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Jesus' Own Evidence for the Resurrection

Tom Pennington Luke 24:36-49


Well, this morning, as you know, we have gathered together to remember and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If you're like most Americans who are attending church somewhere this morning, more likely than not you attest to believe in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But if someone asked you this morning to prove the resurrection of Christ, what would you say? What evidence would you present to prove to that person that Jesus Christ, a historical figure, a human being as well as very God of very God, died and truly, in fact, rose from the dead.

Well, in the end, there are only a few types of evidence that you could present. In our legal system, as in most legal systems in the world, there are four primary types of evidence that can be presented to argue your case. There is what legal scholars call real evidence, that is, something that was actually involved in some events such as a bent fender or a signed contract or a weapon that was used to perpetrate a crime. It's real evidence - part of the event itself. Secondly, there's demonstrative evidence. These are the forms of evidence that illustrate or demonstrate what has happened such as maps or charts or timelines. If you've served on a jury, you've seen the lawyer's defense or, excuse me, presents such evidence. A third kind of evidence is documentary evidence. This is where the best documents that support your case are presented. And, finally, there is testimonial evidence. This is where you put on the stand the best witnesses of the event or the best witnesses of the defendant's character or perhaps those experts who are especially qualified to testify about the circumstances of the situation of the case involved. Real evidence, demonstrative evidence, documentary evidence, and testimonial evidence - those are the only forms of evidence there are.

In Luke 24, where I want us to turn this morning, in Luke's account of the resurrection, Luke presents his evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And as he does so, he includes a variety of types of evidence. In verses 1 through 12, which I read for you just a few moments ago, you have the compelling physical evidence and the eyewitness testimony of those who were at the empty tomb itself. But the second half of the chapter doesn't dwell on the evidence that was found at the empty tomb and on all those who were witnesses of it. Instead, it presents the evidence that our Lord Himself provided His disciples for His resurrection. In the second half of Luke 24, Luke shows us how Jesus Himself set out to prove to His disciples that He had in fact risen from the dead. The heart of Jesus' evidence to His followers comes in his appearance to the apostles on Sunday night of that first resurrection Sunday. And that's the passage that I want us to examine together this morning.

Let me read it to you. Luke 24, and I'll begin in verse 36: "While they [that is, the two disciples from the Emmaus Road experience] were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst... But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing 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. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.'"

In this remarkable passage, our Lord Himself, on the evening of His resurrection, provided all of His followers with unassailable evidence of His resurrection. Jesus Himself proves the resurrection to His disciples. What better evidence could you get than that? And as Jesus unfolds the evidence, He presents three distinct kinds of evidence for His resurrection, and I want us to look at them together. Three distinct kinds of evidence.

First of all, He presents them with the empirical evidence. The empirical evidence. Empirical evidence is simply evidence that can be verified by experience or experiment - evidence that can be observed with the senses. Jesus offered several pieces of empirical evidence to His disciples that evening. Let's look at them.

The first piece of empirical evidence is that He appears to them visibly and physically. Now, Jesus had already appeared to a number of people that day. If you could rewind to earlier in the day, you would find that there, near the tomb, early in the morning, Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene who had arrived there to anoint His body. Then He appeared to the other women - the group of women who came to ... who had prepared the spices and came to preserve the corpse of Christ. He appeared to them. And at some point, during the day (we don't know exactly when), He appeared to Peter. Late that afternoon, Jesus had appeared to two disciples, two ordinary disciples who were on the road home, on the road to the little village where they lived, the village called Emmaus. Emmaus was a small village about seven miles from the city of Jerusalem. And you can read about that encounter beginning in verse 13 of this chapter.

