by Ed Gallagher
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.Romans 6:9
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.2 Corinthians 5:16–17
The Resurrection is an essential part of the gospel message.1 We tend to focus more on the Death of Jesus, perhaps for good reason, because Jesus’ death was also necessary for us—“he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24)—and the death shows more brilliantly the amazing love of God for us miserable sinners (Rom 5:6–8). But the Resurrection is also amazing, not so much because it displays God’s love for us (although, I guess you could make an argument for that), and maybe not even so much because it displays God’s power (though it certainly does that), but more because it changes everything, it is the firstfruits (Paul’s term; 1 Cor 15:20) of making all things new (2 Cor 5:17). Just as Jesus, by virtue of his Resurrection, has become a new kind of person, so also we become new in Christ.
The Resurrection of Christ ought to be important to us, just as important as his Death, for several reasons. First of all, none of the Gospels end at Golgotha. They all spend at least some time talking about Sunday; all of them show the empty tomb, the body of Jesus no longer there. Secondly, the Resurrection is the demonstration that Jesus can take care of our sins. Even if those sins were born by Jesus on the cross, and even if his Death is a sign of God’s great love for us, still, in a sense, the Crucifixion itself was no great feat. Many people were crucified by the Romans; there was nothing unusual in that. Even on that day at Golgotha, Jesus was not the only one crucified. But he was the only crucifixion victim who did not stay dead. He was the only one who rose from the dead a few days later, never again subject to death. The Resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is Lord, and he does have the power to save. Third, the human predicament isn’t limited to sin. There is also the problem of death, a related problem, certainly (see Rom 5:12), but not the same thing. The Resurrection previews our own resurrection; Jesus’ defeat of death assures us that through his power we too can participate in that victory over death (see Rom 8:11).
There are three scenes in Luke 24, and the third scene itself has a threefold structure. The opening of Luke 24 (the first twelve verses) tells the story of the women’s discovery of the empty tomb, a story more-or-less equivalent to the opening of Matthew 28 and Mark 16. Luke then shifts to a road outside Jerusalem and a couple of disciples on their way to a village called Emmaus (24:13–35). This story is not repeated in any other Gospel. Finally, Luke tells the story of Jesus’ meeting with his disciples (24:36–53). First, in the gathering place (v. 33), Jesus demonstrates the reality of his Resurrection (24:36–43). (Perhaps this gathering place is the upper room from the Last Supper [Luke 22:12]? The disciples are also meeting in an upper room at Acts 1:13, though the Greek term for the room is different. According to John 20:19, 26, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors.) Next in Luke, Jesus commissions his disciples (24:44–49), and finally he ascends to heaven (24:50–53). Each of these elements in this final scene is more-or-less unique to Luke’s Gospel, though there are, of course, stories somewhat parallel in other Gospels (e.g., the commissioning in Matt 28:18–20; the demonstration of the Resurrection in John 20:19–29).
This outline can more easily be displayed in this manner:
- Empty Tomb (vv. 1–12)
- To Emmaus (vv. 13–35)
- With the disciples (vv. 36–53)
- Proof of the Resurrection (vv. 36–43)
- Commission (vv. 44–49)
- Ascension (vv. 50–53)
The way Luke tells the story here, it seems like all these things take place in a single day, as if his Ascension happens later on that same Sunday. After all, the Emmaus road encounter happened “on that same day” (v. 13), and those two disciples ran to tell the apostles about it “that same hour” (v. 33), and “while they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them” (v. 36). But if you flip over to Acts, Luke tells his readers that there were actually forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension (Acts 1:3).
For centuries—millennia, no doubt—readers of the Bible have noticed differences among the stories of the Resurrection. The Gospel writers all have the same basic story (empty tomb discovered by women, usually followed by Jesus meeting with his disciples), but they each tell the story very differently from the others. John’s Gospel is the most different from the other three (not surprisingly), but even the three Synoptic Gospels differ in some of the details. Was it one angel (Matthew, Mark), or two (Luke), or none (John)? Was the angel sitting inside the tomb (Mark), or sitting on the stone (Matthew), or standing beside the women (Luke)? Did Jesus meet with his disciples in Galilee (Matthew, Mark) or Jerusalem (Luke, John)? And who exactly were the women that discovered the empty tomb?
