God’s Grace & Suffering, part 1

Peter starts to close this epistle by beginning a final major emphasis he wants to impress on his readers: suffering. This section will carry the reader nearly to end of the book (3.8-5.11). Interwoven in this section on suffering is how God’s grace relates to it. These are Christian people who are suffering for doing good on Christ’s behalf, yet they are suffering. Peter puts them (and us) in mind of God’s grace when we are suffering.

Suffering for Doing Good (3.8-17)

Christians are blessed if they suffer for doing good & continue to live graciously toward all.

8Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Finally, all of you: Some read finally as a summation of the material covered beginning in 2.11. Peter is summarizing and proceeding forward in to new material. All of you indicates this is address to whole Christian community. Peter uses five (5) adjectives to describe the church…

“All of you” who claim to be Christian, who claim Christ’s name for yourself. Thus, every Christian has an obligation to cultivate obedience in all five of these areas put forward. Obedience in each of the areas marked out by Peter here will promote peace in the local congregation and smooth relationships among church members. Though he does not repeat the word, the proper expression of each of these characteristics requires submission – the theme Peter has expounded on as primary for Christians (2.13, 17; 3.1). Unwillingness to submit ourselves to one another will result in failure to manifest each of these characteristics.

Have unity of mind: Gk homophrones (unique in NT). Lit. “same-minded.” Like minded. This is a characteristic which would bring “harmony” (NIV) to the church & family.

Sympathy: Gk sumpatheis. (unique in NT) This is feeling with others in their joy, sorrow, & needs.

Brotherly love: Gk philadelphoi. (unique in NT) Brother-lovers, i.e. love for fellow Christians.

A tender heart: Gk eusplagchnoi. Cf. Ephesians 4.32. The distress & affliction of others should touch a Christian’s heart. As is sung, “His heart is touched with my pain.”

A humble mind: As opposed to a proud heart. Attitude & outlook should be humble.

Each characteristic is elsewhere enjoined on Christians in Scripture:

  1. Unity of mind: Romans 15.5; Philippians 2.1-2
  2. Sympathy: Romans 12.15
  3. Brotherly Love: John 13.34-35; Hebrews 13.1 [this is the lynch pin which holds these together]
  4. Tender-heartedness: Ephesians 4.32
  5. Humble-Mindedness: Philippians 2.3-4

These are the backbone to healthy relationships among brothers & sisters, yes, even a healthy church. Where these are absent, division, bitterness, & hard-heartedness abound. When these characteristics are absent from the church, repayment of evil rears its ugly, sinful head. So v.9…

9Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Do not…reviling: Evil is all-around bad behavior, bad actions, even abusive actions. Reviling is focused on the slander which is spoken; abusive & harmful speech. This injunction or a similar form of it is all over the New Testament (Romans 12.17; 1 Thessalonians 5.15).  Of course, Christ is the example of this (2.23).

As Acappella sang: “Don’t be talking ‘bout friends when they’re not around,/ Don’t be cuttin’ their hearts and puttin’ them down,/ Don’t be temptin’ the Lord and makin’ Him frown,/ Don’t be talkin’ ‘bout friends when they’re not around.” Beyond words are our actions, which typically speak louder than words. The flesh desires to get people back. If someone has slighted us, our flesh wants to slight them back. It does not have to be to a greater degree (though if we can get them back more, great!); it could be to a lesser degree. Someone did something untoward to you & now you ignore them. Maybe they wave at you across a room but you just turn your head & ignore them like they don’t exist. Is this not repaying evil for evil? Treating a fellow creature of the Creator as if they do not exist is bad enough; how much worse is it when they are your brother or sister!

But…bless: On the contrary is an emphatic contrast. It is not merely enough to not repay evil; we must invest goodness. Once again, Christ is our example. His teaching (Luke 6.28-29) & life are a testimony to returning good for evil. Following His example, Christians desire God to show grace to those who have caused them to suffer.

“Bless,” says Peter. “When reviled, we bless,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 4.12). And this is not the tepid and usually sarcasm filled “God bless” or “Jesus loves you” which is plastic and phony. Can we imagine Peter or Paul ejaculating a fake “God bless”? Can you imagine Paul or Peter spitting out “Jesus loves you” through gritted teeth? No, this is calling upon God to show those who have injured or insulted us His grace & favor. And to really mean it! And bless not merely in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. Let your actions bless those who revile you and persecute you. “Do good to those who hate you.” This is profoundly personal. One personal was to do good to someone which will also adjust your attitude toward them so you might move past how they hurt you is to pray for them. Talk to the Father about them & speak of them to Him.

  1. Send an encouragement note, appreciation card, thank you note
  2. Speak a kind word of appreciation
  3. Visit them when they get sick

For to this…a blessing: Christians have been called to emulate Christ in returning evil for good. The purpose of this is to obtain a blessing. Most commentators say the blessing is eternal life since the text Peter quotes from in v.10-12 mentions “life.” The blessing is ambiguous , though, and no doubt includes present blessings in this life. God blesses godly behavior now & in the life to come.

