Making Room for The Truth (Luke 24:1-35)
As I read the gospel narratives I am struck by the inability of the apostles and surrounding company to comprehend (John 2:18-22) or accept (Matthew 16:23) the truth.
Figure 1 – Me being astounded by the apostles not receiving the truth.
Although it is presented repeatedly (Luke 9:22; 18:32, 33) the intended recipients, unprepared for the message and the consequence of its meaning, have no room for it in their hearts and minds. The truth was announced and arrived according to the plan that had been prophetically laid out. But when it came knocking at the door, despite all the foretelling by the prophets and candid communications by Christ Himself about the certainty of its eminent entrance, people were wholly unable to receive it. Why? That is, why is it not understood and why are the people of the gospels narratives not ready. The answer is that the place for the truth was already occupied by the unhelpful guests Unbelief and Lie.
Reminder of the Truth (Luke 24:1-8; Luke 9:22)
The first day of the week (τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων) is Sunday. (The seventh day of the week is the Sabbath or Saturday.) The Rabbi from Nazareth was crucified on a Friday. On the same Friday that Jesus was crucified, having seen where His body was placed, the women of His ministry returned to their homes and “prepared spices and fragrant oils” (Luke 23:56). In accord with the commandment (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14) the women rested on the Sabbath (Luke 23:56). Now Sunday has arrived and they are finally able to go to the place were Jesus’ body was laid bringing the spices which they had prepared (Luke 24:1).
Upon arriving they find four surprises. First, they found the stone rolled away from the tomb (Luke 24:2). Second, the body is not in the tomb (Luke 24:3). These two finds were perplexing to them. “Why would anyone roll away the stone and steal the body?” While they are dealing with the first two finds there appears the third – two men stood by in shining garments (Luke 24:4). There is no mention of the men being present when the women arrived or approaching afterward. Luke indicates that there was something odd about how they became known to the women and their clothing; the physician signals the reader with behold (ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο ἐπέστησαν αὐταῖς ἐν ἐσθῆτι ἀστραπτούσῃ). White apparel on men on earth, such as makes an impression on people, is associated with angels (John 20:12; Acts 1:10).
Figure 1 – The dead body was laid on the bench of a burial niche carved into stone.
The men are messengers. Rather than draw attention to themselves they take up their solemn charge of informing, bringing insights, and conveying the intel needed to honor God (Hebrews 1:14). They start their work with a question – “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” In other words, “Why do you seek a living Jesus of Nazareth in a place where one should only expect to find the bodies of the deceased?” (Luke 24:5) The two men go on to explain with two additional statements why the search will be unfruitful (Luke 24:6a):
- Statement 1: Your search for Him here will be unfruitful because He is not here,
- Statement 2: Your search for Him here will be unfruitful because He is risen! (Luke 24:6a).
The first statement would have been enough to dispel the notion that Jesus’ body was in another tomb in the same general area. The second additional statement was in line what with they had been told earlier (Luke 9:22). At this point the messengers call the women to remember the lesson of their Lord (Luke 24:6b):
The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
It is the third day. The truth delivered to them was still in their memory but they had not made room for it in their mind. The truth was not an active advisor to their actions. The women needed to make room for the truth and cast out the counselor of unbelief. Unbelief had directed the women to deliver the spices to the body of the dead. Grace had taken into account their unbelief and made sure that they would have a reminder of the truth they had heard (2 Peter 1:12-13, 15; 3:1).
What steps has God taken to ensure that my tendency to miss the point does not become my undoing?
Unable to Comprehend the Truth (Luke 24:9-12)
Returning from the tomb the women told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest (Luke 24:9). Among the women is Mary Magdalene (formerly a demoniac), Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women; it was these women who told these things to the apostles (Luke 24:10). The apostles and all the rest listened as the women spoke some nonsense (λῆρος). The women sounded to them hysterical and delirious (Robertson, 1933, Luke 24:11).
