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24. The Resurrection, Ascension

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8And they remembered his words, 9And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. 12Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

13And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? 18And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 19And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. 25Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 28And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

36And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43And he took it, and did eat before them. 44And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

50And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

Luke 24:13. And lo, two of them. Although Mark touches slightly and briefly on this narrative, and Matthew and John say not a single word respecting it; yet as it is highly useful to be known and worthy of being remembered, it is not without reason that Luke treats it with so much exactness. But I have already mentioned on various occasions, that each of the Evangelists had his portion so appropriately assigned to him by the Spirit of God, that what is not to be found in one or two of them may be learned from the others. For there are also many appearances 312312     “Car aussi bien il y a pluieurs recits de diverses fois que Christ s’est monstré;” — “for there are also many narratives of various times that Christ showed himself.” which are mentioned by John, but are passed over in silence by our three Evangelists.

Before I come to the minute details, it will be proper to begin with stating briefly, that those were two chosen witnesses, by whom the Lord intended, not to convince the apostles that he was risen, but to reprove their slowness; for though at first; they were of no service, yet their testimony, strengthened by other aids, had at length its due weight with the apostles. Who they were is uncertain, except that from the name of one of them, whom we shah find that Luke shortly afterwards calls Cleopas, we may conjecture that they did not belong; to the eleven. Emmaus was an ancient, and by no means inconsiderable, town, which the Romans afterwards called Nicopolis and was not at a great distance from Jerusalem, for sixty furlongs are not more than seven thousand and four hundred paces. 313313     “Sept mille et quatre cens paas d’Italie, qui font quatre lieues et demie ou environ;” — “seven thousand and four hundred Italian paces, which are equal to four leagues and a half, or thereabouts.” But the place is named by Luke, not so much on account of its celebrity, as to add certainty to the narrative.

14. And they were conversing with each other. It was a proof of godliness that they endeavored to cherish their faith in Christ: though small and weak; for their conversation had no other object than to employ their reverence for their Master as a shield against the offense of the cross. Now though their questions and disputes showed an ignorance which was worthy of reproof — since, after having been informed that the resurrection of Christ would take place, they were astonished at hearing it mentioned—still their docility afforded Christ an opportunity of removing their error. For many persons intentionally put questions, because they have resolved obstinately to reject the truth; but when men are desirous to embrace the truth submissively, though they may waver on account of very small objections, and stop at slight difficulties, their holy desire to obey God finds favor in his sight, so that he stretches out his hand to them, brings them to full conviction, and does not permit them to remain irresolute. We ought, at least, to hold it as certain, that when we inquire about Christ, if this be done from a modest desire to learn, the door is opened for him to assist us; nay, we may almost say that we then call for himself to be our Teacher; as irreligious men, by their unholy speeches, drive him to a distance from them.

16. But their eyes were restrained. The Evangelist expressly states this, lest any one should think that the aspect of Christ’s body was changed, and that the features of his countenance were different from what they had formerly been. 314314     “Et qu’il y eut autres traits de visage qu’auparavant.” For though Christ remained like himself, he was not recognized, because the eyes of beholders were held; and this takes away all suspicion of a phantom or false imagination. But hence we learn how great is the weakness of all our senses, since neither eyes nor ears discharge their office, unless so far as power is incessantly communicated to them from heaven. Our members do indeed possess their natural properties; but to make us more fully sensible that they are held by us at the will of another, God retains in his own hand the use of them, so that we ought ever to reckon it to be one of his daily favors, that our ears hear and our eyes see; for if he does not every hour quicken our senses, all their power will immediately give way. I readily acknowledge that our senses are not frequently held in the same manner as happened at that time, so as to make so gross a mistake about an object presented to us; but by a single example God shows that it is in his power to direct the faculties which he has. bestowed, so as to assure us that nature is subject to his will. Now if the bodily eyes, to which peculiarly belongs the power of seeing, are held, whenever it pleases the Lord, so as not to perceive the objects presented to them, our understandings would possess no greater acuteness, even though their original condition remained unimpaired; but no in this wretched corruption, after having been deprived of their light, they are liable to innumerable deceptions, and are sunk into such gross stupidity, that they can do nothing but commit mistakes, as happens to us incessantly. The proper discrimination between truth and falsehood, therefore, does not arise from the sagacity of our own mind, but comes to us from the Spirit of wisdom. But it is chiefly in the contemplation of heavenly things that our stupidity is discovered; for not only do we imagine false appearances to be true, but we turn the clear light into darkness.

