I have written a number of posts of notes on Luke as I have been working through it in the #Luke2Acts Twitter Bible study. In this, the final post, I have put together just over a week’s worth of tweets on the book to conclude my comments on the gospel. The following notes are rough and far from comprehensive notes upon the passages. However, they will hopefully give you an indication of my reading and of some of the interesting features of each chapter.
Jesus is still talking with the Pharisees and scribes present (cf. 15:1-2), but this lesson is directed at his disciples (v.1). They must not follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees and put obstacles in the path of little ones entering the kingdom. Jesus refers to ‘stumbling blocks’ (or ‘offences’) in verse 1. Elsewhere Jesus is referred to as a stumbling block in the way of Israel (1 Peter 2:7-8). Jesus speaks of a millstone being hung around a person’s neck and of them being cast into the sea. The image of a millstone being cast into the sea is used in Revelation 18:21 for the overthrow of Jerusalem (Babylon the Great). The millstone is the city; the sea is the realm of the Gentiles. If the disciples place stumbling blocks in the path of the ‘little ones’, God will condemn them to Jerusalem’s fate.
We must rebuke, repent, and forgive. Cain may have been avenged sevenfold, but we forgive sevenfold (cf. Genesis 4:24).
‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree…’—Trees are significant in Scripture. The mustard tree has already been compared to the kingdom (13:18-19). The fig-mulberry tree is an image of Israel. The fig-mulberry is to be ‘planted in the sea’ (like the millstone), once again a reference to Jerusalem being thrown into realm of the Gentiles. If Jesus’ disciples have the smallest seed of kingdom faith, they could bring about God’s judgment on Israel.
In verses 7-10, Jesus speaks of the duty of the servant and the impossibility of gaining merit with God by our actions. However, this saying must be read against background of Jesus’ statement in 12:37. There God actually does the unexpected action, but it is not something that we have merited by our faithfulness as his servants.
Lepers were prevented from entering into the community of worshippers. Jesus heals ten lepers. The one Samaritan leper who returns to Jesus seems to recognize Jesus as the one to return to, thank, and as the site of the presence and worship of God. His faith is commended. He alone seems to have a faith that appreciates what God is doing in Jesus.
The kingdom of God does not come with ‘observance’. Matt Colvin suggests ‘observance’ here refers to Torah-observance. The kingdom doesn’t come through our ever greater adherence to the commandments. I’m not 100% convinced, but it is an interesting proposal. I’m inclined to say that it means that the kingdom doesn’t come as something whose arrival we can closely monitor. The kingdom is already ‘in their midst’, hidden like leaven. The Pharisees can’t see what is taking place in Jesus’ ministry.
References to the Son of Man’s day should remind us of Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus’ coming in judgment will be sudden and catastrophic. The rejection by and suffering at the hands of the current generation must happen first, then destructive judgment (verse 25). Jesus compares the judgment to come upon Jerusalem to the judgment that befell the pre-Flood world and Sodom. In each case things were continuing as usual until unexpected, catastrophic, and final judgment hit.
The ‘day of the Son of Man’, the ‘days of Noah’, the ‘days of Lot’—Jesus, the Son of Man, is the one who leads a new group of people escaping final judgment, who are saved with him. The days of Noah and Lot refer to the days of peace and normality before judgment. The days of the Son of Man are the days of his personal presence and ministry with his disciples, the days they were currently enjoying. As the judgment loomed—the day of the Son of Man—I can imagine the disciples looking back upon the days by Galilee and wishing they could return. The Son of Man will be ‘revealed’ (verse 30). And all else will be laid bare.
Final judgment on Jerusalem is coming and all riches must be left behind, without looking back. Members of the early Jerusalem church later sold its property, pulling up its stakes, preparing to abandon the condemned city. One taken, another left: ‘taken’ here does not refer to the ‘rapture’ of the Left Behind series, but to being taken by the sword.
Where will they be taken? The ‘body’ (the carcass of Israel) is where the eagles (the unclean foreign force of the Romans) will be gathered together. Jerusalem and her people, overthrown Babylon, will become Rome’s carrion (cf. Revelation 19:17-18).
