John T. Willis

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Burial and Resurrection of Jesus--Luke 23:50-24:12

After describing the crucifixion of Jesus, Luke then describes the burial and resurrection of Jesus. This appears in Luke 23:50-24:12, which naturally falls into two parts. This section has parallels in Matthew 27:51-28:10; Mark 15:42-16:8; John 19:38-20:10. Each gospel describes events not found in the other gospels, and sometimes in a different order. Many details in Matthew, Mark, and John do not appear at all in Luke, and vice versa. It is a huge erroneous presupposition to attempt to piece together all the events and statements in the accounts in the four gospels to reconstruct the life of Jesus. No biblical speaker, preacher, writer, composer, or singer would even entertain of such an idea. As one honors the Bible as it stands, it is very important to follow the flow of the account in each gospel, in this case, the Gospel of Luke. It is essential to remember and respect that each gospel composer addressed a different audience at a different time faced with a different set of problems and issues.

I. The Burial of Jesus. Luke 23:50-56a.
    a. After describing the crucifixion of Jesus, Luke turns to another situation: "there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, a member of the council," that is, the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, without stating that he might be a high priest, a scribe, or an elder. Joseph had not agreed to the plan and action of the Sanhedrin, referring either to the plot of the chief priests and temple officers with Judas Iscariot in Luke 22:4-5 or to the sentence implied in the Council's assertion that no further testimony was necessary in Luke 22:71. Joseph came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, which archaeologists have variously located it as Ramathaim-zophim in 1 Samuel 1:1, Rathamin in 1 Maccabees 11:34, Ramathain in Josephus' works, Remphis or Remfthis in Eusebius' works, and Ramallah by W. F. Albright and several other scholars. Joseph of Arimathea was "waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God," a statement similar to those of Simeon in Luke 2:25 and Anna in Luke 2:38. 23:50-51.
    b. Joseph boldly went to Pontius Pilate and asked him for the body of Jesus. Pilate consented, and Joseph took down the body of Jesus from the cross, wrapped it in linen cloth, and laid Jesus' body in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. Many people have declared that they have found the linen cloth, the shroud, wrapped around Jesus. But thus far, nothing has PROVED that THIS or THAT linen cloth was THE VERY CLOTH wrapped around Jesus. [For different views on this, see Jseph A. Fitzmyer, Jr., The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV, The Anchor Bible, 28A, pages 1527-1529]. Joseph is carefully protecting the body of Jesus from associating Jesus with criminals, because usually those in charge buried criminals in common graves. Jesus' body is not allowed to hang beyond sundown, as the law commands in Deuteronomy 21:22-23. Who cared for the body of Jesus on the cross? It was not the apostles or Jesus' relatives, but devout Jewish people in Palestine: Joseph of Arimathea and the women from Galilee. 23:52-53.
    c. When Joseph buried Jesus in the tomb, it was the "Day of Preparation," which means either the day before the Sabbath or the day before the Passover. The following clause indicates Luke has in mind the day before the Sabbath. As all this was happening, women had come with Jesus from Galilee and they followed Joseph as he took the body of Jesus to the tomb, and they saw the tomb and how the body of Jesus was laid. Since the fourth century A. D., this tomb has been traditionally associoate with a spot late at present within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. These women are Mary called Magdalene, Joanna wife of Chuza (Herod's Steward), Susanna, Mary the mother of James, and many others, as Luke 8:2-3 make clear [see further Luke 24:10]. The women then returned home, and prepared spices and ointments for the body of Jesus. 23:54-56a.

II. The Resurrection of Jesus. Luke 23:56b-24:12.
     a. None of the four Gospels or any other speaker or writer in scripture attempts to give an account of the resurrection of Jesus itself. Rather, different speakers and composers relate appearances of Jesus after the resurrection. Like all faithful Jews, the women rested on the Sabbath according to God's commandment in Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15. The Sabbath was from sundown at the end of the Day of Passover to sundown at the end of the Sabbath itself. The women went to the tomb, not in the dark, but early the next morning. 23:56b.
     b. On the first day of the week "at early dawn," the women came to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in the tomb, they did not find the body of Jesus. From the first century A. D., tombs in the neighborhood of Jerusalem have been found fitted with huge circular stone discs that were set in a transverse channel hollowed out of stone, along which the discs would be rolled in front of a rectangular doorway opening on to the tomb proper. Facing the doorway from the outside, the stone would be rolled from left to right or from right to left to open or close the tomb. Obviously "someone" had rolled away the stone of the tomb where Jesus' body had laid. 24:1-3.
    c.  The women were perplexed because the body of Jesus was gone. Suddenly "two men in dazzling clothes" stood beside them. The dazzling clothes apparently indicates that these men were of "otherworldly nature." In Luke 24:23, the report these women gave to the people is that "they had indeed seen a vision of ANGELS." There are several passages throughout scripture which identify "men" as angels, as in Genesis 18:2, 22; 19:1. When the women saw the men, they were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said, "Who do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but risen." The passive verb "is risen" clearly emphasizes the Luke ascribes the resurrection of Jesus to GOD THE FATHER. Nowhere in scripture does the Bible declare or claim that Jesus raised himself from the dead. All of this is due to the power of God the Father. See Acts 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 37; Romans 4:24; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14. The men reminded the women that Jesus told them that while he was still in Galilee, the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and rise again on the third day. 24:4-7.
     d. The women remembered the words of Jesus, and they returned from the tomb, and went to the Eleven Apostles and all the rest what had happened. "The Eleven" are the Twelve Apostles minus Judas Iscariot--see Luke 24:33; Acts 1:26; 2:14; Matthew 28:16; Mark 16:14. Luke specifically names the women involved. 24:8-10.
     e. The eleven apostles thought the account of the women was "an idle tale," and "they did not believe them." But Peter, inquisitive as he is, got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, AMAZED at what had happened, but still not believing that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. 24:11-12.
     f. According to the Bible, the resurrection of Jesus is not a mirage or a ghost or a fictitious being. Rather, God the Father raised Jesus "in bodily form." Greek philosophy declares that a human being consists of a "body" and a "soul." The Bible contains nothing at all about such a view. Rather, Paul states very clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44: "about the difference between a 'physical body' . . . which is sown as perishable, with dishonor, and with weakness, and a 'spiritual body' . . . which is raised as imperishable, with glory and with power. . . . Paul . . . identifies the one and the same 'body' with all that is not body, viz. with spirit." (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Jr., The Gospel according to Luke X-XXIV, The Anchor Bible, 28A, pages 1539). Paul compares the resurrection with a seed. A person plants a seed in the ground, the seed germinates and grows and changes into an entirely different plant, but the seed and the plant are of the same type or nature. Thus is the resurrection of the dead through the power of God the Father.

Share YOUR insights and reservations and declarations and fears and hopes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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