John 1:14 – We Have Seen His Glory

Next we come to a statement from John that is so well known and taken for granted after 2,000 years of Church history that we miss how radical a claim it was when John made it:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

To ancient Jews and pagans, especially Greek influenced pagans, not to mention modern secularists, this is offensive on so many levels. As Paul says of Christ crucified, the same can be said of God becoming flesh: “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” To Jews, that God would become a man was, and is, unthinkable. Not only is Yahweh one, he is transcendent in a way that makes him completely other from his creation. That he would become part of what he created is absurd. Not to mention that he would die a horrific death hung on a cross, on a tree under God’s curse. To Greeks flesh was something tainted, to be escaped, a la Plato, not something a divine being would take on.

To Christians, however, that the Word, who would later be identified as the second person of the Triune God, would become flesh is theologically profound and necessary. Judaism was a very representative religion. Some one or some thing often stood in place for another, as in a father for a family, a lamb for a person, or a priest for the people. So also Christ as God-man would represent us before the Father, standing in our place to take upon himself the guilt and punishment for our sin. Only an innocent, divine being, also human, could pay the infinite price required, death, of an infinite, holy divine being. There are 33 verses in the Old Testament about God being our salvation, and this is the only way it could credibly happen, and thus as Paul says, him being just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. The incarnation is what allows him to be both, and why John says in his first epistle that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us, and purify us from all unrighteousness. He is obligated to forgive us! Thus justify, and also to sanctify, us; it’s a package deal. His perfect character demands it. His forgiveness is objective, rooted in God’s being, and does not depend on depth of our remorse. We can feel like the rotten sinners we are, and still be forgiven! And know without doubt that God is transforming us into the likeness of his Son. Talk about good news, and news upon which we can depend.

The second part of verse 14 is a direct reference, without John having to quote the Old Testament, to Yahweh dwelling among his people in the tabernacle. The word dwell literally means to pitch or live in a tent. When Yahweh initiates the Aaronic priesthood in Exodus 29, he tells the Israelites why he’s doing this:

44 “So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.

Yahweh is now pitching his tent and dwelling among his people in the person of Jesus! And instead of being brought up out of Egypt, his people are brought up out of sin. The implied analogy by John is perfect because it continues his theme of God being our Savior. His people enslaved in Egypt like we were enslaved in sin, they brought out by God’s mighty hand, by miraculous displays of his power, our end of slavery to sin by that same power. John follows this with an affirmation of their eyewitness testimony to Jesus’ divine nature:

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Not only does John say that God in Christ, the Word made flesh, dwelled among them, but they witnessed his glory, his divine nature. Coming back from the dead after three days of being brutally tortured and murdered on a Roman cross will leave that impression. Not to mention three years of teaching and healing and himself bringing dead people back to life. And this is yet another affirmation in John’s prologue of the Triune nature of God, Jesus as the one and only Son, coming from the Father.

That he comes, “full of grace and truth,” is an amazing declaration. I remember as a new freshmen in college when a couple Navigator guys invited me to a Bible study to see what the Bible had to say about who Jesus was. Growing up Catholic there wasn’t a lot of Bible in our lives, apart from homilies and readings at church. I remember them asking me a question about this verse like it was yesterday. They asked me, an ignorant 18 year-old, what I thought “grace and truth” meant. Uh, I have no idea. What’s grace anyway? After 40 years of following Jesus through fits and starts, I think I have a little better grasp of John’s declaration, and why grace and truth are so necessary in our Savior God.

If Jesus were only about grace, unmerited favor, then he, God, could not be just. Those who are universalists, who think God saves all humanity, only want a Jesus of grace, but truth demands judgment, calling sin what it is, an affront to the holiness of Almighty God. When you have both grace and truth then you have a cross where they find their perfect expression; sinners freely forgiven, grace, and truth, because a suffering servant paid sin’s wages, death. God could never willy nilly forgive our sin and still be God. The cross, the supreme irony (both for Jew and Gentile) became the perfect expression of his being, and his love for his people.

