Luke 24. The Solution to the Problem of Death.
Key Notes: Women at the tomb. Discouraged on the road. The disciples surprised. Wrong explanations of the Resurrection. Ascension. Implications of the Resurrection.
Luke 24 contains four episodes, told with considerable emotion and human interest in contrast to the drier description of the crucifixion.
24:1–12 The group of women who saw the burial (Lk.23:55) returned early Sunday morning with their spices to embalm the body. The stone was rolled away. The body was gone. Two men (angels 24:23) dazzled and frightened them. They were somewhat impatient with humans: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Then the angels related the same message that Jesus had taught the disciples earlier (Lk.9:22;‘:32–4), of His betrayal, death and resurrection. When the women returned with their story to the apostles, they were disregarded. Peter, however, went to the tomb, saw the linen clothes by themselves, and went home wondering.
•Women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection.
24:13 Two people were walking 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and a Stranger caught up with them and asked what they were talking about. They could not imagine anyone in that vicinity not knowing that Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet great in word and deed, had been killed by the chief priests and rulers. Now their hopes were dashed because they had hoped He would redeem Israel. To add to the confusion, some women had found His tomb empty.
The Stranger rebuked their slowness of heart, and while they walked on, expounded the whole Old Testament revelation of the Messiah. They came to their village, and insisted that He join them for supper because it was getting dark. When Jesus broke the bread, they recognized Him, and He was gone. They recalled the intense excitement of hearing Him expound Scripture. Then they went back the two hour trip to Jerusalem to tell their story. They were met with jubilation when they rejoined the apostles: Jesus had appeared to Peter. He was alive, risen!
•Jesus hid His identity from Cleopas and friend long enough for them to absorb the intellectual content of the OT witness to the Messiah. Had He shown Himself first, they might likely have forgotten what He said because of the intensity of the experience.
24:36–43 In the midst of the apostles' hubbub, Jesus stood there. They were startled--there was another person in the room-- and frightened--it looked like Jesus! He perceived their fears and offered to be inspected: He had flesh and bone; He ate some fish in front of them.
•Jesus' body is the key feature: He could go through walls, yet He retained His physical wounds, and bodily functions. It was a body now endowed with great power, while appearing the same. We cannot understand it.
24:44–49 Then He went through the Old Testament, Moses, Prophets and Psalms explaining the Scriptures.
• The outlines we can guess from other sources:
a. His royal pedigree as David's son, His humble birth place and time of His coming. Isa.9:6–7;Mic.5:2; Dan.9:24.
b. The incarnation. Psa.110:1; Jer.23;5–6; Isa. 9:6.
c His sufferings described especially in the Servant poems. Isa.42,49,50,53; and Psa.22.
d. His rule as king, notably Isa.9:6, Zech.9:9, Psa.2, Psa.110.
e. His many appearances as the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament. Gen.18:22; Ex.3:2; Judg.6:11.
f. The symbols of His work: rock, branch, veil, lamb, manna, and mercy seat.
g. The festivals: Sabbath, Passover, Day of Atonement, Year of Jubilee.
24:50 Although the text suggests that the Ascension occurred shortly after, in Acts 1:3 Luke specifies 40 days after the Resurrection. He took them to the Mount of Olives, where Bethany was located, blessed them and was lifted out of their sight. The book ends with joy.
•The Ascension was critical; otherwise, Jesus' appearances would have simply faded in frequency and significance, and perhaps their memory too. But the Ascension lifts Jesus up once again, this time into Heaven, and in a way that validates the Resurrection and creates the anticipation of His Return. (Acts 1:11).
It affirms His position at the Father's right hand (Psa.110:1) from where He supervises His operations world-wide.
The defense of the Resurrection is important because it is absolutely crucial to our Faith. (ICor.15). Several theories have been proposed that discount the Resurrection.
•They went to the wrong tomb.
It too was empty, with grave clothes lying in order, and the seal broken on the stone? Joseph of Arimathea does not know where his property is?
•He did not die. Another man died in His place.
This Moslem view is easily discredited because Jesus conversed with His mother on the cross and transferred her care to John.
•He did not die, but fainted and was revived by the cold stone in the tomb.
Did a mortally wounded man then push over the stone, and overcome a squad of soldiers? And how could anyone walk with such foot / ankle wounds? And get to Galilee 80 miles away?
•The disciples stole the body.
This lie was generated by the chief priests to protect the guards who were witnesses of the Resurrection. (Matt.28:l11–15). The disciples were all martyred for a lie that they could not give up? In fact, they were so skeptical that multiple appearances were necessary to convince them. Then they were so excited about the Resurrection that they turned the world upside down.
•The disciples had visions, believing what they ardently hoped to be true. The text says that they refused to believe the first eye-witnesses. Philip demanded tangible proof. Further, there were twelve appearances, varying from one to 500 witnesses over 40 days.
The implications of the Resurrection and Ascension are of paramount importance.
Jesus' Deity and power were confirmed. Rom.1:4
The validity of our faith is assured. ICor.15:14
Our hope of bodily life after death is based on His. ICor.15:22
He took His Sacrifice into the Holy of Holies, assuring our salvation. Heb.9:12
Jesus is King, seated at the right hand of God. Heb.1:3
Jesus is our High Priest, interceding for us at all times. Heb.4:14
The Holy Spirit indwells us permanently, contingent on Jesus' glorification. Jn.7:39
We deny Greek dualism of the body as evil and the spirit as good. We affirm the goodness and natural functions of the body, of human life, and the superiority of human life over animal life. Christianity is rooted in history and nature, yet if affirms miracles and the nonmaterial, eternal existence of human beings.
Praise the Lord Jesus for His great and amazing work.