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Peace Be With You: Literary Context and Analysis of Luke Chapter 24: 36-49


The Gospel of Luke has a structure, since he told us in the prologue that he is giving an orderly account of what he received. The emphasis is on order. Whether this order is peculiarly Lucan or a synthesis of the different traditions will be discovered during the cause of our exposition. The value of structure cannot be ignored; for it is the structure that will help locate the literary contexts of our Gospel pericope, namely, larger, anterior and posterior contexts. We know from previous chapters that what Luke is presenting to us is the Jesus story: how is this Jesus' story presented to us in the three worlds of our text? The large world, the world before the text and the world behind the text.


According to Fitzmyer, the third Gospel lacks the pedagogical structure of the Matthean Gospel, with its deliberate alternation of narrative episodes and Catechetical discourses; it lacks also the symbolic structure of the Johannine Gospel, with its clear division into a book of signs and a book of glory and its systematic motif of the replacement of Jewish institutions by Jesus himself. Rather he says that, the Lucan Gospel does reveal the author's concern to narrate the story of Jesus from more than an analysts view point.

It is evident from different commentaries on Luke that, Luke primarily depended on the Marcan order. But in discontent with some of the orderly arrangement, he restructured this received order by way of transmission, transposition, omission and additions (Q and L) to suit his own theological programme. Hans Conzelman in appreciating this Lucan initiative says that the Lucan Gospel is not simply the transmission of the received Kerygma, but a reflection upon it, this he finds present in Luke's critical attitude to tradition as well as the positive formation of a new picture of history.

According to some commentators, the third Gospel is structured according to a kind of "geographical theology", on which the Gospel is constituted, namely the journey which led Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem were his work of redemption is to be accomplished. It is within this theologico-geographical framework that Luke inserts the events of Jesus' life and his teachings in such a way as to form a continuous narrative. For this purpose. Luke makes use of short introduction to link the Jesus events together into a continuous whole.

Luke first of all, prefaced the Marcan material with an infancy narrative in which he not only explained the relationship of Jesus to John the Baptist (as lacking in Marcan Gospel), but incorporates many theological motifs of the Gospel proper. For instance, Jesus as saviour, Messiah and Lord (Luke 1:5-2:52). Now, the transportation of Marcan material especially the Nazareth Scene (Luke 4:16:30) accounts for the reason for the separation of the preparation of the public ministry of Jesus (3:1-4:13) from the Galilean Ministry itself (4:14-9:50). This is a purposeful act by Luke to demonstrate his own symbolic and apologetic intents. The Nazareth scene is a programmatic for the ministry, symbolizing the rejection of Jesus by his own town's people, and preparing for the acceptance of him by Peter and the others.

The Lucan Gospel is unique in its lengthy travel narrative account (9:51-19:27), still part of it is distinctively Lucan (9-51-18:14). It is a major factor in the Lucan geographical perspective; Jesus resolutely moves toward Jerusalem, the city of destiny. The final chapter of this Gospel with its summit assertions about the suffering messiah, strengthened by a Proof From Prophecy (A narrative in which text from the Torah and even words in the New Testament were claimed to have been fulfilled by events in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection) argument and a final commission to his witnesses who are to await the promise of the Father (the Holy Spirit), provides not only a fitting conclusion to this Gospel material but also a bridge to the second volume. Most of what Luke presents in his Gospel finds a place in the second volume. While we commentators prefer to put the passion and resurrection together, some treat those parts separately. This accounts for some commentators having eight parts in the Gospel while others have lesser parts. For instance. Raymond E. Brown and Fitzmyer have the same structure of seven parts while Zacharias Mattam following G. Wilkens has five parts.

