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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

Luke 24



It is in this part of the Gospel narrative that the four accounts diverge most. As friends, who for a time have travelled together, disperse at the end of the journey to take each the way which brings him to his own home, so in this last part, the peculiar object of each evangelist exercises an influence on his narrative yet more marked than before. Luke, who wishes to describe the gradual growth of Christian work from Nazareth to Rome, prepares, in those last statements of his Gospel, for the description of the apostolic preaching and of the founding of the Church, which he is about to trace in the Acts. Matthew, whose purpose is to prove the Messianic claims of Jesus, closes his demonstration by narrating the most solemn appearance of the risen Jesus, when He made known to the Church His elevation to universal sovereignty, and installed the apostles in their mission as conquerors of the world. John, who relates the history of the development of faith in the founders of the gospel, side by side with that of incredulity in Israel, closes his narrative with the appearance which led to the profession of Thomas, and which consummated the triumph of faith over unbelief in the apostolic circle. It is vain to mutilate the conclusion of Mark's work. We find here again the characteristic feature of his narrative. He had, above all, exhibited the powerful activity of our Lord as a divine evangelist: the last words of his account, Luke 16:19-42.16.20, show us Jesus glorified, still co-operating from heaven with His apostles.

Each evangelist knows well the point at which he aims, and hence the reason that the narratives diverge more as they reach the conclusion. The special differences in the accounts of the resurrection are partly the effect of this principal divergence. Of the four accounts, the two extremes are that of Matthew, which puts the whole stress on the great Galilean appearance, and that of Luke, which relates only the appearances in Judaea. The other two are, as it were, middle terms. Mark (at least from Mar 16:9 ) is dependent on the former two, and oscillates between them. John really unites them by relating, like Luke, the appearances at Jerusalem, while mentioning also, like Matthew, a remarkable appearance in Galilee. If, indeed, chap. 21 was not composed by John, it certainly proceeds from a tradition emanating from this apostle. The fact of appearances having taken place both in Judaea and Galilee is also confirmed indirectly by Paul, as we shall see.

The account of Luke contains: 1. The visit of the women to the tomb ( Luk 24:1-7 ). 2. Peter's visit to the tomb ( Luk 24:8-12 ). 3. The appearance to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus ( Luk 24:13-32 ). 4. The appearance to the disciples on the evening of the resurrection day ( Luk 24:33-43 ). 5. The last instructions of Jesus ( Luk 24:44-49 ). 6. The ascension ( Luk 24:50-53 ).

Verses 1-7

1. The Women at the Sepulchre: Luke 24:1-42.24.7.

Vers. 1-7. The women play the first, if not the principal, part in all those accounts; a special duty called them to the tomb.

They were, according to Matthew 28:1, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the aunt of Jesus); according to Mark ( Mar 16:1 ), those same two, and Salome the mother of James and John; according to Luke ( Luk 24:10 ), the first two, along with the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward ( Luk 8:3 ). John names only Mary Magdalene. But does not Mary herself allude to the presence of others when she says ( Luk 24:2 ): “ We know not where they have laid Him ”? If John names her so specially, it is because he intends to give anew the account of the appearance which tradition had either omitted or generalized (Matthew), and which, as having taken place first, had a certain importance. As to the time of the women's arrival, Luke says, Very early in the morning; Matthew, ὀψὲ σαββάτων , which signifies, not Sabbath evening, but (like the phrases ὀψὲ μυστηρίων , peractis mysteriis, ὀψὲ τρωϊκῶν , after the Trojan war; see Bleek): after the Sabbath, in the night which followed. By the τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ , Matthew expresses the fact that it was at the time of daybreak. Mark says, with a slight difference, which only proves the independence of his narrative (to Luk 24:8 ), At the rising of the sun.

The object of the women was, according to Matthew, to visit the sepulchre; according to the other two, to embalm the body.

The fact of the resurrection itself is not described by any evangelist, no one having been present. Only the Risen One was seen. It is of Him that the evangelists bear witness. Matthew is the one who goes furthest back. An earthquake, due to the action of an angel ( γάρ ), shakes and dislodges the stone; the angel seats himself upon it, and the guards take to flight. Undoubtedly, it cannot be denied that this account, even in its style (the parallelism, Luk 24:3 ), has a poetic tinge. But some such fact is necessarily supposed by what follows. Otherwise, how would the sepulchre have been found open on the arrival of the women? It is at this point that the other accounts begin. In John, Mary Magdalene sees nothing except the stone which has been rolled away; she runs instantly to apprise Peter and John. It may be supposed that the other women did not accompany her, and that, having come near the sepulchre, they were witnesses of the appearance of the angel; then, that they returned home. Not till after that did Mary Magdalene come back with Peter and John ( Joh 21:1-9 ). It might be supposed, indeed, that this whole account given by the Syn. regarding the appearance of the angel (Matthew and Mark), or of the two angels (Luke), to the women, is at bottom nothing more than the fact of the appearance of the angels to Mary related by John ( Joh 20:11-13 ) and generalized by tradition. But Luk 24:22-23 of Luke are not favourable to this view. Mary Magdalene, having seen the Lord immediately after the appearance of the angels, could not have related the first of those facts without also mentioning the second, which was far more important.

In the angel's address, as reproduced by the Syn., everything differs, with the single exception of the words which are identical in all, He is not here. A common document is inadmissible. In Luke, the angel recalls to the memory of the women former promises of a resurrection. In Matthew and Mark, he reminds them, while calling on them to remind the disciples, of the rendezvous which Jesus had appointed for His own in Galilee before His death. Προάγει , He goeth before, like an invisible shepherd walking at the head of His visible flock. Already, indeed, before His death Jesus had shown His concern to reconstitute His Galilean Church, and that in Galilee itself (Mark 14:28; Mat 26:32 ); ὑμᾶς , you, cannot apply to the apostles only, to the exclusion of the women; it embraces all the faithful. It is also certain that the last words, There ye shall see Him, do not belong to the sayings of Jesus which the women are charged to report to the disciples. It is the angel himself who speaks, as is proved by the expression, Lo, I have told you (Matthew); and more clearly still by the words, As He said unto you (Mark). This gathering, which Jesus had in view even in Gethsemane, at the moment when He saw them ready to be scattered, and which forms the subject of the angel's message immediately after the resurrection, was intended to be the general reunion of all the faithful, who for the most part were natives of Galilee, and who formed the nucleus of the future Church of Jesus. After that, we shall not be surprised to hear St. Paul speak (1 Corinthians 15:0) of an assemblage of more than 500 brethren, of whom the 120 Galileans of Pentecost were the élite (Acts 1:15; Act 2:7 ); comp. also the expression my brethren ( Joh 20:17 ), which certainly includes more than the eleven apostles. There follows in Matthew an appearance of Jesus to the women just as they are leaving the tomb. It seems to me that this appearance can be no other than that which, according to John, was granted to Mary Magdalene. Tradition had applied it to the women in general. Comp. the expressions, They embraced His feet (Matthew), with the words, Touch me not, in John; Tell my brethren (Matthew), with Go to my brethren and say unto them, in John. Finally, it must be remarked that in the two accounts this appearance of Jesus immediately follows that of the angel.

