The Great Commission: Proclaiming Forgiveness
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are 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 He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (24:44–49)
This section of Luke’s gospel sweeps from the beginning of revelation in Genesis to the end of redemptive history, viewing the mural of salvation from start to finish. The primary emphasis of the Lord’s words here is found in verse 47, where He declared that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name.
The passage is Luke’s account of the Great Commission (cf. Matt. 28:19–20), the Lord’s mandate for the church to proclaim the saving truth of the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11). That mandate is for all believers throughout all history, not merely those who heard the Lord speak these words. The gospel of Luke ends by putting the reader in the same position as the apostles and the disciples; everyone who names the name of Jesus Christ is responsible to proclaim the truth. The baton has been passed down from generation to generation, and it is our responsibility to pass it on to the next generation.
To fulfill the Lord’s command to spread the gospel around the world is the overarching, all-consuming purpose of the church. Everything else, including understanding and teaching sound doctrine, worship, fellowship, prayer, pursuing holiness, and engaging in Christian service, is important and beneficial. But to do all of those things and not proclaim the gospel is to reject the purpose for which those elements exist. They are not the goal, but rather the means to accomplishing the goal of proclaiming the gospel and undergirding that proclamation with lives of credibility and integrity.
But while believers are responsible for evangelizing the lost, God is the one who ultimately seeks them. From the garden, where God called to Adam after the fall (Gen. 3:9), to the final invitation in Revelation 22:17, God has sought sinners. The goal of human history is God’s redeeming men and women to bring them to glory as a bride for His Son, whom they will serve, honor, and worship forever.
In its conclusion, Luke’s gospel proves what it claimed in the beginning. The angel declared to Mary that the son she would bear would be the Son of God (1:35). Jesus’ life, miracles, power over demons, teaching, and resurrection demonstrated that He was. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, gave a Spirit-inspired prophecy in which he declared that the Messiah would accomplish redemption for His people through the forgiveness of their sins (1:77). Jesus Christ came, suffered, died, rose again the third day, and provided that forgiveness for all who believe in Him.
This penultimate section of Luke’s gospel, which launches the history of the proclamation of the gospel, presents seven elements of the gospel mandate given to the church. It is biblical as to its foundation, historical as to its accomplishment, transformational as to its provision, Christological as to its appropriation, global as to its extent, personal as to its agency, and supernatural as to its power.
The Gospel is Biblical as to Its Foundation
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are 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, (24:44–45)
As noted in previous chapters of this volume, the Jewish people expected the Messiah to be a triumphant conqueror, not one who would suffer and die. To preach the gospel to them, the disciples would have to convince them from the Old Testament both that Jesus was the Messiah and that the Messiah had to die.
But they were woefully unprepared for that task. They had demonstrated a lack of understanding of the Old Testament and had failed miserably to comprehend most of what Jesus said to them. That was true even when He said it to them in simple, clear straightforward terms. The disciples had been subject all their lives to an inadequate, if not downright false, interpretation of the Old Testament by their rabbis. As a result, they were in no position to rightly interpret the Old Testament and needed someone to instruct them rightly. They required a total correction of their theology and hermeneutics as well as a clear understanding that Christianity was not a repudiation of Old Testament Judaism, but the fulfillment of it.
Despite Christ’s repeated teaching on the subject of His death and resurrection (cf. Luke 9:22, 44–45; 18:31, 34; 24:6–8), the disciples still did not grasp the truth. He therefore reminded them of His words which He spoke to them while He was still with them during His earthly ministry; that all things which are written about Him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (the threefold division of the Old Testament) must be fulfilled. Those were the Old Testament truths about Messiah that the disciples would have to believe wholeheartedly if they were to convince the Jewish people that Jesus was the Messiah. The Law of Moses was the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy); the Prophets included both the former prophets (the historical books beginning with Joshua) and the later prophets (the major prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Lamentations, and the minor prophets; Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi); the Psalms represented the wisdom literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon).
Their evangelism was to be biblically based, so they needed clear understanding of the Scriptures related to Christ. The Old Testament promised the Messiah would come through the line of Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3; cf. Gal. 3:16), the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10; cf. Rev. 5:5), and the line of David (2 Sam. 7). Isaiah 7:14 predicted that He would be born of a virgin; Micah 5:2 that He would be born in Bethlehem. He would be betrayed by a close, trusted friend (Ps. 41:9); He would be beaten, spit on, and have His beard pulled out (Isa. 50:6; Mic. 5:1); the soldiers would gamble for His clothing (Ps. 22:18); He would be crucified (Ps. 22) and pierced (Zech. 12:10); His death would be vicarious (Isa. 53), and He would rise from the dead (Isa. 53:10; Ps. 16:8–11). The Christ of gospel history did not invent Himself, nor is He the invention of some people in the first century. He is the unmistakable fulfillment of divine prophecy.
Jesus opened their minds to understand those Scriptures and many other prophecies that were fulfilled in His first coming. As He had earlier done for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He gave them a sweeping messianic interpretation of the Old Testament. The disciples for the first time understood the messianic meaning of the Old Testament prophecies and used them immediately in their own interpretation of events (Acts 1:15–20), as well as their preaching and evangelism. In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter cited Joel 2:28–32 and Psalm 16:8–11, among others (Acts 2:14–36; cf. 4:23–26). Addressing the Sanhedrin, Peter cited Psalm 118:22 (Acts 4:10–11). Both Stephen (Acts 7) and Philip (Acts 8:26–35) employed sweeping features of the Old Testament in their evangelism, as did the apostle Paul (Acts 13:16–41; 17:1–3; 28:25–27). The disciples undoubtedly experienced the same passionate stirring of their hearts as did the two at Emmaus (Luke 24:32) and were eager to proclaim the Scriptures and their fulfillment as He had taught them. But not yet. Jesus instructed them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came to empower them for that task (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4–5, 8).
