THE PASSION OF OUR LORD:

DETAILING THE EVENTS OF OUR LORD’S SUFFERING AND DEATH

Session #28  (Most quotes are NIV)

“THE WOMEN?” SEE JESUS, APRIL 9, 30 A.D.

  Lest we are left to the notion that Mary Magdalene was the only one to see Jesus that morning, Matthew 28:8-10 gives us a brief story of another sighting:  “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Jeffrey Gibbs makes a good point in regard to the meaning of “they worshiped him.”  He says, Matthew, Vol. 3, p. 1601, that the intent of the verb “worship” throughout the Gospel of Matthew will always be guided by the context.  In this case, the context is pretty outrageous:  they grab Jesus by the feet to worship.  Since “feet” in the Middle East societies are considered filthy and untouchable, the fact that these women “took hold of his feet forcibly” (in Greek, ἐκράτησαν) is saying something special.  This verb means more than “hold” as in “holding hands.”  It means to “lock on and hold tight.”  It’s the same verb used in the Greek language to describe the arrest of a prisoner.

This “locking on to his feet” provides a level of “worship” heretofore unseen.  These women are, by this gesture, saying “I’m all yours—whatever that means in terms of worship!  Even your feet are wonderful!”  These women probably do not fully appreciate the nature of Jesus yet.  But they have seen him die on the cross.  They were there when the Roman solider stabbed Jesus in the heart.  They were there when the limp body was put into a grave.  And now he is standing there speaking to them.  Who is this guy?  They might not give a coherent answer, but they know one thing for sure:  “Jesus is special, and I’m not letting Him get away again, even if I have to lock on to His feet!  And I want Him to know it!”  

Jesus has something important to tell them:  “I want to meet the disciples in Galilee!”  But before He gives that message, He has to get them to focus and calm down.  Thus, He speaks those “magic words” which pop up all over the place on Easter: “Stop being afraid.”  If He can get them to calm down, they will be more apt to remember His message to the eleven disciples.

HOW CAN WE RECONCILE MATTHEW WITH JOHN?

There is always the possibility that we don’t have enough information to solve Biblical problems definitively, but allow me to provide an example:  in Matthew 28, only Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” are mentioned, so when we get to 28:8-10 (the passage above) we assume that these are the two “women” because they’re the only women Matthew mentions.

So—what’s the problem?  If the “women” in Matthew 28:8-10 are Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” who see Jesus together, how can John’s Gospel (20:11-18) tell us that Mary Magdalene was all by herself and was the first to see Jesus?  One of these stories must not have the facts straight.

Allow me to propose a solution:  Matthew’s chapter 28, the end of the Gospel is highly condensed; in only a few verses, the disciples are whisked to Galilee for the Ascension message—and that takes place, as we know, 40 days later.    Matthew skips the two appearances in the Upper Room, the two men on the road to Emmaus and much more.     Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” are the only two mentioned by Matthew, but that doesn’t mean they were the only two women at the grave.  The other Gospels tell us the names of other women who also were there.  So, Mary Magdalene stayed behind at the tomb and therefore was the first to see Jesus; then Jesus goes to these “other women” to show Himself to them next.  And this does not even address the doctrine of the unlimited capability of Jesus’ body in His State of Exaltation.

THE ROAD TO EMMAUS:  TWO “DISCIPLES”?

Luke provides us the intriguing story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  You can read the entire story in Luke 24:13-32.  The highlights are these:  two men headed home to Emmaus are joined by Jesus but they don’t recognize him.  As they converse, Jesus begins to explain to them why the Messiah had to die and how the Old Testament had predicted everything that had happened in Jerusalem that weekend.  When Jesus is pressed to stay for supper, He agrees and begins to say the blessing.  Immediately the two men recognized Jesus as He handed out the bread, and Jesus instantly vanished out of their sight.

We better start with a simple question:  where is Emmaus?  Luke 24:13 tells us it is a village about “60 stadia” from Jerusalem.  Since we no longer measure anything in stadia, we have to convert this to modern distances:  10-12 “klicks” or about 6-7 miles.  That is a comfortable day’s walk for men who are used to walking, and it is likely downhill.  There are several suggestions made by archeologists.  One possible “Emmaus” is just south of Allentown, Pennsylvania—but I think we can rule that one out.  We simply do not know this village.

Arthur Just, in Vol. 2 of his Luke commentary, p. 978ff has labelled this chapter as “the hinge” of Luke’s 2-Volume work:  The Gospel of Luke/Acts of the Apostles.  On this point I would agree.  Beyond that, he loses me in a network of over-analyzed Semitic parallelism that Luke could never expect a Hellenistic reader like Theophilus (Luke 1:1-5) to understand.

Let’s take Luke seriously when he says 1:1-3 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning….”  Luke isn’t out to dazzle theologians with some complex scheme.  His goal is to present Theophilus with the facts which are simple, honest, directly told to him by the eyewitnesses, and organized so that Theophilus will understand who Jesus is and develop a firm faith.

What is the resultant conclusion about the story of the two on the road to  Emmaus?  Luke spoke to them and got the minutest of details to share with us.  The story we have comes directly from Cleopas and “Mystery Eyewitness #2.”  We have this story in none of the other Gospels.  Luke found it important as a pivot for proceeding to his second volume, The Acts of the Apostles.

Luke says he “carefully investigated everything.”  If so, where did he get the name “Cleopas?”  Obviously, he got it from Cleopas!  So, are you going to tell me that Luke was able to speak with Cleopas, get all the information about the incident on the road to Emmaus, and HAS NO IDEA WHO THE SECOND MAN WAS?  Why doesn’t he tell us this second man’s name?  Is this a secret?  Did #2 ask to remain anonymous?

Before I answer that, let’s take a look at verse 27:  “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”   Luke does not give us the details of what Jesus said on that 6-mile walk.  How frustrating!  Why not?  Doesn’t Luke think we would like to know?  Didn’t he “carefully investigate everything” as he claimed?  Where is this information?  I have always said that what Jesus told the two on the road to Emmaus is a sermon I would love to hear!  

It is my belief (and I can’t prove this—I just toss it out for your consideration!) that Luke did indeed know the second man, knew the information that Jesus had given him, and wanted to wait until his second volume, The Acts of the Apostles, to share the information about the man’s name, how he boldly shared the Old Testament exposition which Jesus told him, and what happened to that man.

Read Acts 7.  You will read a sermon delivered by the first martyr, Stephen.  His sermon begins with Moses and the Prophets, and explains to them what the Scriptures said about the Christ!  (Does that sound familiar?)  His interpretation of the Old Testament is unlike anything which anyone before him had said.  Where did he get this understanding?

Are we reading the sermon which Jesus gave to Cleopas and Stephen on the road to Emmaus?  I submit that STEPHEN is Luke’s mystery man who gives the missing sermon!