Seventh Station: Jesus appears to the disciples
“Look at my hands and 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.” Luke 24:39
“From ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us” So says the old Scottish prayer, and so perhaps say a good many of us, for we can easily feel uncomfortable and frightened by talks of spirits and ghosts and other strange things that we do not understand. Then there are the science fiction programmes on television that have sent many a child diving for shelter behind the sofa, or requesting the comfortingly solid presence of an adult. And as we read today, the disciples were not made differently from us. When they saw Jesus appear among them, standing before them, very much alive, and they had seen him die only days before, they were terrified. It must have been very confusing.
In our gospel reading they stood gathered around the two disciples from Emmaus who had walked and talked with the risen Christ, who had failed to recognise him in the failing light; but who had known him instantly in the breaking of the bread. But all of them, when he came and stood amongst them, took fright. They thought he was a ghost. The Greeks saw reality in terms of concepts, of universal truths, but to Jews, reality was particular and concrete. And so the resurrection was particular and concrete, not just a concept. Jesus really did come and stand with his disciples, risen from the dead. Thomas famously had need to touch in order to believe, and Christ understood that need. “A ghost” he said,” does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” and, for final confirmation of his physical reality, he asked for some food. They gave him a piece of fish and watched him eat it.
There is humour in Jesus’ words and actions, verses 40-41, “And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
There is an old saying “Seeing is believing”, but for the disciples seeing was not enough, they had to have that physical experience. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” The way Jesus teases them is part of what helps them to accept that it is really him, really alive.
Even today amid all the evidence of the coronavirus, there are sceptics who do not believe that it really exists, because it cannot be physically seen or touched.
The sense of Christ’s reality, this absolute certainty that he had risen from the dead and was with them again, came before the strengthening and deepening understanding which was the gift of the Holy Spirit. Unless they were sure, how could they preach with conviction? The faith of those who came after them, would be based on that certainty.
When Christ is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. It reminds us too of who we are – we are people of God, with all the promises of inheritance that come with that status. As believers we are not just acquaintances, not just friends, but members of God’s universal family. It is an awesome thought to understand that people may see Christ in us, because of our status as people of God, because of our relationship with God. We have our part to play in the ever-extending family of God, in helping people to see that they too can be people of God, they too can find eternal life through Jesus. Let us be encouraged and awed as we contemplate some of the tremendous implications that come from a living faith in Christ.
Risen Christ, through that stone, those cloths, that garden, those wounds, that meal, you made real your resurrection. Make real your resurrection in us, and may we live that resurrection now and always. Amen