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He Is Not Here

Luke 24

Lesson audio

We come to the conclusion of Luke’s Gospel, and a mighty ending (and beginning) it is. In this brief lesson we shall find three groups of witnesses to the resurrection of Christ: the women at the tomb; the disciples on the road to Emmaus and the disciples in the locked room. For each of these three groups we shall examine three things:

  • What attitude and what presumptions did they bring with them?
  • For what did Christ rebuke them? Is this rebuke still fitting today?
  • What evidence for the resurrection is seen in their story?

We begin with the women at the tomb.


Luke gives us a general outline of the conduct of the women at the tomb; John’s Gospel gives us more detail. But let us stick to the text provided:

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 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." And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.

(Luk 24:1-12 NASB)


Nothing is so clear as this: these women had no expectation whatsoever that they would find an empty tomb. Their behavior clearly shows that they expected a dead body. But see how they came:

  • They came as a group – not in courage but in sadness and fear. The question of who would roll the stone away had yet to be answered. The Pharisees were alert for any attempt to steal the body. Would they even be allowed to perform this act of kindness?
  • They came in obedience – for they waited until the Sabbath was over. Theirs was an obedient life.
  • They came as soon as they could. At first light, before the sun rose, they were on their way.
  • Most important of all, they came prepared – to embalm a dead body. It shows clearly that they did not believe that He would rise.
The rebuke

We must remember that in this day and time it was considered unseemly for a woman to study the Scriptures. Therefore the angels do not mention anything about prophecy; they talk of what these women knew for themselves.

  • It is part of the rebuke that they experienced the terror of the angels. This is a huge change of heart, and requires some going to get there.
  • The angels rebuke them for not recognizing Jesus as who He is: He is the way, the truth, the life. How, then, did they expect to find the Living One in a cemetery?
  • There is no sense of reproach for prophets of the Old Testament; but they are reproached for what they heard with their own ears. He told them this would happen; why are they here?

It seems to me that much of this could be said of our faith today. There is no fear in our faith; we are comfortable. We see the gentle Jesus but not the Lion of Judah. We have been taught – but we have not learned.


These women bring to us the evidence of the Resurrection:

  • First, there is their own testimony. They clearly did not expect an empty tomb; they were not looking for revelation but they got it.
  • The empty tomb itself is silent witness. They did not see him come out of the tomb – but they saw the results.
  • They also bring us the testimony of the angels. The Law of Moses was implemented by them; now one greater than Moses has come.

The result of all this? Nobody believed them. Which, of course, is part of the testimony of the other two groups. When they told their story, they were dismissed as being nuts. Even Peter looked into the tomb and simply wondered.

On the road

And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, "Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" And they said to Him, "The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. "But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. "Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see." 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. And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over." So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?"

(Luk 24:13-32 NASB)


If there is one thing we can gather about their attitude, it is this: back to business as usual. The man’s dead; the game is over. So let’s get back on the road again. It would not strike them as unusual to have a stranger come up and talk with them. The crucifixion would be news indeed to this stranger; he must be the only one near Jerusalem who hadn’t heard the word. They reveal to us, however, something of their hearts:

  • They had been “hoping” that Jesus would be the Messiah. They’re not puzzled by events; they’re disappointed.
  • They had heard the account of the women at the tomb. They regarded it as wishful thinking.
  • Indeed, some of the disciples had gone to the tomb and found it empty. A strange event – but nothing with which to change their minds.
The rebuke

It is a stinging rebuke indeed. The women could not have been expected to have studied the Law and the Prophets – but these men should have known. Greater knowledge, greater power, greater following – all these mean greater responsibility as well.

  • He rebukes them for being foolish and – in an exquisite phrase – slow of heart. They do not see because they do not will to see.
  • You knew the prophets; why didn’t you believe what they said? With such a testimony, why do you doubt?
  • Indeed, even the way in which Christ reveals himself is a rebuke. You will not see him in the prophets? Then let us turn to a greater testimony: the Lord’s Supper, the witness of the sacrifice itself.

Is it not curious that they do not recognize him until they enter into the memorial of his sacrifice?


This episode brings additional witness to the Resurrection:

  • First, Christ brings to their mind the testimony of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. All those passages in the Old Testament which point to the coming of the Christ are now shown to them. Like a reader reaching the last chapter of a murder mystery, all is now revealed – and the reader is again among those who have been bamboozled. But this is no novel; this they should have known.
  • If that were not enough, they have seen him face to face, Christ in the flesh. It would seem to be sufficient evidence, but as we shall see it is not.
  • There is also the testimony of their hearts, burning within them. No one brings that out in men like Christ.


And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, "The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon." They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and *said to them, "Peace be to you." But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."

(Luk 24:33-44 NASB)


It must have been disconcerting to the disciples: here is another pair of witnesses coming in with a story which is completely impossible. We know from another Gospel that these two were not believed.[1]

It is important to distinguish something here. This is not the meeting with Doubting Thomas present. That will come in another week. This is a time when the disciples have locked themselves in for fear of prison or death. Nothing could be clearer: these men did not believe in the Resurrection.

The rebuke

Christ’s rebuke to them begins with this: Peace be unto you. Peace. They are worried, they are in fear and doubt – so Christ does not begin with exposition or proof; he begins with peace. Blessed are the peacemakers.

He then presents himself to them. Look carefully; be sure you are not seeing a ghost. This is a body that has hands and feet; ghosts don’t eat. He is material, yet not the same as before. The wonder of this has caused speculation down to our own time.

Again, he brings to them the Law and the Prophets and Psalms to explain to them what they should have known. He does not rely on one meeting alone; rather, he points out the evidence from long before – evidence which could not be cobbled together at the last moment to enhance an absurd theory. They should have known.

The evidence

He brings forth two types of evidence. The first is that of the prophets, which we have noted before. But the second is prophecy itself; he tells them that the Gospel will be preached to all nations. We see that being fulfilled even in our day. Again, we can read and heed.

Epilog: results

There are three evidences which are still available to us today:

  • First, there is the preaching of forgiveness – being proclaimed to every tribe, tongue and nation. The good news is just that – good news. The Resurrection is proclaimed all over the world.
  • Next, there is the power from on high that Christ spoke of. We have but to look back on the first century to see the explosive growth of the church – which could only have come from God.
  • The result we see is the church today. As Gamaliel put it, if this is from God it cannot be defeated. If it is from men it cannot last.

The evidence is still with us. Now the question is, will we believe?

[1] Mark 16:13

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