 

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John 1:6-13 – To Believe in His Name is To Be Born of God

In the first five verses of his gospel, John has made some astounding claims about the Word being God, Creator, life itself, and the light of men. Next he introduces us to John

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

As I’ve argued previously, our God is a God of evidence. He doesn’t expect us to believe (i.e., trust) outside of our rational faculties, but to use them in order to believe. Four hundred years prior to John’s appearance he told Israel that the prophet Elijah would come prior to the “day of the Lord.” All that time and waiting, and finally a credible candidate as Elijah is here. John is wildly popular because of it. But he comes not for his own sake, but to give evidence as in a court of law, to testify to the true Messiah. Jesus wasn’t his own witness. You have John and the miracles; what more do you need!

The problem was the Messiah they were expecting. When you read that final passage in Malachi, it seems to point to one Messianic coming, a day of judgement, of Israel putting its enemies under its feet. So if this Jesus is the Messiah, Israel’s Roman oppressors better watch out. But as we know now, and reading the rest of the Old Testament in light of Jesus death and resurrection (the ultimate evidence), we know there are two comings, one to bring salvation from sin, the second judgment. Malachi read carefully points to both.

Something else we learn from these verses is that in the Bible “all” and “every” don’t always mean every single human being that exists. John, I believe, is expressing the universal nature of salvation, as Yahweh says to Abram in Genesis 12, that “all peoples (clans or families) on earth will be blessed through you.” It’s not that every individual in these clans will experience this blessing, but that people from every one will, in John’s words, be given light and believe.

Then John brings in a contrast. First he establishes who and what this Word is, then that his existence creates division, as we’ll see played out in his ministry. First the world. It was made through him, and then ironically, it “did not recognize him.” This is the first of 59 times John uses the word world, or cosmos (κόσμος) in Greek, far more than the other gospels. The word literally means “something ordered.” Prior to creating the heavens and earth (Genesis 1), the earth was “formless and empty.” The ordering of it into what we inhabit is what the Word made, and this order fails to see him for who he is. Second is Israel:

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Think about it. For over 2,000 years the Lord has promised a coming salvation from sin, has meticulously communicated in every way imaginable this coming, and when he comes, they miss it. It was so obvious they couldn’t see it. But John tells us in the next couple verses why, and it’s something most Christians reject or choose to ignore:

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

When I was in college the memory verse program I did had me memorize verse 12, but not verse 13. Telling, that. Revivalist-fundamentalist Christians (i.e., the vast majority of Evangelicals) think the source of our believing, the ability to trust and “receive” Christ is our will; John tell us it’s God’s will. Who is born physically because they will it? Who then is born spiritually because they will it? John uses this analogy because he wants us to understand that we become children of God solely by the will and power of God. We are acted upon, not acting. Only when the power of God acts in our soul does the right become ours.

The word right is also not used without purpose. In Greek it means authority, conferred power; delegated empowerment (“authorization”), operating in a designated jurisdiction. The question, then, is this authority granted to us because we believe, or do we believe when we’re granted this authority? Most Christians believe the former because somehow it’s not fair if it’s the latter, and if it is the latter we’re not free beings. Of course it’s not fair! Fair is that God should let us die in our sins and spend eternity in hell. And spiritually dead people (the wages of sin, remember) are not “free” to choose God. As I’ve heard it said we are justified through faith (believing in his name), and not because of it.

To drive the point home further, John uses the phrase believing “in his name.” I have no doubt that by the time John wrote his gospel (likely in the 90s), he would have been familiar with Matthew’s gospel. We’re told there why Jesus was given the name that in Hebrew means Yahweh saves:

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus didn’t come to make salvation possible for all people (thus “fair” in the eyes of most Christians), but actual for his people. Praise God it is not up to us!

