Luke 23: 56b – 24: 12 – Empty Tomb and Resurrection of Jesus

In presenting the episode of the empty tomb, Luke is basically reworking on the Markan version of the narrative (Mk 16: 1-8) with some additions from other sources and with certain modifications of his own. (Compare the Lukan version also with Matthew 28: 1-8, and John 20: 1-13). The punch line of the entire narrative, as in gospel of Mark 16: 1-8, is the paschal proclamation made to the Galilean women followers of Jesus: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen …” This communication made to the women by the heavenly messengers (“two men” in Luke, and “a young man” in Mark) also includes a reference to what Jesus himself had predicted to his disciples about his resurrection after his Crucifixion (Lk 23: 6-7). The fulfilment of Jesus’ own words is thus stressed.

The women take the message to the Eleven and others, who respond to it with incredulity and incomprehension. This contrast is striking. Why are they presented as incredulous? It is only late on in the story that we are told that they will believe when they themselves will ‘see’ the Risen Christ. That is why even though Peter goes to the tomb, he returns not as one who believes but as one who just wonders about what has occurred. Wonder in this case is a sign of incomprehension. In gospel of Luke 24: 34, we will hear that Peter will believe when the Risen Christ appears to him.

This episode is meant to proclaim the truth that Jesus is raised up from among the dead, that he overcame death. The faith in the Risen Lord is not based on the emptiness of the tomb, but on the divine revelation. In the two Lukan appearance scenes there is a manifestation of who Christ is by opening the minds of the disciples through the explanation of the Scriptures. This can be seen in the following episodes.

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