Luke 24
Luke 24 Kingcomments Bible Studies

The Women At the Empty Tomb

The Sabbath is over and a whole week has passed. During that week events took place that will bring the history of the world and eternity to their fulfillment according to God’s plan. The old is over, the new has come. Symbol of this is “the first day of the week” which is the day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. With His resurrection a completely new order of things begins.

The women are not yet aware of this. They are still attached to the old order of things. Their love for Christ brought them to the tomb very early that day. They want to give the Savior their last honors by anointing His body with the spices which they have prepared. Despite their love, which is very praiseworthy, they are ignorant of the resurrection which was also prophesied by Him.

When they reach the tomb, they find the stone rolled away from the tomb. The tomb is open! As a result, much more opens in this chapter: the Scriptures are opened (Lk 24:27), eyes are opened (Lk 24:31), the mind is opened (Lk 24:45) and heaven is opened (Lk 24:51). The stone has not been rolled away to enable the Lord Jesus to go out. He has already risen before the stone was rolled away by the angels. He can also enter somewhere despite closed doors (Jn 20:19). The stone is rolled away to let the women and us go inside to look into the tomb.

The women can enter the tomb in this way. That is what they do. There they discover that the body is not there. The tomb is empty. This is the first proof of the victory of God’s grace. Now grace and mercy can go out to man. It is remarkable that the Holy Spirit speaks of “the Lord Jesus” the first time the Name of the Lord Jesus is mentioned after His resurrection. It is the distinctive Name by which Christians speak of their Lord. The women do not understand that the tomb is empty and are embarrassed about it. They have seen for themselves that His body was placed in it (Lk 23:55).

Then suddenly there are two men with them in dazzling clothing. The light of the day and the light of their clothes belong together. The resurrection of Christ is a radiant event, but it causes fear among the women. At the sight of these men, angels, they bow with their faces to the earth. Then the angels speak the beautiful, significant words that testify that He should not be sought among the dead. He is “the living One”. The old has ended, a new era has begun.

It is unthinkable to find anything of the living One among the dead. What is connected with life is of a totally different order than what is connected with death. The first testimony of the resurrection of Christ comes from the mouth of an angel. Because He is raised, He is no longer in the tomb. God has fully accepted His work and has found His joy in raising Him from the dead. Said with respect, God could not have done anything else. His Son has accomplished the work commissioned to Him perfectly, so His resurrection is an act of God’s righteousness. The angel does not say any of this, but we know it from the rest of the New Testament and especially from Paul’s letters.

The angels also remind the women of what the Lord Himself has said. So they could have known better. The angels also quote the words He spoke to them when He was still in Galilee. Then the light breaks through in their thoughts.

The memory of His words gives them the conviction and boldness and strength to testify to it to others. There is no talk of works of power. Luke always emphasizes the words of the Lord. As Christians, we have nothing but the Word of God. We are called to believe in it.

Response of the Disciples

The women turn their backs on the tomb and go to the eleven disciples and all who are with them to tell them what they have experienced. The three women who were at the tomb are mentioned by name. They have seen the empty tomb and together they bear witness to the events before the apostles. But the apostles cannot be convinced. On the contrary, they call what the women say “nonsense”, foolishness, and they do not believe them. The disciples are believers, but they are not open to the Word. What they hear does not fit into their thinking.

Although they don’t believe what the women say, one of the apostles, Peter, wants to take a look in the tomb. He runs to the womb. When he stoops and looks in the tomb, he sees the linen wrappings only. What he sees in the tomb speaks of peace and order. That is all. With Peter it doesn’t come further than marveling at what happened. He returns in his own circumstances, without the Word and what he has seen having any effect. In this way, the Word can also pass us by in a meeting without doing anything to us.

On the Way From Jerusalem to Emmaus

What is needed to come to the conviction of the truth of God’s Word is that the Lord Himself touches our hearts. We see that in the next history that we only find in this Gospel written by Luke. “That very day”, that is the day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, two of His disciples are going from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jerusalem has nothing more to offer them. Everything is over. They also leave the company of the believers. To them it no longer makes sense. Just like Peter, they go away, home.

