The Discipler's Commentary
Luke Chapter 24

Return to Chapter 23 ••• Bottom of Page ••• Continue to the Conclusion

Overview of Luke 24

Chapter 24 is the last chapter in Luke’s gospel and focuses on the resurrection of Jesus. He records only three of the many post-resurrection appearances of Jesus: the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the disciples gathered together in a room somewhere in Jerusalem, and the disciples and others who watched His ascension into heaven on the Mount of Olives. (The other gospel writers record other post-resurrection appearances, and the apostle Paul sums them up in 1 Corinthians 15.) During His first appearance to all the disciples, Jesus proves that He is not a ghost or spirit by eating in front of them and allowing the disciples to touch Him. Luke ends his gospel by recording important words concerning the Old Testament, and begins to introduce the disciples to the concept of “one Messiah, two comings.” Luke’s final words record the reaction of the disciples to being witnesses of the resurrection, and their willingness to consider Him worthy of their worship.

What to look for in Luke 24

  1. Begin by praying and asking what God can tell you personally from this chapter.
  2. Observe the reaction of all those who first encountered Jesus after He had risen. Were they glad to see Him, or were they surprised to see Him alive?
  3. Observe the reaction of the women and of Peter when they discovered the tomb was empty. How did they find the linens Jesus had been wrapped in?
  4. As you read the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, carefully observe what Jesus talked about with those disciples.
  5. Look for the physical proof that Jesus was not a spirit or a ghost.
  6. When Jesus was with the disciples, what did He spend most of His time doing?
  7. Look for the message that Jesus wanted His disciples to tell everyone about concerning His death and resurrection. Look also for their response to Jesus having “opened their minds.”

24:1-3 The resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal turning point in human history. Although Elijah raised the widow’s young son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-34), and Jesus raised many from the dead (e.g., Luke 7:11-17), He is the only one who was raised from the dead directly by the hand of God the Father Himself (e.g., Acts 4:10). The resurrection of Jesus Christ put an eternal stamp of validation on everything He taught, including death, hell and judgment, and more importantly, how we should live and treat one another today. His resurrection eviscerates the power of the law and replaces it with the new commandment to love one another. His resurrection brings with it an end to the sting of death, and serves as a death knell for Satan’s power over those who choose to follow Jesus. It signaled the beginning of the end of Satan’s rule over the world, and guaranteed his final defeat. As the apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised…your faith also is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14); that is, Christians have been horribly deceived, are following the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind, and remain captive to Satan and responsible for sin. But because of Jesus’ resurrection, the promise of the forgiveness of sins becomes a reality. Communion (the Lord’s Supper) is transformed from a mere ritual to an eternal promise. And, as Paul states in Corinthians, those who are “in Christ…will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). As a result, God has “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph. 2:6 & 1:21). Thus, for those who are in Christ, there is no longer fear of death or eternal judgment…there is only “you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

None of Jesus’s disciples believed any of this on that first day of the week. Nor did the women who rose before dawn to complete Jesus’ burial. The reader must remember that the first day of the week, Sunday, actually began at sunset on Saturday. Therefore, the remaining spices, oils and perfumes necessary for burial preparation were probably purchased the evening before. Thus, by dawn the women were anxious to complete Jesus’ burial, as it wouldn’t take long for His body to begin to decay and smell of death.

There may have been anywhere from five to seven women who traveled together to the tomb. One cannot imagine the emotional upheaval they were in. Their savior, their hoped-for Messiah, was dead. The one whom they loved and had followed for three years was now a victim of outrageous injustice. They had lost all hope. Their only motive for caring for Jesus’ body was out of love for their Messiah and empathy for Jesus’ mother. According to all the gospels, the women named were Mary Magdalene, Joanna (the wife of Clopas, Herod’s steward), Mary the mother of James (the Less), and Salome, the mother of James and John. There were probably others. Some of these women knew that guards had been posted, so there was no need to take men with them to roll away the stone covering the entrance to the tomb (cave). And, because the tomb was officially sealed by Roman authority, none of Jesus’ disciples would have been allowed to open the tomb anyway. Unfortunately, when the women arrived, they found no guards. Matthew records that “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it,” causing the guards to shake “for fear of him and became like dead men” (Matt. 28:2-4). (Matthew continues to explain that the absentee guards reported what had happened and were bribed by the chief priests to spread the rumor that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body during the night [28:11-15]).

Fortunately for the women—at the same time, somewhat perplexing—the stone was already rolled away. Assuming this was their good fortune, some of them entered the tomb to begin final preparations of the body. To their shock, Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found.