The Gospel is Historical as to Its Accomplishment
and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, (24:46)
It was written in the Old Testament that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that is exactly what happened. The resurrection was not mythological, or legendary; it was not a mystical or spiritual idea, but an event that happened in real, space-time history (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3–8). In fact, there is no better attested fact or event in ancient history than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is Transformational as to Its Provision
and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed (24:47a)
The gracious, eternal provision of the gospel is the forgiveness of sins purchased by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and confirmed by His resurrection (Rom. 4:25). Forgiveness is a constant theme in Luke’s gospel. Zacharias prophesied that God would “give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77). John the Baptist’s ministry involved “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (3:3). Jesus said to a paralytic, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you” (5:20) and to a sinful woman, “Your sins have been forgiven” (7:48). He commanded believers to pray, “Forgive us our sins” (11:4), and while on the cross prayed, “Father, forgive them” (23:34).
The apostles understood the importance of forgiveness and proclaimed it. On the Day of Pentecost Peter said to the crowd, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Later he declared to the Sanhedrin, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30). He said to those gathered in Cornelius’s house, “Of [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). Paul told those gathered in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through [Christ] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (13:38).
Forgiveness of sins is available only to those who repent. Repentance is the foundational biblical, spiritual act that moves the heart in the direction of salvation. It is turning from sin’s presence, power, dominance, and consequences to righteousness. Repentance involves a desire to leave sin behind and pursue righteousness. It is not simply feeling bad about one’s circumstances, or condition, or the consequences that resulted from one’s sins, but mourning over the reality of sin. Repentance is prompted by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), who came to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and is granted by God (2 Tim. 2:25; cf. Acts 11:18).
The attitude of repentance is seen in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1–11). To be repentant is to be spiritually bankrupt, to know that one is poor, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to mourn over one’s wretchedness, and consequently be humbled by that condition. The promise to the believing penitent person is that God will grant forgiveness of sin, because Christ has provided the sacrifice that pays the penalty for sin.
The Gospel Is Christological as to Its Appropriation
in His name (24:47b)
Forgiveness of sin is available only through Jesus Christ, since “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). His name is a metonym for His person (cf. Luke 9:48) and represents all that He is. To proclaim in the name of Jesus that there is forgiveness of sin is to do so consistent with who He is in all His fullness.
The apostles did everything in the name of Christ, which is the only source of God’s power. After healing the lame man at the temple (Acts 3:1–8) Peter said to the astonished crowd, “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all” (v. 16; cf. 4:10). The early church also baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16), suffered for His name (Acts 5:41; 9:15–16; 21:13), and evangelized in His name (3 John 7). It is no wonder, then, that Christians were known as those who called on the name of Jesus (Acts 9:14, 21).
The Gospel Is Global as to Its Extent
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (24:47c)
The Old Testament teaches not only that Messiah would suffer and die, rise from the dead, and have repentance proclaimed in His name, but also that the gospel message of forgiveness in His name would be proclaimed to all the nations.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus had sent the apostles not to the Samaritans or Gentiles (Matt. 10:5), but only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 6). The Lord said of His own ministry, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). Consequently, the Jerusalem church initially was reluctant to evangelize the Gentiles or Samaritans. But when persecution forced the believers to flee Jerusalem, some went to Samaria (Acts 8:1–2), and “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them” (v. 5). Gentile evangelism, however, did not take place until Peter’s vision (Acts 10:9–16) caused him to realize that “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (vv. 34–35). After some initial misgivings (Acts 11:1–3), the Jerusalem church accepted Peter’s preaching the gospel to Gentiles, and the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:1–21) formally decided that Gentiles could be saved without first becoming Jewish proselytes and following Jewish ritual. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13), wrote,
Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, and I will sing to Your name.” (Rom. 15:8–9)
Because of their ultimate rejection of Him, Israel had been cut off (Rom. 11) and left desolate (Luke 13:35) and facing the destruction that would come in a.d. 70 (Matt. 24:1–2). The time had arrived in God’s plan of redemption to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.
Gentile salvation was not a new reality, however. The Old Testament clearly declares that Gentiles would be saved. In Genesis 22:18 God said to Abraham, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” In his prayer at the dedication of the temple Solomon prayed,
Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name. (1 Kings 8:41–43)
Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (2:2–3)
Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. (45:22)
It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (49:6)
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (60:1–3)
Joel added, “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls” (2:32; cf. Rom. 10:13), and Micah wrote,
And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (4:1–2)
The global command to reach the entire world extends the responsibility for evangelism from the apostles and disciples to all believers.