Their thoughts are still full of all that has happened. It all made a deep impression. It is beautiful as followers of the Lord to share the things we have experienced. It is even more beautiful if the basis for this is Scripture and not just feelings.

The Lord Jesus Joins Them

Because their hearts are busy with the good things, the most beautiful thing happens: the Lord Jesus approaches them and travels with them. He has a resurrection body that is of a different nature than the body of His humiliation. Yet He is the same Person. We too may be concerned with the Lord’s things, but that in our thinking we are not on the right path. Then He wants to come to us to get our thinking back on the right path. In this case, He makes sure that the two disciples do not recognize Him. This is necessary so that they may pour out their whole heart before Him. He invites them to say what concerns them.

The disciples stand still, astonished and with sad faces. How can anyone be so ignorant about things that are so significant to them! They are so deeply involved in the events that they cannot imagine that there is anyone who knows nothing about it. They do not exchange the latest news in a neutral way. They are intensely grieved because of what has happened. It has touched them and keeps them occupied.

One of the two, of whom Luke gives the name, while keeping the name of the other hidden, does not understand why this Stranger asks about the events. Is He not aware of everything that has happened in Jerusalem in the last few days? Surely that cannot be true, can it? Everyone knows about it and talks about it.

The Report of Events

With a friendly question “what things?” the Lord invites them to tell Him what may have happened. Immediately they talk to Him about “Jesus the Nazarene”, the Man of Nazareth. Their hearts are still full of Him. They have been impressed by Him as a Prophet. What He has shown and told makes it clear that God has been present and working in Him for the benefit of His people. They have become convinced of that. Apparently, their faith did not go any further. They have not yet seen in Him the Son of God about Whom death has no power to hold Him. For them, therefore, His death means the end of His history and thus of their hope.

They tell what “the chief priests and our rulers“ have done to Him and how that has shattered all their hopes for the redemption of Israel. They do not blame the Romans for His death, although they are certainly partly to blame. They didn’t think this was possible. They do not understand how God could have allowed their leaders to assault Christ and kill Him. They have hoped, just like their leaders, for a glory without suffering; but unlike their leaders they have seen the Messiah in the Lord Jesus.

But their expectations that He went to Jerusalem to sit down there on the throne of His father David, have no ground in Scripture. Such unfounded expectations, which do not come true, have led several people to turn their backs on faith and return to the world. This can happen if Christian work does not deliver what we expected of it or if the preaching of the gospel does not deliver result, or if the community of believers disappoints us.

Christ meets all disappointment by presenting Himself to us. If we see Him as the center of God’s counsel, we will be saved from putting something else at the center. The latter always leads to disappointment. They focus on Israel and their own importance. With us it can be something else.

And it’s already the third day since it happened and still they can’t understand that it ended like this. With all their questions about the course of events, which was so disappointing for them, they tell about another shocking event. Some women “among us” have caused this, women from among the disciples, in other words women they know and who also love the Lord. Those women were early at the tomb. When they came to the tomb, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Something else happened, at least so they stated. They said that they had seen a vision of angels and those angels had said that He is alive. That was very special news. Also, some “of those who were with us“ – these are Peter and John (Jn 20:3-8) – went to the tomb immediately after these words. And it was exactly as the women had said. But Him they did not see. So the mystery is not solved. A gap has really been made in their expectations. First by His rejection and then by the announcement that He would live anyway, but whereof there is no evidence to be found.

Reproof and Teaching of the Lord

After these expressions of their deep disappointment, the Lord takes the floor. From His words, we learn that disappointed expectations in our perceptions of His actions arise from not reading or not reading well and believing what Scripture says. He reproves them for this with the words “foolish men and slow of heart to believe”.

A foolish person is one who does not use his mind and therefore does not grasp things he should understand. So Paul also speaks to the Galatians who, against their better judgment, wanted to reintroduce the law (Gal 3:1; 3). However, it is not only a question of the mind, but also of the heart. Their heart is slow, almost unwilling, to believe. They have read in the prophets what they have all said, but it has not entered in their heart. That is because they read the prophets only in view of the glorious time for Israel. They read selectively, but only the passages that pleased them came through to them.

