The Women Receive the First Tidings of the Resurrection (Luke 24:1–12)

This section is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. It includes an introduction, the New Rendition, notes on each verse, and analysis. (On this section, compare Matt. 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–11; John 20:1–18)


The Garden Tomb

Surprised at the empty tomb and at the appearance of two angels, the women of Galilee hastily retreat to bear the news of the Savior’s resurrection to the Apostles; surprised at this news, Peter runs to the tomb to confirm their words; surprised that the stranger does not know of events in Jerusalem, the two disciples traveling to Emmaus share the news of Jesus’ death and receive in turn an eye-opening discourse; surprised at the disappearance of the stranger after breaking bread with him, these same two disciples rapidly return to the capital city to report their experience to the Apostles and others; surprised at the sudden appearance of the Risen Jesus while the two report and the others listen, they all watch in wonder as he eats with them; surprised at his unexpected presence, the gathered disciples listen in rapt silence as he instructs them and then departs. All is packed into one day.

Towering above all these surprises on this day of days rises the reality of the Savior’s resurrection, the true heart of this chapter. In these verses, he stands before us as the Risen Lord. All of the pieces of the story funnel to this fact. To be sure, no mortal witnesses the actual resurrection. Instead, eyewitness accounts begin with the empty tomb. The women of Galilee not only discover the empty tomb but then learn why it lies empty from the testimony borne by the two heavenly messengers (see 24:1–10). Peter, who runs the distance to the tomb outside Jerusalem from inside the city, learns what the women already know and then receives a special visitation, without others present, from the Risen Savior, making him the main witness of Jesus’ return to life (see 24:12, 34). The two disciples walking to the village of Emmaus soon discover that the stranger who joins them is none other than Jesus himself, now alive, a fact that they hasten to tell to the Apostles back in the city (see 24:13–35). The Apostles and others behold the Risen Jesus partake of food in front of their eyes after hearing his words and, marvel of marvels, touching his wounds (see 24:36–43). Their collective disbelief that such an event might occur crumbles in front of the Savior’s generous willingness to spend time with them in the flesh. At the end of his first teaching session, which likely lasts much of the night, he departs from them, leaving them full of joy (see 24:44–52). Now they understand the heart of the Atonement.

Within a few hours, the Risen Jesus creates a small crowd of witnesses who now know of his resurrection from direct contact with him or, in the case of the women, contact with two of his divine representatives. In fact, later these women are probably in the room when the Savior appears to the “eleven . . . and them that were with them” (see the Note on 24:33). Now the news of his return cannot be suppressed. To be sure, authorities anticipate correctly that Jesus’ disciples will claim that he returns to life as he promises (see 9:22; 13:32; 18:33), a prediction of Jesus that they somehow learn about, perhaps from Judas himself. And they take steps to prevent a theft of his body, which will surely feed and give credibility to a claim of resurrection (see Matt. 27:62–66). But because a growing number of people see and interact with the Resurrected Jesus, the authorities’ efforts to staunch rumors of his return from the dead will influence only those who choose not to believe, including themselves (see Acts 4:1–21; 5:17–18, 26–40).

Among these witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, Luke correctly places Peter as the first and chief guarantor of this fact (see 24:34). To be sure, Luke likely knows of the Savior’s earlier appearance to the women from

Galilee, but he chooses to feature a male legal witness rather than female (see Matt. 28:9).[1] In concert with this observation, throughout his second volume, Luke regularly features Peter as the lead spokesperson on this matter (see Acts 2:14–36; 3:12–15; 4:8–10; 5:30–32; etc.). Peter’s special place also comes to the fore in the Apostle Paul’s writings, for it is well known that Peter stands as the primal witness (see 1 Cor. 15:3–5). In fact, Paul likely knows of Peter’s early experiences with the Resurrected Savior from conversations with the chief Apostle himself (see Acts 9:26–27; Gal. 1:18).

Almost lost among all these grand events is the fact that, at last, Jesus is revealed for who he truly is and has become. After his resurrection, the angel calls him “the Living One,” the first title conferred from heaven since an angel calls him “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (2:11; see the Note on 24:5). Then the Resurrected Jesus calls himself “the Christ,” the first time in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus portrays himself as such (see 24:46; the Note on 24:26).

New Rendition

1 And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb bearing the perfumes which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 But upon entering they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 And it happened, as they were perplexed about this, behold, two men in brilliant clothing appeared to them.

5 And being afraid and bowing their faces to the earth, they said to them,

“Why do you seek the Living with the dead?

6 He is not here, but has been raised.

Remember how he spoke to you while he was in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be handed over into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and rise the third day?” 8 And they remembered his words.

