He parted from them

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:50-53

Today’s verses would normally be the end of our study of Luke but as you know I skipped to the end during the Easter season to take another look at the passion of Jesus. Jesus has been forty days on earth after His resurrection and has been teaching the disciples and from what Paul wrote also teaching a crowd of 500.

It is time for Jesus to return to heaven so He leads the disciples to the town of Bethany where He stayed during the week before He crucifixion. Jesus gives them a final blessing and looking up Jesus is taken up to heaven.

Now this would normally be the end of the story but in fact the story is just beginning. In Luke’s next letter, the Book of Acts, he records the beginning of the Christian church. There we see the amazing transformation of Peter form someone hiding from the Jewish authorities to a man boldly proclaiming the risen Christ and the Good news.

Before I look at Acts I would like to go back to Luke chapter 15 and cover some of the teachings of Jesus Luke recorded.

Have a blessed day,


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Jesus himself stood among them

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw 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. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything 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 said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:36-49

Have you ever been afraid? Not just a little scared but death fearing afraid. I can remember one time in my life when I was that scared. You would think that growing up in Houston Texas that it would have happened in the city. After all a large city can be a very dangerous place. But no, my brush with death came out in West Texas on a mountain, Guadalupe Mountain to be precise, the tallest mountain in Texas. One summer my friend Mike and I spent a week camping in Guadalupe Mountain Park in far West Texas. One day we decided to hike to the top of the mountain. About three quarters of the way to the top Mike had had enough and decided not to go one. Me being the stubborn person I am was not about to get so close to my goal only to turn back so I went on alone. I reached the top and was taking in the grand vistas when I suddenly heard this distinctive sound, the rattle of a western diamondback rattlesnake. It was the first time I had ever heard that sound but there is no mistaking what mad the sound. Here I was alone on the top of a mountain as it is getting late in the afternoon and I am about to be bitten by a rattlesnake. The good news is that in the thin air of that mountain top the snake sounded closed that it was. But for a few moments I was the most afraid I have ever been.

But I was not as afraid as the disciples were in the days after Jesus crucifixion. I only had a snake to contend with, their whole world had just come crashing down around them the past Friday. The man they thought was the Messiah had been executed by the Romans in the most public and humiliating way possible. They were hiding afraid the Sanhedrin would come for them next. They were so afraid they could not get up enough courage to leave Jerusalem and go back home to Galilee. So the cowered in a room not knowing what to do.

Jesus knew what they needed and He came to them in that room revealing Himself for the first time to the twelve. Now they had more than the testimony of a woman that Jesus was alive they had Jesus before them. Still they had trouble believing. So Jesus showed they His hands and the wounds from crucifixion. Jesus even ate a piece of fish to show them he was there physically and not just as a spirit. Finally Jesus opened their minds to all that He had taught them over the past three years. But rather than send them out to preach the Gospel Jesus had them wait for something special, the Holy Spirit.

Now before we judge the disciples too harshly we need to remember that we have the wisdom that come from hindsight. We now have the testimony of the eyewitnesses. We have the testimony of writers outside the Bible. And most importantly we have the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Have a blessed day.


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On the Road to Emmaus

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:13-35

People who deny the resurrection have to deny the accounts of Jesus’ appearances after His death and burial. This would be a lot easier if Jesus had only appeared once to Mary. However in today’s verses we see that Jesus appeared to two of His disciples as they traveled from Jerusalem to Emmaus. How to explain the resurrection appearances of Jesus? The critic’s first defense is that they did not happen at all but were stories told by the disciples in order to start this new religion based on Jesus. The disciples made everything up argument fails for two reasons.

First, the Jewish concept of the resurrection had no room for a single person’s resurrections. Jewish belief in the resurrection pertained to the end times when all the righteous would be resurrected. We can see this belief in John’s recounting of the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11 of John’s Gospel. John writes “Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:21-25 ESV) Martha believed in a resurrection but as a Jew she believed the resurrection would happen at the end of the age.

Second, if the disciples had made up the resurrection story then why would they not recant something they knew to be false when faced with death? The Roman Empire did its best to stamp out Christianity. Every disciple with the exception of John faces horrible deaths that could have been avoided if they had only recanted. And of course if the story had been made up how do we explain the empty tomb?

Well, if that does not work how about we try to explain the resurrection as hallucinations? Once again if Mary had been the only person to see the risen Jesus then we might be able to write of her story as a hallucination. After all people do experience hallucinations and visions so maybe Mary under the stress of seeing her Lord crucified just though she had seen Jesus. A wish fulfillment and nothing else. But Mary was not the only one to see Jesus. In today’s verses we see that two additional followers of Jesus also not only saw Jesus but had a lengthy conversation with Him. Now we are starting to grasp at straws because people just do not share hallucinations at least not two adults who not only see the same thing but hear the same thing and converse with the same thing. We can turn to Paul and find that “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” Here we stretch this hypothesis beyond credulity. And of course next we will see that Jesus made multiple appearances to the twelve.

All the evidence points to Jesus after being executed on a cross and laid in a tomb for three days was resurrected. It is a living person that Christians worship. Not an idea. Not a hallucination but a risen Lord, the Messiah and the Christ of God.

