Jesus Christ Our Firstfruits
THE EIGHTEENTH OF NISAN:
[*** Be sure to read Part One before continuing.]
These two angels, brilliant in appearance, reaffirmed what the first angel had just told them. Then the women remembered Jesus Christ's words.
Mark 16: 8 -- And they went out quickly ["quickly" is omitted in most of the Greek texts], and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid [in awe].
Matthew 28: 8 -- And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear [awe] and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
Why did they now believe? Because the angels told them to remember the words Jesus had spoken unto them. The thought of Jesus Christ's words regarding his resurrection had not even entered the women's minds since the crucifixion. The angels' words jarred their memories and then the women understood what had occurred. Overwhelmed, they ran to tell the disciples. The phrase "neither said they anything to any" means that they were so filled with awe and wonder, they told no one by the way as they ran to the disciples. Surely no one would have believed such a story. Besides, they wanted to deliver the good news to those who cared about Jesus as quickly as possible.
We must remember that we are still studying the events of Sunday morning. By the time these women had come to the sepulchre and began running to tell the disciples, the guards watching the tomb had recovered. When the guards saw the tomb empty and remembered what had happened, they went into the city to inform the religious leaders.
Matthew 28: 11 to 15 -- Now when they [the women] were going, behold, some of the watch [the men guarding the tomb] came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money [pay-off money] unto the soldiers,
Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
And if this come to the governor's [Pilate's] ears, we will persuade him, and secure you [so the guards would not be punished].
So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
The religious leaders, including the chief priests and elders and Sanhedrin, bribed the soldiers to tell a false story. The soldiers were to say the body had been stolen while they were asleep so that no one would believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.
The religious leaders had to have been both shocked and distressed by the report of the guards. This Galilean was going to haunt them even after his execution. The false story told by the guards that the body of Jesus had been stolen by his disciples was still being told and believed at the time the Gospel of Matthew was written. As a matter of fact, there are still people today who believe that lie. But such stories will never change the reality that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. This is a lesson the religious leaders were to learn in the months and years ahead as Christianity spread.
While the guards were reporting to the chief priests and elders, the women found the disciples and began declaring unto them what had happened at the sepulchre and repeated to them what Jesus had said about meeting him in Galilee. The disciples' response was very human - unbelief. The idea that Jesus was alive was far too good to be true.
Luke 24: 9 to 11 -- And [the women] returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
Luke 24 relates that the women told the men of the things they too had seen. Yet, the men still refused to believe. These were basically the same men who had deserted Jesus while the women had faithfully stayed near him on the day of his crucifixion. However, Peter himself had seen the empty tomb and grave wrappings that same day. Considering the tremendous significance of what he had seen and now hearing the women's testimony, Peter took action.
Luke 24: 12 -- Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes [othonion] laid by themselves, and departed, wondering ["marvelling"] in himself at that which was come to pass.
As of yet, Peter still had not seen Jesus Christ himself. However, he was astounded by the clear evidence that Jesus was really risen. Peter had been with Jesus throughout his ministry; he had seen Lazarus raised from the dead; he had heard Jesus predict his own death and resurrection; he had already seen the empty tomb with the grave clothes. Now he heard the women's testimony that they had seen him alive. Peter, after going to the tomb for a second look, began to fully realize the women were right. Jesus Christ indeed was risen! He left marvelling within himself as he considered the spectacular implications of what had occurred.
It was still Sunday, the eighteenth of Nisan.
Mark 16: 12 -- After that he [Jesus] appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
Note that Jesus appeared in another form, indicating the variability of his resurrected body. The details of this walk and this appearance are greatly expanded in the Gospel of Luke. It is a beautiful record worthy of our study.
Luke 24: 13 to 16 -- And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him [their eyes were powerless to perceive exactly to whom they spoke].
Emmaus, a small village about seven miles from Jerusalem, was the destination of these two men walking from Jerusalem. When Jesus, in his resurrected body, joined them and began conversing with them, they did not recognize him.
Luke 24: 17 to 20 -- And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
Little did Cleopas know that Jesus Christ was the one walking with him. They had not really understood and believed the prophecy of his resurrection. The women remained unconvinced when they first saw the empty tomb and heard the angel in the sepulchre. Finally they believed after seeing two more angels at the sepulchre. In returning to tell the men they found that none of them would accept what they had to say. The men treated them as if they were talking nonsense. Now Cleopas and another disciple, on their way to Emmaus, conversed with Jesus face to face. Knowing they were oblivious to the reality that it was he, Jesus let the conversation develop.
