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Bible Commentaries
Luke 24

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-53

XXIV 1-53 The Resurrection and Ascension —’Each of the four evangelists relates in his own way how the tomb Jesus was found empty, to the great astonishment of Christ’s friends. Mt and Mk are the most alike. Lk is usually closer to Mk. As for Jn, he goes his own ’way but is in agreement with Mk concerning the search made by St Peter. The difficulty of harmonizing the four accounts has been greatly exaggerated. Nothing is more simple provided we do not stick at unimportant details, provided also we pay attention to the way in which each Gospel was composed. ( Lagr., GJC II 283). The main difference between Lk and the other Synoptists is that he omits the appearances of Jesus in Galilee, confining himself to those in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem; but it is unbelievable that he was ignorant of the former, recorded by Mt, Mk and Jn. We have to recall once more what was Lk’s aim, remembering that he differs greatly from Mt and Mk in showing that the ministry Jesus was by no means confined to Galilee. Throughout his Gospel it is clear that Lk has his eyes fixed on Jerusalem, whither the ministry inevitably leads by the design of Providence and according to the prediction of Scripture, 13:33. In his ’second treatise’ he will show how the Gospel message spreads from Jerusalem throughout the Roman world until it finally reaches Rome, the centre of the Gentile world. With this in view, there was no special need for his purpose to add details about the appearances in Galilee once he had demonstrated the truth of the Resurrection by means of the appearances at Jerusalem. He has a thesis, and we have seen how much he dislikes multiplying details and incidents of a similar character once his object is attained.

1-12 The Empty Tomb —(Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; cf.Jn 201-18). The general lines of Mk’s story are followed with the differences to be noted. The chapterdivision here breaks into the sequence of the narrative; this section should begin at 23:55. We have seen that Lk omits to join Mk and Mt in the enumeration of the Holy Women; with his usual foresight he leaves that until the moment when they are to give their testimony of the Resurrection to the Apostles and the disciples, (9-10), when he substitutes the name of Joanna (cf. 8:3) for that of Salome in Mark 15:40. He is not interested in the problem of rolling back the heavy stone; it is sufficient for his purpose to say that it was found removed; he adds that in entering the women saw the body of Jesus was gone. That is the main fact which Mt and Mk leave to be understood while they concentrate on the angelic apparition. Instead of Mk’s ’young man’ and Mt’s ’angel of Yahweh’, two men appear suddenly, ?p?st?sa? (cf. 2:9; Acts 12:7; Acts 23:11 for similar description of supernatural apparitions) who both speak.

3. ’The Lord Jesus’; first and only appearance of this title in the Gospels, of common use in Acts and Epistles.

6. Galilee is introduced, as in Mk, but with a different purpose; here it serves merely as a stepping-stone to Jerusalem, from now the centre of the Gospel.

9. Difficult to reconcile this with Mark 16:8 where the women flee in terror without saying a word of the incident, contrary to Matthew 28:8. The explanation may well lie in the fact that there is a clear break in Mark 16:8 (the sentence is not complete) and we are so far ignorant of how the original Mk continued. In view of what is known from the other Gospels, we may surmise that the women recovered from their natural fright in time to hand on the message in the way that Lk describes.

10. The lack of agreement about the number and the names of the women is a difficulty only for those who wish the Gospel to be a full and exact account of all the details; but human documents are not written in that way. Here as elsewhere, the thing to be noted is the remarkable independence shown by Lk where he could have copied Mk slavishly had he wished. The discrepancies, far from casting doubt on the reality of the facts, are on the contrary strong arguments in their favour (cf. Lagr. GJC Ixi ff.).

12. Some critics wish to eliminate this as a gloss from John 20:3-10; there are verbal resemblances with John 20:5 and the verse is wanting in certain of the ancient versions. But MS authority guarantees its authenticity; moreover it comes well in Lk after 11, serving to distinguish Peter from the incredulous attitude of the rest. Peter’s conclusion from the situation of the grave-clothes is that the body has not been stolen. Thieves would not have stayed to unwrap the corpse. A more complete description in John 20:6-7.

