Luke 23:56b—24:35, Remember and Open Your Eyes

[April 12, 2009] After completing His life, His course of obedience, and the offering up of Himself as an intercession for us, Jesus’ dying words were, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” In Paradise, He rested on the Sabbath, and early on the morning of the first day of the week—what the church from then on would call “The Lord’s Day”—Jesus awoke in a new body. It was His same body, but it was also new. His body was broken on the cross, and died. The body with which He rose was His own, but fresh; physical because it was still a human body, but not subject to corruption, decay, injury or age. It was not even subject to the limits of time and space. His very humanity freely shared in the properties of His divinity. The Father woke the Son on Easter morning in a new humanity, a humanity that was inseparable from divinity, truly glorified.

His humanity was always divine, but it was veiled beneath His will to hide His divinity within it. No longer was His humanity subject to His kenosis (the “self-emptying” spoken of in Philippians 2:7), but it now freely expressed His divinity without limit. But it was still human!

Nevertheless, He rose from the tomb alone and unseen. After He rose He met privately with Mary of Magdala (according to the Gospel of John) and the other women (according to Matthew) and with Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5; the details of which we know nothing).

Remember” (Luke 23:56b—24:11)

A group of women, women who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee, came to the tomb early to anoint the body. They did not have time before, on account of the Sabbath. They loved the Lord Jesus and thought to honor Him in this way. But when they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.

Two men were standing there in the tomb (according to John’s account). They were in dazzling clothing. According to verse 23, they were angels, which simply mean that they were messengers, though these were apparently supernatural. Angels appeared at the time of Jesus’ conception and birth. But we are also reminded, by the look of these two men, of Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory to speak with Jesus about His “exodus” (chapter 9). We don’t know.

We may think that the women’s perplexity was normal, but these men were astonished at it. “Why are you seeking the living One among the dead? He is not here but has been raised.” Don’t you know this? They admonished the women for their unbelief. We are in the women’s world, but these men speak from the perspective of reality. The women had their own expectations and were not prepared for what they saw. This is the world that we normally inhabit. If our eyes were opened, we would see the obvious, as these men did. But we are frightened by the messengers and perplexed by what we see.

We may imagine other emotions too—they came to honor the memory of Jesus by honoring His dead body, but the body is gone! They may have been angry. Anger mixed with frustration and loss. These emotions we experience too, because we do not understand.

The men say, “Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,” and Luke says, “They remembered His words.” They were with Jesus when He spoke these words repeatedly to His disciples. Jesus had spoken plainly, but because it was so disconnected from their expectations, they did not even hear them. When the time came, they did not even remember His words.

So the men say to them, “Remember.” Luke uses this word in 1:54, 72; 16:25; 22:19; 23:42; Acts 10:31; 11:16 and here. The most pertinent use in this context is 22:19 where Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” If we share the “world” of the women, which we do, then we need to have our eyes opened to see the reality of the risen Christ. The means given to the church is right here, in these words, “Remember.” The church, especially as we confront the missing Christ in our world, is continually recalled and renewed to “Remember.” This is why we need the Scriptures.

The apostles heard the women’s report as nonsense. They were in the same “world” that the women had inhabited before they “remembered.” (We may surmise that Peter and the disciple John had heard the report of Mary of Magdala earlier, and ran to the tomb.)

Misplaced Expectations (24:12-25)

Two men are walking away from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about seven miles away. They were disciples of Jesus, but they were not members of the Twelve. We only know the name of one of them, Cleopas. He is probably the same person as Clopas (different spelling) in John 19:25, who was the brother-in-law of Mary (Joseph’s brother) and the father of Simon the Zealot, one of the Twelve; in other words, Jesus’ uncle. For some reason, Jesus decides to join them. They walk to Emmaus, share an evening meal, and then Jesus disappears. The two of them then rush back to Jerusalem to the Eleven where Jesus meets them again, probably pretty late.

But here they are talking along the way about Jesus and how they must have been mistaken about Him. Jesus asks to join in their conversation. They do not recognize Him. How can this be? Luke does not want us to think that Jesus looked any different, for he tells us that “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” It is amazing, yet it happens that we only see what we are willing to concede as reality. The conscious mind will actually block what makes no sense. The disciples’ inability may seem extreme, nevertheless the point is that they were in their own “world” and unable to see reality—which was Jesus standing and walking right along with them.