Zacharias Mattam, and G. Wilkens structure the Gospel of Luke around the paschal mystery. According to them, the paschal mystery recounts Christ's loving self-gift to us in his passion and death leading to the resurrection. They divided the Gospel into five parts:

1. Prologue 1:1-4

2. Paschal mystery announced through the infancy narratives 1:5-2:52

3. Paschal mystery announced in word and deed in Galilee 3:1-9:50

4. Journey to Jerusalem to accomplish the paschal mystery 9:51-19:27

5. The fulfilment of the paschal mystery in Jerusalem 19-28-24:53

If we should adopt this structure, so many content will be lost. The structure should not be built only around the paschal mystery (passion, death and resurrection of Jesus) but around the whole salvific events that begins with creation, incarnation and the paschal mysteries of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.


Luke Timothy Johnson structures the Gospel of Luke around Prophecy and how the prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus. This pattern of structuring is based on Proof From Prophecy narratives and informs his prophetic structuring of the Lucan Gospel such that, anybody associated with Jesus' events shares the prophetic imagery of Jesus; for instance, John the Baptist and the Apostles including Paul. The structure provided by Johnson has eight parts as did Fitzmyer and R. Brown but with disparity on the span of chapters covered and words placement. This structure is lacking in details because it presents Jesus as a prophet which is but one of the Christological titles identified in chapter one. Therefore, we shall adopt the structure or outline presented by Fitzmyer which also agrees with Raymond E Brown's in representing the organic structure of the Jesus story and detailed in its content

(1). 1.1-4 THE PROLOGUE

Luke's intention in recording the account of what Jesus did and taught. a reliable account addressed to Theophilus


The birth and childhood of John the Baptist and of Jesus set out in parallelism.


The appearance, career, and imprisonment of John the Baptist set forth as a prelude to the events which imitates the public career of Jesus


The training ground for the disciples who were to give testimony of Jesus later on and the starting point of his great "Exodus"


The "Exodus" of Jesus depicted in a specifically Lucan travel account occupying the central portion of the Gospel (9:51-18:14), to which it is added the synoptic travel account (18:15-19:27)


Jesus royal entry into the city of destiny initiates a period of ministry in the temple before the events of the days of his earthly career


The climax of Jesus' exodus in which he begins the "the ascent" to the father


The exaltation of Jesus in which he is glorified and officially commissions his disciples as witnesses to him and his role as saviour, as he ascends to the father


The larger literary context of our pericope is the eighth part of the Lucan Gospel that discourses the resurrection narrative covering chapter 24:1-53 of the Lucan Gospel. The Gospel does not end with the death and burial of Jesus. Rather, through his passion and death the Lord passed to the resurrection and the new life, thus opening a way for those who believe in him to pass from death to life. In this part of the Gospel, Jesus' departure (Exodus 9:31) is completed, as he is raised (24: 6) enters his glory (24:26) and is finally parted from his disciples and carried up to heaven (24:51). It is the climax of the Lucan gospel as a whole.

The centrality of Jerusalem is paramount. Having come from Galilee to Jerusalem. Jesus does not return there in the Lucan story. Jerusalem will become the focal point for the rest part of the chapter, as it will become the place from which the word about Jesus must be preached to all nations. (24:47)

This context makes reference to the predictions of Jesus' death and resurrection. Having recalled his words, the women carry the report back to the eleven and others who gave it a deaf ear. But then, the period of instruction on the scripture followed with an experience of the living Christ in the breaking of bread. This experience is revealed and in a setting filled with fear, belief, disbelief and joy. This experience occurs again. The living Christ appears with further instruction from scripture, the disciples received Christ's promise of the Holy Spirit and are commissioned. Christ gives them his benediction and leaves them to a life of Joy and praise


The resurrection narrative, therefore consists of four episodes, all of which took place on Easter Sunday: The role of women (plus Peter) in the discovery of the tomb and the reception of the angelic message, the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who meet with a Jesus they could not at first recognise, who instructed them from the scriptures the need for the Christ to enter glory through suffering and who becomes known to them at the breaking of bread,, the meeting of the whole group with Jesus, who convinces them that it is He (flesh and bones), open their minds to understand the scriptures and directs them regarding their future role: and finally, the closely linked blessing and departure scene in Bethany. Summarily put, the four episodes include:

