Luke 24:48-49

You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

– Luke 24:48-49, NIV

All that Jesus has said about the Spirit in Luke leads up to this powerful statement and command. The disciples are witnesses and will be empowered for their task. They will proclaim the gospel to all nations. What takes place here is a strong prelude to what is coming on the Day of Pentecost.

The Occasion

When did Jesus make the comments in Luke 24:44-? Were His comments made on resurrection Sunday night? Or were they made sometime later? Some commentators hold that Luke 24:44– is parallel to Acts 1:4-5. Just when the meeting recorded in Acts 1:4-5 took place is not certain, but many believe it was forty days after resurrection Sunday on the day of the public ascension of Christ. Given this, the words of Jesus in Luke 24: would have been spoken on the day of His public ascension. This view is possible, but there is nothing in Luke 24:44– itself that demands this conclusion. To the contrary, the evidence points in another direction.

According to Lenski (p. 1023), Luke 24:44– is parallel with John 20:22-23. We know that the event in John 20:19-23 took place on resurrection Sunday evening. Thus, if Luke 24:44– is parallel, it describes the same meeting. Both passages deal with the commissioning of the disciples as witnesses, with forgiveness of sins, and the bestowal of the Spirit. My view is that verses 44- provide a strong conclusion to the evening meeting on resurrection day.

Building Faith

Luke 24:44– fits very well with Luke 24:36-43. When Jesus appeared (verse 37) among the disciples, they were startled. Jesus proceeded to calm their fears and help them overcome their doubts. After showing them His hands and His feet, He ate a piece of broiled fish. Then Jesus pointed (verse 44) the disciples to the prophecies in the Law and the Prophets that must be fulfilled. This was the ultimate evidence. Also, the Scriptures would help them understand (verse 47) their commission to proclaim the gospel to the nations.

The Proclamation of the Gospel

In Luke 24:47, Jesus declared “that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” NASU He was concerned on resurrection Sunday evening that the mission of the disciples be established. All the nations of the world should hear the message of salvation.

Jesus may have had Isaiah :6 in mind when He made this declaration. It was God’s plan for Israel to be an instrument of salvation to the nations. With regard to Israel, God said: “I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation shall reach to the end of the earth.” Now, this mission is being accomplished through the church. When Paul turned to the Gentiles at Pisidian Antioch, He cited (Acts 13:47) this verse as His authority. Compare Luke 2:32Acts 1:826:23; and 28:28.

You Are Witnesses

Then, Jesus says (Luke 24:48), “You are witnesses of these things.” The time for worldwide witnessing was coming soon. Even now, Jesus considered the disciples to be witnesses. Yet, He said in Acts 1:8 that they “shall be” witnesses when the power of the Spirit has come upon them. Although they are witnesses, they will become greater witnesses as they are empowered by the Spirit.

The witness of the disciples would have a powerful impact. They would proclaim the gospel. People would be challenged to repent, believe in Christ, and ask for their sins to be forgiven. Many would respond positively to this challenge, but many others would reject it. The result would be a separation of the believers and the unbelievers. The unbelievers would be judged.

I Am Sending Forth

Jesus said (Luke 24:), “I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you.” He used the present tense (apostello) of the Greek verb. Many interpret this present tense as a rhetorical future. In other words, they maintain that Jesus was saying, “I am about to send forth” the promise of My Father upon you. However, it appears to me that Jesus meant that He was sending forth the Spirit in some measure that very evening. He was “already” sending forth the Spirit, even though the full outpouring was “not yet” happening.

The present tense fits well with what we read in John 20:22 which reads, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Although some hold that this was not an actual impartation of the Spirit at this time, I concur with the view that it was. Jesus was concerned, on the night after His resurrection, that the disciples experience the presence of the Spirit. Thus, there was an immediate impartation of the Spirit.

The Promise of My Father

What did Jesus mean by “the promise of the Father?” The term “promise” can refer to all the promised spiritual benefits in the Old Testament. However, “the promise of the Father” is generally taken to mean the Holy Spirit. With this in view, we must consider what promises about the Holy Spirit are included.

The apostle Paul treats the Spirit comprehensively. He mentions “the promise of the Spirit” in Galatians 3:14 and “the Holy Spirit of promise” in Ephesians 1:13. All the Old Testament prophetic passages about the Spirit lie in the background of his writings.

What specific promises about the Spirit does Jesus have in mind? Does He include all the Old Testament promises concerning the Spirit? Does Jesus include His comments in John’s Gospel about the Spirit and, especially, the Paraclete? What about His teachings in Matthew and Mark?

These are intriguing questions, but here we will limit our comments to what we discover in Luke’s writings. With regard to the Old Testament, the passage that stands out is Joel 2:28-32. On the Day of Pentecost Peter (Acts 2:17-21) cites the passage. The Holy Spirit would empower His disciples to prophesy. Clearly, this is included in the “promise of the Father.”

It seems apparent in Luke’s writings that Jesus at least had the prophecy of John the Baptist (Luke 3:16) in mind. In support of this, we note that on the eve of His ascension (Acts 1:5), Jesus cited John’s prophecy. John the Baptist baptized in water, but Jesus would baptize in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ baptism would empower the disciples to be witnesses. According to Luke 24:, Jesus said: “you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Similarly, in Acts 1:8, Jesus promises the disciples, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

Clothed With

Jesus commanded His disciples (Luke 24:) to wait in Jerusalem until they are “clothed (endusesthe) with power from on high.” According to Robertson (p. 297), the verb is an indirect middle and means “put on yourselves” power from on high. However, Arndt and Gingrich (p. 263) regard the verb as a passive, meaning “be clothed with” power. Either way, the disciples are empowered by the Spirit. They will be “clothed with power” when the promise of the Father “comes “upon” them.

When we read this Scripture, we are reminded of Judges 6:34 which says, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” According to Horton (p. 38), the Hebrew verb means “put on, was clothed with, clothed himself with.” However, the meaning stands in contrast to Luke 24:. The meaning is not that Gideon put on the Spirit, but that the Spirit put on Gideon. The Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon. The end result, of course, is that Gideon was empowered by the Spirit.

Power from on High

Clearly, in Luke 24:, Jesus has in mind the power (dunamin) dimension of the Spirit. The Spirit has power and bestows power. Thus, the Spirit and power are not exactly synonymous. This is made clear in Acts 1:8 where Jesus says, “you shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The emphasis on power is consistent in Luke’s writings about the Holy Spirit.


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Copyright 2000 © George M. Flattery