‘But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared.’
‘On the first day of the week.’ This is literally ‘on the first of the sabbaths’. It is a phrase that regularly indicates what we see as the first day of the week. But the word ‘sabbaths’ was used to indicate the seven days in a seven day period ending on a sabbath. Thus the ‘first of the sabbaths’ was Sunday (commencing at sunset on Saturday).
‘At early dawn.’ Literally ‘at deep dawn’. Mark indicates that this is just after the sun has come up. It is indeed unlikely that at such a perilous time for the followers of Jesus, when danger would be seen as lurking everywhere, the women would venture abroad in the dark.
‘They came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared.’ we must remember here that Luke is intending to give the gist of what happened without going into too much detail. We discover elsewhere that Mary Magdalene (John 20:1) and the other Mary (Matthew 28:1) went ahead in order to try to work out a way of removing the stone blocking the entrance and getting into the tomb. It would seem that at what they found the other Mary went back to warn the women, while Mary Magdalene sped off to tell the leading Apostles. But Luke is more interested in what happened to the whole body of women.
All Are Puzzled Over The Empty Tomb (24:1-12).
When at last the time came for them to be able to go to the tomb, the women carried out the final preparations on the spices and ointments,and as Mark suggests, having found that they had insufficient for the purpose among them, had to hurry out to buy more. Both activities were likely in the circumstances, for they would carry some with them, but as they were only in Jerusalem as visitors and would be unlikely to have with them all that was necessary for a burial, once they had pooled their resources it was always likely that they would not have enough. These differing descriptions of their activities in fact bear the stamp of genuineness, for no one was particular about the detail, which would hardly be seen as important, but the various statements all fit in place and depict a situation that with a little thought we will see was most probable.
Having finalised their preparations they then went to the tomb and found it open, with the stone rolled away. Baffled by this unexpected event they entered it, only to discover to their dismay that the body had gone. But even while they were still looking at each other and wondering what to do next, two men whose clothes shone brilliantly, appeared to them and explained that Jesus had risen as He had promised.
Recognising that something remarkable must have happened, although probably not sure what, they raced back to the Apostles and told them all that they had seen and heard, but none of the men believed them. They dismissed their story as fairy tales. Although, Luke tells us, Peter did at some stage go to the tomb to see for himself what the situation was. And at what he saw he was clearly made to think deeply. John tells us that this was as a result of the arrival of Mary Magdalene to inform them about the empty tomb (John 20:1-10).
This account reads like history (contrast the later so-called Gospels written in the second century and later), and its soberness must be seen as confirming its accuracy. Someone who invented such a story would have made it far more exciting, for its potential was huge. Had they been writing with the intention of ‘making an impression’ they would have written it very differently. That was how people who were not serious historians wrote in those days. Nor, unless that was what had really happened, would any Christian inventor have had the women discover the truth first, with the Apostles then revealing their unbelief by refusing to accept what they said. It was too much of a slight, both on these revered women and on the Apostles, and it was putting the emphasis on the kind of witnesses who would be considered by all to be the least reliable. The facts thus speak for themselves. Those who do not want to believe them because of their own presuppositions, or are predisposed to reject anything that they cannot fully explain, will no doubt continue to argue about them. But we would suggest that anyone who is genuinely seeking with an open mind to discover what really happened, and is willing to accept eyewitness testimony, can only be convinced that this is a true record of events. It is not the kind of description that people would invent, and is so much more sober than anything that they would have suggested if they had been making it up, that it demonstrates that they restricted themselves simply to the facts. They were not out for effect. They were out to tell what they saw, and to tell it soberly.
Analysis of 24:1-12.
a But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, and they entered in, and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus (Luke 24:1-3).
b It came to about that while they were perplexed about it, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel (Luke 24:4).
c And as they were afraid and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).
d He is not here, but is risen. Remember how He spoke to you when He was yet in Galilee” (Luke 24:6).
e “Saying that the Son of man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7).
d And they remembered his words, and returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest (Luke 24:8-9).
c Now they were Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them told these things to the Apostles (Luke 24:10).
b And these words appeared in their sight as idle talk, and they disbelieved them (Luke 24:11).
a But Peter arose, and ran to the tomb, and stooping and looking in, he sees the linen cloths by themselves, and he departed to his home, wondering at what had happened (Luke 24:12).
Note how in ‘a’ the women come to the tomb, find the stone rolled away, enter it and find it empty, (and are perplexed), while in the parallel Peter comes to the tomb, finds it empty, and goes home wondering at what he has seen. In ‘b’ the women are perplexed before the angels and in the parallel the disciples are disbelieving before the women. In ‘c’ the women are asked by the angels why they seek the living among the dead, and in the parallel we are told who these women were. In ‘d’ they are told to remember what Jesus had said and in the parallel they do remember. And finally in ‘e’, and centrally, we are told how the words of Jesus have been fulfilled in His resurrection.
‘And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, and they entered in, and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.’
What the group of women found is simply and briefly described. They found the tomb open with the stone rolled away from the entrance, but when they entered it did not find the body of the Lord Jesus, which is what they were looking for. This perplexed them. What were they going to do now? This situation was totally unexpected and would suggest to them that someone had removed the body. But the question was, who? And where had they taken it?
There is no difficulty in the suggestion that the women all entered the tomb. In Jerusalem today there is an ancient tomb called the Garden Tomb. While it may or not be the actual tomb in which Jesus was buried, it illustrates the type of tomb in which He was probably laid, and there would certainly have been little difficulty in a small group of women crowding inside.
‘And it came to about that while they were perplexed about it, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel,’
And it was while they were still perplexed, a state which would certainly have continued for some time had they not met the angels, that they became aware of two men standing by them in ‘dazzling clothing’. Both Mark and Matthew only mention one. Mark describes one who was sitting in a particular place who spoke to them. This does not discount the presence of a second, but emphasises who the main player was. Mark always concentrates on the particular one who is most important in the story, and ignores any other. In contrast Matthew elsewhere (but not in this case), and sometimes Luke, advert to more of the detail so that Matthew in a number of cases, and Luke in this case, regularly speak of twos where Mark has only one, possibly in the case of Matthew because having been there he actually remembered more of the detail. For two angels compare also John 20:12; Acts 1:10. See also Genesis 19:1 ff.
The dazzling clothing is clearly intended to indicate supernatural visitants, even though they are called ‘men’. For such an idea compare Daniel 10:5; Ezekiel 8:2; Acts 12:7, and see Luke 2:9. These were men ‘of the light’, or ‘angels of light’ (for the idea compare 2 Corinthians 11:14). The message they brought was therefore light and not darkness (Acts 26:18).
‘And as they were afraid and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”’
The appearance of the men was such that the women were afraid, and ‘bowed down their faces’ before the men. This may have been because of the brightness of the light, or simply because they were filled with awe. But the men gently asked them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Given what follows it was a clear indication that the reason why Jesus’ body was not here was because He was alive, and that that was because He had ‘risen’. The words are a gentle rebuke. The suggestion is that the women should not have been looking for Jesus in the tomb on the third day, for Jesus had told them that by then He would have risen from the dead. The thought is that had they been spiritually aware they would have known.
“He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke to you when he was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
The men then made clear exactly what they meant, ‘“He is not here, but is risen’. And lest there be any doubt they linked it with Jesus’ promise, given while they had all been with Him in Galilee, that having suffered, and having died, He would rise again on the third day. The words are not an exact quotation but combine the ideas in Luke 9:22 (‘must’) with Luke 9:44 (‘be delivered’).
The main difference between this quotation here by the men, and what Jesus had said (see Luke 9:22; Luke 9:44), lies in the change from ‘killed’ to ‘crucified’, an indication of the accuracy of Luke’s recording. Initially the form of death had not been spelled out. Now it was crystal clear. We can understand that the women, burdened with grief, were astounded. While Jesus had spoken of such a thing they had never really considered the genuine possibility of it as a real current event. And now it seemed that the promise which had seemed so strange at the time had been genuinely fulfilled. They no doubt found the thought both amazing and exciting.