The Gospel Is Personal as to Its Agency
You are witnesses of these things. (24:48)
God has chosen to use exclusively human witnesses as His means of proclaiming the gospel in the present age, unlike the “angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev. 14:6), who will also proclaim the gospel during the tribulation. Those witnesses were first of all the apostles and the rest of the early church, as the book of Acts indicates (1:8; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31; 22:15; 26:16), and by extension all believers throughout church history, since the apostles did not travel to the “remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Gospel Is Supernatural as to Its Power
And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (24:49)
Though believers are gospel witnesses, the gospel does not advance by human power, creativity, ingenuity, or zeal. “The weapons of our warfare,” Paul wrote, “are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:4). Therefore the Lord told the disciples that He would be sending forth the promise of the Father upon them. In the meantime, they were to stay in the city of Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high. The promise of the Father that would grant them divine power to witness is the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Both the Old Testament (Ezek. 36:27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28–29) and Jesus (John 14:16–17; 20:22) promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, through whose indwelling Jesus is also with believers (Matt. 28:20). Since all Christians are indwelt by the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), all are empowered for effective witness. The question is, how faithful will they be?
The Easter Sermon of Jesus Christ
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.” (Luke 24:45–47)
Easter was over. The women had made their early journey to find the empty tomb. Peter had raced to see the grave clothes. Cleopas and his companion had walked to Emmaus with Jesus, as it turned out, and then back to Jerusalem with their hearts on fire. Jesus himself had suddenly appeared among his disciples, showing them his hands and feet. It was the day of resurrection—the first of all Easters—and it filled the disciples with so much joy they could hardly believe it.
Now it was time for Jesus to do what he loved to do as much as anything in the world: preach the gospel of his saving grace (see Luke 4:43). Maybe Jesus did this on the same night that he appeared to his disciples. What seems more likely, though, is that there is a gap in Luke 24 between verse 43 and verse 44, between Easter evening and all the teaching Jesus did in the following weeks. Luke 24 almost gives the impression that Jesus went back to heaven the same day he rose from the dead. But he was with his disciples for forty days between his resurrection and his ascension, as Luke said himself in Acts 1:3. So presumably the end of chapter 24 is a summary of what he taught during those weeks—one long sermon to explain Easter Sunday, everything that led up to it, and everything that would follow.
When Jesus says “while I was still with you” in verse 44, he is hinting that he is about to leave his disciples. But before he goes, he has something supremely important to do, and that is to prepare them to reach the world. The destiny of humanity depended on their faithful witness, so at the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus briefed them on their mission to the world.
A Biblical Sermon
Only Luke records the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ, in which he preached the gospel of his own resurrection and its implications for the world. It was a biblical, Christ-centered, evangelistic, missionary sermon.
To begin with, Jesus preached a biblical sermon, in which he proclaimed the gospel promise from the Old Testament. Jesus wanted to give his disciples a complete course in biblical interpretation. 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” (Luke 24:44).
One time-honored principle for public speaking is to start by telling people what you are going to tell them, then tell them, and finally tell them what you told them. Jesus followed that principle here. Back in Nazareth he had begun his public ministry by preaching the good news of the kingdom from the prophet Isaiah. He kept preaching that gospel message throughout his earthly ministry. Now, in his last sermon, Jesus wanted to tell his disciples again what he had told them before. When he said “these are my words,” he was referring to everything he had taught his disciples.
This time they were finally ready to hear what he had to say. Jesus had always told them that he would die and rise again, but the disciples had never really understood what he was talking about. Things were different now, though, because they were in the very presence of the crucified and risen Christ. So they were ready to understand the gospel and its implications for the world, as well as their own call to gospel ministry. “Don’t you see,” Jesus could say to them now, “this is what I was talking about. What I did on the cross and through the empty tomb was the outworking of everything I have ever taught you.”
What Jesus taught came right out of the Bible, which is where his sermon begins: with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. In briefing his disciples on their mission to the world, Jesus does not begin with their personal spiritual experience. He does not even begin with the physical reality of his own resurrection. Rather, he begins the same place that we should always begin everything in life: with the Word of God. As Kent Hughes comments, Jesus “did not want them to rest their belief in his resurrection on their personal experience alone. He was not interested in their becoming an esoteric coterie, an elite group with a special knowledge of Christ. Resting their faith on a miracle was not sufficient. He wanted them to ground their experience of his resurrection on the massive testimony and perspective of Scripture.” Thus the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ is a biblical sermon.
The way Jesus refers to the Bible here is by calling it the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. This is the way many Jews referred to the three traditional parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. For them, the Law was the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Prophets included the Major and Minor Prophets, and also the historical books, like Samuel and Chronicles. The Psalms referred not only to Israel’s hymnbook, but also to other writings in the wisdom literature, like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Thus talking about “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” was really a shorthand way of referring to the whole Old Testament.
Jesus based his life and ministry on everything those writings said about his saving work. In fact, Jesus said that everything in the Bible was about him. What an audacious claim to make! What right did Jesus have to say that everything in the Bible is all about him? Who does he think he is anyway? Jesus knows who he is: the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and therefore the fulfillment of every promise that God has ever made to his people. Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the Old Testament. To know the Old Testament truly is to know Jesus, and to know Jesus, one has to know the Old Testament.
Jesus used every part of the Old Testament in his own ministry. He taught his disciples many things that were written about him in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Jesus used the Law of Moses right at the beginning of the Gospel, when he was tempted in the wilderness and answered the devil by quoting directly from Deuteronomy (Luke 4:1–11; cf. Deut. 6:13, 16; 8:3). Jesus also used the Prophets, starting with his very first sermon (Luke 4:17–21; cf. Isa. 61:1–2) and including many specific fulfillments of their prophecies. For example, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he was fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy of a king coming “humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). Then Jesus often taught from the Psalms. He did it the very week that he was crucified, using Psalm 110 to prove that the Christ is both David’s son and David’s Lord (see Luke 20:41–44).
