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Bible Commentaries
Luke 24

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

Saturday was a day of rest, but when Sunday came the women went into action. [Note: See Zane C. Hodges, "The Women and the Empty Tomb," Bibliotheca Sacra 123:492 (October-December 1966):301-9.] Luke dated their arrival at the tomb at "early dawn." Dawn has obvious symbolic connotations. This day would signal the beginning of something entirely new, a new day in human history. They brought spices and perfume (Luke 23:56) to anoint the body of Jesus. They were the first to learn of the resurrection because their devotion to Jesus moved them to seek Him out. Their example has challenged believers ever since to emulate their love for the Savior.

Verses 1-12

H. The resurrection of Jesus 24:1-12 (cf. Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; John 20:1-10)

Luke’s account of the events following Jesus’ resurrection stresses the reality of that event and the reactions of the witnesses to it. All these people felt depressed because of Jesus’ death, but when they learned of His resurrection they became joyful and praised God. Thus the book concludes as it began with joy and rejoicing because of a miracle involving the salvation of humankind (cf. chs. 1-2).

"Luke 24 and Acts 1, which partly overlap, bridge the important transition from the story of Jesus to the story of his witnesses. The narrator’s concern to build a strong bridge, unifying the story rather than permitting it to disintegrate into two stories, is shown by the amount of material in these chapters which either reviews what has already happened or previews what is going to happen." [Note: Tannehill, The Narrative . . ., 1:277.]

Verses 2-3

Luke stressed the absence of Jesus’ body more than the moving of the stone that sealed the tomb. All four evangelists mentioned the removal of the stone, probably because of its apologetic value. It was not just the spirit of Jesus that had departed but His body as well. Luke contrasted what the women found, the stone rolled away, with what they did not find, the body. The title "Lord Jesus" is new in Luke. It indicates the new status of the risen Christ. The early Christians used this title often (Acts 1:21; Acts 4:33; Acts 8:16).

Verses 4-5

Only Luke mentioned that there were two angels. Probably God sent two to convince the women that Jesus really had arisen (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; cf. Luke 2:25-38; Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; et al.). They appeared to be men, but they were angels (Luke 24:23; Matthew 28:5), as their dazzling apparel (Gr. astraptouse, cf. Luke 9:29; Matthew 28:3; Acts 1:10) undoubtedly indicated to the women. The women responded to these "men" as to divine messengers (cf. Luke 1:12; Luke 1:29; Luke 2:9; Luke 9:34).

Verses 5-7

The angels’ words stressed the fact that Jesus was alive. It was inappropriate to look for a living person in a tomb (cf. Acts 2:24). They then flatly declared that Jesus had risen from the dead and reminded the women of Jesus’ prophecy that He would rise after three days (Luke 9:22; Luke 9:43-45; Luke 18:31-33). Luke wrote that the meaning of Jesus’ prediction was incomprehensible to the disciples when He gave it (Luke 18:34; cf. Luke 24:16). However now God’s messenger clarified it. Note the recurrence of the divine necessity behind Jesus’ death and resurrection in Luke 24:7 indicated by the word "must" (Gr. dei, cf. Luke 2:49; Luke 4:43; Luke 13:33; Luke 17:25; Luke 19:5; Luke 19:22; Luke 22:37; Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44-46; Acts 2:23-24).

Verses 8-9

The women now remembered the predictions they had heard but had not understood. The Resurrection had begun to clarify many things that Jesus had previously taught His disciples (cf. Acts 11:16). The women then returned to the Eleven and the other disciples with their news. The angels had been witnesses of the Resurrection to the women, and now the women were witnesses of it to the rest of the disciples. They in turn would be witnesses of it to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Luke probably wanted his readers to note this beginning of the Christian mission here.

Verses 10-11

Luke now introduced the identity of these female witnesses whose names he evidently omitted earlier to focus attention on the Resurrection itself.

Women Who Visited the Tomb Easter Morning
Matthew 28:1Mark 16:1Luke 24:10John 20:1
Mary MagdaleneMary MagdaleneMary MagdaleneMary Magdalene
The other Mary =Mary the mother of JamesMary the mother of James

Salome was apparently the mother of Zebedee’s sons (i.e., James and John, Matthew 27:56) and the sister of Jesus’ mother (John 19:25). Joanna was the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and was one of Jesus’ companions in Galilee (Luke 8:3).

