24:1 Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the aromatic spices they had prepared.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning – ‘The sabbath ended at sundown Saturday evening; as soon as daylight breaks (by 6 A.M. at this time of year) these women head for the tomb. (In popular superstition, night was dangerous due to the predominance of demons at that time, but the women probably do not travel at night because it would be too hard to find the tomb.)’ (NT Background Commentary)
The women took the spices…and went to the tomb – ‘Mary Magdalene had been especially helped by Jesus and was devoted to him. (Lk 8:2) She had lingered at the cross, (Mk 15:47) and then she was first at the tomb. With her were Mary the mother of James; Joanna; and other devout women, (Lk 24:10) hoping to finish preparing their Lord’s body for burial. It was a sad labor of love that was transformed into gladness when they discovered that Jesus was alive.’ (Wiersbe)
‘The manner of the re-uniting of Christ’s soul and body in his resurrection is a mystery, one of the secret things that belong not to us; but the infallible proofs of his resurrection, that he did indeed rise from the dead, and was thereby proved to be the Son of God, are things revealed, which belong to us and to our children.’ (MHC)
The tomb – ‘In the east tombs were often carved out of caves in the rock. The body was wrapped in long linen strips like bandages and laid on a shelf in the rock tomb. The tomb was then closed by a great circular stone like a cart-wheel which ran in a groove across the opening.’ (DSB)
24:2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, 24:3 but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
The stone – Probably a large, disk-shaped stone rolled along a groove in front of the tomb.
24:4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood beside them in dazzling attire. 24:5 The women were terribly frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 24:6 He is not here, but has been raised!
Wondering – ‘Good Christians often perplex themselves about that with which they should comfort and encourage themselves.’ (MHC)
Two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning – ‘In all four Gospels…angels announce Jesus’ resurrection. In the Matthean account, an angel rolled back the stone at Jesus’ tomb (again, probably the Angel of the Lord, Mt 28:2), and reassured and instructed the women who had gone there. (Mt 28:5-7) In Luke “two men” appear in similarly dazzling dress (Lk 24:4-7; cf. Lk 24:23), while Mk 16:5 has “a young man” in white. (cf. /APC 2Ma 3:26,33-34) At this critical point in the gospel story angels intervene, bringing divine revelation and encouraging and instructing Jesus’ followers. Similarly, angels were integral to the events surrounding the Savior’s birth. We might best understand the mediation of angels at both his birth and resurrection as marking the unique meeting of heaven and earth in these events.’ (DJG)
“Why…?” – ‘Astonishing question! not “the risen,” but “the Living One;” (compare Rev 1:18) and the surprise expressed in it implies an incongruity in his being there at all, as if, though he might submit to it, “it was impossible he should be holden of it”.’ (Ac 2:24) (JFB) There is an inevitability, an ‘of course’ about the resurrection of Jesus.
“He is not here, but has been raised!”
J. N. D. Anderson, A Lawyer Among the Theologians (Hodder and Stoughton, 1973), 149.
‘The greatest importance of the resurrection is not in the past-“Christ rose”-but in the present-“Christ is risen.” The angel at the tomb asked the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5) The same question could be asked today to mere historians and scholars. If only we did not keep Christ mummified in a casket labeled “history” or “apologetics,” he would set our lives and world afire as powerfully as he did two millennia ago; and our new pagan empire would sit up, take notice, rub its eyes, wonder and convert a second time. That is the existential import of the resurrection.’ (Handbook of Apologetics)
‘It may be asked, how could this zeal of the women, which was mixed with superstition, be acceptable to God? I have no doubt, that the custom of anointing the dead, which they had borrowed from the Fathers, was applied by them to its proper object, which was, to draw consolation, amidst the mourning of death, from the hope of the life to come. I readily acknowledge that they sinned in not immediately raising their minds to that prediction which they had heard from the lips of their Master, when he foretold that he would rise again on the third day. But as they retain the general principle of the final resurrection, that defect is forgiven, which would justly have vitiated, as the phrase is, the whole of the action. Thus God frequently accepts, with fatherly kindness, the works of the saints, which, without pardon, not only would not have pleased him, but would even have been justly rejected with shame and punishment. It is, therefore, an astonishing display of the goodness of Christ, that he kindly and generously presents himself alive to the women, who did him wrong in seeking him among the dead. Now if he did not permit them to come in vain to his grave, we may conclude with certainty, that those who now aspire to him by faith will not be disappointed; for the distance of places does not prevent believers from enjoying him who fills heaven and earth by the power of his Spirit.’ (Calvin)
Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 24:7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
“Remember how he told you” – This may be a reference back to Lk 9:18 or Lk 9:43-45. We are told there that Jesus said this to his disciples. The implication, then, is that the women are numbered among the disciples.