One of these two disciples that were there on the road home to Emmaus, was named Cleopas, according to verse 18. The other is unnamed, although, there are scholars who suggest that it may have been Luke. We just don't know who the other one was. Jesus joins these two disciples as they walk and discuss the events of the last several days that had occurred in Jerusalem. Jesus begins to interact with them about what their observations are and to correct them. And He begins to teach them. And they love His teaching but God, at this point, does not allow them to recognize who it is that's speaking with them. At about dusk, they arrive at their village, the little village of Emmaus, and they invite Jesus to come in and have a meal with them and perhaps even to stay with them. So, Jesus does. He obliges them. He goes in and, even though He is a visitor in the home, He acts as the host. And He takes the bread, and He breaks it and blesses it. And as He's breaking the bread, God allows them to acknowledge who He is, to recognize who He is. God opens their eyes, and they see that it's Jesus. And then immediately, as soon as they recognize who it is, He vanishes from their sight.

Notice their response. Verse 32: "They said to one another, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?' And they got up that very hour [in other words, immediately] and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them..." It was apparently after dark when Jesus made Himself known to Cleopas and this other unnamed disciple, when He broke the bread and they acknowledged Him. And they got up right away, even though it was dark, and they hurried back to Jerusalem. On foot, it would have taken these two disciples about two hours to walk the seven miles into Jerusalem. And so, now, it's about 9:00 o'clock at night, 9:00 o'clock on the evening of His resurrection. And they find the eleven gathered together. We don't know where the eleven had gathered but, wherever it was, it was a place widely known to the larger circle of the disciples because they come immediately to it. We don't know for sure, but it's possible that it was the upper room. It was just three nights before, on Thursday night of the Passion Week, that the Twelve had gathered with Christ in a large upper room that belonged apparently to one of Jesus' wealthy followers - lived there in the city of Jerusalem and, as was common in the larger, nicer homes in that area, on the second floor there was a large open room that could be used for a variety of purposes. And this follower of Christ opened it up for Jesus and His disciples to observe the Passover there on Thursday night. If you go 40 days further into the accounts of the gospels, 40 days past His resurrection, you find in Acts 1 that the disciples are still staying in that same upper room. So, it is possible that that's where they were on this night of the resurrection.

The parallel account in John 20:19 tells us this about the setting: "So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were [literally, the doors were closed and locked where the disciples were. Why?], for fear of the Jews..." So, picture the scene. Here are the disciples huddled in that upper room, with the doors closed and bolted, discussing the events of the day. And they're afraid. Why are they afraid? Well, remember, earlier that day they've already been accused of stealing the body of Jesus. It was part of the conspiracy theory the Sanhedrin had invented and fed to the Roman soldiers, who had guarded the tomb and sent out to disperse it everywhere. So, the disciples were afraid that, as part of that very same plot, they would be arrested for grave robbing, a capital offense, and put to death to silence them before this thing about Jesus and the resurrection got out of hand.

So, there in the upper room that night, there were ten of the eleven remaining apostles. We find out that Thomas was not there. He wouldn't see Jesus until eight days later. But ten of the eleven were there. And verse 33 tells us that there were other disciples as well, gathered in this locked room.

Suddenly, there's a knock at the door. It's two disciples, Cleopas and his friend from Emmaus, known to the apostles. They invite them in and they come eager to explain their news. But before they can explain their news, those in the upper room burst out with news of their own. Look at verse 43, excuse me, 34: "The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon." Now, once they can get over the shock of that, they then in turn begin to tell their story. Verse 35: "They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread."

It's really hard for us to appreciate what was going on in that room that night. Darrell Bock, one commentator, describes it like this. He said, "We can imagine the flood of emotion in the room as these stories of Jesus' appearances flowed in. It must have been like a newsroom full of reporters collecting facts on a breaking story."

Verse 36: "While they were telling these things [while the two Emmaus disciples were reporting what had happened to them], He [Jesus] Himself stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be to you' [the normal greeting of the day - Shalom]." Jesus shows up. What evidence did Jesus present as proof of His resurrection? What empirical evidence did He present? Himself! He appeared to them visibly. Jesus just physically appeared inside a locked room. Jesus, who just two days before had been certified as dead by the Roman detail at His crucifixion, now visibly appears in the upper room alive. That would be compelling testimony in any court of law. That is real evidence. The very body that had died is alive. And it's demonstrative evidence as well.