The rest of the disciples could not believe that Jesus was alive (cf. Luke 24:12; Luke 24:22-24). This is amazing since Jesus had predicted His resurrection, and they had seen Him raise at least three people from the dead (cf. Luke 7:11-17; Luke 8:49-56; John 11:38-44). However their reluctance to believe is a strong argument for the Resurrection. They knew that Jesus had died and been placed in the tomb. They did not expect the Resurrection so they would hardly have dreamed it up. Perhaps Luke called these disciples "apostles" because that is what Jesus intended them to be, namely, messengers sent with a message. They were not ready to go yet though.

Verse 12

Some ancient manuscripts omit this verse, but the evidence is good that it was part of Luke’s original Gospel. Luke reported that Peter ran to the tomb to check out the women’s story. He did not mention the other disciple who accompanied Peter (John 20:6-7) probably because Luke regarded Peter as the leader of the disciples in His Gospel (cf. Luke 5:1-11). He, too, found it empty of Jesus’ body. Only the linen strips of cloth with which Joseph of Arimathea had wrapped Jesus’ corpse remained.

Peter’s reaction of returning to his home (i.e., lodging place) may indicate that he did not understand what had happened. If he had understood, he would have returned to the other disciples, assuming they were not all staying in the same house. Luke used the Greek word thaumazon ("marveling" or "wondering") to express his lack of comprehension. He neither believed nor disbelieved that Jesus had risen yet. Peter was Luke’s second witness to the resurrection following the women.

Verses 13-14

Luke described the two men as "two of them." The antecedent seems to be the apostles (Luke 24:10). Luke used this word in its broad meaning rather than as a synonym for the Eleven (cf. Luke 24:33; Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14; et al.). These apostles were going somewhere, but they had no good news. The day in view was Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, the "Easter event."

Luke presented Jesus as heading to Jerusalem and the Cross through his Gospel. Now he told of two disciples heading away from Jerusalem and the Cross. He probably intended his readers to see these people as representative disciples going out from Jerusalem to witness for Jesus (cf. Acts 1:8). Shortly after Luke recorded that Jesus set out resolutely for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) he wrote that a man approached Him about discipleship. Now we see Jesus approaching two disheartened disciples as they began to leave Jerusalem. They needed more training before they could represent Him effectively. Emmaus (lit. warm springs) was about seven miles west of Jerusalem, toward the Mediterranean Sea. [Note: See the Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. "Emmaus," 1:525-26, for discussion of possible sites.]

Verses 13-35

1. The appearance to the disciples walking to Emmaus 24:13-35

This is another of Luke’s exquisite and unique stories. Various students of it have noted its similarity to the stories of the feeding of the 5,000 (Luke 9:10-17), the appearance in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-49), and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Luke’s purpose in recording the incident seems to have been to demonstrate the reality of the Resurrection and the identity of the risen Christ. It also unites many of Luke’s major themes.

Verses 13-49

I. The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus 24:13-49

Luke included two of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in his Gospel, the first one to two disciples and the second to many of the disciples. In both cases the key to their enlightenment was the Hebrew Scriptures.

Verses 15-16

Luke pictured the scene dramatically. The two people were walking along discussing Jesus’ death and the reports of His resurrection (Luke 24:10), but not knowing what to make of them, when Jesus Himself joined them. Some writers have seen this situation as parallel to Jesus’ presence with His often non-perceptive disciples in the present age. [Note: E.g., Liefeld, "Luke," p. 1051.] Luke’s obvious implication was that God was preventing them from recognizing Jesus (cf. Luke 9:45; Luke 18:34). Evidently Jesus looked like the real man that He was albeit now immortal, but they could not recognize Him. The key to recognizing Jesus for who He was would be the illumination of God through the Scriptures.