17. What are those discourses which you hold with each other? What was at that time, as we perceive, done openly by Christ, we daily feel to be accomplished in ourselves in a secret manner; which is, that of his own accord he approaches us unperceived for the purpose of instructing us. Now from the reply of Cleopas it is still more evident that, as I have lately mentioned, though they were in doubt and uncertainty about the resurrection of Christ, yet they had in their hearts a reverence for his doctrine, so that they were far from having any inclination to revolt. For they do not expect that Christ will anticipate them by making himself known, or that this fellow-traveler, whoever he may be, will speak of him respectfully; but, on the contrary, having but a small and obscure light, Cleopas throws out a few sparks on an unknown man, which were intended to enlighten his mind, if he were ignorant and uninformed. The name of Christ was, at that time, so generally held in hatred and detestation, that it was not safe to speak of him respectfully; but spurning from him suspicion, he calls Christ a prophet of God, and declares that he is one of his disciples. And though this designation falls greatly below the Divine Majesty of Christ, yet the commendation which he bestows, though moderate, is laudable; for Cleopas had no other intention than to procure for Christ disciples who would submit to his Gospel. It is uncertain, however, if it was through ignorance that Cleopas spoke of Christ in terms less magnificent than the case required, or if he intended to begin with first principles, which were better known, and to rise higher by degrees. Certain it is, that a little afterwards, he does not simply place Christ in the ordinary rank of prophets, but says that he and others believed him to be the redeemer.

19. Powerful in deed and in word. Luke has employed nearly the same form of expression in reference to the person of Stephen, (Acts 7:22,) where he says of Moses, by way of commendation, that he was powerful in words and in actions. But in this passage it is uncertain if it is on account of miracles that Christ is said to be powerful in actions, (as if it had been said that he was endued with divine virtues which proved that he was sent from heaven;) or if the phrase is more extensive, and means that he excelled both in ability to teach, and in holiness of life and other remarkable endowments. I prefer the latter of these views.

Before God and all the people. The addition of these words ought not to be reckoned superfluous; for they mean that the high excellence of Christ was so well known, and was demonstrated by such undoubted proofs, that he had no hypocrisy or vain ostentation. And hence we may obtain a brief definition of a true Prophet, namely, that to what he speaks he will likewise add power in actions, and will not only endeavor to appear excellent before men, but to act with sincerity as under the eyes of God.

21. But we hoped. From what follows it is evident that the hope which they had entertained respecting Christ was not broken off, though at first sight such might appear to be the import of their words. But as a person who had received no previous instruction in the Gospel might be apt to be prejudiced by the narrative which he was about to give respecting the condemnation of Christ, that he was condemned by the rulers of the Church, Cleopas meets this offense by the hope of redemption. And though he afterwards shows that it is with trembling and hesitation that he continues in this hope, yet he industriously collects all that can contribute to its support. For it is probable that he mentions the third day for no other reason than that the Lord had promised that after three days he would rise again. When he afterwards relates that the women had not fouled the body, and that they tad seen a vision of angels, and that what the women had said about the empty grave was likewise confirmed by the testimony of the men, the whole amounts to this, that Christ had risen. Thus the holy man, hesitating between faith and fear, employs what is adapted to nourish faith, and struggles against fear to the utmost of his power.

