The Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to learn ancient Greek and to use that knowledge for him. The other day, as I was reading the story of Jesus’ resurrection from my Greek New Testament, God allowed me to see something powerful in his word; something I had never noticed before.
The last chapter of Luke’s gospel gives us his rendition of the resurrection story. Early in the morning on the first day of the week, women came to anoint Jesus’ body with spices (Luke 24:1). When they got there, the stone was rolled away from the door (v2) and the body was no longer in the tomb (v3). They stood in the tomb, “much perplexed” because it was empty; as they stood there, angels appeared to them (v4). These angels told the women that Christ alive, that he had risen from the dead (v5-7).
The phrase “rise again” in Luke 24:7 is the Greek word ἀνίστημι (anistemi), which usually means to lift something up or to get up from a sitting/lying position. In this case, it refers to coming back from the dead. Luke uses this word only four times in his last chapter, but how he uses it is simply astounding! The first occurrence of ἀνίστημι is the one we just examined. But interestingly enough, and surprisingly enough, Luke uses ἀνίστημι—a word describing Jesus’ resurrection—for people other than Jesus.
When the women heard that Jesus had risen, they ran back and told Jesus’ followers (Luke 24:8-10). But, the women’s “words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not” (v11). Then Peter, perhaps feeling a twinge of hope, “arose and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass” (v12).
When Luke said that Peter “arose”, he used the word ἀνίστημι; the same word that he used to describe Jesus coming back from the dead! Peter is, in a sense, resurrecting himself out of doubt and disbelief. Refusing to let his faith stay dead, Peter got up out of his doubt and went to see whether Jesus had really gotten up out of the grave!
But that isn’t all. Later that same day two disciples left Jerusalem and were traveling to Emmaus, a neighboring city not far away (Luke 24:13). As they walked, they discussed Jesus’ death and burial, and alleged resurrection (v14). While they were walking and talking, Jesus appeared to them (though they didn’t recognize him) and joined their conversation (v15-16). He asked them what they were talking about, and the two disciples (not knowing who they were talking to!) were surprised he hadn’t heard of Jesus and the crucifixion (v17-19).
They told him that Jesus had been crucified three days ago and been buried; and now a few women from their group claimed that his tomb was empty and he was alive (Luke 24:20-23). What is more, others had went to the tomb and verified the story (v24). After the two disciples had finished, Jesus rebuked them: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (v25-26). Then Jesus started at Genesis, and began to explain all of the prophecies about himself to them as they walked to Emmaus (v27). But they still didn’t recognize him.
As they got closer, Jesus acted like he was going to keep walking; but these two disciples invited him to stay with him (Luke 24:28-29). They sat down to eat; and when Jesus prayed over the food and broke the bread, the two disciples recognized him and he vanished from their sight (v 30-31). As soon as they recognized him, “they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them…And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread” (v33-35).
Again, when Luke says “they rose up”, he uses the word ἀνίστημι; the same word for Jesus’ resurrection. These two disciples are, in a sense, resurrecting themselves into evangelism. Jesus has just helped them to understand the scriptures; and not only that, but they have seen him for themselves! Refusing to keep the good news of the resurrection to themselves, they got up and went to tell others that Jesus had gotten up from among the dead!
While the two disciples from Emmaus were telling the others what had happened to them, Jesus appeared in the room where they were (Luke 24:36). They were terrified, because they thought they were seeing a ghost; but Jesus proved to them that it really was him—he had arisen in the flesh. After he had showed them his hands and had eaten in front of them (v37-43), he opened their minds to understand the scriptures: how “it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day” (v44-46). Jesus’ explanation of how he had “to rise from the dead” is the last use of ἀνίστημι.
Jesus has risen from the dead. His resurrection is real; and it requires a response. It occurs to me that every Christian, in a sense, participates in the story we just read. When we hear about the resurrection, we are faced with the same options as Peter. When others tell us, will we refuse to believe; or will we resurrect ourselves from our doubt? We must get up and go see whether he really arose or not. And then, when we see his resurrection and believe, we are faced with the same options as the two disciples from Emmaus. Will we keep this gospel to ourselves, or will we resurrect ourselves from our complacency? We must get up and go tell others that he really did arise!
A closing thought. Luke uses the word ἀνίστημι four times: the angels tell the women Jesus arose, Peter gets up, the disciples from Emmaus get up, and Jesus tells his disciples why he had to arise. When we look at it this way we notice a pattern: Jesus’ resurrection, our resurrection, our resurrection, Jesus’ resurrection. Our resurrection is contained inside, encircled by, Jesus’ resurrection. We rise because he is arisen. We live because he lives. Get up and believe; get up and tell others! The resurrection response is to get up; because he got up!
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