Luke 24:36-53 - Christ's Appearance to His Disciples, and His Gospel Commission

36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44He 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."

45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I 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."

50When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (NIV)


1. Jesus' resurrection is a bodily resurrection, not a "disembodied spirit" resurrection (vv. 36-43).

Many non-Christian religious movements, or pseudo-Christian cults (such as the Jehovah's witnesses) declare that Jesus rose from death only in a disembodied spirit. But what Luke endeavours to show in his typically matter-of-fact way - by reporting Jesus' invitations to his disciples to touch him and give him something to eat - clearly denies this. The apostle John, in his gospel account, also records how Jesus convinced the twelve, and - in particular - "doubting Thomas" (Jn 20:19-29) of his bodily presence, by inviting him to touch him. John's later testimony confirms how essential the bodily aspect of Jesus' resurrection is to his life-giving Lordship: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life" (1 Jn 1:1).

All too often we look upon Christ's resurrection only - or, at least, primarily - as something that verifies the truth of Christianity and of who Christ is. Indeed, Paul does make mention of this (1 Co 15:12-19). But what we tend to overlook is something that Paul goes on to talk about in the very same chapter - namely, that Christ's bodily resurrection is a guarantee that those who trust in Him will also be resurrected in their own bodies (1 Co 15:20-23; 35-57).

Wayne Grudem speaks of how Christ's resurrection, and ours, confirms the delight God takes in all He's made:

"It is important to insist on the resurrection of a real, physical body...because this provides a clear affirmation of the goodness of God's physical creation. We will live in bodies that have all the excellent qualities God created us to have, and thereby we will forever be living proof of the wisdom of God in making a material creation that from the beginning was "very good" (Gen 1:31). We will live as resurrected believers in those new bodies, and they will be suitable for inhabiting the "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pe 3:13). (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1994, p. 835)

Reflection question #1: How often do you meditate on the fact that the church will not just be in "heaven" with the LORD, but that we will have new bodies like His, and dwell in a "new heavens and new earth"? What kinds of joy does this cause you to feel?

2. Jesus reminds his disciples that His resurrection was according to God's plan, by showing how the Old Testament pointed to His suffering, rising and commission.

The LORD mentions three particular sources in verse 44:

a) the Law of Moses (Exodus - Deuteronomy): numerous scriptures that alludes to Christ's work can be found in Exodus 1 to 15 (suffering, and then deliverance) and Leviticus (sacrifices that require the shedding of blood)

b) the Prophets (Isaiah - Malachi) - examples are Isaiah 53:4-12 (Christ's suffering - "...he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities"); Jonah 2:6 ("you brought my life up from the pit") and Isaiah 49:6 (Christ's commission - "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.")

c) the Psalms - examples are Ps 22 ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?") and Ps 16:10 (Christ's resurrection -"...nor will you let your Holy One see decay.")

Reflection question #2: What other Old Testament passages, themes, or passages that anticipate the work of Christ are ones you find particularly memorable? Why?

3. Knowing the meaning of the Scriptures, and proclaiming the One who is its grand subject, can only be possible through the LORD's enabling power.

"Then he (Christ) opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." (v. 45) This statement does not suggest that the Scriptures are incomprehensible and "require assistance" from God to be understood; rather, it teaches that the problem of sin has, among other things, darkened people's understanding enough so that they can't discover the full meaning of many passages - particularly in the way they relate to Jesus - without divine intervention. "Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live." (Ps 119:144; see also 1 Co 2:14)

"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." (v. 49) What the Father has promised is the Holy Spirit, as is made clear from Jesus' words in John's gospel account. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (Jn 14:26) He will also "convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment" (16:8).

Not least of what the Spirit provides the disciples is great strength, as Luke records at the beginning of the book of Acts: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you" (Acts 1:8). All of these provisions of the Holy Spirit remind us that, in and of ourselves, we are completely inadequate to fulfill the task of making Christ known to others (see also Jn 15:5; 2 Co 3:5-6).

Reflection question #3: Do I tend to overlook the role of the Holy Spirit in helping me to live as a disciple of Christ, and make Him known to others? What kinds of things can help me remember how essential He is for my spiritual life?

4. The necessity of turning from sin, and the blessing of being forgiven of sin, are two essential components of the gospel message.

”repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (v. 47).

It is not likely that the matter of forgiveness would ever be absent from any attempted gospel presentation, but it can be easy for even sincere believers to leave out the matter of repentance, especially when they are faced with the prospect of offending the unbelievers whom they’re speaking to. After all, the underlying idea behind repentance (the turning away from one’s idols – Ezek 18:30-31, 1 Thes 1:8-10) is the lordship of Christ, and the right He has to rule over every facet of a person’s life.

But repentance is essential to conversion (Lk 13:1-5; Acts 3:19-20; 17:29-30); one cannot accept Jesus as Saviour without bowing down to Him as Lord. Therefore, a failure to mention repentance in one's gospel presentation really amounts to no gospel being proclaimed at all.

5. The LORD's victory over death, and His authority over all heaven and earth, should lead to praise of the people.

"While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God." (vv. 51-53)

Paul enlightens us on some of the ways we are to praise God: "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. " (Eph 5:19-20)