This disciple related to Jesus how three days had passed since Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified, and how with the passage of days, they had given up hope. That is the reason these two men were sad and disillusioned as they walked to Emmaus.
Luke 24: 21 to 24 -- But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him [Jesus] they [Peter and the others] saw not.
The two disciples had been with the other men when the women had come that morning telling their story. They had been among those who did not believe. In verse 24, reference is made to certain of the disciples who looked into the report of the women about the empty tomb. This cannot refer to the visit of Peter and the other disciple in John 20: 2 to 10, as that occurred before the women went to the tomb. It must refer to disciples who visited the tomb after the women's report in Luke 24: 9 to 11, as in the record of Peter's second visit to the tomb in Luke 24: 12.
These two disciples on the road to Emmaus still had not comprehended or believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The "stranger" listening to them finally reproved their unbelief.
Luke 24: 25 and 26 -- Then he [Jesus] said unto them, 0 fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
"To enter into his glory" refers to Jesus Christ's entering into God's presence in presenting himself as the firstfruits from the dead.
Luke 24: 27 -- And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] expounded unto them [the two disciples from Emmaus] in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
What a fellowship that must have been! Imagine Jesus Christ teaching just two disciples everything in the Old Testament pertaining to himself. Jesus went through the Scriptures and pointed out the truths concerning the Messiah. Despite all of this, the two men did not recognize who the man was with whom they spoke!
Luke 24: 28 and 29 -- And they [the three of them] drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he [Jesus] made as though he would have gone further.
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
To "constrain," as found in verse 29, was an Eastern way of inviting a guest to do something. On the first two requests a person would be expected to offer excuses for not being able to accept an offer. Finally, on the last request, the person would give in and accept the invitation. Jesus Christ was constrained by these two disciples from Emmaus to stay with them.
God's Word spends more time on this resurrection appearance than on any other. Jesus Christ was the only person who has ever been raised from the dead to everlasting life. Yet he did not appear to men of great wealth or power. He did not appear to any kings. He did not appear to any of the recognized leaders of the religious establishment. Status, high or low, in one's earthly life is not a basis for receiving the greatness of God's Word and blessing. Jesus Christ appeared to two simple disciples who were having a difficult time understanding the events surrounding the death of the man whom they had believed would redeem Israel and thereby be their savior.
Luke 24: 30 to 32 -- And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
The eyes that were opened were the eyes of their understanding. They realized the significance of Jesus' death and resurrection, and, while eating together, they finally recognized the person himself. What a startling, thrilling realization it must have been. They recalled how Jesus Christ's explaining of God's Word had caused their hearts to burn within them. With that great excitement they went to tell the other disciples.
Luke 24: 33 and 34 -- And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
We shall see later that the missing twelfth apostle was Thomas, not Judas lscariot.
These verses are extremely vital to our understanding, and if we do not read them carefully, we can miss their meaning. Notice it was not the two disciples who gave the message that "the Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon." It was "the eleven" and the others "that were with them" talking it over. In Greek the word "saying" agrees in case with "the eleven" and "them that were with them"; it does not agree with "they rose up." So what had occurred? As the two disciples hurriedly returned to Jerusalem, they found some of the other disciples gathered there. Some of these disciples were already excitedly telling the others, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon."
Simon refers to Simon Peter, the apostle. This is the only record in the Gospels informing us that Jesus appeared to Peter alone after the resurrection. The last mention of Peter was at the sepulchre. He had checked the tomb once and then heard the story of the women. Having gone back to the tomb to look again, he left marvelling. Sometime between his leaving of the tomb, as recorded in Luke 24: 12, and the arrival of the two men where the eleven were meeting (Luke 24: 33 to 35), Jesus Christ appeared to Peter. This substantiates the record found in I Corinthians 15.
I Corinthians 15: 4 and 5 -- And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
And that he was seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve.
Returning to Luke 24, we learn that after the testimony of Jesus Christ's appearance to Peter, the two who had seen him on the road to Emmaus then told their story.
Luke 24: 35 -- And they [this agrees with "they rose" of verse 33; it is Cleopas and the other disciple] told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
Despite the wonderful testimonies being related, were the listeners believing any of it? No! This truth is further stated in the Gospel of Mark, regarding the same situation.
Mark 16: 12 and 13 -- After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
It makes one wonder what God has to do to convince people. By this time all had been reminded that Jesus had said he would get up. All had heard others talk about the empty tomb. There was absolutely no excuse for any follower's unbelief; yet not only did the majority of disciples not believe, but they were also full of fear.
John 20: 19 -- Then the same day at evening [around sunset], being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews. . .