Jesus taught this way because he knew that all these Scriptures had to come true. Everything written about him “must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44), he said, and the word “must” expressed a divine necessity. The life of Jesus was governed by the prophecies and promises of the Word of God. In order for God to fulfill his plan—and in order for us to be saved—Jesus had to come into the world the way he came, live the way he lived, die the way he died, and rise again the way he rose again. It all had to happen the way the Bible said it would happen, the way it was promised in the Scriptures. To show this, Jesus preached a biblical sermon at the end of Easter.
A Christ-Centered Sermon
Jesus also preached a Christ-centered sermon, as any biblical sermon ought to be. The main thing that Jesus had taught his disciples—from the Old Testament—was the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Christ. In other words, he preached the gospel, because these are the two basic facts of the gospel: the dying and the rising of the Savior whom God promised. In his Easter sermon, Jesus preached that same gospel again: “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’ ” (Luke 24:45–46). The gospel promise that was given in the Old Testament—the promise of the Christ—finds its fulfillment in Jesus and his saving work.
These were all things that Jesus had told his disciples before. He said: “The Son of Man must suffer many things … and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). He said: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.… After flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise” (Luke 18:31, 33). But even though Jesus said these things, the disciples did not understand them. When he said the Son of Man would be delivered over to death, “they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it” (Luke 9:45). Similarly, when he prophesied his death and his resurrection on the third day, “they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said” (Luke 18:34). The minds of the disciples were closed to the gospel.
We should not be surprised, therefore, when people have trouble understanding the gospel or believing in Jesus today. It did not seem all that important to the disciples at first either. They really did not understand what Jesus was talking about.
Then Jesus actually did what he always said that he would do: he offered his body for suffering unto death, and then on the third day he rose again. At that point one might think that the disciples would believe the gospel. Yet they still did not understand! When Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection, they thought they were seeing a ghost (Luke 24:37), not a living Savior. Somehow they were still missing something.
What made the difference for these disciples? How did they ever start trusting in the cross and believing in the empty tomb? Luke tells us that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45; cf. 24:32). What these men needed—what everyone needs—is the mind-opening work of God. Christianity is rational, but understanding the gospel is not merely intellectual. It takes a work of God for anyone to know Jesus in a saving way. The Bible says that “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). It does not matter how smart we are; we will never understand the message of God’s salvation unless and until God enables us to understand it. This is what Jesus did for his disciples, and what he will do for anyone who sincerely asks him for understanding: he will open our minds to see his salvation.
Knowing Jesus is the work of God the Holy Spirit—a work he does when the Bible is preached in a Christ-centered way. Notice that when his disciples had trouble understanding what he was saying from the Scriptures, Jesus did not decide to try some other method. He did not say, “The Bible must be too hard for them to understand; I need to find some other way to communicate.” On the contrary, Jesus knew that God does his saving work by the Word. So he went back to the same Scriptures he had always preached, and preached them again. Here is an example for our own evangelism, in which we should always trust the Word to do the real work of our witness.
Jesus preached Christ from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Maybe he turned to Exodus 12 and talked about the Passover, and how an offering of blood saved people from death. Or maybe he quoted Leviticus 16 and preached about the sacrifice that was sprinkled on the mercy seat to atone for all his people’s sins. Then he might have turned to one of the prophets, like Isaiah, who said that the Savior would be stricken, smitten, and afflicted, that he would be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (see Isa. 53). Or perhaps Jesus preached Psalm 22—the song he quoted from the cross when he was dying a God-forsaken death. But wherever he turned in the Scriptures, Jesus preached the sufferings and death of the Christ.
That is not all he preached, however. Jesus also preached the resurrection of the Christ. Maybe he preached it from the story of Moses and the burning bush, where God styled himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of the living, and not the dead (Exod. 3:1–6; cf. Luke 20:37–38). Or maybe he preached the resurrection from the prophet Jonah, who came back on the third day (see Jonah 1:17), or from Hosea, who said, “on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him” (Hos. 6:2). Jesus also preached the resurrection from passages like Psalm 16, where the Christ said, “You will not abandon me to the grave” (Ps. 16:10 niv; cf. Acts 2:25–32).
When Jesus preached his Easter sermon, he preached Christ crucified and Christ risen, Christ suffering and dying and rising again. He preached Christ from all the Scriptures, opening minds to understand the basic facts of his saving gospel. Jesus did what was prophesied, and then he preached what he had done—his saving work in human history. This is the basic message of the whole Bible: Jesus the Christ suffered and died and rose again.
An Evangelistic Sermon
If we believe the gospel, as promised in the Scriptures and accomplished by the Christ, then we must repent of our sin. This too was part of the Easter preaching of Jesus Christ. His biblical, Christ-centered sermon was also an evangelistic sermon—a sermon that called people to respond by repenting and receiving forgiveness for their sins. Jesus thus ended his ministry the same way he began it: by preaching repentance (see Matt. 4:17).
