NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Without the events that were recorded in Luke 24:36-51 when Jesus visited the disciples after his death, there would be no Book of Acts in the Bible, Ken Keathley told seminarians in an April 10 chapel service during Easter week at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It was because of that memorable encounter that the early church existed and why churches exist today, said the seminary’s dean of students and assistant professor of theology.
Describing the disciples as being visibly shaken after Jesus’ agonizing death on the cross, Keathley noted that when Jesus died, their dreams and hopes died with him.
In what he supposed to be the single, most defining moment in their lives, Keathley further described how shocked the disciples were to see Jesus appear right before them, even after they had heard similar reports from the two women who saw him appear at the tomb and the two disciples who had traveled alongside him on their way back from Emmaus.
Explaining that the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost, Keathley likened their fear and panic to a modern-day funeral experience.
“What if you were at the hospital when your friend died?” he asked. “You saw him breathe his last. You heard the doctor pronounce him dead. You saw the nurse put the sheet over his head. You saw the hearse pull up to the hospital, and they took his body to the funeral home.
“You attended the wake. You visited the body. You saw it laid out in the coffin. You attended the funeral and made that one last round to see the body that last time. You went to the graveside ceremony, heard them read the verses, prayed the prayer, watched them lower the body, put the dirt on top of the body,” he continued.
“And then, three days later, at your dining room table, all of a sudden he shows up asking for something to eat. What would you think?” he asked.
“It’s not all that far-fetched to see how shocked they [were],” Keathley explained. “They’re in a panic. They can’t believe it.” Yet, they also are amazed and overjoyed at his presence, he said.
Jesus handles the disciples’ many emotions by visually showing them, using four of the five senses, that he is alive, Keathley continued. “He empirically demonstrates to them that he is actually, literally physically alive.”
First, he shows that he is alive by the sense of sight, Keathley said, pointing to the passages which says Jesus “appeared before them” (v. 36) and said, “Behold my hands and my feet” (v. 39).
Jesus also used the sense of sound by conversing with the disciples in verses 36 and 38, Keathley recounted.
Not only that, Jesus told the disciples to touch him in verses 39-40, so that they will know that he really is the resurrected Lord and not some gnostic phantom, he said. “Handle me and see,” Jesus said in the Scripture, pointing to his hands and feet where the nail prints remained.
Finally, Keathley said Jesus demonstrated he was alive in a very unambiguous way — and with subtle humor — by eating broiled fish in verse 43, incorporating the sense of taste. “He bites, he chews, and they are watching him swallow,” Keathley said.
Correspondingly, the disciples “never once in the Book of Acts … shirk away from testifying that Jesus is alive,” he said.
“Ever wonder how it is these early disciples were able to witness in such an uninhibited and enthusiastic way … in such an unbridled way, that they threw themselves into the work of the ministry? Not one time … not one time … not one time … not one time,” he emphasized, “did they ever waver, did they ever hedge.”
He added: “No matter whether they are facing persecution, torture or death, they are all going to stand up and say, ‘We cannot help but testify because we have witnessed and we have seen and we know that he is alive!'”
Moreover, the risen Lord had a job for the disciples to do, Keathley said, pointing to Jesus’ words in verses 46-47: “Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.'” Also known as the Great Commission, this mandate from Jesus, confirmed in the passage’s parallel account in Matthew 28, is the same for Christians today.
Accordingly, the content of believers’ message should be the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Keathley said, to which the expected response should be repentance, and the expected result, the forgiveness of sins.
“You and I are to be going around and telling everybody we can the good news of Jesus Christ — that Jesus Christ lived here, died, was buried and rose again.
“We are about the business of telling people the glorious gospel,” he said. “We’re about the business about telling people who are lost how to be saved, those who are in darkness how to be in the light.”
To underscore the importance of this task, Keathley related the story of how a congregation member once invited a couple she met at a grocery store to visit their church. The couple, though virtually unchurched before, became active church members, as did their families, before their government job moved them to another state.
It was while he was working in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that the wife spoke to her husband for the very last time, right before he was killed in the bombing that shook up the nation.
“I’d like to think that all 168 people who lost their lives on that day when the federal building was blown up in Oklahoma City … were all ready,” Keathley said. “I don’t know. But I know one of them was ready, all because a dear sister at a grocery store cared enough about the Great Commission … to be about the Master’s business and be a witness for her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Why is the church here? Why is the seminary here? Why are you here?” he asked.
“It’s because your Savior is alive,” he concluded.