Cemeteries and graves, as a general rule are not places people enjoy visiting, unless of course you are into genealogy or archaeology, looking for history or family connections. But most of us ordinary folks have had our experiences with graves and cemeteries – none of them very pleasant.
Tombs represent finality. Graves represent loss. Cemeteries represent death. We go there to bury those we love and to mourn. Everyone knows that, including those who buried Jesus after His crucifixion.
But the story of Easter morning visit to a tomb is a celebration of a greatest story twist in history, a great reversal that changes everything for all time. What those dedicated women were just realizing then is that this tomb was a source of unimaginable joy – because this tomb was empty.
Jesus’ friends had been on an emotional roller coaster since Passover began on Thursday. After a wonderful, sweet time in the Upper Room, things began to move at a dizzying pace. They climbed the Mount of Olives and went to sleep from exhaustion as Jesus prayed in the Garden. Then they were shocked into reality by torches and Temple guards who took their Lord – arrested – for what? And what was going on with Judas, one of their own? Then the accusations from the authorities, the beatings, the fearing if they were next, the denials.
Then in the midst of blatant legal irregularity, illegitimacies, outright lies, the bold betrayal and corruption, the Roman procurator allowed Jesus – for no cause under the law – to be executed as a criminal – executed by nailing! And the insults he took on the cross! And what was with the darkness between noon and three? And someone said something about an incident of the great curtain tearing at the Temple that afternoon.
But what was the most strange of all: The One they called Lord had died so quickly. And goodness, everything had happened so quickly; what about burial? But then one of the men from the same Jewish ruling council which had condemned him and pushed for his execution, one who was rumored to believe in Him too, offered to pay all the burial expenses. It had gotten so late by the time they got the body in the tomb. Sabbath was beginning and no work could be done to the body. They would have to wait until Sabbath Saturday was over to anoint it.
On Sabbath, the deep darkness of loss. Jesus Himself had raised people from the dead. How then, could He Himself die? There was the widow’s son. There was Jairus’ daughter. The Lord had liberated Mary’s own brother, Lazarus, from the dead, but the grave had captured Him. They were stunned. It seemed like the arrogant Pharisees at Calvary were right. “He saved others. Why could he not save himself?”
By the time we reach Luke 24, the morning of the first day of the week is baffling. Their hearts are totally desolate, totally hopeless. The women are completely confused. Nothing has gone according to their plans. All the men are in hiding for fear they might be next. The women got up early to go and tend to the body of the Lord.
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 24:1-12 to proclaim to everyone that Jesus has risen from the dead through the witness of women, angels, and His disciples.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Jesus’ resurrection.
Key Verse: Luke 24:6 – He is not here; He has risen!
Pray and Read: Luke 24:1-12
1. The Arrival at the Tomb: Witness of the Women (Luke 24:1-3)
2. The Angels at the Tomb: Witness of the Angels (Luke 24:4-8)
3. The Account of the Tomb: Witness of the Disciples (Luke 24:9-12)
Exposition: Note well,
1. THE ARRIVAL AT THE TOMB: Witness of the Women (Luke 24:1-3)
a. Luke 24:1 - Luke gives three accounts of resurrection appearances of Jesus. The first is here (Luke 24:1-12). With the enforced rest of the Sabbath over, the women return early in the morning (lit. deep dawn) as soon at daylight breaks (by 6 a.m. this time of year) the next day at the tomb, only to their horror to find the great stone sealing it has been rolled away and the tomb empty.
b. Luke 24:2 – stone rolled away from the tomb: This stone would have been a disc-shaped stone placed in a track or groove and rolled in front of the opening. Being rolled back indicated tampering, but a resurrected body does not need a stone to be rolled away. Resurrected bodies transcend natural laws. The stone was rolled away so that the women and the disciples could see inside.
c. All four Gospels agree that women first discovered the empty tomb on Sunday morning and that the resurrected Jesus first appeared to women. This is particularly striking since women were not considered reliable witness in first-century Judaism.
d. APPLICATION: Jesus is the greatest liberator of women who ever lived. He credited women with dignity and equality where it counts. After all, “male and female created He them.” That the Gospel writers would call women the primary witness to the empty tomb is a strong argument for the essential historicity of both the Resurrection accounts and the integrity of the Biblical text. This means you can trust the historic claims to a bodily resurrection of Jesus and you can also trust the inerrant text of the Scripture.
