By Ryan Shaw
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, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49
The writer of the Gospel of Luke was a Greek. He is the only non-Jew (Gentile) author of one of the Gospels.
The dominant factor of Greek influence was the drive toward the perfection of the individual. Luke, as a Greek, was profoundly influenced by his cultural background, and found in Jesus One who perfectly realized the image of perfection the Greeks aspired after.
The revelation of the perfect humanity of Jesus as the ideal human being is the primary purpose of the Gospel of Luke. Luke presents Jesus as the perfect manifestation of humanity according to the divine purpose.
As Luke lays out Jesus’ commission, he emphasizes the body of Christ’s responsibility to reveal to the world the perfections of Jesus as the perfect embodiment of what a human being is meant to be. Through the cross and resurrection Jesus makes possible the transforming of all human beings (fallen short of the glory of God through sin) into the same image of glory that He possesses.
In Luke’s commission, we reveal the perfections of Jesus as His witnesses and see His perfections reproduced in the lives of all those who take Him at His Word. Jesus tells us, “You are witnesses of these things!” We need to understand what “these things” are. Their meaning is clarified by the preceding words just before the commission.
First, in v. 44 Jesus reveals His absolute superiority over the old spiritual economy (the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms). We are “witnesses” of this superiority by declaring Jesus sums up the whole content of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Second, in v. 46 we are witnesses of the facts of Jesus’ suffering and subsequent glory through resurrection. Through these central events Jesus fulfills the past but more importantly inaugurates a brand new era of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ suffering and glory, anguish and victory and death and resurrection provide the key shift from the old to the new covenant. Spiritual restoration is now available for all through “repentance and remission of sins.”
Jesus is seeking a process of whole life transformation inferred through His words, “repentance and remission of sins.” Transformation begins through repentance which is the longing within humanity for renewal and inner life restoration.
Repentance is the result of seeing the beauty, loveliness, attractiveness, goodness and mercy of God through Jesus. When the glorious light of His perfect life shines upon our own, we are moved with brokenness and repentance.
The body of Christ’s commission in Luke, then, is to witness to the world of the glory, purity and holiness of Jesus which moves people to genuine repentance as they see their sin for what it is – a blockage between them and God.
Wherever true repentance flows, the Lord is quick to answer with the remission of sins. “Remission of sins” is more than forgiveness and includes breaking the power of desire for sin, separating the soul from the stench of sin and overcoming of the poison of sin in a life.
This is an incredible act of mercy as God reverses the power of the curse over our lives as sin loses its power to bind and hold us captive any longer.
The body of Christ is commissioned to “witness” to the fact of God’s “remission of sins” revealed through our own lives being delivered from sins’ power by His remission.
It is common to reduce “being a witness” to what we say about the Lord. “We witness to somebody.” Yet it is surely much more than this.
A witness is one through whose life the power of the cross has produced a crucified life. A life dying to sin, to self and to all that is contrary to the heart of God.
A witness is one revealing the truth of Jesus’ resurrection through a life experiencing victory by His resurrection power. Our lives are as much a witness as the words which we utter about Jesus are.
Jesus intends our words align with our experience of the crucified life and resurrected life as true witnesses. A witness refers to the result in a human life, over time, brought about through the death and resurrection of Christ.
A New Testament “witness” is not mere intellectual assent of Biblical doctrine. It always carries with it the idea of truth being made real through proven experience. No believer is a “witness” who has not personally experienced “these things” in their own lives.