The persistent widow represents the oppressed righteous in Israel, waiting for salvation. The parable argues from the weaker to the stronger: if even an unjust judge will respond, how much more the righteous God? The woman calls out to be avenged by the representative of the law against her adversary or oppressor. This is compared to the prayers of God’s people for judgment against their oppressors (v.7). Such prayers for vengeance are found at various points in the Psalms, but also in such places as Revelation 6:10. Handled appropriately, it is not wrong to pray in such a manner. As in Romans 12:19, we are not to avenge ourselves, but to give place to God’s vengeance. It can be helpful to read David’s imprecatory psalms written while fleeing from Saul alongside 1 Samuel’s description of his actions to see how not avenging ourselves and praying for God to avenge us needn’t conflict. The coming of the Son of Man is here associated with his coming to avenge his persecuted people.
I’ve commented on the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector before here. Prayer is central in both of these opening parables. We pray as those deserving nothing from God’s hands but who trust his mercy. The images of the people of the kingdom are striking: a widow, a tax collector, infants, the poor.
Jesus blesses and receives the children at their parents’ request. It is interesting to observe how many times in the gospel Jesus receives or blesses at the request of another. God works, blesses, and heals through bonds of friendship, love, and family. I find that a profoundly encouraging thought.
When listing the commandments to the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus only lists from those commandments about loving one’s neighbour. How is the Rich Young Ruler to obey the command to love God? By giving up the thing that he is most attached to—money—and following Jesus. Jesus implicitly asks for the loyalty that belongs to God here. The Parable of the Unjust Steward might be in the background here: the Rich Young Ruler should sell and make friends with the poor, then he will have great riches in heaven.
The disciples have shown their loyalty to and faith in Jesus by their actions, leaving everything to follow him. They will be richly blessed both in this present time and in the age to come. We gain much as we follow Jesus, even in this life.
Jesus’ statement here is the most direct prediction yet of his death and resurrection, but the disciples still don’t understand. They will be reminded of this statement after his resurrection.
The man by the side of the road needing assistance and everyone passing by might remind us of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The blind man calls out to Jesus as the ‘Son of David’, a significant act of faith, especially in the face of other’s objections. While others ask what they must do, the blind man begs for mercy and is asked what Jesus should do for him. All of our efforts trying to merit God’s salvation, when all we had to do was ask for mercy. Like pulling a door that says push.
The opening of the eyes of the blind man might relate to the disciples’ lack of perception in the previous verses. In time Jesus will open their eyes too, and they will glorify God.
There is a progression of geographical references in chapter 19: Jericho … Bethany … descent of Mount of Olives … Jerusalem.
We are told the species of tree that Zacchaeus climbed: a fig-mulberry, like the tree symbolizing Israel in 17:6. Zacchaeus gets right with the poor and restores fourfold (cf. Exodus 22:1; 2 Samuel 12:6). Jesus describes him as a ‘son of Abraham’, continuing the theme of the redefinition of the family of Abraham and the recovery of his lost children.
As N.T. Wright and others have observed, verse 12 might allude to the history of Archelaus, son of Herod the Great. The nobleman going to a far country to receive a kingdom and return is Jesus ascending and returning in judgment in AD70. The citizens of the nobleman reject him, as people reject Jesus as Lord. The judgment in v.27 is the destruction of Jerusalem.
Current faithfulness in little leads to one being entrusted with much greater responsibility (cf. 16:10-12). The unfaithful servant mischaracterizes his master in v.21. The judgment upon him is according to his own assessment of his master. It is crucial to remember the failure of the unfaithful servant is inseparable from his false judgment of his master’s character. The mina of the unfaithful servant is given to the most productive servant. This parable is radical and scandalizing in its unequal outcome (vv.24-26). The unfaithful are dispossessed, while the responsibilities and blessings of the faithful are expanded. Proverbs’ teaching about the relative fate of the slothful and the diligent is perhaps helpful background here.
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem echoes passages such as 1 Kings 1:33-44. It also fulfils the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10. Donkeys and mules were associated with judges and royalty. The kingdom began with a quest to find donkeys in 1 Samuel 9. The judges and Saul were associated with donkeys (cf. Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; 1 Samuel 9:3). However, the sons of David rode mules.* The instructions given to the disciples are similar to the sorts of signs given to Saul at the dawn of the kingdom (1 Samuel 10). Matt Colvin helpfully connects this mission with 1 Samuel 10 and with preparing the Last Supper in 22:7-13.