John 1:3-5 – Jesus is Creator, Life, and Light

As John continues in his introduction he makes three more assertions to establish Jesus’ divine bona fides:

 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Nothing says divine quite like . . . Creator. In fact, right after the words “In the beginning . . .” that John parallels from Genesis, Moses says, “God created the heavens and earth.” The last time I read through the Bible before I started writing my way through it (and I hadn’t read it cover to cover for a very long time), I was struck by the number of references to the God of Israel as Creator, Maker, or the one who made all things. The contrast in these assertions, by God himself and his people, was often to the gods of the peoples around Israel who were literally nothing, just blocks of wood or stone (read one of the best examples of such juxtapositions in Isaiah 44). The contrast is often to mock the idols, specifically those who make them, to which many Israelites often fled when Yahweh didn’t live up to their expectations. These worthless trinkets are made by men, and then they bow down and worship them. Today such trinkets are much more sophisticated, but modern idols are no less worthless, and people no less pathetic for worshiping them.

What’s mind-blowing about John’s assertion is that he’s claiming this man, Jesus of Nazareth, a human being, was also a being powerful enough to create out of nothing the entire universe, but before he became a man. He is the second person of the Triune God who then became part of the creation he had made, which is incredible to contemplate. And we see that he didn’t make it all alone. The words “through” and “without him” indicate the creation of the material world was a Triune team project. The Holy Spirit too was involved, as it says in Genesis, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” I often wonder at the nature of this creating, how it was planned and executed. We tend to think of God’s creating as sort of abracadabra, he thought it, and there it was. But when you look at the incredible complexity of the universe, I think of him as an all powerful engineer, architect, artist, etc. To anthropomorphize, think of the amount of brain power to conceive of it all, and then the ability to bring it all into being. No wonder if we really get the glories of creation, the only proper response is doxology (Paul’s at the end of Romans 11 is a great example).

John then expands on the nature of this God-man:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

It’s hard to know what to say about a statement like, “In him was life.” It is so absolute, so all encompassing. This phenomenon all human beings experience (and the aliveness of animals, trees, any animate object), this consciousness of being a living thing, finds its source “in him.” We all tend to take it for granted that life just is, that aliveness is some inevitable fact of the universe. But why should there be “life”? Why is there being? These ontological questions are crucial ones for defending the Christian faith because one, Christianity offers an answer (Eastern pantheistic religions as well as atheism don’t; being just is), and two, offers the only plausible answer, the Triune God. Plausible why? Because being has to come from somewhere; only being can cause being, and only persons can create persons. So John tells us that life has its source in the will and power of a Creator, one Jesus of Nazareth. Think about that when people take his name in vain! As Paul says about God, thus Jesus, on Mars Hill, “he gives all men life and breath and everything else.”

And this isn’t just any old life. In other words, the power animating all things is Jesus (Paul also says, in him all things hold together), but there is a life that is true life, and that life is described as light. In the modern world this statement doesn’t have nearly the power it had in an ancient world without electricity. We take light for granted, and miss its functional importance. If you’re in a pitch black dark room, what do you see? Nothing. But the moment the light is switched on, what do you see? Everything! All of a sudden everything is defined because light gives definition to things. Otherwise blind, without light, we run into things and hurt ourselves, we define things we can’t see and take them for things as if we could see them. The specific light John is talking about is the kind of light we need to see reality for what it actually is, not as we wish it to be. For those in darkness while still alive by God’s animating power, life is distortion to a greater or lesser degree. It’s like looking into a funhouse mirror and not knowing its a funhouse mirror! We may see through a glass (mirror) darkly, as Paul says, but at least we see reality, or can, for what it is as God created it. And the final assertion:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Think about a light shining in a dark room. What happens to the darkness? It disappears! In other words, if I turn a light on in a dark room, the room is no longer dark. Even a match lit in a completely dark room will illumine everything. It is impossible to ignore the light from the flame, unless you are blind. The darkness is spiritual blindness, And “overcome” in the Greek means to take hold of exactly, with decisive initiative (eager self-interest); to grasp something in a forceful (firm) manner; (figuratively) to apprehend (comprehend), “making it one’s own.” I think John implies spiritual battle, and the light always wins.