Here are the passages, with differences marked, just for your convenience.
|Matthew 28:1–10||Mark 16:1–8||Luke 24:1–12|
|After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”||When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.||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 They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but they 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.|
I don’t have solutions to these issues. I recognize that it would be difficult to harmonize these accounts, though I don’t think it would necessarily be impossible. At any rate, I don’t particularly want to spend my time and energy thinking about these differences of detail (which, according to one view [cf. Wright, pp. 648–49], actually increases the plausibility of the accounts) rather than reflecting on the major points of common interest. The women discovered an empty tomb! Jesus was no longer dead! Jesus commissioned his followers to announce his victory!
The Empty Tomb
I don’t have much to say about the empty tomb. If we were trying to make an argument here about the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection, about the historicity of the event, the empty tomb would probably play a large role. In such discussions, people often bring up the fact that in all four Gospels it is women who discover the empty tomb, which seems significant because female testimony was not accounted very highly in antiquity, and so someone inventing a story about an empty tomb probably would have had a group of trustworthy men discovering it.2 But I don’t want to argue about whether the Resurrection actually happened; I am starting with the presupposition that it did happen, and I just want to understand it. More than that, in the context of this lesson, I want to understand how Luke thinks about it.
There are a few things that I think are important about the way Luke tells this story of the empty tomb. First of all, something not unique to Luke: the tomb was empty. The body was gone. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (v. 5). We could spend all of our time talking about the implications of this element. Many Christians today (and for many centuries now) have thought about the physical body as simply an “extra,” as not a part of the real person, and so when we die, our soul goes to heaven and our body decomposes, never to imprison our soul again. But this is a misconception of the biblical idea of the human being, owing more to Plato than to Scripture. When Jesus rose from the dead, it’s not that his soul floated up to heaven leaving his body to rot, but his soul/spirit reunited with his body, so that the tomb was empty. That’s resurrection. Peter quoted Psalm 16:10 in this regard: “He was not abandoned to Hades nor did his flesh experience corruption” (Acts 2:31). Our hope is also for this same sort of resurrection: our bodies will be a part of our future, though, as Paul explains (and as Luke’s stories about Jesus’ resurrected body already illustrate), it will be a body transformed in some ways (1 Cor 15:35–57).
Second, the angels reminded the women that Jesus had predicted his Resurrection (vv. 6–7). Luke records several predictions of Jesus’ death, some without mentioning the Resurrection (9:44; 13:33; 17:25; 22:14–22), but there are two predictions of the Resurrection.
The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.Luke 9:22
See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.Luke 18:31–33
Remembering these words, seeing the empty tomb, and hearing from the “two men in dazzling clothes” (24:4) was apparently enough to remove all doubt from the women. They reported their experience to the disciples and others (v. 9).
Third, no one believed the women. “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (v. 11). Perhaps in part that’s because those telling the story were women (see above), but probably also—even though Jesus had told them beforehand—the idea of someone rising from the dead in the middle of history was so far out of left field that they couldn’t make any sense out of it. (Luke 24:12 says that Peter ran to the tomb to confirm the story, as in John 20:1–10, and Luke says that he was amazed, but it doesn’t say whether he believed.)
Let me explain what I mean that the disciples might not have been ready to believe that someone might rise from the dead in the middle of history.
Resurrection in Ancient Judaism
The Old Testament doesn’t say a whole lot about what happens to people after they die. The place of the dead is called Sheol, and it’s not that fun of a place to be: dark, dusty, no praise of God there (e.g., Psa 6:5; Job 17:13, 16). It is not really clear whether everyone goes to Sheol or only certain people.3 But the only passage in the Old Testament that clearly speaks about the resurrection of the dead is Daniel 12.
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.Daniel 12:2
In Second Temple Judaism, the idea became widespread that at the end of the age, there would be a general resurrection of the dead along the lines of Daniel 12. This is the belief expressed by the seven Maccabean martyrs who are killed, along with their mama, for their faith. They affirm that in the new age God will raise up their bodies and restore them to life (2 Maccabees 7). Since this belief is not common in the Old Testament, it became a point of contention among some groups. The Pharisees and most Jews looked forward to a resurrection, but the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead (Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8).