Have a blessed day,


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The Resurrection

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:1-12

Today Christians all over the world are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. This event is the pivotal event in all history. It changed the world. It even changed our calendars. It changed the day Jewish followers of Jesus worshiped. It changed the lives of the apostles. It changed the life of Paul and it changed my life. Without the resurrection my faith and the faith of Christians all over the world is in vain. As Paul wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Without the resurrection we are wasting our time in church and I am wasting my time writing this. However, the good news is that the resurrection happened. Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed.

How am I so sure? The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are the best attested events in all ancient history. The Gospel accounts once again have the ring of truth. Who were the first to witness the empty tomb, women? Who is the first person to witness the risen Christ, Mary Magdalene? To the eleven disciples this would be most embarrassing. Why? They would be embarrassed because it was women rather than men who were the first witnesses. In first century Jewish culture women were not considered credible witnesses; they were not allowed to testify in court. If the Gospels were fiction then it would have been Peter or John or James who were there at the tomb. Instead they are relegated to a secondary role.

Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!

Have a blessed resurrection Sunday.


Footnote: What I find amazing about the Christian faith is that it is not only a faith of the heart but a faith of the mind. And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV)

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Certainly this man was innocent!

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:44-56

Jesus has died on the cross and the crowd has a change of heart. They leave the place of execution beating their breasts aware for the first time that an innocent man has been executed. Even the Roman centurion in charge of the execution realizes that Jesus was an innocent man.

Then something strange happens. Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea, goes to Pilate to claim Jesus body for burial. Why is this strange? The reason is that just last night Joseph along with the rest of the Sanhedrin had tried Jesus and found Jesus guilty of blasphemy. They then turned Jesus over to Roman authority and demanded Jesus be executed. Now this Jewish leader wants to give Jesus a proper Jewish burial.

This is one of the facts recorded in the Gospel account that rings of authority and truth. Why, if the writers of the Gospels were making things up would they chose someone who only hours ago had condemned Jesus to be the one who buries Jesus. A made up story would have had the disciples showing courage and seeking Jesus body from Pilate. Instead the disciples had gone into hiding afraid the Jesus’ fate would be their fate.

In keeping with Jewish custom Jesus’ body was wrapped in a linen shroud with about 100 pounds of herbs, spices and aloes. He was laid in a tomb and it was sealed by rolling a large stone to cover the door. At this point it would have seemed to Jesus’ followers that all had been in vain. Nowhere in Jewish custom, tradition or reading of the scriptures was the Messiah supposed to die. The Jewish version of their Messiah was a conquering king who would rid them of foreign rule.

Have a blessed day,


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They crucified him

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:26-43

“They crucified Him”, words that should make every person on earth feel ashamed. Jesus and innocent man, a man who knew no sin is executed in the most horrible way imaginable. The Romans crucifixion was a three part process. First the Scourging –   a whip, like a cat of nine tails was used. Thirty-nine lashes were given. Many died from the scourging alone. Next after the scourging the condemned was required to carry his own cross piece to the execution site. Finally the crucifixion where the 5 to 7 inch nails were driven through the wrists,       crushing the median nerve. After He was affixed to the cross piece, He would be raised on the upright piece of the cross. His feet would then be nailed to the cross. Both shoulders would be dislocated. A person then dies of asphyxiation. If the Romans wanted to hasten the death, they would shatter the leg bones of the condemned. This would prevent them from pushing up the exhale. Jesus had one additional thing happen to Him on the cross; a Roman soldier pierced his side with a spear. This would have gone through the left lung and pierced the heart. This would be in accordance with John 19:34.

Crucifixion was not something anyone would want to go through. Yet Jesus, God with us and the Messiah, willingly went to this horrible death not because He had to but because He loved us so much and this attaining death on the cross was the only way for us to be reconciled with God. There is no greater love than this.

Have a blessed day,


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I have found in him no guilt

But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. Luke 23:18-25

Pilate was having a hard time finding something in which to convict Jesus. When Jesus was first brought before Pilate he said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” When the chief priests said “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.” Pilate thought he had found an out. Since Pilate felt Jesus was from Galilee he sent Jesus the Herod to judge.

Herod was more interested in seeing Jesus perform miracles than judging Jesus’ actions. When Jesus refused to answer Herod’s questions and did not perform any miracles Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate but first Herod dressed Jesus in kingly garments and mocked Jesus.

Once again Pilate found Jesus not guilty and anything deserving death. It was customary for the Roman governor to release one Jewish prisoner during Passover. Thinking he had found an out Pilate was ready to release Jesus to the crowd but the crows cries out for Pilate to release Barabbas, a murderer, a criminal and guilty of insurrection against Rome. The Jewish rulers had so enraged the crowd against Jesus that they wanted the criminal Barabbas released rather than the innocent Jesus. Even though Pilate found no guilt in Jesus to appease the crowd he was ready to punish Jesus before he released Jesus.

Seeing the crowd was unreasonable and not wanting a riot on his hands Pilate gave in and ordered Jesus to be crucified.

Have a blessed day,


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