Verse 17

Jesus’ question apparently so shocked the two disciples that they stopped walking. It opened a wound in their hearts and renewed their sorrow. Cleopas’ casual comment tells the reader that Jesus was the talk of Jerusalem. Everyone there, residents and pilgrims alike, knew about Him and what had happened to Him. Luke may have mentioned Cleopas by name because some of his readers knew him or knew about him. According to Christian tradition he was Jesus’ uncle, Joseph’s brother, and he became a leader of the Jerusalem church. [Note: Eusebius, 3:11; cf. Ellis, p. 894.] He could have been the husband of Mary, the wife of Clopas, a variant spelling of the same name, who was present at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25). However that may have been a different man. There was a tradition in the early Byzantine church that Luke was the second, unnamed disciple. [Note: For defense of this view, see Wenham, pp. 29-32.]

Verses 19-20

Jesus was baiting His companions, getting them to articulate what they knew and to reveal what was important to them. They viewed Jesus as a mighty prophet in the eyes of God and the people (Gr. laos, the open-minded public, cf. Acts 18:10).

"This characterization, together with the assertion of full publicity amongst the people, contains pointed echoes of Luke’s introductory summary of Jesus’ ministry [in the power of the] Spirit (Luke 4, 14; cp. Acts 10, 38)." [Note: R. J. Dillon, From Eye-Witnesses to Ministers of the Word: Tradition and Composition in Luke 24, p. 114.]

"The importance of the affirmation of the two disciples here in Luke 24:19 must not in any way be underestimated. It is integral to Luke’s theology and purpose." [Note: Liefeld, "Luke," p. 1052.]

They also laid the blame for Jesus’ death on the religious leaders, another point Luke had been making throughout his Gospel. The rulers did not acknowledge Jesus as a prophet from God.

Verse 21

The travelers, in contrast to Israel’s leaders, hoped that Jesus would prove to be their nation’s deliverer (cf. Luke 1:68; Luke 2:30; Luke 2:38; Luke 21:28), namely, the Messiah whom they evidently saw as a political liberator. Of course, Jesus did redeem Israel by His death on the cross, but they were speaking of physical deliverance from Rome and the establishment of the kingdom. Their reference to the third day since Jesus’ death implied that they had expected something important to happen by then. The fact that nothing had happened disappointed them.

Possibly these disciples were not yet believers. They appear not to have recognized that Jesus was more than a prophet or a political Messiah but the divine Son of God.

"Observe that the verb is ’hoped,’ not ’trusted’ (as in KJV); there is a big difference between trusting Jesus as our Deliverer and Savior and hoping that he will prove to be our Deliverer and Savior." [Note: Ibid.]

However another possibility is that they were believers who had simply become discouraged by Jesus’ death (cf. John the Baptist, Luke 7:19).

Verses 22-24

Even they were not aware of anything outstanding happening on the third day yet since the report of some women in their group of disciples puzzled them. There was evidence of an empty tomb but no evidence of Jesus (cf. Luke 24:12). This shows that the Resurrection is all-important in the Christian faith. An empty tomb was just a strange puzzle that discouraged these disciples. Even an angelic visit did not lift their spirits (cf. Luke 1:22). Jesus’ resurrection would prove to be something infinitely more significant.

Verses 25-26

A fool in the Old Testament is a person who does not allow the Scriptures to influence his or her thinking or behavior. These disciples had failed to do that. They were also slow to believe what they did know that the former prophets had revealed. They had overlooked the prophecies about the Messiah having to suffer, preferring rather to focus only on those that predicted His glorification. Their error constitutes a warning for all subsequent disciples. All Scripture is profitable. We should not slight any part of it but should strive for a comprehensive understanding of its teaching. If these disciples had understood and believed what the Old Testament revealed, they would not have felt depressed but would have been full of joy.

"Acceptance of what the prophets said should have led the disciples to believe the reports of the women at the tomb; one may believe in the resurrection on the evidence of others, although this does not mean that the Lord withholds personal evidence from those who need it." [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 896.]

Luke highlighted Jesus’ identification as the risen Christ by placing the word translated "He" in the emphatic position in the Greek text in Luke 24:24-25. Jesus stressed again the divine necessity (Gr. dei) of Messiah’s sufferings.

