Luke 22:29-46 Christ, as a man, was struck with physical pain, fear, and anxiety over what was soon to happen to him. Although fully God, he is also fully man and, therefore, had human reactions in the face of his Passion and Death. Despite his agony, he placed himself in the Father’s hands and abandoned himself to the fulfillment of the Father’s will. The Father did not take away what Christ had to endure but strengthened him to face his Passion. Christ’s example in the Garden of Gethsemane serves as a reminder that we should turn to prayer and submit ourselves completely to God’s will, who will never fail in strengthening or consoling us. (CCC 532, 2600, 2605-2607, 2746, 2824)
Ch 22:39 Mount of Olives: The Mount of Olives and its Garden of Gethsemane are possible locations as they are a short distance east of Jerusalem.
Ch 22:40 Only through a serious commitment to daily prayer can we overcome the temptation to reject the Cross. (CCC 2612, 2725-2728)
Ch 22:47-53 It is ironic that Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, a symbol of friendship, here used as a signal for the arresting soldiers. Christ, in contrast, healed the slave’s ear, thus showing compassion even for those who come to arrest him. (CCC 2262, 2303)
Ch 22:54-62 Peter’s threefold denial, which was foretold by Christ (cf. Lk 22:31-34), resulted from presuming his own fidelity by virtue of his own efforts and his failure to pray with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter would grow in strength and courage after experiencing profound sorrow and repentance for his triple denial. (CCC 1429)
Ch 22:63-71 Lacking the clarity of faith to believe in Christ, the elders and chief priests considered his words blasphemous. (CCC 443)
Ch 22:66-71 Council: The Sanhedrin.
If I tell you...answer: Christ evoked Jeremiah’s response to King Zedekiah (cf. Jer 38:15). Jeremiah, like Christ, was accused of being a false prophet and was tried by both religious and civic leaders.
You say that I am: Christ’s response was understood by the Sanhedrin as an affirmative answer to their question. His accusers in the Sanhedrin could not accept that the Messiah was actually the Son of God. (CCC 443, 663)
Ch 23:2 The crime of inciting revolt was punishable by death, and the accusation placed Christ on a par with Barabbas, who was charged with sedition as well as murder. (CCC 596)
Ch 23:3 King of the Jews: The wise men from the East who visited the newborn Christ accorded him this title. Pilate was thinking of a king in the political sense, which Christ clearly was not. This is made even more explicit by Christ’s words in John, “My kingship is not of this world” (Jn 18:36). (CCC 528)
Ch 23:3-12 Christ was questioned by Herod Antipas, son of King Herod the Great, who had ordered the killing of infant males at the time of the Birth of Christ. Christ’s mission on earth will end as it began, under the sign of persecution. (CCC 530, 600)
Ch 23:16 Other ancient authorities add verse 17: “Now he was obliged to release one man to them at the festival.”
Ch 23:26-49 In Luke’s account of the Crucifixion, we find the ultimate example of love. Christ’s Passion includes every virtue that we can emulate, especially in the face of suffering and adversity. While he processed to the site of his Crucifixion and Death, he nevertheless took time to comfort others, to forgive his persecutors, to pray, to announce salvation to the repentant thief, and to commend himself to the hands of the Father. A crowd of onlookers and even the Roman centurion were moved to repentance and faith in his divinity as a result. (CCC 618)
Ch 23:26 Under Roman law, civilians could be ordered to participate in temporary service as was necessary. This service of Simon of Cyrene symbolizes the Lord’s invitation to his followers to share in his Cross, which oftentimes is unexpected. (CCC 2029)
Ch 23:27-31 Blessed...never nursed: Christ warned the women of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, suggesting that it would be a blessing if they did not have children whom they would have to watch suffer when the time came.
If they do this...is dry: Dry wood is more suited to burning than green wood. Christ, who is innocent, is the green wood, the suffering of the guilty would be far more severe. (CCC 385)
Ch 23:33 Crucified: This type of execution was reserved for the worst of criminals and non-Romans. Nailed to a cross, the victim would die slowly of bleeding and asphyxiation, the latter because the weakened body’s tendency to sag would tend to suppress the respiratory tract. The Cross is the most important and common symbol of Christianity. (CCC 599)
Ch 23:34 Father, forgive them...they do: Christ was merciful to those who executed him, just as he was merciful to the slave whose ear had been cut off during his arrest. His words, spoken from the Cross, show that his prayer and his gift of self are united. The words of Christ remind us to pray for and to forgive even those who persecute us. His death cannot be blamed collectively on the Jews of Christ’s day or their descendants; rather, every person by virtue of Original Sin and actual sins bears responsibility for his Crucifixion.