10For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

Psalm 34.9 is an exhortation to “fear YHWH.” Peter has already exhorted his readers to “fear God” (2.17). Psalm 34.11 tells us these verses which Peter quotes (v.12-16) are instruction concerning the fear of YHWH. Just existing is not life. “Life is real! Life is earnest!” Living well (& dying well) eludes many because it abides in the realm of living for God. Many people can live a long life (70 or by reason 80); but to live a full, happy life begins with, continues in, and ends in the fear of God.

For…good days: For (gar) links this to v.9. Peter quotes Psalm 34.12-16 to make his point. The quote is from the Septuagint with the second person changed to third person. The blessings (love life and see good days) are for this present life, strengthening the argument that the blessing in v.9 is for the present life. Love life speaks to enjoying life (present & eternal). Good days is a way of speaking of God’s favor in the life of the faithful person. Basically, this is a full & beneficial life.

Let him…deceit: The keys to this kind of blessing are two-fold: controlling the mouth (v.9b) & seeking goodness (v.10).  Controlling the tongue includes abstaining from evil speech, especially deceit (cf. 2.1). Truly a heart & mind free from evil intentions (v.9) would have a mouth free of evil.

James tells us that “no one can tame the tongue” & it is “full of deadly poison” (James 3.8). Jesus tells us we will give account for every word – thoughtful or thoughtless – we utter & our words will justify or condemn us (Matthew 12.36-37). No wonder Peter, quoting David, exhorts us to cease from speaking evil & deceit. A happy life is interrupted by evil speech & deception. Indeed, life with God is interrupted when our lips are full of evil.

11let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

Let him…do good: Like Job (1.1), the Christian is to stay away from evil actions & behaviors. Rather, Christians are to a be an active, positive force in society following the example of Christ who “went about doing good” (Acts 10.38).

Evil is close at hand, nor far from each one of us, desiring to have us. All evil is to be shunned, avoided, turned away from. Evil companions, evil words, evil works, evil thoughts, evil people, every appearance of evil is to be abandoned.

“Do good” is Peter’s two word exhortation for how Christians are to live. This exhortation is all over this epistle: 2.12, 14, 15, 20; 3.6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 17; 4.19. It is juxtaposed with doing evil: 3.9, 12, 17; 4.3-5. Of course, the motivation for doing good is that “the Lord is good” (2.3). He is the source & reason for any goodness from us.

Let him…pursue it: Seeking peace would involve the desire to be at peace in one’s spirit knowing that one is right with God as well as peace with fellow man. Pursue denotes intense effort exerted to chase down a thing, in this case peace. There is diligence & eagerness involved in the quest for peace.

12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

For…[the] righteous: Or “The Lord’s eyes are on those who are righteous.” The all-seeing eye of God is a theme prevalent in the Bible (e.g. 2 Chronicles 16.9; Zechariah 4.10). It denotes His omniscience. He sees all & knows all. It echoes what Jesus promised in Matthew 28.20.

What comfort to know that God is watching you. When you suffer, He knows. When you hurt, He knows. When you resist temptation, He sees. As we strive for a godly, holy life, He sees & knows and is there to provide for us when we cry out to Him (see Psalm 34.17-18).

At the same time, what a fearful thing to know that God is watching. When you gossip about someone, He knows. When you tear someone down, He sees. When you think unholy thoughts, He knows. Let us avoid these practices lest we sow a habit of sin and incur God’s displeasure so that He turns away and turns against us.

His ears are open to their prayer: What a marvelous blessing which accompanies a life lived to honor & glorify God—He hears our prayers. See Psalm 34.17. For Christians suffering persecution this is a much needed assurance that God’s ear is open to their plea for help.

But…do evil: A regular theme in the Bible is that God sets His face against ungodly people for their wicked behavior (Leviticus 26.14-17; Jeremiah 21.10; Ezekiel 15.7). It is judgment language. The rest of the verse in Psalm 34 says God will “cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

Now…what is good? A possible Old Testament allusion (cf. Proverbs 16.7; Isaiah 50.9). Certainly this question is rhetorical anticipating the answer “no one.” But this was not these Christians’ experience. No doubt they already were deeply committed to the One who is good & doing what is good. Yet they were suffering injury & hurt for their devotion to goodness.

It’s embarrassing to talk about suffering in an American context when we really do not know persecution like the 1st century church. We are actually the proof of this proverb: no one harms you if you eager to do good. However, these Christians in Asia must have thrown their hands up & rolled their eyes while uttering an exasperated “Really, Peter?!”

14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

But…you will be blessed: Peter has Jesus’ voice ringing in his ears (cf. Matthew 5.10). But (Gk all’) introduces the potential scenario. Righteousness seems equivalent with “zealous for what is good” in v.13. If you should suffer is in the rare optative mood, a form used if the possibility was unlikely. Yet even if such should happen or even is happening in Asia Minor, those who experience such persecution are blessed. Hence, no harm can really befall the Christian since God blesses (He sees & hears, v.12; cf. Psalm 34.15).

Knowing that these Christians are suffering for the sake of righteousness, Peter reminds them of the eighth beatitude Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. For the coming increase in persecution he wanted them ready to face it. The bliss of God belongs to those suffer for being a Christian.