"This scene suggests that a meal with Jesus is an especially appropriate place for the revelation and recognition of Jesus as the (risen) Messiah, and that the feeding of the five thousand is understood by the narrator as a first experience of this revelation at a meal, resulting in Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah." [Note: Tannehill, The Narrative . . ., 1:219. Cf. Acts 1:4; 10:40-41.]

Verse 27

Jesus gave these privileged disciples a unique short course in Old Testament Christology. He evidently pointed out the passages that spoke of Messiah’s sufferings particularly, beginning in the Law and the Prophets sections of the Hebrew Bible. What an exposition of the Scriptures this must have been! It is no wonder that they later commented that their hearts burned within them as Jesus explained the Scriptures to them (Luke 24:32).

Jesus’ method of bringing spiritual illumination to these disciples is a paradigm that the apostles followed in their preaching, as is clear from Acts. It centered on explaining the meaning of what God had revealed. This method is still essential for spiritual enlightenment (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Verses 28-29

Jesus did not force these disciples to believe or to entertain Him. He whetted their spiritual appetites and then left those decisions up to them. However, God’s Spirit had been at work in their hearts, and they did not resist His working. Consequently they wanted to hear more. They urged Him to stay with them for further fellowship and illumination. This was obviously more than just a gracious offer reflecting eastern hospitality. Jesus naturally accepted their invitation. He always gives more to those who receive and believe His words (cf. Revelation 3:20).

Verses 30-31

Jesus’ praying over the bread and breaking it opened the spiritual eyes of Cleopas and his companion. They had not been in the upper room when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, so remembering that occasion is not what proved to be catalytic (cf. Luke 24:21). Perhaps they had been present when Jesus fed the 5,000 (Luke 9:10-17) or the 4,000 or on some other occasion when Jesus had eaten with people. Luke recorded several such instances (cf. Luke 5:29; Luke 7:36; Luke 9:16; Luke 10:38-40; Luke 14:1; Luke 14:7; Luke 14:12; Luke 14:15-16). Perhaps they had only heard about those miracles.

"The description of the Emmaus meal is closer to the feeding of the multitude than to the Last Supper in some details." [Note: Ibid., 1:289.]

The fact that Jesus acted as the host shows that He was the most important person present, which these disciples evidently recognized even before they knew who He was. Jesus’ role as host may have been a factor in their recognizing Him. The wounds in His hands may not have been since Luke did not mention them.

Their recognition of Jesus for who He was is the climax of the story. Now they knew that the man they hoped was the Messiah, who had to suffer and then experience glorification, had indeed risen from the dead. Luke said that their eyes were opened (passive voice, cf. Luke 24:16). Someone did it for them. Clearly God gave them understanding (cf. Genesis 3:7). [Note: See Dane C. Ortlund, "’And Their Eyes Were Opened, and They Knew’: An Inter-Canonical Note on Luke 24:31," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 53:4 (December 2010):717-28.] God is the One who reveals His Son to people by His Spirit. In both Luke and Acts the "breaking of bread" has connections with instruction concerning Jesus’ person and mission. [Note: Dillon, From Eye-Witnesses . . ., p. 105. Cf. Luke 9:11, 23; 22:21-38; 24:13-32, 35; Acts 2:42; 20:7, 11.]

After His resurrection, Jesus could appear and disappear at will (cf. Luke 24:36). This is an attribute of His resurrection body. He disappeared then because these disciples had become believers in and witnesses of His resurrection. He left them to carry out their duty as His witnesses. Perhaps Luke also included Jesus’ remarkable disappearance to impress on his Greek readers that Jesus is supernatural, not just a real man.

Verse 32

Luke probably recorded this conversation to stress the supernatural power and convincing effect of the Scriptures on people when God empowers His Word (cf. Romans 10:17). All disciples need to remember that the Bible is what God uses to solve life’s mysteries. John Wesley also testified that he felt his heart "strangely warmed" at his conversion when he heard the Scriptures expounded.

Verses 33-34

Cleopas and his friend’s eagerness to return to tell the other disciples that Jesus had appeared to them confirms the reality of His resurrection. They could not keep the good news to themselves. There were others back in Jerusalem that did not know it and needed to hear it. When they returned, they discovered that "the Lord" had also appeared to Peter. No New Testament writer described this appearance in detail (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:5).