There is no reason for assuming that Luke’s mention of Galilee on the lips of the angels indicates that he has altered Mark’s words in Mark 16:7. The angel would not have been limited to two sentences, and what Mark says is of a very different import to what we find here in Luke. Thus we may reasonably accept that he said both. But Luke would not want to mention the words spoken in Mark’s Gospel, for he does not want to involve the appearances in Galilee. He wants to concentrate attention on Jerusalem, which to the Gentiles to whom he was writing was seen as the centre of Israel’s religion. It is from Jerusalem that the Gospel will go out (Acts 1:8).
‘And they remembered his words,’
All that Jesus had said now came flooding back to them. And now, how could they doubt that it was true? For they recognised that what the angels were telling them, about what Jesus had said, was undoubtedly true, which served to confirm that they knew what they were talking about. It is perhaps noteworthy that the angels were willing to give to the women as evidence the fact that they themselves had knowledge of what Jesus had taught them. It brought home to the women that they were not dreaming, and that these angels were genuine.
‘And returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest.’
So the women left the tomb and went to find ‘the eleven’, together with all the other disciples and women who were with them, and explained to them what had happened. Note this first use of ‘the eleven’ as a technical term, compare Luke 24:33; Acts 2:14; Mark 16:14.
‘Now they were Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them told these things to the apostles.’
Luke then lists the names of some of the women who were involved, but makes clear that there were others. Mary Magdalene appears throughout in all four Gospels, but for quite a while was not with the other women because, having been sent on ahead with ‘the other Mary’ as a scout, she had gone to tell Peter and John about the empty tomb. She would, however, be seen by all as having been an essential part of the women’s party. Joanna is only mentioned elsewhere in Luke 8:3 as the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Luke expects us to remember her from there. She was clearly a ‘regular’. She may well be mentioned by Luke here because she was one of his sources of information along with the two Marys. Mary the mother of James (compare Mark 16:1) is elsewhere called Mary the mother of Joses (Mark 15:47), and Mary the mother of Joses and James (Mark 15:40).
‘And these words appeared in their sight as idle talk, and they disbelieved them.’
At what they had to say the men, instead of being excited and overjoyed, were incredulous. The women’s words seemed like ‘idle tales’. Such talk about dazzling angels in an empty tomb at the beginning of a new day, when the sun rising on the horizon could cause people to be dazzled, was just what one might expect of women. There was no way in which they themselves were going to believe it.
‘But Peter arose, and ran to the tomb, and stooping and looking in, he sees the linen cloths by themselves, and he departed to his home, wondering at what had happened.’
Peter, however, (at some stage - the account is telescoped) ran to the tomb, and stooping and looking in saw the linen clothes that had covered Jesus lying by themselves, and departed for his own home (his lodgings in Jerusalem) wondering at all that was said to have happened. This is the same incident as we find in John 20:1-10, tacked on here without giving a full explanation of the background so as to parallel the women’s discovery in the tomb. Note how in Luke 24:24 Luke speaks of ‘they’, probably with this incident in mind, thus indicating that Peter thus had someone else with him (who, as we know, was John). Impulsive Peter, remembering what Jesus had said, just wondered whether there might be something in what he had been told (as it turns out from John by Mary Magdalene). And when he found that the tomb was empty, and that Jesus’ grave clothes were still there it made him wonder even more. But he was still not wholly convinced.
We note that here, as with those on the way to Emmaus there is a gradual building up from total scepticism to a feeling of uncertainty. They are not going to be convinced easily.
As the chiasmus reveals, Luke commenced this passage with the women looking into the empty tomb, and now it ends with Peter looking into the empty tomb, the former soon having been brought to belief by the angels, while the latter was left wondering whether there might be something in what they had said, having not yet come to belief. In typical Lucan fashion Luke thus makes clear how important the women are in the life of the people of God.
There is a slight question mark over whether Luke 24:12 should be omitted, but the evidence for inclusion is strong, including p75, Aleph, B, W, Theta, 0124, f1, f13 and most latin, syriac and coptic versions, a very powerful combination. It is omitted by the Greek/old latin MS D/d, and old latin versions a, b, e, l, r1 and Marcion. But we know that the Greek text of D was sometimes changed in order to agree with the old latin version d with which it was written in parallel and thus it may well be only the old latin versions that really exclude it. Its inclusion everywhere else makes the case for its inclusion almost certain, otherwise we would have expected some evidence of its absence elsewhere. Interpolating into the sources of every known MS but D would quite frankly have been impossible unless it the interpolation was so early that it was almost written at the same time as the original, the original then being sent to the area where the old latin versions were produced. But in the nature of the omissions that is unlikely
Furthermore in view of the important place of the verse in the chiasmus, and the fact that its omission is explicable in terms of its being seen as demeaning Peter in comparison with the women, and possibly also as contradicting Luke 24:34, (both of which might have been seen as good reason for omitting it), we should almost certainly include it, especially as Luke 24:24 cross references to it.
‘And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was sixty furlongs (stades) from Jerusalem.’
The two disciples prominent in this story were returning home to the village of Emmaus. There is no certainty as to where Emmaus was, but we are told that it was sixty stades from Jerusalem. It must be recognised that sixty stades would be very much an approximation (thus signifying ‘more than fifty stades’) and much would depend for identification purposes on what part of Jerusalem it was measured from. A stade is about 192 metres or roughly two hundred and two yards, and thus about a furlong. This would make the village roughly six to seven miles from Jerusalem, which was quite a long trek which would take a few hours, although they would be used to walking such distances.
Emmaus means ‘spring (of water)’. But the spring might have disappeared long before. Names tend to live on. And besides all villages would need a water source. Identification is often made with El Qubeibeh, a village seven miles north west of Jerusalem at which a village of first century date has been discovered. It has no prominent spring, but its water source may have been enough to provide the name. However, we must recognise that Emmaus, being only a village, may have been totally wiped out by the Roman invasion, with all traces removed, depending on how large it was. Thus any identification must be tentative.
Like Mary and Martha these two presumably had little to do with the ministry in Galilee, but had probably responded to Jesus’ preaching in Jerusalem. And they would not know Him as well as Mary and Martha did, for as far as we know He had never visited their house before, although they had clearly at some time broken bread with Him, possibly at Mary and Martha’s home. Thus they did not on the whole know Him all that well. We must take this into account in considering why they failed to recognise Him.
Two Disciples Meet Jesus on the Road To Emmaus (24:13-34).
The women having been brought to believe, Jesus now brings two ‘unknown’ disciples to belief. It may be that by these means He was hoping to bring most of the Apostles to belief before He appeared to them physically, so that they would have the greater blessing (John 20:29), and would obey Him by going to meet Him in Galilee (Mark 16:7), without Him having to appear to them in Jerusalem. But if so the hopes to some extent failed to materialise. Or it may be that the aim was to establish the fact that both women and unknown disciples were important parts of the Kingly Rule of God, a reminder to His Apostles that they themselves must be servants and not masters to the flock.
Either way this appearance is of great importance, both as providing further witnesses to the resurrection, and because of the content of what Jesus said to the two.
a Behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was sixty furlongs from Jerusalem. And they spoke heart to heart with each other of all these things which had happened (Luke 24:13-14).
b And it came about that while they communed and questioned together, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them (Luke 24:15).
c But their eyes were held that they should not know Him. And He said to them, “What are these things that you are talking to each other about with one with another, as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad (Luke 24:16-17).
d And one of them, named Cleopas, answering said to Him, “Do you alone stay for a time in Jerusalem and not know the things which are come about there in these days?” (Luke 24:18).
e ‘And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19).
f “And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we hoped that it was he who would redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things came about” (Luke 24:20-21).
g “Moreover certain women of our company amazed us, having been early at the tomb, and when they did not find his body” (Luke 24:22-23 a).
h “They came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive” (Luke 24:23 b).
g “And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it to be even as the women had said, but Him they saw not” (Luke 24:24).
f And He said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Did it not behove the Christ (the Messiah) to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)
e And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).
d And they drew near to the village, to which they were going, and He made as though He would go further, and they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent.” And He went in to stay with them (Luke 24:28-29).
c And it came about that when He had sat down with them to a meal, He took the bread and blessed, and breaking it He gave to them, and their eyes were opened, and they knew Him, and He vanished from their sight (Luke 24:30-31).
b And they said one to another, “Was our heart not burning within us, while He spoke to us in the way, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
a And they rose up that very hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.” And they rehearsed the things that happened in the way, and how He was known of them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:33-34).
