Before you read, lay down your doubts and fears, and ask for the peace of Christ to visit you.
37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Delight and doubt
Can you imagine the excitement back in Jerusalem as they meet the others; the sort of meeting where you can hardly get a word in edgeways? But they are still not thinking straight and are suddenly overwhelmed by an ‘apparition’ (vs 36,37). There is a comic aspect to the scene; the disciples are all over the place. Is this a real person or a ghost? They are filled with delight and doubt. Their joy mingles with unbelief. Such conflicting emotions.
Could it be that you are ‘all over the place’ this Easter? First Jesus wants you to know that he is not a ghost (v 39). He rose bodily from the dead. If the resurrection was not a physical event, the Christian faith unravels (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Then he offers his peace which envelops us and makes us secure. Not necessarily safe, but always secure (v 36). Next he will sit with us and open the Scriptures: some Bible study (v 45)! Allow your mind to be opened to the big story of redemption (v 45). It is so invigorating. Finally, a task, and with it the power to tell what we know to all who will listen. Jesus says, ‘You are my witnesses. I will send the Holy Spirit if you will wait’ (see Acts 1:8).
Assurance, peace, understanding, witness. The risen Christ longs to mend us and make us whole. Can we have the courage to let him come to us?
We are Easter people. The risen Lord’s vindication and triumph have consequences for us. They lead directly to the mission and ministry of his church. He showed himself to the whole body of disciples (vs 3–43), leaving them in no doubt that he had been raised physically. Then he inaugurated their mission before ascending to his Father. In Acts, Luke will develop this further, but all the key features are here.
The church is a community of witnesses to the living Lord (v 48). It bears witness to him above all, and also to the fruit of his suffering on the cross: repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Once the Holy Spirit had been poured out, the church would be on the move, as its calling is to all nations. The Lord it proclaims is the Lord revealed in the Scriptures – the whole Bible is to be interpreted in the light of Christ. Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms name the three sections that make up the Old Testament. In bearing witness to Jesus, the church introduces people to the Bible, as the key to understanding and following him.
The church is also a worshipping community (v 52). It worships the one it proclaims. Worship is not commanded here. It is an instinctive response to grace, to the revelation of God’s love in Christ. We love because he first loved us. Witness and worship make up the rhythm of the church’s life, giving itself to Jesus and to the world in Jesus’ name. It is vital to maintain the balance of the two. One further thing is needed, however. In place of the physical presence of Jesus he makes the promise of ‘power from on high’ (v 49). Neither witness nor worship are self-sustained: they are animated by the presence of God’s Spirit.
Christians are a community of worshipping witnesses, not just solo beneficiaries of Christ’s death and resurrection. How corporate is our discipleship in practice?Graham Cray