[Luke 24] He is Not Here. He is Risen! In the closing chapter of the gospel of Luke we find Jesus interacting and announcing Himself to His amazed followers. He imparts to them the opening of their eyes and privileges them to witness His ascension into Heaven. For all the message of the gospel that is preached, this narrative is at its very core, emphasizing for us the centrality of the resurrection and its implications upon men and upon us in a very personal way.
[Luk 24:1-24 KJV] 1 Now upon the first [day] of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain [others] with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words, 9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary [the mother] of James, and other [women that were] with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. 12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. 13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem [about] threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? 18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found [it] even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
In chapter 23 we find Jesus brutalized, crucified and His body laid in a borrowed tomb. It was the day before Sabbath, so the women waited for the following morning to go and complete the preparation of His body from the day before that had only been handled in haste. Verse 1 says that on the FIRST day of the week, very early in the morning they came to the sepulcher. In the Old Covenant God gave men the seventh day of the week, in the New Covenant He gave us the first day of the week. This was to be the custom of the disciples in the early church and should answer for us the pernicious question that has disrupted the church for centuries: what day should we worship. Acts 20:7 states plainly that in the beginning, it was the custom of the church led by the apostle Paul to come together on the first day of the week to take the Lord’s supper. In 1 Cor. 16:2, decades later, we find the church continuing to gather on the first day of the week for fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. Never let anyone judge you in regard to what day of the week was the day that one should worship, or for that matter whether or not it is acceptable to call Jesus “Jesus” instead of calling Him “Yeshua” as many insist you must do if you are going to “really be spiritual”. This borders on modern day legalism. The writers of the New Testament wrote the original manuscripts in Greek, and in writing in Greek would have used the Greek form of Jesus’ name which in anglicized form would be the English “Jesus”. The early church provably met together throughout its history not on Saturday but on Sunday in commemoration of what happened on the first day of the week, namely what we read here in Luke 24.
When the women come to the tomb, to their dismay they find the stone rolled away that had been placed there by the guard who were tasks with keeping the body secure by Herod’s personal guard. On seeing this, the women could only have presumed the body had been stolen for some reason they knew not. As they are standing, perplexed at the scene two men in shining apparel appear next to them. They didn’t walk up from beyond in the garden, they simply appeared, one minute not there and the next minute right next to them. You can always count on an angel to make an entrance! The women bow themselves with their faces to the earth and the angels address them saying, “why seek the living from among the dead? He is not here, He is risen…” The news could not be more astounding to these faithful followers who had witnessed His death in such a brutal fashion at Golgotha.
It is of note to remark on the faithfulness of these three women. One was Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven devils. Joana was also there of whom the scriptures tell us little regarding who she was. There was also Mary the mother of James and “other women with them also”. We see then that in Luke’s account there were a score of women who braved the phalanx of soldiers guarding the body to give Jesus the very last honors that they intended to be able to show Him in preparing His savaged body for its long repose in a borrowed tomb. Where were the men? The men certainly knew about the women’s errand. They also knew that the women would be confronted by the soldiers of Herod. Why did they remain behind? This shows us that the character of the women in their devotion to Jesus exceeded that of the men who in despondency would not even have the decency to escort these faithful ladies to care for the deceased form of the son of God.
The women after speaking with the angels, hurry to where the 11 were to be found and tell them what they had experienced. Notice the disregard these men were so quick to demonstrate not only toward the women, but toward the idea that anything miraculous had taken place. Verse 11 says that to the men, the women’s words were just an idle tale that they had made up, therefore they believed not. We now see that it was a woman, or a group of women who were the first to preach a resurrected Christ. Something in their words jarred Peter, and he runs to the tomb to see if perhaps something was amiss that he needed to take note of.
He likewise finds the body missing and the linens wrappings of the body laid by themselves. Something about the disposition of these grave clothes was notable to the writers of the gospel because of the mention they make of them. It is possible that the body of Jesus simply passed through them when He arose, leaving them empty, laid as they had been when He was yet laid out in the burial niche. Nonetheless Peter is unconvinced but wondering, what had possibly come to pass.
