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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Luke 24

 

 

Verses 1-8

XXIV.

(1-8) Now upon the first day of the week.—See Notes on Matthew 28:1-4; Mark 16:1-4.

Very early in the morning.—The original has a more poetic form “in the deep dawn,” agreeing with “while it was yet dark.” The last clause, “certain others with them,” is not found in the best MSS., and may have been inserted by transcribers to bring in the second group, who are named in the other Gospels, but not in this.


Verse 2

(2) And they found the stone rolled away .—The narrative is less vivid and detailed than St. Mark’s; possibly, we may believe, because St. Luke’s report may have come, not from one of the Maries, but from Joanna (named in Luke 24:10). or Susanna, who were less prominent, and might only have heard of what had passed from others.


Verse 4

(4) Two men stood by them.—St. Mark and St. Matthew mention one only. Had St. Matthew given the two, it might have been urged by adverse critics that this duplication of phenomena, as in the case of the demoniacs (Matthew 8:28), and the blind men at Jericho (Matthew 20:30), was an idiosyncrasy of his. As it is, we must suppose that each set of informants—the two Maries, and the “others” from whom it seems probable that St. Luke’s report was derived—described what they themselves had seen. At such moments of terror and astonishment, perception and memory are not always very definite in their reports.


Verse 5

(5) Why seek ye the living among the dead?—Better, as in the margin, Him that liveth. The question was enough to change the whole current of their thoughts. The Lord whom they came to honour as dead was in very deed “living,” was emphatically “He that liveth,” alive for evermore (Revelation 1:18). The primary meaning of the words is, of course, limited to this; but like the parallel, “let the dead bury their dead” (see Note on Matthew 8:22), they suggest manifold applications. It is in vain that we seek “Him that liveth” in dead works, dead formulæ, dead or dying institutions. The eternal life that is in Christ is not to be found by looking into the graves of the past in the world’s history, or in those of our individual life. In both cases it is better to rise, as on the “stepping-stones of our dead selves,” to “higher things.”


Verse 6

(6) Remember how he spake unto you.-The direct appeal to the memory of the women is peculiar to St. Luke, and shows us what does not lie on the surface of the Gospel history, that they, too, were among those to whom were uttered the prophecies of the Passion and the Resurrection of which we read in Luke 9:43-45. In the words of Matthew 28:6, “He is risen, as He said,” we have an indirect reference of the same character.


Verse 7

(7) Into the hands of sinful men.—The adjective does not appear in the earlier report. It is probably used here, more or less, in its popular Jewish meaning, as applied to “sinners of the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:15).


Verse 8

(8) And they remembered his words.—It would be better to end the previous verse with a fullstop, and begin the next sentence, And they returned. . . .


Verses 9-11

(9-11) To all the rest.—So Matthew 28:8 as to “the disciples,” as a wider term than “Apostles.” We may naturally think of many at least of the Seventy as being among the “rest.”


Verse 10

(10) Mary Magdalene, and Joanna.—St. Luke alone names the latter in the Resurrection history, as he alone had named her before, as following our Lord in Galilee (Luke 7:2). It is not an unreasonable inference from this that she was probably his chief informant.


Verse 11

(11) Idle tales.—The one Greek word which is thus rendered occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is applied strictly to the trifling, half-idiotic babble of dotage.


Verse 12

(12) Then arose Peter.—See Notes on John 20:3-10. The fact of Peter’s visit to the sepulchre is common to St. Luke and St. John, but the former does not mention the companionship of the beloved disciple. On the assumption of Joanna being St. Luke’s informant, we can understand that she told what she remembered, Peter’s impetuous rush to the sepulchre, and did not notice that he was followed by his friend.

Stooping down.—The word was sometimes used alone, as in James 1:25, 1 Peter 1:12, for the act of stooping down to look.