If they had believed “all” that the Scripture says, they would have known that the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus are the foundation of His future glory. He Himself has time and again clearly foretold that He first had to suffer and that He in that way will enter into His glory. Suffering must necessarily precede glory. The Lord puts it as a question to make it clear to their minds and hearts.

Then the two disciples receive the most brilliant teaching they have ever received on earth from the Scripture. The Lord Himself begins to explain to them what is written about Him in all the Scriptures. He does so in the order of Scripture itself. He begins with the books of Moses, then continues with all the prophets. With this, the Lord gives an example for all explanation of the Scriptures.

Explanation of the Scripture only deserves that name when is explained what is written about Him in the Scriptures. He is the center of the Scripture. Everything relates to Him or is in connection with Him. Let us also remember that the Lord has explained the Old Testament. It is a stimulus for us to also occupy with that part of God’s Word in order to discover the glory of the Lord Jesus there.

The Lord Makes Himself Known

Walking and speaking they approached the village where they are on their way to. Time will have flown by. The Lord is about to bid farewell. He does not insist, but tests whether there is a desire to invite Him. This appears to be the case with Cleopas and his companion. They urge Him to stay with them. They express their wish in those wonderful words that the Savior would also like to hear from us: “Stay with us”, and to which He likes to respond.

By the way, it is also getting toward evening, the day is nearly over. When there is a meeting with the Lord, the day is nearly over. The world around them becomes darker and darker as the light in their heart and home is enlightened by His presence. The Lord goes in with them. He does not seek shelter just for one night, but He seeks them. He wants to stay with them to never leave again. And they seek Him, for they would like to hear more of this Stranger about Him Who, despite His disappearance, has become more dear to them because by what He has told them.

As soon as the Lord has accepted the invitation and entered with them, He does not take the place of Guest, but of Host. What normally is done by him who invites, the Lord does of His own accord, without asking permission. He takes the bread for dinner, He blesses, He breaks it, and He distributes it to those who have invited Him and with whom He is a Guest.

This is not the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, because that happens when the church comes together, i.e. in church context. The Lord also says nothing about thinking of Him, doing in remembrance of Him. He simply breaks the bread for the meal. Yet it is not an ordinary act, but His act. He breaks the bread to make Himself known to His disciples, because His breaking of the bread here means He has surrendered Himself into death.

The moment He breaks the bread and gives it to them, the covering of their eyes is taken away, and they see Who He is. Their eyes are opened and they recognize Him. At the same time He vanishes from their sight. With this He indicates that their relationship with Him has now come on another basis. Namely, He has become the object of faith (2Cor 5:7). It is no longer a visible Messiah, but for faith He is as real as if He were physically, visibly, present. How real is our faith? Wouldn’t it really make any difference in practice if He were physically present?

The two disciples are not surprised that the Lord is suddenly invisible. They now understand the situation because they have understood His teaching. He spoke to their heart that first was so slow. He has made it burning for Him. That’s what they say to each other.

When he spoke to them on the road, he addressed their heart [literally: “our heart”, singular], which is in the same mind, when He opened the Scriptures to them. This is more than just opening and reading the Bible. It is to explain the Scriptures and to give them their true meaning. The teaching of Scripture has the consequence that we understand Scripture. That will do a work in our heart. By listening together to the teaching from God’s Word in which things are connected to the Lord Jesus, the hearts of all are melted together into one heart.

Back to Jerusalem

After this wonderful discovery and experience, their whole disappointment has turned into great joy. They have to share this with the other disciples. They no longer think of Him as the One of Whom they hoped He would redeem Israel. There is still a long way to go before the redemption of Israel has actually come. In that respect, nothing had changed.

However, they have seen the resurrected Lord and through the teaching of God’s Word they have understood that the Lord’s way to glory had to go through suffering. As a result their faith and hope have become alive and sound and they go to tell the disciples about it. They want to share this. With us it is the same. Everything we have seen in the Word of the Lord Jesus will have an effect on our life. It will make us witnesses, this is inevitable.

