Jesus Appears to His Disciples
Our text for this Easter Sunday is Luke 24:36-53. This chapter is Luke’s account of the resurrection when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Picking up the story in Luke 24:36, it was Easter Sunday evening. The last few days have been horribly confusing for Jesus’ followers. After watching Jesus endure betrayal, arrest, lies, insults, beatings, and crucifixion, they saw Him die and His body buried. Now they were huddled in a room with the doors locked for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). Incredible reports were beginning to come in about Jesus’ resurrection. First, it was the women who had gone to the tomb early that morning (Luke 24:1). They reported (Luke 24:9) that His tomb was empty and that angels had told them “He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” (Luke 24:6-7). Peter and John also had run there to find an empty tomb (Luke 24:12; John 20:3-8). Mary Magdalene and some other women claimed to have seen Jesus (John 20:11-18; Matt. 28:9), but none of it made sense–it was all so unbelievable, to good to be true. But now Peter himself testified that the Lord also appeared to him (Luke 24:34). Then, two came in from Emmaus claiming they had walked with the risen Lord, that He had taught them from the Scriptures, and they finally recognized Him when He broke the bread.
Listen to what happened next in Luke 24:36-53:
36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued 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 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.
Luke wrote this ending of his Gospel to encourage people to trust in the evidence of the resurrection (Luke 24:36-43), to know and proclaim the witness of the scriptures (Luke 24:44-49), and to worship the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:50-53).
1. Believe the evidence of the resurrection (Luke 24:36-43)
While the Emmaus disciples are giving their report to the Eleven (or the Ten) and exchanging their wonderful experiences, Jesus suddenly appears before them (Luke 24:36). His first words to the group of frightened disciples were, “Peace to you.” But their response was the opposite of peace, “they were terrified and frightened.” The reason for their fear was that they “supposed they had seen a spirit.” Jesus’ appearance was, not a normal one. John tells us that Jesus suddenly appeared even though the doors were shut (John 20:19). How could Jesus have entered the room in a normal body? The only thing that made sense to them was that it had to be a ghost.
Jesus knew that this fear really stemmed from unbelief. So, He asks, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38). Just a few minutes before when the Emmaus disciples arrived, the disciples had said they believed the resurrection was true: “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34). But now their fear betrays their insufficient faith.
Jesus graciously alleviates their fear by giving them ample evidence of His resurrection body. The first evidence was the Lord Himself, standing before them. He says to them “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself” (Luke 24:39). He was not, as they supposed, a ghost. He encouraged them to “Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:40). The inference is clear that both His hands and His feet bore the nail prints which He had from the cross. Jesus proves that He is the same man who was crucified a few days ago, whom they watched die. Finally, Jesus ate some of the fish which they were eating, the final proof that His body was, indeed, a real one. Jesus’ resurrection was neither a simple resuscitation of his body nor the appearance of a disembodied spirit. This is resurrection. Jesus has a new and glorified body that bears the marks of His death (1 Cor. 15:20-23; 35-49). All the Gospel writers strongly emphasize the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
The disciples’ first response to Jesus’ appearance was that they were “terrified and frightened” (Luke 24:37). Jesus pressed past these symptoms, to the deeper roots, which was that their hearts were troubled and doubting (Luke 24:38). After Jesus convinced them of His resurrection by the physical evidence, their fears and doubts were turned into joy and amazement (Luke 24:41). Now Luke writes, “they still did not believe for joy, and marveled.” Now instead of the doubt was of unbelief, they marvel because of joy—like saying, “I can’t believe this is happening to me!,” or “It’s too good to be true!”
You can trust in the reality of Jesus’ bodily Resurrection. The unanimous witness of the disciples about the resurrection of Jesus is this: It really happened! Nothing is more central to our faith.
Every sermon preached by every Christian in the New Testament centers on the resurrection. The gospel or ‘good news’ means essentially the news of Christ’s resurrection. The message that flashed across the ancient world, set hearts on fire, changed lives, and turned the world upside down was not ‘love your neighbor.’ Every morally sane person already knew that; it was not news. The news was that a man who claimed to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world had risen from the dead.
You can believe the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
2. Know and proclaim the witness of the scriptures (Luke 24:44-49)
These words from Jesus in Luke 24:44-49 may have been spoken to these disciples on the first Resurrection Sunday or they may represent a summary of what Jesus taught the disciples over the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension. It was this teaching and the coming of the Holy Spirit that transformed these men from being confused, discouraged, and fearful into bold, courageous witnesses who were willing to die for their faith and mission.