No one has ever sat on the animal before. It is dedicated for a special purpose (cf. Numbers 19:2). The casting of garments is reminiscent of the welcome of Jehu to Jerusalem in 2 Kings 9:11-13, to destroy the worship of Baal. It might also remind us of David’s removal of his outer garments in the ‘triumphal entry’ of the Ark into Jerusalem. The Pharisees are like Michal, who sought to rebuke David in 2 Samuel 6, and was judged for it.
It is important to notice that Jesus moves from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem and back again a few times in the chapters that follow (19:37; 21:37; 22:39; 23:33[?]; 24:50). This geographical to and fro is significant.
The reference to the stones crying out might recall John the Baptist’s claim of 3:8. It also should probably be related to the claim in immediately following verses that the stones of Jerusalem will be levelled.
Jehu’s ‘triumphal entry’ into Jerusalem was followed by the destruction of the temple of Baal and its priests. Unsurprisingly, Jesus goes to the temple and drives people out. Jesus’ statement about the temple being a ‘den of thieves’ should be read against the background of Jeremiah 7, to which it alludes (cf. Jeremiah 7:11). The Jews of Jeremiah’s day treated the temple as a sort of talisman protecting them from God’s judgment and enabling them to continue in oppression and lawlessness. Jesus is making the same point of his generation.
I don’t believe that the point of driving out those buying and selling in the temple was primarily to do with an objection to the money-changers and dove-sellers in particular, or with any principled opposition to the performance of such activities within the temple precincts. The chief point was to put a temporary halt to the sacrifices, which couldn’t proceed without these activities. Jesus then makes the temple the site of his teaching (v.47). It is also worth noticing that it is the language of exorcism that is used to describe the removal of those buying and selling in v.45.
This is Jesus’ first interactions with the chief priests and Sadducees. He is playing with the big boys now.
Jesus answers the challenge to his authority in a shrewd manner, by asking his questioners a question about the baptism of John the Baptist. This was an indirect answer to their question, as John the Baptist was the key witness to Christ. However, it placed them in a difficult situation: they couldn’t deny the authority of John’s ministry without inciting the people, nor affirm it without acknowledging that Jesus did, in fact, have authority. This is also a window into just how volatile the situation was, when the crowds could so quickly become a lynch-mob.
The parable of the wicked vinedressers focuses upon those placed in charge of the vineyard of Israel, while the parable of Isaiah 5 focuses upon the house of Israel itself. The beaten and wounded servants represent the history of the prophets. Jesus’ coming is the culmination of this history. The wicked vinedressers wish to gain control over the ‘inheritance’ and legacy of the property by killing the heir. However, the vineyard owner will destroy them and give over vineyard to others. It is interesting to observe that the vineyard itself isn’t destroyed.
Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22 and alludes to Isaiah 8:14-15 and Daniel 2. God is erecting a new temple, with Christ as its once rejected chief cornerstone. Hereafter every person will be defined by how they stand relative to him. The chief priests and scribes know that they are the wicked vinedressers and builders Jesus is talking about (verse 19).
Throughout the run-up to the crucifixion, the large crowds surrounding Jesus protect him from harm.
The chief priests and scribes send spies to Jesus, hoping to catch him out. They ask a question about taxation, believing that, however Jesus answered, it would create problems for him in the political tinderbox of Jerusalem. Jesus recognizes that there is a Satanic attempt to test him taking place, but Jesus is wilier than the serpent.
Jesus’ response rejects the idea of a tax revolt. However, by focusing upon the image on the coin, he also makes a subversive point. If things bearing Caesar’s image like the denarius must be rendered to Caesar, things bearing God’s image—human beings—must be ‘rendered to God’. This shrewd answer might also skewer the testers in their love of money over their neighbours. There is another reference to a ‘superscription’ in 23:38: the ‘King of the Jews’ statement over Christ on the cross.
The final of the three tests comes from the Sadducees, with an extreme hypothetical case based upon the Levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). In the resurrection we are like the angels in the sense that we do not die and we function more as a ‘host’ than as an ongoing ‘race’, seeking to preserve life in face of death. How are we to understand the logic of Jesus’ response to the Sadducees? The Sadducees’ question focuses upon a form of marriage designed to keep the family line going in the face of death. Jesus’ response presumes that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation—filling the earth and continuing the race in the face of death. However, once death is abolished and the human race has become a multitude, the purpose of procreative union has been achieved and marriage ends.
