Here we come to the end of the Luke’s account of the life of Jesus. In Chapter 24, we find the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
The last chapter ended with the women resting on the sabbath after having prepared the spices for Jesus’ body. On the morning of the first day of the week, we now find them heading to the grave to anoint the body with spices. To their surprise, when they arrived, they found that the stone that had been placed in front of the tomb was moved. They then stepped inside the tomb to look closer and discovered that it was empty.
Now, it is interesting that one attempt that has been made to explain this is the claim that the women had gone to the wrong tomb. I think that this was apparently a rumor that had been floating around at the time that Luke was writing, and this is why he made a point at the end of chapter 23 of saying that the women had seen the where and how the body was laid. Luke wants to drive home to us that the women had genuinely found the tomb, where Jesus was laid, empty.
Luke continues by telling us that while the women were wondering what had happened to the body, two angels appeared to them. The women were justifiably afraid, but the angels said, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen” (Vv 5 – 6, NASB). They then reminded them that Jesus had told them that everything that had occurred had to happen. As they reminded the women of these things, they remembered.
The women immediately headed back to meet with the disciples and tell them what had occurred. John mentions the names of three women; Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James. Who are these three women, and why does Luke name them specifically. The first is, of course, Mary Magdalene. She had traveled with the disciples and had been a key member of their circle during Jesus’ ministry. The second is Joanna, who had also traveled with them during Jesus’ ministry. The last one listed is Mary, the mother of James. The James in question is most probably the apostle James the less. I think that Luke records these women by name to support their credibility. These were not some random women, these were disciples themselves.
So they return to tell the 11 apostles, but their “words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.” (v11) Yet it is interesting that Peter went to the tomb to see for himself. He found what they had described and returned home, amazed at what he had seen.
Luke now steps away from the 11 apostles and follows 2 other disciples who were traveling to Emmaus about seven miles away. While they were talking to each other about the events of the last few days, they were joined by a third traveler. Luke tells us that this third traveler is Jesus, yet the disciples were prevented from recognizing him.
Jesus asks them what they are talking about. They are quite surprised, and the one named Cleopas asked if he was the only one who was unaware of what had transpired. When Jesus asked what things, they began to recount things for him. They said, “we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” (v 21) They even recounted the events of the women finding the tomb empty that morning.
Jesus “said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?'” (Vv 25 – 26) He then lays out everything the Old Testament had spoken of him.
As the approach Emmaus, Jesus acted like he was going to continue on his way. The disciples encouraged him to stay with them because it was getting late. As they reclined around the table, Jesus took the bread and broke it. Suddenly they realized who Jesus was, and then he vanished. As they recounted the events of the day, they realized that they should have known it all along.
They immediately returned to Jerusalem, where they met with the apostles and the others who were with them. They told those assembled all that had occurred and how Jesus had appeared to them. Here we find the name of the other disciple, Simon. I think the reason for listing both names is to affirm the truth, as, under the law, it required two witnesses for something to hold up in court.
While they were there with the apostles, Jesus appeared in the midst of all of them saying, “Peace be to you.” (v 36) In spite of all the events of the day, they were still taken aback and thought he was a ghost. Jesus invites them to look at the holes in his hands and feet. He also invites them to touch him and confirm that he is not a ghost. They were still having trouble believing it, so Jesus asks them for something to eat. He then took it and ate it to prove once and for all that he was physically present among them.
Now that he has proven that he is really there, Jesus reminds them of the things he had said before his death concerning what was written about him in the Old Testament. He opened up their eyes to understand, and “He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.” (v 47) He then told them that they would be witnesses of what had happened to the world, proclaiming “repentance for [the] forgiveness of sins . . . in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (v 47)
The last thing that Luke records Jesus saying to the disciples was that he was sending the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to them. Here he is promising to send the Holy Spirit. But he tells them that they need to remain in the city until that time.
Luke concludes his account by telling us that Jesus “led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” (v 50) Luke then tells us that Jesus was carried away into heaven. They worshipped there for a while and then returned to Jerusalem. They were then continually in the temple praising God.
My takeaways from this chapter are 1) Jesus’ resurrection is a fact. The witnesses and the evidence all make this clear. 2) The whole of the Old Testament points to Christ, his coming, suffering death and resurrection. 3) Jesus’ resurrection was an actual, physical, bodily resurrection. 4) Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the door to the forgiveness of sins for those who repent. And 5) Christ promised to not leave us alone, but to send the Holy Spirit.