“Now, Will You Finally Believe in the Resurrection??”
By Rev. Anthony L. Trufant
Scripture: Luke 24: 36-49, NRSV & MSG
36 While they were talking about this, 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. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
MSG: 36 While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” 37 They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. 38 He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. 39 Look at my hands; look at my feet — it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” 40 As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true. He asked, “Do you have any food here?” 42 They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. 43 He took it and ate it right before their eyes. 44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.” 45 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. 46 He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, 47 and then a total life–change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations — starting from here, from Jerusalem! 48 You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. 49 What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.
It’s natural to have questions, even intellectual doubts, about the resurrection of Jesus. Whether we believe the veracity, reliability, and historicity of the first believers’ accounts are up to us. We will never answer our questions solely nor primarily by reading books or even scouring the Bible for incontrovertible evidence. Nor will our dilemma over believing or not believing this foundational doctrine be resolved by someone talking to us about it. The truth will only be confirmed when we experience the Resurrected Christ, personally and wonderfully, within the body of Christ.
According to Luke 24: 34-46, that’s how it was for the original disciples. Three (female) disciples had testified about their experience (Luke 24:1-14), as well as two other disciples (Luke 24:13-32), one of whom was Cleopas and the other was probably his wife (according to some biblical scholars). The mainly male disciples are either skeptical, agnostic, or both. What will convince them of the reality of the resurrection after all the messages Jesus has sent to them? The same thing that convinces us: our experience with the resurrected Jesus, not hearsay, no matter how heart-warming.
He wants us to believe in him. How do we know that? Well, the text shows us that Resurrected Jesus will:
- Enter our gatherings, revealing as proof his bruised and scarred body, greeting us with words of reassurance that he is real. (Vs. 36)
- Offer us recognizable, ongoing evidence by showing us how God still works some miracles only through real suffering and sacrifice of the body of Christ. (Vss. 37-38).
- Deepen our understanding of the role we, as the body of Christ, are playing in a world which has lost its sense of presence, passion, compassion, and hope of Jesus. (Vss. 44-48)
- Stir our sense of expectancy of being filled and refilled with the Holy Spirit to present and push the agenda of Jesus in a world that believes it does not need him. (Vs. 49)