The biblical gospel is more than a set of facts. We need to know that Jesus died and rose again, of course, but we also need to understand what those facts mean and respond to them in a saving and believing way. This too was promised in the Scriptures. The same Old Testament that promised the sufferings and the resurrection of the Christ, also promised repentance and forgiveness. “Thus it is written,” Jesus said, “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name” (Luke 24:47).
This could be proved from almost any page in the Bible. It is not just this text or that text which proclaims repentance and the forgiveness of sins; it is the whole message of the Old Testament. Ever since Adam and Eve committed the first sin, God has been calling his people to repentance. The biblical prophets were forever telling the people of God to turn away from sin. “Let the wicked forsake his way,” they said, “and the unrighteous man his thoughts” (Isa. 55:7). The very best men and women of God show us how to repent by their example. “Have mercy on me, O God,” said King David. “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:1, 4).
God did have mercy—not only on David, but on every penitent sinner. This too is the message of the Old Testament: God freely offers forgiveness to anyone who is truly sorry for sin. “As far as the east is from the west,” David testified, “so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). The prophet who told the wicked man to forsake his way also said, “let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,” the Scripture says, “but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
Now repentance and forgiveness are to be preached in the name of Jesus, or on the name of Jesus—on the basis of what he has done on the cross and through the empty tomb. This is how we know that the ancient promise is true, that by the saving grace of gospel repentance, all our sins will be forgiven. We are sure of this because Jesus went to the cross for us, and said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). We are forgiven “through the merit and the mediation of Christ.” We know that his sacrifice has been accepted because God raised him from the dead. It is not only the crucifixion that guarantees our forgiveness, but also the resurrection.
The way for us to respond is to repent and believe, and then we too will be forgiven. Here is how a little old verse for children describes what it means for us to repent:
Repentance is to leave
The things we loved before,
And to show that we in earnest grieve
By doing so no more.
Leaving the things we loved before takes courage, and also humility—the humility to admit that God cannot accept us just the way we are, but that we need to be forgiven. A good illustration of penitent humility comes from the ancient traditions of the Luo tribe in Tanzania. When a tribe member commits a serious crime, he has violated the community covenant and is banished from his village for life. He will go somewhere else, maybe for decades. But when he grows old, he will ask if he can return to his fathers and come home to die in his own village. There is only one way for the sinner to return, only one way to undo the evil that he has done: a sacred ritual of atonement. A low opening is made in the village wall, opposite the entrance. Then a lamb is sacrificed, and as the man confesses his crime, its blood is sprinkled on him for cleansing. This takes place outside the walls of the village. But once the sacrifice has been made and the blood has been sprinkled, the man is allowed to come inside, stooping low to enter in humility before being welcomed into his father’s house.
So it is for anyone who wants to enter the family of God. We must bow in humility. We must confess the wrong that we have done. We must believe in the power of the sacrificial blood that Jesus sprinkled on the cross. Then we will be fully forgiven and warmly welcomed into the Father’s house.
A Missionary Sermon
This message of repentance and forgiveness is for everyone in the whole world, which is why Jesus ended his biblical, Christ-centered, evangelistic sermon by turning it into a missionary sermon. First we believe the gospel for ourselves, confessing our own sin and trusting Jesus with our own faith. Next we proclaim that gospel message to others. So Jesus told his disciples that repentance and forgiveness should be preached in his name “to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Then he said, “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). Like all the resurrection stories in Luke, this one ends with witness (see Luke 24:9–10, 33–35).
Thus the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ is a missionary sermon for the world. This had been God’s plan from the beginning. He was never the God of the Jews only; he had always had a heart for the world. This too was “written in the Scriptures.” The same Old Testament that said the Christ would suffer and rise again, and that promised repentance and forgiveness, also said that this saving gospel would be preached throughout the world. It would start in Jerusalem, of course, because that is where Jesus died and rose again, and also because that is what the Scripture promised (see Isa. 2:3; Joel 3:16). But the gospel would go from Jerusalem to the nations.
We see this missionary promise in every part of the Old Testament. We see it in the Law of Moses, which promised that God would bless all nations through the son of Abraham (see Gen. 12:2–3; 17:1–7; cf. Gal. 3:16, 29). We see it in the Prophets, who said, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). We see it perhaps most clearly in the Psalms. Psalm 22, the same psalm that prophesied that Christ would suffer a God-forsaken death, also made this promise: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (Ps. 22:27). We find the same global promise in many of the praise psalms: “The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations” (Ps. 98:2; cf. 96:3; 97:6; 100:1).
So it was written. The Old Testament promises of God included the missionary age of the church. If anyone understood the global reach of the gospel it was Luke. Since the beginning of this book, he has been preparing us to see that salvation is for all nations. He announced that Jesus came to bring peace on earth (Luke 2:14), that his salvation would be for all peoples (Luke 2:31), that it would be a light for the Gentiles (Luke 2:32). Luke quoted Old Testament stories about Gentiles coming to faith, like Naaman the Syrian, or the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:25–27). He also told us stories about Gentiles coming to Jesus, like the Roman centurion with the dying servant (Luke 7:1–9).