Have no fear…troubled: Quoted from Isaiah 8.12. The context in Isaiah is preparation for the coming Assyrian invasion. Here the context is assurance during & preparation for persecution. Lit. do not fear what they fear. Also, though different, Peter no doubt has in mind the words of Christ: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Fearless & courageous living is what Peter calls these Christians to be. Christians are not to fear impending circumstances or threatening opponents.

Christians are not to fear what the world fears. We do not fear ISIS or Russia or Saudi Arabia. We do not fear the creeping infringement of our rights by the government. We are fearless while the world is fearful. We are courageous while the world is cowardly. Why? Back in Isaiah (8.12-13), he was not to fear the advancing armies of a foreign foe; he (and we) are to fear YHWH, leader of angelic armies of heaven. By quoting that text in relation to Christ he puts Jesus on the same as YHWH, rightly so. Christ the Lord is God & it is Him we reverence though the world retreat.

Should the whole world turn against & Christianity be illegal (as it has been in years long past), we will not fear their threats by which they seek to instill fear in us. We will not fear their attempted fear inducing slander or hate-speech. We will not be emotionally or psychologically shaken or disturbed. While it shouldn’t be that we suffer for good (v.13), even if does happen we will trust Christ, come what may.

15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

But…as holy: Peter continues the quote from Isaiah 8 but makes a significant change: whereas in Isaiah the one to be revered as holy was YHWH, that same reverence is now to be rendered to Christ who is the Lord (even YHWH, thus Christ is God). This is a typical move in the NT: Christ deserves the same honor & reverence as YHWH. No doubt Peter intends for his readers to “let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread” (Isaiah 8.13b). Peter wants his readers to fear Christ and fear no other. How? By having & holding the Holy One in their hearts.

Always being…in you: Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1.27), that is, anticipation of resurrection & eternal life. Christians ought to be in a state of readiness to make a defense (Gk apologian), i.e. a verbal response & answer. Asks is actually more of an urgent, even demanding request for explanation. Anyone is any person who sees Jesus in us but does not know Christ. All of this indicates that people ought to be able to see Christian hope on display in the lives of Christians.

Yet…respect: When Christians offer a word of explanation for the hope in them, it must be with gentleness & respect. Gentleness is how we are treat our fellow man. It requires humility. Respect (Gk phobou) is our attitude toward God. We hold Him in reverence. Christians who fear God & walk humbly before Him & others will treat people the way they want to be treated—with dignity & understanding. Proper perspective of God will enable Christians to respond properly to non-believers.

This is a key text for our evangelistic efforts. Four factors for evangelism – 1 Peter 3.15

  1. The Sanctified/Holy Factor – “sanctify Christ in your hearts as holy”

First, what Christians need to do before they engage anyone in rational, religious discussion: “set apart Christ in your hearts as Lord.” If we do not do this first, we have no business telling others (denominational or otherwise) about Christ the Lord “who can change your life.” Unless He has changed our life first, we hamstring any (every?) effort we may attempt in reaching out to anyone. That is why Christ is set apart “in your hearts.” The heart is the source of our behavior (cf. 1.22; 3.4). Everything we do comes from the heart. The inner self cannot be separated from the outward person. This is why we must be holy as He is holy inside & out.

  1. The Preparation Factor – “always be prepared”

Second, if we would engage anyone (denominational person or non-believer), we had better “always be prepared to make a defense.” Christianity is not a “blind leap.” Instead, it is based on historical facts, “evidence which demands a verdict” (as Josh McDowell puts it). So we need to arm ourselves with these facts which bolster our faith. By the way, these facts are contained in our NTs: the historical death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as well as the emergence of the 1st century church. Now this can go as shallow or as deep as you want to take it. But the point remains: Christians are a prepared people who can “give an answer” or “make a defense.” While not every Christian need be a skilled apologist (a la Josh McDowell or William Lane Craig), every Christian should have a firm grasp of the essentials & why Christianity is true.

  1. The Obvious Factor – “to everyone who asks you about the hope”

Third, it should be so obvious that we are a Christian, that people are asking about our faith. “…be prepared to make a defense to anyone who ask you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” One author calls this “permission evangelism.” People want to know what makes you different. And if you live differently than the world (a key tenent of the Christian faith, btw), people will take notice. Specifically, this is related to our “hope,” that is, our anticipation & expectation that “every little gon’ be alright” and even now is being made right through us & how we respond to circumstances. Ask yourself this: if being a Christian were against the law, would there be enough evidence to convict you? If not, something is wrong. Not only that, don’t bet on anyone asking you about your “hope”; chances are you may not have any!

