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You are witnesses of these things!
1. If we were to live in the era when Jesus was living, what might have been some of the reactions that we would of had if we heard that Jesus has resurrected from the dead? Also, the reactions that we might of had when Jesus stood in front of us? Would we have said, “Lord, I knew that you would have resurrected. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!”
I am not criticizing, or degrading anyone, but I think that no one will say something like that. Probably, most would be so surprised that they would not be able to utter anything, we might laugh that the dead can be brought back, if we watched enough horror movies we might have horror thoughts, or we might argue that the entire situation does not make sense… Luckily, this is what occurred at the time.
We can distinguish a few different types of reactions which occurred when people saw Jesus resurrected from the dead, first, Luke chapter 24, verse 11 said, “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” The three women whom checked Jesus’ empty tomb delivered the message to the apostles that Jesus had resurrected from the dead, but the apostles thought that the women were talking “nonsense,” and this is why they did not believe the women. The scholars translate this as ‘foolish words’… the apostles who knew Jesus better than anyone, denied his resurrection by thinking that the women were just speaking ‘foolish words.’
Also, John chapter 20, verse 25, “So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." Thomas reacted to this situation as if he was a person living in our era, because he needs evidence to support the facts. Therefore, I am very thankful to Thomas because he has said something similar to what we might have said at the scene.
But, Jesus said to Thomas in John chapter 20, verse 27, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus did not criticize people like Thomas who is probably representing most of us; Jesus just wanted us to have faith and to believe, even without having to actually see. Jesus also continued to say, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I said before, this verse is not saying that one should just believe because the Bible tells us so. Rather, Jesus is emphasizing that we should believe even without having to ‘see.’ In another word, we try to see to believe, but really there is no need to actually see to visualize and understand the truth. For example, when we place a chop stick inside a cup of water, we see the chop stick crooked; however, the chop stick is still in a linear shape. The information we get from experience is not always the answer, it can distort from the truth. This is why we should not judge by what we see. Anyways, this is the reaction which Thomas showed.
Also in Luke chapter 24, the two apostles are headed towards Emmaus, in verse 16 said, “but they were kept from recognizing him.” This verse is very weird. Jesus has been crucified on the cross not three days ago, but these two apostles do not recognize Jesus. But the answer lies in “…they were kept from…”
There are many translations about this verse: Jesus, who has just resurrected from the dead, has shown himself to these men in a different form; also there is a suggestion that the two men showed spiritual ignorance when they saw Jesus… I think that these two men were spiritually ignorant and distracted… this is because “…they were kept from…” also defines the fact that they were “absent from changing their perspective.” In another word, these two men had prejudice about how Jesus might resurrect from the dead in three days, they had closed hearts towards the idea of Jesus’ resurrection; therefore, were not able to see the Lord.
There are other examples of how people reacted when they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead. I was wondering, did Jesus not know of the reason why these people reacted in such ways to his resurrection? Jesus’ apostles said ‘foolish words’ and Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” and the two men were unable to identify Jesus because they were ‘kept’ from seeing Jesus.
Jesus must have known what all the apostles were thinking. However, Jesus still decided to find his disciples. Why? Actually, I am not sure why Jesus did not ascend right away into Heaven after his resurrection… Why he had to stay on Earth for 40 days... It may be because he needed his disciples to realize that Jesus’ resurrection was actually happening.
Therefore, I hope that we can think about the process of how the disciples learned to understand Jesus’ resurrected as a fact from the sermon today.
First of all, verse 37 reads “They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” The disciples believed Jesus to be a ghost when he was resurrected.
The fact that they believed him to be a ghost seems to show that they have strong faith, but in fact that is not true. In NIV, πνεῦμα is translated to ‘ghost’. I believe that this translation is correct. What this means is that people believed Jesus was resurrected not in a real body but in the same presence of a ghost.
At the time when Luke was recorded, there were many people who denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus. They were Gnostics or claim to Docetism. They separated the spirit and flesh and emphasized spiritual independence from material life.
As a result, these people believe that the Christ was resurrected as a ghost… In this context, the word ‘ghost’ signifies something that has no influence, so we can say that it has the same meaning as ‘phantom’. Thus, NIV translated the word to ‘ghost’.
Actually, many people prefer the word ‘spiritual’. I use it often as well. But we need to be careful in using it. This is because temporal life and spiritual life should not be separated. Rather, the spiritual life has a deep impact on the temporal life, and the temporal life is deeply linked as well to the spiritual life. In this sense, the bible is not divided and emphasis is placed on holistic faith. Emphasis on the spiritual may seem holy, but what is really spiritual could be the close link to the temporal life. Thus, changes in real life could be said to be accompanied by spiritual changes.
But these people here don’t have any changes in their own life… They only say that Jesus was resurrected as a ghost. So the reduced idea of Jesus’ resurrection as a ‘ghost’ is located at the very base of this thought.