In Matthew's mind, does the promise, There shall they see me, exclude all appearance to the apostles previous to that which is here announced? If it is so, the contradiction between this declaration and the accounts of Luke and John is glaring. But even in Matthew, the expression, There [in Galilee] ye shall see me, Luke 24:7, is immediately followed by an appearance of Jesus to those women, and that in Judaea ( Luk 24:9 ); this fact proves clearly that we must not give such a negative force to Matthew's expression. What we have here is the affirmation of a solemn reunion which shall take place in Galilee, and at which not only the apostles, but the women and all the faithful, shall be present. That does not at all exclude special appearances granted to this or that one before the appearance here in question.

The following was therefore the course of events:

Mary Magdalene comes to the sepulchre with other women. On seeing the stone rolled away, she runs to inform the disciples; the other women remain; perhaps others besides arrived a little later (Mark). The angel declares to them the resurrection, and they return. Mary Magdalene comes back with Peter and John; then, having remained alone after their departure, she witnesses the first appearance of Jesus risen from the dead.

On the Resurrection of Jesus.

I. The fact of the resurrection.

The apostles bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus, and on this testimony founded the Church. Such is the indubitable historical fact. Yet more: they did not do this as impostors. Strauss acknowledges this. And Volkmar, in his mystical language, goes the length of saying: “It is one of the most certain facts in the history of humanity, that shortly after His death on the cross, Jesus appeared to the apostles, risen from the dead, however we may understand the fact, which is without analogy in history” ( die Evangel. p. 612). Let us seek the explanation of the fact.

Did Jesus return to life from a state of lethargy, as Schleiermacher thought? Strauss has once for all executed justice on this hypothesis. It cannot even be maintained without destroying the moral character of our Lord (comp. our Comm. sur Jean, t. ii. p. 660 et seq.).

Were those appearances of Jesus to the first believers only visions resulting from their exalted state of mind? This is the hypothesis which Strauss, followed by nearly all modern rationalism, substitutes for that of Schleiermacher. This explanation breaks down before the following facts:

1. The apostles did not in the least expect the body of Jesus to be restored to life. They confounded the resurrection, as Weizsäcker says, with the Parousia. Now, such hallucinations would suppose, on the contrary, a lively expectation of the bodily reappearance of Jesus.

2. So far was the imagination of the disciples from creating the sensible presence of Jesus, that at the first they did not recognise Him (Mary Magdalene, the two of Emmaus). Jesus was certainly not to them an expected person, whose image was conceived in their own soul.

3. We can imagine the possibility of a hallucination in one person, but not in two, twelve, and finally, five hundred! especially if it be remembered that in the appearances described we have not to do with a simple luminous figure floating between heaven and earth, but with a person performing positive acts and uttering exact statements, which were heard by the witnesses. Or is the truth of the different accounts to be suspected? But they formed, from the beginning, during the lifetime of the apostles and first witnesses, the substance of the public preaching, of the received tradition (1 Corinthians 15:0). Thus we should be thrown back on the hypothesis of imposture.

4. The empty tomb and the disappearance of the body remain inexplicable. If, as the narratives allege, the body remained in the hands of Jesus' friends, the testimony which they gave to its resurrection is an imposture, a hypothesis already discarded. If it remained in the hands of the Jews, how did they not by this mode of conviction overthrow the testimony of the apostles? Their mouths would have been closed much more effectually in this way than by scourging them. We shall not enter into the discussion of all Strauss's expedients to escape from this dilemna. They betray the spirit of special pleading, and can only appear to the unprejudiced mind in the light of subterfuges. But Strauss attempts to take the offensive. Starting from Paul's enumeration of the various appearances (1 Corinthians 15:0), he reasons thus: Paul himself had a vision on the way to Damascus; now he put all the appearances which the apostles had on the same platform; therefore they are all nothing but visions. This reasoning is a mere sophism. If Strauss means that Paul himself regarded the appearance which had converted him as a simple vision, it is easy to refute him. For what Paul wishes to demonstrate, 1 Corinthians 15:0, is the bodily resurrection of believers, which he cannot do by means of the appearances of Jesus, unless he regards them all as bodily, the one as well as the other. If Strauss means, on the contrary, that the Damascus appearance was really nothing else than a vision, though Paul took it as a reality, the conclusion which he draws from this mistake of Paul's, as to the meaning which must be given to all the others, has not the least logical value.

Or, finally, could God have permitted the Spirit of the glorified Jesus, manifesting itself to the disciples, to produce effects in them similar to those which a perception by the senses would have produced? So Weisse and Lotze think. Keim has also declared for this hypothesis in his Life of Jesus. But, 1. What then of the narratives in which we see the Risen One seeking to demonstrate to the apostles that He is not a pure spirit ( Luk 24:37-40 )? They are pure inventions, audacious falsehoods. 2. As to this glorified Jesus, who appeared spiritually to the apostles, did He or did He not mean to produce on them the impression that He was present bodily? If He did, this heavenly Being was an impostor. If not, He must have been very unskilful in His manifestations. In both cases, He is the author of the misunderstanding which gave rise to the false testimony given involuntarily by the apostles. 3. The empty tomb remains unexplained on this hypothesis, as well as on the preceding. Keim has added nothing to what his predecessors have advanced to solve this difficulty. In reality, there is but one sufficient account to be given of the empty tomb: the tomb was found empty, because He who had been laid there Himself rose from it.

To this opinion of Keim we may apply what holds of his explanation of miracles, and of his way of looking at the life of Jesus in general: it is too much or too little supernatural. It is not worth while combating the Biblical accounts, when such enormous concessions are made to them; to deny, for example, the miraculous birth, when we admit the absolute holiness of Christ, or the bodily resurrection, when we grant the reality of the appearances of the glorified Jesus. Keim for some time ascended the scale; now he descends again. He could not stop there.