In the first century, as I said, many Jews looked forward to a general resurrection of the dead at the dawn of the new age. But they did not think that before the general resurrection, before the consummation of the new age, in the middle of the current, evil age, one person might rise from the dead. The resurrection was supposed to correspond to the end of the current world order, and the resurrection was supposed to involve everybody. No one really thought about the Messiah dying, much less rising from the dead. So when they heard about it, “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
The Road to Emmaus
A couple disciples who had been with the apostles when the women made their strange report now left Jerusalem heading to Emmaus, a village whose whereabouts have been lost to history. One of these disciples is named Cleopas, perhaps the same as the Clopas mentioned in John 19:25, who had a wife named Mary. Early Christian tradition makes Mary and Cl(e)opas relatives of Jesus (see here), though early Christian tradition does not necessarily identify Cleopas’ companion as his wife Mary on the way to Emmaus (see here). At any rate, even if Cleopas was a relative of Jesus, Luke makes nothing of it in this story. He surely didn’t expect his (Gentile?) readers to pick up on these obscure connections.
These two disciples are joined by a third person whom they do not recognize (v. 16), but whom Luke identifies for his readers as Jesus (v. 15). Why could Cleopas and his companion not recognize Jesus? Their eyes were prevented from doing so (v. 16). It seems to me that this story suggests some sort of divine action to prevent the disciples from recognizing Jesus until later. In a little bit we’ll talk about why that might be.
They explain to this third traveler the events that have consumed their thoughts.
The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.Luke 24:19–24
This speech is full of interesting elements. Why were people attracted to Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God? “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21). First of all, notice that the death of Jesus apparently dashed whatever hopes they had entertained about his role in God’s plans. Their hopes for Jesus were valid only while he was alive, but no longer. I point this out just to emphasize that people were not anticipating a dying Messiah. There were passages in the Old Testament referring to a person as dying on behalf of others, such as Isaiah 53, but notice that Isaiah 53 is about the Servant of the Lord, and not about the Messiah. What I mean is that the word messiah does not appear in that chapter, nor the term king, nor son of David, nor kingdom. There were not many clues for people to connect Isaiah 53 to the Messiah, and most people didn’t. Most people thought whoever this Servant of the Lord was, he wasn’t the Messiah. The Messiah would come and conquer Israel’s enemies and establish God’s kingdom. (Read Psalm 2, or Daniel 2:44.) He wouldn’t do that by dying. To quote a famous (and cleaned-up version of a) speech from General Patton, “No one ever won a war by dying for his country; he won it by making the other guy die for his country.”
What had Cleopas and his companion hoped Jesus might do? Redeem Israel? What does that mean? The Greek word for redeem (λυτρόω, lutróō) is the same word used in some passages of the Septuagint in regard to God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt (Exod 6:6; 15:13). I bet that’s what was in people’s minds in the first century, especially during the Passover, the celebration of that redemption from Egypt. I bet Cleopas and his companion were thinking that Jesus might be the one to liberate Israel from the foreign domination of the Romans, to establish Israel as a strong nation, to reign over Israel as the anointed king, the son of David, and to fulfill (their understanding of) those ancient prophecies that the Gentiles would stream into Jerusalem to learn the law (e.g., Isa 2:1–4).
But, no more. Jesus is dead.
Or, maybe? The tomb where he had been buried is apparently empty, judging not only from the report of some women but also some others of us who confirmed their story. The women also say that some angels told them that Jesus was alive. So … weird. What can it all mean?
Now Jesus takes over.
“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.Luke 24:25–27
Oh, how I wish Luke had recorded which Old Testament verses Jesus had quoted, and what was his interpretation! No doubt we get some clue along these lines from the speeches in Acts, where the apostles are trying to prove the same thing: that the Messiah had to suffer and then rise from the dead. In Acts 2, Peter points to Psalm 16 (Acts 25–28) and Psalm 110 (Acts 2:34–35). In Acts 3, he points to Deuteronomy 18:15–19 (Acts 3:22–23). I think it is fair to say that none of these passages so obviously talk about the suffering of the Messiah that we are in a position to blame these first-century disciples for their dullness. I’m afraid we would be in the same boat. Speaking for myself, I would wonder how Psalm 16, for instance, has anything to do with the Messiah, or resurrection from the dead. Jesus can (and does!) blame these disciples for not getting it, but I don’t think I better. Speck and log, you know.