  1. The Attitude/Gentle Factor – “with gentleness and respect”

Fourth, when someone asks you (and they will), give your answer/make your defense “with gentleness and respect.” There’s no need to beat someone to death with the doctrine stick; most people, however, respond very well when we approach them with the mentality that we’re all trying to find the truth and it is contained in the Bible, which is God’s word. Together, let’s see if we can find it. That’s gentleness – not compromising (since we are pointing them right back to the Bible). But also, understand that this person is coming to the study/discussion with a lot of presuppositions. in other words, time, culture, and environment has affected the way this person views the world. Respect that, but also don’t be afraid to challenge them with what the Scriptures say. Great cross reference – 2 Cor 10.5: “we destroy arguments…take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Having a good conscience: conscience is the minds ability to distinguish between right and wrong. One maintains a good conscience when 1) one maintains clear views of what is good & bad and 2) one obeys the dictates of the conscience. In this evangelistic context, there is a right & wrong way to “make a defense” and one’s conscience is kept good when one seeks to do that which is right & avoid what is wrong in giving reasons for their inner hope.

So that…put to shame: cf. 2.11-12, 15. A good conscience is the result of good behavior in Christ. Slander is silenced and slanderers shamed when Christians live the Christian life well. The aim of shame is that those who slander & revile would themselves consider the gospel & believe.

Someone has said, “A saint is someone whose life makes it easier to believe in God.” Barclay calls the Christian life “the only unanswerable argument for Christianity” (274). Once more Peter is calling to live the life excellently. So excellently that “those who revile your good behavior in Christ” are ashamed they opened their mouths in the first place. The aim of shame is not shame in & of itself; the aim is that our enemies and persecutors are embarrassed they misunderstood Christian conduct, regret what they have done, repent & trust Christ.

17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For it is better…than for doing evil: cf. 2.19-20; 4.15. It must be for doing good that a Christian suffer. If suffering is deserved for doing evil (e.g. the penalty for crime), it is not good or better; it is merely justice. But when suffering is unjust (i.e. for good Christian behavior) yet according to God’s will, it is superior, better, indeed, Christ-like (v.18).

If…God’s will: Lit. “If the will of God should will it.” If this happens in some instances (optative), strange though it may seem, when it happens, it is better to suffer for good rather than evil.  Cf. 1.6.

When we grumble and complain and accuse of injustice when we are caused to suffer, we spoil the whole thing. Instead, there are lessons in suffering; we rob ourselves of these by 1) avoiding suffering at all costs or 2) complaining about what we are suffering. Peter wants us to know what a “better” thing it is to suffer at the hands of evildoers for our doing good. In fact, it is most Christ-like.

Application – Jonah

The complete sovereignty of Yahweh is accentuated throughout this short book. Yahweh controls the winds, seas, ship, and fish of His creation in chapters one and two. He controls the plant, worm, and scorching wind in chapter four. He appoints each of these to carry out His sovereign will. Yahweh is, then, the cosmic sovereign Ruler and nothing is outside His control except for the will of man. Jonah exercises his free will and rebels. The sailors exercise their free will and reluctantly hurl Jonah into the sea then offer freewill sacrifices. The Ninevites exercise their free will and repent. All of these acts are the result of people exercising their free will. Yet even in the acts of men Yahweh is glorified. The sailors seeing the storm calmed call on Yahweh and offer sacrifices. Though he takes some persuading, eventually Jonah comes around and does the will of God. The Ninevites are convicted by the word of God and glorify Him by their repentance.

Even as Yahweh was sovereign over the events in Jonah’s day, so too He continues to exert His sovereignty over His creation. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust,” says Jesus (Matt 5.45). He is still control of things and events. Yet this sovereignty remains balanced with the free will of man. People continue to exert their free will in either rebellion to the Lord or in obedience to Him. Some may take more persuading than others, but people can and are convicted by His word and glorify God by repentance.

Jonah speaks clearly to the power of the word of God. At the preaching of a reluctant and perhaps disinterested prophet the people turn from their wicked ways. Even at a half-hearted declaration of the word of God the people heard and repented. The word of God was the power of God unto salvation and righteous then; it remains the power of God unto salvation and righteous today. God’s word is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4.12). Christians today can depend upon the certainty that God’s word will not return to Him empty (Isa 55.11).

Jonah’s declaration that idols are “empty nothingness” (2.8) is an echo of Psalm 31.7: “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in Yahweh.” The paganism of the mariners in chapter one was a vivid example of the nothingness of idolatry. They “cried out” to their respective god(s) and received nothing but empty silence in return. Many people today are trapped in the “empty nothingness” of idolatry. Idols today do not look like the idols then, yet they are just as potent. People kowtow to the idols of salary, success, and sex. Even some Christians fall prey to the allure of these gods. However, fortune, fame, and fondling disconnected from a godly perspective will only leave one empty and dissatisfied. Our trust must be in God so that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor, humility, and intimacy as designed by God.

There is also an evangelistic component to the book of Jonah. Jonah refused to hear the cries of the world, specifically the 120,000 in Nineveh. He was also furious when they repented. He cared more for a plant than for people. Worst of all, he hated that God had been merciful upon the Ninevites. In a similar way, Christians today can adopt a self-righteous mentality toward the world. Christians can become deaf to their cries for salvation. They can become consumed with a love of possessions to the marginalization of a love for people. They might develop an older brother mentality like the older son in Jesus parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15.25ff), callous at the grace of the Father and refusing to celebrate His abundant mercy. The church must not adopt an isolationist policy, withdrawing from the world. Her ears must ever be open to the cries of the world. Unlike Jonah, she ought to celebrate the grace and mercy of the Father.