But you could still argue: maybe it was just a trick on the order of David Copperfield. Maybe it was an apparition. Maybe it's just a spirit, a ghost. Well, in fact, that's exactly what those gathered that night thought when this happened. Look at verse 37: "But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit." Now, this doesn't mean that they didn't think Jesus was really alive. Remember their news back in verse 34? Peter has seen Him. The Lord has risen. But when Jesus suddenly appears inside a locked room, no one had seen Him come in. They were understandably frightened. And their immediate conclusion was that they were seeing, not the resurrected Jesus, but His spirit. Now, the disciples had a sort of weakness in this way, a sort of penchant for this sort of thing because if you remember Matthew's gospel, when Jesus came walking on the water on the Sea of Galilee, they were terrified and they said, "It's a ghost!" And they called out with fear.

So, Jesus, not only appears to them physically, but He gives them another piece of empirical evidence. He demonstrates that He is physically real. He not only appears to them, but now He's going to demonstrate for them that they're not seeing a ghost. They're not seeing a spirit. They're not seeing an apparition. This is a real person. Verse 38: "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.'" To dispel their fears that He might be a spirit, Jesus invites them to inspect His hands and His feet. Those are the two parts of His body that would be exposed with His wearing the traditional flowing robe of first century males. He encourages them to actually touch Him. And He says if you do, you will discover that I'm not a ghost at all, but I have flesh and bones.

Now, remember, this is Jesus' glorified body. This is a description of what our glorified body will be like someday as well. It can be touched. In fact, earlier that day, you remember in the garden when Mary Magdalene is there near the tomb and Jesus appears to her, she embraces Jesus to the point that He has to say, what? "Stop clinging to Me..." When He had revealed Himself to the other women, earlier that morning, they too had rushed Him and taken hold of His feet and worshipped Him, the text says. Eight days later, after this incident on Resurrection Sunday, Jesus will invite Thomas to do the same thing. You remember that account in John 20:27? He shows up again to the apostles. This time Thomas is there. And He says in John 20:27, "[Thomas], 'Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.'" Jesus is providing His disciples empirical evidence that He is real, that He's physically real.

But on that resurrection night, the disciples were still uncertain even after seeing Him, even after hearing Him, even after touching Him. This is too good to be true. Look at verse 41: "While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement..." Literally, the Greek text says this: "They were disbelieving because of their joy and amazement." So, in order to further demonstrate that He is physically real, notice what He does. Verse 41: "He said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?'" Jesus didn't need to eat. This is for their sake. And so, they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish. If you've ever been to Israel, you know that its proximity to the fresh water of the Sea of Galilee and to the Jordan as well as to the Mediterranean means that it is a nation filled with fish. You have fish for breakfast. You have fish for lunch. You would have fish for supper. And same was true then. "Do you have some fish?" "They gave [bring] Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it (verse 43) and [here's the point] He ate it before them." It was to prove something to them. Eating that piece of a broiled fish destroys any thought that He is just a spirit. And it's not His food. It's their food that they've just eaten as well. So, they know it's not pretend. This is the real thing - Jesus empirically proving His resurrection by letting them see Him, by letting them touch Him, and by even eating a piece of their food. So, it's clear that whoever this is in the upper room with them, is a real living person.

But what if it's not really Jesus? Maybe it's an impostor. Maybe it's someone pretending to be Jesus. Maybe this is just a cruel joke played by the enemies of Christ. Maybe it's a trap set to catch them. So, Jesus not only appears to them physically, He not only demonstrates that He is physically real, but the third piece of empirical evidence is that He proves His identity. Notice verse 39: "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself..." Verse 40: "And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet." John, in the parallel account, adds that He also showed them His side. In other words, Jesus is showing them His stigmata - the marks left by His crucifixion.