9 And returning from the tomb, they announced these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 And it was Mary

Magdalene and Johanna and Mary, the mother of James, and the rest of the women who were with them. They kept telling these things to the apostles. 11 And these words appeared to them as idle talk, and they did not believe them. 12 But rising, Peter ran to the tomb and, stooping, he beheld only the linens. And he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.


24:1 the first day of the week: In Jewish counting, Sunday is the week’s first day, following the Sabbath.

very early in the morning: The Greek expression orthrou batheōs brings us to the early dawn, before light really becomes a factor (see the Note on 24:22).[2] Mark ties the women’s visit to the sunrise, somewhat later (see Mark 16:2). The day grows brighter for believers, of course, beginning with the resurrection and continuing with appearances of the Risen Savior.

they: At first glance, the pronoun may seem disconnected. But it ties back to the last two verses in chapter 23, clearly centering on the women who become eyewitnesses (see 23:49, 55–56).[3] Moreover, the notice of these same women in 8:2–3 shows that their experience with Jesus arcs across virtually all of Jesus’ ministry, only a little less than the experience of the Twelve, forming a literary inclusio (see the Note on 23:49; the Analysis on 23:50–56).[4]

bringing the spices: Luke offers one reason for the women to come to the tomb, to bring the “spices and ointments” they prepare over the weekend (23:56). Another motive may lie behind their early arrival: to mourn properly because the opportunity does not present itself on Friday afternoon (see the Note on 23:55).[5]

certain others with them: Even though some early manuscripts omit this expression, we know that a large group comes to the tomb (see 24:10). These women remain unnamed. But later, Luke names the more prominent among the group, “Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James” (24:10; see 8:2–3).

24:2 the stone: Luke omits this important item in his account of the burial and securing of Jesus’ body, but picks it up as a vivid particular in what the women discover in the semidarkness. The Joseph Smith Translation moves the last half of verse four to the end of this verse so that, with modifications, it reads: “and two angels standing by it in shining garments” (JST 24:2), hinting that the women come upon the angels before entering the tomb.

24:3 they entered in: The Joseph Smith Translation adds two words so that this expression reads, “they entered into the sepulcher” ( JST 24:3). By entering the tomb, the women contract uncleanness according to Jewish law. They certainly come to the tomb in the full knowledge that, by dressing the body of Jesus, they become unclean for seven days (see Num. 19:11–20). But that seems not to be foremost on their minds as they crowd into the small sepulcher, perhaps encouraging one another to stoop into the shadows.

found not the body: Besides the discovery of the stone now rolled away, a second surprise greets these women when their eyes adjust to the darkness in the tomb.

24:4 as they were much perplexed: The mystery grows deeper for the women as discovery follows discovery. In our mind’s eye, we can see them begin to wonder and speculate aloud about where the body is.

two men stood: The Greek verb ephistēmi is translated in 2:9 “to come upon” (see 20:1; 21:34; Acts 12:7).[6] The plain sense is that the two appear inside the tomb. But typically tombs are neither tall nor wide. Generally they feature only one area where a person can stand upright.[7] Further, not all the women can bow down inside such a small space (see 24:5). So the men are most likely standing outside the tomb, as JST 24:2 affirms: “two angels standing by [the sepulcher].” Three other issues arise. (1) Although the two are not called angels until later (see 24:23; also JST 24:2), it seems clear that the angels look like men in all ways (see Acts 1:10; 10:30). (2) The number of angelic beings who appear is two, not one as in Matthew 28:2 and Mark 16:5, thus fulfilling the requirement of at least two witnesses in life and death matters (see Deut. 17:6; 19:15). The Joseph Smith Translation consistently changes all references to accord with Luke’s account (see JST Matt. 28:2–4; JST Mark 16:3–4). (3) The angels are not affected by uncleanness that adheres to a tomb. Not incidentally, the appearance of angels ties back to the appearances early in the Gospel (see 1:11, 26; 2:9), framing another literary inclusio that underlines the unity of the story.[8]

24:5 they were afraid: Here and elsewhere the Greek adjective emphobos has to do with fearing someone from the divine world (see 24:37; Acts 10:4; 22:9).[9] In contrast, the related Greek verb phobeō occasionally characterizes people’s response to Jesus (see 8:25, 35, 37; 9:45; JST 8:23).[10]

bowed down their faces to the earth: This act, of course, is one of veneration and respect (see 5:12; the Notes on 5:8; 7:38, 40, 45; 8:41; 17:16).[11] If the women are still inside the tomb, they cannot all bow down to the ground. Hence, when they see the two men, they must be outside the tomb.

