The Road to death and new life

Andrew Carter Religion II Ms Thib 4/11/16


Scourging at the Pillar
Via Dolorosa Instrumental
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Resurrection Luke 24:1-53

Jesus' vindication involves the exercise of God's power bringing him to life in a new, glorified state. After the discovery of the empty tomb (vv. 1-12), Luke narrates the conversation with the Emmaus-bound disciples, an account unique to him (vv. 13-35). Then follows the Gospel's closing scene, where Jesus visits the disciples (vv. 36-53). This final visit also is unique to Luke. Here Jesus appears to them (vv. 36-43) before giving them final instructions and departing (vv. 44-53).

A key feature of this section is the note of surprise among the disciples that Jesus is raised. Among the women, the disciples and the Emmaus travelers there is no hint that resurrection was anticipated. Such surprise is important, because it shows that even Jesus' own followers had to be convinced of his resurrection. They were not a gullible group that simply took resurrection as a given. Their surprise itself might seem strange, given Jesus' predictions of his resurrection as early as 9:22. But as late as 18:34, it is clear that the disciples never grasped the point of what Jesus was promising.

God's power underlies Jesus' resurrection. In addition, Scripture's claim (24:44-47), Jesus' promise (24:5-7), the angelic messengers' testimony (24:3-5, 23) and the testimony of disciples, both men and women, make up an impressive range of witnesses to this event (24:1-35). God's power stands behind the resurrection, because a passive verbal idea points to God's being responsible for it. This event is part of the reassurance Luke promised Theophilus in 1:1-4. The resurrection leads to the ascension and the events that grow from it.

As we come to the end of the Gospel, it is important to recall that Luke is only half finished with his story. The sequel comes in Acts. The resurrection-ascension is the link between the two volumes. That Luke regards the ascension as crucial is clear from Peter's speech in Acts 2. Now that Jesus is raised and seated at God's right hand, the mediating Ruler at the Father's side can pour out the blessing of God's Spirit (Acts 2:30-36). As the first ten chapters of Acts will make clear, the gospel can go to all because Jesus is Lord of all. The apostle Paul becomes the supreme example of a mission to all of humanity.The Resurrection Discovered (24:1-12)

First thing in the morning, the women come to the tomb with their spices, fully expecting to find Jesus' remains. All the accounts agree that it was early morning. Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:2 refer to the dawn or early morning, while John 20:1 notes that it was still dark when they started their journey.

The following point cannot be stressed too strongly: these women did not go believing in resurrection. They did not go to check and see if the tomb was empty. The fact that they took spices along to anoint the decaying body shows what they expected to find, and this despite six resurrection predictions in Luke. So the first people who had to be convinced of the resurrection were the disciples themselves. They may have belonged to the era of the ancients, but they did not think as a matter of course that resurrection would occur. In a real sense they were the first skeptics to become convinced that Jesus was raised!

The first hint that something had happened was the rolled-away stone. This stone, as was typical of ancient tombs, had covered the entrance. It was laid in a channel that had been carved out for it. While Mark 16:3 shows that the women had debated how they would get the heavy stone moved, Luke simply presents what confronts them on their arrival: They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

The women are at a loss, stymied, filled with perplexity. Their quandary is broken by the appearance of two men in clothes that gleamed, a description that suggests Luke means angels. Heavenly appearances are often bright (9:29; 10:18; Acts 9:3; 22:6). Any doubt that Luke means they are angels is removed in verse 23. The presence of the pair may invoke the "two witnesses" theme of the Old Testament (Deut 19:15). Luke's noting of two angels corresponds with John 20:12, while Matthew 28:2-4 and Mark 16:5 mention only one figure. The angelic appearance frightens the women, who bow to the ground in reverence. They know heaven is visiting the earth (Dillon 1978:26-27). The reason becomes clear in the angels' response.

It begins with a mild rebuke that is also an explanation: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"Put simply, Jesus is alive, so do not expect to find him in a tomb. Then the angels ask them to recall the promise he made to them in Galilee. "Remember how he told you, . . . `The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again' " (9:22; 18:32-33). God is not surprised at Jesus' resurrection, and neither should they be surprised. Jesus' authority is summarized in the crucial Son of Man title. Here is a man who bears the authority of deity, through judgment given over to him by the Ancient of Days (Dan 7:13-14). Luke 22:69 is coming to pass. In fact, the key term dei ("it is necessary") is used here to express the idea of divine design. God, the great cosmic director, has orchestrated what took place here (compare Acts 2:22-24). From the arrest through the death to the resurrection, Jesus walked in God's will. The women need not have wasted their money on the spices to preserve Jesus' body; God has taken care of it and has been in control all along.

The angels' words bring Jesus' words back to mind. The women cannot keep to themselves what has just happened--they return to tell the eleven and those with them. The entourage had included a large group of women, but Luke only names Mary Magdalene (8:2), Joanna (8:3) and Mary the mother of James (Mk 16:1).