Note how in ‘a’ they were discussing together what had happened, and in the parallel they meet with the other disciples and discuss what has happened. In ‘b’ they walked with Jesus in the way, and in the parallel they spoke of how their hearts had burned within them while they walked with Jesus in the way. In ‘c’ their eyes were ‘held’ so that they did not know Him, and in the parallel their eyes are opened so that they did know Him. In ‘d’ Cleopas speaks of Jesus as staying in Jerusalem and being in ignorance, and in the parallel they invite Him to stay with them in ignorance of Who He is. In ‘e’ they speak of Jesus as a prophet mighty in word and deed, and in the parallel Jesus expounds to them from the prophets the things concerning Himself. In ‘f’ they describe how He had been put to death and how it had been their hope that He would redeem Israel, and in the parallel Jesus asks them whether in fact the prophets had not said that He would suffer, and then enter into His glory. In ‘g’ the women had been to the tomb, but had not found His body, and in the parallel others had been to the tomb, and they had not seen Him. And centrally in ‘h’ the angels had informed the women that Jesus was alive.
‘And they spoke person to person with each other of all these things which had happened.’
As they went on their way the two talked seriously together about all the things that had been happening. They had been momentous and disturbing days and there was much to discuss, and they did it with grief in their hearts.
‘And it came about that while they communed and questioned together, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.’
But as they were talking together in this way a man caught up with them who was a stranger to them, who began to walk with them. A man walking by himself would always be glad of companionship in view of possible muggers, especially at a time when many strangers were around. We are told immediately that it was Jesus, but to them He was just another Jew who had been in Jerusalem for the feast and was returning home.
‘But their eyes were held that they should not know him.’
The two, however, did not recognise Him. We should note that this was not the only occasion when there was an indication of non-recognition (see Matthew 28:17; John 20:14; John 21:4). This would suggest that there was something about Him in His resurrection body that looked different so that recognition did not happen immediately. And for similar indications of a divine hand being involved in preventing understanding compare Luke 9:45; Luke 18:34. It is often argued by sceptical people that such a situation could not have happened. But there are in fact a number of factors to be taken into account here, quite apart from that of God’s ability to prevent them from recognising Him if He wanted to.
· Firstly if they lived near Jerusalem then they would only see Jesus when He came up for the feasts. They would thus not know Him awfully well physically. It is one thing to see a preacher at arm’s length, it is quite another to have daily contact with him. And it is quite possible that these two had not spent much time in close proximity with Him so as to know about His special characteristics. In such cases when a well known person is out of context people very often do not recognise them, even though in context they would recognise them instantly.
· Secondly, Jesus might well have been wearing different clothes from those in which they were used to seeing Him. A complete change in style of clothing can render someone a stranger for a while, even if we know them well. It would help to explain why they did not recognise Him immediately.
· Thirdly, the very last person that they had been expecting to meet was Jesus. Indeed they knew that they could not possibly meet Him. So even if they saw a resemblance to Him in this man, while it might have seemed intriguing, it would not necessarily have brought recognition. They would have dismissed such an idea as impossible. This would especially be so as He gave absolutely no hint of recognising them, and spoke as though He did not know what they were talking about, which would be partly what made the non-recognition continue. Whatever likenesses there were they would dismiss. So if they did notice a likeness they would no doubt have pushed it to the back of their minds and considered it just a coincidence, a little disturbing perhaps, but not unusual. For they knew that it could not be Jesus. Most people have their doubles, and beards can look very much like one another, and be very deceptive, especially if they are trimmed in the same way and if the head is covered. Furthermore Jesus may here have been deliberately much better groomed than He was when He was ‘on the road’ or living in camp. He may have looked a very different person, even from that point of view.
· Fourthly we must remember that at the time they were in a grief stricken state and probably not taking too much notice of what was around them. They were totally absorbed in their own conversation and would probably not have given Him close scrutiny. In such a state people can be very unobservant. And if Jesus did not want to be known He could have spoken in a different voice and different accent from the one He had normally used.
· Fifthly, Jesus in His resurrection body would certainly have looked different from the man who had been preaching in the Temple a few days previously, and certainly as they would have expected to see Him now. They would quite reasonably have anticipated that if Jesus were to appear it would be as a hopeless cripple, not as this stranger who had been athletic enough to catch up with them and bore no marks of any disability. It is true that the Apostles did later recognise Him, but they had known Him intimately, and the circumstances of His appearance would have aided their recognition. And even then He had pointed to His hands and feet in order to make clear to them Who He was.
· Sixthly, while it is true that it was early light, and He might have been standing in the sun, we must remember that Mary Magdalene, who knew Him well, did not recognise Him at first, until He called her name (John 20:14).
I remember when moving into my present house that by coincidence a friend of my daughter’s was living next door. She introduced me to her husband. He was the spitting image of Les Dennis, a well know British TV comedian. But I knew that he was not Les Dennis. Thus the thought of him being Les Dennis never crossed my mind, at least for a time. The point was that the situation proved that he was not Les Dennis, whatever his looks might have suggested to the contrary. But one day he had had his hair cut to a similar style to Les Dennis and he looked so much like him when he came out of his door that I had to say to him, ‘You are not Les Dennis, are you?’ For a second I really was not sure whether Les Dennis had come to visit them.
So taking all these factors into consideration the failure of these two to recognise Jesus is not really as surprising as it first appears, and that is especially so given that it was God’s intention that they should not recognise Him.
‘And he said to them, “What are these things that you are talking to each other about with one with another, as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.’
The ‘Stranger’ then asked them what they had just been talking about. It suggested that He had been observing them for some time (as he might have done if He was slowly catching up with them). At these words they stopped, the grief apparent on their faces. We have here an indication that the account was told by someone who was there. His words had brought them to a halt, and they remembered it well.
Now it is true that a consummate storyteller might have introduced such factuality into a fictional account, but we know from the crucifixion narratives that Luke was far from seeking to do things like that. He was telling things as they were without embellishment. Thus there is no reason for thinking that it was any different here.
‘And one of them, named Cleopas, answering said to him, “Do you alone stay for a time in Jerusalem and not know the things which are come about there in these days?”
Then one of them spoke. His name was Cleopas. This suggests that by the time the account was written Cleopas was well known in the early church, and that he may well have been Luke’s source. The other may have been his wife (see John 19:25, although the spelling of the name is slightly different), especially as they lived together, but it could equally well have been a servant and master, or two brothers, or a father and son, or close relatives who shared a home.
He expressed amazement that the stranger was not aware of the tumultuous things that had been going on. (We always feel that people should be aware of what we think is important). Was he the only one who had been staying in Jerusalem who was not aware of what had happened? This was an exaggeration. There were probably many people in Jerusalem who were as yet unaware of what had happened. The Stranger’s questions would, however, further confirm to the two that any sense that they had had that this man was like Jesus was pure coincidence.
‘And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,”
To this the Stranger asked, ‘What things?’ And that caused the dam to burst and it all poured out. Luke 24:21-24 need to be read as one in order to see how they hurried on from one idea to another in a typical outburst of feeling. They read precisely like the words of people who had been under constraint, as they gabbled out one idea after another, including ideas which the Stranger could not possibly have known about. They just could not keep it in any longer. Notice the ‘they’. The point is that there were two witnesses.