‘Observe, These angels from heaven bring not any new gospel, but put them in mind, as the angels of the churches do, of the sayings of Christ, and teach them how to improve and apply them.’ (MHC)
‘More than once, Jesus had told his followers that he would suffer and die and be raised from the dead. (Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Lk 9:22,44; 18:31-34) How sad it is when God’s people forget his Word and live defeated lives.’ (Wiersbe)
“Galilee” – which was where these women came from, Lk 23:55.
‘How remarkable it is to hear angels quoting a whole sentence of Christ’s to the disciples, mentioning where it was uttered, and wondering it was not fresh in their memory, as doubtless it was in theirs!seen (1 Tim 3:16) of angels,” and 1 Pet 1:12).’ (JFB)
“Must” – A word of divine necessity. Cf. Mk 9:11; 12:10; Mt 12:39; Lk 9:31; 24:26,44
24:8 Then the women remembered his words, 24:9 and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
24:10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 24:11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them.
Joanna – See Lk 8:3 n.
They did not believe the women –
Nonsense – The underlying word (‘leros‘ = ‘idle tales) is a medical term used to describe the babblings of a feverish or insane patient. From the women’s side, there was probably extreme excitement and considerable confusion, Jn 20:2. From the men’s side, it seemed too good to be true.
24:12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He bent down and saw only the strips of linen cloth; then he went home, wondering what had happened.
Peter…got up and ran to the tomb – Cf. Jn 20:1-10. The whole verse is one of Westcott and Hort’s ‘Western non-interpolations’, and is absent from the RSV, for instance.
‘Only Peter went out to see if it might not possibly be true. The very fact that Peter was there says much for him. The story of his denial of his Master was not a thing that could be kept silent; and yet he had the moral courage to face those who knew his shame. There was something of the hero in Peter, as well as something of the coward. The man who was a fluttering dove is on the way to become a rock.’ (DSB)
The fact that only Peter is mentioned here does not preclude the likelihood that others were with him. In Lk 24:24 the travellers to Emmaus can say that ‘some of our number’ went to the tomb and found it as the women had described. (Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God)
Jesus Walks the Road to Emmaus
24:13 Now that very day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
Luke here departs from his Markan source. According to Edwards, this section contains nearly 50 Hebraisms, but also a variety of expressions peculiar to Luke. Together, these suggest a Hebrew source that has been edited by Luke.
‘In the infancy narrative Luke portrays the history of Israel as the prefigurement of the coming of John and Jesus; in the resurrection narrative (vv. 13–53), Luke portrays the life of Jesus as the fulfillment of the history of Israel.’ (Edwards)
This account is found only in Luke, although Mk 16:12f. appears to be a brief reference to the same event.
That same day – That is, Easter day, v13.
Emmaus – The exact site cannot today be identified with certainty.
Two of them – That is, two of ‘the others’ mentioned in v9. The name of one is given – Cleopas. It cannot be assumed that this is Clopas, mentioned in Jn 19:25. It has been speculated that the other person was Cleopas’ wife. The relative insignificance of these two disicples is testimony to the authenticity of the narrative, because a fictional account would have been likely to feature well-known disciples.
We do not know why they were making this journey. Perhaps they had lodgings in the village. They began this journey with sadness, regret, and unbelief.
24:14 They were talking to each other about all the things that had happened. 24:15 While they were talking and debating these things, Jesus himself approached and began to accompany them 24:16 (but their eyes were kept from recognizing him)
They were discussing the events of the past few days – the crucifixion, burial, and perhaps the women’s report of the empty tomb. They were turning everything around in their minds and in their conversation, trying to make sense out of all the confusion and disappointment. But they were unable to put it all together and come up with an explanation that made sense. Was he a failure or a success? Why did he have to die? Was there a future for the nation?
Jesus himself came up and walked along with them – It would seem that he approached them from behind, that is, from the direction of Jerusalem. They would accordingly have assumed him to have been another pilgrim, returning home after the Passover, v18.
They were kept from recognising him – we know, of course, that expectation influences perception, and their failure to believe the women, v11 meant that they held no expectation of seeing Jesus. Moreover, they were too absorbed with their own loss and disappointment to take much notice of strangers. But cf. Mk 16:12, where we read that ‘Jesus appeared in a different form’ to two of the disciples. Luke seems to mean that they were divinely restrained from recognising Jesus. Cf. Lk 9:45 18:34.
Why would God have prevented them from recognising Jesus at first? Perhaps Luke wants his readers to know that the presence of the risen Christ can be truly known (in the opening of the Scriptures and the breaking of bread) even when his physical appearances have ceased.