λῆρος = that which is totally devoid of anything worthwhile, idle talk, nonsense, humbug (Arndt, 2000, p. 594)
The unbelief of the apostles and all the rest was ongoing; did not believe (Luke 24:11) translates the verb (ἀπιστεω). The verb is in the imperfect active (ἠπίστουν); they kept on disbelieving. As the women try to convey the truth the listeners hold on to their unbelief.
What is God trying to tell me through others that I am refusing to receive?
But two of them went out to investigate. We know through John’s gospel that both he and Peter, led by Peter, arose and went to see what the women were talking about. Luke does not deny that John ran with Peter (and outran him) he only mentions Cephas. What is important is the reaction of Peter to the truth he had been told and the truth he beholds in the tomb – he marveled but unable to make sense of it. Peter, after being personally taught by Jesus (Luke 9:22) and now in the face of more facts than we will ever see firsthand, is fundamentally unable to receive the resurrection (Luke 24:12).
What about all the rest (Luke 24:9)? That is, apart from the apostles, what happened with the other people that were with the apostles after hearing the hysterical words of the women? To get that answer we will have to take a walk to Emmaus.
Unbelief in the Place of the Truth (Luke 24:13-27)
Luke says that two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus (Luke 24:13). These two are of the all the rest (Luke 24:9) that were the first recipients of the report from the women. It seems that they concluded there was no further reason to remain in Jerusalem and began a seven mile (60 stadia) walk to Emmaus. Along the way they talked together of all these things (Luke 24:14). While they conversed and reasoned, Someone joined their company; Jesus Himself drew near and went with them (Luke 24:15). We should read this and find comfort and understanding about what happens when two of us come together in His name.
One, if not the first, fulfilment of the comforting promise, “Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) Compare also the words of Malachi, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it” (Malachi 3:16). (Spence-Jones, 1909, p. 270)
You would think that the two would have been ecstatic. But that was not the case. They did not know Him (Luke 24:16). And you are thinking, “How did they not recognize Him? How did they not see that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, is in their midst?” Knowing Jesus or even realizing who He is a supernatural expression of God’s grace (Matthew 16:17).
All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Luke 10:22, NKJV)
Resurrected Jesus is not ready to reveal Himself to these disciples. Accordingly their eyes were restrained or prevented from perceiving the identity of the one who drew near and went with them (Luke 10:16). After a moment of walking with them and listening to their conversation He asked a question:
17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” (Luke 24:17, NKJV)
Questions are a tool of the Teacher. In this case He is using them to draw attention to a problem. Using a query Jesus brings the issue of unbelief to light. The question hits hard; they were literally stopped and saddened by what it provokes in them.
17εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· τίνες οἱ λόγοι οὗτοι οὓς ἀντιβάλλετε πρὸς ἀλλήλους περιπατοῦντες; καὶ ἐστάθησαν σκυθρωποί. (Nestle, 1997, Luke 24:17)
The New King James Version does not give us the full sense of what happened. ESV and NASB, in my opinion, do a better job conveying the mood that was created by Jesus’ question:
17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. (Luke 24:17, ESV)
One of the two, in response to the question, asks a question of his own. Cleopas finds it remarkable that the recent events are unknown to the stranger. Even if he allows for the possibility that the person who has begun to walk with them is not from Jerusalem, he cannot fathom how this person could possible be unaware of the things which happened there in these days? (Luke 24:18) Jesus is not done and, rather than admitting He has personal and perfect knowledge of all that has transpired, asks another question (Luke 24:19) – What things? In their answer is the appearing of the real problem – unbelief. Jesus is patiently pushing them to see it. But first they need to unpack recent events for their seemingly incredibly ignorant company.
The Things (Luke 24:19-24)
- Thing 1: The Help – Mighty Prophet (Luke 24:19) – A Prophet Mighty in Deed and Word
- Thing 2: The Horror – Murdered by the Priests (Luke 24:20) – Chief Priests Delivered Him to be Crucified
- Thing 3: The Hope – Making a Comeback (Luke 24:21) – The Hope of Redemption from Roman Oppression (Luke 24:21a; Acts 1:6) and Resurrection (Luke 24:21b)
- Thing 4: The Hilarious – Magnificent Cluelessness (Luke 24:22-24) After the prediction of a mighty prophet, the telling of the women about the absence of the body and the appearing of angels, and the investigation of an apostle you came up with… we did not see Him.
