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God’s Word for You

Luke 24:36-40 Look at my hands and my feet

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 11, 2019

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus our Savior appeared to his disciples with comforting words of proof, explanation, interpretation, and commission.

There is no description of Jesus’ appearance apart from the barest verb, “Jesus stood.” The tense of this verb is just as important as the definition of the vocabulary word. In Greek, it is heste (ἔστη), the aorist (a kind of past tense) of histemi (ἵστημι). This is a word that can mean “stand” or “hold one’s ground” or even (if a boat) “be moored.” The aorist tense most often emphasizes that a thing happened without any reference to when. We think of this as the aorist expressing a fact. In the sentence, “Mom set the table,” the word “set” means that it already happened when the speaker said it, but we don’t know exactly when. In the context of Jesus’ appearance, the disciples did not necessarily see Jesus appear; they were simply aware that all at once he was there, holding his ground, standing among them, solid, and in person.

Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you,” were probably a common greeting. Something like this is spoken by Job’s friend Eliphaz the Temanite (Job 5:23, 22:21), and Paul adapts it in some of his letters (Romans 15:33; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9). The greeting was met with an immediate reaction (they were startled) and another reaction which lasted longer: they were frightened. John tells us that the door of the room was closed (i.e. locked), yet Jesus entered. His entrance through the closed door was identical to his escape from the tomb through its closed and sealed stone. Jesus no longer needed to be limited by earthly laws, and he frequently set them aside. At this moment, he allowed himself to be bound by such things as gravity, vision, speech, etc., but this was a concession for the sake of his disciples. They needed to be aware of him, see him, hear him, and touch him.

37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they were seeing a ghost.

They thought they were seeing a ghost, without stopping to consider what a ghost would be. If a ghost is the spirit (soul) of a human who has died, how can it escape the judgment of God? The spirit, the Bible tells us, returns to God at the moment of death (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The souls of the saved are taken at once to heaven; the souls of the damned are taken at once to hell (Luke 16:22-23) and are tormented there even before judgment day, in the agony of the fire (Luke 16:24). No human soul has the power to resist God’s judgment. Therefore, ghosts are either a powerful object of the imaginations of living people wracked with grief, fear, or despair, or else ghosts are lies conjured by the devil and his demons to confuse and bewilder the living, to cause doubt to reign where God wills only peace. The two times the disciples thought they saw a ghost, it turned out to be the living Jesus, not a ghost at all (here and on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was walking on the water, Mark 6:49).

38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do doubts enter your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 As he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

Jesus’ comforting words begin with proof of his existence. “It is I myself,” he says, ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτός (ego eimi autos). He invites them to look him up and down. “Touch me and see.” And then he tells them the difference between a living man and a ‘ghost.’

In his book, “God So Loved the World,” Lyle Lange explains the importance of Jesus’ resurrection appearances:

    “The purpose of these appearances was to make the
    disciples sure that Jesus had risen from the dead and
    to prepare them further for their ministry (Ac 1:3). The
    disciples saw the risen Lord. They did not see a mirage.
    They were not hallucinating. When modern scholars
    deny Christ’s resurrection and try to explain it away by
    saying that the disciples imagined they saw Christ or
    were hallucinating, they deny the clear testimony of the
    Bible as well as go beyond the bounds of reason. There
    are no ‘mass hallucinations.’ Hallucinations are not
    contagious. They are the result of drugs, illness, and
    deprivation of sleep or food. Christ confirmed to many
    eyewitnesses that he had truly risen from the dead.
    Further, the disciples were willing to die for their risen
    Lord. People do not die for what they know to be a lie.” (p. 282)

By emphasizing his hands and feet, Jesus was telling his disciples to see the wounds the nails had left. They remain in his flesh even after his resurrection to enable his people to identify him (proof), and as a reminder that his work is complete (trophies). Although he does not bleed through them (all of his suffering was at an end), the wounds remain because through them, our wounds are healed, as Isaiah said: “He was pierced for our transgressions… by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

You and I don’t need to see the wounds in the Lord’s hands and feet to know that the price has been paid for our sins. But we will see them all the same, as we give him glory and praise for all eternity.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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