Verse 13

(13) And, behold, two of them.—The long and singularly interesting narrative that follows is peculiar to St. Luke, and must be looked upon as among the “gleaning of the grapes,” which rewarded his researches even after the full vintage had apparently been gathered in by others. The Emmaus in Galilee, about a mile from Tiberias, was famous for its medicinal warm springs (Jos. Ant. xviii. 2, § 3; Wars, iv. 1, § 3), and had the narrative referred to it, we might have supposed St. Luke to have visited it on that account. We have no record of any such springs in the Emmaus near Jerusalem, which is also named by Josephus (Wars, vii. 6, § 6) as at a distance of sixty stadia, or furlongs, from Jerusalem. The name, however, was probably, as Josephus states (as above), significant, connected with the modern Arabic term, Hammâm, or Hummum, for a “bath,” and indicating, therefore, like the Latin “Aquae,” or the French “Aix,” the presence of such springs, and if so, the same hypothesis may fit in here. In the case of the Emmaus (afterwards Nicopolis), in the plain of Philistia, there was a fountain mentioned by early writers as famous for its healing powers (Euseb. Chron. 41). We can hardly doubt, from the prominence given to the name of Cleopas, that he was St. Luke’s informant. We are not told when the disciples started, but as it was “towards evening” when they reached Emmaus, it could not well have been before their noontide meal. The fulness with which the whole account is given may well lead us to think of it as taken down at the time from the lips of the narrator.


Verse 15

(15) While they communed together . . .—The verb is the same as that translated “talked” in the preceding verse.

Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.—Excluding, as we must do in such a case, the element of chance, we are left to conjecture the reasons for this special manifestation. Neither of the two travellers belonged to the Twelve. They may possibly have been of the number of the Seventy. May we think that it was in tender sympathy with the trials to which their thoughtful and yearning temper specially exposed them, that their Master thus drew near to them? They had cherished the hope that the kingdom of God would immediately appear (Luke 19:11), and now it seemed further off than ever. And He came, partly, it may be, with altered garb and tone, partly as holding their senses under supernatural control, so that they knew Him not. He was to them as a man of like passions with themselves. (Comp. the appearance to Mary Magdalene, John 20:15.)


Verse 17

(17) What manner of communications . . .?—Literally, What are these words that ye bandy to and fro with one another?

And are sad.—The adjective is the same as that used of the hypocrites in Matthew 6:16. The better MSS. make the question stop at “as ye walk,” and then add, “And they stood sad in countenance.” Over and above the authority for this reading, it has unquestionably the merit of greater dramatic vividness.


Verse 18

(18) One of them, whose name was Cleopas.—The name is to be distinguished from the Clopas of John 19:25, which was probably a Græcised form of the Aramaic name of a Galilean disciple. Here the name is a Greek contraction of Cleopatros (so Antipas, from Antipatros), and so far, as connected with Cleopatra, indicates Hellenistic and probably Alexandrian antecedents. This may in part, perhaps, account for his imparting to St. Luke what had not found its way into the current oral teaching of the Hebrew Church at Jerusalem, as embodied in the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Mark.

Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem?—The English is, at least, ambiguous. Better, Art thou alone a sojourner . . .?


Verse 19

(19) What things?—Literally, What kind of things?

Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet.—The words indicate the precise stage of faith which the two disciples had reached. They believed in Jesus as a prophet; they hoped that He would redeem Israel. They had not risen to the belief that He was the Christ, the Son of God. And now even that faith was tottering. The whole narrative suggests that our Lord was choosing this exceptional method of dealing with them as a step in the spiritual education which was to lead them on to the higher truth.


Verse 20

(20) Delivered him to be condemned to death.—Literally, to a sentence of death. The words are strictly accurate. The Sanhedrin had not, strictly speaking, passed a sentence of death, though they had voted for condemning our Lord on a capital charge. For that they had to deliver Him up to the secular arm of Pilate.

And have crucified him.—Better, and crucified Him, the tense being the same as “delivered.”


Verse 21

(21) But we trusted.—The pronoun is emphatic. “We, the disciples, were hoping . . . ,”whatever might be the judgment of others.