Now, let me just say here, this doesn't mean that our glorified bodies will still bear the scars of our earthly life, just in case you were concerned. In fact, there are a number of scholars who think that this was temporary even for Christ, that God allowed the scars of the crucifixion to remain for a time, simply as further evidence to His followers. We don't know. But Jesus appeared to them. And He demonstrated to them that He was physically real - not a ghost, not a spirit. And He provided them with proof that He was not an impostor by showing them the wounds from His crucifixion.

As a result of all of that empirical evidence, the disciples finally believed. In John 20:20 John writes, "And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord." They finally got it. They understood that it was Jesus. And they rejoiced. Just two days before... Before you're too hard on the disciples, think about this. Just two days before their beloved teacher, the Lord, had died... And He hadn't just died but He died the death of the worst and most terrible criminal in the Roman Empire - the death of crucifixion, a death reserved for the worst, for terrorists, for serial killers, for the absolute worst. The situation seemed hopeless. All that they lived for, for 3 1/2 years, had vanished. It was the end. Jesus was dead and now He stands before them alive. It's impossible or so it seems. And yet that is exactly where the evidence leads. That is the evidence Jesus presented to the apostles that night. No wonder these ten men and later Thomas, the 11th - no wonder the eleven gave their lives for Jesus Christ. They had seen One who gave evidence, unassailable evidence, that He had come back from death itself. And so, what could death do to them? Their Lord had conquered it. And so, they were transformed from being huddled in some room somewhere, afraid that they were going to be taken prisoner, to giving their lives for Jesus Christ. He is alive.

Listen! The problem is not the evidence. If you don't believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the problem is not the evidence.

So, we've seen the empirical evidence. But our Lord provided some other kinds of evidence that night for the disciples - a second line of evidence. Not only the empirical evidence, but He also provided the biblical evidence. The biblical evidence. And in some ways this is more important than the empirical evidence because, as Paul says, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ [God]." Faith comes from hearing the message about Christ as it's proclaimed from the Scripture. Get this! People do not necessarily believe because they see a miracle. There's so many people who think that - "You know, if I could just see a miracle, that would prove it to me." Jesus performed all kinds of miracles during His earthly ministry and there were plenty of people who saw them, believed they were true, and didn't believe.

In fact, Jesus taught that a miracle would not be the source of faith. You remember the story He told of the rich man and Lazarus? If you remember the rich man dies; ends up in hell. And he cries out to Abraham. He sees Lazarus, the poor beggar, has died as well and is now in heaven. And in this story Jesus tells, the rich man cries out for some relief from his torment and Abraham says that can't be done. So, Jesus has Abraham say, "It can't be done." And so, the rich man then asks that Lazarus, the poor beggar now in heaven, to be raised from the dead and sent back to his five brothers so that they will not go to that place. Because he says, "Listen. If someone rose from the dead, they will believe." And Jesus has Abraham say this, "No, if they won't believe Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead." Jesus said a miracle will not convince them if they won't believe the Scripture.

In fact, that happened in the life of Jesus Christ. Just a couple of months before His death and resurrection, the leaders of the nation had seen verifiable proof of the miracle of resurrection. You remember the raising of Lazarus from the dead? Absolutely clear! His body in the grave - four days. They open the tomb. It stinks. He's clearly dead and decomposing. And Jesus raises him from the dead. You got to deal with Lazarus. There he is. He was dead and now he's alive. A miracle, a verifiable miracle seen by many people.

How did they respond? How did the leaders respond? Turn to John 11. This is really amazing. John 11:47. Verse 46 says, "But some of them [who had seen the miracle] went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done." Verse 47: "Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council [they brought the Sanhedrin together, the ruling body of Israel], and were saying, 'What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.'" Now, notice, they do not deny the reality of the miracle. They're just dealing with the fallout. Look at verse 53: "So from that day on they planned together to kill Him." And if that isn't remarkable enough, look down in the next chapter, chapter 12:10: "But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus."

