Explore the Bible: Luke 24:5-8
The gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection focus on different details. Some look at this and see contradictions, but the four descriptions of the resurrection can be woven together into a single account. The process isn’t as easy as doing a cut-and-paste document throwing all the phraseology of each author together, but many scholars and teachers have made satisfactory renderings of the resurrection story. (I’ve dealt with some of the issues surrounding harmonizing the resurrection accounts in a paper I posted on my “Pastor Steve’s Study” web site.) Each gospel writer has specific emphases that they wish to make, so they focus on those details that fit what they want to say, without contradicting what the other gospel writers have written.
Luke in particular would likely have been aware of other accounts of the resurrection, given his interest in researching the subject of Jesus’ life and teaching. Matthew and Mark had likely already written their gospels (in fact, many scholars think Luke was dependent on Mark and at least a common source with Matthew), and while John would not write his gospel for a number of years the material of his account may have been in circulation. It is hard to imagine Luke deliberately allowing his account to contradict what he knew others had written and taught.
There is an interesting detail in Luke’s account that is not included in the others. When the women come to the tomb, they encounter two angels. One of them speaks to the women, beginning by announcing that Jesus was alive. Luke goes on to record more that the angel said: “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered His words.” (Luke 24:6-8, HCSB) Luke tells us that the first reminder of Jesus’ words about Himself to His followers was given by the angel to the women at the tomb.
Why would Luke alone record this detail? We certainly see Jesus saying similar things to His disciples when He appears to them in the other gospel accounts. If we look at Luke 24, though, we see that he moves from the angels’ appearance at the empty tomb and Peter’s confirmation to the account of Jesus’ appearance to two of His followers on the road to Emmaus. As they conversed, Jesus rebuked them in these words: “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26, HCSB) Jesus goes on to teach them from the Scriptures (our Old Testament) about Himself.
Luke’s resurrection account sets up his extended account of the Emmaus road encounter (which is briefly mentioned by Mark, and not recorded in the other gospels). It is interesting that the gospel writer who was probably a Gentile writing to someone who also was likely Greek or Roman points to the prophetic words of Jesus and of the prophets to make the case for Jesus as the Messiah. Luke clearly wants to establish the fact that in His suffering, death, and resurrection Jesus was the fulfillment of the expectations of the Jews. Yet in both his gospel and in Acts, Luke goes on to Jesus’ words of commission to take the gospel to all nations.
The resurrection of Jesus was a confirmation of His role as the Messiah of the Jews, but it also was a sign to everyone in the world that this Messiah was not only for the Jews, but for all people. The death of Jesus was no accident, but God’s plan to provide for our salvation. The resurrection and Jesus’ appearances after it were verification that His sacrifice for us was approved by His Father, and that now through faith in Him we can be made right with God. As we read about the Passion of Christ, and about His glorious Resurrection, let’s remember what that means for us as His followers today.