The ‘sons of this age’ are contrasted with the ‘sons of the resurrection’ or the ‘sons of God’. Jesus might be implicitly contrasting two births: births within the birth-marriage-procreation-death cycle and the birth from dead in the resurrection. In the second birth, the cycle is no longer operative. This birth is associated with being God’s sons.
Jesus’ question to the Sadducees about David might play on this very ambiguity. Christ’s Messiahship is not grounded in birth within the first cycle as David’s descendent, but as the resurrected Lord, Son of God and firstborn son of the resurrection. Both Christ’s deity and his status as the firstborn from the dead disrupt the familiar cycles and order of this world.
The story of the widow’s two mites needs to be read alongside the end of the previous chapter. The widow is investing all of her livelihood in the temple, which is about to be destroyed on account of the sin of the people and their rulers. This isn’t a parable about healthy sacrificial giving, but about the way that corrupt religious leadership preys upon the weakest of all and heaps up judgment for itself. It is also a very relevant word for many modern ‘Christian’ teachers. The prophecy of the destruction of the temple should be directly related to the oppression of such persons as the widow.
Jesus speaks of a final judgment upon the temple that is fairly imminent, but not immediate. Before that occurs, various other events will take place, events which they shouldn’t confuse with the end itself. The spread of the Christian message through trials before authorities should prepare us for the latter half of the book of Acts. The disciples are told some of them will die (v.16), but not a hair on their heads will be lost (v.18). This is an odd juxtaposition. The solution to the apparent tension is helpfully discussed by Matt Colvin in this post.
Jesus makes reference to the ‘days of vengeance’ (v.22), which weren’t mentioned in his Isaiah 61:1-2 reference in chapter 4.
Jesus gives his disciples a very specific sign and instruction about when things are to be fulfilled and what to do when they are (vv.20-22). There would seem to be an expectation that the siege will lift for long enough for the believers to flee.
The events that Jesus was predicting have to do with AD70, the end of the old covenant world, not the end of the whole cosmos. The language of verses 25-28 is prophetic language. The sign of the Son of Man coming on the clouds alludes to Daniel 7. The point is, when the disciples see the destruction of Jerusalem, they will have definitive proof Christ has entered into his kingdom.
The disciples must read the signs of the seasons. Looking at the fig tree (Israel) will be a sign for them that their ‘summer’ is near. All of the things will occur before the generation had passed away (v.32). In AD70, all of Jesus’ prophetic words were fulfilled. Knowing the imminence of the falling of the curtain on the old covenant and the dawning of the new age of the kingdom, the disciples had to be sober and vigilant in their behaviour and thinking. This way it wouldn’t overtake them unawares.
The movement between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives (v.37) is significant, perhaps a symbolic withdrawal in judgment.
The Passover context is front and centre in Luke 22. Luke wants us to connect Jesus’ death with the events of the first Passover. The desire of the chief priests to kill Jesus is connected with the drawing near of Passover. Jesus is the Passover lamb.
Satan enters into Judas. I believe that this is the only time that we read of Satan himself entering into anyone. Satan’s reappearance after a long absence is significant. Luke 4:13 tells us that Satan departed ‘until an opportune time.’ Judas (‘Judah’) is the one of the Twelve who sells Jesus into the hands of his enemies. Judah was the one of the twelve sons of Jacob who sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites, also motivated by a desire for money (Genesis 37:26). Judas, as ‘Judah’, represents the Jews (the Judahites). The role of money in the transaction between Judas and the chief priests should remind us of all Jesus has taught on money.
The chief priests need to get Jesus away from the multitude. The multitudes have a sort of herd-like quality, acting as a unit.
Matt Colvin’s reflections on the instructions to follow the man with the pitcher are very insightful. Various suggestions have been made concerning a deeper symbolic import for the sign of the man carrying the pitcher. My suspicion is that Luke 22:7-13 needs to be read as a unit with 19:28-40 and that both read should be read against the background of 1 Samuel 9. In 1 Samuel 9 two men—Saul and his servant—go looking for donkeys, they then encounter women (presumably with pitchers) going out to draw water. The women direct them to the site of a meal with the prophet, in the ‘high place’. When Saul eats with the prophet Samuel in the high place, the kingdom is entrusted into his hands.
