From Luke: Empowered Living Through Holistic Redemption, from my New Testament: Everyday Bible Study
Luke 24:1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 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? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
Luke 24:9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Something beyond comprehension happens to the crucifixion of Jesus when it gets turned into “Good” Friday. That something is the resurrection, which transforms crucifixion from hideous injustice into redemptive event. That transformation does not undo the hideousness or permit us to put paid to the cross. No, resurrection makes the crucifixion all the more unjust and hideous – and redemptive!
The best words of the Gospel of Luke are “On the first day of the week” because I know those words roll the stone and reveal the empty tomb. Let’s get the facts before us: they return to the tomb, the stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty, and they encounter “two men” in dazzling clothing, and they are called “a vision of angels” in the next passage (24:23). They were overawed so much they fell to the ground where they hear “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Whaaaaa?!?! The men keep talking, saying, “he has risen!,” and then they remind the women what Jesus had said. “Remember … on the third day be raised again” (24:1-7).
These women then return to tell the “Eleven” and “all the others” (24:9). Women witnesses, beginning with Mary Magdalene and including Joanna and Mary the mother of James – and “the others with them” (24:10), that is, a retinue of women become the vanguard of the Easter gospel about Jesus. The apostles don’t trust the vanguard (24:11), not because they heard it from women (Levine-Witherington, Luke, 653-654) but because dead bodies don’t come back to life. Peter, worked up about their words, hightails it to the tomb where he finds “strips of linen.” He exits the tomb “wondering to himself what had happened” (24:12).
What happens is God raised Jesus from among the dead.
When I’m asked about the best evidence for the resurrection I offer the following kinds of “evidence”: (1) objective: the tomb was empty; (2) eyewitnesses: many claimed to have seen Jesus in the earliest days after the crucifixion; (3) multiple witnesses: all four Gospels record stories about the resurrection; (4) Roman: a decree was later given by a Roman emperor about Galilee, that capital punishment would be enacted for anyone guilty of tomb spoilation, and this in response no doubt to the many claiming for their growing faith that Jesus had been raised from the dead; (5) friendly fire: none of the opponents of the earliest Christians produced a rotting corpse to prove Jesus had not been raised, and had there been one they would have produced it; (6) experiential: millions witness to their own experience of knowing Jesus as one who is alive speaking to them; and (7) Jesus: he said he’d be raised, which is what Luke tells us in this passage (24:6-8).
Questions for Reflection and Application (by Becky Castle Miller)
1. How does our knowledge of resurrection transform our understanding of the cross?
2. How do the female disciples factor into the narrative?
3. What evidence do we have for the reality of Jesus’ resurrection?
4. Do you ever struggle to believe that Jesus truly rose from the dead? Why or why not?
5. What experiences have you had in your life with Jesus that compel your belief?