Jesus pretends ignorance and allows them to talk. They tell Him that Jesus was a Prophet powerful in deed and word and how they “were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel.” But, they imply, they must have been mistaken because “the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death and crucified Him.” As Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the people expected that the kingdom of God would come immediately. Even though Jesus taught the disciples otherwise, they would not let go of their expectations. They expected the redemption of Israel to take place in a particular way. Cleopas’ son had been involved with the Zealots (they were not yet an organized party at that time). Some of these political ideas may have continued to hold them.

Cleopas speaks of things that everyone knows. He and his companion are living in the realm of common information, the world of facts and ideas and interpretations that they share with everyone else. Like fish in water, they are “in” it. They are influenced by it all. In that way they are no different than us. But this world is not reality.

Cleopas is not certain that Jesus had failed. He is confused. He speaks of the report of the women who had seen angels who said that Jesus was living. That would change everything, wouldn’t it?

Jesus finally becomes angry, or at least frustrated. “O foolish and slow of heart to believe.” Like the two men that the women encountered, Jesus seems to be astonished that they don’t “get it.” It was as though all the labor that He had expended teaching them and interpreting the Scriptures to them had been wasted, as if it had gone in one ear and out the other. Like the women, they did not “remember” what Jesus had said. But they were blinder than the women because while the women did remember when told, the men seem unconvinced.

In Matthew the women ran from the tomb “with fear and great joy,” but at first they were afraid to tell anyone (according to Mark). Then Matthew tells us that they encountered the risen Jesus on the way. Luke leaves that out, probably to emphasize the importance of “remembering” and the role that the Scriptures have in reminding us.

Their Eyes Were Opened” (24:25-32)

One of the common themes in Luke is the journey. Jesus goes on journeys and teaches along the way and in the Acts of the Apostles the apostles do the same. So here, Jesus is in the role of the apostles addressing the church, only He is the exemplar, the model that the apostles follow. Cleopas and his companion are like the women. Because they live in the world and share its perspective, they forget.

Jesus recalls “all the Scriptures” to them, namely Moses and the Prophets (this encompasses the entire Old Testament), and explains “the things concerning Himself.” What the Old Testament teaches is that it was necessary “for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into His glory.” Five times Luke brings this out: Luke 24:26, 46; Acts 3:18; 17:2-3; 26:22-23. What Jesus does here, the apostles and the churches do later.

The other common theme in Luke is food and the common meal. Although the meal that these disciples share with Jesus is not the “Lord’s Supper,” it clearly connects to it and is meant to make us think of it. Jesus explains the Scriptures to them and then they recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. This is the pattern of the life of the church. We read the Scriptures, they are explained to us, we remember Jesus, and we break bread together. At that moment we are restored. Our eyes are opened and we recognize Him.

Then He can disappear again. As the Gospel of John makes clear, He never actually leaves us. When He appears, He is only manifesting Himself. What Luke hints at here is that the risen Jesus manifests Himself in the gathering of the church when we “remember” Him, and we remember Him by means of the Scriptures and the Supper on the Lord’s Day. Of course, that is not the only time we study the Scriptures, or that He is present. It is however a special time for us to be together. When we share the meal with Him and with each other, He is “made known to us.” He is also with us as we “break bread from house to house,” that is, when we fellowship between Sundays.

What happened when Jesus broke the bread is that their sad hearts began to burn, to catch on fire. They came alive. Luke says their eyes were opened. This means that before then, they were blind. Now they see things the way they really are; they see reality. They let go of their expectations and preconceptions, the fog in which they had been. Even though they may not understand, they at least can now see. It is not about our theories but about what IS.

Seeking Each Other Out (24:33-35)

When we know the reality of the risen Christ, when we truly believe, then we want to be with others who also believe as we do: the two disciples have to share this news with others. Perhaps we have never been astonished. Shouldn’t that surprise us? If Jesus rose from the dead, how can that not astonish us? We also need to keep renewing our astonishment. When we remember and believe, we should want to be together. This is what makes us be the church.

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