Just as Jesus had explained to the men on the Emmaus Road the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (24:27), so here, He explains concerning His death and resurrection that “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). The word “must” is the same word found in Luke 24:7 when the angels quote what Jesus had told them “saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” Jesus used this word of necessity again with the Emmaus disciples in Luke 24:26, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” God’s sovereign plan must be fulfilled. The death of Jesus was not an accident, nor just the actions of sinful men. It was God’s sovereign purpose, in fulfillment of many Old Testament Scriptures. All of it had been prophesied in the Scriptures, and also foretold by the Lord Jesus.
Jesus indicates that the whole Old Testament scriptures, “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” speak of Him. The law of Moses is the Torah, the Pentateuch, first five books of the Bible. The Prophets include all the historical books from Joshua all the way through Esther as well as the writing prophets from Isaiah through Malachi. The Psalms includes all the wisdom literature from Job through Song of Solomon. “All of the Old Testament, beginning with the Law of Moses, looked ahead to the coming of Jesus as the Messiah. And all of the Old Testament spoke of His rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection, either by direct statement or by inference.”
Haven’t we seen Jesus Christ even as we have been studying in the book of Genesis? We have seen Him as the agent of the creation of all things (John 1:1-2; Col. 1:16-17). We have seen a type of Him in Adam as the head of the human race (Rom. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 15:45, 47). As Adam was given a bride by God, so Christ is given a bride, the church, from the Father (Gen. 2:18-25; Eph 5:22-32).
Jesus is the fulfillment of the “Seed” of the woman in Genesis 3:15 Who will bruise the serpent’s head (Matt. 1:18; Gal. 4:4; Rom. 16:20). We see the salvation of men from judgment pictured in Noah’s ark—a picture that Peter says is of our salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Jesus is the seed of Abraham through whom “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; 21:12-18; Gal. 3:8, 14, 16). Melchizedek—the king of righteousness, the king of peace (Salem)—was a type of Christ our Priest-King who has an eternal priesthood (Gen. 14:17-24; Heb. 6:20; 7:2, 17; 23-24; Ps. 110:4).
The Angel of the Lord who appeared several times in Genesis is a manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gen. 16:7-14; 21:12-21; 22:11-18; 31:11-13; 32:22-32). He is called Yahweh, the LORD. He was sent from God and spoke as God. He appeared as a man walking, talking, and eating.
Isaac was a type of Christ in that he was the promised “son of Abraham.” Just as Isaac’s birth was the result of the supernatural power of God, so too was it true of Jesus. Isaac typified the Redeemer in that he is the only other human sacrifice that God commanded, and though God stopped Abraham from going through with the sacrifice of Isaac, he is said to have died and been risen from the dead “figuratively” (Heb. 11:19). Jesus, the true and greater son of Abraham, was sacrificed, raised, and returned to His Father.
Jacob was a type of Christ in that He was the chosen one who was named ‘Israel’ by God. The nation of Israel was given birth through Jacob. Jesus is the one who gives birth to the True Israel of God, His church (Gal. 3:7-9,29; Psa. 73:1; Isa. 45:25; Hos. 1:10; John 1:47; Rom. 2:28,29; Rom. 4:12; Rom. 9:6-8; Phl. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:5-9).
We saw parallels of the life of Christ in Joseph in that he suffered unjustly and then was exalted to save his brethren. Joseph typified the “sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11). He was envied and hated by his brothers, suffered at their hands, and was exalted to a place of power. Jesus also was envied and hated by His brethren, murdered by them, and then exalted to the highest place of power and honor to save the world. We saw the Lord also in Judah, who offered himself in place of his brethren (Gen. 47).
Jesus is the substitutionary sacrificial lamb that God Himself would provide (Gen. 22:8; John 1:29). He is the ladder upon whom the angels of God ascended and descended in Jacob’s vision at Bethel (Gen. 28:12; John 1:51). He is the seed of Jacob (Gen. 28:14; Luke 3:34). He is Shiloh (Gen. 49:10), the One who to whom the royal scepter belongs, who brings peace. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:9; Rev. 5:5). He is the Good Shepherd (Gen. 49:24; Ps. 23; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:23-25; 37:24-28; Jn. 10:11, 14-16; I Pet. 2:25; 5:4). He is the precious Stone of Israel (Gen. 49:24; Ps. 118:22-23; Isa. 28:16; Lk. 20:17-18; Eph. 2:20; I Pet. 2:4, 6-8; Rom. 9:32, 33; I Cor. 3:11).