This story is designed to illustrate the very thing these disciples are experiencing. They don’t recognize Jesus because their eyes have been prevented from seeing clearly. They don’t recognize the truth of Scripture because their minds have been closed to that reality. Jesus interprets for them, and their hearts start burning (v. 32). Jesus opened the Scriptures that had previously seemed locked—nay, previously been locked to these disciples though they had not realized it. Jesus gave them the key that they did not realize they needed. They had been waiting in an outer room of the Scriptures, under the impression that their room was the whole house, and now Jesus lets them out of the foyer into the living spaces of Scripture, rooms that the disciples had not realized existed.
And yet still they did not recognize Jesus. Not until they ate with him.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.Luke 24:30–31
What does it take for these disciples to recognize Jesus in their presence? This story emphasizes two things: a proper understanding of Scripture, and then sharing a meal. Later these disciples will report both of these aspects to the apostles.
Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.Luke 24:35
N. T. Wright (p. 652) suggests a parallel with Genesis 3: just as a meal opened the eyes of Adam and Eve with very negative consequences, so also now a meal opens the eyes of these disciples with the most joyous consequences.
This scene of the meal—often depicted by artists (twice by Caravaggio; see above and below)—is reminiscent of the Lord’s Supper. Luke seems to have intended that connection by the way he describes the actions of Jesus: “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (v. 30). While we cannot have the same experience as those two disciples in Emmaus, their experience is a type of our own meal with Jesus, wherein we also hope to recognize him more perfectly.
This story also suggests that any such glimpse will only be fleeting. As soon as the disciples see Jesus clearly, he vanishes from their sight. Their experience is a model for what many believers routinely experience: fleeting glimpses of our Savior. Sometimes we glimpse him during a worship service, perhaps during the Lord’s Supper in particular. Sometimes we recognize him while sharing a meal with friends. Sometimes we see him while serving others, or receiving service from others (note Matt 25:40). Always, the vision passes, our eyes close, and we once again search for him. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly” and we long for that time when “we will see face to face” (1 Cor 13:12).
One more comment about this story (based on Wright, pp. 650–51): it corresponds in some ways to the story about the young Jesus in the temple at the end of Luke 2. In that story, Joseph and Mary journey away from Jerusalem thinking that Jesus is with them only to discover that he is not. At the end of the Gospel, Cleopas and his companion journey away from Jerusalem thinking that Jesus is dead only to discover that he is with them. Joseph and Mary hurry back to Jerusalem in a panic to find Jesus. Cleopas and his companion hurry back to Jerusalem anxious with joy to proclaim that Jesus is risen. Joseph and Mary are able to find Jesus only on the third day. What was lost has now been found (another Lukan theme).
Jesus with the Disciples
Finally, Jesus meets with his apostles and others. This scene (in the upper room?) has two main elements apart from the Ascension which we will treat in a moment. First, Jesus seeks to demonstrate the reality of the Resurrection in terms of a physical body. This is of course consistent with the tomb being empty. The disciples think they might be seeing a ghost or a spirit (πνεῦμα, pneuma; v. 37). Jesus wants to prove that his body is physical. He presents three lines of evidence.
- Look at my hands and my feet (v. 39). The implication is that the nail holes would still be visible. Or, at least, that’s what I think he’s doing. Luke never mentions that Jesus was nailed to the cross, nor do any of the Gospels, actually (as noted by Wright, p. 568 note 24). But in the scene in John when the doubting Thomas doubts, he says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). This is the only verse in the New Testament that suggests that Jesus’ hands had nail holes in them, but I guess everywhere else it’s just assumed. Surely, in Luke, when Jesus shows his apostles his hands and his feet, he means that his hands and his feet bear the marks of crucifixion, not that this hand and his feet were so well known to his disciples as to be unmistakably those of Jesus. (It’s not like his apostles would have spent a whole lot of time looking at Jesus’ hands and feet before.)
- Touch me and see; for a ghost (pneuma) does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have (v. 39). Obviously, this test is just to establish that it’s a real, physical body.
- He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence” (vv. 41–43). The point here, again, is that his body works just like a normal, physical body. He can eat real, physical food. He’s not faking it. Later, Peter will remember such times as a convincing proof of the Resurrection; he remembered being one of those “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41).
These three lines of evidence are what Luke has in mind when he starts Acts with the description of Jesus: “After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3).
