Luke 24: 36b–48 (NRSVA)
36b Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.’ 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
It’s hard, indeed, impossible for us to imagine what it must have been like on that first day of resurrection, but I love this – ‘While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering…’ (verse 41). In these few words, we learn how the disciples were feeling that day: emotions in disarray, with intense joy bubbling up and alternating with doubt, veering from one to the other from minute to minute, and combined with a very human sense of cognitive dissonance as they tried to get to grips with the amazing thing that had occurred in their midst, though they never would!
This was a group of men and women who had already given up much to follow Jesus. Their days of fishing and mending nets on the shore were now past. In years to come, many would suffer horrible deaths for the sake of Jesus Christ and his good news of the love of God for each of us. The enormous missional task ahead, to preach a gospel of repentance and forgiveness (47), would be rendered possible only if the disciples were absolutely convinced of its truth and power. Jesus recognises their distrust, their uncertainty and their scepticism, understandable after all, and invites them to examine and even touch his feet (40). Clearly, some required more convincing still, and dinner was cooked and consumed in their presence. Despite earlier doubt, this was no disembodied spirit, but Jesus, their Teacher and Lord!
No matter whether the sphere of action is the classroom, the theatre or the church, the power to persuade derives first from personal conviction. A presentation may be all singing and dancing, but without conviction, it will fall flat. Jesus provides evidence of his identity and authenticity just at the right time and in a manner the disciples could understand and connect with. Today, is there enough about me and you and our lifestyles, to convince others of the genuineness of our faith?
If we have grown cold,
Then awaken within us once again,
The joy of our salvation, Amen.