Year A, B, C
Easter Sunday Evening
April 4, 2021
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 24:13-49, The Message or Luke 24:13-49, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
The setting of this reading makes it the perfect text for an Easter Sunday Evening lesson.
But if we have already celebrated Easter using the text from John 20:1-18, or Matthew 28:1-10, that may also make it more difficult for us to remember that this is the first experience of Jesus-now-resurrected in Luke.
In Luke, the tomb is discovered empty on Sunday morning by the women, but Jesus does not appear to his followers.
The failure to recognize Jesus-now-resurrected also happens to Mary in John 20:1-18. In Luke and John (but not Mark and Matthew) only the eleven disciples immediately recognize Jesus-now-resurrected.
Mary recognizes Jesus-now-resurrected when he calls her by name. These two recognize Jesus-now-resurrected when "he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them." Which is, of course, exactly what Jesus had told his followers to do "in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)
The two then return to Jerusalem and tell the others, and then Jesus-now-resurrected appears to them.
Now sometimes, modern day sophisticates talk about folks in the Bible as if they were merely uneducated, gullible, bumpkins who unquestioningly accepted any super-natural hocus-pocus.
But listen to their reactions to the resurrection events as interpreted by various translations (and note how the translators sometimes struggle to capture the full sense of the underlying Greek):
puzzled, perplexed, did not know what to think
(Luke 24:4, the women's reaction on finding the tomb open and empty)
awe struck, terrified
(Luke 24:5, the women's reaction on the sudden appearance of the two men in dazzling white robes)
didn't believe a word of it,
thought they were making it all up,
seemed like an idle tale, did not believe them,
these words appeared to them as nonsense,
the story sounded like a fairy tale
(Luke 24:11, the apostles reaction on hearing the report of the women)
wondered, amazed, marveled, puzzled, shaking his head
(Luke 24:12, Peter's reaction at seeing the empty tomb)
didn't we feel on fire,
were not our hearts burning within us,
didn't it warm our hearts,
their hearts had felt strangely warmed
(Luke 24:32, two followers recall how they felt while Jesus - whom they had not recognized - explained the scriptures to them as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus)
terribly frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost,
in a state of alarm and fright, frightened and terrified,
startled and frightened, scared half to death
(Luke 24:37, the disciples reaction when Jesus first appears to them)
they still couldn't believe what they were seeing,
in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,
they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement,
they were so glad and amazed they could not believe it,
their joy was so great that they still could not believe it as they were dumbfounded,
they stood there undecided - filled with joy and doubt
(Luke 24:41, the disciples reaction after Jesus shows them his wounds)
These are not the reactions of bumpkins.
In fact, like societies today in which "paranormal" experiences are still considered normal, the followers of Jesus were quite sophisticated in distinguishing different types of nonstandard experiences.
The details reported in Luke make it very clear that it was the same Jesus that was crucified that is now resurrected (see the wounds, Luke 24:39); and what they are seeing is not a ghost (eating before their eyes, Luke 24:43).
One can almost hear the first witnesses of the resurrection patiently explaining to their incredulous friends and family:
- No, really, the empty tomb wasn't a hoax.
We didn't go there when no was looking and take his body secretly ourselves (see Matthew 28:11-15).
- No, really, we aren't hallucinating.
Just the opposite, our eyes have been opened; our minds have been opened to new understanding of the scriptures.
- No, really, it wasn't "God's Word" appearing again.
It was the actual Jesus who died on the cross - we saw the wounds.
- No, really, it wasn't a ghost.
We saw him eat right before our eyes.
- No, really, it wasn't that Jesus had a "near death" experience.
Jesus died on Friday, and is now resurrected. His resurrected body is not the same as the body that died on Friday. It is real, but not the same: We don't always recognize him when he appears; he can appear and disappear instantly; he will ascend to Heaven (Luke 24:51).
However, Jesus-who-died-on-the-cross-and-has-been-raised has not come back simply to take up his old job.
Jesus-now-resurrected once again patiently explains "my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you." (Note how Jesus-now-resurrected who is present now with the disciples makes an odd past-tense, third person reference to that time before, "while I was still with you." There is continuity but also distinction between Jesus then and Jesus now.)
And then, in effect Jesus-now-resurrected says to them, "Over to you."
"Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed." Over to you. You are the called-into-court-sworn-witnesses of these things. Get ready to testify to the truth and nothing but the truth. Proclaim it. (And in Luke, it is "proclaim," not "teach.")
And shakily at first, that is what they did. And that is how the Greek word for "witness" has come to be known and used as an English word - martyr. Over to you.
Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, see link below, pages 323-324.
Luke 24:13-49 (NRSV)
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then 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?" 19 He 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and 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. 24 Some 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." 25 Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They 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?" 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look 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." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then 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." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And 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."
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.
Luke 24:13-49 (The Message)
13 That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. 14 They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. 15 In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. 16 But they were not able to recognize who he was.
17 He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"
They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. 18 Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"
19 He said, "What has happened?"
They said, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. 20 Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. 21 And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. 22 But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb 23 and couldn't find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. 24 Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn't see Jesus."
25 Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? 26 Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" 27 Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.
28 They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on 29 but they pressed him: "Stay and have supper with us. It's nearly evening; the day is done." So he went in with them. 30 And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. 31 At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.
32 Back and forth they talked. "Didn't we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?"
33 They didn't waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, 34 talking away: "It's really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!"
35 Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.
36 While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you." 37 They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. 38 He continued with them, "Don't be upset, and don't let all these doubting questions take over. 39 Look at my hands; look at my feet—it's really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn't have muscle and bone like this." 40 As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 They still couldn't believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.
He asked, "Do you have any food here?" 42 They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. 43 He took it and ate it right before their eyes.
44 Then he said, "Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled."
45 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. 46 He said, "You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, 47 and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! 48 You're the first to hear and see it. You're the witnesses. 49 What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you're equipped with power from on high."
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.
Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials. Acknowledgement of source is not required in oral presentations. Otherwise please note as, "David Ewart, www.holytextures.com."