24:4-6a That this faithful group of women “were perplexed about this” is probably an understatement. In the Greek, the word “perplexed” comes from a root meaning “to lose one’s way”; in other words, they became quite confused, wondering what to do next. None of them suggested that He has actually risen; they probably assumed the guards had taken the body to another location. While puzzling among themselves what was going on, “two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing.” Matthew identifies them as angels. The word for “dazzling” is the same root word for lightning, and is found only here and in the transfiguration (Luke 17:24). In other words, the angels appeared as men but their garments indicated they were angels. That the “two men suddenly stood near them” indicates that they appeared out of nowhere, an instant manifestation from a spiritual dimension to a temporal one. As can be expected, “the women were terrified,” resulting in immediate genuflexion to the ground. One can only imagine how their hearts were racing, becoming nearly breathless out of fear.

One of the angels asks the women a rhetorical question that is full of spiritual meaning: “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” Luke alone records this question, and John records none of the words the synoptic writers include. Instead, John focuses entirely on Mary Magdalene’s experience. Skeptics of the resurrection will pounce upon these so-called “inconsistencies” as proof that the entire resurrection story was fabricated by the early church, referred to as a “myth” by liberal theologians. The differences in accounts, however, can be easily explained. The reader should remember that only the essential events and words needed to be recorded. Each writer includes the elements of the angelic encounter that he feels are most pertinent to the incident. Note, too, that there are actually no inconsistencies; just additions or subtractions from the encounter, as the gospel writer thought best. Most importantly, all but John include the most important words: “He is not here, but He has risen.” Instead of these words, John records the first appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, which in itself proves the words.

24:6b-10 It is the angels themselves who begin what we now call “Christian education.” They recall for the women Jesus’ prior sayings. Luke has carefully placed these in his account (see 9:12, 14; 18:31-33) and, by recording the words of the angels, is reminding the reader what Jesus said earlier. That the women “remembered His words” is a simple matter of recall, and they probably had no idea of the powerful implication of the words “He is risen.” Nor, of course, did the disciples, as Luke will show at the end of his gospel.

24:11-12 Has the reader noticed that in all the records of the resurrection, it is the women who were first told and believed “He is risen”? As verse 11 states, the men put no faith in their report of an empty tomb. There is a wonderful bit of irony here. In Jewish culture, the testimony of a woman was not as valued as the testimony of a man. Women were rarely called upon in Jewish courts as witnesses. Yet it is to the women that the fact of the resurrection is first proclaimed, and it is a woman, Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus first appears (John 20:11-18). The word translated “nonsense” is found only here in the New Testament, and is a medical term that means “delirium” or “hysteria.” The phrase “would not believe them” is so constructed that the clear implication is that the women kept trying to convince the disciples but the disciples kept refusing to believe their story! (Not an uncommon scenario even today. How many believing wives keep praying for their unbelieving and skeptical husbands?)

Verse 12 is a synopsis of what John records in detail in John 20:2-10. It was John and Peter who first ran to the tomb. John records that he outran Peter, but on arriving at the tomb, it was Peter who first peered in. They observed the tomb to be empty and the linen cloths lying in one piece. That is, unlike Lazarus who came out of his tomb still wrapped, Jesus’ linens were lying there as if the body had just vanished. It is also interesting to note that no angels appeared to Peter and John. Their first encounter would have to be with Jesus Himself.

There is much to be gained from observing the slowness of the disciples—especially Peter—to believe that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. John states that he himself believed quite early (20:8). It is Peter who is having the problem. Later that same day, Jesus Himself will appear to two of the disciples on their way to Emmaus (as we will see in a moment). Peter refuses to believe until Jesus actually appears in the upper room, and he sees Him for himself. Perhaps there is a lesson here on willingness to believe the testimony of others. The women who came to the tomb in the early dawn immediately believed the words of the angels. Mary Magdalene certainly believed, and Jesus Himself appeared to her. In fact, Matthew records that Jesus appeared to all of the women on their way from the tomb (28:9). Why? Because they believed the angels, and they believed because in their hearts, they still wanted to be with Jesus. And even after Peter receives the report from the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he refused to believe, the other disciples probably taking his lead (Mark 15:13). Perhaps that is why Mark includes the statement, “He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 15:14). This will become an important lesson for Peter, who not too many years later will encounter the apostle Paul and listen to his account on the road to Damascus. The mandate to believe will become a theme in Peter’s sermons in Acts.

