Just before Sunday’s gospel (Luke 24:36b-48) opens, the two disciples who had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus and recognized him in the breaking of the bread…

…got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

So, the backdrop for this morning’s gospel is a room with the disciples, who were talking excitedly about the appearance of Jesus. This sets up the opening verse of this morning’s gospel.


While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ (or, if you recall the commentary of last week, Peace to you)

Peace, which means, in part, “to make whole”, “to restore”, “to heal” became a self-description of Jesus. He had risen and been returned to life after a brutal death. He had been validated by the Father for his faithfulness to his mission of salvation. He had shown how to live, how to remain dedicated to his purpose, to death, and this reappearance was the reward of his faithfulness. In a very real sense, “peace” described his resurrected reality.   

Peace is also an imperative verb. It marked the beginning of a rapid transition for his followers, from being fearful and uncertain about him and themselves, towards becoming dynamic evangelists of salvation by following the teachings and example of risen Jesus, the Christ.


However, instead of being calmed his disciples,

were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 

He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 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.’

Jesus knew the stunning impact his appearance would have on his disciples so he followed up with a demonstration of his physical reality.

Why are you frightened …? Look at my hands and my feet; it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as … I have.’ when he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

The disciples couldn’t believe their own eyes. First Jesus showed them the scars on his hands and feet. Then, knowing that they thought that a ghost couldn’t eat, (a common belief at the time) ate some fish as further proof that it was really him.


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.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, ….

Moses and the prophets reveal a pattern of rejection of the word of God, but they did not, explicitly, prophecy the death of the Messiah. The “Suffering Servant” sections in Isaiah, specifically…

…my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, Just as there were many who were astonished at him - so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals—so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate. (Isaiah 52:13-15) … and

He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.(Isaiah 53:3-5)…

are sometimes seen as referencing the Messiah’s suffering, but this was not part of the Jewish understanding of these passages and the application to Jesus was only read into them later, by early Christians.

Regardless of how sees these passages from Isaiah, Jesus had predicted his death and resurrection several times, notably after feeding the five thousand and Peter’s subsequent declaration that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, he told them,

The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ (Luke 9:22)

Later, after teaching with parables, blessing children and urging the rich man to Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, Jesus

Took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man … will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ (Luke 18:33)

His words emphasize how he had told them beforehand how he would die… and rise again. One can imagine him saying, I told you, “I will rise again”! with verbal stress on the last phrase.


Sunday’s gospel concludes,

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, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.


Jesus’ physical resurrection is a fundamental truth of Christian belief. His return to life, an impossible and unprecedented feat (outside of the gospel accounts of his raising of Lazarus (John 11) and the little girl Matt 9:23-25), is the basis for our belief that all of the other things that Jesus taught are true. We understand his resurrection as the validation of all his teaching and example.

We use metaphors such as “opened the gates of heaven” to attempt to grasp at the meaning of his life. Another way of interpreting his resurrection is to say that ‘Christ’s life, death and resurrection are the most significant event in the history of the world.’ It certainly became that moment of transition for his disciples as they testified as witnesses of these things…to all nations.


  • Do you find it strange that the disciples were startled and terrified, in the opening verse of this gospel, given that they were discussing two reports of Jesus’ appearances (to Simon and then to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus). Did they doubt those reports? Were they unable to reconcile the seeming finality of death with the possibility of resurrection? Or was the reality of seeing Christ in the flesh such a stunning experience that they doubted their own eyes?
  • When the disciples first saw the scars on Jesus’ hands and feet, what came to their minds? “Do the wounds still hurt?”, “How did you survive this?” “We thought you were dead!” Something else?
  • Do you see Christ’s resurrection as the most significant event in world history? If not, what would you nominate and why? If so, how does that translate in your life?