John 1:1,2 – In the beginning was the word . . . .

So I come to the final gospel. For those familiar with the four gospels, they’ll know that John reads considerably different than the Synoptics. In some way, Matthew, Mark, and Luke share from a common source, and share from one another. John is unique, both as to substance, emphasis, and style. Yet all four share the same outline of Jesus’ life. In the world of gospel studies, many scholars say that there is a Johannine “problem” because John is so different than the other gospels. But John wrote, most agree, in the 90s when the other gospels were likely well known, so why would he just copy them? He wouldn’t. And in the style of ancient biography, an author writes to make a point, to get across a message, to persuade with the story he’s writing. Ancient historiography (the study of historical writing) was a different animal than modern history, which attempts to portray details “objectively,” if that were possible, but that’s the supposed goal. But just because ancient writers were not modern writers, doesn’t mean they were not concerned with accuracy. They were, but it’s dishonest, and wrong to read into ancient text modern values of presentation.

One of the things that immediately stands out is that the Jesus of John sounds different. In the Synoptics he is concise, pithy, and to the point, while in John he tends to ramble, going from one point to the next. But John’s Jesus is unusual only because he’s compared to the three portrayals in the other gospels. I recently listened to a gospels class by Reformed Seminary president Mike Kruger, and he suggested that the Jesus of John is likely the more realistic than the other gospels, the way he likely sounded because in ministering for three years, teaching every day, it’s unlikely a minute or two parable or lesson was his style. He could have, and probably did, talk for hours at a time. So the Synoptics would be more of a summarization of his teaching, while John let’s Jesus speak as he actually spoke. And let’s not forget, the gospels were written in Greek, while most scholars agree Jesus likely taught in Aramaic (a version of Hebrew). So the gospels from the beginning are a translation of what Jesus said, which is why his teaching and story can be translated into any and every language successfully, and has been.

Another difference is emphasis, which we find in the very first verses. In the synoptics you can infer from Jesus’ words and actions that he is God, while John starts his gospel with these unequivocal affirmations of Jesus’ divinity:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

The first thing we notice is John’s parallel usage of “In the beginning” with Genesis 1. There Moses says, “In the beginning God created . . .” We know from John, now, that he wasn’t alone, that this Word, or Logos, was with him and was himself God “in the beginning.” There can also be no doubt from these verses that God is not a monad, or purely one. Because it’s such a counter-intuitive idea, it took the Church until 325 at the Council of Nicea to flesh out what it might mean, and the struggle to understand it continues to this day.

While we can’t fully grasp Jesus being, as the council said, “one in substance with the father,” the idea of a Triune divine being is not absurd, and in fact makes great sense for the reality we inhabit as persons. John must have understood this as well because he says in his first letter that “God is Love,” and love can’t exist unless there are persons to give and receive it. So it makes total sense that God as person would be three persons though one in substance. In fact if God is indeed love, then the Trinity would be the only thing that would make sense of who God is. Unlike in Islam where God is most definitely a monad; of his 99 names, not one is love. Judaism too rejects Christ because they think that the words of Moses in Deut. 6:4 preclude God as plurality: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” But the concept of unity in plurality is confirmed as a reality-based possibility in these words of God about Adam and Even in the Garden:

24 That is why a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

The single unit is made up of two persons. When we get over the hangup, and for some embarrassment of the Trinity, the Triune God’s working out redemption in history is an awe inspiring thing. I didn’t comment on it in my previous post on the end of Luke’s gospel, but these are the last words of Jesus:

49 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.”

This can only make sense if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in fact fully God. The redemption the Father purposes, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies. Which is yet another reason why the sovereign, Reformed perspective on salvation is the only one that makes any sense to me; this God, the Triune God, shall not fail to save his people!