They firstly described Who Jesus was from a Jewish, pre-resurrection point of view. He was Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the eyes of both God and man. Jesus was very much seen as a great prophet by His followers (see Luke 4:16-30; Luke 7:16; Luke 9:7-9; Luke 9:18; Luke 13:31-35). They could still see Him in their mind’s eye as He stood in the Temple courtyard, or on the mountainside, outstanding in the power of His preaching. They could still see Him walking among the sick and demon possessed, laying His hands on those who were diseased and healing all of them, and casting out evil spirits with a word of power. So they had every reason for thinking of Him as a prophet, for that is how Jesus had described Himself. He had revealed Himself as the anointed Prophet of Isaiah 61:1-2 (Luke 4:17-19). He had declared that it was the failure to hear His preaching as the One Who was greater than Jonah and Solomon that condemned the current generation (Luke 11:31-32). He was seen as the great Prophet like to Moses (Acts 3:22). He was God’s Servant, fulfilling the promises concerning the Servant in Isaiah (Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:18-21; Acts 4:30). He was the Prophet Who must not die outside Jerusalem (Luke 13:33).
The unusual word used for ‘Nazarene’ (Nazarenou as in p75, Aleph, B, etc) serves to confirm that Luke is citing a source.
“And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.”
They then went on to describe the heinousness of those who had condemned Him to the cross. The chief priests and their own rulers had ‘delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and had crucified Him’. It was still something that they could hardly believe. They found it incredible. But nothing was more vivid to them than the fact that He had been snatched from among them even while the festivities in Jerusalem had been going on, and had in an amazingly quick time been put on trial and sentenced to death, and then executed. It had all happened so suddenly without warning. And then He had been crucified, the most hated and feared death of them all, for it rendered a man accursed. The crucifixion was something that had come home to them in all its stark realism, for at this point the idea of the cross did not contain any of the redeeming features that would attach to it later when it became something that could be gloried in (Galatians 6:14). At that stage it was simply a barbaric and horrific method of dying that had left them shaken and dismayed.
‘They crucified Him.’ This means that they had had Him crucified as is evidenced by the fact that they had ‘delivered Him up’. But Luke has no hesitation in putting the blame on them.
“But we hoped that it was he who would redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things came about.”
They have described the reverent view that they had had of Him, they have emphasised their shock at what had happened to Him, but now they also reveal the hopes that they had had of Him. They had not only seen Him as a prophet, they had ‘hoped that it was He Who would redeem Israel’. He had been their hope. Their words echo those spoken around the time of Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:68-69; Luke 2:30; Luke 2:38). Jesus had been looked on as the Coming Expected Deliverer Who would bring about the emancipation of His people, and now those hopes had been dashed.
Note the reference to ‘redeeming Israel’. This is another sign of authenticity. It is a pre-resurrection idea, and certainly prior to the activities in the second part of Acts. An inventor would have phrased it very differently. Paul could speak like this to unbelieving Jews (Acts 28:20) but not to Christians.
“Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things came about.” However, they explained, there was a little more to it than that, for strange events had meanwhile occurred. It was now the third day since these things had come about, and they could not forget that Jesus had often referred to ‘the third day’ after His death in unusual ways (Luke 9:22;Luke 13:32; Luke 18:33; Luke 24:7). Alternately it could be that they were thinking of the popular Jewish belief that the spirit left the body after the third day, if that belief was really held at that time, for the evidence for it is questionable, but Luke probably rather intends us to connect with other references to the third day.
‘It is now the third day.’ This is literally ‘he/it is now spending the third day’
“Moreover certain women of our company amazed us, having been early at the tomb, and when they did not find his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.”
And there was no doubt that rumours about strange things were flying around. For some of their womenfolk, who had gone to His tomb, had not found His body there. It had seemingly disappeared. And not only that, but they had also spoken of seeing a vision of angels who had said that He was alive. Note the reference to ‘a vision of angels’. Those were not the actual words of the women who had seen the angels quite plainly, they were the words of sceptical men who had heard them say so. Nevertheless, questionable though it might be, there were some among their womenfolk, who were actually claiming on the testimony of those angels that Jesus had risen from the dead.
“And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it to be even as the women had said, but him they saw not.”
But, of course, things had not been left there. For dependable, reliable men had also gone to the tomb, and they had indeed found the tomb empty as the women had said, and they had not seen Jesus’ body. Him they had not seen, either dead or alive.
The conflicting hopes and fears are easy to discern. On the one hand the hope that the women may be right, and on the other the great fear that it was all a mistake. For who could lay any dependence on the testimony of women? Nevertheless whatever the women’s views might have been, there was no doubt that the body had disappeared. Note how the plural ‘certain of those who were with us’ confirms that someone had accompanied Peter, as John also states (John 20:2-10).
‘And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”
The Stranger’s reply came back to them as a rebuke. Not because it was harshly uttered, but because He apparently had more confidence in God’s promises than they had. It opened with a gentle remonstrance. ‘O foolish ones.’ We can sense the tenderness and slight exasperation that lies behind it. ‘Fools’ would be too strong a translation. He was not expressing any contempt. It was their lack of understanding that He was hinting at, the lack that had put them in this mournful state, not their mental abilities. A ‘fool’ in the Old Testament is regularly someone who is unaware of spiritual realities.
And then He explains why He calls them foolish. It is because He considers them ‘slow of heart’ in that they have refused to believe the many things of which the prophets had spoke concerning the matter. What they had said concerning the women in fact summed them up accurately. They had received good news, but their hearts were slow to take it up. Had they believed the prophets they would have had no such doubts.
“Did it not behove the Christ (the Messiah) to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?”
For was it not right and fitting, indeednecessary, that the Messiah should suffer these things (compare Acts 3:18), thereby entering into His glory? Was that not what the Scriptures had said?
The thought of glory may refer mainly to His crucifixion as the way of entering into His glory (see John 12:23-24), but if it was so it could only be in the light of the certainty of His resurrection. However, Daniel 7:13-14 and its use by Jesus (Luke 22:69; Matthew 16:28; Matthew 26:64) suggests that both are included, and that it also includes the idea of His enthronement. The Son of Man will suffer (along with His people - Daniel 7:25 with 27), but then He will come to the throne of God to receive glory (Daniel 7:13-14).
This idea of ‘necessity’ appears constantly throughout Luke. See Luke 2:49 - it was necessary for Him to be in His Father’s house; Luke 4:43 - it was necessary for Him to preach the Good News of the Kingly Rule of God widely; Luke 9:22 - it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things, and be rejected by the Jewish leaders, and be killed, and on the third day be raised; Luke 13:16 - it was necessary for a woman bound by Satan to be freed; Luke 13:33 - it was necessary for Him as a prophet to go up to Jerusalem to die; Luke 15:32 - it was necessary that they should be glad when a lost one was found; Luke 18:1 - it was necessary for His disciples always to pray and not to lose heart; Luke 19:5 - it was necessary for Him to stay at the house of Zacchaeus; Luke 21:9 - it is necessary for judgments to take place throughout history; Luke 22:37 - it was necessary that the Scripture be fulfilled that He was reckoned among the transgressors; Luke 24:7 - it was necessary for the Son of Man to be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and on the third day rise again (compare Luke 9:22); Luke 24:44 - it was necessary for everything written about Him in the Scriptures to be fulfilled. Jesus was driven along by the divine necessity.
‘And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.’
And then to their amazement this Stranger began to give them a lesson from the Scriptures. Commencing with Genesis to Deuteronomy, and then going on to the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (including those concerning the Messiah, taking the word in its widest sense as signifying the Promised One). The words suggest a considerable amount of material, taken from the whole range of Scripture, for Jesus saw the whole of the Old Testament as pointing forward to Himself (see John 5:39; John 5:46-47). But some of what He said we can understand from the subsequent preaching of the Apostles. It would almost certainly, for example, have included Genesis 12:3 (see Acts 3:25-26); Deuteronomy 18:15 (see Acts 3:22); 2 Samuel 7:11; 2 Samuel 7:16 (see Acts 3:24); Isaiah 35:5-6 with Psalms 61:1-2 (see Acts 4:30); Psa 52:13-53:12 (see Acts 3:13; Acts 8:30-35); Psalms 2 (see Acts 4:25-28; Acts 13:33); Luke 16:8-11 (see Acts 2:25-28); Psalms 110:1 (see Acts 2:14); Psalms 118:22 (see Luke 20:17; Acts 4:10-11), for it is incidents like this that explain how the Apostles became so enlightened about these Scriptures in so short a time (compare also Luke 24:45).
