Weekly Bible Reading Reflection (Week 10): Christ is Risen!

This week we find ourselves in Luke 24. You know, one of the good things about reading through all four gospels is the different perspectives we get to see. Matthew briefly recounts how the women found the empty tomb, and how the authorities spread a false report, but his goal is to get to the Great Commission at the end of the chapter. Mark sort of ends on a cliff hanger, “and [the women] said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”[1] John is very pastoral, with the restoration of Peter, the patience with Thomas, and things like that. In the gospel of Luke, the account focuses on three things. (1) Luke is a great historian and includes as many specific details as he can. (2) Jesus’ followers are told over and over that it was always the plan for him to suffer, die, and rise again. (3) The disciples are set apart as witnesses of the resurrection of Christ.


Luke the Historian


Luke’s pedigree as an historian is always good to remember as you read his gospel. Remember, this is the book that began in Luke 1:1-4 with an address to “most excellent Theophilus” regarding the “orderly account” that Luke was writing for him. To state the obvious, Luke’s greeting isn’t how you address one of your peers. It’s an address that shows honor, most likely to a government official. This kind of thing still happens today. I often watch Canadian Parliament,[2] and the members always have to address each other as, “the honorable member for [insert city name here],” or “the honorable leader of the opposition,” or even “the right honorable Prime Minister.” That’s how Luke addresses Theophilus.


So, since he was likely writing to an official in the Roman government, Luke goes to great lengths to “show his work,” so to speak. A good example is found in Luke 3:1-2, when he locates the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” He tells you the officials in power both in Judea and Galilee (Pilot and Herod). He even gives the names of other Roman officials in office at the time. And finally he tells you who the high priest(s) were at the time. Luke was a meticulous historian. He made sure he was thorough in his work.


So, how does Luke do in chapter 24? Well, what strikes me is the names he mentions. He doesn’t just say “some women” went to the tomb. He tells us that the women who went to the tomb were “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James.” He says that Peter, specifically Peter, went to investigate the tomb after he was told what the women had seen. The two disciples who unknowingly met Jesus on the road were going to a specific place: Emmaus. And Luke even gives one of their names: Simon. All of this indicates that Luke isn’t telling fables here. He isn’t even passing along stories that came to him second-hand. He went and interviewed the people involved, and he recorded their names in his gospel as proof that what he has recorded was taken straight from the source.


These Things were Foretold


The second thing to notice in Luke 24 is how often the followers of Jesus are gently (or not so gently) rebuked for not realizing that the crucifixion (and resurrection) were all a part of the plan from the beginning. The angels begin this theme in verse 6 when the tell the women, “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” It’s like the angels are, very politely, saying, “Come on, folks, did you really forget that quickly?”


On the road to Emmaus, Jesus is less…judicious with his wording than the angels were. He says to the two disciples, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Later when Jesus appears to the disciples, he makes the same point, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” The disciples hadn’t seen this coming, but it had always been God’s plan. The Old Testament had foretold it. Christ had told them it would happen.


The Apostles as Witnesses


And at the end of the chapter Christ tells his disciples that they will be witnesses of God’s perfect plan, his glorious gospel. The disciples will be clothed with power from on high and carry the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to the ends of the earth. Of course, later this year we’ll read Luke’s sequel (Acts) where the disciples (then called Apostles) did just that. They carried this message far and wide. The Good News of Jesus Christ spread over all the earth. Their testimony has rung out through the ages and has now come to us. And for that, thanks be to God!

[1] It would take a long time to explain why I would think it best the “longer ending” of Mark. The long and short of it is that the oldest manuscripts don’t have it, but you’re not a heretic if you accept it.

[2] Yes, my life really is that exciting.