation, we will worship him with great joy and put our own “Amen” to his blessed name and work.
“And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).
The day will soon come when this same Jesus shall return from heaven in like manner as he ascended. He will come forth, like the Jewish high priest of old, to bless his people, to gather his saints together, and to restore all things (Leviticus 9:23; Acts 3:21). For that day, let us wait, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Until that day, let us love and adore him, trust and serve him as his “witnesses of these things” to the praise of his glory.
Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com