“Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 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.””
There is something truly wonderful about the way in which each of the gospel writers closes out their books. In each one there is a form of the great commission in which the disciples of the LORD Jesus Christ are sent out with the responsibility to proclaim the message of grace to the whole world. With Matthew the commission comes with the promise that the LORD Jesus Christ will go out with them. Here in Luke the promise is that the Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit will be given in order to empower the witness of the disciples. The point that each of them is making is that the commission given to the church is the primary responsibility of the Triune God who is going with us and empowering us for cross centred witness.
Each gospel writer has his own focus. For Luke the focus is upon the gift of the Holy Spirit who comes to bear witness to the LORD Jesus Christ. He opens our minds to the truths of the Scriptures so that we can understand that the things with the Christ suffered were necessities proclaimed by the Old Testament Prophets. These things must happen. He must suffer the cross. He must rise from the dead. We must proclaim the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins, which is the Biblical definition of the Gospel, to all nations. The Holy Spirit is the Missionary Spirit. The Church is a Missionary Church. Luke labours in his Gospel as well as in the Book of Acts to make this clear.
The Apostle John reinforces this when he writes in John 14:26 these words, “But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit causes us to understand the message of the Scriptures, particularly as it points to the suffering of the Christ upon the cross as atonement for our sins. Luke quotes Jesus as pointing to this fact in the quotation regarding the Great Commission. He must suffer and die and He must be raised again. This is the heart of the Gospel. There is no salvation apart from this great event. Jesus without the cross simply gives us an impossible example to follow. With the cross and the resurrection He encounters us in the depth of our miserable slavery to sin and He redeems us from it by taking our place. In the account quoted by John regarding the woman caught in adultery Jesus does not condemn her for one reason alone. This is because He will soon be taking her place. The condemnation will rest upon Him for her sin, but also for your sin and mine (John 7:53-8:11). It is this message of grace that we are called to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit to every nation in this world. It is the message of grace.
The proclamation of the Gospel of grace calls us to repentance for one very powerful reason. This is because it is of grace. We cannot earn it. It is not dependant on our own goodness. It calls us no cease depending upon anything which we could do for ourselves. We must put our trust in the LORD Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul put it this way as he wrote to the Philippians Church. “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks that he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the Church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:3-11)