Grudem (Systematic Theology, p611) intriguingly comments: ‘If God could cause the disciples’ eyes to be partially blinded so that they could see Jesus but not recognize him, then certainly a few minutes later he could cause their eyes to be more fully blinded so they could not see him at all.’
24:17 Then he said to them, “What are these matters you are discussing so intently as you walk along?” And they stood still, looking sad. 24:18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?” 24:19 He said to them, “What things?”
Their faces downcast – ‘Though he was risen from the dead, yet either they did not know it or did not believe it, and so they were still in sorrow. Note, Christ’s disciples are often sad and sorrowful even when they have reason to rejoice, but through the weakness of their faith they cannot take the comfort that is offered to them.’ (MHC)
They were upset and discouraged because they had looked for God to work in a certain way, and did not realise the significance of the facts that lay right in front of their noses.
One of them, named Cleopas – Why is only one of the two disciples named? The answer may well be that it was Cleopas who was the source and authority behind this account. Bauckham (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses) explains: ‘There seems no plausible reason for naming him other than to indicate that he was the source of this tradition. He is very probably the same person as Clopas, whose wife Mary appears among the women at the cross in John 19:25. Clopas is a very rare Semitic form of the Greek name Cleopas, so rare that we can be certain this is the Clopas who, according to Hegesippus, was the brother of Jesus’ father Joseph and the father of Simon, who succeeded his cousin James as leader of the Jerusalem church (apud Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.11; 4.22.4). Cleopas/Clopas was doubtless one of those relatives of Jesus who played a prominent role in the Palestinian Jewish Christian movement. The story Luke tells would have been essentially the story Cleopas himself told about his encounter with the risen Jesus. Probably it was one of many traditions of the Jerusalem church which Luke has incorporated in his work.’ Other persons who are named by Luke, probably as an indication that they were among his sources, include Joanna and Susannah.
“Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened?” – or, ‘Have you been the only person in Jerusalem who has not heard about these events?’
‘The whole verse is an important evidence of the publicity and notoriety of our Lord Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.’ (Ryle) Cf. Acts 26:26.
Note the irony in Cleopas’ question: he and his companion were the ignorant ones, not Jesus.
“What things?” – Surprising question! The resurrected Jesus still uses his customary method of drawing people out. The Saviour’s original probing question, v17, had been answered by a counter-question, v18, and so he continues the questioning in order to help the man to unburden himself. From a psychological point of view, we can view this as an example of Jesus’ counselling skill.
‘Those whom Christ will teach he will first examine how far they have learned; they must tell him what things they know, and then he will tell them what was the meaning of these things. and lead them into the mystery of them. ‘ (MHC)
“The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied, “a man who, with his powerful deeds and words, proved to be a prophet before God and all the people; 24:20 and how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to death, and crucified him.
“About Jesus of Nazareth” – Their reply (19-24) accurately reports the life and death of Jesus, and even acknowledges the empty tomb. Yet they did not yet appreciate the meaning of these events, nor the reality of the resurrection. The turning point would come when they recognised the living Jesus for themselves. Note, then, the difference between an historical faith and a living faith.
“He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” – That is, in the sight of God and the people. God bore witness to him, Acts 2:22, and so did the people, Jn 22:17. On Jesus as a prophet, see Deut 18:15,18; Lk 7:16; Jn 4:19,44; 9:17; Acts 3:22; 7:37.
This is a lofty description of Jesus, and yet not lofty enough. See v26, 34; Acts 2:36.
“The chief priests and our rulers handed him over” – It is typical that within Luke’s writings the primary burden of guilt for Jesus’ death is placed with the Jews, showing that he had never been a threat to Rome. Cf. Jn 23:4, 14f; Acts 2:36 26:30-32.
24:21 But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.
“We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” – Cf. Lk 2:38; Jn 1:68,74; 2:38; 21:28.
‘Redeeming Israel does not refer to the salvation of souls, but to the restoration of the nation, the cleansing of the land, and a divinely endorsed, inheritance of the Holy Land that was deeply woven into the fabric of Israel’s religious life.’ (Burge, Jesus and the Land: How the New Testament Transformed ‘Holy Land’ Theology, p26).
‘A temporal redemption of the Jews by a conqueror appears to have been the redemption which they looked for. A spiritual redemption by a sacrificial death was an idea which their minds could not thoroughly take in.” (Ryle) How many misunderstandings about Jesus and his message prevail today, both among professing Christians and in the world generally?
How often, when God does not fulfil our hopes in the way we expect, we suppose that all hope is lost.
