The resurrection scenes in Luke are profound and memorable. They build slowly toward a resounding climax. Luke 24 consists of three interlocking narratives: 1) 24:1-12 Women Find an Empty Tomb, 2) 24:13-35 Two Men Encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus, 3) 24 36-49 Jesus Appears to the Eleven. Let’s begin with some observations on Luke 24:1-12–
NRS Luke 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
In the opening scene (Luke 24:1-12), a group of women including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James go to the burial place of Jesus early on the 1st day of the week (they had rested on Sabbath (23:56) and discover that Jesus’ body is gone. Two angelic beings suddenly join them (24:4). The angels say (24:5a-8):
NRS Luke 24:5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words
These verses affirm several key elements about the resurrection:
1) It was a bodily resurrection. The tomb was empty. This is affirmed across the NT. To deny a bodily resurrection in favor of a spiritual resurrection is to move outside of the biblical evidence. This part of Luke’s narrative makes little sense if Jesus’ body was present at the tomb.
2) Suffering, death, and resurrection was God's plan all along. In verses 5-8, there is the beginning of a pattern (24:5-8, 25-26, 44-49) in which Jesus’ earlier words are recounted (e.g., 9:22). What happened to Jesus should not have been a surprise. It was God’s plan to which Jesus willingly submitted for Jesus to suffer and die and be raised on the third day. It becomes a central element of early Christian teaching to move toward a Christocentric reading strategy for Scripture. In other words, God’s actions through Jesus becomes the key to understanding the overall movement and message of the Scriptures. A crucial learning for us today is that this reading is not only messianic but also missional. The good news about Jesus must be shared with the nations.
3) Resurrection creates the Church as a missional movement. The women in this story shift from mourners taking spices to the tomb to proclaimers of the Resurrection Story. This group of women (only the two Mary’s and Joanna are named) become the initial witnesses and servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
4) The proclamation of the Resurrection is received with skepticism (24:11). This is worth pondering. Sometimes we think that the ancients were gullible and believed anything. Resurrection is an anti-intuitive and supraexperiential claim. Dead men and women are not raised. Bodies do not disappear from tombs except at the hands of robbers. Yet because of the witness of these women Peter responds by running to the tomb to check it out for himself (24:12).
How do you respond to the testimony of these women?
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