Though the women are convinced, the rest are not. They come to belief slowly. Many of the disciples are originally skeptics about resurrection. At first they regard the women as hysterical, telling an idle tale. Leros(NIV nonsense), used here for "idle tale," was used in everyday Greek to refer to the delirious stories told by the very sick as they suffer in great pain or to tales told by those who fail to perceive reality (4 Maccabees 5:11; Josephus Jewish Wars 3.8.9 405). The other disciples think these women must be dreaming. Luke notes most of them do not believe their story, except for perhaps one or two present.

Yet Luke 24:12, if a part of the original document, indicates that Peter cannot sit still upon hearing the report. He has learned to trust what Jesus predicts. So he gets up and runs to the tomb, sees the linen clothes by themselves and departs. He wonders, or marvels, about what has come to pass. There is a little debate among interpreters whether Peter believes at this point. In fact, most doubt it, arguing that the term "marveling" (thaumazo; NIV wondering) is ambiguous (see 4:22; 11:38; Acts 13:41). But surely it is hard to call Peter doubting here, and the term can be positive (as in Lk 1:21, 63; 2:18, 33; 7:9; 8:25; 11:14; 20:26; 24:41; Stein 1992:607). Something stirs him to check out the story when others are incredulous. In addition, his recent experience with his denials has surely taught him to trust what Jesus says.

Peter walks away from the tomb simply contemplating what may be ahead. Something is happening, and its reality is slow to sink in with Jesus' followers. Just how much they struggle to understand the reality of Jesus' exaltation is indicated in the Emmaus incident that follows.

Though the church proclaims the resurrection confidently today, the original witnesses had to be convinced that it had occurred. Resurrection had been promised by Scripture and by Jesus, but only slowly, grudgingly and methodically did the disciples come to see that it had come to pass.The Emmaus Dialogue (24:13-35)

This resurrection account is one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible. Part of what makes it such an enjoyable story is that the reader knows more about what is taking place than the two disciples who unknowingly encounter Jesus. The British would call such a story "cheeky," because it pokes fun boldly at the doubting of resurrection. The reversal of emotion within the account shows how powerful a truth resurrection is. If God has power over Jesus' life and death, he also has power over all life and death. God is the Creator of life and is sovereign over death. If he points an endorsing finger at Jesus, how can humanity doubt him?

This meeting occurs as two disciples journey to Emmaus. They are sixty stadia, or about seven miles, from Jerusalem (the exact location of ancient Emmaus is not known today). The recent events have given them plenty to discuss, just as a major political event does among us today. In fact, the text portrays their discussion as rather intense, since syzeteo can refer to debating (Mk 8:11; Lk 22:23; Acts 6:9).

As they journey, a man joins them. Now Luke cleverly notes that it is Jesus, but he also mentions that the men cannot recognize him as Jesus. For once the joke is not on the reader but on the participants. Jesus is not being cruel here, but his gradual revelation of himself allows them to learn certain lessons about trusting God's promises. The disciples had been told about these events many times, but they cannot conceive how they could come to pass. The gradual revelation drives the point home vividly and calls on them to remember God's Word while trusting that what he says will come to pass. As we remember God's promise, we should rest in it (vv. 5-7). Luke's detailed account gives the reader an inside glimpse at how events were understood by disciples before they became aware that Jesus had risen from the dead. In all of these encounters, God shows himself to be in total control (note also v. 31).

So Jesus asks the two men about their conversation. Their countenance says it all: they stood still, their faces downcast. For these disciples, hope had been buried in the tomb provided by Joseph. In fact, one of them, Cleopas, is shocked that their new companion is unaware of recent events. His question's irony can hardly be overstated: "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" (so correctly RSV). If anyone knows, it is the One they are speaking to! But to draw them out, he asks them about their discussion.

Reviewing the story of Jesus of Nazareth, they refer to him as a prophet, a popular conception of who Jesus was (4:16-30; 7:16; 9:7-9, 18; 13:31-35). In fact, this view of Jesus, when comparing him to a prophet like Moses, correctly reflects an aspect of his ministry (Acts 3:14-26; 10:38-39). This Jesus was powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. But the leadership, chief priests and rulers, handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him (23:13). The disciples' hope had been different: "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel." For them, Jesus' death had spelled a seeming end to that hope. The leaders had handed the promise over to Rome, and their persistence had extinguished its flame. Where these disciples place responsibility for Jesus' death is clear, and so is their disappointment.

But the story is not over. Three days have passed, and new events have caused a stir. Some of the female disciples journeyed to the tomb, only to find no body inside. They claimed to have seen a vision of angels.They claimed that he was alive. Still others went to the tomb and found it empty, but they did not see Jesus. This empirical note seems to be key for the two, since it seems they are not yet convinced that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Thomas gets all the contemporary press as a doubter of the resurrection, but Luke 24 makes it clear that he was merely one of a crowd, including these two followers. Like modern people in their skepticism, they will be persuaded only if they actually see Jesus. As readers we almost want to yell at the two, "Take a close look!"

Here is the major lesson of the Emmaus Road experience. Though resurrection is hard to believe, be assured that it took place. Its reality means that Jesus' claims are true. He was more than a teacher and more than a prophet. He was the promised, anointed one of God. A host of skeptics saw that this was so, and they believed. Do not be skeptical as these men were. Remember what God required of his Messiah: suffering, then vindication in exaltation.

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