Listen! Faith does not necessarily come by seeing, even by seeing a miracle. Faith comes by hearing the message about Christ presented from the Scripture. And so, where does Christ go to prove His resurrection to His apostles that night? Not only the empirical evidence, but He goes to the Scripture. He shows them in the Scripture the connection between what has happened to Him and what was predicted in the Old Testament. Look at verse 44: "Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'" Notice those three designations. Those are the three parts of the Hebrew Bible. In other words, Jesus is saying that before His death He had taught the apostles all the prophecies about Himself, and those prophecies permeated the entire Old Testament.

Verse 45 says, "Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures..." In other words, Jesus enabled them to really understand the meaning of the Scripture. He helped them see that all the Old Testament spoke about Him. This is exactly what He had done just a few hours before, for the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. Look at chapter 24 of Luke verse 25: "And He said to them, 'O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ [Messiah] to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?' Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." Verse 32: "[After He's left] They said to one another, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?'"

Now, think about this for a moment. This is a profound thing for Christ to do. Christ is God. He could give them all kinds of fresh truth but where does He go to prove the reality of who He is and what He's done? The Scripture! Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a Baptist pastor of the 19th century, writes, "This unrivaled Tutor used as His class book the best of books. Although able to reveal fresh truth, He preferred to expound the old. He knew, by His omniscience [that is, His all-knowing] what was the most instructive way of teaching. And by turning at once to Moses and the prophets, He showed us that the surest road to wisdom is not speculation, reasoning, or reading human books, but the Word of God. When Jesus Himself sought to enrich others, He dug in the quarry of Holy Scripture."

When we come to verses 46 and 47, Luke tells us exactly what Jesus taught them about the Old Testament. Look at verse 46: "and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer...'" The Old Testament taught that the Jewish Messiah would suffer and die. By the way, this is what Jesus had predicted about Himself all along. Look back at Luke 9. In Luke 9:22 - this is more than six months before His crucifixion. Luke 9:22: "saying, 'The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.'" Jesus had told them this was going to happen. This is, as I said, more than six months before His death. Fast-forward to the week before His passion. Look at Luke 18. This is on the way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Passover in which He is slain. Luke 18:31: "Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished [everything the Old Testament says about Me is going to happen. And here it is] For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.' But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them [you could supply, 'by God'], and they did not comprehend the things that were said." It was not until the night of the resurrection that Jesus opened their minds to get it, to understand it. They had heard it before, but they didn't understand it. And then they did.

The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would suffer. In fact, Luke as he describes the crucifixion of Christ, he alludes to a number of Old Testament passages: Psalm 22, Psalm 31, Psalm 118, Isaiah 53. Jesus said, "Listen. Look in the Old Testament. If you want proof of what's happened to Me, look at what the Old Testament says." He goes on in verse 46 to say it was written that the Messiah would rise again from the dead the third day. The Old Testament taught that the Messiah would rise from the dead.

When you come to the ministry of the early church and the sermons of the apostles in Acts, you find them referring back to the Old Testament to prove the resurrection of Christ - Psalm 16:10, Psalm 110:1, Psalm 118:22-26. Those are all passages they used to prove the resurrection. They learned it from Jesus here, in this very event.

Jesus goes on in verse 47 to say there's one more thing the Old Testament taught. It taught that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem. You go all the way back to the very beginning; you find in Genesis 3:15 that there would come a person who would redeem people from their sins. You go to Genesis 12:3 (the Abrahamic covenant, the promise given to Abraham) and he says, "in you [your seed, singular]" meaning Christ all nations will be blessed. He'll bring spiritual blessing to all nations. And on it goes through the Old Testament.

This became the heart of the apostles' message - this repentance for forgiveness. Let me just give you a couple of examples. Look at Acts 5:31. Peter here, preaching, says in Acts 5:31: "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." When Peter takes the gospel to Cornelius and to the Gentiles in Acts 10, notice what he says in verse 43: "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. Acts 13, as Paul is on his first missionary journey, verse 38: "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you..." This was the message: repent in order to receive forgiveness for your sins because of what He accomplished in His death and resurrection. Jesus gave them biblical evidence of His resurrection.

