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Apostolic Co(-)missions.

Thursday, May 09, 2013
Luke 24:36-49.

This passage is St Luke’s only account of a resurrection appearance to all the apostles. It brings them to faith and culminates in them being commissioned to preach the Gospel. We too are called to believe and preach the Gospel. We can learn from the difficulties of the apostles. We can also learn a lot from Jesus in this account and how he addresses the problems of the apostles. In effect he is the proto-apostle.

It is interesting how much his risen presence unsettled them (v. 37) It is instructive to look at the set of steps Jesus took in order to bring them to a faith that will lead them to be apostles in their own turn. On first seeing him they thought they were seeing a ghost. This was despite his greeting of peace and the account of the disciples at Emmaus and of the appearance to Peter that they themselves have just narrated (vv. 33-35). He showed them his hands and feet and spoke, identifying himself. Now they are filled with so much joy that they could not believe, Luke adding that this was because they were dumbfounded (v. 41). Although he had invited them to touch him, he then demonstrated his physicality by eating cooked fish. Luke records no further reaction on their part at this point. Jesus then went on to remind them that he had predicted that he would suffer before it happened. He had done so three times: 9:22, 9:44 and 18:33. He now explicitly explained this in terms of the fulfillment of the Scriptures. It would seem that it was absolutely crucial that ‘he opened their minds to understand the scriptures’ (v 45). He was now able to explain that repentance for the forgiveness of sins is to be preached in his name – and that they are witnesses to it. They have now come to informed faith, a fuller faith than before. He now makes clear they will soon receive the Holy Spirit, ‘power from on high’.

This takes us back to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus was filled with the Spirit at his baptism (4:1) and in Nazareth claiming that ‘the Spirit of the Lord is upon me’, and sent by God, he proclaimed the good news of salvation (4:18). The apostles now receive the same Spirit, sent by the Father, and so are sent by God on mission.

This pattern used by Jesus is the one the apostles will follow, as described in the Acts, Luke’s second volume. They witness to the resurrection, and explain Jesus in terms of the Jewish Scriptures and as their fulfillment. They call people to repentance in order to receive forgiveness, and promise them the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are called to do the same, no more and no less.

Our role, clothed in the Spirit, clothed with power from on high, is to witness to our faith, to the impact of Jesus and the Spirit upon us and to explain how Jesus fulfills the scriptures. We may also have to help them deal with a range of emotions and spiritual experiences. The Risen Lord and the Holy Spirit are with us, working through us, for it is really their own work, their own mission from the Father, and we are taken up into it as instruments. The same Risen Jesus is still present now, present to our audience. It is the same Holy Spirit who today opens people’s eyes to be aware of the Risen Lord, and to open their minds to what we say, and so bring them to faith.

Andrew Brookes OP


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