And to those we may probably add some of the following Genesis 3:15 (see Romans 16:20); Psalms 22:1 (see Matthew 27:46); Luke 22:6-18 (see Matthew 27:35-43); Isaiah 40 (see Luke 4:4-6): Isaiah 42:1-6 (see Matthew 12:17-21); Isaiah 49:1-6 (see Acts 13:47); Isaiah 50:4-8 (see Matthew 26:67; Matthew 27:30); Daniel 7:13-14 (see for example Luke 22:69; Matthew 16:28; Matthew 26:64); Zechariah 13:7 (see Matthew 26:31); Malachi 3:1 (see Matthew 11:10); as well as a number of other Scriptures. And we can no doubt add to these all the scriptures that spoke of the Old Testament ritual, the offerings, sacrifices and ordinances that pointed forward to what He had come to do, and also recognise that, as Stephen did in Acts 7, He may well have seen Old Testament figures as forerunners of Himself. For He was the last Adam, the second Man (1 Corinthians 15:45-50); the greater than Abraham who rejoiced to see His day (John 8:56); the new prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22-23; Hebrews 3:1 to Hebrews 4:13); the High Priest more powerfully effective than Aaron (Hebrews 4:14 to Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 7:1 to Hebrews 9:28); the mightier conqueror than Joshua/Jesus (Hebrews 4:8), and above all great David’s greater Son (Luke 1:32-33). All the mighty men of God by their lives and achievements had pointed forward to Him, and were completed in Him, as indeed are we (Hebrews 11:40 to Hebrews 12:3).
‘And they drew nigh to the village, to which they were going, and he made as though he would go further.”
We can imagine the fascination with which they listened to Him and recognised how little knowledge of the Scriptures they really had, and may well have regretted reaching their village so quickly. They no doubt saw Him as one of those people that the Master had regularly met and talked with, like for example Nicodemus (John 3:1-7). And on their arrival the Stranger made as though to take His leave of them. He would not presume on their hospitality.
Jesus rarely forces Himself on us. Had they not issued an invitation to Him to stay with them that would have been the last that they saw of Him, and they would not have experienced what was to come. And they would have deserved it. Jesus behaved perfectly correctly in view of the fact that He did not yet want to reveal Himself, but wanted them to see Him as a Stranger.
‘Made as though.’ This a good translation. It is not the same thing as pretending (which the word can mean) but makes clear that He expected to be invited in. It would in fact have been gross discourtesy in the light in which He was depicting Himself had He not been so. It would have been bad manners to indicate that He expected hospitality.
‘And they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent.” And he went in to stay with them.’
Equally correctly they ‘constrained Him’ (strongly pressed Him) to accept a night’s hospitality. Darkness was coming on and the roads could become dangerous for a solitary person, and even though there was a full moon, travelling in the dark could be unpleasant. Besides He must be hungry. And the Stranger accepted their invitation and went in to stay with them.
The fact that they shared the house into which they invited Him may suggest that they were husband and wife (compare John 19:25, although the spelling is different). But not necessarily. They may have been master and servant, or two brothers, or related to each other in some other way.
‘And it came about that when he had sat down with them to a meal, he took the bread and blessed, and breaking it he gave to them.’
Once indoors they sat Him down for a meal and brought food to the table, and then something happened which must have astonished the two disciples. For without a by-your-leave the Stranger reached out, took the bread and blessed it and broke it. (See especially Luke 9:16; Luke 22:19 which reveal a pattern. Compare also Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; Acts 20:11; Acts 27:35). At first this appeared to break all the rules of Eastern courtesy, for it was the host or master of the feast whose responsibility it was to take the bread, and bless and break it, and distribute it to those who sat at table. The guest was expected to recognise his position.
But their initial astonishment disappeared to be replaced by an even greater astonishment, for probably as a result of the way in which He did it they recognised that this was no discourtesy or arrogance. They recognised that the One Who had done it had the right to take charge of the feast, for it was the Master Himself.
Mealtimes were a regular place for teaching, so this was no exception. Compare Luke 5:29; Luke 7:36; Luke 14:1; Luke 14:7; Luke 14:12; Luke 14:15-16. Compare also the Passover meal which had been a teaching medium for over a thousand years, and which as a teaching medium, was specifically continued in the Lord’s Supper. An incident like this adds a special dimension to the Lord’s Supper as it reminds us that really it is Jesus Who is distributing the elements there and sitting with us at the table (compare commentary on Luke 22:30).
‘And their eyes were opened, and they knew him, and he vanished from their sight.’
And it was when He performed this action that their eyes were opened and they knew Him, and He then, seemingly immediately, disappeared from their sight. It is very probable that they had a number of times been present at meals where Jesus had blessed the bread, and had broken and distributed it, and had therefore recognised the way in which He did it. And the very placing of Him in a context that they recognised would help with the recognition. This then opened their eyes to the fact that the Stranger was not just somewhat similar to Jesus, but really was Jesus. The impression is given that He did not partake of the bread. This sudden disappearance stresses the deliberate nature of His revelation of Himself to these two disciples, and made clear that He was not there as someone who had just come back again. He was there as One Who had risen from the dead and belonged to another world. Once He was satisfied that they knew Him He departed mysteriously, His task accomplished. And they would be continuing witnesses to the resurrection in Jerusalem and Judea once the Apostles had gone.
‘And they said one to another, “Was our heart not burning within us, while he spoke to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?” ’
Startled the two looked at one another and commented on how their hearts had been burning within them when He had been expounding the Scriptures to them while they were still on their journey. Now they knew why. Compare for the idea of a burning within Psalms 39:3; Jeremiah 20:9. It was expressing the work of the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).
‘And they rose up that very hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.”
Recognising the significance of what they had seen for their fellow-disciples, who would no doubt accept their word more than a woman’s, they immediately rose up from the table and returned to Jerusalem. And there they found the eleven gathered together, along with other disciples, who no doubt included the women, and they were told that the Lord had risen indeed and had appeared to Simon. Now that Simon Peter had seen Him it could be accepted that He had risen indeed.
This appearance to Simon Peter has been already prepared for by Luke in Luke 24:11, seemingly in view of the lack of any further material. Note that he did not just make some up. For evidence of such an appearance to Peter compare 1 Corinthians 15:5. Peter had seemingly testified to the fact that he had seen the Lord, but we may probably assume from the lack of any details that he had been unwilling to give further details of the meeting in view of what was said there. It had been his first meeting with Jesus since his denial. Compare how his public rehabilitation before the other disciples takes place later in John 21:15-18.
(Reading it as the two from Emmaus ‘saying’ it makes little sense. Why would the unnamed companion be named and not Cleopas, in such a way as to suggest that Cleopas had not been involved?)
‘And they rehearsed the things that happened in the way, and how he was known of them in the breaking of the bread.’
Then the two from Emmaus told their story, explaining what had happened on their journey, and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of bread. (This is possibly worded in such a way so that Luke’s readers can recognise that He is also made known to them in the breaking of bread at the Lord’s table, and can there identify with this incident).
‘And as they spoke these things, he himself stood in the midst of them, and says to them, “Peace be to you”.’
While the conversation with the two disciples from Emmaus was going on Jesus suddenly appeared to His Apostles. And there He stood among them and said, ‘Peace to you,’ shalom elechem, the standard Jewish greeting. He wanted to make it seem as natural as possible. But His words had a double meaning, for in a very real sense they could now have peace as a result of what He had done for them as never before. For He had died that they might be reconciled to God, and have peace with God.
Jesus Appears To The Eleven (24:36-43).
We now come to the climax to which all that has gone before is building up, the appearance of the risen Jesus to His Apostles and His ascension into Heaven. For Luke it is the ultimate moment. He is being revealed as the Son of the Most High.