Divide his garments: The belongings of the condemned customarily were taken by the attending soldiers. The entire Crucifixion narrative is reminiscent of Psalm 22. (CCC 591, 597-598, 2605, 2635)
Ch 23:38 In Roman crucifixions, it was customary to attach a sign indicating the crime that the criminal had committed.
Ch 23:39-43 This episode illustrates how the willing acceptance of punishment for one’s offenses can have an expiatory-and therefore redemptive-value. It also implies an immediate judgment after death and a final destiny of the soul either to salvation or damnation. (CCC 440, 1021, 2266, 2616)
Ch 23:45 The curtain in the Temple separated the presence of God in the Holy of Holies from the people. Its tearing from top to bottom signifies that the sacrificial Death of Christ opens the path of the faithful to the very presence of God. Through our union with the resurrected Christ, we enter into the everlasting life of the Blessed Trinity. (CCC 441, 730, 1011)
Ch 23:46 Into your hands I commit my spirit: Christ, evoking Psalm 31:5, was entirely submissive to the will of God even unto Death. His example shows how we, too, can transform our own suffering and death into redemptive acts of love and obedience to our Father in Heaven. (CCC 730, 1011)
Ch 23:50-56 As a member of the Sanhedrin, which had just condemned Christ, Joseph of Arimathea cared for the Body of Christ at great risk to himself. He was indeed dead, his soul having left his body; yet his body and soul would reunite in the Resurrection. In the Incarnation, God the Son assumed human nature and became man. The First Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (AD 431) used the term hypostatic union to describe the union of Christ’s two natures-divine and human-in his one divine Person. (CCC 624, 997)
Ch 23:54-56 Day of Preparation: The required Sabbath rest begins at sundown, so the Body of Christ was placed in the tomb hurriedly and without the full preparation for burial. They would return on Sunday to complete the customary anointing. (CCC 641)
Ch 24:1 First day of the week: Because Christ rose on the first day of the week (Sunday), his Resurrection recalls the creation of the world. From the earliest days, Christians celebrated Sunday as the Lord’s Day and the day of Christian worship. (CCC 1166-1167, 2174, 2184-2185, 2190-2195)
Ch 24:5-6 Why do you seek the living among the dead?: The empty tomb is not incontrovertible proof of the Resurrection but an essential sign of it. (CCC 626, 639-643, 652)
Ch 24:13-35 In some instances, such as on the road to Emmaus, the risen Lord appeared with his glory veiled from the disciples’ eyes. In the Emmaus story, Christ opened the minds of the disciples to the real meaning of the prophetic words of Scripture referring to him. They were reminded that the prophets foretold the events that they had recently witnessed. Christ took the opportunity to explain why he had to suffer and die in order to be glorified. (CCC 601-602, 643)
Ch 24:25-27 The breaking of the covenant through sin left the human race subject to death and in need of purification. Only by Christ’s Death and Resurrection could this purification be achieved. (CCC 112-113, 554-555, 572-573, 645, 710)
Ch 24:30-31 Took...blessed...gave: Note the resemblance of this sequence to the Last Supper narrative (cf. Lk 22:19). The travelers to Emmaus only came to realize Christ was present “in the breaking of the bread.” (CCC 112, 659, 1329, 1345-1347)
Ch 24:34 Appeared to Simon: Because Peter was the head of the Church and was called to strengthen the faith of the community, his testimony of having seen the risen Lord carried great credibility within the community. (CCC 552, 641, 644, 645)
Ch 24:36-43 Christ’s appearance to his disciples in the Upper Room provided further evidence of his Resurrection. He showed them the scars of his Passion and even ate in front of them. He was not solely spirit but had a material body, albeit a glorified one. This testimony refutes any conjecture that his appearance was illusory or metaphorical and also teaches us about the nature of our own resurrected bodies. (CC 644-645, 999-1000, 2605)
Ch 24:44-49 Much as he did for the disciples on the way to Emmaus, Christ opened his Apostles’ minds to the meaning of Scripture. He commissioned them to go forward and preach repentance and salvation to all people but told them to wait for “the promise of my Father”-the Holy Spirit whom he would send. Once receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s disciples would initiate the Church’s work of evangelization or spreading the Good News to every corner of the world. (CCC 108, 572, 627, 730, 981, 1118-1122)
Ch 24:50-53 In ascending into Heaven Body and Soul, his humanity entered into divine glory; we will also have a share in that glory in our own resurrection at the end of time. (CCC 659)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The Curses of Adam
Because Abraham and Israel fail to undo the mess of Adam, God himself takes matters into his own hands, sending his Son.
After Adam’s sin, the Lord said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you … in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Gn 3:17-19).
Jesus takes Adam’s sin and its resulting curse upon himself.
He prays so intensely in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, that he sweats blood (Lk 22:44).
After he is arrested, the Roman guards mockingly crown him with a crown of thorns (Mt 27:29).
Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden and an angel guarded the tree of life.
