(Click here to read Luke 24)
Luke 24:1-9 (ESV)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
Jesus was born in poverty away from home, displaced by the whim of the empire. He was born in Bethlehem, David's city, where the Old Testament prophesied the Messiah would be born. But he didn't stay a baby. He was raised the son of a carpenter in the rural, multi-ethnic region of Galilee as scripture had also said of Messiah. But he didn't stay in Galilee. Just as the Old Testament said Messiah would, Jesus traveled and taught the people a message of Good News for the poor, freedom for the captive and the oppressed, and sight for the blind. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and cast out demons. The crowds followed him. But his ministry didn't last forever, and his disciples didn't always remain with him.
Jesus was executed by the Roman empire for insurrection, though he was found innocent and had committed no crime, just as scripture had said, and just as Jesus himself had told his disciples. But he didn't stay dead.
On the third day, Jesus came back from the dead, defeating the final enemy, and humanity's most common enemy. Death was the curse of sin, but this sinless one had overcome it. Humankind was set free, and the law no longer stood between them and God. From then on, the law could be written upon their hearts, just as scripture had said. The life of the Holy Spirit could now live inside of humankind, and the Kingdom of God birthed from within to change the entire world from the grave to the sky.
Jesus' disciples did not yet understand their part in the unfolding of an ancient story. Jesus was at the centre of history. His life, death, and promised resurrection were far more than the local revolution they'd dreamed of. The result would change them and their world in a far deeper and more permanent way than they could imagine. This was ancient promises fulfilled, and new promises for a better hope for the rest of time.
When two disciples were sharing their grief on the road to Emmaus, they did not recognize the stranger that began waling with them. When he asked why they were so downcast, and their shared of the violent and dramatic loss of their friend and Rabbi, he opened their eyes to the greater story.
Luke 24:25-26 (ESV)
25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
This last chapter of Luke is not the end of the story. Luke continues into his next book, Acts, without missing a moment. Jesus has fulfilled the promises made by the prophets and by himself. But those promises are Good News of the Kingdom to travel far beyond Galilee or even Jerusalem. This is a story and a message for all humanity, one that means freedom and justice for anyone, anywhere who would leave the chains of the old empire behind them. These disciples will carry on, with the authority of an ancient story and an eternal future.
Luke's Greek audience was not interested in a religion that had just entered the scene. As he closes this chapter of the story and begins the next, he makes it clear that following Jesus is not a new path, but one with a history that stretches to before the height of ancient Egypt. The promise of Messiah had been given thousands of years before, to a faithful man and his wife in the ancient Near East. The Heavenly Father of whom Jesus preached had redeemed and restored his people again and again through the rise and fall of mighty empires. This continuing story was not the Good News for freedom for everyone from every empire, and even from judgment and death.
Jesus appeared to his disciples again, all together, as they gathered in a house together. To assure them of his real, physical resurrection, he shared food with them. Jesus' message in Luke has been real, practical, and measurable since the beginning. This resurrection changed nothing. The Kingdom was now inaugurated, and his followers were now able to get to the business of putting the real Kingdom into real action.
Luke 24:44-48 (ESV)
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Judgment had been fully paid. Religious law had been satisfied. The empire had been defeated. Even death had been overcome.
The Great Reversal had just begun.
Luke 24:49-53 (ESV)
49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
This is the end of the age of sin and empire, but not the end of the story.
This is the beginning of the age of the Kingdom of God, but not its fulfillment.
The seed was planted. God would now work it through the whole of the world. Jesus is King.