Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

256. In Galilee (Matt. 28:16-18; Luke 24:45-48)

It has already been pointed out that Matthew's brief account of the resurrection appearances of Jesus is tied together by four allusions to his manifestation to the disciples in Galilee:

  1. 26:32: "But after I am risen I will go before you into Galilee."
  2. 28:7: "Behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you."
  3. 28:10: "Go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me."
  4. 28:16: "Then the eleven disciples went away into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them."
This emphasis on rendezvous in Galilee was doubtless dictated by the very good reason that Jerusalem was now a city of fear for followers of Jesus. It had been the scene of their panic and flight at the time of his suffering; and now the apostles were marked men because of the alarm of the priests and elders after the report from the Roman guard. But more than this, the union of Master and disciples in Galilee of the Gentiles was surely intended to mark the dethronement of Jerusalem from her position of queenly privilege and the end of Jewish prerogative in the divine purpose. Here in Galilee of the Gentiles was to be assembled the largest company of believers who saw the risen Christ.

Jesus had bidden them meet him on a certain mountain (where the sermon on the mount was proclaimed?), but — according to John's record - some of the disciples first went back to their fishing and had to be called again to more vital privilege and activity.

Those on whom the hills have laid their awe-inspiring fascination find no difficulty in appreciating their Lord's love of mountains. What more suitable places for prayer (Mark 3:13,14), for the instruction of the called-out disciples (Matthew 5:1), or for manifestation of heavenly glory (Matthew 17:1; 28:16)?

The disciples rallied in hundreds to the appointed spot. (One popular modern novelist describes the early church as a kind of secret society. This early part of the forty days, when word was being secretly passed on where to see the risen Jesus, is the only time when that concept has any degree of accuracy). By no means all of them believed that which had been told them by the now fully convinced apostles. "There shall ye see him ... there shall ye see me" had been the emphatic words concerning this meeting in Galilee, but Matthew in honesty was constrained to record: "When they (the apostles) saw him, they worshipped him: but some (of the multitude of believers) doubted." Perhaps they doubted as they saw Jesus approaching from a distance, and were only fully convinced when he came near and spoke to them.

Evidence - and unbelief

It is useful here to review the efforts that were made to bring conviction to the disciples:

Appearances of angels
An empty tomb
A message brought by the women
The Emmaus experience
"Handle me"
The eating of food
The exposition of Holy Scripture
Renewed miracles
And now this appearance to a great crowd of disciples. The Good Shepherd giving special care to his flock (Is. 40:11; Ez. 34:11,12,16; John 10:3,4). Thus through all the gospel records of the Lord's resurrection appearances there runs this amazing theme of unbelief. Not at any time was it true that the disciples were thirsting to be comforted with the news that their Leader had never died or, being dead, had come to life again. But rather, at every manifestation, there was the same stolid matter-of-fact incredulity. In a few emphatic verses Mark's record brings out this stubborn reluctance to believe:

"And they (the disciples), when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her (Mary Magdalene), believed not" (16:11).
"And they (the two from Emmaus) went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them" (16:13).
"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" (16:14).

All the more marvellous is the striking contrast in the ensuing verses that to such followers should be entrusted the responsibility of a gospel of justification by faith, based on a belief that a crucified Saviour was risen from the dead:

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;"
"but he that believeth not shall be damned" (16:16).
"And these signs shall follow them that believe (16:17).

The emphasis is exactly that of John's gospel (20:25-31).

It is unlikely that this Galilee meeting was the occasion of the great commission to become preachers of the gospel. That came later when the apostles were back in Jerusalem. At this time, the Lord was content to establish in their minds the great fact of his new status in the Father's purpose: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." The days of his human weakness were past. Now those who acknowledged him as Lord were called upon to "honour the Son as they honour the Father." No wonder that as the truth concerning him dawned upon them they worshipped him. Wandering preacher, scoffed at and derided, no longer! He was now the Lord of Glory, with angels and archangels at his bidding.

Yet how could he say: "All power is given unto me ... in earth"?7rie words are not true yet, nor have they been. There is need here to recognize the Hebraism in the expression. Very often the word "given" is used in Hebrew in the sense of "appointed," and in places this usage carries over into the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 19:11; John 5:22,27; Acts 7:8; 13:20,21). "Above five hundred brethren at once" (1 Corinthians 15:6) saw Jesus that day and had their doubts or disbelief laid to rest. Twenty years later it was still possible for Paul to assert with confidence that "the greater part (of this cloud of witnesses) remain unto this present," many of them doubtless known to him personally.