2. THE ANGELS AT THE TOMB: Witness of the Angels (Luke 24:4-8)
a. What a jolting shock, when the weeping Marys realize that two calm angels gleaming like lightning, are standing beside them, pointing toward the news of an incredible victory of redemption, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.”
b. Luke 24:4-5 – Two men in clothes that gleamed: As the women stand wondering what has happened, angelic visitors tell them that Jesus has risen from the dead as He said He would. Angels are often called men in the OT because of their human appearance (Josh 5:13). They often appear shining and in white clothing, signs of purity and holiness (2 Kings 6:17; Dan 10:5-6; Luke 9:29). The women bowed in fright, a common emotional response to an angelic appearance.
c. The fullness of the depth and preciousness of those words. And they continued, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered His words.
d. Luke 24:7 – On the third day be raised again: The third day does not refer to three 24-hour days, but inclusively a part of three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The third day is an allusion to Gen 22 when Abraham arrived at Mount Moriah on the third day; and Hosea 6:2, referring to Israel’s restoration. Jesus the Messiah brings restoration to God’s people.
3. THE ACCOUNT OF THE TOMB: Witness of His Disciples (Luke 24:9-12)
a. When they ran and told the Eleven, they didn’t believe them, but Peter and John ran to see for themselves. They saw the strips of linen, but Luke says “he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”
b. Luke 24:9 – He told you: The angels reminded the women of something each Gospel writer emphasizes. Jesus told His disciples ahead of time that He would die and come to life again (Luke 9:22, 44-45; 18:31-34). It’s not surprising that they did not grasp the significance of what Jesus was saying. Now they remember, but they still do not quite understand.
c. Luke 24:10 – The women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary of James (either James’ wife, mother, or sister). Mark 15:40 suggests mother is meant, but not the mother of James and John.
d. Luke 24:11 – They did not believe the women: The disciples’ unbelief arises partly due to the common view of women, but more importantly the strangeness of the report. The word for nonsense is a Greek medical term for the babbling of a fevered or insane mind. For Jews, the resurrection only occurs at the end of time, not within history.
e. Luke 24:12 – Wondering what had happened: Luke describes how puzzled the disciples were and how their despair was crushing Jesus’ disciples. These were not people scheming to steal their leader’s body and claim He had been raised. John 20 tells us that the grave clothes were lying on the side and the head covering was folded, evidence that there was no rushing to remove a dead body. Jesus arose and neatly folded His burial coverings before He departed the tomb!
f. APPLICATION: Some people are good at taking pieces of information, assuming that everyone else’s motivations and attitudes are the same as theirs, and making up falsities about what secret things others are planning or thinking or what they are trying to do. Their made-up stories might fool simple minds, but thinking people will be able to see right through stories made up by people who are actually only revealing the wickedness and stupidity of their own hearts. Don’t be fooled by godless chatter (2 Tim 2:16). It will make a fool out of you.
g. It would take some time and the Messiah’s post-Resurrection instruction for them to understand that the grave was not at all an interruption to the progress of His work. Instead, the grave was the very key to His triumph and glory. For the joy set before Him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame. Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose the Victor from the dark domain, and He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, thereby becoming not only the Author, but also the Perfecter of our faith.
One response to Jesus’ death and resurrection remains to be examined – yours. Maybe like the disciples at first, you shake your head saying it’s all nonsense. But Paul has a compelling argument in 1 Cor 15:17-19: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
To deny the Resurrection is to smash the stone on which all Christianity rests. Yet there is no firmer foundation on which to build your life and your future than on Jesus’ Resurrection.
So we set our eyes on Him. Glory to the Holy One of Israel. Glory to the Son. Glory to the King. For the Son has Risen with healing in His wings.
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 907-912.
S. MacLean Gilmour, “Luke,” The Interpreter’s Bible, George Arthur Buttrick, gen. ed., Vol. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952), 8:415-420.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 256.
Alexander MacLaren, “The Living Dead,” The Empty Tomb: Resurrection Realities Made Plain (Chicago: Moody, 1896), 5-6.
Brian Orme, “The Surprise Ending of Resurrection,” http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/150368-easter-an-aha-moment-for-all-of-history.html
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 498-500.
Alfred Plummer, International Critical Commentary on Luke, 5th ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 28: .
Laurence E. Porter, “Luke,” The International Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1226.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 674.
Mark Strauss. “Luke,” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:497-498.
Charles R. Swindoll and Bryce Klabunde, The Consummation of Something Miraculous: Jesus’ Trial and Triumph of Redemption. A Study of Luke 16:19-24:53 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), 121-123.
Chuck Swindoll, “A Morning of Unimaginable Joy,” http://www.insightforliving.com/pdf/messagemates/04.20.2011-mm.pdf
J. Willcock, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Luke (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1896), 24:600.
Harold L. Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 1999), 558.
 The second is to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). The third is to the eleven disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-49).