Now the time had come for all the ancient promises to be fulfilled. Just as it was promised that the Christ would suffer and rise again, so it was promised that forgiveness would be preached to all nations. As far as the plan of God and the fulfillment of Scripture are concerned, the missionary work of the church is as necessary and as important as the cross itself, and as the empty tomb. The Bible thus teaches three great redemptive acts in history: the cross, the resurrection, and the missionary work of the church. The ancient promises to the nations must be fulfilled. As Spurgeon said, “there was a divine necessity that Christ should die, and an equally imperative must that he should arise again from the dead; but there is an equally absolute necessity that Jesus should be preached to every creature under heaven.” Therefore Jesus sent his apostles out on their mission to the world, which was really his mission to the world. This is why Jesus had invested so much of himself in these men, to the point of death. His plan all along was for these apostles to go global with the gospel. As eyewitnesses of the resurrection, they would preach repentance and forgiveness to all nations, through the crucified and risen Christ.
This is exactly what the apostles did: they shared Christ everywhere. Their story is told in the book of Acts, which is volume two of Luke’s collected writings—the sequel to his Gospel. In Acts we read that starting from Jerusalem the apostles went out into the world with the gospel. Again and again we are told that they were witnesses for Jesus (e.g., Acts 1:8; 2:32; 5:32), as Jesus said they would be.
The apostles witnessed the same way that Jesus preached. Their sermons were biblical. They did not preach merely on the basis of their personal experience (which they sometimes did and could do better than anyone). Instead, they also (and primarily) preached from the Old Testament (e.g., Acts 2:17–28; 13:26–41). Their sermons were Christ-centered; the apostles were always preaching the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “You crucified him,” they said, “but God raised him up” (see Acts 2:23–24, 32; cf. 17:2–3). Their sermons were evangelistic. They said, “Repent … in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (see Acts 2:38). They preached this way to Gentiles as well as to Jews, for Jesus had told them to preach to all nations (see Acts 13:47–48; 17:30). Although it is true that we do not have the full text of Jesus’ Easter sermon in the Gospel of Luke, there is a sense in which the notes from that sermon are scattered throughout the New Testament, for it is the same message that the apostles always preached.
Today we continue to carry out that mission by multiplying gospel ministry to the world. Through the work of the church, and through the faithful ministry of Christian missionaries, repentance and forgiveness are proclaimed everywhere in the name of Jesus. Every time someone preaches a biblical sermon that gives people the gospel and calls them to repent for the forgiveness of their sins, the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ is preached all over again—his global, universal, missionary gospel.
We too are called to be witnesses. We are not eyewitnesses, of course, because we have not seen the risen Christ the way the apostles saw him. But we are witnesses nonetheless. We have heard the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ. We know the gospel message of the cross and the empty tomb. We believe God’s promise of the forgiveness of sins. So now we are the ones who carry the message of the apostles wherever we go in the world. Paul Beasley-Murray said, “The task of every disciple—and not just of every preacher—is to interpret the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for others, and in doing so to spell out the gospel offer of forgiveness and the gospel demand for repentance.”
When we think of the nations, we should not think only of people who live far away. The “nations” includes all the people who are outside the family of God, who do not yet believe that Jesus died for them on the cross, or that their sins can be forgiven. In fact, some of the people who are farthest away from God are the people who are closest to us. Who will be their witness?
After almost a decade of going to the same barber, I finally had the perfect chance to share the gospel. My friend’s mother-in-law had died the week before, and he had been deeply affected by something strange that happened in her final days. The woman had pancreatic cancer and against every medical expectation she had lingered in extremis for weeks. The barber knew why: she was not ready to die, so she kept herself alive by sheer force of will. For days she lay on her hospital bed, seemingly unresponsive. Then suddenly she sat up with a loud cry, turned her head, and moved her arm wildly. Everyone in the room was shocked. They were also deeply troubled, for to some of them it seemed that she was fending off a demon—a demon that was trying to capture her soul.
My barber wanted to know what I thought about what had happened (because I was a “priest,” he said, I was the person to ask). I told him that the passage from this life to the next is a great mystery, and that I did not have any opinion about what had happened to his mother-in-law. But I told him that I did know how to be ready to die and go to heaven:
“By trying to be a good person, right?” the barber said.
“No,” I said, “I’m sure that none of us can really be good enough for God. All we need to do is believe in Jesus.”
“But what does that mean?” he wanted to know—the kind of question that sometimes we have to wait a decade before we get a chance to answer.
“It means believing that Jesus died on the cross,” I said, “and believing that he rose again from the dead.” Immediately the barber said that he believed all of that. Then I said, “And it means telling God that you are sorry for your sins, and asking him to forgive you for Jesus’ sake.”
My friend did not say whether he was ready to repent or not; the conversation moved on, as it often does when we start talking about sin. But without repentance no one will ever see the kingdom of God. It is not enough simply to believe the basic facts of the gospel—that Jesus died and rose again. We also need to apply those facts to ourselves by saying, “Dear God, I am sorry that I am such a sinner. Please forgive me for Jesus’ sake.”
Anyone who repents and believes in Jesus’ name will be forgiven. This is the promise of God, as it was made in the Old Testament Scriptures, preached in the Easter sermon of Jesus Christ, and given to all people everywhere—every one of us.
48. And you are witnesses of those things. He does not yet commission them to preach the gospel, but only reminds them to what service he has appointed them, that they may prepare themselves for it in due time. He holds out this, partly as a consolation to soothe their grief, and partly as a spur to correct their sloth. Conscious of their recent departure from their Master, they must have been in a state of dejection; and here, contrary to all expectation, Christ bestows on them incredible honour, enjoining them to publish to the whole world the message of eternal salvation. In this manner he not only restores them to their former condition, but by the extent of this new favour he utterly obliterates the recollection of their heinous crimes; but at the same time, as I have said, he stimulates them, that they may not be so slow and dilatory in reference to the faith of which they were appointed to be preachers.