1. The women at the empty tomb 24:1-12

2. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus 24:13-35

3. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus 24:38-49

4. The ascension 24:50-53


The anterior literary context to our text of study is the encounter with Jesus by the two disciples on their way to Emmaus (24:13-35). This episode provides the risen Jesus an opportunity to offer revelatory teaching that shows how the entire passion and resurrection fit into God's plan contained in the scriptures. Only Luke provides an account of the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In the episode of the women at the tomb (24:1-12), we witness how difficult it was for even dedicated followers to comprehend the victory of Jesus over death. This difficulty becomes more evident in the episode of Jesus' appearance to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. Now, we should remember that these people were initially in Jerusalem when the news of the resurrection was brought to them by the women at the tomb. Filled with unbelief they set out for Emmaus and while on the way we saw the demonstration of that unbelief until their eyes were opened, first in an unclear atmosphere through the instruction on scriptures and more clearly in the breaking of bread.

Now, to classify this experience into a specific narrative, C. A. Dodd distinguishes between concise narrative and circumstantial narrative: On the one hand, concise narrative tells what is absolutely essential to a bare report of what happened and which has an easily recognizable common pattern which includes: (a) Situation. Christ's followers bereft and distraught, (b) Appearance. Christ is suddenly among them; (c) Greeting (d) Recognition (e) Word of command. While on the other hand. circumstantial narrative manifest the art and craft of the story teller, his concern for dramatic development, vivid and arresting details, traits of character, conversation." et cetera. These two narratives are what Leon-Dufour classifies as "Jerusalem type" and "Galilean type" respectively. The concise narrative or Jerusalem type includes: Luke 24:36-49, John 20:19 -24, Matt 28:9-10 while the circumstantial or Galilean type includes: Luke 24:13-35, Matt 28:18-20. This episode, Luke 24.13-35 is a circumstantial narrative, intersecting other resurrection narratives only at verse 34, which confirms an earlier tradition about an appearance of Jesus to Simon Peter (1 Cor 15: 5).

It is typically Lucan that the first account of an appearance should occur on a journey; and just as on the long journey to Jerusalem, so also in 24.27 Jesus gives important revelation to the disciples: he appeals to the whole of scripture in order to explain what he has done as mission. Yet even though the disciples' hearts glowed when Jesus opened to them the meaning of the scripture, they recognised him only when he broke bread.

Joseph Fitzmyer. David Nolland and Fred Craddock" identify some of the Lucan theological motifs found in this episode, but we would consider that of fitzmyer to be more elaborate and distinct which include,

Geography: The disciples are en route to Emmaus and Christ comes to walk with them (24:15)

Revelation: The risen Christ is only gradually made manifest in his new status to these journeying disciples. At first their eyes were held from recognising him (verse 16). Finally, they came to recognise him at the breaking of the bread (verse 35).

Christology: Though the disciples regard Jesus as "a prophet mighty in word and deed", (Verse 19), one who, they thought, was to deliver Israel. But the risen Christ corrects their expectation of him insisting on "all that the prophets have said" (verse 25). He is now manifested to them not only as a prophet but as the suffering messiah of whom Moses and the prophets had written. This is Proof From Prophecy theology. The theme of Messiah having to suffer first will continue in Luke 24:46 and in the Christian teaching of Acts 3:8, 17:3 and 26:23".

Eucharist: The scene of Jesus reclining at table with the disciples of Emmaus taking bread, uttering blessing, breaking the bread and offering it to them (verse 30), not only recalls the last supper (22:19), but becomes the classic Lucan way of referring to the Eucharist. Thus, what we should understand here is not whether Jesus actually celebrated the Eucharist with the two disciples at Emmaus, but how Luke is using the story to instruct his readers. Jesus will again be present to his assembled disciples in the breaking of the bread in the next episode (Lk 24:36-49).


With these four theological motifs, we can identify four key moments in this episodes: the meeting of Jesus and the disciples; the conversation on the road, the Emmaus meal and the return to Jerusalem. In the episode of the appearance in Jerusalem to the eleven and others, we see similar but less obvious sequence: An appearance that is not comprehended, a revelation through exposition of the scripture and a meal.