Now, why is that important? Why did Jesus need to give them biblical evidence on that night? Well, there are two reasons, very briefly, that this biblical evidence was important. First of all, if Jesus' claims to be Messiah were true, then surely the important issues of His life such as His death and His resurrection would be found in the Old Testament predictions. But more importantly, secondly, another reason this was important is that by Old Testament standards even if a miracle occurred, it had to be consistent with the Old Testament Scripture. I won't take the time to take you back there, but if you go back and read Deuteronomy 13:1-4, Moses told the people of Israel. He said, "Listen, if somebody comes along and performs a great sign, a great miracle, and what they have done or what they teach is out of sync with the Scripture, then don't receive them." Even if Jesus had certifiably risen from the dead, if it was not consistent with the Old Testament revelation, then it was not to be received. So, not only did Jesus provide His disciples with empirical evidence, but He gave them supporting biblical evidence as well.

There's also a third line of evidence that Jesus presents on that night as proof of His resurrection. It's testimonial evidence. Testimonial evidence. And this third line of evidence was not for the apostles. In fact, it wasn't for the people that were there that night at all. Instead, this third type of evidence was meant for all of those who have never had the opportunity they had that night. It's for all of those who have never seen the risen Christ in person, for those who have never had the opportunity to touch Him and handle Him, those who have never seen Him eat and know that He's real, those who have never heard Him teach about himself from the Old Testament. In other words, this third kind of evidence is for us.

Notice how Christ puts it in verse 48. He says to the apostles, "You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." "I'm going to send the promised Holy Spirit, who's going to equip you. Stay in Jerusalem until you receive that power and then go be My witnesses." This is primarily a concern to the apostles. In John 20, the parallel passage, Jesus says it like this: " the Father has sent Me [into the world on a mission], I also send you [into the world on a mission]". Christ reiterated the same command in Acts 1, just before His ascension. Remember, as He's about to ascend into heaven He says, "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Listen carefully. The eleven apostles were Christ's handpicked witnesses of His resurrection for all of those who would never have the opportunity to see it personally. Listen. The rest of the people of that time period did not get a chance to see Christ. The rest of us have never had the chance to observe what they observed. And Jesus' proof to us is the witnesses He picked and sent to tell us. They were to proclaim repentance for forgiveness of sins in His name to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem. They were to be witnesses in their preaching.

I want you to see how important this command of Christ became to the apostles. Turn to Acts. In Acts 1:8 He says, "you shall be My witnesses" and what you see in the rest of Acts is exactly that. Look at chapter 2, Peter's sermon at Pentecost, verse 32: "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses." Peter says, "Listen! Look up here! They're eleven of us. We saw it! We touched Him! What more evidence do you need? He appointed us to be His witnesses." Chapter 3 - Peter, again, in verse 15: "but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses." Chapter 4:33. Here you have the believers living together in harmony. Verse 33 says, "And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all." Chapter 5:32: "And we are witnesses of these things..." You'll notice verse 31 is what they're witnesses of: "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses..."

When Peter goes to the home of Cornelius... Turn to Acts 10. This was a particularly profound one. Acts 10:39. He makes this same point. He says to Cornelius and those Gentiles gathered there, "We are witnesses of all the things He [Jesus] did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead."

In chapter 13:31 you see again with Paul. Chapter 13:31. Verse 30 says, "But God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers [the good news of forgiveness] ..." Do you see how important this was? Every time they preach they said, "Listen. This isn't about us. Jesus chose us to be His witnesses of what happened."

And the apostles have continued to be His witnesses down through the years because their witness continues through their writings. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ this morning, it's because you received the witness of Jesus Christ through His apostles. The New Testament is their written testimony and it has blanketed the globe as Jesus said it would.