46–49 This statement from the mouth of the risen Lord combines three elements: (1) the death and resurrection of Jesus, (2) preaching to the Gentiles, and (3) the promise of the Spirit. The significance of the presence of these elements in one statement is that now the age of the church is connected to the life and ministry of Jesus. As Jesus himself participates in the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation, the apostles (i.e., the church) will likewise participate in this great act of salvation history (cf. Jacques Dupont, “La portée christologique de l’évangélisation des nations d’après Lc 24,47,” in J. Gnilka, Neues Testament und Kirche [Freiburg: Herder, 1974], 126). With reference to the OT, these verses provide both a review of the gospel material and a preview for the events to come in the second volume of the Lukan corpus.
46 The formula “on the third day” (cf. v. 7) goes back to the first passion prediction (9:22). For the suffering of Jesus, one can point to Isaiah 53:7–8 (cf. Ac 8:32–33). For the resurrection, see the references in Isaiah 55:3 (cf. Ac 13:34) and Psalm 16:10 (Ac 13:35).
47 Even the widespread preaching of repentance and forgiveness was predicted in the OT (cf. Ac 26:23). Jewish authorities in the first centuries of our era debated whether or not they should engage in active proselytization; and some cited OT passages, especially in Isaiah, that referred to the coming of the Gentiles to the Lord. Such Scriptures as Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6 may underlie v. 47 here (cf. Ac 13:47; see Pao, 84–86). The fulfillment began in Acts 2:38: “Repent … for the forgiveness.” Gentiles heard these words in Acts 10:43 and 17:30 (cf. Paul’s commission, Ac 26:17–18). The idea of reaching the Gentiles is certainly prominent in Luke (e.g., the mission to the Seventy or Seventy-two, probably representing the nations of the world [10:1]; see comments there), and this naturally finds its continuation in Acts. The connection between the call to repentance and the mission to the nations/Gentiles represents a new way by which the people of God can be defined (Guy D. Nave Jr., The Role and Function of Repentance in Luke-Acts [Academia Biblica 4; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002], 206–24). Also, the place of Jerusalem as the base of the mission accords with Luke’s constant featuring of that city (cf. Isa 2:3; 51:4).
48–49 Here Luke stresses the role of “witnesses,” and he will do so again in the parallel passage in Acts 1:8. The term “witnesses” only appears twice in Luke (11:48 and 24:48), but it becomes a critical term in the narrative of Acts (e.g., 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31; 26:16; cf. Marion L. Soards, The Speeches in Acts [Louisville, Ky.: Westminster, 1994], 194–200). In the OT, the people of Israel were called to be witnesses (e.g., Isa 43:10); their failure to be faithful witnesses (e.g., Isa 6:9–10) anticipates the arrival of the new age, when God will work in a new way among his people.
The pronouns hymeis (“you”) in v. 48, egō (“I”) in v. 49, and hymeis (“you”) again as the subject of “stay” in v. 49 (omitted by the NIV) are emphatic and in contrast to one another. What the Father “promised” (v. 49) is the Holy Spirit (Ac 1:4–5; 2:16–17), who was indeed the promised “power” (Ac 1:8). This “power from on high” (ex hypsous dynamin; cf. Isa 32:15) has been known in Luke from the very beginning of his narrative. The Son of God was conceived in Mary when she was overshadowed by the “power of the Most High” (dynamis hypsistou, 1:35).
The Scriptures opened, and further directives (24:44–49)
These verses contain three things:
he taught them from the scriptures and opened their understanding (vv. 44, 45). How vital it is, not only to be instructed but spiritually enlightened. Too often we stress one or the other. For this reason, scriptural teaching and preaching must be accompanied by prayer that God would open the hearts of the hearers.
he instructed them as to the point of the cross. It brings eternal life, through the pathway of repentance and forgiveness of sins. This was to be their message to all nations ‘beginning at Jerusalem’ (vv. 46, 47). Christ regarded this as central to the message of the gospel.
he told them that they were witnesses of these things. Proclamation would be made, but they had to wait. He wanted nothing done in the flesh. They had been witnesses before (see Luke 9:1–6); yet for this task they would need greater help. Jesus told them to wait ‘until you are endued with power from on high’ (vv. 48, 49).
24:44–49 / The main point that Jesus makes in v. 44 is that there really is nothing new or unexpected in his resurrection on the third day. This is so for two reasons: (1) While he was still with them he had told them of these things. This is especially seen in the passion predictions (9:22, 44; 18:31–33), particularly that of 9:22 and 18:33 where he predicted the resurrection on the third day. (2) The disciples should understand the events of Jesus’ passion and resurrection because they are foretold in Scripture (i.e., the ot). This time all three parts of the ot are referred to (not just two parts, as in v. 27 above): the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. The Psalms should be understood as referring to the third division of the Hebrew Bible usually known as the “Writings.” Here this third division is referred to simply as the Psalms, probably because of all the Writings, the Psalms yielded the greatest relevance for a christological interpretation of the ot. This is evident in the allusions to the lament Psalms (Psalms 22, 31, and 69) in the Lucan passion account (see 23:26–43).