Very similar themes seem to be present in Luke. Why is it a man carrying a pitcher? The well was the place where most of the patriarchs of Israel had met their wives. It is interesting that Genesis 24 also records a divine sign involving a woman and a water pitcher. The relationship between king and people was often described as a sort of marriage. Perhaps meeting a man at the well plays on these themes: Jesus is the new royal ‘husband’ of Israel and the Last Supper has subtle wedding feast overtones. Perhaps.
The Feast ‘drew near’ (v.1). ‘Then came the Day…’ (v.7). ‘And when the hour had come…’ (v.14). Rising tension.
The Passover meal with disciples is connected with the ‘exodus’ (9:31) Jesus is about to accomplish and the covenant he will establish. It is interesting that the meal has two shared cups (vv.17-18, 20), sandwiching the bread.
This do as my memorial—the purpose of the memorial is not primarily to remind us, but to bring to God’s mind the sacrifice of Jesus, to declare his death. The meal is a covenant-sealing meal, giving a share in the kingdom to those who participate in it. The Twelve will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (verse 30).
22:21-22 should be connected with Psalm 41:9. This also implies that Judas participated in the bread and wine.
The kingdom Jesus is giving to his disciples operates quite differently from those of Gentiles. However, the disciples don’t get it. Yet. There is authority in the Church, but it is exercised in the form of service. Jesus’ reference to being among his disciples as ‘one who serves’ as distinct to being one who ‘sits at the table’ might imply his washing of their feet in this scene. Incidentally, Jesus serving his disciples by washing their feet (not explicitly mentioned here, but implied) casts a startling light back upon the washing of his own feet in 7:36ff. The sinful woman does for Jesus what he does for his disciples.
Satan will tempt Peter three times to deny Jesus and Peter will fail three times. Yet Jesus prayed for him and he’ll be restored.
The nature of their mission will change from this point. They will need a money bag, sack, and sword. They will face a hostile reception, they can no longer rely upon hospitality being extended to them, and they won’t have assurance of their safety. It is unlikely that Jesus meant for them to buy actual swords. However, having swords helped to fulfil biblical prophecy (v.37).
Once again, there is a movement away from the city to the Mount of Olives.
I believe the story of David, especially 2 Samuel 15-16 is playing in the background here. David is betrayed by Ahithophel, a friend and advisor. He leaves Jerusalem and weeps as he ascends the Mount of Olives. He is ministered to by a messenger (Ziba) and then assaulted by Shimei with violence and cursing. His right hand man Abishai, like Peter, wishes to strike his king’s enemy down, but David prevents him. Luke is here presenting Jesus as the true Son of David.
Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. How Joab of him (cf. 2 Samuel 20:9-10). Both Judas and Peter are behaving like the sons of Zeruiah, violent, vengeful, and treacherous.
Peter denies Jesus three times and then Jesus turns and looks at him. Hard to imagine how that look would have cut through him. Peter is tempted by the desire to fit in around the fire and avoid ostracization for the name of Jesus. We face many temptations to dissociate ourselves from Christ and his people in order to fit in around the fires of our society and not be left in the cold.
Jesus’ prophecy concerning Peter is fulfilled at the very time that Jesus is mocked and beaten as a false prophet. Jesus has also prophetically predicted that he will be mocked and insulted in such a manner in 18:32. The chief priests and scribes seek to get Jesus to claim to be the Christ, the Son of God, in order to have cause to hand him over to Pilate as a false Messiah. They won’t entertain the thought that he actually is the Messiah for a moment.
The Sanhedrin sought to get Jesus to make Messianic claims. Brought before Pilate, they present Jesus as a political threat. They accuse Jesus of stirring up the crowds, when they are in the process of doing exactly the same thing.
Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, making friends with Herod in the process. Joining with others in scapegoating relieves antagonisms. Jesus is found innocent by both Pilate by Herod. When he sentenced him to death Pilate knew he committed a miscarriage of justice.
Jesus is put in a ‘gorgeous’ or ‘shining’ robe. A sort of ironic parody of the transfiguration.