The willingness to believe is often based, not only on the desire to believe, but on the need to believe. It is quite possible that the women desired and needed to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Remember verse 8 in this chapter? It states, “And they remembered His words.” They instantly remembered because there remained in their hearts a faint glimmer of hope even though they had all the reasons to not believe and to give up all hope. It was hope that sustained their flickering belief in Jesus’ words, and it was hope that reignited their belief when the angels announced, “He is risen.” And, because they believed, Jesus appeared to them. Not so with Peter. Peter had given up because Peter was putting all his hopes in the wrong place. What was the difference between the women’s hopes and Peter’s hope? The answer is quite simple, really. Peter was focused on a new kingdom, the restoration of Israel and God’s people. But not so the women. The women were focused on Jesus Himself. Whereas Peter’s hope was focused on a thing, the women’s hope was focused on the Person. The women wanted to see Jesus; Peter wanted to see a kingdom. The women mourned for the loss of the Person; Peter mourned for the loss of his anticipated status in the kingdom. The women simply enjoyed being around Jesus; Peter felt he could benefit personally by Jesus’ presence. This writer believes that Jesus first appeared to the women because they showed more love for Him as a person, and not Him as a conqueror. This point is made clear by the apostle John at the end of his gospel when Jesus asks Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17; italics mine).

24:13 Mark, who wrote his gospel some years before Luke, records an appearance of Jesus to two disciples “on their way to the country” (Mark 16:12-13). Luke provides details of this incident in verses 13-27. Most likely, Luke himself met with at least one of the these disciples, possibly Cleopas (v. 18), and received a firsthand account, thus the exquisite detail. This incident occurred on Sunday, the day of Jesus resurrection, and is the first of three resurrection appearances recorded by Luke in his gospel. This writer believes that there may have been many more post-resurrection appearances that are not recorded in the gospels.

24:14-16 In reality, the “two of them” may not have been two men. “O foolish men” in verse 25 is actually “O foolish ones” in the original text, indicating that it could have been two men, or it could have been a man and a woman, such as husband and wife. For tradition’s sake, the writer will assume it is two men who may have been returning home from the Passover in Jerusalem. They are traveling to a village named Emmaus which is about 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Jerusalem. Its exact location is unknown, although some believe it is present-day Kubeibeh.

The two men are discussing all the events of the past three days: the crucifixion, and what they had heard early in the morning regarding the empty tomb. There is no indication that the travelers assumed Jesus had been resurrected. They are simply discussing the report of the women, and the women’s report to the eleven. In verse 24, they will confirm that John and Peter had gone to the tomb but did not actually see Jesus alive. In other words, these two are themselves having a hard time believing that Jesus has actually risen from the dead and is alive. Note that these two disciples downplay the testimony of the women by attributing their experience to “a vision” and not an actual sighting of angels.

There’s an important lesson here in these disciples having a difficult time believing that Jesus is alive. There are some people who are willing to believe, but will not believe until they have proof for themselves. That is why God still works today through visions, miracles, signs and wonders. Some people just need a sign of some kind to jump-start their faith.

While they are walking, Jesus comes along beside them, although they do not know it is He. That is because “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” This is the third time Luke records that Jesus’ disciples have been prevented by God from understanding Jesus’ words. In 9:45, Luke writes, “But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them….” In 18:34, he writes, “But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.” The root word in both of these verses is krupto, a verb meaning to hide or conceal, and from which we get our English word “cryptology.” And, in all three instances, the subject is the death and resurrection of Jesus…or more specifically, the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ.

There is another important lesson here. There are reasons God prevents followers of Jesus from understanding His complete plan. The first is a matter of maturity; we are not ready to comprehend, and therefore accept, His plan. That is why God does not tell believers everything that’s going to happen in our personal lives. If we knew, we might not like it and therefore might try to change it, thus falling out of His will. Additionally, knowing the future negates the need to live by faith, and faith is a stronger measure of love for God than knowledge. Through His word, God tells believers only what we need to know to live day by day in faith, and only living by faith will result in the fulfillment of His promises to us and through us (“But the righteous will live by his faith” [Hab. 2:4].)

The second reason God does not tell us everything is a matter of timing. Notice that the significance of Jesus’ death is hidden from the disciples before the resurrection; it is only after the resurrection that the significance of the crucifixion is revealed. But the main issue of what has been hidden is not the resurrection…it is the crucifixion. It is the fact that Jesus had to die. Without the death of Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins. Without the shedding of the blood of the Lamb, all mankind remains under the curse of sin. Amongst other things, the resurrection puts a stamp of proof on the significance of Jesus’ death. Only now, after the resurrection, does Jesus return and inform His disciples why He had to die. This will be presented by Luke in the latter part of the chapter.

There is one last lesson that can be gleaned from the principle that God “prevents” His people from understanding certain events. This principle can be applied to the end times and the second coming of Christ. God allows us to lay hold of the promise that Jesus is coming back as the conquering king and that He will establish His kingdom on the earth. And, He gives believers enough information to “be alert” for the events when they actually occur. But all the details and dates are hidden. Therefore, theories and theology of the end times should never become an obstacle to Christian love and fellowship. Christians may come to the very opposite conclusions, but they should still love one another and speak of one another in love and respect.

