Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter

From Luke (BTCB; forthcoming) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 24: 36b-48:

But even while they are in this joyous exchange, flushed with the excitement and wonder of it all, suddenly Jesus is standing “in the midst of them” and saying, “Peace to you” (24:36). Despite the collective witness of previous encounters with the risen Lord, they are “terrified and affrighted” (ptoeō and emphobos—the doubling indicates extremity of apprehensive emotion) and think he is a ghost (24:37). As so often, he calms them down: “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (24:38). He points to his hands and his feet, inviting them to touch him, “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (24:39). When he does this (24:40), they can scarcely believe for their joy and wonderment (thaumazō has the sense we employ when we refer to something wonderful as “fantastic” or “incredible,” not meaning the word literally but hyperbolically for something so marvelous our minds cannot take it in).

Luke here is as emphatic about the physicality of the resurrected body of Jesus as Paul will be later (1 Cor. 15:35–49); it is of the essence of what he is showing to have happened that every expectation of mortal nature in death has been broken through, the corruptible body having been restored and now, recognizably flesh and bones, yet an entirely new phenomenon. It can scarcely be overstressed how contrary Luke and Paul are to modernist metaphorizing and sidestepping of this absolute foundation of Christian faith and hope. John Updike, himself a modern and no pietist, nevertheless underscores this point beautifully in a poem directed against the evasive liberalism of many theologians when he insists that Jesus’s bodily resurrection is the lynch-pin of any plausible Christian future: “if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules / reknit, the amino acids rekindle,” he says, “the Church will fall.” […]

Luke would have liked Updike’s poem for the way in which it so unequivocally grasps just how real Jesus’s resurrection body is. Jesus asks for something to eat; the dumbfounded disciples give him “fish and some honeycomb,” and he sits down in front of them and eats, as I think we may reliably imagine, with relish (Luke 24:42–43). Once again, as with the angels and the women, he reminds them all of what he has previously said to them, “that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me” (24:44). He has come to “fulfill the law and the prophets,” and he has. Here too we have his clear indication that all of the scriptures—Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketubim—have spoken of the earth-shattering events to which they have been witnesses; he “open[s] their understanding,” as he had done in Emmaus, “that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (24:45). This is another, living demonstration of the real presence of Christ in his word. It was necessary for this fulfillment, the consolation of Israel for which so many for so long had yearned, that Christ, the Messiah of God, should “suffer and . . . rise from the dead the third day” (24:46).

But now a further fulfillment is necessary, namely that preaching his call to repentance and promise of the forgiveness of sins should take place “to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:47). And these very followers are first among those called to the apostolic task, to be “witnesses” of all that has happened and of its meaning (24:48).

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.