The people want Barabbas released to them, rather than Jesus. The fact they chose Barabbas, a man guilty of insurrection, reveals the hollowness of their claims to be concerned for public order and opposed to the stirring up of the people. Pilate is supposed to be delivering justice, but he lacks the nerve to stand up to the crowd. He keeps exploring options to avoid having to make a decision, but the problem is constantly placed back into his hands.
In choosing Barabbas over Jesus, the people make their choice of the sort of destiny they want. Insurrection led to AD70. The choice between Jesus and Barabbas might have Day of Atonement themes. It also suggests Jesus as substitute. The crowd recognize Barabbas, who stirred up the masses in the city and was a murderer, as one of their own. He is their mirror.
Simon of Cyrene takes up the cross and follows Jesus. Notably, he was a Gentile. Simon of Bethsaida denies Jesus, but Simon of Cyrene follows him. At this point, when the twelve have largely abandoned Jesus, it is the unlikely disciples and converts—Simon of Cyrene (even if Simon of Cyrene was not an actual disciple, Luke has him symbolically acting out the role), the centurion, Joseph of Arimathea—and the women that come to the foreground.
What is happening to Jesus is just the harbinger of more terrible things to come in Jerusalem, when its leaders have favoured the way of insurrection over the way of Jesus. ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’—Jerusalem/Zion is often spoken of as a daughter in the prophets, the city being represented by its women.
Luke’s allusions to prophecy are subtler than Matthew’s (verse 34; cf. Matthew 27:35). You must know the Scriptures to see them.
Jesus asks the Father to forgive the people. They will have another chance. However, if they reject the message of the Church, only certain judgment will await them.
I’ve already suggested that there is a subtle repetition of the three temptations in this passage. Jesus is mocked as a king, served sour wine by ‘cupbearers’, placed with someone at his right and left hand (cf. Matthew 20:21), and given a superscription above his head (cf. Luke 20:24).
There is darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour, like the penultimate plague on Egypt. All that remains is the death of the firstborn. These are also akin to the signs of Christ’s coming in judgment and are signs of decreation. The veil of the temple is torn in two. I’ve made some comments about possible Samson parallels here.
Jesus alludes to the psalms in a number of his sayings on the cross recorded in the gospels. Verse 46 alludes to Psalm 31:5. Is Luke wanting us to see the Holy Spirit in verse 46?
The centurion responds by glorifying God, a truly remarkable response under the circumstances. Yet another Gentile. The crowd ‘beat their breasts and returned’. Already we see a sign of remorse, paving the way for Pentecost. The death of Jesus is immediately followed by signs of new life.
There is another scriptural fulfilment in the burial of Christ (Isaiah 53:9). Jesus is wrapped in linen and laid in the tomb. I’ve pointed out the parallels with his birth earlier. Jesus is laid in a tomb where no one had lain before (cf. 19:30). It was hewn in the rock. Perhaps this is a subtle allusion to Pisgah (‘cleft’), where Moses died (the translation of Pisgah in the LXX of Deuteronomy 4:49 might lend support to this). It might also remind us of the Rock of the Exodus narrative more generally, a rock opening up to give water (Exodus 17:6), associated with the tablets of stone written with God’s hand (31:18), and shielding Moses from God’s glory (33:22; cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13). The dead Christ is placed in the hewn rock. The rock is later opened, leading to living water flowing forth. The living Word of God comes out from the rock, and the one who enables us to know the glory of God without being destroyed by it. It also seems appropriate that the chief cornerstone should be brought forth from the hewn rock.
The resting of the women on the Sabbath parallels Jesus’ resting in the tomb on the Sabbath. 24:1 introduces the first day of a new creation.
Should the women’s bringing spices and oils to the tomb and encountering angels be seen as a parallel to Zacharias’ performing of the rite of incense in the temple and encountering an angel at the beginning of the gospel?
The stone is rolled away and Jesus’ body is nowhere to be found. Two angels appear. ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’ The women return to tell the eleven what had occurred. They have faith, but the men doubt.
The linen cloths are lying by themselves. Like the High Priest on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:23), Jesus leaves the linen garments behind and is clothed with the glorious garments of the resurrection.
