Gospel: Luke 24:36-49 (Easter 3: Series B)

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”


Nika Maples once told the following story: On my way to classes each week, I had been passing Emerson Hall, the building that houses the philosophy department at Harvard. The enormous inscription above the front doors and columns of Emerson reads, “WHAT IS MAN.” To me; it seemed an appropriate facade-for a philosophy building.


Then one afternoon I happened to look up at the same moment that a heavy wind blew. The branches of a tree shifted to reveal that there was more to the inscription. The entire inscription reads, “WHAT IS MAN THAT THOU ART MINDFUL OF HIM”. It is a verse from the Bible, the question of King David in Psalm 8:4. And it is the most appropriate facade for any building because the only way to accurately view humanity is through God’s eyes.


We have spent a year plus acting and reflecting on the frailty we have all experienced as human beings during this pandemic. We have been filled with ways to keep us all alive from face masks, social distancing, cleaning surfaces, plastic shields, to vaccines and on and on. And in spite of all this effort to try to stay alive, a micro size germ has brought death on the way towards 1 million souls. At many times it can be very difficult being a human being.

That is why I appreciate the fact that Luke in his gospel describes the resurrection of Jesus Christ from a very human perspective. We also see the humanity of the disciples in our account today as they struggle with the very human need to believe. These two ideas belong together and it is unique to Luke.



Another thing that is unique to Luke is our message today of Luke’s story about the event at Emmaus. Verse 36 takes us back to Emmaus. 36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” The disciple named Cleopas and his unnamed friend had just experienced an unexpected interaction with the Jesus on the road and eating together. After their eyes opened to see Him, they immediately retrace their seven-mile journey back to Jerusalem and find the eleven (and others). As they are recalling their experience, Jesus does it again. He appears out of nowhere and interrupts them: “Peace be with you.” I can just imagine the Emmaus disciples thinking to themselves, “See! We told you!” But Luke does not tell us.

Instead, they simply did not believe and even made excuses. They “...were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit” (24:37). Even after seeing His hands and feet they, “...disbelieved… (24:41). Their disbelief was understandable. Jesus had been dead. No doubt about it. But now He stood right in front of them. Our doubters of today were not the first people to have such doubts. So were the disciples—and they were there in person!


But Luke is clear. The resurrection was real, and it was physical. Notice how many physical details he includes. It begins with Jesus’ own words: “See My hands and My feet, that it is I myself. Touch Me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (verse 39). Then, Luke tells us what Jesus does: “And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.” Jesus goes further, as if just in case you still don’t believe, “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them” (verses 41-43). Luke’s message is clear. This was no spiritual resurrection. The body which had been dead was now alive and well—even a little hungry.


The resurrection was as impossible for the disciples to believe, as it is for many of us today. Granted, their reasons would have been different from ours. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection; in the Greek worldview, the afterlife was liberation of the soul from the body.


For them resurrection would never be part of life after death. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. The people of Jesus’s day were not predisposed to believe in resurrection any more than we are.


But how does understanding help us? The physical resurrection was good for Jesus but this does little for those who try to prove an empty tomb. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is still a matter of faith. But for you and me it makes all the difference. The physical resurrection of Jesus brings us our own resurrection.


Jesus’ physical resurrection is only the beginning. Throughout the Scriptures we read Jesus is the first to be raised (1 Corinthians 15:20: 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. In Colossians 1:18: 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Also in Acts 26:23): 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” Once again in (1 Corinthians 15:23): After Him will rise all who die in Him. “Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ”. The epistle reading points in this direction, too. When Jesus returns, “We shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).

After more than a year of facing our frailty of being human, the promise of a physical resurrection is good news. Our Christian hope is not based on vaccines or herd immunity. It is not subject to the variants of virus or different vaccines. Instead, we find our hope and our strength in the promise of our own physical resurrection. This promise tells us to live courageously. If the pandemic does not kill us, something else will. I don’t want to sound cruel, but that is the reality. Because it is reality we should be acting with courage and comfort as we care and love each other. This promise of a physical resurrection allows us to serve others in word and deed, to sacrifice for others and to put their physical needs above our own.


As we continue to celebrate Easter this week, may the physical resurrection of Jesus remind us of the promise of our own physical resurrection. Let this promise allow us to service each other, so all might come to believe in the resurrected Lord and receive their own physical resurrection at His return. Amen.


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