In this passage He comes to them, shows them His hands, (which would include the wrists, the word can mean both), and His feet, eats with them and makes clear to them the genuine reality of His resurrection. It is the final earthly evidence of Who He is, which would gradually come home to their hearts as it did so vividly to Thomas in John 20:28. This is a parallel account to John 20:19-23 although the differences make clear that one is not just an extract from the other. Compare also Mark 16:14-18 which similarly contains tradition not mentioned by Luke. That too would appear to be from a separate source.
Just as at Jesus’ baptism Luke had made clear that the Holy Spirit descended inbodilyform (Luke 3:22), so now does he make clear that Jesus really did appear in His real resurrected body. It was a body that could be felt and touched. It thus consisted, in some sense, of flesh and bones (the mention of blood is noticeably absent). Here was the ultimate evidence of the resurrection.
Here as elsewhere the manuscript D omits one or two phrases. But as they are included in p75, Alpha, B, A, W, etc we have included them. There seems no good reason for not doing so as they fit the context, in general agree with John without just being copied from there, and we know that D is not always reliable, being influenced by d and the other Old Latin versions.
a As they spoke these things, He himself stood in the midst of them, and says to them, “Peace be to you” (Luke 24:36).
b But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they saw a ghost (Luke 24:37).
c And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And for what reason do questionings arise in your heart?” (Luke 24:38).
d “See My hands and My feet, that it is I myself. Handle Me, and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you behold Me having” (Luke 24:39).
c And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet (Luke 24:40).
b And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, He said to them, “Have you here anything to eat?” (Luke 24:41).
a And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish. And He took it, and ate before them (Luke 24:42-43).
Note that in ‘a’ He stood among them and wished them ‘peace’ in order to demonstrate that He was risen, and in the parallel He ate a piece of fish in front of them for the same purpose. In ‘b’ they were terrified and frightened, and in the parallel they ‘disbelieved for joy’ and were filled with wonder. In ‘c’ He asked them why they were questioning and in the parallel showed them His hands and feet so as to resolve their doubts. Centrally in ‘d’ He allows them to handle Him to see that He really is flesh and bones, and not a ghost.
‘But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they saw a ghost.’
But Jesus’ sudden appearance among them unnerved them. The problem was that this was not an hallucination, it was real. Notice the multiplication of words, ‘they were terrified and frightened’, for they genuinely thought that Jesus was a ghost. How else could He have suddenly appeared among them like this? (They had necessarily previously had no experience of things like this, so their fears were understandable).
‘And he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And for what reason do questionings arise in your heart?”
Then Jesus sought to soothe their nerves. He asked them why they were troubled. Had they not expected Him? Why were their hearts so full of questionings. Had He not promised through His angels that they would see Him? Although He had intended it to be in Galilee. But they had not heeded His directions (Mark 16:7; Matthew 28:7). And so here He was. No wonder He rebuked them for their unbelief, for in spite of His earlier teaching, they had not believed those to whom He had appeared (Mark 16:14), when really they should have been expecting Him (compare Luke 24:5).
“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Handle me, and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you behold me having.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.’
Then He showed them His hands and feet, and told them to handle Him and make absolutely sure for themselves that He really was flesh and bones. For then at least they would surely realise that He could not be a ghost (pneuma), a phantasma. Ghosts just did not have flesh and bones like He had.
The slightly more common New Testament description for a man was ‘flesh and blood’ (Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 2:14), but significantly we are informed that ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingly Rule of God’ (1 Corinthians 15:50). Jesus had taken on Himself ‘flesh and blood’ when He had become man (Hebrews 2:14), in order that He might help those who were flesh and blood, and it was that flesh and blood that He had sacrificed for them (John 6:53-57), so that by partaking of Him they might find life.
But now He was no longer ‘flesh and blood’, although He was ‘flesh and bones’ as they could feel for themselves (compare Ephesians 5:30). But we should notice that as such He could appear and disappear at will, so that it was clearly not solid flesh and bones as known to man, even though His disciples could feel them. Rather He has deliberately manifested Himself in this way so that they might be able to satisfy themselves of His reality. We cannot therefore read out from this the nature of the resurrection body, which is a ‘spiritual body’ (1 Corinthians 15:44-50).
Nevertheless Paul’s reference in Ephesians 5:30 serves to demonstrate that ‘flesh and bones’ was to be seen as an appropriate description for Jesus in His heavenly existence, possibly because Paul was connecting with these words of Jesus, which were thus clearly known to him. The question is, why? The answer may well be connected with Genesis 2:23 where flesh and bones represented man and woman in their perfect manhood (before they became creatures of ‘flesh and blood?). Thus flesh and bones may be intended to indicate perfect manhood, whereby the One Who was God became perfect manhood, the second man, the last Adam, in order to deliver us to perfect manhood. ‘He was the son of Adam, who was the son of God’ (Luke 3:38). We can only leave it there. Any further theorising would probably only lead us into error for we are speaking of what we cannot know.
‘He showed them his hands and his feet.’ There they would see the marks and nail prints. Later He would even tell Thomas that he could put his fingers in them and put his hand in the hole that the spear had made in His side (John 20:27). He wanted them to be left in no doubt about His reality. The memory of this experience was to last a lifetime.
‘And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you here anything to eat?”
Then because He was aware that they were still uncertain about His reality He determined to join them at their meal and asked them if they had anything that He could eat. But we must not just see His action as a bit of play acting. The eating of food with them, as He had been constantly doing for the last few years, was intended to be a sign of His continuing fellowship with them (compare John 21:9-13). As Peter said in Acts 10:41, ‘we who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead’. This would suggest that now He both ate and drank with them. He had said that He would not again eat food until it was fulfilled in the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 22:16), and that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine until He drank it new with them in the Kingly Rule of His Father, but now He could sit at table with them, eating and drinking with them in His Kingly Rule (for He had already by now ascended to His Father - John 20:17) and appoint them to their responsibilities as rulers over ‘the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Luke 22:30), as He did in John 20:22-23. It demonstrated that in a sense the old relationship still continued, even though He would not still be with them in the flesh (but He would be with them in spirit, see Matthew 28:20). And nothing would quieten their fears quicker than again to share a meal with Him.
But they were still not sure that they could believe that it really was Him. They were so overjoyed that they were afraid that it would turn out to be an illusion. It had been one thing for Peter, and the women, and Cleopas, to tell them that He was alive, it was quite another to see His beloved form for themselves, a form that they had never expected to see again, in spite of all His promises. But gradually it was sinking in, and they began to believe.
‘And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish. And he took it, and ate before them.’
And in response to His request they gave Him a piece of broiled fish from the meal that they were enjoying and He ate it in front of them. Once again they were partaking in a fellowship meal with their Master. This was also possibly an indication that His special fasting could be seen as over because the Kingly Rule of God was now being ‘fulfilled’ by His presence with them as their risen Lord (Luke 22:16).
So Luke’s Gospel had begun with Jesus 1) being welcomed into the world by the faithful in the Temple in Jerusalem, awaiting the Kingly Rule of God 2) being proclaimed as the Son of the Most High, 3) being in conflict with Satan in the wilderness. And it has now ended with, in reverse order, 3) His seeming defeat by Satan in being sent to His death on the cross ( Luke 22:3), which has been turned into a victory, 2) the revelation of Himself as the One who has conquered death and ascended to His Father (Luke 24:36-51), and 1) Himself as the One Whose faithful followers are worshipping in the Temple in Jerusalem, ready for the advancement of the Kingly Rule of God from Jerusalem to Rome (Luke 24:52-53 with Acts 1:8).
‘And he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me.”
The first essential ingredient of the message of the early church was that fact that what they taught was based on the Scriptures. And this was Jesus’ emphasis here. He points out that while He was with them He had revealed that everything that was written about Him had to come to their full fruition. The word for ‘fulfilled’ indicates being ‘brought to completion’, being ‘filled full’. It is not just a question of them happening, they will happen to the full and bring God’s promises and purposes to completion.