Lastly, the Greek word for word is logos (λόγος), a very well known philosophical term that had developed over the previous five hundred years starting with Heraclitus. It meant the rational, organizing principle that governs all things, and it was a stroke of (divine) genius that John decided to start his gospel equating Jesus with the Greek concept that tries to explain all things. Only Jesus can be that explanation, the grand puzzle panorama that explains all the pieces of existence!

Luke 24:36-53 – Jesus Gives His Disciples Evidence That His Resurrection is Real

Luke ends his gospel with a condensed version of Jesus’ post-resurrection time with his disciples. We learn in the first chapter of Acts, also written by Luke, that Jesus spent a biblical 40 days with them. Here he visits them once, then leads them out to witness his ascension into heaven. But what a visit Luke portrays! The men who Jesus had met with on the road to Emmaus, and with whom he had a very brief supper before he disappeared, had gone back to Jerusalem to tell his disciples all about it. As they are talking, Jesus appears among them, and freaks them out! I’m sure this has happened to most people, but have you ever had someone come up behind you without you seeing anything at all, and they touch you or say something, and it startles you? Your adrenaline goes through the roof, your hearts starts beating quickly, and you tell the person, “Don’t do that!” I imagine it was like that, but times a lot. Luke paints the picture:

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?

The ESV translates the word ghost as spirit, and in Greek it is literally spirit, wind, or breath. In other words, they don’t think Jesus is real! They have to be, they think, hallucinating. But there are no such things as mass hallucinations. This is one of the explanations skeptics give for the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, but it has zero merit. And I love Jesus’ rhetorical questions. Uh, maybe because dead people don’t just appear out of the blue. He knows it’s hard to believe, which is why he helps them believe it.

And why does Jesus do this disappearing/appearing act? Why not just knock at the front door. Because the contrast is significant. Jesus is telling his disciples in words and deeds, that his body is now a different body than he had prior to his resurrection. It is still physical, he can eat, but it is also spiritual because it is no longer a “slave” to physical reality. And notice that Jesus says he has flesh and bones, not flesh and blood. His shed blood for the forgiveness of sin (Heb. 9:22-there is no forgiveness without shedding of blood) means blood is no longer required for human existence.

39 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.”

The whole of Christianity rides on the fact that a real man who claimed to be Israel’s Messiah and Savior of the world physically died, was buried and given up for dead, then physically, bodily, came back to life.

The disciples response it critical for establishing this as an historical fact, as something that actually happened in space and time. As I’ve said and argued before, God often allows ambiguity in his appearances and miracles he performs, so that it’s easy to explain things as other than coming from God. Jesus, thankfully for us, allows no ambiguity here:

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

As I argue in my book, The Persuasive Christian Parent, our God is a God of evidence. He never asks us to believe, one, in spite of the lack of evidence, or two, just because he says so. That, to me, is extremely significant because it contradicts every assertion of every skeptic ever. We are never enjoined to bypass our rational faculties to trust God’s word or actions, and this is a perfect example. It has verisimilitude written all over it; it reads real!

I’m sure the disciples’ minds were utter confusion, but what they’ll come to understand over time, and Paul explains graphically in I Cor. 15, is that our resurrected bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrected body:

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

Before Jesus ascends into heaven, Luke again has Jesus teach his disciples that everything must be fulfilled that is written about him “in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” It’s all about Jesus! Related to this is the point I made previously about the men on the Road to Emmaus: if anyone is going to “understand the Scripture,” their minds must be opened. That is, Jesus is Reformed in his theological perspective. The natural man, in sin, can understand nothing of spiritual truths. That is because human beings are born dead in their sins (what God promised Adam if he ever ate of the tree) and enemies of God.

