Chapter 24 - Commentary on Luke's Gospel

24:1-12 The Empty Tomb - All four Gospels agree that women were the first to find the empty tomb. Luke had mentioned that these women had seen where the body of Jesus was laid, and prepared spices with the intention of coming back after the Passover sabbath (23:55-56). Luke also recorded the names of the women (24:10). This fact alone would be sufficient to illustrate the change Jesus made in the status of women. Not only were women baptized to become disciples of God's Word but they were chosen to be the first to proclaim the resurrection of the Messiah.

24:1 The first day of the week is stressed (as in 24:13, 33, Mark 16:9, John 20:1, 19, 26 - in the sermon "Eight Sundays from Easter to Pentecost" we suggest that Jesus appeared on successive Sundays of the forty days till Pentecost).

24:2-3 All four Gospels record that the heavy circular stone which had closed the tomb (also sealed by the soldiers, Matthew 27:66) was rolled away (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:4, John 20:1). Matthew records that it was rolled away by an angel appointed to the task (Matthew 28:2-4). We have shown that while Jesus' corpse was still hanging on the cross, the first thing he did after his resurrection was to empty sheol (Hades) of its contents (see notes on 23:46, based on 23:43, Matthew 27:50-53, John 5:28-29, 1 Peter 3:19). This means that before his burial Jesus already had his resurrection body. It seems he did not want the corpse of his old body to remain in the tomb in case it became an object of veneration, pilgrimages, etc. John describes what he had himself seen in the empty tomb. "He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself" (John 20:6-9). Could it be that Jesus himself, having emptied sheol of its contents, came early on Easter morning and disintegrated his old body, and left the wrappings neatly so his disciples could see he had already risen from the dead?

24:4-5 This might explain why the two angels asked, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" and then added "He is not here, but has risen." This is echoed in the ancient Greek and Russian Orthodox response: "The Lord is risen" and the reply of the people "The Lord is risen indeed."

24:6-9 The angels also reminded the women disciples of Jesus' words prophesying his crucifixion and resurrection (9:22, Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19). Luke omitted the instructions to the disciples to meet him in Galilee (Matthew 28:7, 10, 16, Mark 16:7, which the disciples did ten days later, John 21:1). Mark tells us that at first the women ran away terrified (Mark 16:8), but then they decided they must tell Peter and John (Matthew 28:8).

24:10-12 Luke lists the women who were involved. John remembers how Mary Magdalene first came and told him the news, and then went back with him and Peter to the tomb. While she was weeping, Jesus came and she thought he was the gardener (John 20:2, 11-18). She then went back to the disciples and told them that she had seen the Lord (John 20:17-18). The total unbelief of Peter and the other disciples is characteristic of men's reaction to such a report. But eventually Peter and John decided to run to the tomb (as described in John 20:2-9). As in any traumatic event, we need to piece together and reconcile the stories of all the witnesses to get a correct picture of what happened.

24:13-32 The Walk to Emmaus - This encounter with Jesus is given to us only in this Gospel. It reads like an eye-witness report which could have been given to Luke by one of the two disciples who experienced walking with the risen Jesus without recognizing him.

24:13 "On that same day" makes clear that this happened on Easter Sunday. Evidently the two disciples had set out towards Emmaus, having heard what the women had reported and how Peter and John had found the empty tomb (24:22-24). But these reports did not seem important enough for them to delay their journey. The seven miles to Emmaus would be a two hour walk.

24:14-16 Evidently the two disciples were discussing the reports they had heard. And when Jesus came walking along with them, they did not think this strange, and they certainly did not recognize him. The fact that Jesus was walking normally with these disciples makes clear that his (and therefore our) resurrection body is not a disembodied ghost. Luke will confirm this even more strongly when Jesus came in to talk and eat with the disciples (24:36-42).

24:17 When Jesus asked them what they were discussing, they stopped walking and looked at him gloomily.

24:18-21 There is no other mention of a Cleopas in the New Testament, but he was probably Clopas, the husband of one of the women named Mary who was at the cross (John 19:25). She is identified as "the mother of James and Joseph" (Matthew 27:56), also known as "the mother of James the younger and of Joses" (Mark 15:40). He was not one of the original twelve apostles, but Luke assumes he was well known in the Christian community. Cleopas was certainly very upset by what had happened in the crucifixion of Jesus. He calls Jesus a "prophet mighty in deed and word" and he had also hoped that as Messiah he would redeem (set free) the Jewish people.

24:22-24 Cleopas had also heard that the women (including his own wife, who might have been the other traveling with him ) had found the tomb empty, and "some of those who were with us" had also found the tomb empty. When he set out for Emmaus he had apparently not heard that Mary Magdalene had actually talked to Jesus in the garden by the tomb (John 19:41, 20:11-17).