25. And he said to them. This reproof appears to be too harsh and severe for a weak man such as this was; but whoever attends to all the circumstances will have no difficulty in perceiving that our Lord had good reason for rebuking so sharply those on whom he had long bestowed labor to little purpose, and almost without any fruit. For it ought to be observed, that; what is here said was not confined to these two persons, but, as a reproof of a common fault, was intended to be conveyed by their lips to the rest of their companions. So frequently had Christ forewarned them of his death — so frequently had he even discoursed about a new and spiritual life, and confirmed his doctrine by the inspired statements of the prophets — that he would seem to have spoken to the deaf, or rather to blocks and stones; for they are struck with such horror at his death, that they know not to what hand to turn. This hesitation, therefore, he justly attributes to folly, and assigns as the reason of it their carelessness in not having been more ready to believe. Nor does he only reprove them because, while they had the best Teacher, they were dull and slow to learn, but because they had not attended to the instructions of the Prophets; as if he had said, that their insensibility admitted of no excuse, because it was owing to themselves alone, since the doctrine of the Prophets was abundantly clear, and had been fully expounded to them. In like manner, the greater part of men, at the present day, remain in ignorance through their own fault, because they are obstinate, and refuse to be instructed. But let us observe that Christ, perceiving that his disciples are excessively sluggish; commences with reproof, in order to arouse them; for this is the way in which we must subdue those whom we have found to be hardened or indolent.

26. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? There is no room to doubt that our Lord discoursed to them about the office of Messiah, as it is described by the Prophets, that they might not take offense at his death; and a journey of three or four hours afforded abundance of time for a full explanation of those matters. Christ did not, therefore, assert in three words, that Christ ought to have suffered, but explained at great length that he had been sent in order that he might expiate, by the sacrifice of his death, the sins of the world, — that he might become a curse in order to remove the curse, — that by having guilt imputed to him he might wash away the pollutions of others. Luke has put this sentence in the form of a question, in order to present it with greater force; from which it may be inferred, that he employed arguments for showing the necessity of his death. The sum of what is stated is, that the disciples are wrong in distressing their minds about their Master’s death, (without which he could not discharge what belonged to Christ; because his sacrifice was the most important part of redemption;) for in this way they shut the gate, that he might not enter into his kingdom. This ought to be carefully observed; for since Christ is deprived of the honor due to him, if he is not reckoned to be a sacrifice for sins, the only way by which he could enter into his glory was that humiliation or emptying, (Philippians 2:7,) out of which the Redeemer had arisen. But we see that no trivial offense is committed among at the present day, by the inversion of this order; for among the multitude of those who declare, in magnificent language, that Christ is King, and who extol him by divine titles, hardly one person in ten thinks of the grace which has been brought to us by his death.

27. And beginning at Moses. This passage shows us in what manner Christ is made known to us through the Gospel. It is when light is thrown on the knowledge of him by the Law and the Prophets. For never was there a more able or skillful teacher of the Gospel than our Lord himself; and we see that he borrows from the Law and the Prophets the proof of his doctrine. If it be objected that he began with easy lessons, that the disciples might gradually dismiss the Prophets, and pass on to the perfect Gospel, this conjecture is easily refuted; for we shall afterwards find it stated, that all the apostles had their understanding opened, not to be wise without the assistance of the Law, but to understand the Scriptures. In order that Christ may be made known to us through the Gospel, it is therefore necessary that Moses and the Prophets should go before as guides, to show us the way. It is necessary to remind readers of this, that they may not lend an ear to fanatics, who, by suppressing the Law and the Prophets, wickedly mutilate the Gospel; as if God intended that any testimony which he has ever given respecting his Son should become useless.