‘The role of suffering in redemption escapes the pair on the road to Emmaus, as it escaped many if not most of their Jewish contemporaries.’ (Edwards)
“It is the third day since all this took place” – Did Cleopas have some vague recollection that Jesus had said something about rising on the third day (Jn 9:22; 18:33; 20:12)? Or is this just his way of saying, “And now he is well and truly dead”?
Not only this, but it is now the third day since these things happened. 24:22 Furthermore, some women of our group amazed us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 24:23 and when they did not find his body, they came back and said they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24:24 Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.”
Angels – Cf. Lk 24:4 n
“Some of our companions went to the tomb” – So far, Luke has mentioned only Peter as having gone to the tomb. The Fourth Gospel tells us that John had gone too.
“Him they did not see” – The possibility of resurrection is far from their minds.
Edwards remarks: ‘Cleopas possesses the beginnings of a proper understanding of Jesus—the cross, evidence for the empty tomb, even a possible relation between these facts and “the redemption of Israel”—but he remains bewildered and despondent. Faith and hope are not assured by correct knowledge, nor even by gaining more knowledge, but by knowledge that enlightens understanding of the living Jesus.’
Edwards notes some of the ironies of this story: ‘living disciples talk about a dead Jesus, while a living Jesus speaks with lifeless disciples. The disciples bemoan that others have not seen Jesus while they fail to recognize him in their midst.’
24:25 So he said to them, “You foolish people—how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 24:26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
“How foolish you are” – There is surprise, but not contempt, in this forceful expression. A different word is used in Mt 5:22. In common with many Jews of Jesus’ day, these men no doubt saw in the OT the promise of a victorious Messiah, but not the expectation of a suffering one. ‘What was their basic problem? They did not believe all that the prophets had written about the Messiah. That was the problem with most of the Jews in that day: they saw Messiah as a conquering Redeemer, but they did not see him as a Suffering Servant. As they read the Old Testament, they saw the glory but not the suffering, the crown but not the cross. The teachers in that day were not unlike some of the “success preachers” today, blind to the total message of the Bible.’ (Wiersbe)
‘Believers are branded as fools by atheists, and infidels, and free-thinkers, and their most holy faith is censured as a fond credulity; but Christ tells us that those are fools who are slow of heart to believe, and are kept from it by prejudices never impartially examined.’ (MHC)
“All that the prophets have spoken” – In connection with the sufferings and the glory of the Messiah, the following passages are of particular note:- Gen 3:15; Ps 118:22; Isa 52:13-53:12.
In this verse, Jesus refers to ‘the prophets’; in v27, to ‘Moses and the prophets’; and in v44 to ‘the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms’. We may assume that these are different expressions for the same body of scriptures.
If they had listened to the prophets, they would have believed the women.
Peter Enns (The Bible Tells Me So, p201) cites the present passage in favour of his view that the Old Testament, taken on its own terms, says nothing about a future messiah dying and rising. ‘You will only see Jesus there in hindsight and under the surface, where your reading of the Old Testament is driven by faith in Christ, where Jesus has become the starting point for re-understanding Israel’s story, not the logical conclusion of Israel’s story. But Enns’ contention is seriously undermined by the very words of Jesus here: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” In other words, Jesus is not revealing something completely new: they should have known, from their own Scriptures, about his dying and rising.
“Did not the Christ have to suffer these things...?” – A wonderful testimony to the truthfulness of the OT prophecies and the certainty of their fulfilment. On the idea of a divine necessity in the work of Christ, cf. Lk 24:46; Acts 2:24.
Luke often stresses the divine necessity of the cross and redemption, Jn 9:22; 17:25; 24:7.
“And then enter his glory” – Does the OT foretell the resurrection of Christ? See esp. Acts 2:25-28. (quoting Ps 16:8-11) Also Job 19:25-27; Isa 53:10-12.
This verse summarises briefly the whole atoning work of Christ. First to suffer, and then to enter his glory. First to be cut off, and then to reign in his kingdom. First to be led like a lamb to the slaughter, and then to divide the spoil as a conqueror.
24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.
Beginning with Moses – Actually, the Gospels contain only one reference to a passage from the Torah that is directly linked to Jesus (Jn 19:36/Ex 12:46; cf. Num 9:12). Even this passage can scarcely be regarded as explicitly Messianic.