Appearances, pt.1

As we draw ever closer to the end of Luke’s gospel, we are reminded in vivid fashion that there is a one key element to the gospel narrative oft overlooked in our telling of the good news story: the appearances. The necessity of the appearances of the resurrected Lord is captured by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 where he details how the gospel he preached consisted of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (v.3-4) and the appearances Jesus made to Cephas (or Peter), then the twelve, to more than 500 at one time, to James, and all the apostles (v.5-7). In other words, this was not a silent and secret resurrection; many people saw Jesus dead one day and three days later (and for forty days) alive again. In Luke 24.13-35, we have one of the appearances of Jesus recorded by Luke in great detail. This appearance account is peculiar to Luke, although Mark does mention it near the end of his gospel (Mark 16.12-13).

The Reunion with Jesus

It is still resurrection Sunday (“that very day”) when two disciples of Jesus who are not members of the Twelve (now eleven since Judas has hanged himself, see Acts 1.18-19) are traveling to Emmaus, a town six and a half to seven miles from Jerusalem. Their conversation is morose and melancholy as they recall the events of the past three days, especially, it seems, the crucifixion (see v.20) but also the various reports they have heard about the empty tomb. There is probably some confusion and questioning as they “communed” with one another as they walked. And as they communed (KJV), “talking and discussing together,” Jesus shows up. What a beautiful picture depicting exactly what Jesus has stipulated elsewhere: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt 18.20, ESV). Here are two disciples communing and conversing, questioning back and forth, and Jesus “drew near and went with them.” It is interesting, though, that they could not identify Him. Mark tells us that He appeared in another form (16.12) when he discusses this same appearance account in brief. There was something about His physical appearance which was different.

The Request from Jesus

Jesus interrupts their conversation by asking a question of His own. In essence, He wants to know what they are talking about. It is interesting the word Jesus uses when describing their “conversation” (ESV) for it is word which means to throw back and forth as people would do with a ball. They are volleying these questions back and forth between them as they go and Jesus wants to know what has their attention so rapt. Conversation stops. The disciples stop walking. Sadness fills the air.

The Reply to Jesus

Luke identifies one of the disciples as Cleopas. Speculation abounds concerning the other disciple – one says Nathanael, another Simon (probably because of the context, v.12), still others contend the second disciple is Luke himself. Again, all this is speculation; whoever he is, he is unindentified. But Cleopas speaks up to answer Jesus’ question. His response is somewhat intriguing because in essence he asks “Have you been living under a rock these past three days?” In other words, where have you been? How could you not know what’s been going on in Jerusalem? What is communicated here is the publicity and notoriety of the crucifixion of Jesus; everyone knew about the man from Nazareth and about His execution. Much like Joseph in the Old Testament, Jesus refrains from revealing Himself to his disciples and simply asks, “What things?”

Cleopas then tells Jesus about, well, Jesus. He explains that, first, Jesus was a prophet, mighty in word and work, before God and man. Second, Jesus was condemned and crucified by the religous leaders and authorities. Third, Jesus was the hope of Israel, the one whom people trusted would be the deliverer of God’s people. Fourth, all this took place about three days. Fifth, there has been a firestorm of amazing accounts from people who followed Jesus. Some women have been to the tomb and found it empty early in the morning. They also had seen an angel who said Jesus was alive. In addition, some of the company of the followers (Peter and John) have also been to the tomb and found it just as the women did – open, empty, and the grave clothes laying there.

In Cleopas’s account, there seems to be a glimmer of the flame of faith. But it is so weak and nearly extinguished. “We had hoped” but now that hope has faded; it has, after all, been three days. The story from the women seems too fantastic. And even the disciples who went to the tomb and saw with their own eyes the empty tomb is not enough; they did not see him. Mixed with the confusion is, perhaps, hopelessness and frustration. What now?

The Rebuke from Jesus

In somewhat strong language Jesus rebukes these disciples for their lack of faith. He calls them fools or those lacking in understanding or thought. Also, He calls them “slow in heart” which is a phrase used to describe someone as dull and lacking in comprehension. What they have failed to comprehend and believe are the prophets and everything that God spoke through the prophets. And by their own admission of Jesus as a “prophet mighty in deed and word” that means they have not believed Him.

And so Jesus asks yet another question of them: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (v.26). It’s rhetorical. Of course it was because the prophets, indeed, the Prophet had predicted these things should happen. So Jesus takes these two doubtful disciples on a jet tour study of the Christ from Moses to Malachi concerning what the Scriptures say about Himself. Notice Jesus does not “proof-text” them to death; rather, He “interpreted” or explained or exegeted the Scriptures for them, clearly communicating what the prophets about the Christ. We would do well to note that the doctrine of Christ saturates the pages of the Old Testament Scriptures. It really is all about Him. As J.C. Ryle has written, “The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.”

