The Purpose of Luke
Luke’s purpose is evident from the first verses of his book (Luke 1:1–4). He is writing an “orderly account” for Theophilus, that he would “have certainty concerning the things [he had] been taught.” Luke writes as a historian.
Following Daniel Wallace, I take this as Luke’s theme: Jesus is the Son of Man, rejected by Israel, offered to the Gentiles.
(See also Peter’s look at Luke for a previous series.)
Luke 24 opens with three women approaching Jesus’s tomb at dawn (Luke 24:1), expecting to anoint his body with spices they prepared (Luke 23:56). They had seen Jesus’s body laid in the tomb (Luke 23:55), so when they find the stone rolled away, they know where to look. They are “perplexed” to find no body.
As the angels tell the women that Jesus has risen, they emphasize Jesus’s own words.
Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. (Luke 24:6–7)
The women then remember (Luke 24:8) and tell the apostles what they saw (Luke 24:9). But the apostles don’t believe them (Luke 24:11), so Peter checks it out himself. He leaves the tomb convinced (Luke 24:12).
Remember that Luke is a historian, so he presents his readers with evidence and testimony about this miraculous discovery. We have not one, but two heavenly witnesses declaring, “He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:6). All three women who saw the empty tomb are named (Luke 24:10), perhaps for the purpose of verification. The angels point to Jesus’s prophecy about himself (Luke 9:22) as more evidence.
Peter gives the final testimony. It is significant that Peter saw the linen wrappings (Luke 24:12) instead of an empty tomb. Grave robbers would have taken the body with the cloth; a resurrected Jesus would shed his wrappings.
Peter’s previous appearance in Luke did not end well. Jesus looked at Peter after the rooster crow marked Peter’s third denial (Luke 22:61). After being absent at the crucifixion, he was desperate for another chance to see the Lord. He had to see the evidence for himself, and we see it through him.
Who is this Risen Jesus?
Luke doesn’t just present the empty tomb. He teaches us about Jesus in the process.
Through the account of the crucifixion, Luke highlights Jesus’s innocence. Pilate proclaims Jesus innocent three times (Luke 23:4, 23:14, 23:22). Herod can find nothing in Jesus worthy of death (Luke 23:15). One of the crucified criminals recognizes Jesus has done nothing wrong (Luke 23:14). And after Jesus breathed his last, the centurion praised God, knowing Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:47).
In Luke’s gospel, the phrase “sinful men” (Luke 24:7) is unique to this passage. He uses it here as a contrast: Jesus was unlike the men that carried out his death. In his resurrection, Jesus was vindicated, declared righteous and innocent. (See also 1 Timothy 3:16.)
Secondly, in Luke 24:7 the angels refer to Jesus as the “Son of Man.” This was Jesus’s favorite title for himself; the angels confirmed that Jesus used the title rightly. So what does that title mean?
At first glance, the title “Son of Man” seems ordinary, as though Jesus just meant he was a human. But Luke has far more in view.
The title “Son of Man” comes from Daniel 7. In a vision, one “like a son of man” appears before the Ancient of Days and is given dominion, glory, and a kingdom. Strikingly, “all peoples, nations, and languages” will serve him and “his dominion [will be] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14). Instead of an earthy, human title, “Son of Man” is heavenly and kingly, with worldwide consequences. (For more on Jesus as the Son of Man, see here or here.)
A few more details from the surrounding chapters will help us firm up the main point.
Jesus prayed that his Father would forgive those who crucified him (Luke 23:34). He promised one of the criminals that he would be with Jesus in paradise (Luke 23:43). Additionally, when the resurrected Jesus meets with his disciples, he says that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [the Christ’s] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Jesus came for Jews and Gentiles.
What’s the Main Point?
Here is Luke’s main point.
Believe this: Jesus is the innocent Son of Man, raised from the dead for the whole world.
In the resurrection passage, Luke aims for the head, so let’s focus our application there. Do you believe in Jesus’s resurrection? How does that affect your thinking about forgiveness, God’s power, and God’s promises?
Luke also wrote the book of Acts, and there we see that Jesus’s resurrection changed the apostles and turned the world upside down. Be careful, or it will have the same effect on you.