Ye Are Witnesses of These Things
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. – Luke 24:36–49
Prior to our text, Jesus had revealed himself to two sorrowful travelers who had left Jerusalem to travel to Emmaus. After Jesus opened their eyes to know Him, they were so joyful that they returned to Jerusalem immediately and found the disciples. While they were telling the disciples that they had seen the risen Lord Jesus, Jesus appeared and greeted them, “Peace be unto you.” The disciples did not recognize Jesus and were terrified.
Change Can Bring Fear
Fear is a common human emotion. We fear many things. Many of us fear change, and we may especially feel fear or anxiety when facing the unknown, things we don’t understand and things that are out of our control. The disciples were living during a time of great change in their personal lives and in the work of God’s kingdom. Their master, their teacher, their Saviour had been put to death. What would the future bring?
We live at a time of great change. A year-long world pandemic has changed everyone’s life. Meanwhile, climate and other data show a world with a changing climate. These changes have amplified political, racial and social tensions around us. They try the love among believers. They may cause uncertainty and doubts, even fear. We may wonder if God is with us. Is He in control?
In view of these changes, the words of Jesus are relevant today: “Why are ye troubled? … it is I.” God allows all things to happen for His purpose and in His time: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecc. 3:1). We can trust in His wonderful plan even when we can’t see or understand His plan (Isa. 55:8–9). During these times, may we care for and encourage each other in love (Heb. 10:24). May God help us respect our leaders and understand that if we resist authority, we resist God (Rom. 13:2). We wish to faithfully do our best to help fellow believers and all people (Gal. 6:10) and fulfill our God-given duty to care for the environment (Gen. 1:28, 2:15).
Understanding Is a Gift
Jesus did many things to show the disciples that He was the risen Christ. He: (1) told them “it is I,” (2) asked them to touch him, (3) showed them his nail wounds, (4) ate food, and (5) reminded them that He had told them while He was alive that He would suffer, die and resurrect according to the scripture. Yet our text says that the disciples believed not and wondered. Why? Does this mean the disciples were not believing? They were believing, but Jesus had not opened their understanding of the scriptures (v. 45). Understanding scripture is not a prerequisite for faith. Jesus taught that a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:1–6). Today, the Holy Spirit, which is the “promise of my Father” and the “power from on high” in verse 49, continues the work of Christ and opens understanding. If the Holy Spirit does not open, then “they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matt. 13:13).
The Witnesses of the Resurrection Believe and Preach the Living Gospel
Jesus told the disciples that they were witnesses of the resurrection and would preach the living gospel throughout the world. Through eyes of faith, we are also witnesses of the resurrection. Although faulty, doubting and fearful in ourselves, we are the true witnesses of Christ’s resurrection when we believe and preach the gospel of the forgiveness of sins.
Even amid a rapidly changing world, our greatest fear is sin because sin separates us from God. We fear that after preaching to others, we would be lost because sin and evil are so close to us – within our flesh (1 Cor. 9:27). The songwriter also affirms, “Its passions rage deeply within your heart like billowing waves to engulf you” (SHZ 483:3).
Nevertheless, Jesus was victorious over sin, death and hell. We own this victory through faith. One day, we will resurrect to eternal life in heaven when we hold faith and a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:19).