Luke 24 - God's Powerful Efficacious Work Through His Spirit
Luke 24 says,
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
As soon as we begin reading this text we discover that we have jumped right into the middle of a dramatic event that has taken place. There may be some visitors here this morning who do not know much about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this is the case, you will find yourself being thrown into the deep end of the pool this morning. Luke 24 is the very last chapter of a long book. So when we read Luke 24 we need to remember that there has been a great deal of things that have already been said and done that would have helped us to understand this chapter.
Obviously we don’t have the time to go back and read the last twenty-three chapters, but we did read a good synopsis of what this gospel is all about in Luke 24:18-24. The disciple said to Jesus, “‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus asks them, “What things?” They say to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
To understand this chapter we not only need to understsand this book but it would also be helpful to understand the rest of the Bible. We see this in how the LORD deals with His disciples after His resurrection. In every encounter recorded in Luke 24 the disciples are reminded about the importance of knowing and believing all that the Scriptures have said. Knowing the Scriptures is a life long endeavor.
In Luke 24:6-7 the angels say to the women who had come to the tomb, “Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
In Luke 24:25 Jesus says to the two men on the road to Emmaus, “O foolish ones, and slow in heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Then we read, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (27)
In Luke 24:44-45 Jesus says to all the disciples, “‘These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures...”
As you read through Luke’s gospel you discover that Jesus had prepared His disciples for these trying times that were suffering through. However, you also see that in God’s wisdom He had kept them from understanding these things at the time.
In Luke 9:21-22 we read that Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
In Luke 9:44 Jesus says, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” Interestingly verse 45 says, “But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask Him about the saying.”
In Luke 18:31-33 Jesus says to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill him, and on the third day He will rise.” But then notice what verse 34 says, “But they understood none of these things. The saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”
These verses are interesting. Here you have the greatest teacher who has ever lived and He has faithfully and consistently taught His disciples about these things that were going to happen. And yet, none of His disciples understood these things. None of them grasped what was being said to them. None of them wanted to ask Him about these things. They were not lacking in ability; rather, these things were hidden from them until just the right time. In this case, they experienced a divine disinterest of sorts.
Our text well show us when this ‘right time’ came. In Luke 24:44-49 we read, “Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
In God’s wisdom He kept His disciples from fully remembering and understanding these things. This seems strange to us because this seems to have been a significant reason for why Jesus’ disciples were in pretty rough shape after His suffering and death.
They had been told that Jesus, the Great Shepherd, would be killed and that they would be scattered, but when it happened their faith was severely tested. Ironically, the very things that they were kept from seeing and understanding before Jesus’ suffering now become the most important facts to know after these events took place.
After Jesus’ death we see that the disciples faith had been weakened. We see an example of this in our text. When Jesus’ was doing His ministry His disciples called Him, ‘Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, The Promised One, He was the Prophet that Moses had promised would come’. However, after his death in Luke 24:19-21 they referred to him simply as ‘Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet. Notice that they do not even call Him ‘the Prophet' at this point. It made sense to them to speak of Jesus in this way because Jesus had been killed just like so many of the other prophets who had come before. By their own admission they had lost hope in Jesus. They said, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
At this point Jesus’ disciples were frightened and forgetful of the promises of God. They were doubtful and disbelieving. They were sad and hopeless. They were anxious and distrusting. Their hearts were troubled and confused.
As we read Luke 24 we can all appreciate the trauma that these disciples have endured. They were discouraged and disappointed for many reasons.
They were disappointed in themselves
They were disappointed in others
They were disappointed in the Scriptures that they thought they knew
They were disappointed in the teachings of Jesus that they had learned and understood
Many of us will go through similar times of testing and disappointments in our faith. So...
I wonder how the LORD would begin to bring healing, comfort, and confidence back to these disciples?
I wonder if God will do this quickly or will it take time?
I wonder if the process of recovery will be the same for everyone or will it be different?
Luke 24 will help answer these questions (and even more!). In our text we see that the LORD will give many proofs concerning His resurrection to His disciples. We also see that the LORD is very patient with His disciples as He restores and strengthens their faith. All of this is comforting to believers.
Luke 24 was preserved in scripture for you and I so that these words could produce the same results in us that it did in Jesus’ apostles. But we are not eye-witnesses to these original events like they were. So how can we have such confidence? I hope to show you that there are powerful spiritual graces that are at work in all Christians to produce faith in us, to make our faith grow, to make our faith fruitful, and to preserve our faith under all kinds of circumstances.
We may not be firsthand eye-witnesses to these events but we are partakers in the same grace that the apostles had. It is not the ‘proofs’ in and of themselves that gave the disciples faith and hope. No, it was the grace of God working in them that produced these things. We can know that this powerful grace is present among us because of the promise Jesus gives in Luke 24:48 when Jesus promises, “I am sending the promise of my Father to you…you will be clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit and He would make the Gospel message efficacious when it is preached to the people throughout the world and in every future generation. What is this message that the Holy Spirit honors with power to save? Jesus tells us in Luke 24:46-47that it is the message‘that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations…’.
The Heidelberg Catechism speaks of how the Gospel and the Spirit work together for salvation in Question #20 when it says, “True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.”