Luke ends his Gospel as he began it, with an apologetics emphasis. He starts and ends asserting that the things he is writing are from eyewitnesses, so that the “most excellent Theophilus” might “know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Jesus says here to his disciples that they “are witnesses of these things.” If “these things,” his life, suffering and death, and resurrection, didn’t happen as they said they happened, they are liars. And their testimony goes back way too early (as all biblical scholars agree) to have become some mythical accretion on events. Either they were telling the truth or they were liars. Based on their lives and words, I’m going with truth. Which is really the only way you can explain the last verse in Luke:

52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

From scared cowards to joyful, bold witnesses to the resurrected, and now ascended, Jesus! Many of whom would pay with their lives for what they knew to be either true or a lie. We can live our lives, and face our death, in confidence that it is all indeed true!

Luke 24:13-35 – Jesus Opens Our Spiritual Eyes to Recognize Him

Jesus has just rebuked the men on the road to Emmaus for being “slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” He’s also educated them as to “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Now as they get close to home, Jesus “acted as if he were going farther.” I love this little tidbit. Jesus doesn’t have anywhere to go, but I’m guessing he wants to see how hungry these guys are for the knowledge of the truth, and they are plenty hungry. Plus given that it’s getting near dark, and night travel was not a good idea before modern forms of travel, they “urged him strongly to stay.” So he goes into their house. Imagine having the post-resurrection Jesus hanging out with you at your home. And because they didn’t recognize him, he appeared as a normal, flesh and blood human being, no different than they were, except a lot wiser on God’s workings in history.

Then supper’s ready. And Luke gives it a Last Supper feel when he says that Jesus “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” Then another Calvinist turn when we read that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” The eyes to see Jesus as he truly is, is a supernatural work of God in the soul of man. Our eyes must be opened or we cannot see! We’re not spiritually visually impaired; we are blind! Total darkness. Zip, zero, nada! I know the Arminians would argue that I’m misinterpreting the text. They might say Jesus just wanted to make a point to these two guys so he blinded then opened their eyes. I’d agree if this were the only place in Scripture where God is the sovereign author of spiritual site, but it’s not, and not by a long shot. And as I mentioned previously, much of the focus of Jesus’ healing ministry is opening the eyes of those born blind. Those were “signs” in the biblical sense in that they point to something beyond themselves. Jesus wasn’t just proving that he was divine and could do supernatural works. Healing the physical pales in comparison to what’s most important, healing the spiritually blind, and raising the spiritually dead.

Then they must have hung out with Jesus the rest of the night, talking theology and history, and the great things to come. That’s what you’d expect if this was made up, but no. Strangely, Luke tell us Jesus “disappeared from their sight.” What? Why? Wouldn’t it make more sense, if it were made up, that Jesus stay and prove without a shadow of a doubt that the men weren’t dreaming? “Look, it’s really me. Yeah, I was dead and all, but here I am, the real deal.” But again, no, he makes it enigmatic, easy for people to say, “Guys, you were hallucinating. Crucified people do not come back from the dead.” He’ll be more straightforward soon, but what I love about Scripture is that God is never so “in your face” that assent is so to speak forced. It’s always easy to doubt, but really only if you first assume God should reveal himself to us in a different way, should be more obvious about this whole divine, I’m God thing, come to save you from your sins. I think it would have read less real, more made up by human imagination if so.

The men respond to Jesus disappearing in a way every true believer must who gets the depth of the riches and wisdom of God from his very word:

32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

For them it was the words coming from the risen Jesus himself; for us it’s also the words coming from Jesus himself, but incarnate, if you will, in Scripture. If our hearts are not burning within us as we meditate and grapple with his words, we are not fully convinced we are reading the words of Truth about the very nature and structure of reality. They are just words. But when we trust and know they are the words of God himself, the author of reality, we prepare to have our minds blown, and our hearts burning within us.

So the men immediately bolt back to Jerusalem to tell the remaining disciples, “and those with them,” that, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” We don’t read in the other gospels that Jesus appeared to Peter, but rather that he appeared to Mary or the women. In addition to it having really happened, Jesus is again giving his imprimatur on Peter as the leader of the early Church. But as we know and we’ll see, not all are convinced. Remember, a resurrection of one man in the middle of history was so far from the realm of possibility for them that even when Jesus stands among them, some still doubt. It just can’t be! And not just coming back from the dead, but a Messiah hung on a Roman cross, on a tree, thus under God’s curse. An ancient Jew just can’t easily square that circle. To me, the most powerful testimony to the veracity of the story.