“He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” – ‘The Greek word for “explained all the Scriptures,” diermēneuein, from which “hermeneutics” is derived, means “to translate or interpret,” to bridge the two distant realities of the history of Israel and Jesus himself. The resurrected Lord is the authoritative interpreter of the history of Israel that anticipates his messianic appearance. The resurrected Lord is the living Word who alone can enlighten and interpret the written word.’ (Edwards)
We can only guess at the details of this blessed exposition. What we can do, is to seek to emulate our Master in taking a Christ-centred approach to the OT. ‘Observe the testimony which this verse gives to the divine authority, and Christian interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures. The denial of reference to Christ’s death and glory in the Old Testament, is a denial of Christ’s own teaching.’ (Alford)
‘Perhaps Jesus started at Gen 3:15, the first promise of the Redeemer, and traced that promise through the Scriptures. He may have lingered at Genesis 22, which tells of Abraham placing his only beloved son on the altar. Surely he touched on Passover, the levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle ceremonies, the Day of Atonement, the serpent in the wilderness, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, and the prophetic messages of Psalms 22 and 69. The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page. He did not teach them only doctrine or prophecy; he taught “the things concerning himself”.’ (Lk 24:27) (Wiersbe)
‘In what way did our Lord show “things concerning himself,” in every part of the Old Testament field? The answer to these questions is short and simple. Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice, ordained in the law of Moses. Christ was the true Deliverer and King, of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, whose glorious advent filled the pages of prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent’s head, – the true seed in whom all nations were to be blessed, – the true Shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered, – the true scape-goat, – the true brazen serpent, – the true Lamb to which every daily offering pointed, – the true High Priest of whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure. These things, or something like them, we need not doubt, were some of the things which our Lord expounded in the way to Emmaus.’ (Ryle)
Concerning the OT Scriptures: (a) they testify of Christ; (b) they need to be explained; (cf. Acts 8:31) (c) Christ himself is the best expositor; (d) it is good to study Scripture sequentially and methodically: hence, the noble disciplines of biblical theology and systematic theology.
There is in the verse an indirect warrant for the discipline of systematic theology – that is, for the collection and comparison of the teachings of Scripture on a particular doctrine.
24:28 So they approached the village where they were going. He acted as though he wanted to go farther, 24:29 but they urged him, “Stay with us, because it is getting toward evening and the day is almost done.” So he went in to stay with them.
Jesus acted as if he were going further – This action serves to ‘draw out’ the two disciples in the same way that the words recorded in v17 & v19 did. Had they not invited Jesus into their house, he would have gone on his way. He does not force himself on anyone, Rev 3:21.
They urged him strongly – ‘Hospitality demanded no less than the lodging these disciples offer Jesus, especially because it is approaching sundown; night travel, particularly as one got farther from Jerusalem, would be dangerous due to robbers. Jewish people throughout the ancient world welcomed fellow Jews who were traveling to spend the night, and insistence was part of hospitality.’ (e.g., Jud 19:5-9 1 Sam 28:23) (NT Background Cmt’y) Nevertheless, the invitation is especially forceful. There was something powerfully attractive about their companion.
We are reminded here that it is no reflection on the sovereignty of God to realise that he loves to be entreated by his people. Cf. Gen 32:26; Jud 6:18; 13:15.
“Stay with us” – Jesus had acted as if to go on further (v28). What joy and assurance would have been lost if these disciples had not urged him to stay!
“The day is almost over” – Jewish custom was to have the main meal of the day in later afternoon.
24:30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 24:31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 24:32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?”
He took bread, gave thanks and broke it and began to give it to them – There was something immediately unusual here: Jesus took the role of host in their own home; this was a role he had habitually taken when among his disciples. The guest became host.
We should not assume that there is any reference to the Lord’s Supper here:- (a) neither of the two disciples had been present at the institution at the Last Supper; (b) there is nothing in the present passage to say that the occasion was anything other than an ordinary meal, in an ordinary home, with an ordinary loaf of bread. (But with an extraordinary guest!).
‘It is not only at the communion table we can be with Christ; we can be with him at the dinner table too. He is not only the host in his Church; he is the guest in every home.’ (Daily Study Bible)
‘This was not a miraculous meal like that of the five loaves, nor a sacramental meal like that of the eucharist, but a common meal; yet Christ here did the same as he did in those, to teach us to keep up our communion with God through Christ in common providences as well as in special ordinances.’ (MHC)
He disappeared from their sight – only to reappear later that night back in Jerusalem.
Their eyes were opened – Something more than mere realisation or recognition is signified here. Just as their eyes had been miraculously closed, v16, so now they are miraculously opened.
He disappeared from their sight – This, together with similar passages, casts some light on the nature of Christ’s resurrection body. It was a real, physical body, capable of eating, v42f; Jn 21:12f, and of being touched, Mt 28:9; Lk 24:39; Jn 20:27. It seems that our Lord looked just like an ordinary man, although he was not always recognised as himself until he made himself known by some particular words or actions. But he was also able to appear and to disappear in a manner which we cannot explain. These characteristics teach us something about our own resurrection bodies.
