Luke 24:1–12 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions
Indeed, Jesus Has Risen
Perhaps you've wrestled with serious doubts about your Christian faith: How can science and the Bible be reconciled? Isn't Christianity just based on legends that evolved among Jesus' followers? If the Bible is true, why would God condemn to hell those who'd never heard of Jesus nor had a chance to believe? How can a good and loving God allow all the evil and suffering in this world? These and many similar questions can plague believers with doubt.
If you look carefully as you read today's twelve verses, you ought to be able to see that our text provides the necessary foundation that will dissipate our doubts while enabling us to stand firm in our faith. Luke's account of the resurrection of Christ teaches us that we must wholeheartedly trust in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of the Christian faith. Please consider how the account that Luke gives us in vv. 1–12 lends itself to providing such a basis for our faith in these four segments.
1. Jesus, Dead and Buried
The story begins with the obvious: Jesus is dead, and his followers assume that he remains dead (vv. 1–3). Women went to the tomb (see video clip linked below) because that's where they'd seen the body of Jesus placed after his crucifixion (23:55–56). They brought spices to anoint Jesus' body and show proper respect for the dead. The discovery of the empty tomb doesn't lead to an easy change of perspective; it brings confusion, not clarity. Dead bodies presumably remain dead. The best that the women or anyone else for that matter can do is to treat a body with respect.
Many modern readers of the gospel likely do the same. We, too, presume that "death is death," and that our proper response should be to enshrine dead Jesus inside a tomb. We should recall that he was an insightful teacher, a fiery prophet, and a compassionate healer; but he died. So we imagine ourselves having a duty to hallow his memory with praise for his legacy, much as the women imagined themselves being called to honor his dead body with spices and ointments. One would think that that would be sufficient.
2. Unable to See the Risen Jesus
For the women (in v. 10), the sight of the angels was almost too much, causing them to fall with their faces to the ground. The angels, however, gently rebuked the women for coming to the grave, expecting to find the "Living One" among the dead (v. 5). Explaining that Jesus' absence was the result of his having been risen from the dead, the angels also reminded the women that this was exactly what Jesus had told them while he was alive and with them, back in Galilee (vv. 6–7). They then remembered that he'd in fact told them those words.
Luke often tells us that Jesus predicted that he'd be crucified and rise from the dead (9:22, 43–45; 17:25; 18:31–33; 22:22). The disciples' minds were closed and couldn't comprehend what he was saying (18:34) until after the fact. But, Jesus would have been a liar or greatly mistaken if he'd repeatedly predicted this but it hadn't come true.
Clearly, the women received word that ran counter to what they knew to be true. "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!" (v. 5). One might be tempted to linger over the description of these angelic messengers, but they aren't the point. The focus in this section is on the message, not the messengers (vv. 4–7). What appears to be most striking is that the women encountered the resurrection through the angels' message. They were told that Jesus had risen, but they were unable to see the risen Jesus. What they received at that point was only a word or message.
The women quickly returned home to inform the men and women disciples there of what they'd heard and learned. The Eleven were there with the rest (v. 9) but they didn't believe the women's words. This brings the Easter experience uncomfortably close, because this is precisely what we have: only the "word" of resurrection. One would think that God would have worked this differently. Wouldn't it have been much easier for God to have had the women arrive at the tomb and see Jesus walk out of it on his own, into the light of a new day? And how much easier it would have been if God had had Jesus simply appear to those of us who gather on Easter mornings, generations later, and dazzle us with his glory! We're in the same situation as those women were on that very first Easter morning. We're given a resurrection message that flies in the face of our worldly understanding.
3. Yet Jesus Lives
The only logical response to such a message is disbelief. Experience teaches us that death wins, yet the Easter message says that Jesus lives. When such contradictory claims collide, it makes sense to continue affirming those truths we already know. This is what Luke reports in vv. 8–11. Leaving the tomb and arriving at the secure upstairs room where the disciples had been meeting, the women brought the message of resurrection to those others who responded as thinking people regularly respond: They thought that their message was an idle tale amounting to nonsense; they wouldn't believe the women witnesses (v. 11).