The Recognition of Jesus

We don’t know how long they walked with Jesus, but in that time span He had captured their hearts and minds so much so that as they drew near to Emmaus, they “urged him strongly” to stay with them. The language is such that they forced Him to stay with them even though He pretended like He was going further. It was late in the day and evening was coming on. And so He did go to their lodging place. We would do well to note that Jesus will not stay with us if we do not strongly desire His presence in our lives. He would have gone on further had these two disciples not compelled Him to stay with them.

Remember, they do not know this is Jesus (v.16). As far as they know, this is just another man who knows His Bible. Its meal time and Jesus takes the lead in taking, blessing, and breaking the bread. Now consider that you have walked all this way with this “stranger” and perhaps there is something familiar about Him; you just can’t put you finger on it. Then He does this. And it clicks: “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Interpretations abound as to why Jesus “was known in the breaking of the bread.”

Some point to the upper room scene when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. However, it would not make sense that these disciples, who were not present for that upper room scene, would be aware of this. Coincidently, those who advocate this position from the Catholic Church also use this passage as validation for administering the bread without the wine to laity. But, again, this does not seem to be a Lord’s Supper context and if it were it would be the most bizzare account of that meal since Christ interrupts it midway through. Some say that when the disciples saw Jesus’ nail scarred hands they knew. But it is not in the seeing of His hands that they knew it was Him but in the breaking of the bread. And some see no particular significance. But clearly there was some significance to this whole event since it stimulated these disciples minds to remember something and so identify Jesus.

There is an account in Luke which uses nearly the exact same language as verse 30. In Luke 9 there is the account of the feeding of the five thousand. In verse 16, Jesus takes the bread (the five loaves), blesses it (while looking toward heaven), breaks the bread, and distributes it to His disciples. This was a very public miracle which literally thousands of people had experienced. Perhaps Cleopas and also this other disciples had been there for it. At least they had heard of it, if nothing else. This seems to be the occasion which these disciples recall here in Emmaus which identifies Jesus to them. And when they recognize Him, Jesus vanishes. It is beyond a doubt that the resurrection body of Jesus was real and material; it was a body of flesh. But the form was different and of such a difference that it could move, appear, and disappear as cannot be explained by this writer (nor by any writer I could find). Blessed is the one who can accept this by faith!

Once He had vanished, the disciples had time to meditate following the meal. First, while the text does not say this, I would assume there was silence for some time; just thoughtful quietness as they reflected upon what just happened. It had been Jesus the whole time! O foolish ones, indeed. But once they had thought about it…”Did you feel it, too?” “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” They asked each other this question but they spoke of their one heart (singular noun in Greek). This seems to back to their communing together. Their one heart which was frozen by faithlessness was not melted by the exposition of the Scripture of God, which is like a fire in the bones (Jer 20.9) and from God who is a consuming fire (Heb 12.29; cf. Dt 4.24; 5.25; 9.3). The flickering flame of faith has been fanned into a full fledged fire.

Renewed by this meditation, these men now have a mission. “That same hour” they made the same trek of nearly 7 miles back to Jerusalem to track down the eleven and tell the good news. It should be noted that although Luke calls them “the eleven,” both Judas and Thomas are not present. The terms “the eleven” and “the twelve” are titles for the group and may represent the group in part or in total. The disciples find “the eleven” (behind locked doors, no doubt) and announce that “The Lord has risen indeed.” How simple and yet profound is the gospel! But also, there is proof: Jesus “has appeared to Simon!” They also recounted everything Jesus had said while walking to Emmaus and how they had fully recognized Him when He had broken the bread.

(Outline taken from The Outline Bible by H.L. Willmington)

Resurrection

In the Bordeaux Pilgrim (AD 333), there is mention of the location. St. Cyril of Jerusalem makes reference to it several times. In the days of the church historian Eusebius (first half of fourth century), there was no doubt as to the location of the empty tomb. No doubt that even today, there will be a guided tour near Jerusalem which will walk right past the site. One Sunday morning nearly two millenia ago, several women made a trek to the precise location of the the tomb of Jesus. As mentioned in the previous section (Luke 23.55), these women were familiar with the location of the tomb, having seen Jesus’ body placed in it just days before. There was no doubt in their minds as to where to go “after the Sabbath.”

John Calvin calls this “the closing section of our redemption.” J. C. Ryle calls the resurrection of Jesus “one of the great foundation-stones of the Christian religion.” Indeed, in the words of Paul, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15.17, ESV). In other words, “Christianity stands or falls with the Resurrection” (Theodsus Harnack, quoted in McDowell’s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, pg.205). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is either “one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, OR it is the most fantastic fact of history” (McDowell, 203). The bottom line is we, Christians, need the resurrection. If Jesus was not resurrected, He can no more save me than condemn me. And if there is no resurrection, “let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” In other words, drive the morality bus off the cliff if the dead are not raised. There’s no point in being a good, moral person since Christianity has toppled. Those who would argue for morality in the absence of the Christian religion should understand this. Morality is pointless without a supreme moral authority.

