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HE IS NOT HERE. BUT RISEN
Though these dear women came to the grave very early in the morning the first day of the week, they were too late. Mary of Bethany had anointed the Lord Jesus before His death, and she had done this in view of His burial (John 12:7). Others perhaps had lesser intelligence, though no less love for Him. Elsewhere we read that the women had questioned among themselves as to who might roll the stone away from the grave (Mark 16:3), that they might anoint Him; but the stone was already rolled away! The grave was accessible but there was no body to anoint (v.3)!
There is some difficulty in deciding in what order events took place that morning, for John mentions only Mary Magdalene (John 20:1). At what times she might have been alone may be a question, but we know each account is specifically directed by the Spirit of God, and we need not be too concerned if we are unable to clearly see the sequence of events. It is their moral and spiritual significance that is important.
The perplexity of the women was turned to fear as two men in shining garments suddenly appeared, standing by them. Matthew mentions an angel rolling the stone away and sitting on it in view of the guards at the grave (Matthew 28:2-4). Mark speaks of the women seeing in the grave a young man sitting, clothed in a long white garment (Mark 16:5). John speaks of Mary Magdalene seeing two angels in white sitting inside the tomb (John 20:11-12). All four of these must have been at different times, yet not far apart. It is good to see this abundant angelic testimony to the fact of the resurrection of Christ.
Clear indeed is the angels' witness: He is living: He is not among the dead. He is risen. They recalled to the women the Lord's own words to them in Galilee, more than once affirmed, that He would be delivered into the cruel hands of men and be crucified, but the third day rise again (vs.6-7). Why had they not taken to heart His words of such plain, vital significance? But they then remembered that He had said this. With this marvelous, electrifying news they returned to the eleven and to the many other disciples. Some of the women 5 names are mentioned -- Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James -- though there were others also.
The apostles would not accept the word of the women as to the resurrection of the Lord, in spite of their no doubt repeating the words of the angels as to the Lord's own declaration long before that He would be crucified and rise again the third day. The disciples probably questioned, if He were raised, why had He not been seen alive? But God's wisdom is seen in this, for it was a test of the faith of the disciples as to Christ's own words, attested by the report of angels to the women. Moreover, the cynicism of the disciples is clear proof that they had no thought of inventing a false story of resurrection to deceive the world.
Nevertheless Peter, seriously interested, ran to the grave. It was likely at this time that John also ran there (John 20:3-10), but Luke's interest centers on the grace of God operative in Peter's heart in view of his restoration. He saw the linen clothes lying in such a way as to give evidence of the Lord's miraculous release from them.
Wonderingly, he returned (v.12). He could then only wait in view of what might next take place. Marvelous is the wisdom of God in regard to each of these cases of the Lord appearing to His disciples after His resurrection, for He was dealing with the need of souls and the evidence of reality in those disciples is beyond the least question.
ON THE WAY TO EMMAUS
Two of the disciples were walking that day from Jerusalem toward Emmaus, which is a distance of about seven or eight miles (12 km), their minds and their conversation filled with those things that were filling many minds. Before this, John tells us, the Lord had appeared alone to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14), whose heart was overcome by sorrow. He suddenly appeared to these two whose discouragement was leading them back to their own home. Drawing near, the Lord walked with them, but they did not recognize Him. Mary had not recognized Him either, and there is a spiritual lesson in this. He did not return in the same condition as before, nor in the same relationship. Though they had "known Christ after the flesh," yet in this way they were to know Him no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16), for in resurrection He is the Head of a new creation, altogether above the level of fleshly relationships.
With gentle questioning He wisely drew out their hearts, asking as to the burden of their conversation that caused them evident sadness. Cleopas answered (it may well have been his wife with him, though we are not definitely told), questioning also the Lord, for he could not understand anyone from the area of Jerusalem being ignorant of the momentous facts of the crucifixion of the Lord. Was He a stranger there? Had He not known the things that had taken place?
The Lord asked, "What things?" For though He knew all this better than they, it was essential that they should express their thoughts openly to Him that He might meet their need in a way they would recognize as true and fully applicable to them. Does He not seek the same with all His beloved people? They stated the facts simply as to Jesus of Nazareth being a prophet mighty in deed and word, not only in the eyes of the people, but "before God," a matter that could not but be recognized by honest minds. They realized too the total responsibility of the chief priests and rulers in delivering Him to be condemned, and in crucifying Him. They did not mention either Rome or Pilate.