This was necessary, God said, “lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Gn 3:22).
The cross upon which Jesus suffers and dies becomes the new tree of life, from which all of Adam’s descendants can take and eat and receive the grace to live in the life of God forever.
What is the fruit of this new tree of life?
Jesus tells his apostles before he dies: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19).
Jesus tells his disciples that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54).
The fruit of the new tree of life, the cross, is the Eucharist, and by it we have eternal life.
Jesus’ death on the cross opens up the gates to heaven and to everlasting life, undoing Adam’s sin.
Jesus defeats the enemy in the same way that the enemy first defeated Adam and Eve: through the weakness of the flesh.
He assumes flesh, taking on human nature, and offers himself as the price for the broken covenant.
He crushes the work of the enemy.
With Jesus’ last breath on the cross, the exile from Eden ends and paradise is opened to Adam and his descendants.
The Curses of Israel
After discovering the Book of the Law, King Josiah stated: “Great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (2 Kgs 22:13).
Time and again, Israel broke the covenant, and, as a result, was under the curses of the covenant.
But as St. Paul says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal 3:13).
Jesus died so that Israel might be freed from the curses of the law and “might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14).
Israel was in exile because of her sin, searching for an exodus, a way out.
Jesus’ death on the cross brings about this new Exodus, this freedom from exile, and reveals the depth of the love Christ has for us (Rom 5:8).
The Servant of the Lord
In the midst of Isaiah’s proclamation of the new Exodus, the prophet describes the “servant of the Lord” whose suffering brings about the redemption of God’s people.
His “appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men … He was despised and rejected by men … he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is 52:14; 53:3-5).
Jesus is the Servant of the Lord, whose passion and death frees us from sin.
In Deuteronomy 28, Moses enumerated the curses that Israel would fall under if they forsook the Lord and broke the covenant: Israel would suffer being handed over to Gentiles (Dt 28:32, 28:41) and afflicted (Dt 28:59), until they perished (Dt 28:20, 28:51, 28:61).
Jesus, in a very specific way, takes upon himself the curse of Israel.
After he is examined by the high priest (Lk 22:54), he is handed over to Pilate (the Gentiles; Lk 23:1), scourged with whips, beaten, and mocked, and finally executed for his people (Lk 22:63-23:49).
As their king, Jesus represents Israel.
He takes on the curses of Israel to free his people from their curse.
The prophets describe God as Israel’s husband (Hos 2:16; Jer 31:32).
The spousal relationship between Israel and Yahweh is entered into at Mount Sinai, when God and Israel enter into the Old Covenant.
Israel’s unfaithfulness puts God’s bride under the covenant curse of death.
But because of his steadfast love, God takes on human nature and offers himself on the cross, dying so that Israel might not perish. Jesus’ death ends the Old Covenant, setting Israel free to enter into the New Covenant.
On the cross, Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom, offers himself in a spousal gift of self-giving love.
Jesus’ passion takes on the story of Adam and Israel and brings it to a profound resolution.
The gospels illustrate this in the choice between Jesus and Barabbas.
Barabbas, whose name means “son of the father,” was a bandit and murderer who was slated for crucifixion until Pilate gave the people the choice between sparing him or Jesus.
The people, themselves rebellious sons of the very flawed and sinful Adam and Israel, condemn Jesus to death and spare the murderous Barabbas.
The true Son of the Father pays the price for the other, and in the end, we see that we, too, are Barabbas.
The Son of the Father is also the Son of the Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
And all who are born again in him not only take God as their Father but Mary as their Mother.
That is why Jesus turns to “the disciple whom he loved” and says, “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19:26-27).
John includes this detail in his gospel for the same reason he includes every detail: “That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:31).
Each of us is invited to be the Beloved Disciple, to take Mary as our mother, and to take Jesus Christ as our Lord and live as he did.
The Great “Yes” of Christ St. Paul says that “all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]” (2 Cor 1:20).
All that God promised to Abraham and Israel is fulfilled in Christ.
In the great drama of salvation, the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ are the climax, the zenith.
It is in this Person that the whole story of Scripture finds its “Yes.”
Jesus, through his life, fulfills the Scriptures of Israel, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets” (Lk 24:27).
As Jesus himself said to his disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:26).
Act 4: Jesus’ Resurrection
The story of Jesus’ resurrection takes place on a particular day of the week, the “first day of the week, at early dawn” (Lk 24:1).
The Church Fathers understood that because of Jesus’ victory over death, a new age had dawned and therefore the resurrection marked the “first day” of the new creation.
This seems to be suggested by John, who emphasizes that Jesus’ tomb is in a garden (Jn 19:41), recalling the first creation’s Garden of Eden.
Luke’s story of this new beginning focuses on a walk, not in a garden but along a road that two disciples of Jesus take from Jerusalem to their hometown of Emmaus.
