Next Week we begin the study of the Gospel According to John: for a study guide of Chapters 1-6, look after the sermon.
Study Guide for Luke Chapter 24
The Gospel According to Luke IV Chapter 24
The last chapter of Luke’s Gospel give us the resurrection story in several parts: the empty tomb (1-12), appearance on the road (13-35), appearance in Jerusalem (36-49), blessing and departure (50-53).
The empty tomb: how many people saw that the tomb was empty? Who are the primary reporters?
Disciples: Who are the followers included in this category by Luke in his narration of the events on the day of resurrection? What is their reaction to the news they receive?
Remember: Verses 7-8, 26, and 46-7, are almost a creed of what the disciples and the readers of Luke are to believe about Jesus. Notice that they do remember until all the pieces are put together for them. How is this like your own experience of Jesus in word and sacrament?
The Road to Emmaus: This story is exclusive to Luke and reveals his artistry as a story-teller: the balance between narration and conversation, the reflection on the reactions and the mood of the disciples, the motif of a journey as a frame for the action, the echoes of an Old Testament story (Gen 18:1-15).
Recognition: Luke continues to show us that Christ is only known by revelation. Christ appears only to those who are prepared to recognize him after his resurrection. Even then, it is not until he acts to reveal himself that they understand the fullness of what they are witnessing. Remember the lack of understanding of Jesus’s passion predictions. The disciples were not ready or able to understand at that time. (Luke 9:44-45) Even here, it is after instruction in Scripture and supper with the Lord that the disciples recognize Jesus.
“That this meal is the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, is quite evident in the language: ‘ took…blessed…broke…gave…’ Yet were that the whole of the story, all believers except those select few would experience only the absence of Jesus, fated to try to keep faith alive on the thin diet of these reports of his having once been seen by others. Thus all subsequent generations would have been secondhand Christians…But Luke here tells us that the living Christ is both the key to our understanding the Scriptures and the very present Lord who is revealed to us in the breaking of bread. His presence at the table makes all believers first generation Christians and every meeting place Emmaus.” Craddock
My Hands and Feet: The empty tomb, the words of the dazzling men at the tomb are incomplete until Jesus confirms his actual presence through touch and voice and sharing a meal. Jesus proves that he is the one who was crucified when he shows his hands and feet.
Witness: the Emmaus disciples rush back to tell their tale; they must share the good news. It is the experience of Jesus in people’s lives that becomes their witness. So with us, it is the message of Scripture and our own experience that creates a believing community, and the message needs to be heard again and again to confirm, strengthen, encourage, and deepen faith.
In Jerusalem: How is the story of Jesus appearance to the gathered in Jerusalem similar to the Emmaus story? How is it different?
He opened their minds: Jesus’ instruction makes the connection between the risen Jesus, the one who was their teacher, and the predicted Messiah of the Hebrew Bible. Luke’s been telling us that since the beginning, this was God’s plan throughout Scripture.
Power from on high: Luke will give us the whole story in Acts when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.
Some of our most beautiful worship songs come from Luke’s birth narrative: Mary’s song, the song of the angels, the song of Zechariah as he blesses his son, the song of Simeon as he receives the infant Messiah in his arms. We use those songs and hymns in worship, and Fred Craddock, my commentator for Luke, suggests that the resurrection stories from Luke also had a liturgical purpose. He notes that the structure of the chapter is like a worship service: there is an announcement that Christ is risen; then comes a period of instruction from Scripture, followed by an experience of the living Christ in the breaking of bread; this experience is communicated, and in a setting filled with fear, belief, disbelief, and joy the experience occurs again; then they are gathered, blessed and sent out with the promise of the Spirit, filled with joy and praise to share the story. Let’s take a look at the chapter to hear what Luke might want us to carry away ourselves.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed 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, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But 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.
- These women are not ordered to report, they are witnesses who are part of the “disciples.” The messengers expect that Jesus told these women the same things he told the other disciples.
- What do the witnesses find? There is no body. But they all can testify to what was not there. It will be later when Jesus appears that the whole story comes together.
- Remember: this is like a creed, recapturing the heart of the story. It is important that they remembered what he had told them. So the witness of the women consists of three elements: the empty tomb, the words of the messengers, and their remembrance of what Jesus had said. This is important because that is how our faith works, too. It is in remembering what we have heard and experienced that our faith grows. Craddock says, “Faith does not usually move from promise to fulfillment, but from fulfillment to to promise. Remembering is often the activating of the power of recognition.”
- The other disciples did not believe. Their faith waits for the confirming experience of the risen Christ, and even then they do not have the frame in which to understand what has happened.
13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “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.” 25Then he said to them, “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.
28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When 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. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
- This is like a worship service with its focus on word and sacrament: we wander in, carrying our burdens, we meet Jesus (in each other, though we don’t really recognize him), we hear the Scripture, we hear it interpreted, we gather our offerings and sit down at the table at which Jesus himself becomes our host. We recognize that our hearts are burning with God’s word and we fly out into the world to share our story.
- Notice another creed statement: Cleopas has it exactly right. All he needs is the presence of the risen Christ to bring it all together.
- Luke tells us again that we only come to know Christ through revelation. Though the disciples heard the predictions of his passion, they weren’t ready or able to hear or trust the story. So, too, with us; our faith grows as we find Jesus opening the Scriptures to us in our own experiences of loss, crisis, waiting, and joy.