Let’s turn to the Old Testament and see a prophecy that promised that the Holy Spirit would be working behind the scenes in peoples hearts even on the day of Christ’s crucifixion. In Zechariah 12:10 we read these words, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weeping bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”
Zechariah prophesied that when Jesus was executed on the cross there would be a spirit of grace which would be given to produce in the people pleas for mercy as they looked upon the one whom they had pierced.
Consider for a moment what this text is saying. In the very moments when Jesus was suffering and dying on the cross God poured out His grace upon the wicked scoffers and the godless mockers who had gathered around His Son. When the Father did this these people would lament and mourn and cry out for mercy. What a gracious and merciful thing the LORD does for us in the very moment of our worst sins. Consider this verse as you contemplate these things.
Romans 5:6-11 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Zechariah prophesied that this spirit of grace would make the people mourn and weep. What would this mourning and weeping look like?
Consider 2 Kings 4:27 when the Shunammite woman’s only son dies. The mother comes to Elisha and falls at his feet. Elisha’s servant immediately responds to pull her away. Elisha stops him and says to him, ‘Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress.’
What would it look like to see someone weep over the death of their firstborn?
Consider what happens when all of the children are killed when Herod tries to kill Jesus. We are told, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18)
Or there is the example of this in Exodus 12:29-32 when the firstborn of the Egyptians die. We read, “And there was a great cry in Egypt.” (30) And we are also told that great fear came upon the people and they sent the people out with haste, saying, ‘We shall all be dead’ (33).
These are three examples of the grief and bitterness that came upon the people when Jesus died. Yet, these examples must pale in comparison to what actually happened in some of those who gathered around the cross that day and watched the Firstborn Son of God died.
On that day a spirit of grace was poured out upon the people. And on that day they pleaded for mercy lest they die when they looked at the one that they had pierced. In that moment the veil was removed, their blindness overcome, their stupor left them when this spirit of grace came and they saw what really had taken place on the cross. The Son of Man was rejected. Jesus was killed. The Christ was murdered. Their King had been betrayed. The Creator had been rejected by His own creation.
When this happened they called out for mercy. But this happened only because of the grace that was given to them!
Luke gives a description of what happened on the day. He writes of this in Luke 23:44-49, “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!’ And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.”
Peter describes the people around the cross that day as ‘lawless people’ (Acts 2:23). These people had called out for the death of an innocent man. These people had witnessed Jesus being beaten, berated, battered, bruised and bloodied. These people were calling out with mocking and scoffing voices against Christ saying, “He saved others, let Him save Himself!”
Left to themselves they would not have grieved the way that Luke describes. They would not have felt their great guilt over the part that they had played in these events. They would not have felt the weight of their guilt and then cried out for mercy. But because God poured out a spirit of grace these things happened. The acquaintances of Jesus stood at a distance and witnessed a miracle take place when this occurred.
We are told that when Christ died things began to change among the people. Suddenly the crowd began to mourn, weep, and lament over what had been done to Jesus. What grief! What sorrow! What pain! What remorse the people must have felt who experienced this spirit of grace.
Zechariah 12:11-14 describes these things in this way, “On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.” This refers to the great mourning that occurred when Israel’s last righteous king, Josiah, died in battle at Hadad-rimmon. On Calvary someone greater than righteous Josiah died. He was both LORD and Christ (Acts 2:36). They had just killed the Righteous One (7:52). The mourning therefore must have been great!
Zechariah continues to describe these moments when he says, “The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.”
Zechariah’s words remind you and I that there is a spiritual dynamic that is present when we consider the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God is at work fulfilling scripture, He is at work carrying out His plan, He is at work fulfilling the promises that He has made. He is at work applying the gospel to our hearts. I hope that this is encouraging to you.
When these things were happening to Jesus things must have seemed so out of control to the disciples. Yet, we know that God was working out His will through every thing that happened. The disciples struggled to see this in that moment but they later came to recognize this. Peter speaks of this clearly when he says inActs 2:22-24, “Men of Israel, hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, your crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held by it.”
Consider that last sentence, “God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held by it.” This was not always Peter’s, or the other apostles, understanding concerning these things about the resurrection. Just a short time before Peter preached this sermon Luke tells us about the apostles reaction when the women told them about the resurrection. We are told, “...but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (24:11)
So what happened to Peter and the other apostles that made such a change? What happened that persuaded the apostles that this was not an idle tale? What convinced them that it was impossible for the pangs of death to hold onto Jesus? These things happen when the gospel is preached and the Holy Spirit comes with great power and full conviction.
Some of you may have come here this morning and said in your heart, “These words seemed to them an idle tale and I will not believe them.”
You may not be able to overcome your doubts but the Holy Spirit can overcome these obstacles! He can overcome your foolishness! He can overcome your fears and disappointments! He can overcome your hopelessness! He can forgive your sins, your blasphemy, and your rebellion!
Think of all the ‘proofs’ that Jesus gave to His disciples. He let them see the stone rolled away, an empty tomb, they saw angels and they heard their testimony, Jesus appeared to them and ate in front of them. The disciples often spoke of these things together and pondered them (14,36). However, the only thing that makes any of these things efficacious is when the LORD opens our minds and hearts to understand the Scriptures by the working of the Holy Spirit (31,45).
This is a powerful ongoing work in every Christian. It is with this hope that we go out and preach these things until Christ returns. May the Holy Spirit be with us and with the message of the Gospel that we preach.