These are just a sampling of the limitless prophecies, types, and shadows of Christ in the Old Testament. Jesus said about the scriptures, “these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). MacArthur writes that the gospel is not some an intrusion into Judaism or some new religion: “Not at all. It is the one great mural that is painted by God that sweeps through all of redemptive history.”
Even though the scriptures prophesied it and Jesus predicted it, not until after His resurrection were the eyes of the disciples opened to understand all that the prophets had spoken pertaining to the ministry of the Messiah, and especially of His rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection—that “thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46). That veil was now removed. From this point on the disciples will turn to the Old Testament prophecies to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and that all that happened to Him was a prophetic necessity.
But not only did Jesus give them the biblical necessity of His life, death, and resurrection, but also the biblical necessity of the proclamation of the gospel—saying “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:47-48). It was written that the “Christ must suffer and rise on the third day,” and it was also written that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations.”
The subject of our preaching is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Our appeal is for people to repent and believe on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Repentance means to turn to God from our sin. It is not separate from saving faith, but it is the flip side of saving faith, so that it is often used interchangeably for it (here; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; 20:21; 26:18, 20).
Forgiveness of sins is the foremost need of every person. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Sinners do not first need to know how to succeed in life. They don’t first need to know how to patch up their faulty marriages. They do not need to know how to improve their self-esteem. They don’t first need social justice or material prosperity. Sinners need to know how they can obtain forgiveness from God. God’s answer is: sinners will be forgiven when they repent of their sins and trust in Christ’s blood that was shed on the cross. Forgiveness is only found in Christ—in His death and resurrection.
In order for the church to proclaim the gospel to the world, they must be endued with power from God—that is what Jesus promises next: “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49). The Holy Spirit was “the Promise of My Father,” and being “endued with power from on high.” This too, was foretold by the Old Testament prophets and by Jesus. Jesus commanded His disciples not to go forth with their witness to the things which had happened apart from the power which He would provide through His Spirit. He who commanded the disciples to be His witnesses also commanded them only to witness in the power that He would provide. He who commands is He who enables.
The final scene in Luke 24 jumps forward forty days (Acts 1:1-3) to Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Luke will give more details about this in his second volume (Acts).
3. Worship the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:50-53)
Jesus leads the disciples to the outskirts of Jerusalem toward Bethany (Luke 49:50), to the mount called Olivet (Acts 1:12). As He lifted His hands in blessing, He was taken up from them into heaven. Jesus’ Ascension gives closure to Luke’s gospel and sets the stage for Jesus’ guidance over His church from His authoritative position at the Father’s right hand (Acts 2:3-36).
Notice their response: “And they worshiped Him.” And notice the change that Luke describes here. These once despondent disciples are now characterized by praise. And these followers of Jesus who only days before were cowering behind locked doors, hidden from the Jewish religious leaders who crucified their Lord, are now persistently, publicly praising God—in the temple, the very headquarters of Judaism.
Now they understand who He is, the Son of God, divine and worthy of worship (Isaiah 9:5; Jer. 23:5; Prov 30:4; Micah 5:1). Worshiping someone or something less than God would have been idolatry to these Jewish disciples (Acts 10:25-26; Rev. 22:8-9). But everywhere in the New Testament, we are called upon to worship Jesus. Paul tells us of one Day when before Him “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).
To the extent that we see the glory of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ, we will be filled with worship, great joy, and thanksgiving toward God for His abundant mercies to us.
Have you become a follower of Jesus? Have you believed in His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins? Are your bearing witness of the living Lord Jesus Christ and of the Good News of salvation? Is your life characterized by worshiping with joy?
 P. Kreeft and R.K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, 176
 Steven Cole, Our Mission and How to Fulfill It (Luke 24:44-49), https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-116-our-mission-and-how-fulfill-it-luke-2444-49
 Robert Deffinbaugh, From Invisibility to Invincibility (Luke 24:36-53), https://bible.org/seriespage/77-invisibility-invincibility-luke-2436-53
 John MacArthur, The Great Commission: Proclaiming Forgiveness to the World, Part 1, https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-296/the-great-commission-proclaiming-forgiveness-to-the-world-part-1
 Cole, ibid.
 Deffinbaugh, ibid.