April 11, 2017: Verse of the day


The Source of Understanding

And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (24:25–27)

The two disciples’ confusion and unbelief clearly defined their need to understand the reality of what had happened. They needed to know not only that Jesus rose from the dead, but also that His death and resurrection are essential features of His messiahship. They needed to understand that what had taken place was God’s plan for the redemption of Israel and the world. The risen Lord’s questions and their responses had put Him in position to provide them with the answers they needed. Good expositions of Scripture are set up with questions.

Before instructing the men, Jesus first rebuked them for being foolish men and slow of heart (i.e., “dull,” or “stupid”) to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. Their confusion stemmed from their failure to understand and believe all that the Old Testament taught regarding the Messiah. They were right to expect Him to reign and rule; to establish His kingdom over Israel and the world.

But that was only part of the truth, as Jesus’ question, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” indicates. They, like all the Jewish people, were looking for a Messiah who would vanquish their oppressors, not be killed by them, and missed the truth that He first had to suffer before establishing His kingdom. There was no excuse for their lack of understanding, since the Old Testament was clear and understandable. Jesus repeatedly challenged His opponents, “Have you not read?” (Matt. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 22:31; Mark 12:10), and said that their errant theology stemmed from a failure to understand the Scripture (Matt. 22:29).

There was no excuse for failing to recognize the necessity for Messiah to suffer death. They knew that sin must be paid for by the death of a substitute. After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God killed an animal to provide coverings for them, picturing the death of an innocent substitute to cover the sin of a guilty sinner (Gen. 3:21). He accepted Abel’s sacrifice because it was a blood sacrifice, and rejected Cain’s because it was not (Gen. 4:3–5). After the flood, Noah built an altar and offered sacrifices (Gen. 8:20). The sacrificial system laid out in the Pentateuch, including the Day of Atonement and Passover, involved the deaths of countless thousands of innocent animals. It was self-evident, however, that those sacrifices did not ultimately satisfy God’s justice, otherwise they would not have been constantly repeated, as the writer of Hebrews explains:

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? (Heb. 10:1–2)

Having rebuked them for failing to know the significance of the Old Testament’s teaching regarding Messiah’s suffering, Jesus—the one to whom that teaching pointed (John 5:39)—personally tutored them in a true understanding of it. Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. That teaching would undoubtedly have included such things as the Protoevangelium (Gen. 3:15); Abel’s and Noah’s sacrifices; the ark, which pictures Him as the true ark into which sinners enter and sail safely through the waters of divine judgment; the ram offered as a substitute in place of Isaac (Gen. 22:13); the Passover lambs, which pictured Him as the final sacrifice (Ex. 12; cf. 1 Cor. 5:7); the manna (Ex. 16), which pictured Him as the true bread from heaven (John 6:32–35); the five main offerings in Leviticus (burnt, grain, peace, sin, and trespass), of which He is the fulfillment; the Day of Atonement, where He is pictured by both the sacrifice on the altar and the scapegoat that bore away sin; the rocks that provided water in the wilderness (Ex. 17; Num. 20), which pictured Him as the source of spiritual provision for His people (1 Cor. 10:4); the prophet of whom Moses wrote (Deut. 18:18–22; cf. Acts 3:22), who was the Messiah; the one hanged on a tree, cursed by God and taken down before sunset (Deut. 21:22–23), and hated without a cause (Ps. 69:4). He might have taken them to Psalm 40:7, which the writer of Hebrews applied to Him (Heb. 10:7). He would surely have pointed out the details of His crucifixion given in the Old Testament (Pss. 22; 41:9; 69:21; Isa. 50:6; Zech. 11:12–13; 12:10; and especially Isa. 53); and Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24–26), which predicted the exact day of His triumphal entry. Jesus also would have explained the prediction of His resurrection given in Psalm 16:8–10 (cf. Acts 13:34–37).[1]

25–27 Jesus’ response begins with a note on the ignorance of the two disciples—a theme that will reappear in the speeches of Acts (cf. Jacques Dupont, Le discours de Milet: Testament pastoral de Paul Actes 20:18–36 [Paris: Cerf, 1962], 339). The reader of the Greek text will immediately observe the pronoun auton (“him”) in an emphatic position in v. 24 and kai autos (“and he”; NIV, “he”) in v. 25 (referring, still emphatically, to the same person, though he remains unrecognized). As Dillon, 132, notes, “The Stranger seizes the platform from the confused disciple.”

Jesus, who in his transfiguration was superior to Moses and Elijah (9:28–36), now invokes Moses and the Prophets to substantiate the divine plan of his path from suffering to glory (v. 27). The word “all” (v. 25) is a warning not to treat the Scriptures selectively and also points to the unique position of Jesus as the One who represents the goal of salvation history. In this plan of God, one cannot ignore the role of the Messiah’s suffering (v. 26). “The Christ” (Messiah) did “have to” (edei) suffer. The verb dei (GK 1256), meaning “it is necessary,” is one of Luke’s key words (cf. 2:49; 4:43; 13:16, 33; 15:32; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:7, 37; 24:7, 44, along with the basic passion prediction of 9:22 that occurs also in Matthew and Mark). The future “glory” of the Christ (v. 26) was mentioned in the context of the passion prediction, ascribed there to the “Son of Man” (9:26; cf. 21:27). Some have argued that “glory” here is to be understood as a substitute expression for “was raised from the dead” (cf. Dillon, 141ff.). More likely it refers to the honor anticipated in the OT for the Messiah and attributed to the Son of Man in the verses just referred to. The unexpected element in Christ’s messiahship was his suffering. On the other hand, one could hardly argue that Christ’s glory excludes the resurrection. Paul quoted the OT to prove the necessity of both the suffering and resurrection of the Messiah (Ac 17:2–3). In any case, the connection between glory and suffering/death as found in Scripture is a constant emphasis of Luke’s (Lk 9:26, 32; 21:27; 24:26; Ac 3:13; 7:55; cf. John J. Kilgallen, “Jesus, Savior, the Glory of Your People Israel,” Bib 75 [1994]: 305–28). “Beginning with” (v. 27) probably implies that Jesus drew on all the Scriptures but principally on the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and the Prophets (cf. Marshall, 897). The central subject of these OT passages is “himself.”

For several reasons vv. 25–27 are vitally important. With great clarity they show that the sufferings of Jesus, as well as his glory, were predicted in the OT and that all the OT Scriptures are important. They also show that the way the writers of the NT used the OT had its origin not in their own creativity but in the postresurrection teachings of Jesus, of which this passage is a paradigm. The passage also exemplifies the role of the OT in Luke’s theology. Though he does not directly quote the OT Scriptures as many times as Matthew does, nevertheless, he alludes frequently to the OT, demonstrating that what God has promised must take place and employing a “proof from prophecy” apologetic for the truth of the gospel (cf. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern). In this particular statement by Jesus, one can also find the critical hermeneutical role of the OT, when contemporary events (in the time of Jesus) have to be interpreted in the light of OT promises.[2]

24:25–27 Jesus then lovingly chided them for not realizing that this was exactly the pathway which the prophets of the OT had foretold for the Messiah. First, He must suffer, then he would be glorified. Beginning at Genesis and continuing through all the books of the Prophets the Lord reviewed all the Scriptures which referred to Himself, the Messiah. It was a wonderful Bible study, and how we would love to have been with Him then! But we have the same OT, and we have the Holy Spirit to teach us, so we too can discover in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.[3]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2014). Luke 18–24 (pp. 423–425). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] 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. 347–348). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1457–1458). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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