24:17-20 It should be noted that Jesus appeared beside the two disciples while they were talking about Him. He is on their minds, unlike the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, who probably wasn’t thinking at all about Jesus when he had his encounter. Obviously, Jesus already knows what the two are discussing, but asks them anyway as a way of getting them to declare and define their lack of belief in the resurrection. In other words, Jesus is getting them to admit that they do not believe the words of others that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Cleopas’s answer in verse 18 is a rhetorical one, and a little bit of a put-down. Jesus, therefore, asks Cleopas to elaborate what he knows. What he knows and believes (and does not believe) is this: because Jesus was crucified, he doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, but only that He is simply a man from Nazareth; he doesn’t believe that Jesus was any more than a prophet who, like Elijah, spoke powerful words and performed miracles, signs and wonders; he does believe in God, and that there are many witnesses to Jesus’ deeds; and, he doesn’t believe, obviously, that there has been a resurrection, for his observation ends only with the events surrounding His death.

There is a powerful lesson regarding evangelism here. First, find out what the person believes before presenting to them the truth. A person may be more open to the truth if they are first disarmed concerning their presumptions, false ideas and misinformation. Good questions to ask are, “Is that really true?” or, “What is your source for believing this?” or, “Is that really what the Bible teaches?” Jesus will use a similar device in verse 25 when He demonstrates from Scripture what they have overlooked, and that their assumptions are all wrong because they have failed to clearly understand the teachings of Scripture.

24:21-24 Cleopas goes on to explain himself. His beliefs about who Jesus was are probably not too far from what Peter and the rest of the disciples believed. They all have yet to see the bigger picture that Jesus died to save all people from their sins—redemption on an entirely different level. Like most Jews, their concept of redemption was purely nationalistic, if not national-centristic. It would be Israel alone that would be redeemed, not the whole world. Their disillusionment over the death of Jesus is indicated by the fact that they were “looking sad” (v. 17) and the observation that it has been three days since the crucifixion and, so far as they can tell, Israel remains unredeemed.

However, there is a new wrinkle now. “Some women among us” (meaning followers of Jesus) “amazed us.” The word for “amazed” is exestesan meaning “to knock off balance” or “throw off.” This indicates that something important has happened, but they are unable to put it in context, and certainly not able to conclude that Jesus has been resurrected. The clear implication by Cleopas’s words in verse 23 (“some women” and “seen a vision of angels”) is on the order of, “They are only women who had a moment of hallucination.” In other words, the women were so desperate and hysterical that they reported that Jesus is “alive.” Cleopas even confesses that some of the men (Peter and John, and perhaps a few other disciples) verified the fact that the tomb was empty. (Obviously, only the men could verify the words of the women.) However, because the men “did not see” Him, it is impractical to conclude that Jesus is actually alive. There must be another explanation.

The problem with Cleopas’s failure to conclude that Jesus was resurrected and alive is a common one—wrong expectations. Their first wrong expectation was that Jesus, if He really was the Messiah, wouldn’t allow Himself to be crucified at all. The second wrong expectation is that even if He did, He would immediately rise from the dead and declare Himself king. One can’t be absolutely certain what Cleopas, Peter and the other disciples were expecting should Jesus rise from the dead, but one can assume they believed that Jesus, if He actually rose from the dead, would first appear to them, then present Himself as the conquering king, and immediately manifest Himself in power and glory. Then, accompanied by legions of angels, He would proceed to drive out the Romans, and re-establish the glorious kingdom once attributed to David and Solomon.

The lesson here is powerful in terms of how God reveals His will in our personal lives as well as in interpreting the end times. Many Christians have been led astray or even lost faith because of wrong expectations placed on God. This writer and former pastor has encountered this problem more often than he can count: “If I only have enough faith, faith as a mustard seed, I will…(fill in the blank) be healed / find my soul mate / become prosperous / speak in tongues / find my dream home / become a successful pastor / move that mountain in my life—the list goes on and on. Few believers fill in the blank with expectations like, deny myself more / suffer more for Jesus / experience the joy of persecution / justifiably experience the consequences of my bad choices in life / learn to live by faith / experience the unfathomable riches of God’s grace / be disciplined like a son who is loved by the Father / serve the poor / not be healed but instead die of this disease.