The gathered disciples had closed the doors for fear of the Judeans. There had been Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, and now two other disciples (who had been on the road to Emmaus) claiming that the risen Christ had been seen. Yet none of their listeners believed. The disciples had been given the instructions to go to Galilee, but they had not done so. They were too bound by fear and unbelief. That was the context in which Jesus Christ made his next appearance.
John 20: 19 -- . . . when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Luke 24: 36 to 38 -- And as they [Cleopas and the other disciple] 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 [reasonings] arise in your hearts?
Mark 16: 14 -- Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
Matthew 28: 9 and 10 -- . . . behold, Jesus met them [the disciples of verse 8], saying, All hail. And they [the disciples] came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
The eleven of Mark 16: 14 must have included both Peter and Judas, because we shall see that Thomas was not present to see the risen Christ? Besides the eleven apostles, other disciples were also present. Despite Christ's appearance in their midst when they were behind closed doors, despite his exhortation for them to have peace, they were still full of fear and could not believe it was truly he, Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. How much proof and reassurance did these disciples need? Jesus Christ first reproved their unbelief and then let them touch him. Then he instructed them to tell the other brethren to go to Galilee where they could see him.
Luke 24: 39 and 40 -- 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.
John 20: 20 -- And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
He had to let them look at and touch him to convince them it was really he. They were so confused and perplexed. Jesus took all measures to convince them of his resurrection. Isn't that a great record? Now let's observe their response.
Luke 24: 41 to 44 -- 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.
Jesus Christ demonstrated that he could still eat. When Christ returns for us of the Church of Grace, we too will acquire a body like unto his resurrected body. This resurrected body is a body we know very little about except for what we can observe from reading about Jesus Christ's body before his ascension. Our physical bodies now have life because of our souls, our breath. According to I Corinthians 15: 44 and 45, our spiritual bodies will be energized by a life-giving spirit.
Besides showing the marks on his body and eating with the disciples, Jesus Christ taught them about his fulfilling those things written about him in the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Among those things were his sufferings, his death, his resurrection, and his glory. His mission as the Passover lamb was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. Also foreshadowed was the fulfillment of the Feast of Weeks, known as Pentecost, for on Pentecost all was to be fulfilled so that believers would be able to receive power from on high, the gift of holy spirit. Pentecost was fifty days away, and it was about this that Jesus Christ was next to instruct them.
John 20: 21 to 24 -- Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them ["he breathed in" is the text; omit "them"], and saith unto them, Receive [lambano] ye the Holy Ghost [holy spirit]:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
Jesus Christ gave them specific instructions about what to do when the gift of holy spirit became available. They were to begin breathing in when the time was right. Then they would receive (Greek: lambano) the gift of holy spirit. Lambano means to receive into evidence or manifestation. Later we shall see in Acts 2: 1 to 4 that on Pentecost they breathed in deeply and manifested the holy spirit by speaking in tongues. On that same day Peter would carry out the instruction in John 20: 23 by offering to the people God's way of receiving remission of sins.
Acts 2: 38 -- Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Verse 24 of John 20 states that Thomas was not present. However, Mark 16: 14 and Luke 24: 33 told us that eleven of the apostles were at this meal and appearance. This means that neither of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus could have been Peter or any of the other twelve apostles, for they returned to find "the eleven" (Luke 24: 33).
Many have claimed that Judas had either killed himself or been expelled from the group by this time. That also is a false conclusion. Since only Thomas was absent, Judas was here with the eleven on the eighteenth of Nisan as recorded in Mark 16: 14. God's Word plainly shows that after the resurrection, Jesus Christ accepted Judas back into the fellowship. Would you and I have forgiven Judas to that extent? The other apostles also accepted Judas into the fellowship. However, it is very doubtful that they fully comprehended Judas' complicity and betrayal until after Christ's ascension. We shall see this later.
John 20: 24 concludes the known events of the eighteenth of Nisan. On this day Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene at the garden of the sepulchre; he then presented himself to the Lord as the firstfruits from the dead; he appeared to Simon Peter; he appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and finally he appeared to eleven apostles (Thomas being absent) along with some other disciples. Several times angels had been seen who declared the glorious news of Jesus Christ's resurrection and gave instructions. The empty tomb convinced some and perplexed others. The guards were bribed by the religious leaders to start false rumors that the disciples had stolen Jesus' body. It was a day full of tremendous events. It is a day that has gone down in history as the day mankind first knew its savior had conquered death, for the words "he is risen," first spoken at the empty tomb, have reverberated universally ever since. What a victorious message this is.
End Of Part Two