Which should have redeemed Israel.—More exactly, He that is about to redeem . . . The two travellers belonged apparently to those who now, as at the time of the Nativity, were waiting for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).

To day is the third day .—We note how naturally the disciples fall, from the first, into this method of describing the interval since the Crucifixion.


Verse 22

(22) Made us astonished.—The Greek verb is that from which we get our word “ecstasy,” taken transitively. Literally, they startled us.

Early.—Strictly speaking, at day-break, or early dawn.


Verse 23

(23) A vision of angels.—The word for “vision” is used of what Zacharias saw in the Temple (Luke 1:22), of the “visions” of which St. Paul was tempted to boast (2 Corinthians 12:1). It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.


Verse 24

(24) And certain of them which were with us.—The words have the interest of presenting an obviously undesigned coincidence with St. John’s report of the visit of Peter and John (John 20:3). The naturalness of the manner in which the two Apostles are mentioned, but not named, “certain of them which were with us,” may be noted, so far as it goes, as a sign of truthfulness. A later writer constructing a narrative would have brought in the two conspicuous names.


Verse 25

(25) O fools, and slow of heart to believe.—The word for “fools” (more literally, silly, senseless) is not that which is used in Matthew 5:22; Matthew 23:17, but one belonging to a somewhat higher style of language. It is used by St. Paul of the “foolish Galatians” (Galatians 3:1), and elsewhere, and by no other New Testament writer. The word of reproof sounds strong, but we must remember that our Lord had already given hints as to the true interpretation of Messianic prophecies (Luke 9:22; Luke 9:44; Mark 14:21), which might have led thoughtful men to see that they pointed to suffering and death, as well as to sovereignty and triumph.


Verse 26

(26) Ought not Christ to have suffered?—Better, the Christ. The thought that the sufferings were a necessary condition of the glory that followed, became from this time forth almost as an axiom of Christian thought. So we read of “the sufferings of the Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11).


Verse 27

(27) Beginning at Moses and all the prophets.—Better, from Moses. Here, then, if not before, there was a full “opening of the Scriptures” on all that pertained to the work and office of the Christ, and it is, at least, a legitimate inference to believe that we find the echoes of the great lesson thus given in all, or most, of the interpretations of Messianic prophecies in the written or spoken teaching of the Apostles. From the great first gospel of Genesis 3:15, to the last utterance of the last of the Prophets announcing the coming of Elijah (Malachi 4:5), with special stress, doubtless, on prophecies, such as those of Psalms 16, 22, Isaiah 53, that spoke of sufferings and of death as belonging to the perfect picture of the Servant of the Lord, and the ideal King, the unfolding of the divine purpose was now made clear to those who before had been “slow of heart to believe.”


Verse 28

(28) He made as though he would have gone further.—This was, it is obvious, the crucial test of the effect of the Lord’s previous teaching. Did they feel a new light flowing in upon their souls, bringing new meanings into what had before been obscure and hard sayings? Were they content to let the unknown Teacher pass on, and see no more of Him? Their answer showed, in words that meet us afterwards, that their “hearts” already “burnt within them.” Here, also, we note the method of the Divine Teacher as an example for other teachers. We often impress truth more effectively, and ‘stimulate the desire for further knowledge, by suspending for a time the continued inculcation of it.


Verse 29

(29) Abide with us: for it is toward evening.—As .part of the narrative, the words have the interest of bringing before us the eager desire of the disciples to know more of the wisdom which they had been drinking in from the lips of the unknown Teacher. They could not bring themselves to part with one who had done so much for them. Devout imagination has, however, legitimately read other meanings in it. “Abide with me” has become the burden of the most popular of evening hymns, the true prayer for the evening of each day, for the evening of each man’s life, for the moments when hopes fail and we commune one with another and are sad; for those, also, when our hearts burn within us in the half-consciousness that Christ is speaking to us through the lips of human teachers.