If this had been the end of the story, the church might never had been born, and we would have yet been in our sins. Jesus however was nearby. As two men, disciples of Jesus were on their way to the village of Emmaus, Jesus drew near them, although they did not know Him when they saw Him. They took Him for a stranger, and filled Him in on all the events surrounding the triumphal entry, consequent arrest, trial and crucifixion of their Lord. Jesus listens politely as they recounted their experiences and then addresses them:
[Luk 24:25-53 KJV]
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed [it], and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things [were done] in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them [his] hands and [his] feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took [it], and did eat before them. 44 And he said unto them, These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
You would think that Jesus would be more solicitous of the amazement of these disciples. Instead of initially kind words He calls them fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. In making this statement Jesus is connecting the words of the prophets with the message of His resurrection. More than any other emphasis, the use of the prophetic books is not so much intended to tell us who the anti-Christ should be, or when the end of the world should come, but more importantly they point to the resurrected Christ. They point to a suffering savior paying the price for the sins of the world.
Jesus goes on in v. 26 to declare to them and reason with them concerning the necessity of the suffering of the Christ, as the Old Testament scriptures validated in terms of why the Messiah would come. The Jews only saw the reigning Messiah as a political and military figure that would reconstitute the glory of Solomon’s reign in Judea. They did not see the Savior of the world suffering for the sins of humanity. To this day the Jews interpret the suffering savior verses of the law and the prophets not pointing to Jesus but pointing to them as a nation. They believe that they as a nation are suffering for the sins of the world. What a travesty that to this day the blinders of unbelief that caused them to reject Jesus in the first place are still holding them bound in a lost condition. Some have insisted that to be born Jewish is the same as being born again. This is not true. One day the prophets declare the Jewish people will have their eyes opened and they will look on Him whom they have pierced and say “blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord…”
Jesus, hidden to these men, walks with them along they way, expounding to them the message of His death, burial and resurrection as the necessary plan of God to pay for the sins of the world. Toward evening the two disciples bid Jesus to spend the night and share a meal with them. As they sit at meat Jesus takes the bread and blessing it causes their eyes to be opened to realize who He is. Why did He choose this moment to do this? He is emphasizing for us the importance and the primacy of the covenant meal that is the second ordinance of the church after baptism. Jesus never baptizes any of His followers although it is sure that most of them were indeed baptized by John or the disciples of John before this point. He does however on two occasions break the resurrection bread with His followers.
He is still opening the eyes of the blind in the bread and the cup today, if we can receive it. He wants us to know how important this is as a point of contact connection you and I with the events of His death, burial and resurrection in a very personal way.
Jesus vanishes from their sight and they realize in a moment what has actually happened. They marvel that they had not known Him, for did not their hearts burn within them as they spoke with Him by the way? Here again is a different experience regarding how Jesus shared with them His own word. This is different than how He taught on the mount of Olives or at other times previously. The unction of the Spirit is here in a different dispensational manifestation that has never been seen before. The witness of the Spirit now attends the message of the resurrection, even in the words of Jesus Himself. The two men return in haste to Jerusalem and declare how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
As these witnesses were first sharing these things with the 11 in hiding, Jesus appears to them, standing in their midst. Here again as with the angels at the tomb, Jesus is not there one moment and the next moment He stands among them. They are terrified but He says “Peace be unto you…” They are yet to believe but now Jesus says “handle Me, and see”. Up to this point they think He is a spirit according to their superstitions regarding such things. He is no mere disembodied spirit. He is alive, in flesh and bone and He invites them to handle Him and see that He is as they are – a flesh and blood man delivered from the grave by the glory of God as they too will also be delivered having believed in what He is manifesting to them in this moment. To underscore His point, Jesus asks for food and eats before them a fish and some honey comb to prove that they were not hallucinating. He then recounts to those present what He had declared to the two men on the road to Emmaus. Now remember that they are in the room and had begun to tell the story when Jesus suddenly appears. It is almost as though Jesus wants to tell it Himself therefore He interrupts them as though to say “fellows – let Me tell it!”
Jesus then opens their understanding and speaks to them of the need to tarry in the city for the promise from on High. He isn’t just appearing to bid them farewell.
He comes bearing gifts, even the gift of the Holy Ghost that will be poured out just a few days later. We might ask ourselves have we in our conversion tarried in Jerusalem till we be endued with power from on High? Jesus leads the men back out to Bethany, where He cursed the fig tree, and where He stayed many nights over the years and months in coming and going from Jerusalem. He gathers them together, we know from other accounts now numbering about 500 souls. He blesses them, lifting up His hands over them in benediction and as they watch, He is carried to heaven and is parted. What did that look like? No doubt He is lifted up and disappears in the sky above. They then worshipped Him. Here is the first worship service. There are no instruments. No sound system or lighting engineers. No smoke machines or platform performers. Just the first witnesses of a mighty cloud of witnesses whose impact upon humanity will change the world forever because of who Jesus now is to them, their Lord, their Savior and their God.
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