‘Nor ought we to wonder that Christ, as soon as he was recognized, immediately disappeared; for it was not advantageous that they should any longer behold him, lest, as they were naturally too much addicted to the earth, they might desire again to bring him back to an earthly life. So far, then, as it was necessary to assure them of his resurrection, he made himself visible to them; but by the sudden departure, he taught them that they must seek him elsewhere than in the world, because the completion of the new life was his ascension to heaven.’ (Calvin)
“Were not our hearts burning within us?” – Cf. Jer 20:9. True faith is a matter of the heart, and not just of the mind; it involves our emotions as well as our thinking. Perhaps Paul is thinking of something similar in Gal 4:6.
‘Their recognition of Christ led the disciples to a lively perception of the secret and hidden grace of the Spirit, which he had formerly bestowed upon them. For God sometimes works in his people in such a manner, that for a time they are not aware of the power of the Spirit, (of which, however, they are not destitute,) or, at least, that they do not perceive it distinctly, but only feel it by a secret movement. Thus the disciples had formerly indeed felt an ardor, which they now remember, but which they had not then observed: now that Christ has made himself known to them, they at length begin to consider the grace which they had formerly, as it were, swallowed without tasting it, and perceive that they were stupid. For they accuse themselves of indifference, as if they had said, “How did it happen that we did not recognize him while he was talking? for when he penetrated into our hearts, we ought to have perceived who he was.”‘ (Calvin)
‘Truth is as light, the more steady and fixed the glass of the understanding is, through which its beams are darted upon the affections, the sooner they take fire-‘Did not our hearts,’ saith the disciples, ‘burn within us, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ Lk 24:32. They had heard Christ, no doubt, preach much of what he said then, before his passion; but never were they so satisfied and confirmed as now, when Scriptures and understanding were opened together, and this made their hearts ‘burn.’ The sun in the firmament sends his influence where he doth not shed his beams, I mean into the bowels of the earth, but the Sun of righteousness imparts his influence only where his light comes. He spreads the beams of truth into the understanding, to enlighten that; and while the creature sits under these wings, a kindly heartquickening heat is begotten in its bosom. Hence we find that even when the Spirit is promised as a comforter, he comes as a convincer, Jn 16:13 – he comforts by teaching. And certainly, the reason why many poor trembling souls have so little heat of heavenly joy in their hearts, is because they have so little light to understand the nature and tenure of the gospel covenant. The farther a soul stands from the light of truth, the father he must needs be from the heat of comfort.’ (Gurnall)
‘It is when we reflect on the truth that our heart catches fire. Think of the Emmaus disciples on the afternoon of Easter Day. The risen Lord joined them on their walk and explained to them out of the Scriptures how the Messiah had to suffer before entering his glory. Later, after he had left them, they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” This inner burning of the heart is a profound emotional experience, but it was Jesus’ biblical teaching which prompted it. Nothing sets the heart ablaze like fresh vistas of truth.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 129)
24:33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 24:34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem – Even though it must now have been late in the day and they had already walked seven miles.
They found the Eleven – The Twelve minus Judas.
Note how quickly the evangelised become evangelists.
“The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon” – we should not be surprised by the mixture of belief and disbelief in the Gospel narratives: the disciples were gradually coming round from a position of incredulity to one of joyful acceptance, and it is natural to suppose that this process would have taken longer for some (e.g. Thomas) than for others. The appearance to Simon is referred to only here and in 1 Cor 15:5 (cf. also 1 Pet 1:3). ‘That must remain one of the great untold stories of the world. But surely it is a lovely thing that Jesus should make one of his first appearances to the man who had denied him.’ (Daily Study Bible)
Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread – On the unlikelihood of this referring to the Lord’s Supper, see v30n.
Jesus Makes a Final Appearance
24:36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
“Peace be with you” – ‘This was a form of salutation among the Hebrews denoting a wish of peace and prosperity. See Gen 43:23. It was peculiarly appropriate for Jesus, as he had said before his death that he left his peace with them as their inheritance, (Jn 14:27) and as they were now alarmed and fearful at their state, and trembling for fear of the Jews, Jn 20:19.’ (Barnes)
24:37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a ghost. 24:38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 24:39 Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.” 24:40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Thinking they saw a ghost – ‘pneuma‘ – used here as ‘a term for the dead, those who are no longer alive in the body, even though they may have a conscious existence and appear in a visible form.’ (Lk 24:37,39; Heb 12:23) (ISBE)
“Doubts” – What was it, exactly, that they doubted. That Jesus had risen? The physical nature of his resurrection body? That the one before them was Jesus himself? Of course, doubts need not be that specific: they can just amount to a general sense of confusion and uncertainty.