Thus Luke included a second testimony to the Resurrection. The women and Peter had witnessed the empty tomb, and now these two disciples and Peter bore witness to the Resurrection. "Simon" was Peter’s normal Jewish name.

Verse 35

These two witnesses then proceeded to tell others about their experiences with Jesus and who He is. They serve as models of what disciples of the risen Christ should do. The manner in which they came to recognize Him clearly impressed them. Perhaps Luke mentioned again that the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread since for Christians that happens whenever we observe the Lord’s Supper, though in a different sense.

Verses 36-37

This incident followed the preceding one immediately. As Jesus had disappeared (Luke 24:31), so He now appeared. The doors to the room were shut (John 20:19). Luke stressed that it was indeed Jesus by writing, "He Himself stood in their midst."

Some translations include the disputed reading "And He said to them, Peace be with you" (e.g., NIV). A scribe who was familiar with John 20:19 may have included this sentence in a later copy of this Gospel. It has strong textual support in John but not in Luke.

Verses 36-43

The proof of Jesus’ bodily resurrection 24:36-43 (cf. Mark 16:14-18; John 20:19-23)

The emphasis here is on the physical reality of Jesus’ body after His resurrection whereas in the previous pericope the stress was on His supernatural nature. The incident clarifies that the One who rose from the dead was indeed Jesus of Nazareth, a real man. This Gospel opened with alternating emphases on Jesus’ humanity and deity (ch. 2), and it closes with this balanced emphasis.

Verses 36-49

2. The appearances to the disciples in Jerusalem 24:36-49

Luke arranged his accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to give the impression that an ever-increasing audience learned of this great event. First, he recorded an announcement of it with no witnesses (Luke 24:1-12). Then he told of Jesus appearing to two disciples (Luke 24:13-35). Next he presented Jesus materializing in the presence of the Eleven minus Thomas (cf. Mark 16:14; John 20:24). Perhaps he meant this presentation to represent the ever-widening circle of witness that the disciples were to give in the world (cf. Acts 1:8). The arrangement does suggest this to the reader, especially since the third incident contains Luke’s version of the Great Commission.

Luke’s account apparently combines two post-resurrection appearances into one. The writer evidently conflated them to give Jesus’ instructions to His disciples continuity. This section is the basis for Luke’s apologetic for Jesus’ bodily resurrection in Acts 1:3-4 and Peter’s witness to Cornelius in Acts 10:40-43.

Verses 37-38

Jesus’ sudden and unexpected appearance terrified the disciples (cf. Luke 1:12). They apparently thought that Jesus was an apparition (Gr. pneuma, a person lacking corporeal existence), not an angel, since He appeared as He did (cf. Luke 24:39; Acts 23:8-9). Jesus’ questions implied that they should have recognized that it was He. Since they had questions and doubted the reality of His presence it is unlikely that they projected their hope that He was alive and only imagined that He arose.

Verse 39

Anyone wishing to prove his real presence might offer his hands and feet for inspection, as Jesus did. However the Roman soldiers had pierced Jesus’ hands and feet with nails so the wounds would have identified Him as Jesus (John 20:25-27). Jesus claimed, "It is I Myself" (Gr. ego eimi autos, cf. ego eimi, which John recorded Jesus saying frequently in his Gospel). He encouraged His followers to touch Him as well as to look at Him and to satisfy their senses that His body was real. His human body had flesh and bones, which ghosts do not have. The phrase "flesh and blood" is a similar expression that also describes a physical body (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50).

Verse 40

This verse is probably authentic. It has questionable textual support and is similar to, but not identical to, John 20:20. However, the differences with John 20:20 and the textual support favor inclusion in our versions. Evidently Jesus offered the disciples His hands, feet, and side for them to examine as further proof that His body was real.

Docetism was a heresy in the early history of the church that denied that Jesus’ body was genuinely human. These verses would have helped the early Christians combat this error. However these statements are not the strongest proofs of Jesus’ humanity since everyone agrees that Jesus’ resurrection body was different from His pre-resurrection body. Better proof consists of the evidences of Jesus’ true humanity before His resurrection. Luke gave his original Greek readers many such proofs in this Gospel.