At this point the Son of Man, in love, starts name calling (Luke 24:25).
32.50 ἀνόητος, ον: pertaining to unwillingness to use one’s mental faculties in order to understand—‘foolish, stupid, without understanding.’ σοφοῖς τε καὶ ἀνοήτοις ὀφειλέτης εἰμί ‘I am obligated to both wise and foolish men’ Ro 1:14; ὦ ἀνόητοι Γαλάται ‘oh, foolish Galatians’ Ga 3:1. As in the case of ἀσύνετος (32.49), the meaning of ἀνόητος is that people presumably would not use their capacity for understanding and as a result, thought and behaved foolishly. ἀνόητος does not imply the mental state of being an idiot or imbecile. (Louw, 1996, pp. 385-386)
Jesus says, if I may paraphrase, “You are intentionally ignorant and not using all that God has given you to reach the right conclusion. And in your hearts you are taking a ridiculously long time to believe.” But the Lord does not give up on them or us. He keeps on preaching. He keeps on teaching and showing them the truth concerning himself. Between Moses and all the prophets he begins to show that the Scriptures were all telling about His death, burial, and resurrection:
- the promise to Eve (Gen. 3:15);
- the promise to Abraham (Gen. 22:18);
- the Paschal lamb (Exod. 12.);
- the scapegoat (Lev. 16:1–34);
- the brazen serpent (Numb. 21:9);
- the greater Prophet (Deut. 18:15);
- the smitten rock (Numb. 20:11; 1 Cor. 10:4); Immanuel (Isa. 7:14);
- “Unto us a Child is born,” etc. (Isa. 9:6, 7);
- the good Shepherd (Isa. 40:10, 11);
- the meek Sufferer (Isa. 50:6);
- he who bore our griefs (Isa. 53:4, 5);
- the Branch (Jer. 23:5; 33:14, 15);
- the Ruler from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); the Branch (Zech. 6:12);
- the lowly King (Zech. 9:9);
- the pierced Victim (Zech. 12:10);
- the smitten Shepherd (Zech. 13:7);
- the messenger of the covenant (Mal. 3:1);
- the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2);
- the suffering and forsaken servant (Psalm 22);
- resurrection and promotion (Psalm 16)
In the six mile journey to Emmaus they would have a few hours for Jesus to help them see that what looked like a problem was actually the fulfillment of a plan for their salvation. When they reach Emmaus Jesus indicates that He was going to go on; presumably He is headed to Galilee (Luke 24:28). They did not want to part with this mighty teacher. Using the lateness of the hour they made him stay with them (Luke 24:29).
My Body Broken for You (Luke 24:30-32)
In the home they took time for a meal. Their guest was given the role normally held by the head of the house. He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them (Luke 24:30). The command for communion is hereby shown to be more than a meal; the Lord is with us in this to open our eyes and know Him again.
- Make Room for The Truth of Your Redemption (Matthew 20:28; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Titus 2:14)
- Make Room for The Truth of Your Requirements (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20)
“In front of a tomb belonging to a rich family there was generally a vestibule open to the air, then a low entrance sometimes, as in this case, on the side of a rock, leading into a square chamber of moderate dimensions, on one side of which was a place for the body, either cut some seven feet into the rock, or lengthways, three feet deep, with a low arch over it.… The tomb had been lately made, and the door which closed the entrance, the only aperture into the tomb, was a large stone” (‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ on Matt. 27:60). (Spence-Jones, 1909, p. 268)
Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 594). University of Chicago Press.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 385–386). United Bible Societies.
Nestle, E., & McReynolds, P. R. (1997). Nestle Aland 26th Edition Greek New Testament with McReynolds English Interlinear. Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, p. 268). Funk & Wagnalls Company.