“Look at my hands and my feet” – Luke has not mentioned the nails with which Jesus was fixed to the cross, although they are mentioned in Jn 20:25, 27. So we cannot be sure that Jesus was stressing that it really was him, the one who had been crucified, or that he was stressing to corporeal nature of his resurrection body (not a ghost). The context favours the latter.
‘It is, of course, impossible for us, who do not as yet possess the resurrection body, to understand how it was possible for the body of Jesus to be, on the one hand, so unlike our present bodies that he was able to enter a room without opening either a door or a window; yet, on the other hand, so similar to our present bodies that the very scars resulting from his crucifixion were still showing.’ (Hendriksen)
The invitation to look and touch does not simply prove the point about his physical reality, but also demonstrates that whatever changes his body had undergone, Mk 16:12; Lk 24:16; Jn 20:14, he was still the same Master who had lived amongst them for three years and who had died on the cross.
“A ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” – Cf. 1 Cor 15:50 ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’. Sceptics such as Robert Price make much of the contrast, saying that there is ‘violent’ clash here between the (earlier) Paul, who only believed in a ‘spiritual’ resurrection, and the (later) Luke who advocated a physical resurrection. In this review Price misquotes the present verse (which he identifies as Lk 24:40) as saying, ‘no spirit has flesh as you can see I have’. But it is important to note the precise wording. The two expressions ‘flesh and blood’ and ‘flesh and bones’ look similar enough to be interchangeable. But ‘flesh and blood’ is a semitic expression for human nature especially viewed in its weakness and mortality (what Paul calls ‘corruptible’). ‘Flesh and bones’, on the other hand, does not carry those connotations; as the context here indicates: the contrast is not with an incorruptible body, as in 1 Cor 15, but with a non-physical phantom. See this discussion.
‘We receive comfort from the fact that the Resurrected Christ is as sympathetic and loving as was this same Savior before his crucifixion. With marvelous condescension he “showed them his hands and his feet” probably with the twofold purpose of proving to them: (a) “I am not a ghost,” and (b) “I am indeed your Lord and Savior.”‘ (Hendriksen)
24:41 And while they still could not believe it (because of their joy) and were amazed, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 24:42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 24:43 and he took it and ate it in front of them.
Jesus’ Final Commission
24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
“The Psalms” – ‘The word here used probably means what were comprehended under the name of Hagiographa, or holy writings. This consisted of the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and the two books of Chronicles. This division of the Old Testament was in use long before the time of Christ, and was what he referred to here; and he meant to say that in each of these divisions of the Old Testament there were prophecies respecting himself. The particular subject before them was his resurrection from the dead. A most striking prediction of this is contained in Ps 16:9-11. Compare it with Acts 2:24-32; 13:35-37.’ (Barnes)
Longman (How To Read The Psalms, p65) is in substantial agreement: ‘Here it is likely that “Psalms” included more than the book of Psalms which we have been studying. The Old Testament canon is usually divided into three parts: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The Psalms stood at the front of the Writings, but also would include books like Proverbs, Song of Songs, Job and others (including, surprisingly, Daniel and Chronicles). In this passage Jesus calls the third section of the canon Psalms after the first book in that collection.’
24:45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures, 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 24:47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
V46 may be regarded as summary of Luke’s Gospel, and v47 of Acts.
“Repentance…proclaimed in his name” –
“All nations, beginning at Jerusalem” – Cf. Acts 1:8.
24:48 You are witnesses of these things. 24:49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
“You are witnesses of these things” – cf. Acts 1:8.
“What my Father has promised” – The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Cf. Isa 44:3f; Joel 2:28; Jn 14:16,17,26; 15:26; Acts 2:33.
France comments: ‘it is only when we read on to Acts 1:8 and the fulfillment of the promise in Acts 2:1–4 that it becomes clear that the “power from on high” refers to the Holy Spirit, bestowed by the ascended Jesus (Acts 2:33).’
24:50 Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 24:51 Now during the blessing he departed and was taken up into heaven. 24:52 So they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 24:53 and were continually in the temple courts blessing God.
‘Now as he did not, after his resurrection, appear indiscriminately to all, so he did not permit all to be the witnesses of his ascension to heaven; for he intended that this mystery of faith should be known by the preaching of the gospel rather than beheld by the eyes.’ (Calvin)
Bethany – On the eastern side of the mount of Olives, cf. Acts 1:12. The home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus was here.
Blessed them – a priestly act, (cf. Num 6:24-26) assuring them of his favour, and commending them to the Father’s protection and guidance.
