APRIL 5 – THE EASTER TRIUMPH

Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.

Luke 24:5–6

 

I do not mind telling you that within me I find the Easter message and the reality of the Resurrection more beautiful and glorious than the Christmas scene.

Christmas tells us that Jesus was born—that He was born for the humiliation of suffering and death and atonement.

But Easter is the radiant and glory-filled celebration of Christ’s mighty triumph over the grave and death and hell!

When Easter comes, our voices are raised in the triumphant chorus:

The three sad days had quickly sped;

He rises glorious from the dead!

There is the real beauty! This is more than the beauty of color; more than the beauty of outline or form; more than the beauty of physical proportion.

In the living Christ is the perfection of all beauty; and because He lives, we too shall live in the presence of His beauty and the beauties of heaven forever!

 

Risen Lord, what a privilege it is to call You my Savior and King! That you triumphed over death is both wonderful and incomprehensible.[1]


The Angelic Messengers

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (24:4–7)

The women were standing in or just outside the tomb, shocked and perplexed because the body of Jesus was gone. Suddenly, they went from being puzzled to being terrified. As they stood there in the light of dawn trying to figure out what could have happened to the corpse, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing. Matthew (28:2) and John (20:12) identify them as angels, appearing in human form (cf. Gen. 18:2; 19:1–5; Dan. 10:16). Although there were two of them (perhaps as witnesses; cf. Deut. 19:15), only one spoke. Similarly, although there were two demon-possessed men at Gerasa (Matt. 8:28), only one spoke (Mark 5:2, 7; Luke 8:27–28), and while there were two blind men healed on the road near Jericho (Matt. 20:30), Mark (10:46) and Luke (18:35) mention only the one who spoke. Their dazzling clothing (cf. Matt. 17:2; Acts 1:10; Rev. 19:14) identified them as divine messengers. Understandably, the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground (cf. Luke 1:12; 2:9; Dan. 8:15–18; 10:9; Matt. 28:2–4; Acts 10:3–4; Rev. 22:8).

In a mild rebuke the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One, the one who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), the one over whom death no longer is master (Rom. 6:9), the one who was dead, but now is alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18) among the dead?” This angelic question is the first announcement that Jesus was alive. The angels went on to say, “He is not here, but He has risen” (lit., “been raised”; the Greek verb is in the passive voice [cf. Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33, 34, 37; Rom. 4:24–25; 6:4, 9; 7:4; 8:11, 34; 10:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:4, 12–20; 2 Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; 1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Peter 1:21]). “Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Matt. 16:21; 17:22–23; 20:17–19; 26:2; 27:63). Since Jesus had predicted His resurrection, they should have been expecting it. But they obviously did not, since they brought spices with which to anoint His dead body.[2]


4–5 Here (v. 4), as elsewhere (e.g., 1:29, 66; 2:19), Luke describes someone pondering a remarkable event. Luke speaks of “two men” rather than “an angel” (Mt 28:2) or “a young man” (Mk 16:5). For a writer to focus on just one person when another is also present is not unusual. (Both Mark and Luke single out one of the blind men at Jericho; see Mk 10:46; Lk 18:35; cf. Mt 20:30.) Luke’s mention of two men at the tomb seems consistent with his other references to witnesses to Jesus (cf. Simeon and Anna, 2:25–38; and esp. 24:48; cf. also the prominence of witnesses in Acts). Two witnesses are the minimum number for validation (Dt 17:6; 19:15; cf. E. G. Bode, The First Easter Morning [Rome: Biblical Institute, 1970], 60).

That Luke understands that the two “men” were angels is evident from what he says of them in v. 23. Moreover, he describes their clothes as “gleaming like lightning” (astraptousē, GK 848, v. 4)—terminology he applies to Jesus’ clothes at his transfiguration (9:29; cf. Ac 1:10, “two men dressed in white”). Luke alone tells us that not only were the women frightened (v. 5), but also that in their fear they bowed their faces to the ground. The response of fear in the presence of supernatural visitation occurs elsewhere in Luke (e.g., 1:12, 29 [though in Mary’s case not at the angel but at his message]; 2:9; 9:34).

The question “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” is important for two reasons: (1) “the living” (ton zōnta; only in Luke) stresses the factual aspect of the resurrection Luke also refers to in Acts 2:24—“it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him”; (2) more important, this entire question may be an allusion to Isaiah 8:19. While this has been noted by some (e.g., Bock, 2:1891), it is the wider context that is important for Luke. In Luke 2:34, the mention of “the falling and rising of many in Israel” is already an allusion to Isaiah 8:14–15. The significant Messianic promises in Isaiah 9:1–7 also resurface in the Lukan prologue (Lk 1:33, 79; 2:11). In the mind of Luke, Isaiah 8–9 points to the reversal of Israel’s fate when the expected Savior appears. In the reply of the two men (angels) here, one can therefore see the significance of the salvific event that had taken place as the OT promises are now fulfilled in the empty tomb.

6 What Luke gives us here is not in the other gospels: The angels show the meaning of the empty tomb by repeating the essence of the three passion predictions (9:22, 43–45; 18:31–33; cf. parallel passages in Matthew and Mark). They begin with the words “remember how he told you,” which imply that what the women should have understood earlier, the resurrection has now clarified. The third prediction (18:31–33) was followed by Luke’s statement that the saying was obscure, hidden from them (18:34; cf. 24:16). The resurrection is the time for revelation and understanding (see comments at v. 8 below).

Some believe the reference to “Galilee” is an alteration of the saying in Matthew 28:7 and Mark 16:7. There Galilee is the place where Jesus would later meet with the disciples; here it is where Jesus had given his passion predictions. Luke obviously centers attention on Jesus’ appearances in the vicinity of Jerusalem, the city of destiny in this gospel (e.g., 9:51; 13:32–35). His selective focus on Jerusalem is not, however, a major disagreement with the other Synoptics; nor does his different use of the word “Galilee” contradict theirs.[3]


24:5 They were frightened (cf. v. 37; Acts 10:4) refers to fear that can lead to reverence (see Luke 1:12). The appearance of angels often produced such fear (cf. Judg. 13:19–20). For the living, cf. Luke 24:23; Acts 1:3; 3:15; Rom. 14:9.

24:6 Remember how he told you. Cf. 9:22, 44; 18:32–33.[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. (2014). Luke 18–24 (pp. 410–411). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[3] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 341–342). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2012). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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