the living: The term represents a new title, “The Living One,” underlining Jesus’ newly won role as the Living God, the one resurrected from death (see Deut. 5:26; Josh. 3:10; 1 Sam. 17:26; Ps. 42:2; 84:2; Jer. 10:10; Hosea 1:10; Rev. 1:5, 8, 18; the Notes on 10:25; 20:38).[12]

24:6 He is not here, but is risen: Anticipated for centuries (see Moses 7:62; 2 Ne. 9:6; Mosiah 3:10; Alma 11:42; 33:22), the resurrection finally occurs, although no mortals witness it directly. Indeed, Matthew implies that “the keepers” may glimpse it. But they are “as dead men” before Jesus emerges (Matt. 28:4). Notably, the enduring words of the angel, forming the first announcement of the resurrection, are entrusted to women (compare John 11:25–26). One wonders how the angel feels who makes this announcement.

is risen: The verb (Greek egeirō) stands in the passive voice. Its active form means “to raise, lift up.”[13] In the passive, the verb “points to the truth that the Father raised [the Savior]” (see 9:22; 24:34).[14]

how he spake . . . when he was yet in Galilee: The quotation that follows lies partly in 9:22, 44, and 18:32–33. Of these three, Jesus utters the two earlier sayings in Galilee; the latter arises during his journey to Jerusalem. In this light, the angel evidently refers to an early, unrecorded prophecy that speaks specifically of the crucifixion, although 9:23 hints at crucifixion when Jesus talks of taking up one’s “cross.”

24:7 Saying: The following quotation does not match precisely Jesus’ recorded prophecies of his looming death while in Galilee (see 9:22, 44). At least one commentator ascribes this difference essentially to a lack of accuracy on Luke’s part[15] while others see this and the surrounding verses as legendary.[16] But these views are too dismissive and do not take account of Luke’s efforts “to write [the account] . . . in [proper] order” (1:3). After all, Jesus’ predictions about his suffering, death, and resurrection are part of the warp and weft of the gospel story (see 9:22, 44; 17:25; 18:32–33).

must be delivered: The verb translated “must” (Greek dei) underlines the divine need that is fulfilled in both Jesus’ ministry and his suffering (see 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 13:33; 17:25; 22:37; 24:26, 44, 46; the Note on 19:5).[17] The verb “to deliver” (Greek paradidōmi) is the same that carries the sense “to betray” in other contexts (see 9:44; 18:32; 22:4, 6, 21–22, 48).[18]

sinful: Earlier in the Gospel, Luke writes about sinners who are called such by others (see 5:30; 7:34, 39; 15:2; 19:7). Here we finally read about truly sinful persons (see D&C 21:9).

sinful men: The expression carries a distinctive flavor and mirrors “sinful man” that Peter applies to himself (5:8). In this light, it appears to form an inclusio even though the characters of the featured persons in the two passages differ markedly from one another (see the Note on 5:8).[19]

be crucified: This detail is missing in the earlier predictions that Luke records although it appears in other reports (see Matt. 20:19; Moses 7:47, 55; 1 Ne. 19:10; 2 Ne. 6:9; 10:3, 5; 25:13; Mosiah 3:9; 15:7; D&C 21:9). Hence, we presume that the angel is pointing to an unrecorded prophecy that Jesus utters in Galilee (see Matt. 20:19).

24:8 they remembered his words: Plainly, these women are traveling in the disciples’ company on at least one occasion in Galilee when Jesus utters a prediction of his suffering and death (see 9:22, 44; 24:6).[20] But the words in the prior verse, 24:7, do not exactly match what Luke records earlier (see the Notes on 24:6–7).

24:9 returned from the sepulchre: Evidently, the women stay in a place near the temporary residence of the eleven, inside the city (see Acts 1:13).

told . . . the eleven: On this view, the Apostles are together in one place (see 24:10). Moreover, in their enthusiasm the women apparently do not worry about transmitting to the men the uncleanness contracted at the tomb. This observation may point to an unrecorded teaching of Jesus to the effect that this part of the Mosaic law is done away in him (see Acts 9:36–41; the Notes on 5:13; 7:14). In another vein, the women bring the news without being instructed to do so, in contrast to the portrait in Matthew and Mark (see Matt. 28:7, 10; Mark 16:7). Luke implies that the women sense an imperative in the angel’s words that they should bring the news to the others. In this way, they mirror Mary’s act of going to visit Elisabeth, specifically after hearing the words of an angel (see the Note on 1:39). Because this sensitivity applies to both Mary and these women, following their meetings with angels, it forms a clear inclusio that lends unity to Luke’s narrative.[21]

all the rest: Luke leads us to believe that there are other believers either with the eleven at this moment or in the city where news will quickly find them. Cleopas speaks as if he were one of them (see 24:22–24; also 24:33).