Jesus joins them on the way, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Lk 24:16).
Jesus inquires about their discussion, and they are incredulous that he is unaware of the dramatic events in Jerusalem during the Passover, how the chief priests had handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Their conclusion comes with a note of despair.
“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21).
Jesus exclaims, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:25-26).
Then Jesus walks them through a Scripture study of salvation history, starting with Genesis (Moses) and all the way through Israel’s Scriptures to the prophets (Lk 24:27).
As evening approaches, they arrive in Emmaus.
Jesus appears to be going further, but they beg him to stay, and while at table, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them (Lk 24:30).
This is precisely the same description given when Jesus takes the bread at the Last Supper.
The disciples’ eyes are opened, and they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:31, 35).
Once the bread is broken and he is recognized, Jesus disappears.
Jesus promised to be present in the breaking of the bread, and now that the bread has been broken with his priestly hands, he is with them, and they no longer need his bodily presence.
Who are these two disciples, so privileged with Jesus’ presence on the very evening of the resurrection?
Luke tells us the name of only one of the two disciples, Cleopas; so who is with Cleopas?
The answer is simple but easily missed.
Who would Cleopas go home with, other than his wife?
According to John’s gospel, we know that “Mary the wife of Clopas” followed Jesus and was in Jerusalem for the Passover.
Indeed, she was with Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25).
John’s spelling of Clopas follows the Semitic spelling, whereas Luke, naturally, uses the Greek spelling.
Since Clopas/Cleopas was a rare name, and Cleopas is a disciple of Jesus, it is hard to imagine that there is a wife of Cleopas who also is in Jerusalem for Passover, and is a disciple, and is not related to the very Cleopas Luke names.
Translators have often assumed both disciples are men, thus translating Jesus’ admonishment in Luke 24:25 as “O foolish men,” when in the Greek it does not mention men at all, but should be read “O foolish ones!”
At the first creation, God walked in the garden amidst a man, Adam, and his wife, Eve.
Now, on the first day of the new creation, Jesus walks with a married couple.
This couple has lost all hope, and yet by walking with Jesus, their hearts come back alive.
When the first couple in Genesis ate the first meal (from the forbidden fruit), “then the eyes of both were opened” (Gn 3:7); as Jesus breaks open the bread at table with the couple from Emmaus, “their eyes were opened” (Lk 24:31).
The eyes of the original couple are opened to shame and guilt, whereas the new couple that Jesus walks with to Emmaus have their eyes opened to the resurrected Lord in the Eucharist.
The old creation begins with a married couple falling from grace, whereas the new creation begins with Jesus blessing a married couple by breaking open the Scriptures and the bread, where they recognize him in both.
At Emmaus, Jesus opens the Scripture, which is followed by the Eucharistic meal.
Word and Sacrament are thus entwined, and every Mass follows the Emmaus model, beginning with the Liturgy of the Word, in which the Church parallels the Old Testament reading with the Gospel reading (showing Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s story), followed by the liturgy of the Eucharist, in which Jesus is made present in the breaking of the bread.
This twofold pattern is described by the Emmaus disciples, who recall how on the road “did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures” (Lk 24:32).
And they recall how he “was known to them in the breaking of the bread,” (Lk 24:35), which is Luke’s descriptive phrase for the Eucharist.
By the Word made text in Scripture and by the Word made flesh in the Eucharist, we are spiritually fed.
“You Are Witnesses of These Things”
Forty days after his resurrection and just before he ascends into heaven, Jesus leads his disciples out as far as Bethany, where he blesses them (Lk 24:50-51).
Luke opened his gospel with the story of Zechariah, a priest of the Old Covenant who is left mute, unable to speak the priestly blessing as he exits the Temple.
Now at the close of Luke’s gospel, the new high priest of the New Covenant lifts his hands and blesses his disciples.
God himself bestows the worldwide blessing that will be passed on to all men and women who call upon Jesus’ name.
Jesus ascends before their eyes, and the disciples return to Jerusalem with great joy.
The goal of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is not a mere intellectual appreciation that Christ is the fulfillment of the story of salvation but that we might believe and have life in Jesus’ name (Jn 20:31).
Jesus desires that we participate in this new life that he won for us on the cross.
Thus, Jesus tells the disciples, including those he walked with at Emmaus—now that they have recognized him and understand how Scripture’s story comes to its full meaning in his death and resurrection—that “you are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:48).
We, too, who are traveling on our own road to Emmaus in studying the Scriptures, are addressed by these words of our Lord—we, too, are witnesses of the work of God in Christ.
Jesus tells his disciples that they are to wait in Jerusalem “until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).
This is precisely how Acts of the Apostles begins, with the coming of Pentecost and the mission of the Church. To this mission and its beginnings we now turn.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)