When they have arrived in Jerusalem they find the eleven apostles gathered together with a number of others. Before the two from Emmaus can give their enthusiastic testimony, the others already call that the Lord has risen. For it is already known to them through Peter, for the Lord has appeared to him.

We see how quickly the testimonies of the Lord’s resurrection multiply. We hear, as it were, a song from the one answered by others and vise versa on the theme of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus in which the personal encounters with Him are sung. How beautiful it would be if this aspect were to be discussed frequently in the Christian meetings. This may literally happen by singing songs; it may also happen in personal testimonies.

After the warm welcome, the two also tell of their meeting with the Lord and how He is recognized by them in that action that has spoken to their heart. He spoke to them in a different way and revealed Himself to them. With them it is the act that speaks of His death. They share that with the others.

Appearance to the Disciples

When the hearts are full of the Lord Jesus and the experiences of encounters with Him are exchanged, it is inevitable that He Himself enters in the midst there. He shows Himself to them and speaks the comforting and encouraging words: “Peace be to you.” The reaction of the disciples who see Him for the first time is not encouraging for the Lord. They become afraid of Him and think they see a spirit. They have heard the stories of the others, but haven’t met Him yet. As in previous meetings, the Lord must first lower a barrier of unbelief. There is no spontaneous joy.

He asks them why they are troubled and why doubts do arise in their hearts. He asks these questions because He could have expected a different reaction. Haven’t they already heard several testimonies of His resurrection? Why did they not believe it? But He helps them. He shows them His hands and His feet. In them the wounds of the cross are still visible and they will be visible forever. He will be known by it forever. It is the proof that it is He Himself. He does not send anyone else who tells about His wounds, but He shows them Himself.

He invites them to touch Him and to convince themselves that they do not see a spirit appearance, but a Man. He is still Man after His resurrection and true Man and that He will be forever. He has flesh and bones. He doesn’t speak of blood because He shed it once for all.

The Lord makes His words follow by showing His hands and His feet. He emphasizes with this that He, Who stands before them here as the Living One, is the same as the One Who went doing good (with His hands) through the land (with His feet) (Acts 10:38), with the result that He was hanged on the cross and died there.

Then the disciples’ fear turns into joy. It is a joy of their heart and not of their mind. A wave of joy goes through them, their hearts are overwhelmed, but their minds cannot yet grasp it. They hear and see their Lord, but it is still so unreal. The last thing they saw of Him was that He hung dead on the cross, tortured and completely exhausted. For days they have been walking around with this image in their thoughts and now He suddenly stands here as the Risen One in a glorified body in front of them. Certainly, it is He, yet it cannot be true.

The Lord meets them even further in their great amazement. He wants to give them the certainty that it is really He Himself and that He is real. He asks if they have anything to eat. They have. They have a piece of a broiled fish, which they give Him. The broiled fish speaks of the judgment He underwent. The Lord takes it and eats it before their eyes, to convince them that what they perceive is all true. They don’t dream.

The Great Commission

Then the Lord reminds them of the words He spoke to them while He was still with them. With this He points to the time when He travelled through the land together with them. He is with them now, but in a completely different relationship. He will no longer travel with them through the land. Everything that is written about Him in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms, that is, in the whole Old Testament, is fulfilled. In fact, everything that relates to the future has yet to become reality, but He has laid the foundation for it on the cross. It is only a matter of time that it is also seen and the circumstances are as described.

The Lord opens the minds of the disciples, and what they did not understand before, they understand now (1Jn 5:20). He is no longer with them in the same way, but the Word of God always remains with them. That will be the basis of their existence and actions. The Word of God grants Divine authority to all that has happened and to all that is yet to happen.

Then the Lord cites the core of what is written. The core is that He, the Christ of God, the Messiah, the Anointed, had to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. Through His suffering He has taken away everything that is not in harmony with God. By His resurrection on the third day He opened a new world in which everything is completely in accordance with God. In this world there is room for every person who wants to participate in it.

