Wow. What an inspiring story! We’ve read and heard it so many times that we often don’t appreciate our privilege of knowing it. Billions of people living on earth have never heard it once. May the Lord help us to change that.
Had Jesus’ body not been buried by Joseph of Arimathea, it most likely would have been discarded in a garbage dump along with the bodies of the thieves who had been crucified with Him. In order, however, for His resurrection to be all the more convincing, God arranged that Jesus’ body be buried securely in a specific tomb for a specific length of time. If Jesus had been resurrected from a garbage heap, our faith would have to rest on the testimony of His followers who saw Him after His resurrection, a testimony that could be doubted by reason of the potential bias of Jesus’ followers. But as it turned out, we have the testimony of the Roman soldiers who stood guard at His tomb and the religious leaders who bribed them to lie, not to mention the fact that a large stone had been moved and Jesus’ empty grave clothes were inside. The greatest proof that Jesus is alive, however, is your transformation, the result of His living in you!
I would love to have been there when Jesus gave His Bible lesson to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, during which he pointed out all the Old Testament scriptures that spoke of Himself. He no doubt referenced Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, as well as a host of other messianic passages. He may have even pointed out how Jonah’s experience of being three days and nights in the fish’s belly prefigured the Messiah’s three days and nights in the heart of the earth.
Later that day, as Jesus began to break bread with those same two disciples “their eyes were opened” (24:31), while previously “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him” (24:16). Similarly, later that same evening, when Jesus appeared to the eleven, we read that “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (24:45). Obviously, God can make us perceptive or imperceptive, understanding or ignorant, which is a good reason to humbly pray, “Lord, open my eyes.”
Even though Jesus now has a resurrected and glorified body that apparently can walk through walls and digest fish, He still has nail prints on His hands and feet. Thomas, who was not present the first time Jesus appeared to His disciples, declared, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). About a week later, Jesus appeared to him and said, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving but believing” (John 20:27). It has been rightly said, “The only works of man in heaven are the marks of the cross on Jesus’ body.”
I’ve mentioned it several times before, but today we read what I’ve so often quoted. Just before His ascension, Jesus said to the eleven, “Repentance for forgiveness of sins [should] be proclaimed in [My] name to all the nations” (24:47). Repentance for forgiveness of sins was a familiar theme to the eleven. It is the message they heard Jesus preach from the outset of His ministry, and the message He had instructed them to preach when He had sent them out by twos (Mark 1:15; 6:12). What ever happened to that commission and that message?
This commission, however, was different from the former in one respect. Previously, Jesus sent them to preach throughout the villages and towns of Israel. This time, He was sending them to “all the nations,” or more literally, “all the ethnic groups of the world,” of which there are thousands. For this reason, more than ever, we should pray, as Jesus instructed, for “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2). Christians who don’t care about those who have not heard the gospel are not Christians.