Two people travelling from Jerusalem, returning from the feast, having lost Jesus three days ago, not realizing that Jesus had to be about his Father’s business: much like we see in 2:41-50.
Jesus feigns complete ignorance of the events that have just occurred. As this prompts them to share the events, he will reveal that they are the ones who are unaware of what has happened. The restraining of their eyes is associated with their slowness to believe, much as the restraining of Zacharias’ mouth.
Jesus declares himself in all of the Scriptures, from the Pentateuch to the Prophets. They still don’t recognize him. Jesus reveals himself in the act of taking, blessing, breaking, and distributing the bread—in the ritual of the Supper. The story of the road to Emmaus takes a liturgical shape. The Word is opened up and then Christ is recognized in the Sacrament. The pattern here is the pattern of Christian worship. Christ draws near to us on the first day of the word. He opens the Scriptures to us, makes himself known in the breaking of bread, and then sends us forth with joyful tidings.
The moment that their eyes are opened to him, he disappears from their sight. The eyes of the disciples open upon his absence, but it is now an absence filled with life, hope, and promise. Their hearts burned within them on the road. The fire in their hearts might be an anticipation of the fire of Pentecost. The opening of the eyes of the disciples is reminiscent of the opening of the eyes of Adam and Eve at the Fall, but it is blessed.
There is a threefold opening in this chapter: the opening of the tomb, the opening of the Scriptures and the opening of the eyes. These three openings are related. Before the risen Christ revealed himself, the Scriptures were a closed letter and the perception of the disciples was limited. As Christ opened the tomb, he also opened closed eyes to perceive his presence and purpose throughout the events that had occurred. He opened the Old Testament Scriptures, revealing his presence on every page. The resurrection transforms our reading of the Old Testament. Luke has been enacting this fact throughout his gospel. Texts whose meaning appeared closed are suddenly opened up to reveal a greater Person within them. As our eyes are opened to see the Risen Christ, we suddenly recognize the identity of the One who has been travelling and speaking to us all along in the words of the Old Testament, words concerning himself. The story of the Passover is seen to be about Christ. The story of the creation is seen to be about Christ. The story of David is about Christ. The Old Testament is Christian Scripture.
The story of Emmaus follows a pattern seen in two other Lukan stories: the road to Damascus and the Ethiopian Eunuch story. For more about the Emmaus story, see my comments on Louis Marie Chauvet’s treatment of it in this post (I highly recommend that you take the time to do this: Chauvet’s treatment of this passage and the related passages is tremendously illuminating).
Jesus’ body is glorified and not like normal bodies. It can apparate and can evade recognition. It masters both space and others’ perception. However, it is still very much a body: it can be handled and can eat.
Luke has been a book all about meals, eating practices, dinner companions, and who belongs at the table. It is thoroughly appropriate that the fact of the resurrection should be made known through a food ritual and through an act of eating. Following 1 Corinthians 11, our understanding of the Lord’s Supper is often focused primarily upon the context of the Last Supper. However, the Lord’s Supper is also based on the events in which the risen Christ revealed himself to his disciples. As we celebrate the Supper we are enjoying the reality of the joyful resurrection meals and breaking bread ritual, through which Jesus made known his presence to his disciples.
The eating of fish may be significant. Animals symbolize people. God only ‘ate’ five animals for most of the Old Testament. Fish symbolize Gentiles.
Jesus is the key to understanding the Old Testament. However, the Old Testament is also the key to understanding Jesus. Jesus is like the match and the Old Testament is like the striking surface. Bring the two together and light and fire results! Without the Old Testament we would not truly recognize Jesus. Without Jesus we cannot truly recognize the meaning of the Old Testament. The Church’s mission is also included in the revealed meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures (verse 47).
The disciples must wait in Jerusalem until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—the Promise of the Father and power from on high. This receiving of the Holy Spirit will be akin to Christ’s own receiving of the Spirit at his baptism, the event that began his ministry. As with that event, Pentecost is distinctly Trinitarian in its character.
There is much to-and-fro-ing in this chapter. Once again there is a movement away from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives (v.50).
In the last act of his earthly ministry, Jesus blesses his disciples and is taken into heaven. They return to Jerusalem with joy. Jesus blesses his disciples. They then devote themselves to blessing God.
The gospel ends as it begun, with prayer in the temple. Amen.