Verse 30

(30) He took bread, and blessed it.—Had the two travellers been of the number of the Twelve, we might have thought of the words and acts as reminding them of their last Supper with their Lord. As it was, we must think of those words and acts as meant to teach them, and, through them, others, the same lesson that had then been taught to the Twelve, that it would be in the “breaking of bread” that they would hereafter come to recognise their Master’s presence. And they, too, we must remember, whether they were of the Seventy, or among the wider company of disciples, must have had memories, it may be of multitudes fed with the scanty provision of a few barley loaves, it may be of quiet evenings without a multitude, when they had looked on the same act, and heard the same words of blessing. This meal, too, became so full of spiritual significance that we may well anticipate the technical language of theology and say that it was to them “sacramental.”


Verse 31

(31) And he vanished out of their sight.—Literally, He became invisible. The adjective does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. In the order of time this is the first example of the new conditions of our Lord’s risen life. It was not that He rose and left the room in which they sat. In a moment they knew Him with all the fulness of recognition; and then they saw Him no more. The work for which He had come to them was done. He had imparted comfort and insight, and had brought them into communion with Himself, and then they were to be taught that that communion was no longer to depend, as before, on a visible and localised presence. (Comp. Luke 24:36, John 20:19; John 20:26.)


Verse 32

(32) Did not our heart burn within us . . .?—More accurately, Was not our heart burning . . .? the tense both of this and of the other verbs implying a continuous and not a momentary state or act.


Verse 33

(33) They rose up the same hour.—As it was towards evening when they had arrived at Emmaus, and its distance from Jerusalem was about eight miles, they must have reached the chamber where the Eleven were assembled after nightfall. If we identify this gathering with that of John 20:19, there were but ten Apostles present, Thomas being absent.


Verse 34

(34) The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.—Of the manifestation thus referred to, we have no other record in the Gospels. It occupies, however, a prominent place in those which St. Paul enumerates (1 Corinthians 15:5), and takes its place among the phenomena which indicates St. Paul’s acquaintance with the substance of St. Luke’s Gospel. What passed at the meeting we can only reverently imagine. Before the Passion, the Lord had “turned and looked” on Peter with a glance of tender and sorrowful reproof (Luke 22:61). Now, we may believe, He met the repentant eager disciple with the full assurance of pardon.


Verse 35

(35) He was known of them in breaking of bread.—The use by St. Luke of a term which, when he wrote, had already acquired a definite secondary meaning, as applied to “breaking bread “in the Supper of the Lord (Acts 2:42; Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 10:16), is every way significant. He meant men to connect the recognition at Emmaus with their daily or weekly communion in the Body and Blood of Christ.


Verse 36

(36) Jesus himself stood in the midst of them.—The account agrees with that in John 20:19, who adds the fact that the doors of the room had been closed for fear of the Jews. The mode of appearance in both Gospels suggests the idea, as in Luke 24:31, of new conditions of existence, exempted from the physical limitations of the natural body, and shadowing forth the “spiritual body” of 1 Corinthians 15:44. It may be noted, however, that there had been time for the journey from Emmaus without assuming more than the ordinary modes of motion.

Peace be unto you.—The words do not appear elsewhere as addressed by our Lord to His disciples, but they were, as we find in Matthew 10:12, Luke 10:5, identical with the customary salutation of the Jews, so that we may fairly assume that here also the familiar words, as before the familiar act, were meant to help the disciples to recognise His presence. St. John records (John 20:19) the same salutation at the same interview.


Verse 37

(37) Supposed that they had seen a spirit.—More accurately, supposed that they were looking on . . . For the use of the word “spirit “in this sense, see Acts 23:8-9; Hebrews 12:23.