Note especially His emphasis on ‘what is written’. Then in Luke 24:45 He speaks of ‘The Writings’ (the Scriptures), and again in Luke 24:46 He speaks of what is written. To Him the written word was clearly very important. He gave no place to the oral law (the traditions of the elders). In view of this we can hardly believe that the early church saw the writing down of Jesus own words as less important. It is probable therefore that they were recorded from the beginning by such people as the ex-public servant Matthew whose business record keeping had been. Those records were probably one of the sources from which Luke derived Jesus’ teaching.
(When Papias said that he preferred the living voice to what was written what he, of course, meant was that he preferred going to the source rather than receiving it second hand. He wanted to hear it first hand. He was not talking about what Justin Martyr later called ‘the memoirs of the Apostles’ which would be first hand).
‘Which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me.” Jesus saw the whole of the Old Testament as pointing to Himself. Compare commentary on Luke 24:27 which see for examples of His applications.
Jesus then defines the Scriptures as ‘ the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms’. The first refers to the first five books of the Old Testament which were seen as the Law of Moses, the second to the prophetic writings which included Joshua to Kings excluding Ruth, and what we call the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi (excluding Lamentations). The only question is as to whether Daniel was included with the prophets or was included with the third section, the ‘holy writings’. There seem to have been differences of opinion. But whichever way it was Jesus clearly used it as Scripture, for it is the source of some of His teaching concerning the Son of Man. ‘The psalms’, which were the largest book in the third section of Scripture, ‘the other writings’ (often later called the hagiographa), was a title often given to the whole of those writings which consisted of the remainder of the books in the Old Testament. Thus Jesus was aligning Himself with the Jewish canon and not including the Apocrypha or the other Apocalyptic writings as Scripture.
The New Message And The New Power (24:44-51)
In Mark 1:15 the Gospel is summarised as, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingly Rule of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Good News.’ In other words ‘the time spoken of by Scripture is here, God’s Kingly Rule is at hand, and the conditions for entering that Kingly Rule are repentance and faith.’ In the speeches in Acts this is expanded by introducing the Good News concerning Jesus into the pattern, for by His enthronement in Heaven He has become the essence of the Kingly Rule of God. He has become the King. But otherwise the message follows a similar pattern. (SeeThe Speeches in Acts). [link here]
The same pattern is now revealed in the closing verses of Luke. In accordance with it we are told that the Scriptures must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44-45), a brief summary of the work of Jesus is given describing His death and subsequent rising to God in resurrection (Luke 24:46), and this is then followed by the call to repentance and forgiveness (Luke 24:47). Here then is the pattern of early preaching in miniature, and the basis on which Peter patterned his own messages, following the example of Jesus Himself, and building on the experience that he had had during Jesus’ earthly ministry. This is the content of the message to which the Apostles are to be witnesses (Luke 24:48). All that is then required is for them to wait to receive power from above with which to carry out the task (Luke 24:49). This is then followed by Jesus’ final farewell and ascension into Heaven (Luke 24:50-51).
The New Message And The New Power; A Final Summary Preparing For Acts (24:44-53).
Having presented what he sees as the ultimate revelation of the earthly Jesus in describing the appearance of Jesus to His Apostles Luke moves rapidly on to His ascension, ignoring most of what took place in the following days in his usual way. Instead he prepares for the opening chapters of Acts by revealing in microcosm the message that was to be preached by His Apostles. It is quite possible that by this time he was running out of space. But it is equally possible that he does not want to spoil the effects of the opening of the new story in Acts by providing too much information here.
Notice for example how Luke appears deliberately to avoid mention of the Holy Spirit here, while at the same time indicating the importance of awaiting His coming as ‘power from on high’. The patent coming of the Holy Spirit is to be the first emphasis of his new book. He also ignores the departure of the Apostles for Galilee after the seven day feast was ended. The revelation of the risen Jesus to His Apostles has been made, now the next thing is instruction as to what they are to do, and the ascension into Heaven, the explanation of which can be left to Acts.
We should not, however, that once the seven days of the feast were over, the return to Galilee is something that they would normally have done naturally even if Jesus had not told them to go there. So we should not be surprised to discover that they did so. But Luke ignores all the subsequent appearances in Galilee, for that would take his readers attention away from Jerusalem, and he feels that what he has said has been quite sufficient. He is not writing to sceptics who will analyse his account and compare it with that of others. He is finally proclaiming the truth of the resurrection, which he has adequately done. Now he wants attention to be concentrated on Jerusalem For Acts is to begin in Jerusalem (in accordance with Isaiah 2:2-4), and will gradually result in a move out from there, first to the wider locality, and then to Rome, the centre of the known world. So, ignoring the visit to Galilee, he takes up his brief narrative from when they return to Jerusalem in accordance with Jesus’ instructions, and are told to wait there until they receive the power from above, the power that is to come on them and endue them for what they have to do.
We will in fact learn at the beginning of Acts that there were forty days between Jesus first appearance to His Apostles and His final departure from them (Acts 1:3), days which are unaccounted for by Luke, and about which he here gives us almost no information. All he does tell us is that during this time Jesus spoke to them of the Kingly Rule of God (Acts 1:3). He was preparing them for their future.
That suggests that what now follows is to be read in that light. For the purpose of the book of Acts is to describe the story of the spread of the word concerning the Kingly Rule of God, which is in fact all about Jesus (Acts 28:23; Acts 28:31), from Jerusalem to Rome. Most of the information that he gives below is therefore preparation for this ministry in Acts.
a He said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44).
b Then He opened their mind, that they might understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).
c And He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46).
d “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).
c “And behold, I send forth the promise of My Father on you, but tarry you in the city, until you be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
b And He led them out until they were over against Bethany, and He lifted up his hands, and blessed them, and it came to about that while He blessed them, He parted from them, and was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:50-51).
a And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, blessing God (Luke 24:52).
Note how in ‘a’ they learn that in Him the promises of the Scriptures concerning the Coming One have been totally fulfilled, and in the parallel, in response, they worshipped Him and rejoiced, and were continually in the Temple blessing God, a totally transformed community. In ‘b’ their minds were opened to understand the Scriptures (the equivalent of their special reception of the Holy Spirit in John, fulfilling the promises in the Upper Room) and in the parallel He blessed them and was carried up into Heaven before their eyes, which were opened to see His ascension. In ‘c’ He proclaims what their message is to be, that through His death and resurrection repentance and remission of sins has been made available to all, and is to be preached to all nations, and in the parallel they are told of the power from above that they will receive in order to fulfil this task. And centrally in ‘d’ they are informed that they it is their great privilege to be His witnesses.
‘Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the Scriptures.’
This may indicate that, as with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24:31) He expounded the Scriptures to them, giving them illumination, or it may be a reference to their receiving the Holy Spirit as described in John 20:22, the ‘Spirit of truth’ of John 14-16. or, of course, both. But His basic purpose was to make clear to them the basis of their message, and to recognise how it pointed to Him.
‘And he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day.” ’
The central point in their message as delivered to them by Him was that these very Scriptures had declared beforehand in writing that the Messiah would have to suffer, and would rise again from the dead on the third day. The idea of the ‘Coming One’ as suffering is found in Isaiah 50:4-8; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12, and also in Psalms 22:6-21; Daniel 7 (where the son of man suffers before being glorified); Zechariah 13:7 among others. The Jewish teachers tended to avoid applying the sections concerning suffering to the Messiah, and rather applied them to Israel, while at the same time applying other aspects of the Servant to the Messiah. But Jesus applied them to Himself. The idea of rising on the third day probably resulted from a combination of Isaiah 53:11-12 with Hosea 6:1-2, ‘After two days He will revive us, on the third day He will raise us up and we shall live before Him’.
This was initially spoken of Israel, (God’s vine). But Jesus was here as in Himself representing the true Israel, the true Vine (John 15:1). As the Servant God had declared Him to be Israel (Isaiah 49:3). Thus he could apply it to Himself.
