The Resurrection, 1-12
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, 13-35
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. This should not prompt us to engage in such opportunistic flights of the imagination as the following:
‘Interestingly, archaeologists and historians can find no place called Emmaus within a seven-mile radius of Jerusalem. I wonder, is the Emmaus journey simply an echo of Abraham’s journey from a life of stability into the unknown, or Moses’ night walk out of Egypt? Is Emmaus every place? Costessey (Cossey), Happisburgh (Haze-bruh) and Wymondham (Wind’m) and all those other places whose names are difficult to pronounce in this diocese? Each of our 110 church schools? Our link communities in Luleå and Koblenz and Papau New Guinea? Is Emmaus the situation people are in right now – a prison cell, a hospital bed, a refugee’s empty flat, a local food bank, a turkey farm, a lavender field, a women’s refuge, a lifeboat at sea? We read ourselves into the text and the text into ourselves.
‘Perhaps Emmaus is any place where Jesus nudges into our lives and breaks bread with us, where life is transformed by meaning and hope to face the challenges, paradoxes and questions of our era.’
(Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, Enthronement Sermon, 9 November 2019)
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 disciples 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! He – of all people! – should know what had happened. But 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. In our own prayer life, we can understand more readily why the Lord wants to hear about our thoughts and feelings, our hopes and fears, even though he knows all about them already.
‘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)
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)
'There are strong parallels with the angelophanies at the beginning of the gospel; in Luke 1.12, Zechariah is similarly ‘troubled’ and full of fear. This isn’t simply the Jesus that they knew before; this is no mere resuscitated corpse; there is something changed and startling about him.' (Ian Paul)
"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.
"It's me!" - 'Luke’s account is quite clear that this is neither a vision, nor a ghostly spectre, but (despite any change) a bodily person who has continuity with the person they knew (‘It is I myself!’).' (Ian Paul)
"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.
As Ian Paul, observes, there a numerous points of contact with the Johannine tradition:
'We have already heard the greeting of peace; we find the language of ‘do not be troubled’ that we had heard in John 14.1 and 14.27, with trouble also contrasted with ‘peace’; the invitation to see and touch his wounds parallels the specific invitation to Thomas in John 20.27; and the experience of having ‘touched’ as well as seen the risen Jesus leaves its mark in 1 John 1.1, which also moves immediately to the question of testimony and proclamation.'
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.
They still could not believe it (because of their joy) - Too good to be true?!
But joyful disbelieve will give way to joyful testimony:
'Jesus has already chided those on the road to Emmaus for being ‘slow of heart to believe’ (Luke 24.25)—and yet here Luke offers a positive reason for their slowness, as they ‘disbelieve for joy’ (v 41). Joy is a repeated theme in Luke, usually in positive response to something God has done (see, for example, Luke 2.10, 8.13), and in fact joy in disbelief will soon give way to great joy that leads to confident testimony. At the moment, though, this all seems ‘too good to be true’, not simply because of the reversal of their profound disappointment, but because (as good Jews) they knew very well that the dead are only raised at the end of the age, and not as one individual but as the whole of humanity. The change ‘in their hearts’ is not so much about an affective disposition (though it does include that) but a rethinking of their whole outlook and understanding of God’s plan and the way he is working in the world.' (Ian Paul)
He took it and ate it in front of them - Ian Paul cites Mikeal Parson as suggesting that this unusual expression actually means that 'he took it and ate with them'. This would then be another instance of table fellowship (as in Lk 13:26, the only other occurrence in this Gospel), a theme which occurs frequently:
- The new-born Jesus is laid in a feeding trough, indicating that he is the food for the world (Luke 2.7).
- Jesus dines with Levi, a tax collector, and other sinners in Luke 5.
- On several occasions Jesus dines with Pharisees in Luke 7, 11 and 14.
- Jesus feeds both the multitudes (Luke 9) and individuals (Luke 8.55).
- He eats with Mary and Martha (Luke 10) and with Zacchaeus (Luke 19), in the latter case as a sign that ‘salvation has come to this house’.
- And of course he dines with the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 22) and at Emmaus (Luke 24).
(The first of these seems a bit far-fetched to me!)
Jesus’ Final Commission, 44-49
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.
He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures - It is unlikely (writes Ian Paul) that Jesus would have merely appealed to a string of proof-texts. A more likely procedure would have been that of Stephen (Acts 7) who rehearsed the story of Israel. We can be sure that Isaiah 53 featured as well.
Another OT text that features prominently in the NT witness is Isa 49:6 - “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel? I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”
Ian Paul comments:
'This is the text behind Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2.32; it is echoed again in Acts 1.8; and Paul cites it in his early preaching in Acts 13.47 as the justification for his ‘Gentile mission’. Where the OT texts appear to have a centrifugal focus, so that the nations ‘come to’ Jerusalem, the proclamation here has a centripetal force, going out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.'
"Repentance...proclaimed in his name" - 'The content of the preaching, ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins’, is language that John the Baptist used in Luke 3.3, and is deployed across the early preaching in Acts 2.38, 3.19, 5.31 and 8.22.' (Ian Paul)
"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).'
Jesus’ Departure, 50-53
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 - Omitted by a minority of manuscripts. Morris thinks that the words might have been deliberately left out by a scribe who wished to avoid the impression that the ascension took place on the same day as the resurrection. 'But the omission would leave us with no ascension and thus no explanation of the disciples’ joy. The words would then seem to indicate a disappearance in the manner of that in verse 31.'
‘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)
'Some apparent differences between the Gospels arise from our modern sense of time and the norms of a historical account. Ehrman gives an example: Luke’s Gospel records Jesus’s ascension into heaven directly after the account of Jesus’s first resurrection appearances to his disciples (Luke 24). Acts (also believed to be written by Luke) tells us that Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances lasted forty days before his ascension. Is this a contradiction? No. The Gospels frequently telescope events together in a seemingly hectic rush (“and then . . . and then . . . and then”), when in fact there were significant periods between. Again, there are modern parallels. If a friend told me her boss had changed his mind, she might say, “One minute he’s telling me to do this, and the next minute he’s telling me to do that instead.” The two conversations could be a week apart, but the “one minute” formulation makes a point.' (Rebecca McLoughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion)
The ascension is 'a boundary and a transition: it brings Jesus’ earthly existence to a close (hence its positioning at the end of Luke’s Gospel) and marks the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s replacement of Jesus on earth (hence its positioning at the opening of the book of Acts).' (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)