The episode on the Ascension (24:50-55) forms the posterior context of our study. According to Craddock, Luke is the only evangelist to describe the final departure of Jesus as a specific event with time and place In the Gospel of Mark (according the appendix) and Matthew, there is no separation between the ascension and the resurrection. The appearance of the risen Jesus climaxes in his ascension to heaven. In the ascension. Jesus achieves his ultimate aim as echoed in 22: 69 "from now on the son of man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God". Therefore, by means of the choice of location, the final verses of the Gospel are marked off a little from the earlier parts of the appearance account in verses 36 49 Leading the eleven to Bethany. Jesus ascends to heaven, as he blesses his apostles. For this episode, Luke draws inspiration on a number of patterns: The Old Testament scene in which Abraham and Moses (Gen 49: Dent 33) provide final instruction and blessing before their deaths; the translations to heaven of figures like Enoch and Elijah (Gen 5:24, 2 kings 2); most extensively, he draws upon a description in Sirach 50:20-22 of a scene in which the high priest Simon blesses the people of God" But, Luke has a greater hero (Jesus) to put in this climactic spot whose blessing means much more than that of the Jewish high priest ever could. The eleven then returned to Jerusalem in worship and praise of God. Hence, Luke ended his Gospel where he started, with a scene in Jerusalem, in the temple at the hour of worship (Lk 1:8) and again in Jerusalem, in the temple, at the hour of worship (24:53). The ascension episode functions as the end of the appearance narrative and as the end of the Gospel narrative. Jesus' time is over, the time of the church dawns. Meanwhile the disciples stand in a posture of anticipation, looking towards Jesus' return (Acts 1:11.3:20-21), but in the meantime awaiting the promised power from God. (V. 49)

It needs to be said that, in Luke 24, the appearance of the risen Lord occurred on Easter evening with the ascension taking place evening of that same day. But in Acts 1:1-11, appearances occurred for forty days prior to the ascension. The question is why the difference in number and duration of appearances when the author is the same? The phrase in 24:51 “and was carried up into heaven" will present the appearances and the ascension as a day event. But some scribes were sensitive about the difference and so omitted 24:51 in order to accommodate the forty days' continuous appearance as recorded in Acts 1:1-11. Above all, the reason why Luke has described the ascension of Jesus in these two different traditions no one knows, but John Nolland speculates that in both cases it would seem that Luke is motivated by symbolic rather than chronological concerns. In the Gospel, he is making clear that the resurrection already entails the glory of ascension to the right hand of God, while in Acts, he is concerned to affirm the risen Lord's confirmation of the teaching of the historical Jesus (now, intelligible to the disciples in a new way). The double references to the ascension demarcate the period of the church from the period of Jesus.



The geographical perspective which permeates and defines the structuring of the Lucan Gospel recognises and appreciates the centrality of Jerusalem as the city of Jesus' destiny, as well as the starting point of the narrative of the Lucan Jesus. The structure, which reveals the entire theological programme of the entire Gospel built around Jerusalem, consummates with the resurrection narrative of Jesus involving the visit to the empty tomb and the appearance narratives namely, the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, appearance to Peter and the appearance to the eleven and others in Jerusalem that closes with the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Jesus indeed makes himself known to the two disciples travelling to Emmaus by first opening their eyes and minds to understand the scriptures and finally in the breaking of bread. With this revelation and new experience, they went back to Jerusalem to relate the news to the elven and others. Now after all doubts and uncertainties of the news of the resurrection, the disciples reach a mature faith in the resurrected one at the point of departure when he ascended into heaven. Hence, the disciples filled with joy returned to Jerusalem in praise and worship as they await the promised power from above. Jesus is treated as an appropriate object of religious reverence for the first time in the Lucan Gospel. Now, having a convinced faith in the resurrection, the apostles can now carry out their mission as witnesses, but for the meantime have to wait for the promise of the Father (the Holy Spirit).