In what manner we must apply to Christ those passages respecting him which are to be found in every part of the Law and the Prophets, we have not now leisure to explain. 315315     “Cela passeroit la mesure de ce present oeuvre;” — “that would exceed the limits of the present work.” Let it suffice to state briefly, that there are good reasons why Christ is called the end of the law, (Romans 10:4.) For however obscurely and at a distance Moses may exhibit Christ in shadows, rather than in a full portrait, (Hebrews 10:1,) this, at least, is beyond dispute, that unless there be in the family of Abraham one exalted Head, under whom the people may be united in one body, the covenant which God made with the holy fathers will be nullified and revoked. Besides, since God commanded that the tabernacle and the ceremonies of the law should be adjusted to a heavenly pattern, (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5,) it follows that the sacrifices and the other parts of the service of the temple, if the reality of them is to be found nowhere else, would be an idle and useless sport. 316316     “Un jeu d’enfans;” — “a game for children.” This very argument is copiously illustrated by the apostle, (Hebrews 9:1;) for, assuming this principle, that the visible ceremonies of the law are shadows of spiritual things, he shows that in the whole of the legal priesthood, in the sacrifices, and in the form of the sanctuary, we ought to seek Christ.

Bucer, too, somewhere throws out a judicious conjecture, that, amidst this obscurity, the Jews were accustomed to pursue a certain method of interpreting Scripture which had been handed down to them by tradition from the fathers. But that I may not involve my inquiries in any uncertainty, I shall satisfy myself with that natural and simple method which is found universally in all the prophets, who were eminently skilled in the exposition of the Law. From the Law, therefore, we may properly learn Christ, if we consider that the covenant which God made with the fathers was founded on the Mediator; that the sanctuary, by which God manifested the presence of his grace, was consecrated by his blood; that the Law itself, with its promises, was sanctioned by the shedding of blood; that a single priest was chosen out of the whole people, to appear in the presence of God, in the name of all, not as an ordinary mortal, but clothed in sacred garments; and that no hope of reconciliation with God was held out to men but through the offering of sacrifice. Besides, there is a remarkable prediction, that the kingdom would be perpetuated in the tribe of Judah, (Genesis 49:10.) The prophets themselves, as we have hinted, drew far more striking portraits of the Mediator, though they had derived their earliest acquaintance with him from Moses; for no other office was assigned to them than to renew the remembrance of the covenant, to point out more clearly the spiritual worship of God, to found on the Mediator the hope of salvation, and to show more clearly the method of reconciliation. Yet since it had pleased God to delay the full revelation till the coming of his Son, the interpretation of them was not superfluous.

28. And they drew near to the village. There is no reason for supposing, as some commentators have done, that this was a different place from Emmaus; for the journey was not so long as to make it necessary for them to take rest for the night at a nearer lodging. We know that seven thousand paces—even though a person were to walk slowly for his own gratification—would be accomplished in four hours at the utmost; and, therefore, I have no doubt that Christ had now reached Emmaus.

And he seemed as if he would go farther. Now as to the question, Can insincerity apply to him who is the eternal truth of God? I answer, that the Son of God was under no obligation to make all his designs known. Still, as insincerity of any kind is a sort of falsehood, the difficulty is not yet removed; more especially as this example is adduced by many to prove that they are at liberty to tell lies. But I reply, that Christ might without falsehood have pretended what is here mentioned, in the same manner that he gave himself out to be a stranger passing along the road; for there was the same reason for both. A somewhat more ingenious solution is given by Augustine, (in his work addressed To Consentius, Book II., chap. 13, and in the book of Questions on the Gospels, chap. 51,) for he chooses to enumerate this kind of feigning among tropes and figures, and afterwards among parables and fables. For my own part, I am satisfied with this single consideration, that as Christ for the time threw a veil over the eyes of those with whom he was conversing, so that he had assumed a different character, and was regarded by them as all ordinary stranger, so, when he appeared for the time to intend to go farther, it was not through pretending any thing else than what he had resolved to do, but because he wished to conceal the manner of his departure; for none will deny that he did go farther, since he had then withdrawn from human society. So then by this feigning he did not deceive his disciples, but held them for a little in suspense, till the proper time should arrive for making himself known. It is, therefore, highly improper to attempt to make Christ an advocate of falsehood; and we are no more at liberty to plead his example for feigning any thing, than to endeavor to equal his divine power in shutting the eyes of men. Our safest course is to adhere to the rule which has been laid down to us, to speak with truth and simplicity; not that our Lord himself ever departed from the law of his Father, but because, without confining himself to the letter of the commandments, he kept by the true meaning of the law; but we, on account of the weakness of our senses, need to be restrained in a different manner.