What evidence did Jesus give of His own resurrection? What evidence did He present to prove that He had actually been raised from the dead? He presented empirical evidence. He showed Himself alive, to use the words of the apostle, "with many convincing proofs". He used biblical evidence. He explained and showed that His life was a perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament Scripture. And He used testimonial evidence. He sent out handpicked witnesses who saw Him die, who saw Him alive, who touched Him, who saw Him eat meat, who enjoyed His company for 40 days before He ascended into heaven. And He sent them out to preach and to write all that He had done and taught. He gave us evidence all right!

Now, the question that comes to my mind is, why? This is the conclusion of Luke's gospel. And he has carefully selected these accounts to drive his readers toward a decision. He has calculated this ending to move us all toward action. The question is, what action?

Well, if you're already a disciple of Christ, he intends this to strengthen your faith, even as it strengthened the faith of the apostles there that day. And he also intends for it to call you to be His witnesses as well, whether it's across the house with your family, or across the street with your neighbors, or across the world as one who gives his life to be a servant of Christ around the world. Remember there were not just apostles in that room that night. There were two disciples, ordinary disciples from the Emmaus Road. There were other followers of Christ Luke tells us. And they all were told to go and be witnesses, not in the same sense of the apostles, but in the sense that they could. They also had a responsibility to speak for Christ and they did that. You remember, in Acts, when they're scattered because of persecution? It says the disciples went everywhere, what? Gossiping the gospel.

When was the last time you gossiped the gospel? When was the last time you spoke to a family member, a coworker, a neighbor, a friend about the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ? When was the last time you took any step to see someone come to know the person you call Lord? In response to His death and resurrection, you and I are called to be His witnesses.

But what if you're not truly a disciple of Jesus Christ? You say, "Well, how do you know?" I mean Jesus said there were true disciples and there were false disciples. How do you know if you're a true disciple? Well, let Jesus help you decide. This is how He said it: "You are truly My disciples (Luke 6), if you do what I say." If your life... Here's the simple test. If your life is not characterized by a consistent pattern of obedience to Christ and to His teaching, then you are not a Christian. Doesn't matter what prayer you may have prayed in the past, or what aisle you may have walked, or who your parents were, what your church was - none of that matters. Jesus said, "You are truly My disciples, if you do what I say." So, how do you respond if you're not a Christian? If you pass... If you didn't pass the test that Jesus Himself gave.

Well, look at verse 47 of Luke 24 again, because here's the message Jesus commanded the apostles to preach and to write on His behalf. Here is what Christ is commanding you to do today, in light of His resurrection: repent and receive forgiveness of sins in His name. Jesus said, "Listen, in light of My death for sin, to pay the penalty for sin, if you want to benefit from that, if you want forgiveness, if you want Me, then you got to give up everything I hate. You've got to be willing to turn from everything you know to be sin and follow Me as Lord and Savior."

And if you don't, what's the alternative? If you decide the cost is too high - "I'm just not willing to do that. I'm not willing to give up what I enjoy", well listen to Paul in Acts 17 to the people in Athens. He said, "... He [God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." God has fixed a day (there is an appointed day in God's calendar) when He will judge every human being and He will do it through Jesus Christ. And what will Jesus Himself say to those who have refused to accept Him as Lord. Again, listen to Jesus' words. These are not my words. This is from Matthew 25. Jesus said, "Then He [the Son of Man] will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels..." These, Jesus says, will go away into eternal punishment. Not my words. Those are Jesus' words.

Listen. The bottom line is this: you can ignore Jesus now, for a time, but He is not going to go away. You're going to have to deal with Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said you will either confess Him now as Lord and Savior or you will stand before Him as Judge and Executioner. But for now, in His mercy and grace, He's commanded that repentance for forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in His name to all the nations.

This morning that's what I'm doing. I'm pleading with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to turn from your sin and embrace Him and receive the forgiveness that He purchased at the cross. Lord and Savior, or Judge - it's your choice.

