During a discussion about discerning true love,
the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said:
‘We can be deceived by believing what isn’t true,
but also by not believing what is true.’
No-one likes being deceived.
Which of these two dangers do you find yourself most wary of?
Why do you think this is?
For Jesus’ followers, his death meant the end. Everyone knew that a crucified Messiah was no Messiah at all. To die on a cross was the final humiliating proof that Jesus was a fraud.
The eleven remaining disciples of Jesus (after Judas had committed suicide) hid away in a locked room, afraid that they would be the next to be arrested and executed. Only the women who had followed Jesus had the courage to visit his tomb to anoint the body on the Sunday morning. They had watched from a distance as Jesus was crucified, followed as Jesus’ corpse was wrapped up and placed in a cave tomb and gone home to make preparations to embalm the body with perfumes and spices. After waiting out the Sabbath day (when such work was unlawful), they got up at daybreak on the Sunday and went down to the tomb.
24On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”’ 8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
The women go to the tomb at the earliest opportunity. What do you think are their expectations on that Sunday morning?
They arrive to find the large rock covering the tomb rolled away and Jesus’ corpse missing. What sort of things do you think go through their minds upon finding the tomb empty?
The women have a vision of angels who tell them that Jesus is alive – reminding them of what Jesus had said about his death and what was to follow. While this vision seems to persuade the women, their report of it does not persuade the disciples (24:11).
Can you understand the disciples’ scepticism? What do you think causes Peter to go and investigate the tomb for himself?
As well as the empty tomb, Peter finds the linen that had wrapped Jesus’ body still lying in the tomb. Why might this detail have stuck in Peter’s mind? What questions does it raise?
We are next introduced to two of Jesus’ followers on their way home from Jerusalem after the weekend’s trauma. One remains anonymous while the other is identified simply as Cleopas – a rare name and presumably someone known to the original readers. Scholars suspect that Luke is here indicating his source for this account.
What is the mood of these two disciples as they leave Jerusalem (24:17)?
Do you think they still consider themselves to be disciples of Jesus? What is the state of their faith in him (24:19–21)?
We tend to imagine people of Jesus’ day as being naïvely predisposed towards claims of dead people rising. Why do you think Jesus’ repeated predictions about being raised and the reports of the empty tomb still fail to persuade these and the other disciples that Jesus might actually be alive again (verses 20–24)?
At the end of their journey, the disciples eventually and suddenly recognise Jesus as they watch him break a loaf of bread. What things combine to trigger this moment of recognition?
The two disciples rush back to find the eleven still hiding away in Jerusalem. Their incredible story is corroborated by what Peter has also independently discovered: Jesus is out there – alive.
What aspects of the disciples’ reactions show that they are still not easily convinced that this is in fact Jesus?
Why might they have thought Jesus was a ghost? How does Jesus prove that he is physically present with them?
Jesus appeals powerfully to their senses to demonstrate his flesh-and-blood presence with them, but he also appeals to their minds. What does he lead them to see from the Jewish Scriptures?
Over the following five to six weeks Jesus’ appearances continued – in a room, by the lake, on a hillside – to those and many others of his followers. At one point he appeared to a group of over 500 at the same time. These encounters were so obvious and tangible that not one of these once-fearful and sceptical disciples would ever deny what they had seen. Instead, they were transformed and within days were boldly declaring to anyone who would listen that Jesus was risen from the dead – a claim that for many of these disciples led to their imprisonment and death.
It is clear that none of Jesus’ followers expected him to rise from the dead. These sceptics came to believe in the resurrection not because it was easy for them to do so, but because they were convinced by the power of the evidence.
The famous High-Court judge Sir Edward Clarke once said:
“As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the first Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling.”
What do you make of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead?
As we come to the end of Uncover Luke, how has your thinking changed about Christianity and the person of Jesus?
The gospels are full of people telling their stories - people asking questions, seeking relationships, searching for something more.
A central character, woven throughout each story, is Jesus, a historical figure surrounded by mystery. Join us as we explore these stories, and build up a picture of Jesus through the people he meets and the accounts that are written about him.