Updated: Apr 11
It was early in the morning following the Sabbath Day when several women came to the tomb of Jesus. They brought spices that they had prepared for the body of Jesus. But, upon their arrival, what they found was unexpected. The stone was rolled back from the tomb, and the body of Jesus was not there. What had happened?
Jesus had spoken of His resurrection from the dead (Lk. 9:22). He had taught of a son who was as good as dead and alive again (Lk. 15:24). Had the unimaginable happened? The first Easter morning provides the hope of resurrection and the good news of Jesus.
What Are You Seeking?
Confused and wandering about the body of Jesus, two men in shining garments stood by the women.
Luke 24:5–8 (NIV)
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? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.
What we expect to see can often keep us from seeing what is happening. The women rushed back to tell the apostles and others. However, their words seemed like "nonsense." Running to the tomb, Peter looks in only to find strips of burial cloth lying in an empty tomb. Peter went away, wondering what had happened. What did he expect to see? We find the first Easter morning's surprise, suspense, and excitement. What are we expecting, what are we seeking, as we come to the empty tomb?
The Road to Emmaus
Later that same day, two disciples of Jesus were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13). As they traveled, they were talking about everything that had happened and what had been reported earlier in the morning. Then, walking along the road, the resurrected Jesus came along beside them.
Luke 24:17–27 (NIV)
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
The two men were downcast. They had "hoped" Jesus would be the Messiah to "redeem Israel." Even though the Scriptures had spoken of Messiah who would suffer and then enter into His glory, what were they expecting?
Emmaus was an important place for the Jewish people. During the Maccabean Revolt, the Seleucid Empire ruled over Judea. In 167 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes issued a series of decrees outlawing Jewish practices, such as circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath. He also desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, offering sacrifices to pagan gods.
The Maccabean Revolt was a rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. A group of Jewish priests called the Maccabees led the revolt. They drove the Seleucids out of Jerusalem and established an independent Jewish state. After their victory in Jerusalem, the Maccabees continued to fight against the Seleucids. One of the more critical battles took place in Emmaus.
(note: The Apocrypha, a collection of ancient books not included in the Protestant Canon, are seen as important to many biblical scholars for their contextual insights. 1 Maccabees is part of this collection.)
1 Maccabees 4:1–14 (NRSV)
"Now Gorgias took five thousand infantry and one thousand picked cavalry, and this division moved out by night 2 to fall upon the camp of the Jews and attack them suddenly. Men from the citadel were his guides. 3 But Judas heard of it, and he and his warriors moved out to attack the king’s force in Emmaus 4 while the division was still absent from the camp. 5 When Gorgias entered the camp of Judas by night, he found no one there, so he looked for them in the hills, because he said, “These men are running away from us.” 6 At daybreak Judas appeared in the plain with three thousand men, but they did not have armor and swords such as they desired. 7 And they saw the camp of the Gentiles, strong and fortified, with cavalry all around it; and these men were trained in war. 8 But Judas said to those who were with him, “Do not fear their numbers or be afraid when they charge. 9 Remember how our ancestors were saved at the Red Sea, when Pharaoh with his forces pursued them. 10 And now, let us cry to Heaven, to see whether he will favor us and remember his covenant with our ancestors and crush this army before us today. 11 Then all the Gentiles will know that there is one who redeems and saves Israel.” 12 When the foreigners looked up and saw them coming against them, 13 they went out from their camp to battle. Then the men with Judas blew their trumpets 14 and engaged in battle. The Gentiles were crushed, and fled into the plain"
Traveling the road to Emmaus, who did the two disciples expect Jesus to be? Should not Messiah be like Judas Macccabeus, who crushed the overpowering Gentiles?
At The Table
Late in the day and approaching the village of Emmaus, the two men persuade Jesus to stay with them.
Luke 24:30–35 (NIV)
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
We began our series at the table with Jesus. It was Passover when Jesus broke bread with the disciples (Lk. 22:1-22). The elements of the bread and fruit of the vine were given new significance as Jesus partook and gave them to the disciples. He would not share this meal again until it found fulfillment in the kingdom of God (Lk. 22:16). Sitting at a table in Emmaus, Jesus again breaks the bread and partakes of it with two disciples. The hope of Easter, resurrection is realized at the table. It had not been what they expected as the Passover Plot unfolded. The power of God demonstrated through Jesus and the resurrection was a twist in the plot to some but one planned from the beginning.
Ephesians 1:4–14 (NIV)
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Bridging The Context
What are we expecting? As we come to the empty tomb on the first Easter morning, we can have many expectations and assumptions about who Jesus is and what He is doing. We may come with doubts, fears, and shame. We may come with skepticism and caution. I don't know what you are bringing to the empty tomb. However, we may come, don't let what we expect to see keep us from seeing what Jesus has done and what He will do.
1 Corinthians 15:12–22 (NIV)
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive.
The hope of Easter is found in the resurrection of Christ
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Accessed on April 7, 2023, at https://www.biblegateway.com/
The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Accessed on April 7, 2023, at https:// www.biblegateway.com
lesson notes: Ressurection
study guide: Resurrection