Besides wrong expectations put upon God’s plan concerning our personal lives, there are the wrong expectations regarding the end times: the pre-tribulation rapture, the mid-tribulation rapture, the post-tribulation rapture; that I, of course, will be raptured; that the church will not be present during the tribulation; that the second coming will happen in my lifetime; that the second coming is intrinsically dependent upon what happens in the United States—the list goes on and on. It is one thing to have hope in the second coming of Christ; it is another thing altogether to suppose that our expectations of how it will all pan out are accurate, simply because we are quite certain we have interpreted Scripture correctly. As stated earlier in this commentary, God purposefully hides certain things from our eyes, even the eyes of well-intentioned, well-educated, well-versed believers. There is good reason to believe that God is still in the process of hiding truths from our minds today, especially regarding the end times. Therefore, one can assume that a plethora of firmly believed but wrong expectations abound in the evangelical community today.

So, what is the believer to do? Christians are to live day to day by faith, abide by the word, pray, stay alert, love one another, love one’s neighbor as himself, and participate in good works. It will all work out when God is ready to have it all work out.

24:25-27 Here, Jesus is not calling the two disciples “fools.” There are two Greek words translated fool or foolish. The first can be found in the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus instructs His listeners not to say to another, “You fool…” (Matt. 5:22). The Greek word here is moros, meaning “stupid one.” It is a very derogatory, demeaning and judgmental term. The second word, the word found here and in Galatians 3:1, is anoetos, meaning “without clear and correct thinking” or “not clear minded.” It is not a judgmental or demeaning term.

(As noted earlier, “O foolish men” is an interpretation by the NASB. The more correct rendering is “O foolish ones.”)

There is a slight rebuke by Jesus of the disciples’ failure to fully grasp the Scriptures. They are slow “to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (italics mine). Like most of us, they have seen only what they wanted to see. This is part of the mystery of things hidden: the truths are there in plane sight, but because our eyes have not been opened to see them, they are hidden from our understanding. This principle will be clear to the apostle Paul when it is revealed to him that righteousness comes by faith alone, and that the grafting in of the Gentiles has all along been a part of God’s plan. (E.g., see Romans 4:13-16 and Ephesians 3:8-11, respectively.) Therefore, Jesus takes the disciples on a walk through the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis and ending with the prophets.

The most important element of His teaching, however, is found in verse 26: “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer….” There is not only the fact that the Messiah would suffer, but that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer. Why? Because without the suffering and death of the Messiah, there would be no forgiveness of sins and there would be no defeat of the works of the devil. Therefore, no personal redemption would be available to mankind. In other words, the redemption of Israel, because of her rejection of Jesus the Messiah, would take a back seat to the redemption offered to the rest of the world. As is the common fault of all men, among the disciples in Jesus’ day as well as disciples today, the issue of personal sin must be dealt with. That the Messiah must first suffer will become the keystone of Peter’s messages at Pentecost.

There is one final comment on these verses; note that “He explained to them.” The word “explained” is based upon a Greek word whose English equivalent is “hermeneutics” which means the interpretation of Scripture. Explaining the Scripture should be the goal of every Bible teacher, whether it be in Sunday school for kids or a sermon from the pulpit. The purpose of preaching is to explain the Scriptures in such a way that values, behavior, lifestyle, and relationships are change. It is the only way that “eyes are opened,” and it is through the explanation of Scripture that souls are saved from sin and saints are sanctified for service.

24:28-32 In the final part of their encounter, the men have reached their destination. The scene is set for an evening meal. The location of the meal (inn vs. house) is not stated. Regardless, the men manage to convince their traveling companion that He should delay His journey and stay for a meal. (Notice that the text does not say He went in to eat with them. It states, “He went in to stay with them,” indicating it may have been one of the men’s home, or if a husband and wife, the couple’s home.)

The meal is prepared, and at the serving, Jesus takes the bread and blesses it, breaks it, and begins passing it. It is at this point that “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” It is possible that the two had been present at the feeding of the five thousand (Luke 9:16) or at some other event in which Jesus gave thanks and broke bread. (It was most likely not the Last Supper, as only the twelve were present.) After the two recognize Him, He vanishes before their eyes.

Had Jesus not blessed the bread, broken it and passed it around before He vanished, the men might have assumed they’d seen a vision or had been visited by an angel. It was the breaking of the bread that opened their eyes to Jesus. In this sequence of events, there is a great lesson. As we have seen at other points in the gospel, bread is a symbol of the word and the breaking of bread is a type of giving the word to others. This was the case in the parable of the persistent friend (Luke 11:5-8) and in the feeding of the five thousand. This is confirmed in verse 32: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was speaking to us…explaining the Scriptures to us?” It is the word of God that opens eyes to Jesus.