II. The accounts of the resurrection.

These accounts are in reality only reports regarding the appearances of the Risen One. The most ancient and the most official, if one may so speak, is that of Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:0. It is the summary of the oral teaching received in the Church ( Luk 24:2 ), of the tradition proceeding from all the apostles together ( Luk 24:11-15 ). Paul enumerates the six appearances as follows: 1. to Cephas; 2. to the Twelve; 3. to the 500; 4. to James 5:0. to the Twelve; 6. to himself. We easily make out in Luke, Nos. 1, 2, 5 in his Gospel (Luke 24:34, Luk 24:36 et seq., Luk 24:50 et seq.); No. 6 in the Acts. The appearance to James became food for Judeo-Christian legends. It is elaborated in the apocryphal books. There remains No. 3, the appearance to the 500. A strange and instructive fact! No appearance of Jesus is better authenticated, more unassailable; none was more public, and none produced in the Church so decisive an effect...; and it is not mentioned, at least as such, in any of our four Gospel accounts! How should this fact put us on our guard against the argumentum è silentio, of which the criticism of the present day makes so unbridled a use! How it ought to show the complete ignorance in which we are still left, and probably shall ever be, of the circumstances which presided over the formation of that oral tradition which has exercised so decisive an influence over our gospel historiography! Luke could not be ignorant of this fact if he had read but once the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, conversed once on the subject with St. Paul...; and he has not mentioned, nor even dropped a hint of it! To bring down the composition of Luke by half a century to explain this omission, serves no end. For the further the time is brought down, the more impossible is it that the author of the Gospel should not have known the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians.

Matthew's account mentions only the two following appearances: 1. to the women at Jerusalem; 2. to the Eleven, on a mountain of Galilee, where Jesus had appointed them to meet Him ( οὗ ἐτάξατο πορεύεσθαι ). We at once recognise in No. 1 the appearance to Mary Magdalene, John 20:1-43.20.17. The second is that gathering which Jesus had convoked, according to Matthew and Mark, before His death; then, immediately after the resurrection, either by the angel or by His own mouth (Matthew). But it is now only that Matthew tells us of the rendezvous appointed for the disciples on the mountain. This confirms the opinion which we had already reached, viz. that we have here to do with a call which was not addressed to the Eleven only, but to all believers, even to the women. Jesus wished again to see all His brethren, and to constitute His flock anew, which had been scattered by the death of the Shepherd. The choice of such a locality as that which Jesus had designated, confirms the conclusion that we have here to do with a numerous reunion. We cannot therefore doubt that it is the assembly of 500 spoken of by Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:0. If Matthew does not expressly mention more than the Eleven, it is because to them was addressed the commission given by Jesus, “to go and baptize all nations.” The expression: “ but some doubted,” is also more easily explained, if the Eleven were not alone. Matthew did not intend to relate the first appearances by which the apostles, whether individually or together, were led to believe (this was the object of the appearances which took place at Jerusalem, and which are mentioned by Luke and John), but that which, in keeping with the spirit of his Gospel, he wished to set in relief as the climax of his history, that, namely, to which he had made allusion from the beginning, and which may be called the Messiah's taking possession of the whole world.

Mark's account is original as far as Luke 24:8. At Luk 24:9 we find: 1. an entirely new beginning; 2. from Luke 24:8 a clearly marked dependence on Luke. After that, there occur from Luke 24:15, and especially in Luke 24:17, some very original sayings, which indicate an independent source. The composition of the work thus seems to have been interrupted at Luke 24:8, and the book to have remained unfinished. A sure proof of this is, that the appearance of Jesus announced to the women by the angel, Luke 24:7, is totally wanting, if, with the Sinaït., the Vatic., and other authorities, the Gospel is closed at Luke 24:8. From Luke 24:9, a conclusion has thus been added by means of our Gospel of Luke, which had appeared in the interval, and of some original materials previously collected with this view by the author (Luke 24:15-42.24.16, and especially 17, 18).

III. The accounts taken as a whole.

If, gathering those scattered accounts, we unite them in one, we find ten appearances. In the first three, Jesus comforts and raises, for He has to do with downcast hearts: He comforts Mary Magdalene, who seeks His lost body; He raises Peter after his fall; He reanimates the hope of the two going to Emmaus. Thereafter, in the following three, He establishes the faith of His future witnesses in the decisive fact of His resurrection; He fulfils this mission toward the apostles in general, and toward Thomas; and He reconstitutes the apostolate by returning to it its head. In the seventh and eighth appearances, He impresses on the apostolate that powerful missionary impulse which lasts still, and He adds James to the disciples, specially with a view to the mission for Israel. In the last two, finally, He completes the preceding commands by some special instructions (not to leave Jerusalem, to wait for the Spirit, etc.), and bids them His last farewell; then, shortly afterwards, He calls Paul specially with a view to the Gentiles. This unity, so profoundly psychological, so holily organic, is not the work of any of the evangelists, for its elements are scattered over the four accounts. The wisdom and love of Christ are its only authors.

IV. The importance of the resurrection.

This event is not merely intended to mark out Jesus as the Saviour; it is salvation itself, condemnation removed, death vanquished. We were perishing, condemned: Jesus dies. His death saves us; He is the first who enjoys salvation. He rises again; then in Him we are made to live again. Such an event is everything, includes everything, or it has no existence.

Verses 8-12

2. Visit of Peter to the Sepulchre: Luke 24:8-42.24.12.

Vers. 8-12. As we have found the account given, John 20:14-43.20.18, in Matthew's narrative of the appearance to the women, so we recognise here the fact which is related more in detail in John 20:1-43.20.10.

Luke says, Luke 24:9, that on returning from the sepulchre the women related what they had seen and heard, while, according to Mark (ver. 8), they kept silence. This contradiction is explained by the fact that the two sayings refer to two different events: the first, to the account which Mary Magdalene gives to Peter and John, and which led them to the sepulchre (Luke, Luke 24:12; Luk 24:22-24 ), a report which soon spread among the apostles and all the disciples; the other, to the first moments which followed the return of the other women, until, their fears having abated, they began to speak. But this contradiction in terms proves that at least up to Luk 24:8 Mark had not Luke before him.

The αἵ of the T. R., Luke 24:10, before ἔλεγον is indispensable.