24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna . . . : Some suggest that the list of women seems to be tagged on,[22] whereas in the other accounts the list seems more integrated with the narrative (see Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1–2). But these women are known from early on (see 8:2–3) and become witnesses of both Jesus’ burial and resurrection, events that the eleven do not witness. The variations in the lists among the Gospels may well be due to the ways the different women recall over time their experience during this morning of mornings.[23] If Luke knows the story of the early appearance of the Risen Savior to the women as they hurry from the tomb to the place where the eleven are staying (see Matt. 28:9), it is puzzling that he does not record it.

Mary the mother of James: The expression has the meaning that the King James translators give to it, or it may mean Mary wife of James or Mary daughter of James. The KJV repeats the preferred sense.[24]

other women: The number of women followers is evidently large as the feminine “many others” illustrates elsewhere (8:3). Presumably, most of them come to the tomb and find it empty.

told these things: The verb (Greek legō) stands in the imperfect tense, underlining the fact that, in the face of the Apostles’ skepticism, the women affirm again and again what they witness earlier.[25]

24:11 they believed them not: Luke’s statement captures the attitude of the eleven. For them, the resurrection is beyond belief, underscoring their true, skeptical response, even though the news comes from women whom they know.[26] The imperfect tense of the verb (Greek apisteō) matches that of the women’s report in 24:10: the more the women affirm the news, the more the men dismiss it.

24:12 Peter: For the second time in just over twenty-four hours, Peter steps fully into our gaze. Earlier, Luke’s story features him at the home of the high priest (see 22:54–62). As the other Apostles, he goes missing at the crucifixion, unless we think of him as present but unnamed among Jesus’ “acquaintance” (23:49). The fact that Luke’s narrative singles him out here, near the end of the story, forms an inclusio that frames the unity of Luke’s larger story (see the Notes on 5:3 and 22:54).[27] Incidentally, this verse is omitted by some ancient manuscripts. But the vast majority preserve it, including the earliest, 75. The reason for the omission seems to be the difficulty of reconciling this verse with John 20:3–7 that pictures Peter and John running to the tomb together (see the Note on 24:24).[28]

Peter . . . ran: The Apostles evidently reside in a place reasonably close to the tomb so that Peter can run to it. This observation rules out Bethany or Bethphage as the place where the eleven are staying this morning (see Acts 1:13). Moreover, though skeptical about the news, Peter is curious enough about the missing body that he wants to investigate. His action, however, does not necessarily mean that he suddenly comes to believe in the resurrection. In contrast to Luke’s report, John writes that Peter and John run together, an event that art seeks to capture (see John 20:3–4).[29] The language of 24:24, “certain of them,” reinforces John’s report that Peter goes in the company of another (see the Note on 24:24).

stooping down: The Joseph Smith Translation omits this expression and substitutes “went in,” indicating that Peter is more than curious and does not fear ritual uncleanness ( JST 24:11).

wondering: We might think of Peter as pondering the meaning of the events of the past few days, especially his denial and then news of the empty tomb. It seems apparent that his frame of mind leads to the Savior’s appearance to him (see 24:34; also 1 Cor. 15:5). The same verb (Greek thaumazō) elucidates the gathered disciples’ reaction to the sudden appearance of the Resurrected Christ (see 24:41).[30]


“He is not here, but is risen” (24:6). These words, carefully and solemnly recited by an angel, stand at the center of human history and reshape mortality. No longer does death hold sway; no longer does the end of life engender terror; no longer does eternal darkness cast a fearsome pall. The grave will open its doors; it will surrender its citizens; and it will bow to the will of its new master, the Risen Savior. In the words of a New World prophet, Jacob by name, in what may be a funeral oration, he almost sings, “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of . . . that monster, death and hell. . . . Wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead . . . by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.” Further, “the Holy One of Israel . . . delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell” (2 Ne. 9:10, 12, 19). In brief, the resurrection changes everything.

In one of the most unusual developments in the Savior’s story, no human witness sees his resurrection. This sacred, turning moment goes unwatched in the mortal world. To be sure, Matthew records that soldiers stand guard at the tomb until Sunday morning. But they become “as dead men” when an angel descends and rolls “the stone from the door” (Matt. 28:2, 4). The soldiers see nothing. Through the fog of unconsciousness, they may hear the noise of the rolling stone. But that experience does not constitute a sure witness, even though they later claim to relate “all the things that were done” to the Jewish council (Matt. 28:11). All they know is that the body of the condemned prisoner is missing. Thus the assembled council bribes the soldiers to keep quiet and makes up the story that Jesus’ disciples steal the body while they sleep (see Matt. 28:13). In a word, none of them knows what really happens.