Truly, then, the whole world needs the resurrection of Jesus. Woven into the fabric of human history is the need for the resurrection of Jesus. Everything before points forward to it and everything since points backward to it. Indeed, everyone who has ever or will ever live by faith find their vindication in three simple yet striking words: “He has risen.” In Luke 24.1-12, the subject is the resurrection.

The Empty Tomb

The women of this context would appear to be the women of the previous context: “women who had followed him from Galilee” (23.49). The spices they bring were prepared just before the Sabbath, the day Jesus was placed in the tomb (23.56). They had rested on the Sabbath (23.56b) and now return to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus very early Sunday morning.

First, note that they went to “the tomb;” that is, they went to the tomb they had visited just a couple days earlier and “saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” There is not mistaking – they went to the right tomb. And if they had gone to the wrong tomb, surely on Pentecost day when Peter preaches the resurrection, someone would have pointed them in the direction of the right tomb with the body still within. Or the authorities when the apostles preached the resurrection would certainly have squelched this fable in the same manner. The fact of history is that the women and then the apostles Peter and John went to the tomb where Jesus had been laid following His crucifixion. However, things are different this Sunday morning.

Second, notice the tomb is open (v.2). Luke did not mention a stone being placed over the entrance of the tomb. It would appear he takes for granted the knowledge of his audience. That is, Luke seems to know that Theophilus would be aware of the large stone placed over the mouth of the tomb, sealing the body of Jesus inside. The women had discussed along the way the problem of removing the stone so they could continue and/or complete the burial of Jesus (Mark 16.3). When they arrive, though, the tomb is already open.

Third, in addition, the tomb was also empty (v.3). Since the stone was rolled away, they went into the tomb, perhaps ready and eager to accomplish their mission before someone return and replace the stone (which John seems to imply by the language employed that the stone was completely removed off its track, John 20.1). However, once inside, “they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” A Bishop Brownrig has noted that this is the first occasion when this terminology (“Lord Jesus”) is used of the Savior in the New Testament. It is the first time Luke has used it and he will continue to use it into his next work (Acts). Rightly so, since He is now demonstrated by God to be both Lord and Christ (Acts 2.36).

The open and empty tomb causes the women to be “perplexed.” The word used here signifies a state of great confusion and anxiety. They are at a total loss of making sense of this whole picture. They don’t know what to do, what to think, how to feel. Put yourself in their shoes – all the emotion and commotion from just a couple days prior. Their beloved Teacher was killed and they were not expecting a resurrection. Of course their confused. However, two men, angels, in “dazzling apparel” stand nearby. This same term for “dazzling” was also used of Jesus at the Transfiguration (9.29) when His clothes were dazzling bright. The term denotes something like lightning, bright and brilliant.

The Ethereal Tidings

Confusion turns to fear for the women and like the prophets of old, the seemingly lose control of bodily functions. Like Daniel or Ezekiel, they end up face down before the messengers of God out of respect. But these messengers bring a slight rebuke and subtle reminder for these courageous women. First, the slight rebuke is “Why do you seek the living with the dead?” The resurrected Jesus is alive. Therefore, His tomb is empty. He is not with the dead any longer. So of course “He is not here” for “He has risen.” Here is the angelic proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus. Angels are highlighted in Luke’s gospel account. They announced to Zachariah the coming of his son John the Baptist; they spoke to Mary concerning her conception of Jesus; angels serenaded shepherds when Jesus was born. Now the angels are the messengers announcing the triumph of the Son of God over death. “He has risen.” How fantastic a thought that God has blessed men to carry this simple yet profound message of resurrection!

Second, the angels has a subtle reminder. “Remember” is how they begin. Jesus had told them this would happen (Luke 9.22; 18.33), namely, that He would rise from the dead on the third day. Here it is the third day and the tomb is empty. Just so there is no confusion, the angels specify what Jesus had said: 1) the Son of Man (favorite term of Jesus to describe Himself) would be delivered into the hands of sinful men, 2) death by crucifixion, 3) resurrection on the third day. While He was ministering in Galilee, Jesus made His disciples of these things. Luke tells us, though, they didn’t get it, understand it for “it was concealed from them” (9.45).

The Eyewitness Testimony

This angelic reminder causes the women to remember the words of Jesus. They leave the tomb and find the eleven and tell them. Note Luke says eleven and not twelve. Judas has already hung himself. In Luke’s next work, Acts, he will detail the death of Judas. But this is the first he speaks of the eleven. These women act as the first human agents of commnicating the good news of the resurrection of the dead. They are the first evangelists, tell others the good news of the resurrection of the dead. “To all the rest” is a vague statement and exactly who “the rest” are is uncertain. Some point to the 120 who would be with the apostles during the ten days after the ascension and before Pentecost (See Acts 1.15). Of course, during His ministry, Jesus had others whom He called and sent out (see Luke 10.1). Again, who exactly “the rest” are is unknown. Nevertheless, they hear about the empty from the women also.