Those people must be invited, they must hear about it. Therefore He commissions His disciples to preach the gospel of God’s grace. He grants them the authority of His Name. They do not come with a self-conceived message, but with the message of grace of the risen Son of Man. In the power of that Name and with the authority of that Name, they may preach repentance through which those who obey it will receive forgiveness of sins. The work for it has been accomplished by Him. This work extends to all nations and is not limited to Jerusalem and Israel.

He wants them to start their preaching in Jerusalem. That makes grace even greater. They must begin with the preaching of grace in the place where the most terrible sin makes forgiveness all the more necessary. Jerusalem is also a child of wrath (Eph 2:2) and stands on the same basis as the Gentiles. The Lord establishes the principle which Paul will later act upon: the Jew first and then the Gentiles (Rom 1:16).

He can precisely send those to whom He says this, for they can speak as eyewitnesses. No one will be able to tell them that it is different, for they have seen Him with their own eyes and heard Him with their own ears. In order to act as a witness, two things are needed, both of which are present here. They must be able to say, ‘That’s it, for we have seen it’ and also, ‘That’s how it had to be, for that’s how God said it in His Word.’

Before they can obey the commission, they need something else, and that is the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. No strength is needed to take their place before God. Through the work of Christ they are in Him before God and God sees them in Christ (Eph 1:6). To take their place before men and to testify against them, strength indeed is needed. That strength is, and is given by, the Holy Spirit. The Lord promises them that He will send Him. He calls the Holy Spirit here “the promise of My Father”. The Holy Spirit is promised by the Father. When the Lord Jesus is back with the Father, He will send upon them what the Father has promised.

Here it says “I am sending forth … upon you” because the Holy Spirit is presented by the Lord as a robe that comes over them from above. The Holy Spirit certainly comes in them too, but with a view to their service He also comes over or upon them. He will clothe them with strength, so that they may testify fearlessly of the Savior. In themselves they have no strength, but He will give them the necessary strength.

The Ascension

Forty days later, the Lord leads them outside Jerusalem. He blesses them not from Jerusalem, but from the place where He has always been together with those who love Him, that remnant that has attached itself to Him and that is dear to Him. In addition, Jerusalem has become a place to which testimony must be given.

Outside the city, there near Bethany, the beautiful end of this Gospel takes place. It is a beautiful end because it is not a real end. It is a farewell with a rich promise, a farewell with the view of an open heaven, a farewell to a Savior Who blesses them and continues to bless them even when they no longer see Him with their natural eyes.

As the Lord blesses them, there comes a distance between Him and them. He is received into heaven by the power of God. The Man Jesus Christ goes back to the place He never left as the eternal Son of God and that He has never taken as Man. Now He goes there as Man. While blessing them, He takes leave of them, without really leaving them.

Worship and Praise

The disciples have not lost the Lord. He has now only become the object of faith. The first thing they do, after He is carried up, is worship Him. That is the characteristic activity of the believer in this time of physical absence of the Lord.

After their worship of Him Who alone is worthy of being worshiped because He is God, they return to Jerusalem. There is no longer any fear or sorrow. They are overwhelmed with joy. Their Lord is the great Conqueror. They were not mistaken in Him. Completely convinced of the greatness and glory of His Person and attracted by His grace they go to the temple.

The final scene of this Gospel, as well as the opening scene, takes place in the temple (Lk 1:8-23). But the difference is great. There, in the beginning, it was a question of fulfilling the obligations of the law by a priest who was Godfearing, but who also showed unbelief and was punished with muteness. He did not believe and could not speak. Here, at the end, we find ourselves under an opened heaven, on the foundation of grace after a finished work to the glory of God. The mouths open to praise to God. These disciples form the core of a new generation of priests.

This Gospel brought us from the law to grace and from earth to heaven. It begins with a single man who cannot speak, it ends with a crowd who cannot remain silent.

What a brilliant ending to an overwhelming Gospel in which the riches of grace are presented in an unsurpassable way in the Person Who transcends everything and everyone.

“My beloved is dazzling and ruddy,
Outstanding among ten thousand“ (Song 5:10).

“You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips” (Psa 45:2).

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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