24:44-49 Most likely, verses 44-49 are a brief summary of all the teachings that Jesus gave the disciples over a forty-day period. This writer believes that Jesus met with the disciples on many, many occasions, and explained to them the prophecies of the Old Testament that pointed to His person and His work. (See Acts 1:3 for confirmation.) They can be found in the Law (first five books of the Bible), the prophets (almost all the major and minor prophets that prophesied of the Messiah), and the “Psalms” (which would include the Wisdom literature as well as applicable historical books). Jesus would take these teaching opportunities to remind the disciples of all the sayings, parables, and miracles they had witnessed, and put them in the context of the Old Testament writings. Matthew, particularly, includes an abundance of Old Testament verses when writing his gospel; no doubt, Jesus brought many of these to his mind.
There are six significant statements in verses 44-49. The first is found in verse 44, what has just been mentioned, such as discovering His identity as the Son of David and being the fulfillment of David’s lineage, His birth, His healings, His parables, and the crucifixion. It must have been something to see the disciples begin to put all the pieces together in their minds, and to watch the light bulbs go off. (The right kind of spiritual enlightenment!) The key words in this first statement, verse 44, are “must be fulfilled.” That is, completely fulfilled, and therefore completely fulfilling God’s eternal plan. Such marvelous passages as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 suddenly made sense to the disciples. So it is important to Luke that his readers understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, that all of the Old Testament points to the Messiah, and that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hopes and promises of the God of Israel.
The second significant statement is found in verse 45: “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures….” There is probably a connection between this verse and John’s curious verse in 20:22: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Undoubtedly, John 20:22 is pointing toward the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples. But it is also quite possible that receiving the Holy Spirit is a part of opening their minds to “understand the Scriptures.” Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to teach truth from the word of God. How many times has someone who is not a Christian tried to read and understand the Bible, only to find it incomprehensible? Then, once the person becomes a Christian and receives the Holy Spirit, the word of God suddenly comes to life and makes perfect sense. This writer believes that there is a direct relationship between receiving the Holy Spirit and understanding the Scriptures, and that is illuminated in this passage.
The third significant statement is found in verse 46. Here, Jesus directs the disciples’ attention to His death and resurrection. Of course, Jesus had forewarned the disciples about His death on numerous occasions, the most notable being Luke 18:31-33, followed by the parable recorded in Luke 20:9-18. Jesus is introducing the disciples to the concept of one Messiah, two comings; His first coming mandated suffering through scourging and sacrifice on the cross. But there was a God-directed purpose for this, which is the fourth significant statement, found in verse 47: it was all a part of God’s eternal plan so that the forgiveness of sins could be offered to all mankind.
Here we see the love of God manifested in its most magnificent form: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
But note carefully here: the verse states, “and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed….” Without repentance, there can be no forgiveness of sins. An individual must repent to receive the benefit of forgiveness. To repent means to honestly confess one’s sins before God and to begin living in a manner consistent with repentance. This concept points us back to the teaching of John the Baptist: “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance…” (Luke 3:8).
The fifth significant statement is found in verses 47 & 48: it’s God’s plan for the disciples’ lives. They are going to be the proclaimers of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Why? Because they are the witnesses. They will bear witness of the resurrected Christ. And how will they proclaim? They will proclaim the forgiveness of sins—not in Yahweh’s name—but in the name of Jesus Christ. This will be the keystone of Peter’s preaching during Pentecost (Acts 2:32 & 3:17-20). It’s Jesus who saves us from our sins, and one must repent, confess Him as Lord and Savior, and receive the forgiveness of sins.
But there is something else that can be received by those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, and it is the sixth significant statement, found in verse 49: “I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you….” The promise is that all those who call upon the Lord can receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
By the time Jesus completes His forty-day teaching of the disciples, taking them through the Old Testament as it relates to Him, the apostles are more than ready to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus did not reveal everything to them at this point in time, such as the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s plan, but he taught them enough to launch the church. This is evident by Peter’s bold preaching at Pentecost, quoting numerous portions of the Old Testament to point his audience to the reality that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God.
There are at least five great lessons that can be learned from the aforementioned verses. First, the Holy Spirit opens our minds to understand the word of God. Thus, there are no more sources of revelation apart from the Scriptures.
Second, the better the believer understands the Old Testament, the better he or she will appreciate the New Testament. The Old Testament points to Christ; the New Testament confirms the Old.
Third, the most basic message of Christianity is that Jesus Christ can forgive us of our sins, as long as we’re willing to repent and live a life in keeping with repentance. The most important message that Christians must learn for themselves and communicate to the lost is that through Jesus and Jesus alone, our sins can be forgiven.
Fourth, once the message has been learned from the Scriptures, the power for delivering the message comes through the Holy Spirit. All Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they receive Jesus as Lord and Savior; that is, believe. However, the quantity and quality of the power that can produce good works in the believer is a matter of faith and sanctification.
And fifth, not stated but certainly implied by the word “witnesses,” not all Christians are called to suffer, but all Christians are called to sacrifice. Some Christians have been appointed by God to suffer and die for His name’s sake, but all Christians have been called to sacrifice on His behalf. There is no such thing as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ or living a life pleasing to Him without personal sacrifice. And the motive for this, of course, is love.