24:25-27 Jesus rebuked Cleopas and the other disciple for failing to know from their Old Testament Scriptures that the Messiah would suffer death (see Isaiah 53:4-7) before entering into his glory. The reference to Moses (the five books of Moses) suggests that Jesus showed how his sacrificial death was pictured in the killing of the Passover lambs (Exodus 12:21) and the animal sacrifices of the tabernacle and later temple (Leviticus 1:3, 10, 3:1, 16:15 - the day of atonement, 23:27, as explained in Hebrews 9:11-14, 10:12, further explained in Luke 24:45-47). These explanations must have taken most of the time walking the seven miles to Emmaus.

24:28-29 When they arrived near the village, Jesus did not want to force himself upon them, and was already going on ahead till they "urged him strongly" to come and stay with them. By then the day was nearly over.

24:30-31 Here again Jesus did not behave in any way like a ghost (see 24:15), but sat down (reclined) at table with them. We don't know if either of these disciples were present at the last supper, but it was Jesus' characteristic taking, blessing, and breaking of the bread (22:19) that enabled them to recognize him. They later said "He was known to them in the breaking of bread" (24:35), which was the usual name for the communion service (Acts 2:42, 20:7, perhaps 27:35, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:26-28). Luke describes the sudden recognition as "their eyes were opened" as opposed to "their eyes were kept from recognizing him" (24:16). Obviously their physical eyes had been open all the time, but the sheer impossibility of imagining that this could be the one they knew had been crucified made it impossible for them to effect the recognition. Luke tells us Jesus disappeared immediately they recognized him. Which again sounds like an eye-witness account given by one of the two disciples when Luke interviewed him.

24:32 Now they were able to remember the powerful effect (hearts burning) that Jesus's expounding of the Old Testament Scriptures had on them as they walked with him

24:33 By then it was probably at least 6 pm (see 24:29), so a hurried seven mile walk back to Jerusalem would mean that by the time they found the eleven apostles it would be eight or nine at night. Luke gives us the information that the apostles were gathered "with their companions." Did this include some of the women disciples? Within a few days there were "a hundred and twenty persons" who gathered (Acts 1:15), which certainly included women disciples (Acts 1:14).

24:34 -35 In the morning Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18), and this is the only record in the Gospels of Jesus also appearing later on that first Easter day to Simon Peter (Paul mentions this in 1Corinthians 15:5). Obviously what impressed the two disciples, and the others who gathered there, was that Jesus "was known to them in the breaking of the bread" (see 24:30-31).

24:36 It was during the recounting and discussion of what had happened that Jesus came and stood among them. Evidently his resurrection body was able to come through locked doors (see John 20:19, and again in 20:26). Jesus' greeting was probably shalom. The Greek word for peace (eiryny) is used in every one of Paul's letters (Romans 1:7, 15:13, 33, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, 6:23, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 3, as in 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2).

24:37-40 To make sure they did not think he was a disembodied ghost (see notes on 24:15, 30) Jesus insisted on them seeing his hands and feet. A week later he told Thomas to touch him (John 20:27).

24:41-43 Jesus also wanted to prove that a resurrection body can enjoy eating (see Revelation 3:20). C.S.Lewis said that the joys of this life will not be lost, but rather intensified, for the perfect joy of heaven. And certainly eating with others is one of the great joys of this life.

24:44-47 On the road to Emmaus Jesus had given a preview of Old Testament references that pointed to him (24:25-27, e.g. Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, 61:1-3, Ezekiel 36:11, 26. There are hundreds of references to the Son of God as the LORD, Exodus 4:14-15, and Jesus must have pointed out these references to his activity in the Old Testament period). Now he taught this to them in greater detail. It seems that he kept giving such teaching during the forty days prior to the ascension (Acts 1:2).

24:48-49 Those who heard this were to be witnesses (a witness is someone who can speak of what he or she has personally seen or heard). But the disciples would need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to form them into a church and to make their witness effective (see Acts 1:4-5, 1:8, 2:42).

24:50-51 Matthew tells us that the great commission was given on a specific mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20), and John makes clear that Jesus appeared on successive Sundays (John 20:19, 26, 21:1) In his second book Luke will explain that this was over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3). The ascension was designed to make clear that Jesus would no longer keep appearing visibly as he had done, and they would need to look to the Holy Spirit for further teaching and instruction (see Acts 1:9-11).

24:52-53 Being present at the ascension near Bethany was not experienced as a sad ending. They returned "with great joy." As in the early part of the Book of Acts, the regular meeting place for the disciples was first in the upper room of the last supper (Acts 1:13), and then as numbers increased in the temple courts (Acts 2:46, 3:1, 11, 5:12).

Post Script .....