The omission of Luk 24:12 in the Cantab. and some copies of the Latin and Syriac translations appeared so serious a matter to Tischendorf, that he rejected this verse in his eighth edition. But if it were an interpolation taken from John, it would not have mentioned Peter only, but Peter and John (or the other disciple). And the apparent contradiction would have been avoided between this verse and Luke 24:24, where it is not an apostle, but certain of them ( τίνες ), who repair to the sepulchre. The extreme caprice and carelessness which prevail throughout cod. D and the documents of the Itala which are connected with it are well known. The entire body of the other Mjj. and of the Mnn., as well as most of the copies of the ancient translations, support the T. R. Some such historical fact as that mentioned in this verse is required by the declaration of the two disciples ( Luk 24:24 ).

There is, besides, a striking resemblance between the account of John and that of Luke. The terms παρακύψας , ὀθονία κείμενα , πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ἀπελθεῖν , are found in both.

Verses 13-16

Vers. 13-16. The Historical Introduction. ᾿Ιδού , behold, prepares us for something unexpected. One of the two disciples was called Cleopas ( Luk 24:18 ). This name is an abbreviation of Cleopatros, and not, like Κλῶπας ( Joh 19:25 ), the reproduction of the Hebrew name חלפי , which Luke always translates by ᾿Αλφαῖος (Luke 6:15; Act 1:13 ). This name, of Greek origin, leads to the supposition that this disciple was a proselyte come to the feast. As to the other, it has been thought (Theophylact, Lange) that it was Luke himself first, because he is not named; and next, because of the peculiarly dramatic character of the narrative following (comp. especially Luk 24:32 ). Luk 1:2 proves nothing against this view. For the author distinguishes himself in this passage, not from witnesses absolutely, but from those who were witnesses from the beginning; and this contact for a moment did not give him the right to rank himself among the authors of the Gospel tradition. Jesus, by manifesting Himself to these two men, accomplished for the first time what He had announced to the Greeks, who asked to speak with Him in the temple: “ If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me ” ( Joh 12:32-33 ).

Emmaus is not, as was held by Eusebius and Jerome, Ammaus (later Nicopolis), the modern Anwas, situated to the S.E. of Lydda; for this town lies 180 furlongs from Jerusalem, more than double the distance mentioned by Luke, and such a distance is incompatible with our account ( Luk 24:23 ). Caspari (p. 207) has been led to the conviction previously expressed by Sepp, that this place is no other than the village Ammaus mentioned by Josephus ( Bell. Jude 1:7; Jude 1:7.6. 6), which Titus assigned to 800 veterans of his army to found a colony. This place, situated E.S.E. from Jerusalem, is called even at the present day Kolonieh, and is distant exactly 60 furlongs from Jerusalem. In Succa 4.5, the Talmud says that there, at Maûza (with the article: Hama Maûza), they go to gather the green boughs for the feast of Tabernacles; elsewhere it is said that “Maûza is Kolonieh.”

The reasoning, συζητεῖν ( Luk 24:15 ), bore, according to Luke 24:21, on the force of the promises of Jesus. The ἐκρατοῦντο , were holden ( Luk 24:16 ), is explained by the concurrence of two factors: the incredulity of the disciples regarding the bodily resurrection of Jesus (comp. Luk 24:25 ), and a mysterious change which had been wrought on the person of our Lord (comp. Mark 16:12: ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ , and John 20:15, supposing Him to be the gardener...).

Verses 13-32

3. The Appearance on the way to Emmaus: Luke 24:13-42.24.32.

Vers. 13-32. Here is one of the most admirable pieces in Luke's Gospel. As John alone has preserved to us the account of the appearance to Mary Magdalene, so Luke alone has transmitted to us that of the appearance granted to the two disciples of Emmaus. The summary of this event in Mark ( Mar 16:12-13 ) is evidently nothing more than an extract from Luke.

Verses 17-19

Vers. 17-19 a. Beginning of the Conversation.

Ver. 17. Jesus generally interrogates before instructing. As a good teacher, in order to be heard, He begins by causing his auditors to speak ( Joh 1:38 ).

The Alex. reading at the end of Luke 24:17, allowed by Tischendorf (8th ed.): and stood sad, borders on the absurd.

Ver. 18. Μόνος belongs to both verbs, παροικεῖς and οὐκ ἔγνως , together. They take Jesus for one of those numerous strangers who, like themselves, are temporarily sojourning at Jerusalem. An inhabitant of the city would not have failed to know these things; and in their view, to know them was to be engrossed with them.

Verses 19-24

Vers. 19b-24. Account of the Two Disciples.

Jesus has now brought them to the point where He wished, namely, to open up their heart to Him; σὺν πᾶσι τούτοις ( Luk 24:21 ), in spite of the extraordinary qualities described Luke 24:19. ῎Αγει may be taken impersonally, as in Latin, agit diem, for agitur dies. But it may also have Jesus for its subject, as in the phrase ἄγει δεκατὸν ἔτος , “he is in his tenth year.” But along with those causes of discouragement, there are also grounds of hope. This opposition is indicated by ἀλλὰ καί , “ But indeed there are also...” ( Luk 24:22 ).

Ver. 23. Λέγουσαι , οἱ λέγουσιν , hearsay of a hearsay. This form shows how little faith they put in all those reports (comp. Luk 24:11 ).

Ver. 24. Peter, then, was not the only one, as he seemed to be from Luke 24:12. Here is an example, among many others, of the traps which are unintentionally laid for criticism by the simple and artless style of our sacred historians. On each occasion they say simply what the context calls for, omitting everything which goes beyond, but sometimes, as here, adding it themselves later (John 3:22; comp. with Luk 4:2 ). The last words, Him they saw not, prove that the two disciples set out from Jerusalem between the return of the women and that of Peter and John, and even of Mary Magdalene.

Verses 26-27

Vers. 25-27. The Teaching of Jesus.

The καὶ αὐτός , then He ( Luk 24:25 ), shows that His turn has now come. They have said everything they have opened their heart; now it is for Him to fill it with new things. And first, in the way of rebuke ( Luk 24:25 ). ᾿Ανοητοί , fools, refers to the understanding; βραδεῖς , slow, to the heart. If they had embraced the living God with more fervent faith, the fact of the resurrection would not have been so strange to their hopes ( Luk 20:37-38 ).

Next, in the way of instruction ( Luk 24:26-27 ). Luk 24:26 is the central word of this narrative. The explanation of the ἔδει , ought, was no doubt rather exegetical than dogmatical; it turned on the text presented by the prophecies ( Luk 24:27 ).

Jesus had before Him a grand field, from the Protevangelium down to Malachi 4:0. In studying the Scriptures for Himself, He had found Himself in them everywhere ( Joh 5:39-40 ). He had now only to let this light which filled His heart ray forth from Him. The second ἀπό ( Luk 24:27 ) shows that the demonstration began anew with every prophet.