Note the context in Hosea. God will wait ‘in His place’ until Israel acknowledge their guilt and seek His face, and in their distress seek Him and say, ‘come let us return to the Lord’ (let us repent). But this will not be until ‘He has torn that He may heal them, He has stricken and will bind them up’. But when He looked there was no man, no one to stand between, until He raised up the Servant Who was torn for the sins of Israel, and stricken for her iniquity (Isaiah 53:3-5). this was what first had be played out on the One Who would come as the representative of Israel. And the result will be a reviving and a raising up on the third day, first for Him (Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12) and then for them. For He will have gone before them in order to be a guilt offering and make it possible for all. It could all only be because their representative had first gone through it for them that they would themselves be able to enjoy it.
So as the One Who saw Himself as suffering for Israel, in their place, and as their representative, Jesus also saw Himself as being raised again like them, on the third day.
Indeed the fact is that the Servant’s task could only be fulfilled by resurrection. How else could He see His offspring, prolong His days and receive the spoils of victory (Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12)? (Compare also Isaiah 52:13-15). And how else could the Son of Man come triumphantly out of suffering into the presence of the Ancient of Days to receive the everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14)? And unless He was raised how could the Holy One ‘not see corruption’ (Psalms 16:10)? Resurrection was required as God’s vindication in a suffering world (Isaiah 26:19). And it is also constantly implied by such statements as Luke 9:24-26. All this was clear from the Scriptures (Luke 18:31). It was also according to Matthew linked by Jesus with Jonah’s time in the fish’s stomach (Matthew 12:40), although that is more an illustration than a necessary parallel.
So this is the central point in the Apostolic message, that Jesus suffered and rose again on the third day. And as a result, at the end of Acts, Luke makes clear that the preaching of the Kingly Rule of God involves manifesting all that Jesus is to those who hear and respond (Acts 28:23; Acts 28:31)
‘And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
The message having been proclaimed it then had to be applied, and here Jesus makes clear that that application has twofold prongs, repentance and forgiveness of sins. Repentance primarily indicates a turning to God, although this unquestionably also includes turning from sin and a change of heart and mind about God and about sin.
The Greek word literally means a ‘change of mind’ but was used to translate the Semitic idea of ‘turning’ to God, involving a change of direction and often sorrow of heart (1 Kings 8:47; 1 Kings 13:33; Psalms 78:34; Isaiah 6:10; Ezekiel 3:19; Amos 4:6). It has been common also on the lips of Jesus both as a noun and a verb (e.g. Luke 5:32; Luke 10:13; Luke 11:32; Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5; Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10). It reflects the contrite heart that comes to God for forgiveness and renewal (Psalms 34:18; Psalms 51:17; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2).
John the Baptiser had proclaimed the same message (Luke 3:3). But he had done it pointing forward to Jesus as the One Who would give them the Holy Spirit. Here Jesus proclaims it as linked with His sufferings and resurrection. It is because He has died and has risen again that He can offer them the forgiveness of sins. The idea of the atoning significance of His death cannot be avoided. It was because His death was seen as finally fulfilling the purpose of all the offerings and sacrifices that He could be seen as being spoken of in ‘all the Scriptures’.
This forgiveness of sins was to be preached ‘in His Name’. Their forgiveness is dependent on what He is and on what He has done for them. Without His death and resurrection there could now be no forgiveness. And this was to be a message for all nations, although it would begin at Jerusalem, which is why Luke exclusively refers to Jerusalem. As he has made clear Jerusalem is where deliberately Jesus came to die, and where His death and resurrection took place. That is why forgiveness can begin at Jerusalem. And that is why Luke concentrates attention there.
Matthew presents it in another way, although he too sees it as happening through the Name (Matthew 28:19). But in His case it is the presence of the risen Jesus that will be the guarantee of their power. John refers it to the Holy Spirit and links the idea with forgiveness, as Luke does (John 20:22-23).
“You are witnesses of these things.”
And the message that has just been described is the message to which they are to be witnesses. That is why they have been called. It is in order to bear witness to the One Who has suffered and risen again so that He might bring them under the Kingly Rule of God.
“And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father on you, but tarry you in the city, until you be clothed with power from on high.”
But before they can do this they will need exceptional power, that which the Father has promised them, the drenching with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:6-17), power from on High. In Luke the promise was made from the beginning, and later confirmed (Luke 11:13), but in John it was also clarified and expanded (John 7:38-39; John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-11). There may, however, also here be a reference o the Old Testament promises of the Spirit in Isaiah 44:1-5; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Ezekiel 37:9-10; Joel 2:28-29 as cited in Acts 2:18)
This exceptional power came in two stages. Firstly in the Upper room it came to the Apostles alone as their eyes were opened to understand the Scriptures, and they received the Spirit of truth from Jesus ready for the task ahead, through Whose direction they would offer forgiveness to all who believed and come within the range of God’s mercy (John 20:23). And then it would come on the whole body of disciples, forming them into the new congregation of the new Israel at Pentecost (Matthew 16:18; Acts 1:6-8; Acts 2:1-4), from where they would go out to proclaim the word of the Kingly Rule of God to the world.
‘And he led them out until they were over against Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.’
Then having prepared them and opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and having promised them the power that was coming to enable them for their future responsibility, He led them out to the Mount of Olives in the direction of Bethany, and their He lifted up His hands and blessed them. But Luke does not mention the Mount of Olives, for he has already shown that to be the place of suffering and judgment (Luke 22:39).
Here Jesus is probably acting as a father to His children, although it is always possible that He was acting as a greater Moses, leading them out and preparing them to face battle (Exodus 17:12), or a greater Elijah, about to be taken up to Heaven, and responding to a plea for the Spirit of God (2 Kings 2:9), or possibly both (compare Luke 9:30). If there is the comparison there was no danger of His arms tiring, nor was there any doubt about the coming of the Spirit on His own, for He blessed them there.
‘And it came to about that while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.’
And even while He was blessing them, He parted from them for the last time in bodily form, and was carried up into Heaven. This was the signal that His work on earth was done. The book of Acts will reveal what happened to Him next. He will be enthroned in Heaven and made Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36), and be at God’s right hand (Acts 7:56; Mark 16:19). And as Matthew 28:19-20 makes clear being made Lord indicated that He would enjoy the Name above every Name, the Name of YHWH (compare also Philipians Luke 2:8-11).
Note that it is typical of Luke, unlike John, to describe the departure of a supernatural visitor (Luke 1:38; Luke 2:15; Luke 9:33; Luke 24:31; Acts 1:9-11; Acts 10:7; Acts 12:10). In Acts 1:9-11 we are given more detail of the departure.
‘And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, blessing God.’
Luke’s closing words set us in expectancy for what is to follow. They now fully recognised Him for Who and What He was, and they worshipped Him. Luke almost certainly intends us to take that literally in the highest sense. Like Thomas they say, ‘My Lord and My God’ (John 20:28).
Then they returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy, the joy with which Luke has made us so familiar. The glad tidings of great joy promised by the angels had come to fruition . And they spent their time continually in the Temple praising and blessing God. This would be their headquarters for the first part of Acts. There is an echo here of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:37). The one has become the many. But we are probably not intended to see this as signifying that they never left the Temple. Rather we are to see that they made it their centre for worship and praise each day, looking to God and ready for what He would do next. These were the days of joy and blessing which God sometimes allows to His people. But it is always in order that we might be prepared for what lies ahead. As the Apostles would discover. You cannot live your whole life on the mountain top.
We will end this chapter as we began it by considering the connection between Luke and Acts for it caps of the end of Luke’s Gospel.
a ‘And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and those who were with them’ (Luke 24:33), after which Jesus appears to all His Apostles.
b ‘And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:47), which is to be the consequence of Messiah’s suffering and resurrection.
c ‘And, behold, I send the promise of my Father on you, but tarry you in the city (of Jerusalem), until you be endued with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49).
d ‘And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God’ (Luke 24:52).
c ‘And, being assembled together with them, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, says He, you have heard of me’ (Acts 1:4).
b ‘But you will receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
a ‘Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey’ (Acts 1:12).
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 24". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday of Lent