What kind of body does Jesus have? It does seem to be different in some ways from the body he had before his death. Not completely different. Again, the whole point of this scene of Jesus with his disciples is to convince them (and us!) that Jesus had the same body. And that’s also the point of the empty tomb narrative. It is the same body that he had previously, but it seems to have undergone some sort of transformation. Now, that is not so obvious in Matthew and Mark, where this issue doesn’t really come up. But there are certain features of the story in Luke and in John that suggest that Jesus’ body is altered somehow. Jesus disappears (v. 31). That hadn’t happened before, not exactly. To be sure, Jesus previously had an uncanny knack for escaping trouble, almost as if he could disappear (Luke 4:30), but this seems different. He’s right in front of Cleopas and the other one, they finally realize who he is, and then he’s gone. Normal, physical bodies can’t do that. It might also be this changed nature of Jesus’ body that contributed to the Emmaus disciples not being able to recognize Jesus, though I also think God was preventing them from doing so (v. 16). Finally, in Luke, Jesus simply “appears” in the location where the disciples were meeting (v. 36). John says the doors were locked when Jesus showed up (John 20:19, 26), making it pretty clear that Jesus could float through walls, or at least apparate like Harry Potter.
These are hints that Jesus’ body has undergone transformation. It’s helpful to think about what Paul says about the nature of the resurrected body—he’s thinking about us, not about Jesus, but he himself says that we’re going to be raised just like Jesus, so it’s relevant. Paul says that the resurrected body is a “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44), whatever that means. But Paul also makes it clear that it’s the same body that we have now, it will die and then be raised up (vv. 42–44) and transformed into a body that can inherit the kingdom of God (v. 50).
N. T. Wright (p. 661) calls this “transphysicality” as a way of saying that it’s the same physical body that we had, but now transformed.4
Then there’s the commissioning (Luke 24:44–49). After doing for the apostles what he had done for the Emmaus disciples (v. 45), he explains the next moves: “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (v. 47). This commission is connected in thought to the Resurrection. Let me quote N. T. Wright again.
Because Jesus is risen, he is demonstrated to be Israel’s Messiah; because he is Israel’s Messiah, he is the true lord of the world and will summon it to allegiance; to this end, he will commission his followers to act on his behalf, in the power of the Spirit which itself is a sign and means of covenant renewal and fresh life.Wright, p. 660
Luke is the only New Testament writer to narrate the Ascension. Other writers assume it. Paul, for instance:
Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.Romans 8:34
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.Colossians 3:1
And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.1 Peter 3:21–22
And John the Revelator, who quotes Jesus as follows:
To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.Revelation 3:21
The entire New Testament affirms that Jesus is now reigning in heaven, enthroned, at God’s right hand. The entire New Testament assumes the Ascension; only Luke narrates it. Twice.
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.Luke 24:50–53
When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.Acts 1:9
The whole Gospel has been aiming at this moment even more than that of the Resurrection. We could probably say that the entire Bible has been aiming at this moment, when the Messiah, the Son of David, would ascend to his throne to reign over a kingdom of disciples who would have the law of God written in their hearts and would proclaim to all nations the forgiveness that God offers on condition of repentance.
And our response? To follow the apostles’ example: bless God with great joy!
As you read Luke 24, what do you make of Jesus’ body? Is it the same body he had in the first 23 chapters of Luke? What’s different about it?
What had the travelers to Emmaus been hoping for prior to the Crucifixion?
What does Jesus say in this chapter about the connection between the Old Testament and his own death and Resurrection? Why do you think his followers did not understand that connection?
Do you think it is significant that it was at the breaking of the bread that the travelers recognized Jesus (Luke 24:30–31, 35)? Does Luke want his readers to grasp anything in particular from that occurrence?
What are the final instructions Jesus gives to his disciples?
Watch the Bible Project video on Luke 24
(1) A major study of the Resurrection is N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), who discusses Luke at pp. 435–39 and 647–61. Also helpful is Kevin L. Anderson, “Resurrection,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 2d ed., ed. Joel B. Green (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2013), 774–89.
(2) William Lane Craig is one prominent theologian who makes this kind of argument. For an online example, see here.
(3) This has recently become a point of contention, especially due to the work of Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006). The usual scholarly thought is that Sheol is the place that everyone goes, but Levenson has challenged this notion. You can listen to Levenson discuss his book here.
(4) In the early second century, Ignatius of Antioch (Smyrneans 3) said that Christ still had flesh even after his Ascension. Can that idea square with 1 Corinthians 15:50?