13-35 Apparition on the Way to Emmaus —Proper to Lk except for a brief summary in Mark 16:12. Lk alone records the share taken by a larger group of disciples in the ministry of Jesus; here the same group plays its part in the important task of witnessing to the Resurrection (cf.Acts 1:21-22). These two are of those mentioned in 9 but not Apostles; cf. 33. They are not obeying the instruction to go to Galilee, Mark 16:7; Matthew 28:7, and there meet the risen Jesus; they are going in the totally different direction of Emmaus, lying W. of Jerusalem, and the sequel leads to the conclusion that their faith is shattered. The site of Emmaus is a matter of much dispute on account of the division of the MSS between the readings 60 or 160 furlongs stad???;cf. § 82c. Nearly a dozen places have been suggested, but only the following three are now considered: the modern Amwas, lying about 20 m. W. of Jerusalem, which still retains the ancient name though it was called Nicopolis during the 3rd cent. a.d.; Koliniyeh, about 5 m. west, claimed to be the Emmaus mentioned by Josephus, B.J. 7, 6, 6.; El Kubeibeh, about 7 m. west. The first is the traditional site, though the majority of MSS give 60 stad??? and the longer distance seems difficult to reconcile with the Gospel story of the quick return of the two disciples. El Kubeibeh is almost exactly 60 stad??? but its claim to be the site cannot be traced back beyond the time of the Crusades. 16. Failure to recognize Jesus may have been due to divine intervention, or possibly because of the characteristics of the glorified body; cf.Mark 16:12Jo_20:14; 2 John 21:4.18. Another, or possibly the same Cleophas, written ???pa+^s in John 19:25. Much speculation about the other disciple; Origen says he was Simon Peter (cf. 34), while some have thought it was Lk himself, perhaps because of the old and improbable tradition that he was one of the Seventy-Two.

19-21. An excellent summary of the effects of Jesus’s ministry on the different classes: the people, the Jewish leaders, the disciples. 21b. This and the following verse give the impression that they had waited till the third day to see whether Jesus would fulfil his promise of resurrection, and were disappointed. The argument of 22-24 seems to be this: If the women saw the angels, why did not the men-folk see them, the Apostles being so much the more important than the women? And if Jesus had really risen why had he not shown himself?

25. The reproach is directed against their want of intelligence; ????t??cf.Galatians 3:1. They are like the Jews who have read in the Prophets only the pleasant and glorious things about the Messias; but they must believe ’all’, the pleasant and the unpleasant. Our Lord proceeds to give them a lesson in exegesis from ’Moses and all the Prophets’, reminding us of the presence of Moses and Elias at the Transfiguration and the subject of their talk with Jesus; 9:30-31. The important thing is to welcome the Messias preordained by divine decree, not the Messias of their grandiose dreams.

29. ’Far spent’ is too strong; the day (i.e. the sun) begins to decline from midday.

30. Augustine interprets the action of Jesus as the celebration of the Eucharist and many follow him; but modern Catholic exegesis tends to favour the contrary opinion. The key seems to be in 35. ’The breaking of bread’ seems to have been an accepted term for the Eucharist: Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16. Some hold that it is the miracles of the multiplication of bread that are envisaged here (cf. 9:16) especially as Lk does not make our Lord celebrate the Eucharist with his Apostles at his later appearance the same evening, when, 41-43, it is an ordinary meal that he partakes with them; but it must be observed that the later eating is intended for a very different purpose. Another opinion is that the disciples recognized Jesus merely from his characteristic way of breaking bread while eating, perhaps with a blessing. Or did they now notice the marks of the nails ? 33. In John 20:24 only ten of the Apostles were present at this first appearance; but ’the Eleven’ had become a general term, like ’the Twelve’ previously. 34. ’Saying’; grammatically agreeing with the Eleven and the rest, though another reading (with little authority) makes it agree with ’they’, i.e. the two disciples; hence Origen’s opinon that the companion of Cleophas was Simon Peter. Confirmation of 34 in 1 Corinthians 15:5.