‘Openly and solemnly he once blessed the apostles, that believers may go direct to himself, if they desire to be partakers of his grace.’ (Calvin)
‘He did not leave them houses and lands, but he left them his blessing.’ (Watson)
‘Our Lord Jesus ascended with a blessing on his lips…Therein making good to them what is said by him, “Having loved his own, he loved them unto the end,” Jn 13:1. There was a great deal of love manifested by Christ in this last act on earth. The last sight they had of him in this world was a most sweet and encouraging one. They heard nothing from his lips but love, they saw nothing in his face by love, till he mounted his triumphant chariot, and was taken out of their sight. Surely these blessings at parting were sweet and rich. They were the mercies which his blood had so lately purchased for them. And they were not only intended for them who had the happiness to be with him when he ascended, but they reach us as well as them, and will reach the last saint that shall be upon the earth till he come again. They who surrounded Christ were but representatives of the future churches, Mt 28:20. In blessing them, he blesseth us also.’ (Flavel, The Fountain of Life, 500)
Lk 24:50-51 give a brief account of the ascension; a longer account is given in Acts 1:9-11. See also Heb 4:14. The ascension is not related by Matthew or Mark.
He…was taken up into heaven – ‘The main image pattern associated with the event is the imagery of transcendence: Jesus ascended from earth to heaven, indicating a movement from one sphere of reality to another. Eph 4:8 describes Jesus’ ascending “on high,” while Col 3:1-2 surrounds the ascended Christ with references to “things that are above” as contrasted to “things that are on earth.” Luke tells us that “a cloud took him out of their sight,” (Ac 1:9) and the disciples responded by “gazing into heaven” and “looking into heaven”.’ (Ac 1:10-11) (DBI)
They worshiped him – even though he was now absent in a physical sense. This is an indication of our Lord’s divinity, and an example for us to follow. The ascension marks not only the end of our Lord’s physical presence, but also the beginning of a new era in which people from every tribe and nation would come to know and worship him. The physical presence, granted to and now withdrawn from a few, will become a spiritual presence, available to all. See Rom 8:38f.
‘In the whole Gospel of Luke, remarks Stier, we have this word to ‘worship’ proskunein but in one other place – Lk 4:7-8 where it is used of the honour due to God alone; and in the Acts only in the following passages, all in the same sense: Lk 7:43; 8:27; 24:11; 10:25-26. In this last passage, though Cornelius meant only subordinate worship, Peter rejected it-as only a man.’ (JFB)
The idea of the ascension marking both an end and a beginning is indicated by Luke’s positioning of it both at the end of his Gospel and the opening of Acts.
‘By the word worship, Luke means, first, that the apostles were relieved from all doubt, because at that time the majesty of Christ shone on all sides, so that there was no longer any room for doubting of his resurrection; and, secondly, that for the same reason they began to honor him with greater reverence than when they enjoyed his society on earth. For the worship which is here mentioned was rendered to him not only as Master or Prophet, nor even as the Messiah, whose character had been but half known, but as the King of glory and the Judge of the world. Now as Luke intended to give a longer narrative, he only states briefly what the apostles did during ten days. The amount of what is said is, that through the fervor of their joy they broke out openly into the praises of God, and were continually in the temple; not that they remained there by day and by night, but that they attended the public assemblies, and were present at the ordinary and stated hours to render thanksgiving to God. This joy is contrasted with the fear which formerly kept them retired and concealed at home.’ (Calvin)
They returned to Jerusalem with great joy – ‘There is no need to doubt the literal nature of Christ’s ascension, so long as we realise its purpose. It was not necessary as a mode of departure, for “going to the Father” did not involve a journey in space presumably he could simply have vanished as on previous occasions. The reasons he ascended before their eyes was rather to show them that this departure was final. He had now gone for good, or at least until his coming in glory. So they returned to Jerusalem with great joy and waited – not for Jesus to make another resurrection appearance, but for the Holy Spirit to come in power, as had been promised.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 63)
They stayed continually at the temple, praising God – as well they might, for they were now convinced that the longed-for Messiah had come, had achieved his work of redemption, and had ascended to heaven. This is a fitting response for believers today.
‘Ancient writers often framed literary units by starting and ending on the same point; Luke frames his whole Gospel by starting and ending it in the temple.’ (NT Background Commentary)
‘They were filled with happiness at the assurance of redemption, and expressed what every Christian should feel-fulness of joy at the glad tidings that a Saviour has died, and risen, and ascended to God; and an earnest desire to pour forth in the sanctuary prayers and thanksgivings to the God of grace for his mercy to a lost and ruined world.’ (Barnes)