Verse 38

(38) Why are ye troubled?—The question has a singular interest as witnessing to the identity of character, if one may so speak, of the risen Lord with all that had belonged to His humanity in the days of His ministry. He, too, had known what it was to be “troubled in spirit” (John 11:33; John 12:27; John 13:21), and out of that experience had grown the tender sympathy which showed itself in the words addressed to the disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). Now they had a trouble of a different kind, and still, as before with the two who were on their way to Emmaus, He seeks to calm and sustain them. He knows even the unuttered thoughts and questionings that are rising in their hearts.


Verse 39

(39) Behold my hands and my feet.—The test thus offered to the disciples, like that afterwards given to Thomas, was to be to them a proof that they were not looking on a spectre from the shadow-world of the dead. The Resurrection was a reality, not an appearance. In St. John’s words, “which our hands have handled” (1 John 1:1), we have an interesting coincidence with the use of the same word here. The conditions of the problem must remain, however, transcendental and mysterious. There is a real corporeity, and yet there is a manifest exemption from the common conditions of corporeal existence. St. Luke’s narrative presents an undesigned coincidence with that of John 20:25. What Thomas asked for was the evidence which had, he heard, been given to others. Without that evidence he could not, he felt, believe.


Verse 41

(41) While they yet believed not for joy.—We again note St. Luke’s characteristic tendency to psychological analysis. As men sleep for sorrow (Luke 22:45), so they disbelieve for very joy. What is brought before their eyes is too good to be true.

Have ye here any meat?—Literally, anything to eat, any food. Here again there is an agreement with St. John (). A new crucial test is given of the reality of the resurrection-body. It could be no shadow or spectre that thus asked for food. This we all feel; but the further question, whether there was not only the power to receive food, but a life in any sense dependent upon the laws which govern the bodily life of men, leads us into a region of problems which we cannot solve, and on which it is profitless to dwell. What seems suggested is a spiritual existence capable, by an act of volition, of assuming, in greater or less measure, the conditions of corporeal. We note how the Apostles dwelt afterwards on what now occurred as a proof of their Lord’s resurrection. They had “eaten and drunk with Him” (Acts 10:41).


Verse 42

(42) A piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.—The fact is interesting as pointing to the common food of the disciples. Fish—as in the miracles of the Five Thousand and the Four, and, we may add, in the narrative of John 21:9—seems to have been the staple article of diet. Honey—as in the proverbial speech which described Canaan as a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Deuteronomy 26:9; Deuteronomy 26:15; Jeremiah 11:5, et al.), as in the histories of Samson (Judges 14:8) and Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:27) and John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4)—was common enough to enter into the diet of the poor. Even in a time of scarcity, when the corn and the olive crops failed, or were laid waste, butter and honey remained as a resource which did not fail (Isaiah 7:15; Isaiah 7:22).


Verse 44

(44) These are the words which I spake unto you.—As with the travellers to Emmaus, so now with the Ten who were present, our Lord leads His disciples to the true method of interpreting the prophecies which foretold the Christ. And that method was not an afterthought. It had been given in hints and outlines before; now they were led to see it in its fulness. The three-fold division of the Law, the Prophets (including most of the historic books), and the Psalms (the latter term standing for the whole of the Kethubim, the Hagiographa or “holy writings,” of which the Psalms were the most conspicuous portion), corresponded to that which was in common use among the Jews. (See General Introduction I.—The Books of the New Testament.)


Verse 45

(45) Then opened he their understanding.—Assuming, as we must assume, that this was the same meeting of the Lord with His disciples as that reported in John 20:22, we have here that which corresponds with the gift of the Holy Spirit He then imparted to them. They were conscious of a new spiritual power of insight and knowledge which they had not possessed before. St. Luke’s report, as derived probably at second or third hand, through Joanna or others, is naturally more vague than that which comes from the eye-witness.


Verse 46

(46) Thus it behoved Christ to suffer.—Better, as elsewhere, that the Christ should suffer.


Verse 47

(47) And that repentance and remission of sins . . .—Here also we have a point of contact with St. John’s narrative. Though St. Luke did not know the special form in which the commission had been given, he had, at least, learnt that forgiveness of sins had occupied a prominent place in what had been said on that evening, and that that forgiveness was not limited to the children of Abraham.

