Jesus' vindication involves the exercise of God's power bringing him to life in a new, glorified state. After the discovery of the empty tomb (vv. 1-12), Luke narrates the conversation with the Emmaus-bound disciples, an account unique to him (vv. 13-35). Then follows the Gospel's closing scene, where Jesus visits the disciples (vv. 36-53). This final visit also is unique to Luke. Here Jesus appears to them (vv. 36-43) before giving them final instructions and departing (vv. 44-53).
A key feature of this section is the note of surprise among the disciples that Jesus is raised. Among the women, the disciples and the Emmaus travelers there is no hint that resurrection was anticipated. Such surprise is important, because it shows that even Jesus' own followers had to be convinced of his resurrection. They were not a gullible group that simply took resurrection as a given. Their surprise itself might seem strange, given Jesus' predictions of his resurrection as early as 9:22. But as late as 18:34, it is clear that the disciples never grasped the point of what Jesus was promising.
God's power underlies Jesus' resurrection. In addition, Scripture's claim (24:44-47), Jesus' promise (24:5-7), the angelic messengers' testimony (24:3-5, 23) and the testimony of disciples, both men and women, make up an impressive range of witnesses to this event (24:1-35). God's power stands behind the resurrection, because a passive verbal idea points to God's being responsible for it. This event is part of the reassurance Luke promised Theophilus in 1:1-4. The resurrection leads to the ascension and the events that grow from it.
As we come to the end of the Gospel, it is important to recall that Luke is only half finished with his story. The sequel comes in Acts. The resurrection-ascension is the link between the two volumes. That Luke regards the ascension as crucial is clear from Peter's speech in Acts 2. Now that Jesus is raised and seated at God's right hand, the mediating Ruler at the Father's side can pour out the blessing of God's Spirit (Acts 2:30-36). As the first ten chapters of Acts will make clear, the gospel can go to all because Jesus is Lord of all. The apostle Paul becomes the supreme example of a mission to all of humanity.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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