Luke gives a detailed description of who these women are in verse 10: they are Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and “other women with them.” Perhaps Salome (she is mentioned in Mark 16.1 as part of the company of women at the tomb) and Susanna (Luke 8.3) are also part of this number. It is the women who tell the apostles about the bewildering scene at the tomb. So fantastic is their message that the apostles cannot believe it. To them it is an “idle tale” or nonsense. Don’t be too hasty, ladies; remember just a few verses prior to this the women were experiencing something akin to this before two angels helped their unbelief.

However, there is one apostle who goes to the tomb: Peter. Just a couple days earlier he had denied Jesus and had had to look Jesus in the face immediately after the third denial (Luke 22.54-62). Luke graphically describes his reaction to hearing the women’s story: he “rose and ran to the tomb.” He left his fellow disciples and went to the tomb. John records that he went with Peter to the tomb. Peter arrives and “stooping and looking in” he sees the grave clothes of Jesus lying there. All this matches with with John very nearly except John has Peter entering the tomb. The empty tomb has a profound effect on Peter: he’s left “marveling” to himself. This is not a lack of faith but rather it seems Peter is trying to make sense of everything. What happened? Truly this has been the struggle for many people ever since the tomb was found open, empty, and the grave clothes lying empty. How should we understand this? The gospel writers present us with the facts of history and these facts demand an answer. The only answer which fits with the historical facts is that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected by the power of God on the third just as He predicted would happen.

The Parable of the Sower

It is with great humility that I approach this parable. Unfortunately, for most interpreters of Scripture, parables take on an allegorical interpretation. This is wrong. A parable is not an allegory. Thus, when we venture into a parable seeking an interpretation, the best thing is to check if Jesus or whoever told the parable gave the explanation. This was true when the prophet Nathan spoke to David and proclaimed, following a short parable, “Thou art the man.” Nathan gave the interpretation of his parable. It is just fair to let the speaker explain himself. And indeed in Luke 8, we have Jesus doing just that.

The Seed

The seed in the parable, whether it falls on rocky, throny, or good soil, is the word of God (v.11). That’s what Jesus says. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus takes something that is very familiar to his audience (a sower sowing seed) and uses it to make an excellent point concerning the word of God in the hearts of men. I suppose if he were to use our modern-day language, he would use the same kind of teaching: take something familiar to the audience and use it to teach a profound, heavenly message.

The Seed on the Wayside

In the parable, the sower’s seed lands on the wayside and is trampled underfoot and eaten by the birds. What a graphic picture he paints, setting up his audience (indeed, us) for the truth concerning this part of the parable. The word of God trampled underfoot! By whom? Certainly men have done this in the past. But Jesus says this is the devil’s work. He hates the word of God for it is the saving power of God for all mankind. Hence, he snatches from the hearts of men who have heard it.

The Seed on the Rocks

The next patch of ground upon which the seed falls is the rocky places. It springs to life quickly. However, without adequate moisture and soil, the plant withers and dies. Jesus says these are the people who receive the word gladly and quickly. However, they are not equipped for the trials and tribulation ahead and their faith withers and dies. They are not really the disciple of Jesus, for although they heard and obeyed, their devotion to Jesus and his cause is only superficial.

The Seed among the Thorns

The seed next falls among thorns. It takes root, springs up, but the thorns spring up with it. After a time, the thorns choke out the life of the plant. Jesus says these are those people who have a devotion to Jesus but it is soon divided with other cares. Worry, riches, pleasure, whatever; it takes the place of the Word and hence, no fruit is ever seen within the individual. The “thorns” of life have choked out the once vibrant spiritual life.

The Seed in Good Soil

There is a type of soil in which the seed can thrive and grow and bear much fruit. It is in good soil. Certainly everyone in the audience would have agreed with that. Good soil is the best place for seed if you want a crop. In the parable, it brings forth a harvest of one hundred fold. Jesus says this type of person in which the word of God is received is the person who has the right heart, that is a “noble and good heart” (NKJV). With patience, this kind of person brings forth a great harvest of fruit.

What does Jesus teach us in this parable? Several things. First, a Christian must never be discouraged when the word of God is not received by a person. Jesus clearly teaches that there will be people who do not hear. In fact, that is what this who passage hinges on: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (v.8b) God gave them ears but they refuse to use and so be saved. And when explaining this parable, he begins with a general statement of purpose for parables. These people have the equipment to hear and see, but they refuse to use them for their intended purposes, choosing to remain blind and deaf to the word and will of God.

Second, it seems Jesus is teaching us about the importance of being a sower. We carry with us the precious word of God and every person, whether they want it or not, need it for in it is salvation Therefore, get it out, scatter it abroad and near.

Third, Jesus teaches us that those who were good soil have an obligation to the Lord. We must bear fruit. We must produce a harvest. It is not enough to receive the word and have no fruit to show for it. We must, with patience, bear fruit for the Master. We take the seed firmly planted within us and we sow it in the heart of another individual. We plant what we can, water what we can, God will give the increase.

One more brief word: this is not the formula for the world and the word. Jesus is not saying that 25% of the population is wayside and 25% rocky, etc. Jesus is using this parable to teach a valuable lesson about those who simply refuse to listen to the word. And before we can determine the listening capabilities of the world around us, we must answer this question first: are we listening to the Word of God?