Beginning at Jerusalem.—There is a manifest break and condensation of the narrative at this point. St. Luke has no personal reminiscences. The second appearance, when Thomas was present, those on the mountain or by the lake in Galilee, are unrecorded by him, and were probably not known. He has before him the plan of his second book, and he is content to end his first with what will serve as a link leading on to it. Assuming his chief informants to have been, not the disciples, but the company of devout women, we have a natural explanation of this comparative vagueness. In Acts 1:8, words that closely resemble these are placed at the end of the forty days, which are there distinctly recognised.


Verse 48

(48) Ye are witnesses of these things.—Here again we have a link connecting the Gospel with the Acts, the key-note of which, especially in the earlier chapters, is that the disciples are to be “witnesses” of their Lord’s work and teaching, and above all of His resurrection (Acts 1:8; Acts 1:22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32).

Behold, I send the promise of my Father . . .—As far as St. Luke’s Gospel is concerned, the promise thus referred to would seem to be that of Luke 11:13. The discourses preserved by St. John show, however, that there had been the more recent and more definite promise of the Comforter (John 14:16; John 15:26), and so far St. Luke’s report, vague as it is, presents an undesigned coincidence.

Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem.—Again we have a parallelism with Acts 1:4. The omission of all reference to the return of the disciples to Galilee is at first startling, but it, at least, proves the entire independence of St. Luke’s Gospel, and it may be explained on the very natural supposition that he had no knowledge of further details at this stage of his history, and would not construct a narrative with invented ones.

Until ye be endued with power from on high.—The Greek word is probably to be taken with more of its original meaning than is conveyed by the English. The disciples were to be invested—i.e., clothed upon—with a new power, which was to be as the new garb in which their old nature and its gifts were to manifest themselves, purified and strengthened, but not losing their identity. It is noticeable that this is a very favourite thought with St. Paul. Men “put on” Christ (Galatians 3:27), the “new man” (Ephesians 4:24). In the risen life they are clothed with, and put on, incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:53-54; 2 Corinthians 5:2-4). The word is not used, in its figurative spiritual sense, by any other New Testament writer.


Verse 50

(50) And he led them out as far as to Bethany.—It must be admitted that this narrative, taken by itself, would leave the impression that the Ascension followed with not more than a day’s interval on the Resurrection. We must remember, however, that even the coincidences between the close of St. Luke’s first book and the beginning of his second, show that he was already looking forward to resuming his work, and that the interval of forty days is distinctly recognised in Acts 1:3, though there also, as here, there is no mention of any return to Galilee in the interval. Is it a conceivable solution of the problem that the devout women, who were St. Luke’s informants, remained at Jerusalem in almost entire seclusion, and hardly knew of what had passed outside the walls of their house from the day of the Resurrection onwards to that of the Ascension? To them, as to others who look back upon periods in which intense sorrow and intense joy have followed one on the other, all may have seemed, when they looked back upon it in after years, as a dream, the memory of which was in one sense, as to its outcome, indelible, but in which the sequence of details could no longer be traced with clearness. If we may distinguish between two words often used as synonymous, it was with them, not recollection, but memory. On the brief narrative that follows, see Notes on Acts 1:9-11.


Verse 51

(51) The words “and was carried up into heaven” are wanting in some of the best MSS., and are omitted accordingly by some recent editors.


Verse 52

(52) They worshipped him.—These words also are absent from most of the best MSS. If they stand as part of the text, we must remember that they describe the attitude of prostrate adoration.

With great joy.—Now, at last, the disciples found the fulfilment of their Lord’s promise that “their sorrow should be turned into joy,” and that joy—the joy of knowing that their Lord and their Friend was at the right hand of the Father—was one which no man could take from them (John 16:20; John 16:22).


Verse 53

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 24:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/luke-24.html. 1905.

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