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Eight Things Opened

A Few Thoughts on Luke 24

Alfred E. Bouter

Short Summary

  1. An open and empty tomb;
  2. The scriptures opened;
  3. The two disciples' eyes are opened;
  4. The two disciples open their hearts to the Lord;
  5. The two disciples open their home to the Lord;
  6. The Lord opens the intelligence of all the disciples;
  7. The heavens are opened;
  8. The disciples' mouths are opened in worship and in testimony.


Our Lord Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection, has established the very basis of Christianity. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul gave us an outline of the gospel. This passage shows that without Christ's resurrection we would be lost. Further we read that Paul and the apostles would be false witnesses if the fact of Christ's resurrection could not be verified. That is why Paul enumerates seven negative consequences if Christ had not risen from among the dead. But Christ did rise from among the dead! Paul refers to a complete testimony: seven witnesses (the scriptures plus six persons or groups of people) of this historical fact (seven being the number of completeness or perfection). Luke 24 also refers to seven different testimonies with respect to Christ's resurrection, partly corresponding with the eight points of this article:

  • Several women meet two angels who tell them that He is risen (vv. 1-6);
  • The Lord had announced His resurrection in Galilee (vv. 7-8);
  • The women present their testimony to the eleven and to others (vv. 9-11);
  • The testimony of the scriptures, confirmed by the risen Lord (vv. 25-27);
  • The eleven confirm the Lord's resurrection: He had appeared to Simon (vv. 33-34);
  • The two disciples from Emmaus confirm His resurrection (v. 35).
  • The Lord Himself affirms His resurrection by several proofs (vv. 36-44).

The Lord Jesus no longer belongs to this world, but to the world of resurrection; to a completely new order of things (2 Cor. 5:16-17). He is the living One (with definite article, Lk. 24:5-6), which in this context implies the risen One, for He is also the Eternal Son in the bosom of the Father (Jn. 1:14-18), the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16). In this sense He always has been 'the living One.'

1. An Open and Empty Tomb

The open and empty tomb of Luke 24:1-12 is a conclusive proof of Christ's resurrection. There is no other fact in history that has been so well documented and proven to be irrefutable. Therefore, Christianity rests on solid facts (1 Cor. 15:1-11)! Christ's resurrection is the basis for our justification (Rom. 4:25) and puts us on redemption ground, to enjoy sweet communion with Christ and His saints (Ps. 40:2-3, 9; Isa. 53:10-13; Ps. 22:22; Heb. 2:9-14). Furthermore, He has left us in this scene of His rejection to be His witnesses (Lk. 24:46-48). as those who are identified with the One who died and rose again on our behalf (Rom. 6:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:15). We could not have any kind of association with the Lord Jesus, were it not for His death and resurrection.

The Lord had clearly instructed His disciples concerning His death, burial and resurrection before He died (Lk. 24:7; Mt. 28:7, 16). Now as the risen One, He re-affirms this to the two disciples from Emmaus (Lk. 24:25-27), as well as to the eleven (Lk. 24:36-44). Furthermore, Christ's resurrection authenticated His divinity (Rom. 1:4), as well as confirmed His victory over Satan and death (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14). In it God's power was wonderfully demonstrated (Eph. 1:19-23).

2. The Scriptures Opened

It is remarkable how the Jews, the people of the Book, have been under a veil, even blinded (Isa. 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 3:14-16). This condition is illustrated in Paul's conversion and in the Lord's subsequent dealings with him when the scales were removed from his eyes (Acts 9). These details indicate that there is an intimate connection between the scriptures opened - in and through which Christ is presented - and the opening of the eyes, as well as a link with the other points of the summary given at the beginning of this article.

The fact that we have the scriptures as God gave them; that God preserved them through the ages; that in the Reformation God restored them to believers and multiplied them through the printing press; that the Revival of the 19`h century gave God's people to see the Lord in them as their very centre and object with whom they were linked, is not sufficient in itself, though important. The real question is, Do we allow Him, our blessed Lord, to open the scriptures to us through His Spirit? The Lord's dealings with the two disciples provide many practical lessons concerning this.

Two disciples were travelling to Emmaus (possibly meaning 'in earnest longing'), away from Jerusalem and the temple. Luke 24:13 suggests that when they left Jerusalem, they also left the whole man-made Judaic system. Although originally given by God it had become a human religious system which excluded the very God who had given it, by rejecting their own Messiah. Officially, the two disciples were still in Judaism, but when they came back (v. 33), they were on different ground, together with the other disciples, being instructed by the risen Lord so they might be a testimony to Jews and Gentiles (v. 47). The epistle to the Hebrews shows how God used Judaism for a time, but also how He set it aside once the shadows had been fulfilled in Christ and the full light was shining.

Second, there is great emphasis on the person of our glorious Lord in this account in Luke 24. Verse 15 says, `while they conversed and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.' The glory of the Lord approached and then went with them! Is this not a striking illustration of what Christianity is? 1 repeat, it is a person, not a religion; and this verse underlines this concept. Similarly, the Lord desires to come closer to us and to go along with us. Do we allow Him to travel with us? The same idea is found with the 'two or three' of Matthew 18:20. Then the Lord specifically explained to them from all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.

3. The Two Disciples' Eyes Are Opened

Because of their hardening (v. 25) and their sorrow at supposedly losing the Lord, their eyes were turned inward and downward (v. 17). Cleophas or Clopas (v. 18) answered the Lord's questions (v. 17). Perhaps this is the same person mentioned in John 19:25, in which case his wife would have been one of the women who stayed by the cross when all the others had left. If so the lessons in this story are particularly encouraging for believing couples (though, of course they are encouraging for all, even if both disciples were men).

