Thursday

04 April 2013

“Look at my hands and my feet: see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (v. 39)


Background

Two disconsolate travellers, walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-35), were joined by a stranger, who seemed unaware of recent events; in conversation, these are interpreted in the light of Scripture; at a simple meal, he was recognised for who he was - and promptly disappears. Now rushing back to Jerusalem, the travellers announced the astonishing news to their friends - and there he was again!

John 20:19 makes it more explicit than the Gospel of Luke that the disciples were hiding in fear from the Jewish authorities. Luke's Gospel notes that there was a significant community of people: the eleven and their companions (cf Acts 1:13-14). It may be that this was the same place identified by Jesus for the celebration the Passover (Luke 22:8-13) - a 'safe' house. The upstairs room of a house was often a gathering place for significant events: Dorcas was laid out in a room upstairs (Acts 9:37,39); Paul met with the community in Troas in a room upstairs (Acts 20:8).

The gathered company had heard the story of the Emmaus Road encounter from the two travellers, but they were still "startled and terrified" (v. 37) when Jesus appeared among them. Had they not believed what they had heard? Were they concerned that the security of the room had been breached (though not wholly surprisingly in this case as Jesus knew the householder)?

Notable here is Jesus' insistence that he was 'for real'. Older translations render John 20:17 as Jesus asking Mary Magdalene not to touch him ("hold on to": NRSV), but Matthew's Gospel records the women holding on to the feet of the risen Christ (28:9). Here, in the room of bewildered friends, Jesus invited them to touch him and to give him food. Did they touch him? We do not know, just as we do not whether Thomas touched him (John 20:27), but certainly Jesus ate some fish (verses 42-43). And in that simple act, he became real for them.


To Ponder

  • Think of a time when you were startled, even terrified, when your wildest dream came true. Why was this so?
  • What makes Jesus 'real' for you? 


Bible notes author: Gillian Kingston

 

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