Verses 41-43

The disciples could no longer disbelieve because of lack of evidence. However, they still had trouble accepting Jesus’ resurrection because it seemed too good to be true. Luke’s joy motif surfaces again here. Jesus gave them further proof by eating a piece of cooked fish that was convenient. We should not extrapolate from this that His resurrection body depended on physical food for nourishment (cf. Genesis 18:8; Genesis 19:3). Jesus’ resurrection body was immortal (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

Luke omitted Mark’s reference to Jesus upbraiding the disciples on this occasion for their unbelief (Mark 16:14). This is typical of Luke who usually did not discourage his disciple readers with references to Jesus criticizing His followers.

Verse 44

Jesus reminded the disciples that He had previously taught them that He would fulfill everything written about the Messiah in the Old Testament. The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms were the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible in Jesus’ day. Fulfillment was a divine necessity (Gr. dei).

Verses 44-49

The mission of Jesus’ disciples 24:44-49 (cf. Acts 1:3-8)

All the Gospels contain instances of Jesus giving the Great Commission to His disciples, but evidently He did not just give it once. The contexts are different suggesting that He repeated these instructions on at least four separate occasions. This fact obviously reflects the importance of this instruction. The charge that Luke recorded here and in Acts 1:8 was apparently the last one that Jesus gave. The chronological order seems to have been John 20:21; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20; and Luke 24:46-49 and Acts 1:8. This last one occurred just before Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

Verses 45-46

Then He proceeded to open their understanding (cf. Luke 24:31) showing them first how He had fulfilled Scripture so far (cf. Luke 24:27). He explained how His sufferings and resurrection, the great psychological barriers to the Jews of Jesus’ day, had fulfilled biblical prophecy. We have seen how the disciples failed to grasp these things as Jesus taught them before His passion. Luke again stressed the importance of Scripture in understanding God’s program. As Jesus opened the Scriptures, God opened the disciples’ minds.

Verse 47

Next Jesus proceeded to show them how the Old Testament also predicted that the gospel should go to everyone, all the nations or Gentiles, beginning from Jerusalem (e.g., Isaiah 2:2-3; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:3; Joel 2:28-29; Joel 2:32; Micah 4:1-2). This was also teaching that the Jews of Jesus’ day resisted strongly. The theme of Gentile evangelism is strong in Luke (Luke 10), and it carries over into Acts (Acts 10-11; Acts 13-28). Likewise Luke featured Jerusalem as Jesus’ city of destiny throughout his Gospel. Now it was to become the hub from which the gospel would go out into all the world. Thus this verse is a kind of strait in which the main emphases in Luke converge and through which they pass to Acts. It is Luke’s mission statement for the church.

Verse 48

Evangelism was a key motif in Luke’s Gospel, and it, too, continues in Acts. The phrase "these things" evidently refers to the messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. The disciples were witnesses to the fact that Messiah had come as predicted. The Scriptures predicting that the evangelization of the nations could only attain fulfillment if the disciples bore witness. We see again the blending of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in Jesus’ explanation.

When God created man, He gave him a cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28). Essentially this was to rule over the earth. This involves the advancement of civilization. This is the responsibility of every human being. When Jesus arose from the dead, He gave His disciples another mandate. Essentially this was to evangelize the world. This involves the advancement of Christianity. This is the responsibility of every Christian.

Verse 49

Having explained the disciples’ responsibility, Jesus next announced what He would do. The promise of the Father refers to the Holy Spirit that God promised in the Old Testament to pour out on His people (Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; cf. John 14:16-17). These Old Testament prophecies are of an outpouring of the Spirit in the kingdom, as the contexts indicate, but a similar outpouring of the same Spirit came on Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:16). It was perhaps this promise of the Spirit’s outpouring that led the disciples to view it as inaugurating the kingdom (Acts 1:6). Jesus corrected their misunderstanding (Acts 1:7).

Finally Jesus instructed the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit clothed them (Acts 1:8). This was a common figure of the Spirit’s enabling presence and power in the Old Testament (e.g., Numbers 11:25; Numbers 11:29; Judges 3:10; Judges 14:19; 1 Samuel 11:6; et al.). This "power from the Most High" has been evident through this Gospel (e.g., Luke 1:35; et al), and it is very evident in Acts as well.

