22 April 2012

Luke 24:36b-48

"Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost." (vv. 36b-37)

The greeting 'Shalom' brought the disciples anything but peace. They would have known plenty of stories of ghosts, and for them, this was the first resurrection appearance of Jesus. But he is quick to allay their fears by showing his hands and feet, and inviting them to touch him (verses 39-40). Although the Gospel writer wants to show that the risen Jesus is not subject to physical restrictions - he just appears among the disciples, and he had vanished at the meal table in Emmaus (Luke 24:31) - he also wants to emphasise that Jesus is no disembodied spirit or hallucination.

In this, there are similarities with the story of Thomas in John 20:19-29, where Thomas is invited to touch the one who appears before him. Significantly, neither Thomas nor the assembled disciples in Luke 24 actually do touch him. Jesus asks for and eats a piece of broiled fish before them, a further proof of his physical reality (verse 42). Luke wants to establish this in the face of charges that the disciples were hallucinating, and also to counter the ideas of Docetism, which suggested that Jesus was purely a spiritual being.

After establishing this, the Gospel goes on to emphasise the background of the Resurrection in Scripture. This is a continuation of the teaching on the road to Emmaus which warmed the hearts of the two disciples (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus takes a broad sweep of the Old Testament, and the disciples' response this time is opened minds (verse 45). The application of specific Old Testament texts to the life and death of Jesus came later: at this stage Luke wants to place the events firmly in the overall story of God's dealings with people. The missionary imperative is stressed - in the authority of the name of Jesus, the gospel of repentance and forgiveness is to be proclaimed to the entire world (verse 47).

To Ponder

How important to you is the physical resurrection of Jesus?

The disciples were commissioned to proclaim the gospel to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (ie where they were). What strategy would you adopt to do this in your situation?

Think of times when your mind was opened as you studied the Scriptures. What helped this to happen?