Verses 28-32

Vers. 28-32. Historical Conclusion.

When Jesus made as if He would continue His journey, it was not a mere feint. He would have really gone, but for that sort of constraint which they exercised over Him. Every gift of God is an invitation to claim a greater ( χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος , Joh 1:16 ). But most men stop very quickly on this way; and thus they never reach the full blessing ( 2Ki 13:14-19 ). The verb κατακλιθῆναι , to sit down at table ( Luk 24:30 ), applies to a common meal, and does not involve the idea of a Holy Supper. Acting as head of the family, Jesus takes the bread and gives thanks. The word διηνοίχθησαν , were opened ( Luk 24:31 ), is contrasted with the preceding, were holden, Luke 24:16. It indicates a divine operation, which destroys the effect of the causes referred to, Luke 24:16. No doubt the influence exercised on their heart by the preceding conversation and by the thanksgiving of Jesus, as well as the manner in which He broke and distributed the bread, had prepared them for this awaking of the inner sense. The sudden disappearance of Jesus has a supernatural character. His body was already in course of glorification, and obeyed more freely than before the will of the spirit. Besides, it must be remembered that Jesus, strictly speaking, was already no more with them ( Luk 24:44 ), and that the miracle consisted rather in His appearing than in His disappearing.

The saying, so intimate in its character, which is preserved Luke 24:32, in any case betrays a source close to the event itself; tradition would not have invented such a saying.

If we accept the view which recognises Luke himself in the companion of Cleopas, we shall find ourselves brought to this critical result, that each evangelist has left in a corner of his narrative a modest indication of his person: Matthew, in the publican whom Jesus removes by a word from his previous occupations; Mark, in the young man who flees, leaving his garment at Gethsemane; John, in the disciple designated as he whom Jesus loved; Luke, in the anonymous traveller of Emmaus.

Verses 33-43

4. The Appearance to the Apostles: Luke 24:33-42.24.43.

Vers. 33-43. The two travellers, immediately changing their intended route, return to Jerusalem, where they find the apostles assembled and full of joy. An appearance of Jesus to Peter had overcome all the doubts left by the accounts of the women. This appearance should probably be placed at the time when Peter returned home ( Luk 24:12 ), after his visit to the tomb. Paul places it (1 Corinthians 15:0) first of all. He omits Luke's first (the two going to Emmaus) and John's first (Mary Magdalene). For where apostolic testimony is in question, as in that chapter, unofficial witnesses, not chosen ( Act 1:2 ), are left out of account. Peter was not at that time restored as an apostle (comp. John 21:0), but he received his pardon as a believer. If tradition had invented, would it not, above all, have imagined an appearance to John?

This account refers to the same appearance as John 20:19-43.20.23. The two Gospels place it on the evening of the resurrection day. The sudden appearance of Jesus, Luke 24:36, indicated by the words: He stood in the midst of them, is evidently supernatural, like His disappearance ( Luk 24:31 ). Its miraculous character is expressed still more precisely by John, The doors were shut. The salutation would be the same in both accounts: Peace be unto you, were we not obliged to give the preference here to the text of the Cantab. and of some copies of the Itala, which rejects these words. The T. R. has probably been interpolated from John.

The term πνεῦμα ( Luk 24:37 ) denotes the spirit of the dead returning without a body from Hades, and appearing in a visible form as umbra, φάντασμα ( Mat 14:26 ). This impression naturally arose from the sudden and miraculous appearance of Jesus. The διαλογισμοί , inward disputings, are contrasted with the simple acknowledgment of Him who stands before them.

At Luke 24:39, Jesus asserts His identity: “ That it is I myself,” and then His corporeity: “ Handle me, and see. ” The sight of His hands and feet proves those two propositions by the wounds, the marks of which they still bear. Luk 24:40 is wanting in D. It aliq . It might be suspected that it is taken from John 20:20, if in this latter passage, instead of His feet, there was not His side.

In Luke 24:41-42.24.43, Jesus gives them a new proof of His corporeity by eating meats which they had to offer Him. Their very joy prevented them from believing in so great a happiness, and formed an obstacle to their faith.

Strauss finds a contradiction between the act of eating and the notion of a glorified body. But the body of Jesus was in a transition state. Our Lord Himself says to Mary Magdalene: “ I am not yet ascended..., but I ascend ” ( Joh 20:17 ). On the one hand, then, He still had His terrestrial body. On the other, this body was already raised to a higher condition. We have no experience to help us in forming a clear idea of this transition, any more than of its goal, the glorified body.

The omission of the words: and of an honey-comb, in the Alex., is probably due to the confusion of the καί which precedes with that which follows.

This appearance of Jesus in the midst of the apostles, related by John and Luke, is also mentioned by Mark ( Mar 16:14 ) and by Paul ( 1Co 15:5 ). But John alone distinguishes it from that which took place eight days after in similar circumstances, and at which the doubts of Thomas were overcome. And would it be too daring to suppose that, as the first of those appearances was meant to gather together the apostles whom Jesus wished to bring to Galilee, the second was intended to complete this reunion, which was hindered by the obstinate resistance of Thomas; consequently, that it was the unbelief of this disciple which prevented the immediate return of the apostles to Galilee, and forced them to remain at Jerusalem during the whole paschal week? Jesus did not lead back the flock until He had the number completed: “ Of those whom Thou gavest me none is lost.

Verses 44-49

5. The last Instructions: Luke 24:44-42.24.49.

Vers. 44-49. Meyer, Bleek, and others think that all the sayings which follow were uttered this same evening, and that the ascension itself must, according to Luke, have followed immediately, during the night or toward morning. Luke corrected himself later in the Acts, where, according to a more exact tradition, he puts an interval of forty days between the resurrection and the ascension. A circumstance which might be urged in favour of this hypothesis is, that what Luke omits in the angel's message ( Luk 24:6 ) is precisely the command to the disciples to return to Galilee. But, on the other hand: 1. May it not be supposed that Luke, having reached the end of the first part of his history, and having the intention of repeating those facts as the point of departure for his second, thought it enough to state them in the most summary way? 2. Is it probable that an author, when beginning the second part of a history, should modify most materially, without in the least apprising his reader, the recital of facts with which he has closed his first? Would it not have been simpler and more honest on the part of Luke to correct the last page of his first volume, instead of confirming it implicitly as he does, Acts 1:1; ? Acts 1:23. The τότε , then ( Luk 24:45 ), may embrace an indefinite space of time. 4. This more general sense harmonizes with the fragmentary character of the report given of those last utterances: Now He said unto them, Luke 24:44: and He said unto them, Luke 24:46. This inexact form shows clearly that Luke abandons narrative strictly so called, to give as he closes the contents of the last sayings of Jesus, reserving to himself to develope later the historical account of those last days. 5. The author of our Gospel followed the same tradition as Paul (see the appearance to Peter, mentioned only by Paul and Luke). It is, moreover, impossible, considering his relations to that apostle and to the churches of Greece, that he was not acquainted with the first Epistle to the Corinthians. Now, in this epistle a considerable interval is necessarily supposed between the resurrection and the ascension, first because it mentions an appearance of Jesus to more than 500 brethren, which cannot have taken place on the very day of the resurrection; and next, because it expressly distinguishes two appearances to the assembled apostles: the one undoubtedly that the account of which we have just been reading ( 1Co 15:6 ); the other, which must have taken place later ( Luk 24:7 ). These facts, irreconcilable with the idea attributed by Meyer and others to Luke, belonged, as Paul himself tells us, 1 Corinthians 15:1-46.15.3, to the teaching generally received in the Church, to the παράδοσις . How could they have been unknown to such an investigator as Luke? How could they have escaped him in his first book, and that to recur to him without his saying a word in the second? Luke therefore here indicates summarily the substance of the different instructions given by Jesus between His resurrection and ascension all comprised in the words of the Acts: “ After that He had given commandments unto the apostles ” ( Act 1:2 ).

Ver. 44 relates how Jesus recalled to them His previous predictions regarding His death and resurrection, which fulfilled the prophecies of the O. T. Οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι , an abridged phrase for ταῦτα ἐστιν οἱ λόγοι : “These events which have just come to pass are those of which I told you in the discourses which you did not understand.” The expression: while I was yet with you, is remarkable; for it proves that, in the mind of Jesus, His separation from them was now consummated. He was with them only exceptionally; His abode was elsewhere.

The three terms: Moses, Prophets, Psalms, may denote the three parts of the O. T. among the Jews: the Pentateuch; the Prophets, comprising, with the historical books (up to the exile), the prophetical books; the Psalms, as representing the entire group of the hagiographa. Bleek rather thinks that Jesus mentions here only the books most essential from a prophetic point of view ( περὶ ἐμοῦ ). If it is once admitted that the division of the canon which we have indicated existed so early as the time of Jesus, the first meaning is the more natural.

Jesus closes these explanations by an act of power for which they were meant to prepare. He opens the inner sense of His apostles, so that the Scriptures shall henceforth cease to be to them a sealed book. This act is certainly the same as that described by John in the words ( Luk 20:22 ): “ And He breathed on them, saying, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. ” The only difference is, that John names the efficient cause, Luke the effect produced. The miracle is the same as that which Jesus shall one day work upon Israel collectively, when the veil shall be taken away ( 2Co 3:15-16 ).

At Luk 24:46 there begins a new resumé that of the discourses of the risen Jesus referring to the future, as the preceding bore on the past of the kingdom of God. Καὶ εἶπεν , and He said to them again. So true is it that Luke here gives the summary of the instructions of Jesus during the forty days ( Act 1:3 ), that we find the parallels of these verses scattered up and down in the discourses which the other Gospels give between the resurrection and ascension. The words: should be preached among all nations, recall Matthew 28:19: “ Go and teach all nations,” and Mark 16:15: “ Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. ” The words: preaching repentance and remission of sins, recall John 20:23: “ Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them. ” Luk 24:46 forms the transition from the past to the future ( Luk 24:47 ). ῞Οτι depends on: it was so, understood.

The omission of καὶ οὕτως ἔδει , thus it behoved, by the Alex. cannot be justified; it has arisen from negligence. Jesus declares two necessities: the one founded on prophecy ( thus it is written), the other on the very nature of things ( it behoved). The Alex. reading: repentance unto pardon, instead of: repentance and pardon, has no internal probability. It would be a phrase without analogy in the whole of the N. T.

The partic. ἀρξάμενον is a neut. impersonal accusative, used as a gerund. The Alex. reading ἀρξάμενοι is a correction.

The thought that the kingdom of God must spread from Jerusalem belonged also to prophecy (Psalms 110:2, et al.); comp. Acts 1:8, where this idea is developed.

To carry out this work of preaching, there must be men specially charged with it. These are the apostles ( Luk 24:48 ). Hence the ὑμεῖς , ye, heading the proposition. The thought of Luk 24:48 is found John 15:27: that of Luke 24:49, John 15:26.

A testimony so important can only be given worthily and effectively with divine aid ( Luk 24:49 ). ᾿Ιδού , behold, expresses the unforeseen character of this intervention of divine strength; and ἐγώ , I, is put foremost as the correlative of ὑμεῖς , ye ( Luk 24:48 ): “Ye, on the earth, give testimony; and I, from heaven, give you power to do so.” When the disciples shall feel the spirit of Pentecost, they shall know that it is the breath of Jesus glorified, and for what end it is imparted to them. In the phrase: the promise of the Father, the word promise denotes the thing promised. The Holy Spirit is the divine promise par excellence. It is in this supreme gift that all others are to terminate. And this aid is so indispensable to them, that they must beware of beginning the work before having received it. The command to tarry in the city is no wise incompatible with a return of the disciples to Galilee between the resurrection and ascension. Everything depends on the time when Jesus spoke this word; it is not specified in the context. According to Acts 1:4, it was on the day of His ascension that Jesus gave them this command. The Alex. reject the word Jerusalem, which indeed is not necessary after Luke 24:47.

Verses 50-53

6. The Ascension: Luke 24:50-42.24.53.

The resurrection restored humanity in that one of its members who, by His holy life and expiatory death, conquered our two enemies the law which condemned us because of sin, and death, which overtook us because of the condemnation of the law ( 1Co 15:56 ). As this humanity is restored in the person of Christ by the fact of His resurrection, the ascension raises it to its full height; it realizes its destination, which from the beginning was to serve as a free instrument for the operations of the infinite God.

Vers. 50-53. The Ascension.

Luke alone, in his Gospel and in the Acts, has given us a detailed view of the scene which is indicated by Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:7, and assumed throughout the whole N. T. Interpreters like Meyer think themselves obliged to limit the ascension of Jesus to a purely spiritual elevation, and to admit no external visible fact in which this elevation was manifested. Luke's account was the production of a later tradition. We shall examine this hypothesis at the close.

The meaning of the ἐξήγαγε δέ , then He led them, is simply this: “ All these instructions finished, He led them...” This expression says absolutely nothing as to the time when the event took place.

The term συναλιζόμενος , having assembled, Acts 1:4, proves that Jesus had specially convoked the apostles in order to take leave of them. ῞Εως εἰς (T. R.), and still more decidedly ἕως πρός (Alex.), signifies, not as far as, but to about, in the direction and even to the neighbourhood of...There is thus no contradiction to Acts 1:12. Like the high priest when, coming forth from the temple, he blessed the people, Jesus comes forth from the invisible world once more, before altogether shutting Himself up within it, and gives His own a last benediction. Then, in the act of performing this deed of love, He is withdrawn to a distance from them towards the top of the mountain, and His visible presence vanishes from their eyes. The words καὶ ἀνεφέρετο εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν are omitted in the Sinaït., the Cantab., and some copies of the Itala. Could this phrase be the gloss of a copyist? But a gloss would probably have been borrowed from the narrative of the Acts, and that book presents no analogous expression. Might not this omission rather be, like so many others, the result of negligence, perhaps of confounding the two καί ? We can hardly believe that Luke would have said so curtly, He was parted from them, without adding how. The imperfect ἀνεφέρετο , He was carried up, forms a picture. It reminds us of the θεωρεῖν , behold, John 6:62. The Cantab. and some MSS. of the Itala omit ( Luk 24:52 ) the word προσκυνήσαντες , having worshipped Him, perhaps in consequence of confounding αὐταί and αὐτόν . The verb προσκυνεῖν , to prostrate oneself, in this context, can mean only the adoration which is paid to a divine being ( Psa 2:12 ).

The joy of the disciples caused by this elevation of their Master, which is the pledge of the victory of His cause, fulfilled the word of Jesus: “ If ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I go to my Father ” ( Joh 14:28 ). The point to be determined is, whether the more detailed account in Acts (the cloud, the two glorified men who appear) is an amplification of the scene due to the pen of Luke, or whether the account in the Gospel was only a sketch which he proposed to complete at the beginning of his second treatise, of which this scene was to form the starting-point. If our explanation of Luk 24:44-49 is well founded, we cannot but incline to the second view. And the more we recognise up to this point in Luke an author who writes conscientiously and from conviction, the more shall we feel obliged to reject the first alternative.

The numerous omissions, Luke 24:52-42.24.53, in the Cantab. and some MSS. of the Itala cannot well be explained, except by the haste which the copyists seem to have made as they approached the end of their work. Or should the preference be given, as Tischendorf gives it, to this abridged text, contrary to all the other authorities together? D a b, which read αἰνοῦντες without καὶ εὐλογοῦντες ; א . B. C. L., which read εὐλογοῦντες without αἰνοῦντες καί , mutually condemn one another, and so confirm the received reading, praising and blessing God. Perhaps the omission in both cases arises from confounding the two ντες . Αἰνεῖν , to praise, refers to the person of God; εὐλογεῖν , to bless, to His benefits. The disciples do here what was done at the beginning by the shepherds ( Luk 2:20 ). But what a way traversed, what a series of glorious benefits between those two acts of homage! The last words, these in particular: “ They were continually in the temple,” form the transition to the book of Acts.

On the Ascension.

At first the apostles regarded the ascension as only the last of those numerous disappearances which they had witnessed during the forty days ( ἄφαντος ἐγένετο , Luk 24:31 ). Jesus regarded it as the elevation of His person, in the character of Son of man, to that μορφὴ Θεοῦ ( Php 2:6 ), that divine state which He had renounced when He came under the conditions of human existence. Having reached the term of His earthly career, He had asked back His glory ( Joh 17:5 ); the ascension was the answer to His prayer.

Modern criticism objects to the reality of the ascension as an external fact, on the ground of the Copernican system, which excludes the belief that heaven is a particular place situated above our heads and beyond the stars. Those who raise this objection labour under a very gross misunderstanding. According to the Biblical view, the ascension is not the exchange of one place for another; it is a change of state, and this change is precisely the emancipation from all confinement within the limits of space, exaltation to omnipresence. The cloud was, as it were, the veil which covered this transformation. The right hand of a God everywhere present cannot designate a particular place. Sitting at the right hand of God must also include omniscience, which is closely bound up with omnipresence, as well as omnipotence, of which the right hand of God is the natural symbol. The Apocalypse expresses in its figurative language the true meaning of the ascension, when it represents the glorified Son of man as the Lamb with seven horns (omnipotence) and seven eyes (omniscience). This divine mode of being does not exclude bodily existence in the case of Jesus. Comp., in Paul, the σωματικῶς , bodily, Colossians 2:9, and the expression spiritual body applied to the second Adam, 1 Corinthians 15:44. We cannot, from experience, form an idea of this glorified bodily existence. But it may be conceived as a power of appearing sensibly and of external activity, operating at the pleasure of the will alone, and at every point of space.

Another objection is taken from the omission of this scene in the other Biblical documents.

But, 1. Paul expressly mentions an appearance to all the apostles, 1 Corinthians 15:7. Placed at the close of the whole series of previous appearances (among them that to the 500), and immediately before that which decided his own conversion, this appearance can only be the one at the ascension as related by Luke. This fact is decisive; for, according to Luke 24:3; Luke 24:11, it is the παράδοσις , the general tradition of the churches, proceeding from the apostles, which Paul sums up in this passage.

2. However Mark's mutilated conclusion may be explained, the words: “So then, after the Lord had thus spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God,” suppose some sensible fact or other, which served as a basis for such expressions. The same holds of the innumerable declarations of the epistles (Paul, Peter, Hebrews, James), which speak of the heavenly glory of Jesus, and of His sitting at the right hand of God. Doctrines, with the apostles, are never more than the commentary on facts. Such expressions must have a historical substratum.

3. No doubt, John does not relate the ascension. But can it be said that he does not mention it, when this saying occurs in his Gospel (Higb6:62): “ What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? ” The term θεωρεῖν , strictly to contemplate, and the pres. partic. ἀναβαίνοντα , ascending, forbid us to think of an event of a purely spiritual nature (comp. Bäumlein, ad. h. l.). Why, then, does he not relate the historical scene of the ascension? Because, as his starting-point was taken after the baptism, which on this account he does not relate, his conclusion is placed before the ascension, which for this reason he leaves unrelated. The idea of his book was the development of faith in the minds of the apostles from its birth to its consummation. Now their faith was born with the visit of John and Andrew, chap. 1, after the baptism; and it had received the seal of perfection in the profession of Thomas, chap. 20, before the ascension. That the evangelist did not think of relating all the appearances which he knew, is proved positively by that on the shores of the Lake of Gennesaret, which is related after the close of the book ( Luk 20:30-31 ), and in an appendix (chap. 21) composed either by the author himself (at least as far as Luk 24:23 ) or based on a tradition emanating from him. He was therefore aware of this appearance, and he had not mentioned it in his Gospel, like Luke, who could not be ignorant of the appearance to the 500, and who has not mentioned it either in his Gospel or in Acts. What reserve should such facts impose on criticism, however little gifted with caution!