Two further observations are significant. First, the Galilean women become the initial witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, learning of it from two divine messengers. Moreover, by carrying the words of the angels, they in effect become messengers or heralds of the news to others, including to the Apostles (see 24:9–10). So deep is the impression of what they experience at the empty tomb that they insist over and over, even in the face of the other disciples’ dismissive disbelief, that Jesus is alive (see the Notes on 24:10–11). Their testimony is solid, so solid that their insistence sends Peter running to the tomb to learn the truth about their daring declarations.

The other important observation has to do with the utter surprise and disbelief with which all followers greet the news of the Savior’s resurrection. The news comes as an exploding bombshell. The fact that each of the synoptic Gospels reports the disciples’ disbelief points to a genuine, honest response (see 24:11; Matt. 28:17; Mark 16:11, 13). Despite Jesus’ repeated predictions about his return from the dead, the disciples do not expect it. And when the news comes, they disbelieve it.[31] Why is this significant? Because their later message to interested hearers about the resurrection rests on real experiences with the Risen Savior, not on claims which they fabricate or are based on hearsay.

Luke’s major omissions in these verses consist of, first, an angel’s instruction to the women and, next, the Savior’s directive to them to tell the eleven to meet him in Galilee (see Matt. 28:7, 10; Mark 16:7). Scholars speculate about why Luke does not include the latter, simple directive.[32]

The reason that makes the most sense is that Luke keeps his focus on events in and around Jerusalem[33] because, in his next volume, he will feature the Risen Lord’s ascension from the nearby Mount of Olives and the Apostles’ replacement of Judas during a meeting in the city (see Acts 1:1–11, 13–26).

As with many other passages where Luke roughly parallels Mark, commentators differ widely on the question of whether Luke follows and modifies Mark’s report. He seems not to. Rather, he appears to draw from a similar but divergent account and is true to what he learns.[34] The simplest explanation is that, when in Jerusalem with the Apostle Paul, and staying in the city for at least two weeks (see Acts 21:15, 18, 26, 27; 22:30; 23:1–12, 32; 24:1; Introduction II.E and V.C),[35] Luke learns about these events from at least one of the women who earlier experiences them and simply rehearses events as she remembers them.[36]


[1] Jeremias, Jerusalem, 360–61; Falk, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times, 109–10.

[2] BAGD, 584; Marshall, Luke, 883–84.

[3] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 48–51.

[4] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 124–47, 366–67, 388, 390–93.

[5] TDNT, 3:845–46.

[6] BAGD, 330–31.

[7] Hachlili, “Burials: Ancient Jewish,” 1:789.

[8] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 124–47, 366–67, 388, 390–93.

[9] Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, 550; BAGD, 257.

[10] TDNT, 9:209–10; Welch, “Miracles, Maleficium, and Maiestas in the Trial of Jesus,” 349–83.

[11] TDNT, 6:625, 629–31, 775–76.

[12] TDNT, 2:865; TDOT, 4:338–39; Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 1:31–32; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1545; Stein, Luke, 605.

[13] BAGD, 213–14.

[14] Morris, Luke, 365; also Tannehill, Luke, 349.

[15] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1546.

[16] Bultmann, History, 152, 287; Beare, Earliest Records of Jesus, 241–42.

[17] TDNT, 2:22–25.

[18] BAGD, 619–21; TDNT, 2:169.

[19] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 124–47, 366–67, 388, 390–93.

[20] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 130.

[21] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 129–31.

[22] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1546; Stein, Luke, 604.

[23] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 48–51.

[24] Plummer, Luke, 549; Marshall, Luke, 887–88; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1546–47.

[25] Smyth, Greek Grammar, §§1790, 1890–94, 2341; Blass and Debrunner, Greek Grammar, §§325, 327; Marshall, Luke, 888.

[26] Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, 357, 359; Morris, 365–66.

[27] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 124–47, 366–67, 388, 390–93.

[28] Morris, Luke, 366–67.

[29] See, for example, Eugene Burnand, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection, Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

[30] BAGD, 352–53.

[31] Plummer, Luke, 546.

[32] Marshall, Luke, 882–83, 886; Morris, Luke, 365; Tannehill, Luke, 350.

[33] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1540; Johnson, Luke, 390; Stein, Luke, 605.

[34] Plummer, Luke, 546.

[35] Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 2–3, 391; Fitzmyer, Acts of the Apostles, 735.

[36] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 48–51.