The result of the encounter was a hasty return to Jerusalem. They must have traveled at night, for a six-mile walk would have taken about two hours. Upon their return, they locate the eleven apostles and other disciples that have gathered with them.

Verse 34 is a bit confusing. Sometime during the day the Lord revealed Himself to Simon Peter (see 1 Cor. 15:5-8). Apparently the two from Emmaus do not know about this. Verse 34 seems at first glance that it is the two from Emmaus who are “saying, ‘The Lord…has appeared to Simon.’” However, the form of the Greek word “saying” indicates that it is the eleven and the others who are making the statement, “The Lord…has appeared to Simon.” A paraphrase of verses 33 and 34 might read, “And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, and they informed the two from Emmaus, ‘What you are reporting is true. The Lord really has risen from the dead, and Simon has seen Him.’”

Another possible interpretation would be to relocate the NASB’s comma so that it reads thusly: “…and found gather together the eleven, and those who were with them were saying, ‘The Lord really has risen….’”

The two from Emmaus then relate in detail their experience with the stranger and that it was only during the breaking of bread that they “recognized” Him.

24:36-37 This is the third and last of three post-resurrection appearances of Jesus as recorded by Luke in his gospel. Luke goes to great length to describe Jesus’ words concerning His resurrected body. This section of the gospel is full of important theological implications, as we will discover in a moment. To grasp the significance of this passage, one must put oneself in the shoes (sandals) of the disciples. Let’s take this verse by verse to grasp the true significance of this appearance.

In verse 36, Jesus “Himself stood in their midst.” The clear teaching here by Luke is that Jesus suddenly appeared out of thin air. One second He wasn’t there; the next, He was. His immediate words are for the purpose of defusing whatever anxiety or fear the disciples might have by His sudden appearance: “Peace be to you.” The reaction of the disciples in verse 37 confirms this: “They were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.” There is no question that other than Peter and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, no one else in the room had seen Jesus. There is enormous cognitive dissonance here, as they were all quite sure Jesus had died on the cross and been buried. (John includes the fact that Thomas was not present.) So their natural conclusion was to assume they were seeing a ghost. What they were seeing is Jesus in His resurrected body. (Jesus will not assume His glorified body until after the ascension.)

Before going into the theological significance of this encounter, we will finish observing the paragraph. Jesus encourages the disciples to examine His hands and feet, and to touch Him. These were where the nails had penetrated. This writer is very familiar with traumatic injury and required recovery and rehabilitation time; there is no possibility that someone suffering the horrific injuries that Jesus suffered would have been able to walk or use His hands in so short a time. Muscle and nerve damage alone would have made Jesus’ hands and feet useless. It is unlikely that weight could have been borne on the feet, or the hands used for prehensile grasping. So this is an amazing scene: the scars are still there but the injuries are not! (John includes the observation that Jesus also showed them His side where the centurion had thrust the spear. This is another remarkable recovery, as there would surely have been damage to the internal organs, as well as a collapsed lung and tear in the heart itself.) The writer finds this extremely interesting that Jesus’ body has been healed except for the scars.

Perhaps this was so to serve as proof to the disciples that who they were seeing was in fact the Lord. Verses 38-40 seem to confirm this observation. Perhaps one of the most important features of this passage is Jesus’ instruction to the disciples to “touch Me….” The word for “touch” in verse 39 is important. There are other Greek words for touching. This word used by Luke (and John in his first letter) means to touch with the intent to examine its composition. In other words, Jesus is encouraging the disciples to examine Him so that they might know He has “flesh and bones.” Touching Jesus’ body would confirm that they were not imagining Jesus’ presence or that He was merely a spirit or ghost. The apostle John will confirm this in his first letter: “…What we have looked at and touched with our hands…” (1 John 1:1; the KJV is actually more accurately translated: “…and our hands handled….”). Again, the theological importance of these observations will become evident in a moment.

The final confirmation that Jesus is not a ghost is found in verses 41-43. Jesus took food and “ate it before them.” It is doubtful that Jesus was hungry. Obviously this act was performed to show that He was real and not transparent. He ate just like any other person would eat.

Thus we have two food types mentioned in this chapter. The breaking of bread in front of the disciples in Emmaus represents distribution of the word of God. Bread always symbolizes the word. The fish, on the other hand, will become a symbol in itself, as the Greek word for fish is ichthys, which became an acrostic for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

Now, for the theological implications of this passage. At the end of the first century, and peaking in the third, there arose a heresy which is now known as Docetic Gnosticism. The word Docetism comes from the Greek word dokeo, meaning “to seem.” Docetism was just one form of Gnosticism, a dualistic, syncretistic Eastern philosophy that considered the material world evil; only light, and therefore enlightened knowledge, were good. Gnostics aspired to mystical knowledge, or “gnosis,” gained from communication with enlightened spiritual beings called “eons.” The Docetics adopted Gnosticism into their belief about the person of Jesus. Because all matter was evil, Jesus therefore, could not have come in bodily form (flesh being evil), could not have died (it only seemed as if He died), and could not have been resurrected from the dead. What the disciples had seen was a spirit being, not a physical being. That is, Jesus did not really have flesh and bones. This means that God Himself could not be in flesh, as flesh is material, and therefore evil. This background is important in studying the Gospel of John and his letters, as Gnosticism was in its early stages when he wrote.