30. He took bread. Augustine, and the greater part of other commentators along with him, have thought that Christ gave the bread, not as an ordinary meal, but as the sacred symbol of his body. And, indeed, it might be said with some plausibility, that the Lord was at length recognized in the spiritual mirror of the Lord’s Supper; for the disciples did not know him, when they beheld him with the bodily eyes. But as this conjecture rests on no probable grounds, I choose rather to view the words of Luke as meaning that Christ, in taking the bread, gave thanks according to his custom. But it appears that he employed his peculiar and ordinary form of prayer, to which he knew that the disciples had been habitually accustomed, that, warned by this sign, they might arouse their senses. In the meantime, let us learn by the example of our Master, whenever we eat bread, to offer thanksgiving to the Author of life, — an action which will distinguish us from irreligious men.

Luke 24:31. And their eyes were opened. By these words, we are taught that there was not in Christ any metamorphosis, or variety of forms, by which he might impose on the eyes of men, (as the poets feign their Proteus,) but that, on the contrary, the eyes of beholders were mistaken, because they were covered; just as, shortly afterwards, he vanished from the eyes of those very persons, not because his body was in itself invisible, but because God, by withdrawing their rigor, blunted their acuteness. Nor ought we to wonder that Christ, as soon as he was recognized, immediately disappeared; for it was not advantageous that they should any longer behold him, lest, as they were naturally too much addicted to the earth, they might desire again to bring him back to an earthly life. So far, then, as it was necessary to assure them of his resurrection, he made himself visible to them; but by the sudden departure, he taught them that they must seek him elsewhere than in the world, because the completion of the new life was his ascension to heaven.

32. Did not our heart burn within us? Their recognition of Christ led the disciples to a lively perception of the secret and hidden grace of the Spirit, which he had formerly bestowed upon them. For God sometimes works in his people in such a manner, that for a time they are not aware of the power of the Spirit, (of which, however, they are not destitute,) or, at least, that they do not perceive it distinctly, but only feel it by a secret movement. Thus the disciples had formerly indeed felt an ardor, which they now remember, but which they had not then observed: now that Christ has made himself known to them, they at length begin to consider the grace which they had formerly, as it were, swallowed without tasting it, and perceive that they were stupid. For they accuse themselves of indifference, as if they had said, “How did it happen that we did not recognize him while he was talking? for when he penetrated into our hearts, we ought to have perceived who he was.” But they conclude that he is Christ, not simply from the bare sign that his word was efficacious to inflame their hearts, but because they ascribe to him the honor which belongs to him, that when he speaks with the mouth, he likewise inflames their hearts inwardly by the warmth of his Spirit. Paul, indeed, boasts that the ministration of the Spirit was given to him, (2 Corinthians 3:8;) and Scripture frequently adorns the ministers of the word with such titles as the following; that they convert the hearts, enlighten the understandings, and renew men so as to become pure and holy sacrifices; but then it is not to show what they do by their own power, but rather what the Lord accomplishes by means of them. But both belong equally to Christ alone, to pronounce the outward voice, and to form the hearts efficaciously to the obedience of faith.

It cannot be doubted that he then engraved an uncommon Mark on the hearts of these two men, that they might at length perceive that in speaking he had breathed into them a divine warmth. For though the word of the Lord is always fire, yet a fiery rigor was at that time manifested in a peculiar and unusual, manner in the discourse of Christ, and was intended to be an evident proof of his divine power; for it is he alone who baptizeth in the Holy Ghost and in fire, (Luke 3:16.) Yet let us remember that it is the proper fruit of heavenly doctrine, whoever may be the minister of it, to kindle the fire of the Spirit in the hearts of men, to purify and cleanse the affections of the flesh, or rather to burn them up, and to kindle a truly fervent love of God; and by its flame, as it were, to carry away men entirely to heaven.


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