Last Sunday I spoke about Jesus’ resurrection appearance to his disciples, the impact it had on them and the journey it took them on towards a place of unity. Jesus said to them: “Peace be with you.” This was a standard Hebrew greeting, but here it was charged with a deeper meaning. Jesus brought a greeting of peace, his very presence brought peace, and also there is an implicit sense of forgiveness and reconciliation – after all, all of the disciples had abandoned him at his hour of need.
No wonder we are told that “They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” Their hopes had been dashed, they were grieving, and now this! Once again in Luke’s Gospel account of this encounter, it was important that the disciples understood that Jesus was physically present and that they should stop doubting and believe. That’s why he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.“
Jesus’ body wasn’t a figment of their imagination; they weren’t seeing a ghost. Jesus encouraged them to look and touch. He had flesh and bones and could even eat food (24:43). It is important for us to understand that there is a significant difference between being raised from the dead and being resurrected. Jesus’ resurrection body wasn’t a restored human body like Lazarus’s (John 11)— Jesus was there “in the flesh” so to speak, but clearly something “other”. Jesus’ resurrection body was known by its scars and His resurrected body was immortal.
We are then told how Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures, so that they could understand the truth: how his life, death, and resurrection all fulfilled Scripture. The Old Testament points to Jesus and we must endeavour not neglect the Old Testament – rather we should seek to understand it too. The Holy Spirit can do this in our lives today as we study the Bible. That’s why it is always good to pray before we read or study God’s Word. We can pray that the Holy Spirit will open our minds to understand, giving us the insights to put God’s Word into action in our life and that we might be equipped for every good work. God’s Word is powerful and can literally transform lives.
The way in which Jesus chose to come back in his resurrection appearances could so easily have been different. Imagine if he had appeared to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the High Priest, Pontius Pilate or Herod. Imagine if he had elected to seek revenge on his enemies. Instead, he returned to restore, build up and equip his disciples as witnesses. We see lives transformed and the beginning of a mustard seed revolution.
In today’s society and culture, people often want the good stuff without having to work for it, and quite often have unrealistic expectations with a huge sense of entitlement. But discipleship is costly. It involves dying to self, sacrifice, taking up our cross and recognising the poverty of our spirit in the face of the enormity of God’s love and grace. But it is the better way and the way that leads to life. Grace and truth always need to go together.
Jesus wanted the disciples to know that his message of repentance, reconciliation and how God’s love and forgiveness should go to all the world—and that this had been God’s plan from the very beginning. Christ’s Gospel has a worldwide scope. God wants all the world to hear the good news of salvation.
In Jesus’ opening of their minds, the disciples could finally grasp what he had accomplished and that his name was to be preached to all nations. They would begin right where they were—in Jerusalem—and then be witnesses of these things throughout the world (see Acts 1:8).
In all of this the disciples were witnesses, firsthand witnesses. They had seen and experienced all of these things with their own eyes. We begin to see the transformation in their lives and the Holy Spirit at work in the book of Acts and the miracles the disciples did in Jesus’ name, here healing a man who was lame: “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” The message of the disciples was clear: repent and turn to God. That is a message that echoes down through the ages. For us, it is through reading God’s Word and prayer that we will no longer “act in ignorance” and be brought to a place of blessing, insight and understanding. Amen