Where Did Jesus Go?
[Luke chapter 24, verses 1-16]
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Last week as we left off at the conclusion of Luke chapter 23, Jesus had just died and been buried in a borrowed grave belonging to Joseph of Arimethia. Although no one saw the significance of this at the time, Jesus being laid in a borrowed grave for 3 days – since that was all he needed it for – confirms what Jesus said earlier in Luke’s gospel. In Luke 14, verse 14 it reads, “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”. Jesus spoke of this as part of his ‘parable of the great banquet’. For the full context, check out Luke chapter 14, verses 12-24. This week as we begin the 24th and final chapter of Luke’s gospel, we have a mystery on our hands. The grave that Jesus’ body was entombed in has been found empty. Of course, we all know the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but have you ever examined the details involved in this occurrence? Starting this week, and for the next 3 weeks afterward, we’ll be doing exactly that as we delve into this week’s lesson. So let’s plunge right in to the refreshing waters of the Gospel of Luke chapter 24, beginning at verse one.
“On the first morning of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen! Remember how he told you, when he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ And they remembered his words.” (Luke 24, verses 1-8)
So these women – Luke did not specify how many, but I would say roughly 5 or 10 – have gone to Jesus’ borrowed tomb in the predawn hours of the morning to dress his body with spices to alleviate the stench of a decaying human body, as was the custom back in those days. It was the equivalent to modern-day embalming procedures. When they arrived, the large stone that blocked the tomb’s entrance had been rolled off to one side. (This rock must have weighed at least 3-5 tons) The size of the tomb’s entrance was roughly that of the interior of a minivan – just enough for two men in a crouched position to drag the body that Joseph had wrapped in the cloths (see Luke 23:53) into the cave. “….when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.” So these women are standing there speechless at the entrance to the tomb peering into an empty grave. They knew they didn’t have the wrong grave site because they had followed Joseph and his helpers there after Jesus had been taken down from the cross on which he died.
“ While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground….” As these ladies are standing there, presumably with their facial expressions ranging from puzzled to bewildered, the 2 men in shining clothes abruptly appear. Who were these men? Some say the archangels Michael and Gabriel, others teach it was Moses and Elijah. The truth of the matter is that nobody knows, and anyone who insists that they do should be avoided. One thing is for certain – the 2 men were not demonic in nature. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen!” Now I ask you, would demons be overjoyed at our risen Savior and for the fulfillment of Scripture and of the prophets? No way! Demons know Jesus rose from the dead, and the very thought puts terror in their hearts.
“Remember how he told you, when he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ And they remembered his words.” All the times Jesus had told his followers and taught his apostles that he must be handed over to be killed, and then rise from the dead, they must have thought Jesus was talking to them in parables like all the other parables he had spoken. They could not have understood he meant what he said literally. But they definitely understood clearly now. With that in mind, let’s move on to the 2nd half of Luke 24 starting at verse 9.
“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of cloth lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24, verses 9-16)
So the women, who the apostle Luke already stated had accompanied Jesus and the Eleven from Galilee to Jerusalem, and to the crucifixion, are making their way back to tell the others as quickly as they can run. I can almost hear them saying, “This is so unreal”, or, “I can’t believe what we just saw”, or, “If Jesus isn’t there, then where is he?”, and so on. But when the apostles first heard the news, they didn’t believe the women, and even ridiculed them. All except for Peter, who had denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed back in chapter 22. Although I cannot say for sure, Peter’s motivation to go and see the opened tomb was – in his mind – his own second chance at redemption before Christ.
“Bending over, he saw the strips of cloth lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus….” So now it’s Peter’s turn to go back to Jerusalem muttering to himself, since he had no one to accompany him like the ladies did. In the following verse, the “two of them” walking together were most likely Luke and either James or John. Since the apostle Luke is the writer, we can presume he was one of the individuals in his narrative since it it written in the ‘first person’. It is at this point that Jesus catches up to them as they are walking along the road. The Bible reads, “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” It doesn’t say how this happened, whether this inability to recognize our Risen Savior was Spiritual in nature, or whether Jesus was wearing some sort of hooded garb like Obi-wan Kenobi in the movie “Star Wars”. At any rate, at this point is the best place to leave off for this week’s study. It is just after this point that the conversation between the two apostles and the as-yet-unrecognized risen Lord Jesus Christ begins. So until then, I hope everybody had a tremendous Christmas this year, and mine was just fine. I spent the day with the Lord!