But they intimated that the Lord's crucifixion had completely dashed to the ground their own confidence that He would be the Redeemer of Israel. Such is man's natural thought: death is so final that men's minds see nothing beyond. Yet this was not all that they reported. This was the third day since the events of the crucifixion (notice that this confirms that Friday was the day of the Lord's death, for they were speaking together on the first day of the week), and certain women had astonished them with the report of a vision of angels declaring Him to be alive.
Cleopas ended his explanation with reference to the fact that the absence of the Lord's body from the grave had been corroborated by men who went to the grave, but they had not seen Him. One may wonder why these two had left Jerusalem without waiting to see the results of all this, but discouragement was (and is too often with us) a strong influence.
This unusual Stranger tenderly, faithfully addressed them with surprising words, "O senseless ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (v.25). It was their own lack of faith in the Word of God that had led to their discouragement, for the Old Testament prophets had borne clear witness to the sufferings and death of the Messiah of Israel. Isaiah 53:1-12 is most notable and clear in this matter, and is supported by many other Scriptures. Nor did the Scriptures stop with the facts of His sufferings and crucifixion, but were no less emphatic as to His afterward entering into the messianic glory that all Israel was taught to expect.
How wonderfully attractive it is to witness the time the Lord took with these two disciples alone, to begin with Moses and continue through all the prophets, from Genesis to Malachi, expounding to them from all the Old Testament scriptures the things concerning Himself. This would include types (pictures) of Himself, of His sacrifice and of His resurrection glory, as well as direct prophecies. How marvelous indeed must have been this long discourse, yet it was only for these two, however much we might wish it were recorded for us. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit today to take of the things of Christ and show them to us, so that by diligent faith and submission to Him, we also may learn the same things.
Let us observe here that the answer to their discouragement was the Word of God in the many things it reveals as to Himself, the blessed Lord of glory. If we study the Word with Christ Himself as our Object, the results for us will be marvelous too.
AN OPENED HOME AND OPENED EYES
As they came to Emmaus He indicated His intention of continuing further, which gave them the opportunity to urge Him to come in to stay with them (vs.28-29). This shows us that the Lord will not force His presence on us, but will gladly respond to the faith that desires His presence.
Sitting down to a meal with them, the Lord unexpectedly took the place of the host, taking bread, blessing it by the giving of thanks, breaking it, and giving it to these two disciples. Only the Son of God would have the right to do this in the home of another. Then their eyes were opened to recognize Him. This breaking of the bread was not the Lord's supper, which is a service for the Assembly of God unitedly, but it stimulated the two disciples to realize that, rather than they having Him as a guest in their home, they should be concerned about His house, where He was fully recognized as the host, that is, the gathering of His loved ones to His own name. As soon as they knew Him, He vanished out of their sight (v.31). In pure grace He had taken time for a personal interview with them, yet He would not remain even over night with them. His greater interests are in His own house, that is, among His saints collectively.
RETURNING TO GATHER TO HIS NAME
They realized that they should be back with the other disciples, as they spoke to each other of how their hearts burned within them as He had spoken to them, opening up the Scriptures. Though they had said the day was far spent when they arrived home, they had no hesitation in deciding to return that seven miles or more (12km) to Jerusalem. What a change in their attitude! Their return was likely more rapid than their previous walk home, however tired they may have felt before. The reality of Christ's resurrection makes the company of His saints attractive indeed, and their strength was renewed.
Arriving back at Jerusalem, the two found the eleven gathered with other disciples, who had no doubt as to the fact of the Lord's resurrection, for He had appeared to Simon Peter (v.34). How graciously and tenderly has the Great Shepherd been laboring to regather His scattered sheep! Nothing is said of His actual conversation with Peter, for the restoration of Peter's soul after his sad fall was a deeply personal matter between the Lord and Peter. It was later (John 21:15-22) that He dealt with Peter before the disciples to publicly restore him, for public matters are handled publicly, while personal matters are kept on a personal basis.
APPEARING TO HIS DISCIPLES
As the two reported their experience, "Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them," with the sweet message, "Peace be unto you." The miracle of His appearing suddenly in a room with closed doors was too much for the disciples, and far from being peaceful, terror and fright took hold of them. They thought He must be a spirit, for how could one suddenly materialize in bodily form before their eyes? But this is one of the wonders of His resurrection: He has not been raised back to the same condition in which He had been before His death, but has triumphed over death, never to die again, introducing a new creation over which He is Head, in contrast to Adam's headship over the first creation, which must pass away. In bodily form He has powers now that we might have thought possible only for a spirit. Believers too at His coming, will have bodies "like unto His body of glory" (Philippians 3:21 -- JND). But He spoke in gentle, reassuring words, "Why are you troubled? and why do doubts arise in your hearts?" (v.38). He set them quietly at ease in His presence by showing them His hands and His feet, the nail prints being still there, and inviting them to handle Him. The facts were evident: He was in the same body that went into the grave, yet a body in an altered condition, not limited by physical barriers and conditions, for it is a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44), suited to spiritual conditions, but emphatically a body, not a spirit. said, He has flesh and bones. He did not say "flesh and blood" as was said of incarnation (Hebrews 2:14), for it appears that blood has no part in the resurrection "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 15:50).
