apr 2 // Day 39
In the stillness of the Sunday morning, as day breaks, so does the extraordinary news! The tomb is empty. Jesus, who they’d seen crucified, dead and buried, was alive! How was this even possible?
In the midst of their confusion on finding the empty tomb, the women are met by two gloriously bright (and intimidating!) men, probably angels, who remind them that these events are all as Jesus had already predicted. (Luke 9v22) What a moment that must have been as these words sunk in, as it dawned on them that their beloved Master might actually be alive! This would change everything.
Resurrection was a word they were familiar with, but more in the context of what God would do in the end, with the prophets and holy people like Elijah, Abraham and David. They had no experience of it in this context – of witnessing someone die and be buried, and then raised to lift shortly after. It was completely unexpected as we can see from their perplexed responses! Even when they remember Jesus’ words to them, they still have their doubts – after all, where was He?
In ancient times women were not considered credible witnesses, and we can see this from the apostles’ response to their report. The women would have set out for the tomb early that morning, still exhausted and grief stricken, only to return shortly after frantically trying to explain something about an empty tomb, two gleaming angels and Jesus risen from the dead! But Peter, desperate for a glimmer of hope, runs to the tomb to see for himself. There are no angels, but there is an open tomb. As he tentatively looks inside, he finds the empty grave clothes, the only trace that Jesus’ body had been there. Peter walks away wondering if what the women had reported was actually true. Was Jesus actually alive and if so, where had He gone? What was going to happen next? What did it all mean?
This chapter is full of suspense; first these intriguing events of v1-12, followed by the scene on the road to Emmaus, and then Jesus appearing to the disciples. Luke gives us vital pieces of information along the way, so that we, the reader, understand what is going on and so that we recognise the risen Jesus when we finally meet Him.
It may seem a shame to break the road to Emmaus account in half, but the hope is that we can draw out some of the wonderful details in it to do it justice. Only Luke records this story of the two friends (or perhaps husband and wife) making their sad journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, when a ‘stranger’ catches up with them. Luke tells us they are discussing and arguing with each other (v15) when Jesus joins them on the road. They are disappointed, confused, trying to make sense of all that has happened. Moreover, they cannot understand how this stranger does not know what has been going on – it has obviously been headline news in Jerusalem and the surrounding area.
It must have take courage for Cleopas and his companion to share the story – tensions are surely still raised and the disciples fearful of what was to become of them as followers of the man claiming to be the Messiah. They reveal their hope that Jesus had been more than a prophet, how their hope had been lost in His death, but now their confusion as to whether the rumours of His resurrection were true or not.
Then Jesus (still a stranger to them) rebukes them for their lack of faith (a familiar theme throughout the gospel!) in the Scriptures. “They, like everybody else in Israel, had been reading the Bible through the wrong end of the telescope. They had been seeing it as the long story of how God would redeem Israel from suffering, but it was instead the story of how God would redeem Israel through suffering; through in particular the suffering which would be taken on himself by Israel’s representative, the Messiah.” – from N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone
Jesus guides them through the whole of the Scriptures (not just a few choice verses!) and shows how every part reveals God’s redemption plan fulfilled in Jesus. The disguising of Jesus from the disciples is a strange feature in the story. It seems His resurrected body has been transformed. Or perhaps them not recognising Him goes hand in hand with them not recognising God’s redemption plan in the events that had unfolded. Perhaps Luke is highlighting to the reader that we will only truly know Jesus when we learn to see Him within the whole story of God, Israel and the world. Regardless of its meaning, it is a wonderful scene to imagine!
Thanks for joining us today! Remember you can use the tools we’ve provided in the Reading Plan to help you engage with each passage of scripture.