Especially in Luke, Jesus’ bodily resurrection is emphasized, perhaps because it received such challenges a lot. Verse 30 implies how He ate with two disciples, and also in verses 42-43, He ate a broiled fish. Jewish literature at the time states that ‘angles do not eat or drink.’ (Tobit 12:19) For those who take Jesus’ resurrection as a fictional event, Luke would like to clearly say that His resurrection was a bodily one.
Beloved church members! Jesus’ revival was not only that of a ghost. It was also one of the bodies that could see, touch, and eat. This is important because trusting Jesus and living a new life is not only limited to the spiritual part. Rather, as Jesus Christ’s resurrection was wholly, those who believe in the true revival must change their life wholly.
The disciples’ first impression of Jesus’ revival was to believe it as ghostly… This can be a totally incomplete understanding. Then how can we know for certain Jesus’ revival?
Instead of thinking the revival as ‘ghostly’, we can instead think of it as something we can touch and see. But as I mentioned earlier, verse 20-29 in John reads “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This means that just seeing cannot be the entire faith. But transcendent faith is to see something that cannot be seen.
Is it confusing? If to see it as ghostly is imperfect and to see it through our eyes is uncertain, how must we believe the revival… About this, I want to say: Verse 44 reads “He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
Also verse 45 reads “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Earlier already, He appeared to the two disciples heading to Emmaus, verse 32 states “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’”
These verses all contain the meaning that we cannot know Jesus’ resurrection by understanding only spiritually, and it is not an event that is believable by physical experience. Rather, through the bible, we can fully understand His revival.
In fact today, we cannot directly touch Jesus’ hands and feet to believe the revival. Who is able to witness Jesus eating a broiled fish? No one. Then can we not believe in His resurrection? No, we can believe. Although we cannot witness with our eyes, we can witness through the Bible, how the words in the Old Testament are accomplished through Jesus Christ. As a result, the most strongly certain evidence of Jesus’ revival is in the Bible, and through it we can understand His resurrection.
At Bible study, we are currently studying the Exodus and the sanctuary that appears in it. Exodus 25:8 says, “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” This line can be misinterpreted to mean that God is not among us outside of the sanctuary but we have to know that ‘dwell’ here doesn’t mean that he only stays in the tent, but that he is always walking among us.
The sanctuary wasn’t built to limit where God is but since God is omnipresent, and limitless, he is promising that he will always be with the Israelites and this promise is being materialized by the building of the sanctuary.
However, when we look at John chapter 1 verse 14 it says, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” Dwelling here means the same as building a sanctuary. In other words, the fact that the word became flesh has the same connotation as God building his sanctuary. Thus, just as Jesus met his disciples and walked among them, God is promising this meeting and his promise for being with the Israelites through the building of this sanctuary.
As we dig deeper into the Old Testament, we begin to see the foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus Christ and we learn what his coming meant. Thus the fact that Saul who referred to himself as the Hebrew of the Hebrews, became Paul may be regarded as something that was only natural. As the Old Testament and the New Testament become connected, they then become stronger in its words.
Beloved brothers and sisters, I hope that the same type of grace will come to us. I hope that we will open our minds and realize the meaning of the words and I hope that the resurrected Christ will come and shine his light upon our lives.
Verses 47 to 49 show what happens when we have realized the words, “and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The first chapter of Acts repeats this verse just in a different order, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about” (Acts 1:4). Then in verse 8 it tells us to be the witnesses and to spread the words of God in all of Jerusalem and all over Samaria. Simply put, Luke, the author of both Luke and Acts, recorded the last command by Jesus both at the beginning of Acts and at the end of Luke to make it connect to one another.
Moreover, Luke, compared to the other disciples, emphasizes on the word ‘witness’ and in Acts we see the word come out in Chapter 1 verses 8 and 22, Chapter 2 verse 32, Chapter 3 verse 15, Chapter 5 verse 32, Chapter 6 verse 13, Chapter 7 verse 58, Chapter 10 verses 39 and 41, Chapter 13 verse 31, Chapter 22 verses 15 and 20, chapter 26 verse 16… Why? Because Luke wanted to show how each disciple was carrying out this command from Jesus.
As I have said before, witness comes from ‘μαρτυσ’ the same origin as a martyr. Why? Perhaps because in order to be a true witness, your life must depend upon it, in other words, a person who puts his life on the line in his search for the gospel can be seen as the true disciple.
When the disciples first heard of Jesus’ resurrection, none of them believed. They even thought that it must be ghost, some said that they wouldn’t believe the news unless they encounter Jesus first hand, others were scared. However, these men soon became the witnesses of Jesus, not only in their words but also in their action. They put their lives at risk to spread the gospel and the news of Jesus’ resurrection.
Although I am unable to show you the body of Jesus or any type of physical evidence for that matter, I can tell you how many witnesses there have been throughout history.
Not only in the past, but also in the present. All throughout the world, churches, missionaries, Christians alike, who have realized the meaning of the gospel, have opened their minds and are living the lives of Jesus’ witnesses.
And today, the resurrected Christ tells us “you are witnesses of these things!”
Beloved church members, I hope that Jesus visits us today and helps us realize the meaning behind his resurrection. And I hope that through the bible, we become the true and the genuine witnesses of the gospel.
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