In spite of seeing and handling Him, the disciples were slow to believe and still wondered, for the joy of it seemed too much. The Lord asked for food, and before them He ate a piece of broiled fish and honeycomb (v.42). We may be sure that His body did not require physical food, but this eating proved for them that He had a body capable of eating, an actual physical body. Wonderful assurance!
THE DISCIPLES' UNDERSTANDING OPENED
The disciples needed the reminder of what the Lord Jesus had said to them before, the significance of which had totally escaped them, though spoken as plainly as language could express it (Luke 18:31-34). The Old Testament scriptures must be fulfilled in every detail, and those scriptures concentrated on the things concerning Himself, whether in the five books of the law, in prophetic books, or even in poetic books.
The opening of their understanding (v.45) was not as yet the gift of the Spirit of God, but giving them a true perspective of the scriptures, which they lacked. This opening is connected with the following verse, which provides a key that is essential to understanding the main message of the Old Testament. The Messiah must suffer first, be crucified and buried, then rise the third day. This knowledge would enlighten their eyes as to many scriptures that had been virtually dead letters to them before.
This opening of their understanding seems to have a direct connection with "the key of David" mentioned inRevelation 3:7; Revelation 3:7, that key opening a door of understanding of the Word of God that man cannot close. David is a lovely type of Christ as one who suffered first before finally taking the throne. Having this understanding, and willingness to suffer with Christ before the day of His eventual reigning, is a key of wonderful value to the tried disciple of Christ, giving vital insight into the truth of the Word of God and wisdom and energy for an appropriate testimony in the day of grace.
The Lord added that the Scriptures had also foretold that the gospel of grace would be proclaimed, beginning at Jerusalem, but going out to all the nations. Many Old Testament scriptures speak of God bringing great blessing to Jerusalem through Israel's Messiah, and many also of the great resulting blessing to Gentiles. Psalms 19:1-14 presents the sunshine as a glorious picture of the gospel of grace going out to all the world, not confined to Israel, but blessing every nation with its warming rays. While generally these scriptures look on to the blessing of the millennial kingdom, yet the Lord applied the principle behind these Scriptures to His sending the disciples in the present day of grace, beginning at Jerusalem, but to all the nations.
Repentance must be insisted on as a prerequisite to the remission of sins. This Gospel of Luke has before emphasized this (as for instance in Ch.15:7,10,15). Yet though Luke was a Gentile, he did not favor Gentiles: he stressed the fact that Jerusalem was the center from which the gospel would go forth. Notice also verses 49 and 52. Jerusalem is not mentioned at the end of the other three Gospels, all written by Jews. How morally appropriate that Luke therefore, a Gentile, should give Jerusalem this place of honor!
While the Lord gave His disciples the commission to proclaim the gospel, yet the work was not begun immediately. They must wait at Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would endue them with the necessary power for this work, a power from high above mere nature. This anointing of the Holy Spirit took place on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47).
Forty days intervened between the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and verse 50, but Luke gives no account of other activities of the Lord during that forty days. Leading His disciples out as far as Bethany, He was parted from them while in the act of lifting up His hands to bless them. Bethany means "the house of affliction," an apt picture of the circumstances in which the disciples were left as He returned to His rightful place in the glory of God. Yet whatever afflictions we may experience, His hands of faithful intercession are unfailingly lifted up on our behalf, both in pouring out blessing and in prayer.
Now as our blessed Object in glory, the Lord Jesus, risen and ascended, is the source of the joy and comfort, strength and encouragement of His afflicted people. We have seen that the Spirit of God is given to provide the subjective or inward strength, but He does so by directing our thoughts and hearts to the Lord who has gained the victory over the world and is glorified at the right hand of God.
Overflowing worship was the result of the disciples seeing Him ascend, and they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. When He had told them before His death that He would leave them, sorrow had filled their heart (John 16:5-6); but when this actually took place, sorrow was forgotten and their joy was so full that they were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. We too, throughout this present dispensation of grace, whatever our circumstances, have reason for the same unspeakable joy, for "we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor." (Hebrews 2:9)
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 24". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany