Good morning! Happy Halloween! In the last two chapters of our latest gospel (Luke 23-24), we read the trials, crucifixion, burial and resurrection appearances of Jesus. Luke’s gospel gives us some stories essential to the Holy Week tradition and found nowhere else in the gospels.
We’ve read before how Pilate and Herod bandy Jesus about between them. Pilate doesn’t want to find Jesus guilty, and Herod only wants to get idle satisfaction from him by seeing miracles conducted. Jesus is unwilling to perform on command. Sent back to Pilate in false robes, Jesus again faces the crowd and their “accelerants”, crying “Crucify him!” Pilate’s inability to withstand the crowd’s demand for Jesus’ death gives an early example of powerful nonviolent direct action (if indeed he truly did want to spare Jesus’ life). The discussion with the other criminals is new here and seems almost preposterous given the circumstances. However, it fits with Luke’s overall theology in that it shows Jesus having a composed conversation where other gospels show only agony. John’s gospel will take this same sense further still.
In the resurrection narrative at the start of Luke 24, the women go to the tomb faithfully to care for the body of their dead friend, but they receive the heavenly news that the grave holds Jesus prisoner no longer. Despite this news, when they go back to tell the male disciples, “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” even though there were multiple witnesses. I’m sad and angry to think how these women are disbelieved even though they have been with Jesus throughout the crucifixion and burial (unlike the men, who abandoned Jesus when the going got tough). I love the Emmaus story a little later on though, because it’s so central to what the Christian community becomes in the years after the resurrection—a community that recognizes Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Jesus (though hidden from the disciples’ recognition) describes how the prophets and scriptures might lead to the expectation of suffering and resurrection. Still they don’t recognize that the stranger in their midst is the Christ until they’re at table with him. Then they see him, because they have seen him do this before. The verbs for what he does mirror the verbs for the feeding of thousands earlier, or the Lord’s Supper: he took, blessed, broke and gave. Wherever the church tells these stories millennia afterward, those details help remind us that we’re sharing a story that goes back to Jesus himself.
The rest of this chapter about Jesus’ resurrection suggests that Jesus was not bound by physical doors; he could move into their midst with ease. That’s the case when he shows up among them with miraculous ease, but the eating of fish was intended to demonstrate that he wasn’t actually a ghost. He does the same for them as for the two disciples at Emmaus—opening “their minds to understand the scriptures”. From here, the final verses foreshadow developments in Acts, which we can think of as “Luke: Part II”. The pieces that will be carried forward include the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins “to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem”, the arrival of “power from on high”, and the ascension into heaven. All these pieces will be picked up in Acts, so for now it is as though Luke finishes with “To be continued.” Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is John 1-2. Thanks for reading!