". . . Jesus’ words in Luke 24:46-49 not only provide a bridge to the early part of Acts but fit with a series of statements describing the missions of key characters, from the summary of John the Baptist’s mission early in Luke to the summary of Paul’s mission late in Acts." [Note: Tannehill, The Narrative . . ., 1:298.]

". . . Luke not only presented Jesus as the fulfillment of the Isaianic Servant, but also worded his version of the commission to depict the disciples as those who were to take up the Servant’s mission after Jesus’ departure." [Note: Thomas S. Moore, "The Lucan Great Commission and the Isaianic Servant," Bibliotheca Sacra 154:613 (January-March 1997):47.]

Verses 50-51

Jesus continued to lead His disciples as their Lord. Bethany stood on Mt. Olivet just east of Jerusalem. As they were walking toward (Gr. pros) Bethany, Jesus stopped and prayed for God’s blessing on them. Lifting up the hands to do so traditionally symbolized a priestly transference of blessing from heaven to the recipients below (cf. Luke 1:22; Luke 1:42; Luke 1:64; Luke 1:68; Luke 2:28; Luke 2:34). Luke described Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11) as a parting, not a permanent separation. Jesus’ ascension is reminiscent of Elijah’s (2 Kings 2:11; cf. Acts 1:2; Acts 1:11). Thus Luke drew attention to Jesus’ role as a prophet as well as a priest. He will return as King. Jesus’ ascension took place 40 days after His resurrection (Acts 1:3).

Verses 50-53

J. The ascension of Jesus 24:50-53 (cf. Mark 16:19-20; Acts 1:9-12)

Jesus’ ascension was already in view in Luke 9:51. There Luke presented it as the ultimate goal of Jesus’ first advent ministry. Jesus’ ascension would have happened even if the Jews had accepted Him as their Messiah. Prophecies of His glorious return to the earth fill the Old Testament. We should not view Jesus’ ascension as an afterthought, therefore. It was rather the culmination of Jesus’ first advent. Luke is the only New Testament writer who described the Ascension, both in Luke and in Acts. Perhaps he did so to stress the significance of the resurrection. [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," p. 116.]

"With the ascension the Gospel reaches its climax. What began in the temple concludes in the temple with praise to God, and the path of Jesus now reaches its goal. The programme has been established for the second volume of Luke’s work in which the church will obey the command of the risen Jesus to take the gospel to all the nations." [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 908.]

"In Luke’s mind the Ascension of Christ has two aspects: in the Gospel it is the end of the story of Jesus, in Acts it is the beginning of the story of the Church, which will go on until Christ comes again. Thus for Luke, as Barrett says, ’the end of the story of Jesus is the Church, and the story of Jesus is the beginning of the Church’." [Note: William Neil, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 26.]

Verses 52-53

Some manuscripts have the disciples worshipping Jesus. The textual support for this activity here is good. This is Luke’s first reference to the disciples worshipping Jesus. The Resurrection and Jesus’ subsequent instruction made His deity beyond doubt for them.

The disciples returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem joyful because they finally understood and accepted God’s program for Messiah and for them (cf. Luke 2:10). Jerusalem would shortly become the birthplace of Christianity. Their constant praise in the temple, the place of prayer, was undoubtedly for the gospel, the good news that God has provided salvation for humankind through His Son (cf. Acts 2:46; Acts 3:1; Acts 5:42). Peter preached his sermon on the day of Pentecost 10 days later (Acts 2:1).

"The return at the end of Luke to the mood of joyful praise of God that filled the birth stories rounds off the story of Jesus; it also affirms that the joy felt by the devoted Jews who greeted the infant Jesus has been justified by later events, bringing the story to a happy resolution. The joy and praise filling the disciples following Jesus’ appearance and departure will continue in the life of the early church, as Acts 2:46-47 indicates." [Note: Tannehill, The Narrative . . ., 1:301.]

These original disciples set all of their subsequent fellow disciples a good example. We, too, should worship, rejoice, and praise God as we eagerly await the fulfillment of all that He has promised.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 24". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/luke-24.html. 2012.
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