36-43 Appearance at Jerusalem —cf.In 20:19-23. ’It is I: fear not’ is a gloss; perhaps also ’Peace be to you has been added from John 20:19, John 20:21, though there is good MS authority for the latter.

37. This may seem strange after the foregoing, but Lk always insists on the natural fear that results from a supernatural manifestation, 1:12; 2:9; 4:36; 5:10, etc.

42. ’and a honeycomb’, probably a gloss. Our Lord retained the imprint of the five wounds in his glorified body as a proof of his identity and also as a sign of his triumph over death. His glorified body retained all its physical reality, including its tangibility and its normal organs, as is shown by his eating the proferred food. On the qualities of the risen body, cf.1 Cor 15passim.

44-49 Last Instruction —These last words of Jesus, proper to Lk, demonstrate the consistency of the writer and justify the claim with which he began, that he would set down all things ’in order’: not a chronological, but a logical order which would show the enchainment of the events described. From the beginning he insists on the fulfilment of the divine plan in the life of Jesus; he ends on that note. Hence these final instructions weld together the past, i.e. the Scriptures, with the future, i.e. the mission of the Apostles, in the person of Jesus. The sending out of the Apostles is put by Mt at the post-Resurrection reunion in Galilee (in Jerusalem apparently by John 20:21); but these concluding verses of Lk furnish us with a final example of his manner of composition: he arranges his material with more concern about the sequence of ideas than about time and place. But for that we might imagine that this instruction and the Resurrection, and even the Ascension, all took place on the same day. It is to be borne in mind also that Lk, careful writer as he is, already knew what he was to write in his further treatise; there these events are put into their proper perspective, Acts 1:1-10.

44. ’Words’ means here events rather than the things about to be spoken of, i.e. ’fulfilled words’. What follows is a repetition of the instruction given to the disciples at Emmaus, 19-27. ’Here Christ reveals the meaning of Scripture (cf. Romans 10:4): first with regard to Christ himself, secondly with respect to the work to be accomplished in his name by others. . . . It is Christ’s part to suffer, but as the Christ he must rise again. . . . The victorious Christ to whom God had promised the nations for his inheritance almost disappears from the scene of this world; but if the nations are to be invited to repentance in his name, it is because they are to obtain pardon through his sufferings’ ( Lagr., S. Luc 614). 47. With the mention of ’penance unto the remission of sins’ Lk has very fittingly brought us back to the beginning of his Gospel; cf. 1:17, 77; 3:3. 49. Written with a view to Acts 2:1-4; cf.Acts 1:4; Acts 2:33. ’Power from on high’ recalls ’the power of the most high’ in 1:35; God himself is the chief operating agent in either case, for all has to do with the same object.

50-53 The Ascension —cf.Mark 16:19-20. The way in which Lk here abbreviates the history of the forty days after the Resurrection is characteristic, and perhaps an indication of the fact that he intends to return to the subject. 50. ’He led them out towards Bethany’; in Acts 1:12 he led them a Sabbath day’s journey; Bethany is twice that distance; cf.John 11:18. Hands lifted up to bless in the traditional fashion, Leviticus 9:22; cf.Genesis 48:14.51. ’And was carried up to heaven; words of doutbful authenticity, perhaps added from Ac; but there is not the slightest doubt about Lk’s meaning. He has now carried his Gospel to the point indicated in 9:51. 53. Omit ’praising’ as a rejected reading of the Gk. The Gospel ends as it began, in the temple. There are still many things to happen before the disciples are forced by circumstances to understand that the paths of the Church and Synagogue lie in different directions.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Luke 24". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/luke-24.html. 1951.
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