4. And the following must be very peculiarly borne in mind in judging of Matthew's narrative. It is no doubt strange to find this evangelist relating (besides the appearance to the women, which is intended merely to prepare for that following by the message which is given them) only a single appearance, that which took place on the mountain of Galilee, where Jesus had appointed His disciples, as well as the women and all the faithful, to meet Him, and where He gives the Eleven their commission. This appearance cannot be any of those which Luke and John place in Judaea. It comes nearer by its locality to that which, according to John 21:0, took place in Galilee; but it cannot be identified with it, for the scene of the latter was the sea-shore. As we have seen, it can only be the appearance to the 500 mentioned by Paul. The meeting on a mountain is in perfect keeping with so numerous an assembly, though Matthew mentions none but the Eleven, because the grand aim is that mission of world-wide evangelization which Jesus gives them that day. Matthew's intention was not, as we have already seen, to mention all the different appearances, either in Judaea or Galilee, by which Jesus had re-awakened the personal faith of the apostles, and concluded His earthly connection with them. His narrative had exclusively in view that solemn appearance in which Jesus declared Himself the Lord of the universe, the sovereign of the nations, and had given the apostles their mission to conquer for Him the ends of the earth. So true is it that his narrative must terminate in this supreme fact, that Jesus announced it before His death ( Mat 26:32 ), and that, immediately after the resurrection, the angel and Jesus Himself spoke of it to the women ( Mat 28:7-10 ). Indeed, this scene was, in the view of the author of the first Gospel, the real goal of the theocratic revelation, the climax of the ancient covenant. If the day of the ascension was the most important in respect of the personal development of Jesus (Luke), the day of His appearance on the mountain showed the accomplishment of the Messianic programme sketched Luke 1:1: “Jesus, the Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. ” It was the decisive day for the establishment of the kingdom of God, which is Matthew's great thought. Criticism is on a false tack when it assumes that every evangelist has said all that he could have said. With oral tradition spread and received in the Church, the gospel historiography did not require to observe such an anxious gait as is supposed. It was not greatly concerned to relate an appearance more or less. The essential thing was to affirm the resurrection itself. The contrast between the detailed official enumeration of Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:0, and each of our four Gospels, proves this to a demonstration. Especially does it seem to us thoroughly illogical to doubt the fact of the ascension, as Meyer does, because of Matthew's silence, and not to extend this doubt to all the appearances in Judaea, about which he is equally silent.

The following passage from the letter of Barnabas has sometimes been used in evidence: “We celebrate with joy that eighth day on which Jesus rose from the dead and, after having manifested Himself, ascended to heaven.” The author, it is said, like Luke, places the ascension and the resurrection on the same day. But it may be that in this expression he puts them, not on the same day taken absolutely, but on the same day of the week, the eighth, Sunday (which no doubt would involve an error as to the ascension). Or, indeed, this saying may signify, according to John 20:17, which in that case it would reproduce, that the ascending of Jesus to heaven began with the resurrection, and on that very day. In reality, from that time He was no more with His own, as He Himself says ( Luk 24:44 ). He belonged to a higher sphere of existence. He only manifested Himself here below. He no longer lived here. He was ascending, to use His own expression. According to this view, His resurrection and the beginning of His elevation ( καὶ - καὶ ) therefore took place the same day. The expression: after having manifested Himself, would refer to the appearances which took place on the resurrection day, and after which He entered into the celestial sphere.

In any case, the resurrection once admitted as a real fact, the question is, how Jesus left the earth. By stealth, without saying a word? One fine day, without any warning whatever, He ceased to re-appear? Is this mode of acting compatible with His tender love for His own? Or, indeed, according to M. de Bunsen, His body, exhausted by the last effort which His resurrection had cost Him (Jesus, according to this writer, was the author of this event by the energy of His will), succumbed in a missionary journey to Phenicia, where He went to seek believers among the Gentiles (John 10:17-43.10.18; comp. with Luk 24:16 ); and having died there unknown, Jesus was likewise buried! But in this case, His body raised from the dead must have differed in no respect from the body which He had had during His life. And how are we to explain all the accounts, from which it appears that, between His resurrection and ascension, His body was already under peculiar conditions, and in course of glorification?

The reality of such a fact as that related by Luke in his account of the ascension is therefore indubitable, both from the special standpoint of faith in the resurrection, and from the standpoint of faith in general. The ascension is a postulate of faith.

The ascension perfects in the person of the Son of man God's design in regard to humanity. To make of sanctified believers a family of children of God, perfectly like that only Son who is the prototype of the whole race, such is God's plan, His eternal πρόθεσις ( Rom 8:28-29 ), with a view to which He created the universe. As the plant is the unconscious agent of the life of nature, man was intended to become the free and intelligent organ of the holy life of the personal God. Now, to realize this plan, God thought good ( εὐδόκησε ) to accomplish it first in ONE; Ephesians 2:6: “He hath raised us up IN CHRIST, and made us sit IN HIM in the heavenly places;” Luke 1:10: “According to the purpose which He had to gather together all things under ONE head, Christ;” Hebrews 2:10: “Wishing to bring many sons to glory, He perfected THE CAPTAIN OF SALVATION.” Such was, according to the divine plan, the first act of salvation. The second was to unite to this ONE individual believers, and thus to make them partakers of the divine state to which the Son of man had been raised ( Rom 8:29 ). This assimilation of the faithful to His Son God accomplished by means of two things, which are the necessary complement of the facts of the Gospel history: Pentecost, whereby the Lord's moral being becomes that of the believer; and the Parousia, whereby the external condition of the sanctified believer is raised to the same elevation as that of our glorified Lord. First holiness, then glory, for the body as for the head: the baptism of Jesus, which becomes ours by Pentecost; the ascension of Jesus, which becomes ours by the Parousia.

Thus it is that each Gospel, and not only that which we have just been explaining, has the Acts for its second volume, and for its third the Apocalypse.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Luke 24". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books".