These were Christ's family, his true brethren, the New Creation of whom he was "the first begotten from the dead." But it is doubtful whether there were any of his own kin in that great company—those who had grown up with him in the humble home at Nazareth and who, because they had known him in that easy intimate fashion, could not bring themselves to think of him in any other way. Yet among these children of Mary and Joseph was one quite outstanding character, James, the eldest, whose reputation among the Jewish nation for devout and holy living became considerable in later years. To him the Lord manifested himself specially (1 Corinthians 15:7). Most likely this took place during this last Galilee ministry. Thenceforward James was accorded a leading place among the apostles in Jerusalem.

It is difficult to believe that at some time during the forty days Jesus did not appear to his own mother, even though she was almost certainly among those who had seen him in Jerusalem. The Roman church would be glad to point to some mention of a special manifestation to Mary, but on this (if it happened) the record is altogether silent. Only the briefest of phrases (Acts 1:14) implies the conversion of the entire family to acceptance of their elder brother as the Lord of Glory.

Education, enlightenment

Much of that forty days was taken up with the systematic instruction of the eleven. "Speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," the Lord filled out their understanding of his coming again and also of their own responsibilities in the leadership of his Church. All this, for certain, was solidly based on a unique unfolding of the message of the Scriptures. This was a Bible School before which all other Bible Schools pale into insignificance. Those modernists, who decry the Biblical insight of the apostles and who speak in a superior fashion about their "mistaken" expectations regarding a literal Second Coming and a literal Kingdom of Christ on earth, have given little consideration (if they believe it) to the tremendous educative influence which Jesus was now able to exercise on minds no longer blinded by mistaken pre-conceived ideas concerning him. Within a few weeks these "unlearned and ignorant men" became the world's finest Biblical scholars, able to interpret with clear insight and accuracy of detail many a Messianic Scripture which hitherto had been shrouded in uncertainty. It may be taken as almost certain that many a New Testament exposition of an unusual or even dubious character (as the twentieth-century mind deems it) was first imparted to the disciples during this period. "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. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:44,45).

A man needs more than the printed page of Holy Scripture to make him wise unto salvation. He needs a mind opened to give heed to the heavenly message (Acts 16:14). He needs eyes opened to behold wondrous things out of God's law (Psalm 119:18). He needs Christ "opening his mind" (RV) that he might understand the Scriptures. And when this blessed process takes place, with what gladness and wonder does he, like a new-born babe, open his eyes in a new and greater world of truth and assurance.

So it was now with the apostles: "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations" ((Luke 24:46,47).

Here seven items in the first principles of Christ were specifically educed by him from the Scriptures, and expanded for their better understanding:

  1. He is the Christ, the promised Messiah.
  2. He had to suffer and die.
  3. He rose again.
  4. This happened on the third day.
  5. The word concerning him must be received with repentance.
  6. Thus, through Baptism and Breaking of Bread, there is remission of sins.
  7. This is a catholic gospel, available to men of all nations.
How many readers of these words, believing these first principles, could establish them from the Old Testament Scriptures which Christ now unfolded to the minds of his apostles?

NOTES: Luke 24:45-48.

That they might understand the Scriptures. Yet there are those who maintain that a man needs a Bible and nothing else! (B.S. 14.01). But here were men with a Bible who needed that their understanding be "opened". The key word here means 'putting two and two together!' Could this passage be the equivalent of Jn. 20:22?
Suffering and glory; v.26; Acts 3:13; 17:3; 23:6; 26:23; 1 Cor. 15:3,4; 1 Pet. 1:11.
Among all nations - OT witness to this is copious; e.g. Gen. 22:18; Ps. 22:27; Is. 49:6,22; Hos. 2:23; Mic. 4:2; Mal. 1:11. These are only samples. How ever did the rabbis fail to get the message?

Beginning at Jerusalem: Is. 2:3. This phrase really belongs to v.48.
Ye are witnesses: Acts 1:8,22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:20,33; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31; 1 Pet. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:16; Jl. 2:28.

This verse (and v.46: rise) echoes Zeph. 3:8 LXX: but what a different emphasis there!

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