Luke 24:13-35 – Jesus First Appearance Post Resurrection: How Foolish You Are!

The next post-resurrection section of Luke, known as “On the Road to Emmaus,” has to be one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. It’s necessary, as I’ve said many times, especially in our post-Christian, hostile secular culture, to read the Bible apologetically. One effective way to do this is to try to imagine the Bible as its critics see it, a story made up by human imagination. Even as critics admit the historicity of much we read in our Bibles, they firmly deny anything miraculous can take place. So for them, all of Luke 24 is a fairy tale because they just know, just as Jesus’ disciples thought they knew, that people don’t come back from the dead. Unlike the Bible’s critics, though, his disciples were open to evidence. So as I read this section I ask myself if it reads as made-up, and we’ll see why I don’t think so. In fact it’s not even close.

Two men are leaving Jerusalem walking along a road to the city of Emmaus when Luke says all of a sudden, “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.” What drives the narrative, though, is that we’re told, “they were kept from recognizing him.” That’s a strange thing to make up, if it was made up. Wouldn’t it make more sense if you’re inventing a story about some guy coming back from the dead that people recognize him? Absolutely! “Hey! It’s me, Jesus! I’m not dead anymore!” But no, Jesus goes incognito. It’s like he wants to see what people in Jerusalem think about the crucifixion, so these guys are a good test.

That God keeps them from recognizing Jesus (who or what else could it be?) is also a theological point that presents difficulties for Pelagians of any stripe, including Arminians. Jesus has given us signs throughout the gospels that he, God, is the one who opens the eyes of those born blind. Only divine, supernatural power can do that, and do that spiritually as well. Soon he’ll do that for these two men, and everyone else who eventually trusts him for their salvation.

So Jesus asks what they’re talking about. Since I’ve already commented on why their response is so apologetically important, I won’t do so here. But they say Jesus must be the only guy in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened, which is ironic. And Jesus plays along. “What things?” he asks. So the men tell him, including how “Jesus of Nazareth” (contra Muhammad, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind who was on that cross and laid in that tomb) was thought to be the Messiah “who was going to redeem Israel.” He did! Only not in the way anyone (another apologetics point) expected. What happened was not a Messianic category in anyone’s mine, ergo it would never have been made up. They tell him about the women finding the empty tomb, and angels announcing that he was alive. So if he was alive, or risen from the dead, why did Jesus find “their faces downcast”? Because they didn’t believe the women! Tellingly, they say that others confirmed the empty tomb, but they say, “him they did not see.” And Jesus unloads on them:

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

This was the first time in history that the Old Testament and history of Israel was seen in Messianic terms through the cross, and Jesus says, isn’t it obvious! Notice he uses the word “all” twice. The Greek word foolish can be rendered just plain stupid or thoughtless, mindless, dense, or not reasoning through something. If they, and we, would only look back through Israel’s history, Jesus is saying it couldn’t be any more obvious. Which brings up a very important point for God’s people on this side of the cross and resurrection.

Jesus first words upon rising from the dead do not point forward to how great things are going to be now that he’s conquered death, but backward to things that point to that death. Everyone seems to want to turn Christianity into something other than the gospel, whether that’s moralism (how we become a better person), or having a better marriage, or being fulfilled, or having purpose in life, whatever, other than what ought to be the continual focus of our and the Church’s existence. Paul states it succinctly in I Cor. 15:

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures

This is our daily bread. Paul says in the first chapter of that letter the reason why this is so critical to keep as of “first importance”: Jesus is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Kinda says it all!

There is too much more to say about the rest of Jesus’ appearance to these two men, so I’ll save that for the next post.