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Bible Notes on Luke 24:44-53 (Ascension of our Lord)

by Jerry Goebel

“You are Witnesses of These Things!”

Luke 24:44-53

44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

48 “You are witnesses of these things. 49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them. 52 And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple, praising God. (NAS)

Luke 24:44

44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Must be fulfilled

Jesus came to fulfill or “perfect” the covenant promised by God to His people. The Old Testament, all the patriarchs and prophets, kings and divinely inspired writers pointed to the Messiah who was (and is) Jesus. Through Christ’s perfection of the covenant, the wage of sin has been paid for those who believe. We have the “complete law” in our hearts now because the Son of God died, was lifted, and then gifted us with the Holy Spirit.

As Christ-followers we believe the search for truth is over but the effort to live truthfully is not. Therefore, we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us to live the covenant that Christ fulfilled.

Luke 24:45

45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

He opened their minds

This is an implied spiritual gift that Jesus gave to his disciples prior to departing this earth. The term for opening is the same as for a baby passing through the birth canal. “Their minds,” is the same term a psychologist might use for a “gestalt experience”; an understanding that bursts upon the mind in such depth as to involve the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being. It is something that happens when the sum of one’s life experience suddenly focuses on an instant.

We need not struggle for this experience because it is God-given. It is a “charis,” a spiritual blessing that one receives through prayer and relationship with God as well as submitting one’s life to God’s will.

I have learned from every “opening moment” of my life, that each one preceding it was quite simply a partial experience on the way to a fuller understanding of a God that I can never fathom. It is like climbing a mountain comprised of a series of steppes, each tabletop opening on to a grander vista and more pristine air, the journey itself being all a part of the destination.

Luke 24:46-47

46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Thus it was written, that the Christ should suffer

The closest translation of this sentence would be; “The covenant read that the Christ (the Anointed One, or Messiah) must suffer [pascho] and so Christ was ‘deeply compelled’ to die for us.”

Jesus knew that the course of his life would lead to his inevitable death when he chose to be baptized by John the Baptist (already in the gun sights of Herod and the High Priests). Jesus was known both as the suffering servant and the Paschal (Passover) Lamb who was given for our sins. This comes from the Passover tradition of sacrificing a lamb for each of the sinners in the assembly:

2 Chr 30:17

[17] For {there were} many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves; therefore, the Levites {were} over the slaughter of the Passover {lambs} for everyone who {was} unclean, in order to consecrate {them} to the LORD.

Ezra 6:20

[20] For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. (KJV)

This is the course also laid before us by the Christ, to “pick up our cross” and follow him. Yet, how often are we surprised when a Christian suffers or we face difficult times? Suffering is inevitable in all of life, not just the life of unbelievers. What should be amazing is the way that a follower turns his/her suffering over to the Holy Spirit and the blessing of the community that responds in support and prayer. Through emulating Christ in this way, we too become a witness in trials.

My brother once told me (when he was going through a difficult time); “Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice.” As Followers of The Way (the name for early Christians), we choose to include Christ and community in our pain and are thus given the opportunity to be witnesses in the worst of times.

The repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name

The phrase, “repentance for forgiveness,” is truly wonderful. To repent is to turn completely around as though my former needs become repulsive to me. Concurrently, as those desires become repulsive I am liberated (forgiven and redeemed) from them. Yet, like the gift of total understanding, this is also not humanly attained. This too is a gift we receive in the Name of Jesus Christ.

To proclaim his name means to announce or preach about his works. To tell the world what he has done for us. In simple equation form it looks like this: R * F = P. Repentance (the desire not to sin) * Forgiveness (Freedom from sin) = Proclaiming his name.

To all the nations

As we have previously studied, the word “nations (the Greek word is ethnos),” implies not just all the governments, but every race and culture. We need to proclaim repentance and forgiveness to all we meet, extending the hand of Jesus to all people. Our primary message is not a message of damnation and laws but of changed character and complete freedom from the bondage of the ways of man. Like Paul, we preach the fruits of the life freed by Jesus and salvation from a life encumbered by vice.

Gal 5:19-26

19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (NAS)

Of course, the greatest preaching will be the joy on our face and the love in our actions. When we are asked; “What makes you different?” We can tenderly share the power of our Lord and Savior. The things I do at the most mundane moments (driving to work or waiting at a checkout counter) are oftentimes the greatest preaching that we will offer the world at large.

Luke 24:48

48 “You are witnesses of these things.”

You are martyrs

The word for witness is martus. It means the willingness to give up my life to testify in a court case [see Acts 1:6-8 for more information on this topic]. All of the apostle’s were tormented for their faith. All but one died an unnatural death holding true to the statement that he had seen Jesus resurrected.

Many years ago, people would ask, “If you were indicted as a Christian, would there be enough testimony to sentence you?” Every disciple was prosecuted and harrassed all over the known world. Indeed, they were Martyrs, and they backed up their claims with their lives.

Luke 24:49

49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Clothed in dynamite

The two words for clothed with power literally means to be covered head to toe with the abundant power [dunamis] of the Holy Spirt.

Luke 24:50-52

50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them. 52 And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

Forgiving and blessing

Our Lord departs a final blessing thereby ending an earthly life that was wholly focused on blessing and forgiving. He died with forgiveness on his tongue and rose with blessing upon it. The disciples did not depart in sorrow, they departed rejoicing. They know that the Lord has made good on every promise and they go forth in the courage of the Lord.

Every time we worship, we should be able to return to our daily life in total joy. Knowing that every promise of our Lord Jesus Christ is fulfilled.

Luke 24:50-53

53 and were continually in the temple, praising God.

In the temple

Here is where we should be when we are waiting for God’s call. Here is where we should be when we need to be strengthened for God’s continuing duty. This is where the early church was continually gathered for strength, community, meals, and to be sent out.

However, it should be noted that they were not found in the Upper Room. The Upper Room was the womb of Christianity, but the temple was the birthplace. They did what Jesus said and immediately took their worship public. In this arena the disciples were wanted men and women. Here they praised God in the midst of the men who had Jesus put to death.

Powered by the promise of Jesus Christ, the disciples immediately set out to witness in the heart of their world.

Where is our temple? Where are we called to gather so that we might be sent forth in the power of the Holy Spirit? This was the ebb and flow of the early Church’s life. From praising to proclaiming, then back again. Does that sound like the ebb and flow of my life?

Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988. Used by permission.”

Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.

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