Monday, May 11, 2009

Harmonizing the Resurrection Accounts Part 5: Disciples becoming Apostles

by Matt Kennedy

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Texts: Luke 24; John 20; 1st Corinthians 15

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We left off last week on the evening of Easter day, about 9pm, in a locked room with ten disciples, the two from Emmaus, the women, and, probably, a small number of other followers.

Jesus has suddenly appeared in the room. He shows his hands, feet, and sides to the disciples. He lets them touch him. And, Luke says, he eats some broiled fish (42-43) . All of this touching and eating establishes two very important truths: 1 the physicality, the fleshiness, of Jesus' resurrected body and 2. that Jesus' resurrection body is the very same body in which he died.

The physicality is obvious but how do we know that his risen body is the same one in which he died? He bears the scars of his crucifixion.

His body has been changed. Paul says in 1 Cor 15:42, that the body dies perishable and rises imperishable—a body capable of death is remade into a body that cannot die. And this imperishable body, though changed, retains the ability to eat and enjoy food.

In fact Jesus' seems capable of doing all of the things that human beings were originally intended and created to do—to eat, to work, to taste, smell, touch, see, and hear—to fully experience God's creation uninhibited by physical illness or deficiency. Jesus' risen body is like Adam's body before the fall. The only difference is that Adam and Eve were not immortal by nature, they were immortal because they were in communion with God, with Christ, with the Tree of Life. But Jesus' body at the resurrection “cannot die”, It's is not merely a return to the pre-fall body, it is a transformation of human nature altogether—the resurrection body of Christ is a new thing.

Listen as I read 1st Corinthians 15:46-49:

“As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”(46-49)

Our bodies will be like his body. You'll always have the same body you have now but it'll be changed from mortality to immortality, from perishable but imperishable. All the ravages of sickness, age, anything that smacks of death or decay will be gone—and you'll be able to do the things that you do now—eat, drink, smell, see, feel, touch—but with perfect unimpaired senses.

So Jesus' shows his body to the disciples and John says that they're overjoyed(20:20).

Moving back and forth between John and Luke we get a good picture of what happens. We'll pick up in Luke 24:44 and in John 20:21. Let's look at John first. The disciples are still in a state of stunned awe and so Jesus says again, “ 21 "Peace be with you!”. They quiet down and, turning to Luke, he says: “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." All this was foretold. The prophets and Moses told these things to you long ago. And not only that...told them to you this last week. Listen to Matthew 20:17-19

“Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"

That was maybe a few days before entering Jerusalem.

If you're looking for something to do this afternoon, go back through the gospels and count the times that Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection. They never got it. They only get it now as he stands in front of them and “opens their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”(45) I'm not sure whether Luke means that they had a bible study or whether he means that what Jesus taught them before suddenly made sense, but one way or the other, they get I and they get it because Jesus opens their minds. Jesus interprets for his followers the Words he inspired in the prophets. He did it personally in the upper room he does it through the Holy Spirit for us. People without the Spirit can read and understand intellectually what is written, but apart from Jesus a lot of it just makes no sense. Now it begins to make sense for the disciples "This is what is written,” he says, “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”(46)

The resurrection appearances are jolting, profound, unforgettable experiences. Jesus wants his disciples to nail it down to scripture, to understand the resurrection in light of the Word of God. When spiritual experience is divorced from scripture people get whacked out ideas about God. That's how cults get started, people wrench their experiences of God out of the context of God's own self-revelation.

Okay, so Jesus says “this is what I told you” this is what Moses and the prophets told you. I had to die and rise. What else do the prophets say? “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem ”(47) The Old Testament is replete with promises that the kingdom of God will one day extend beyond ethnic Israel—that God will extend his kingdom to Gentiles and they will come under his sway—the nations of the world will seek the God of the Jews. That time, Jesus says, is here and it is now.

Turn to John 20:22. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (22) Up until now the disciples have been disciples, followers, learners, apprentices, trainees, that continues, but now they're being sent. The word apostle comes from the Greek word appostelein which is “to send off”. But the word “apostle” has more to it—it means one who is sent “with a message.” The disciples are now apostles. Their apostleship, says Jesus, is like his own apostleship. Jesus was sent from the Father to reveal God to humanity and call the world to repent and trust in him. Jesus was his own message. He was also sent with a mission--to do the works necessary to save sinners--to live a perfectly righteous life and die an atoning death.

The disciples are now being sent as apostles to tell the world that he did it. That the mission has been accomplished. It's important to point out here that the message that Christ's death, reconciles sinners to God and brings forgiveness of sins would never have gone out had the disciples not seen and known Jesus to be alive. The only way they could know that the death of Jesus atoned for the sins of the world is because of the resurrection. Without the resurrection we just have a dead Jewish guy. Without the resurrection we have a bunch of scared, despairing, guys in a room looking for a way to escape.

The message of the cross without the resurrection is a message of a terrible tragic unjust bitter death and there would be no reason or basis for assuming that it had any meaning whatsoever. That Jesus is alive means that sin has been dealt with and because sin has been dealt with death has been destroyed. That's why the apostles led with it in their preaching. “This Jesus whom you crucified is risen from the dead, repent and believe and be baptized.” That was the message from the very beginning and it is the same message we are charged to proclaim today. “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” Don't miss that in verse 47. Repentance and forgiveness is proclaimed in the name of Jesus. There were other religions, then as there are now, but those names do not bring forgiveness and cannot save.

Now Jesus has just said, as the Father has sent me so I am sending you, it's important to compare John 20:22-23 with Luke 24:48-49. John says:

“And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

In Luke Jesus continues:

“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."

What tension do you see in these two texts? In Luke Jesus says, stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, wait until you are clothed from on high. What is Jesus referring too? The Holy Spirit. But in John Jesus breathes on them and says “receive the Holy Spirit.” So it doesn't seem to make sense. Why would Jesus tell them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for Holy Spirit and give them the Holy Spirit at the same time. That's one problem. The other problem comes when you compare Jesus command in Luke 49 with the angels' commands in Matthew and Mark. Where do the angels tell the women to tell the disciples to go? Galilee. So how are the disciples supposed both to stay in Jerusalem and go to Galilee?

Let's take that last problem first. The Greek word that Jesus uses in Luke 24:49 for stay is καθίσατε it's an aorist imperative. There's no real way to translate the aorist tense into English. What we can say is that when it's used in the imperative or commanding tense, the focus is not on the time but the action itself. The word καθίσατε means more than stay. It means “make your abode” make Jerusalem your home. So putting all of this together, Jesus tells his disciples to make Jerusalem home until the coming of the Spirit. He's not commanding them not to leave at all—he' just saying Jerusalem is the center. The gospel will be preached first from Jerusalem when the Spirit comes.

But what about the Spirit. It's important here to make a distinction between the activity of the Holy Spirit before and after Pentecost. How does the Spirit interact with the people of God prior to Pentecost? He comes on them for a set purpose for a set period. The Spirit fills the prophets to prophesy. The Spirit comes on Elijah and Elisha so they can heal and work miracles. What the Spirit does not do is dwell in and live in hearts. That happens first at Pentecost

Now remember that the disciples are in duress and distress. Jesus, I think breathes on them to fill them with the Spirit—to bring peace--to help them overcome their fear and anxiety in light of the dangerous mission he's just given them. This is not an indwelling, but a filling.

I'll stop here, but to give you a bit of a preview for next week, remember that Thomas is not present. What does that mean he misses...he misses this infilling of the Spirit. I think a lot of what happens next can be understood in light of his not receiving this filling of the Spirit



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