Both Docetism and Gnosticism remain with us today. Docetism, by denying that God could come in human form (thus denial of the Trinity), and Gnosticism, mostly manifesting itself in the New Age movement, and in the secular world, by the implication that Gnostics writings, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Mary, should be considered equally authoritative and accurate as the canonical New Testament. These subversive ideas are plentiful on certain TV channels that specialize in “history,” and always raise doubts about the historical accuracy of the gospels. These doubts are fueled by asking such leading questions as “Is it possible, as some scholars believe…?”

24:44-49 Most likely, verses 44-49 are a brief summary of all the teachings that Jesus gave the disciples over a forty-day period. This writer believes that Jesus met with the disciples on many, many occasions, and explained to them the prophecies of the Old Testament that pointed to His person and His work. (See Acts 1:3 for confirmation.) They can be found in the Law (first five books of the Bible), the prophets (almost all the major and minor prophets that prophesied of the Messiah), and the “Psalms” (which would include the Wisdom literature as well as applicable historical books). Jesus would take these teaching opportunities to remind the disciples of all the sayings, parables, and miracles they had witnessed, and put them in the context of the Old Testament writings. Matthew, particularly, includes an abundance of Old Testament verses when writing his gospel; no doubt, Jesus brought many of these to his mind.

There are six significant statements in verses 44-49. The first is found in verse 44, what has just been mentioned, such as discovering His identity as the Son of David and being the fulfillment of David’s lineage, His birth, His healings, His parables, and the crucifixion. It must have been something to see the disciples begin to put all the pieces together in their minds, and to watch the light bulbs go off. (The right kind of spiritual enlightenment!) The key words in this first statement, verse 44, are “must be fulfilled.” That is, completely fulfilled, and therefore completely fulfilling God’s eternal plan. Such marvelous passages as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 suddenly made sense to the disciples. So it is important to Luke that his readers understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, that all of the Old Testament points to the Messiah, and that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hopes and promises of the God of Israel.

The second significant statement is found in verse 45: “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures….” There is probably a connection between this verse and John’s curious verse in 20:22: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Undoubtedly, John 20:22 is pointing toward the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples. But it is also quite possible that receiving the Holy Spirit is a part of opening their minds to “understand the Scriptures.” Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to teach truth from the word of God. How many times has someone who is not a Christian tried to read and understand the Bible, only to find it incomprehensible? Then, once the person becomes a Christian and receives the Holy Spirit, the word of God suddenly comes to life and makes perfect sense. This writer believes that there is a direct relationship between receiving the Holy Spirit and understanding the Scriptures, and that is illuminated in this passage.

The third significant statement is found in verse 46. Here, Jesus directs the disciples’ attention to His death and resurrection. Of course, Jesus had forewarned the disciples about His death on numerous occasions, the most notable being Luke 18:31-33, followed by the parable recorded in Luke 20:9-18. Jesus is introducing the disciples to the concept of one Messiah, two comings; His first coming mandated suffering through scourging and sacrifice on the cross. But there was a God-directed purpose for this, which is the fourth significant statement, found in verse 47: it was all a part of God’s eternal plan so that the forgiveness of sins could be offered to all mankind.

Here we see the love of God manifested in its most magnificent form: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

But note carefully here: the verse states, “and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed….” Without repentance, there can be no forgiveness of sins. An individual must repent to receive the benefit of forgiveness. To repent means to honestly confess one’s sins before God and to begin living in a manner consistent with repentance. This concept points us back to the teaching of John the Baptist: “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance…” (Luke 3:8).

The fifth significant statement is found in verses 47 & 48: it’s God’s plan for the disciples’ lives. They are going to be the proclaimers of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Why? Because they are the witnesses. They will bear witness of the resurrected Christ. And how will they proclaim? They will proclaim the forgiveness of sins—not in Yahweh’s name—but in the name of Jesus Christ. This will be the keystone of Peter’s preaching during Pentecost (Acts 2:32 & 3:17-20). It’s Jesus who saves us from our sins, and one must repent, confess Him as Lord and Savior, and receive the forgiveness of sins.