Verse 45 demonstrates that Jesus had to enable his disciples to interpret Scripture and thus to be able to see in it the things relevant to Christ. In Pauline terms, the disciples have been given “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). This new understanding will make it possible for the disciples to glean christological truths from Scripture. A dramatic illustration of this new hermeneutical insight is mirrored in Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2:14–39, where Peter cites a variety of Scriptures and applies them to the experience of Christ and the earliest Christians.
But what are the apostles of Christ to know? The Risen One goes on to explain in v. 46 that the following is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. But where in the ot are such things written? Fitzmyer (p. 1581) remarks: “It is impossible to find any of these elements precisely in the ot, either that the Messiah shall suffer, or that he is to arise, or that it will happen on the third day.” Fitzmyer is correct in noting that nowhere in the ot are such things stated precisely. But if they were, then the disciples would scarcely have been in need of having their minds opened to a new and deeper understanding of the Scriptures. Judging by the preaching in the Book of Acts, the ot’s relationship to these aspects of Jesus the Messiah’s experience is anything but obvious.
Also judging by which texts of Scripture are actually cited in the Lucan writings, we may infer which passages are in mind in v. 46. With reference to the need of the Messiah to suffer, the Lucan Jesus probably has in mind Isaiah 53, a portion of which is cited by the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26–39 and applied to Jesus by Philip the Evangelist. When approached by Philip, the Ethiopian was reading Isa. 53:7–8: “As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth” (as cited in Acts 8:32–33, rsv). Since this ot text is actually cited in one of the Lucan writings and explicitly applied to Jesus of Nazareth (see Acts 8:35), it is quite reasonable to suppose that this is at least one of the ot passages understood as indicating that the Christ will suffer and die.
Also found in Acts is the quotation of an ot passage which was understood as a promise that the Christ will … rise from the dead. In his Pentecost sermon Peter cites Ps. 16:8–11, in which the Psalmist, understood as David, the father of the Messiah (or Christ), declares: “For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption” (Ps. 16:10, as cited in Acts 2:27, rsv). The Lucan Paul also would later quote this ot text (Acts 13:35). According to the Lucan Peter’s interpretation, this text has come to fulfillment in Jesus’ physical death and resurrection. Since David’s body is yet in its grave, this passage could not refer to him. Because Jesus has left his grave, the passage must refer to him instead (see Acts 2:29–32).
Finally, there are allusions to ot writings in Luke’s Gospel that may explain the necessity of the Christ to rise from the dead on the third day. One text that immediately comes to mind is the Jonah typology in Luke 11:29–32, where Jesus promises the evil people of his day no “miracle” (or sign) except the “sign of Jonah” (11:29). In his parallel passage, Matthew (12:39–41) states: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” It might be objected that it is only in the Matthean version that reference to “three days” is found. This is true, but the possibility does remain that Luke had seen the fuller version of the saying, since in all likelihood the saying was part of the sayings source common to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is also quite possible, however, that Luke 24:46 is actually alluding to Hos. 6:2: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him” (rsv). This may be the very Scripture that Paul has in mind when he states: “… he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4, rsv). That this similar formulation occurs in Paul indicates that the “third day” tradition was known prior to the time of Luke’s writing.
But Jesus goes on to say in v. 47 that repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. This verse is part of the thought that had begun in v. 46, and so it likewise is part of what is “written” in Scripture. Again we may ask where in Scripture is there the command to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins … to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem? At least two ot passages are quoted in Acts that may have made up part of the scriptural testimony presupposed in Luke 24:47. In Acts 2:21 Peter quotes Joel 2:32: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Although the verse seems to be making a universal appeal, in the context of the Pentecost sermon, however, only Jews are addressed (both those of Palestine and those of the Diaspora). However, when Paul cites this same text in Rom. 10:13 his context indicates a universal meaning: both Jew and Gentile can freely call upon the name of the Lord. Another ot passage quoted in Acts applies to Gentiles as well. In Acts 13:47 the Lucan Paul quotes Isa. 49:6: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” The Greek word “ends” is the same as that in Acts 1:8 and 13:47. The idea of this proclamation “beginning at Jerusalem” could come from an ot text such as Isa. 2:2–3, where it is prophesied that “It shall come to pass in the latter days that … all the nations … and many peoples shall come.… For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (rsv; cf. also Mic. 4:1–2). Other ot texts used in early Christian circles that suggest that the Gentiles will have a part among God’s people include Hos. 1:10 and 2:23, both of which are cited by Paul in Rom. 9:24–26. See also Paul’s use of Isa. 65:1 in Rom. 10:20 and his use of Ps. 18:49; Deut. 32:43; Ps. 117:1; and Isa. 11:10 in Rom. 15:9–12.
Verses 48–49 are brief summaries of what will be more fully treated in Acts 1:6–2:4. In v. 48 Jesus tells his disciples that they are witnesses of these things (see Acts 1:8). They are witnesses of his entire public ministry, his passion, and now, most importantly, his resurrection. But the idea of being witnesses is not a passive one. They are to become proclaimers of repentance and forgiveness of sins. Theirs will be an active ministry of outreach to all nations. This active ministry, however, can only be accomplished through the power from on high with which, Jesus instructs his disciples, they will be clothed. This power, as we discover in Acts 1:8 and 2:2–4, is the Holy Spirit.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 3, p. 378). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 352–353). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.