Where do we turn our eyes? A song says, 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus.' Would it not be profitable for us to apply this story to ourselves when we are cast down? Do we allow the Lord to ask us questions? His words show us our problems and needs, and prepare us to appreciate His answers and intervention. How skillfully the Lord helped the two disciples and lifted them out of their distress. They had to learn what it is to be established on a new foundation, as connected with the open and empty tomb. All this serves as a picture of the experiences described in Acts, and the teachings in Hebrews and other New Testament writings, which brought believers, Hebrew Christians, from among the Jews, on to a new ground, together with believers from among the Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-22).

This truth does not set aside God's promises to Abraham and to his people! Romans 9-11 summarise God's dealings with them and show how all Israel will ultimately be for the glory of God! Paul also explains that for the present time God's plans for Jews and Gentiles (Acts 17:24­31) are of a different order than what the Jews in their carnal condition were expecting. God had introduced something entirely new and unknown before (yet pre-determined in God's counsel - Eph. 3), but this could only be revealed on the basis of Christ's accomplished work; His death, resurrection and glorification. The ultimate fulfilment of His plans for Israel (Lk. 24:21) is also based on Christ's resurrection (Hos. 6:1; the third day refers to resurrection).

4. The Two Disciples Open Their Hearts for the Lord

In Luke 24:32 we read, 'And they said to one another, Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us on the road, and while he opened the scriptures to us?' According to this verse, the two disciples realised the changes that had taken place and rightly saw the most important change was in their hearts. This is how God still works today. Notice His work in their hearts and their response from the heart, are blended together in this account. In Lydia's case (Acts 16:14), God opened her heart: this is His sovereign grace without which there would not be any conversion or response. And when man's response comes, it is seen in a repentant heart.

The two disciples had hardened themselves (just like most of the other believers around the Lord, although the measure of hardening may have been different), to the point that the Lord had to call them 'foolish' (Lk. 24:25). Does not the same apply to us today? A genuine response demands true repentance!

5. The Two Disciples Open Their Home for the Lord

'Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and he indicated that he would have gone farther. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to stay with them' (Lk. 24:28,29). The Lord did not impose Himself, but wanted the two disciples to express their desire for Him to come in. The fact that they insisted is evidence of a change of heart (see above). This is a beautiful picture of James' teachings about works of faith (Jas. 2). We find the same with Lydia in Acts 16:15. 'And when she and her household were baptised, she begged us, saying, 'if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay. So she persuaded us.'

What about our homes?

6. The Lord Opens the Understanding of All the Disciples

Perhaps we can take this opening of the understanding Of all the disciples (Lk. 24:45) as an illustration of the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell in believers and take the things of Christ and make them real to them (Jn. 14:26). This shows that there is no understanding, no spiritual intelligence without divine intervention: 'But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ' (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

7. The Heavens Are Opened

  • To witness heaven's delight in Christ;
  • To receive Christ (Lk. 24:51), providing free access to the believers on earth;
  • To bring Christ back to exercise judgment;
  • To maintain a flow of blessing between heaven and earth in the coming millennium.

Let us consider each of these in more detail:

  • First, when our Lord Jesus started His public ministry at the occasion of His baptism by John, the Holy Spirit descended and remained on Him, while the heavens were opened to give utterance to the Father's voice saying, 'This is my beloved Son in whom 1 am well pleased' (Mt. 3:17).
  • After His accomplished work, death, burial, and resurrection, the Lord Jesus ascended into the heavens (Jn. 20:17) and was received by God and given the place of honour (Heb. 2:9; 5:10). In other words, the one who was the object for the heavens while He was here on earth was now Himself received into the heavens. There He became the supreme object for His people on earth, as we see demonstrated in the case of Stephen (Acts 7:56) and doctrinally explained in various scriptures, especially Hebrews 1:3: 4:15; 8:1; 10:19-22; 12:2). Christ's present position is the basis for the free access Christians have, which is a marked contrast with the Old Testament order of things where the sanctuary was closed except for the high priest to enter once a year, not without blood. This new order linked with Christ glorified is the reason for the rapture: a heavenly people (although now on earth) will be taken from this earth and brought to heaven (Jn. 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-54). where the marriage supper of the Lamb will take place (Rev. 19:7-10). All this is linked with the day of grace.
  • The heavens will be opened another time, but then in judgment (Rev. 19:11-21 ). After the period of grace is over, there will be judgment (in different ways). That is why those who reject God's offer of grace will not have another opportunity. This principle was illustrated in Moses' experiences in Exodus 4:2-9 when God gave him two signs for his people's deliverance. If they rejected these signs of God's gracious intervention on their behalf. only judgment remained.
  • The fourth occasion of opened heavens will be during the millennial reign of peace and public blessings. This was announced by many prophets, but confirmed by the Lord in His conversation with Nathanael (Jn. 1:50-51). This passage emphasises the Lord's greatness as the Son of man to reign. He will be the centre of the whole universe and the link between heaven and earth. The angels of God will ascend from and descend upon Him, so there will be a continued public display of blessing, a flow of prayer and response into heaven, and a stream of blessing from heaven (Rev. 21:9-22:5). Spiritually and morally this is true for the Church today.

8. The Disciples' Mouths Are Opened

Now the disciples' mouths are opened in worship and testimony (Lk. 24:53 & 47). This is possible because of what the Lord has accomplished and because of the new relationships that have been established (Jn. 20:17). It also symbolises a new order of things, emphasised by the number eight, and it demonstrates that now there can be a response to the honour and glory of God. This was not possible under the Mosaic Law, when the people were standing 'outside' (Lk. 1:21). But in Luke 24:53 we see them 'inside,' in God's presence, praising and blessing.

These eight points illustrate doctrinal changes from Judaism to Christianity, which we find explained especially in Paul's epistles, and the letter to the Hebrews.

A. E. Bouter