- As Jesus explains the Hebrew Scriptures to these disciples, Luke is confirming that those who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, failed to understand their own Scripture correctly. The Bible itself is sufficient for the generation of faith.
- Notice the role of remembrance in this story.
- Craddock again: there are three times in which to know an event; in rehearsal, at the time of the event, and in remembrance. In remembrance, the nonseriousness of rehearsal and the busyness of the event give way to recognition, realization, and understanding. This is a time of understanding an important trip, a wedding, a gathering, a conversation with a stranger turned Christ at table.
36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.
44Then he said to them, “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, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
- This story is, in essence, the same as the Emmaus story: Christ appears, they do not recognize him, they are scolded for doubting, food is shared, they respond in wonder and joy. Here however, the instruction is delayed until he is ready to be sent out.
- The disciples are afraid, thinking they have encountered the dead, rather than the living Jesus. Jesus teaches that he did die, and that God raised him from the dead. The hope of all believers arises from this central affirmation.
- His hands and feet and touching him confirm that this is the same Jesus who was crucified. This is so important. This Jesus is not a spiritual recreation of an event, but the actual one who suffered and died. Bonhoeffer declares that when we confront pain and sorrow, only a suffering God can help. There is no resurrection without the crucifixion.
- Jesus makes it clear that the life and death and resurrection to which they were witnesses was the correct fulfillment of the Scriptures and what God had in mind all along. He opened their minds to understand.
- Luke is the only evangelist to give us a specific time and place of Jesus ‘departure.’
50Then 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.
- This Gospel ends as it began, in the Temple in Jerusalem at the hour of worship. The story has come full circle. In the beginning was a sense of anticipation to see what God was about to do. And so now at the end, we turn to Volume 2 of Luke’s major work, “The Acts of the Apostles” to see how the story continues.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Study Guide: The Gospel According to John I Chapters 1-6
Raymond Brown, one of the leading scholars on Johannine literature divides the Gospel into four parts. Chapter 1:1-18 is the Prologue: an introduction and summary of the career of the incarnate Word. Chapters 1:19 through 12:50 are the Book of Signs: The Word reveals himself to the world and to his own but they do not accept him. Chapters 13 through 20 are the Book of Glory: to those who accept him, the Word shows his glory by returning to the Father in death resurrection and ascension. Fully glorified, he communicates the Sprit of life. Chapter 21 is the Epilogue: Galilean resurrection appearances and a second conclusion.
Pondering the strange inclusion of a second ending with the story of Thomas and Jesus’ wounds, Robert H Smith believes that the story gives readers of John’s Gospel clues about the incarnation and God’s willingness to become as vulnerable as other humans. Depite of the glorification of Jesus as Son of God in John, Smith believes that the Thomas story also elevates the humanity of Jesus in a particular way. So, he concludes, John is not telling us that this vulnerable Jesus is like God, but rather that God is like Jesus with his wounds. Jesus is the revealer of God, but also the revealer of authentic humanity. Smith says that John’s phrase, “we have seen his glory,” would include us the readers, God’s children meeting God in God’s turning to the world as John unfolds the story of Jesus.
There is much speculation about how John’s Gospel came to be so different from the Synoptic (‘synoptic’ means they share a point of view) Gospels. Brown posits a Judean community of Hellenized Jews who became believers in Jesus as the Messiah following the tradition of Moses rather than as the Davidic Messiah, and who provided a different source of the material that was preserved separately from the material used by Mark. John’s geography of Palestine is more accurate than that of the Synoptics, as is his explanation of the Jewish holiday traditions. Scholars agree that John’s is the latest Gospel, perhaps written as late as 100-110 CE.
In the beginning: Compare John’s prologue to the genealogies and birth narratives of Matt and Luke? See any similarities beyond the obvious differences?
Lived among us: This is often translated as ‘dwelt’ among us. Look for this word to show up as ‘abide,’ ‘live,’ ‘stay,’ ‘remain,’ ‘dwell.’ God’s coming to live among us is a powerful theme of John.
Testify: John the Baptist gives testimony. Witnessing is another theme of John, and Jesus’ miracles are called ‘signs’ as they testify to God’s power. Jesus himself is a sign of God’s power and love.
First Words: What are Jesus’ first words in John? Could they be directed at you, the reader?
Jesus’ First Sign: The Wedding at Cana reveals a great deal about Jesus and his family and disciples. How do those relationships look different than those of the Synoptics?
Cleansing the Temple: John puts this early in Jesus’ ministry. What difference would that make in the message?
Nicodemus: Based on the themes of dark and light and the source of the “children of God” from John’s prologue, could you read the story of Nicodemus with new eyes?
The Woman of Samaria: Scholars who believe that John’s tradition comes from a Judean community rather than the mixed Gentile communities of Syria, use the early presence of believers in Samaria as part of their evidence.
“The Jews:” They begin to persecute Jesus after he heals the man at the pool (another ‘sign’ exclusive to John). Scholars wonder if the antagonism between Judeans who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and those who did not drives the vicious rhetoric against the Jewish leaders. See what you think as you continue in John.
His Disciples Remembered: Look for this to turn up regularly.