But there is something else that can be received by those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, and it is the sixth significant statement, found in verse 49: “I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you….” The promise is that all those who call upon the Lord can receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

By the time Jesus completes His forty-day teaching of the disciples, taking them through the Old Testament as it relates to Him, the apostles are more than ready to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus did not reveal everything to them at this point in time, such as the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s plan, but he taught them enough to launch the church. This is evident by Peter’s bold preaching at Pentecost, quoting numerous portions of the Old Testament to point his audience to the reality that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God.

There are at least five great lessons that can be learned from the aforementioned verses. First, the Holy Spirit opens our minds to understand the word of God. Thus, there are no more sources of revelation apart from the Scriptures.

Second, the better the believer understands the Old Testament, the better he or she will appreciate the New Testament. The Old Testament points to Christ; the New Testament confirms the Old.

Third, the most basic message of Christianity is that Jesus Christ can forgive us of our sins, as long as we’re willing to repent and live a life in keeping with repentance. The most important message that Christians must learn for themselves and communicate to the lost is that through Jesus and Jesus alone, our sins can be forgiven.

Fourth, once the message has been learned from the Scriptures, the power for delivering the message comes through the Holy Spirit. All Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they receive Jesus as Lord and Savior; that is, believe. However, the quantity and quality of the power that can produce good works in the believer is a matter of faith and sanctification.

And fifth, not stated but certainly implied by the word “witnesses,” not all Christians are called to suffer, but all Christians are called to sacrifice. Some Christians have been appointed by God to suffer and die for His name’s sake, but all Christians have been called to sacrifice on His behalf. There is no such thing as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ or living a life pleasing to Him without personal sacrifice. And the motive for this, of course, is love.

24:50-53 Luke now leaps ahead to Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Bethany is on the Mount of Olives. It is the end of a forty-day period, ten days before the feast of Pentecost. He departs by blessing the disciples. The apostle Paul states that there were more than 500 witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ before His ascension (1 Cor. 15:6). Some early texts do not contain the words “and was carried up into heaven” (v. 51). However, Acts 1:9 states, “He was lifted up while they were looking on….”

What is most significant about verses 50-53 is that the disciples worshiped Him. This is a clear indication that the disciples considered Jesus the Son of God, therefore equal to God in nature and substance, and worthy of their worship. An unbelieving Jew would have considered this an act of blasphemy and a violation of the First Commandment. The result of their worshipping Jesus was “great joy,” for they had witnessed the resurrected Christ, could begin to fit the whole picture of the Messiah together, and knew that their sins were forgiven. For these things, they were “continually in the temple praising God.”

Luke thus ends his gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Next, he will focus his attention on the aftermath of Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the coming of the great promise of God, the Holy Spirit. Whereas his gospel focused on Jesus, his next book, Acts, focuses on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Questions for Your Personal or Group Reflection

  1. Describe the reaction of the women when they first arrived at Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. What do you believe would have been their first thoughts? What do you believe is the significance that instead of seeing Jesus, they saw two angels? Take a moment to recall the words of the angels. There are many points of practical application that can be made from their question. Can you list some? Can you apply the angels’ question personally?
  2. Luke spends the majority of his last chapter describing Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Why do you think he did this, and what is the point that Luke was trying to make for his readers? (Hint: It focuses around the Scriptures.) Now take this finding and apply it to yourself in your personal time with the Lord, and to your church; that is, whether or not your church is carrying out this same ministry for its members.
  3. Why do you believe that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus at first? When did they recognize who He was? What do you believe is the significance of this? (Hint: What is the significance of the breaking of bread; that is, what does bread symbolize in they Bible?)
  4. When Jesus meets with the disciples, He emphasizes the same point that He made to the two on the road to Emmaus. What is the point that He was making? (Hint: It has to do with suffering.) Why is this important, and what was the lesson the disciples had to learn concerning Jesus’ coming to earth?
  5. What happened that allowed the disciples to begin to “understand the Scriptures”? What did Jesus do to enable them to begin to see what the Old Testament had been teaching all along?
  6. Why do you think the concept of suffering was so difficult for the disciples to grasp? How did the concept of suffering align with their previous expectations of what Jesus had come to earth to do? How can you apply that concept personally to your own life? How is your church applying what the disciples had to learn?
  7. What was the reaction of the disciples after Jesus ascended into heaven? What did their worship of Jesus teach us about who they believed He was? Now ask yourself this question: “Am I worshipping Jesus with ‘great joy’?” and “Does my daily routine include the response of the disciples who were ‘continually in the temple praising God’?” If so, describe it. If not, ask why.

Return to Chapter 23 ••• Top of Page ••• Continue to the Conclusion