Unbelief doesn't mean that people believe nothing; rather, it means that they believe something else. People say I don't believe that because there's something else that they believe more strongly. Yet, here's where the Easter message begins its work by challenging our perceived certainties. Experience teaches us: "Death wins" and that "even the strongest invariably succumb to it." Experience also teaches us: "Life is what you make it, so get what you can when you can, because it'll be over soon enough." But wait! The Easter message is this: "Really? How can you be so sure? Death is real, but it's not final. . . certainly not for Jesus and his hearty followers. In Jesus, life gets the last word.
4. Following in Peter's Footsteps
Luke's "First Easter" message ought to turn your old belief in death into a new belief in life. The claim that the tomb couldn't hold Jesus, and the idea that the One who died by crucifixion had indeed risen, is so outrageous that it might make you wonder whether it might be true. The Eleven and the other disciples seemed convinced that the message was nonsense (v. 11). Death was death. Yet the women's message was so outrageous and unbelievable that Peter needed to go and take a good look for himself (v. 12). He had to wonder: What if their testimony is true?
Peter, however, seemed at least to believe that the tomb was empty. He had to look for himself. And so he earnestly ran to the tomb with John (John 20:2–10). Peter saw the evidence — the strips of linen lying by themselves — and it left him puzzled but not believing. If someone had stolen Jesus' body, they wouldn't have waited to unwrap the linen and leave it there. Theft? Resurrection? It was, to him, an unsolved mystery, however, not yet a resurrection. Peter's eyewitness discovery of the empty tomb and linens added only to the disciples' grief and misery; now they didn't even have a body or a grave by which to remember Jesus.
Luke mentions Peter only very briefly; perhaps he was the spokesman of the group. He was still, to some degree, their leader. His actions portray the Eleven at their best (which wasn't very much to talk about). It's this very brief Peter appearance, yet without any faith, that remains so puzzling. And where were the Eleven apostles in all of this? Instead of running to the tomb with Peter, they were visibly absent.
Those Jesus followers who'd gathered together that Easter Sunday ought to have followed in Peter's footsteps. They'd heard the "rumor" that Jesus was alive so they should have gone and witnessed his resurrection for themselves: What if it's true? What if death is real but isn't final? What if Jesus isn't merely past but is present? What if Jesus were to personally present himself to me here in this room? What then would life be like for me?
Luke's "First Easter" reading stops with Peter's amazement, but the Easter story continues far beyond as God continues to challenge the certainty of death with his promise of life. Still not sure? Go ahead and tell God that you think it outrageous to expect anyone to believe that Jesus has risen; tell God that you believe that death gets the final word. None of this is news to God. He's heard it all before. He simply refuses to believe it. God likely asks his disciples of today, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? Through the living Jesus, I continue to give you the gift of life. Why would you think that I'd offer you anything less?"
Reminder to Peter, the Eleven, and Christ's followers today: The risen Savior is the foundation of the Christian faith. Make sure your faith is in him!
- Q. 1 How could Jesus have predicted his death and resurrection several times yet his disciples missed it (vv. 6–8)?
- Q. 2 Why did the female disciples believe in Jesus' resurrection while the male disciples hadn't yet (v. 11)?
- Q. 3 If the evidence for Jesus' resurrection is so strong, why is faith necessary?
- Q. 4 How did the meaning of the resurrection first "dawn" on you? What difference does the resurrection make to you?
New International Version (NIV) [To view it in a different version, click here; also listen to chapter 24.]
† Watch this passage-specific video clip from Jesus Film Project titled "Angels at the Tomb."
† You can also watch this passage-specific video clip titled "The Tomb Is Empty."
Jesus Has Risen
24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" 8Then they remembered his words.
9When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.