Let's pray together.

Father, we thank You for this wonderful passage - the proof that Jesus Himself gave of His own resurrection to the disciples and to us through them. Father, I pray that for those of us who know Christ and love Him, that You would use this in our lives exactly as You used it in the lives of the apostles, that You would confirm and strengthen our faith. Jesus truly is alive, having presented Himself by many convincing proofs. Father, I pray that You would make us witnesses, that we would open up our mouths and share the wonderful reality of forgiveness of sins for those who will turn and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Father, I also pray for those here this morning. Undoubtedly, in an auditorium this size, there are those here who claim to be disciples of Christ but are in that category of false disciples that He identified, those who don't do what He says, those who don't follow, who don't obey. Lord, I pray that today would be the day when You would remove the façade, You would strip away the blinders, You would allow them to see themselves as You see them. And I pray that today would be the day when they would return, turn from their sin, and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior and receive the forgiveness that He purchased at the cross. We pray it in Jesus' name and for His sake, for His great glory, Amen!


Pierced For Our Transgressions

Tom Pennington Isaiah 53:4-6

Jesus' Own Evidence for the Resurrection

Tom Pennington Luke 24:36-49

The Fragrance of Worship

Tom Pennington John 12:1-8

More from this Series

Passion Week Sermons


If Christ Had Not Been Raised

Tom Pennington 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

The Promise of Paradise

Tom Pennington Luke 23:39-43

In Defense of Sinners

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:1-2

The Evidence for the Resurrection

Tom Pennington John 19:31-20:31

The Cross' Commentary on Man

Tom Pennington Matthew 27:33-44

God's Commentary on the Cross

Tom Pennington Matthew 27:45-54

Conspiracy! The Plot That Proves the Resurrection

Tom Pennington Matthew 28:11-15

Pierced For Our Transgressions

Tom Pennington Isaiah 53:4-6

Jesus' Own Evidence for the Resurrection

Tom Pennington Luke 24:36-49

The Fragrance of Worship

Tom Pennington John 12:1-8

The Innocent Found Guilty

Tom Pennington Matthew 26:57-68

The New Covenant

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

The Two Reasons Jesus Had to Die!

Tom Pennington John 11:47-57

The Place on Which We Stand

Tom Pennington Romans 10:5-10

Kangaroo Court: The Illegal Arraignment of Jesus Christ

Tom Pennington John 18:12-24

The Heart of the Gospel

Tom Pennington 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

The Murder of the King

Tom Pennington Matthew 27:27-37


Tom Pennington Matthew 28:1-7

Father, Forgive Them

Tom Pennington Luke 23:34

For God So Loved the World

Tom Pennington John 3:16

The Man on the Second Cross

Tom Pennington Luke 23:39-43

The Perfect Son

Tom Pennington John 19:25-27

The Rescue Mission

Tom Pennington Luke 19:1-10

Jesus Will Cost You Everything!

Tom Pennington Mark 8:34-38

The Triumphal Entry

Tom Pennington Mark 11:1-11

He Is Risen

Tom Pennington Matthew 28:1-7

God Forsaken

Tom Pennington Mark 15:33-37

He's Alive!

Tom Pennington John 19:31-20:31

I Thirst

Tom Pennington John 19:28-30

The Best Case Against the Resurrection

Tom Pennington Matthew 28:11-15

It Is Finished!

Tom Pennington John 19:30

Jesus' Last Words

Tom Pennington Luke 23:44-49


Tom Pennington Mark 16:1-8

The Worship Jesus Loves

Tom Pennington Mark 14:3-9

The Borrowed Tomb

Tom Pennington Mark 15:42-47

The Unlawful Arraignment of Jesus Christ

Tom Pennington John 18:12-24

The Foundation of Our Faith

Tom Pennington 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

The Real Reason for Jesus' Execution - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 14:53-65

The Real Reason for Jesus' Execution - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 14:53-65