Easter Thursday – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 24:35-48

We pick up from yesterday’s story of the disciples going to Emmaus. Back in Jerusalem they share their experience of the risen Jesus with their comrades who have also heard that Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter.

Suddenly, Jesus himself appears in their midst. The fact that he comes suddenly, although the doors were locked, indicates that his presence is now of a different kind.

He wishes them peace. It is the ordinary Jewish greeting of Shalom, but one which has special meaning in this Easter context. Before his Passion Jesus had told his disciples,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. (John 14:27)

The peace of the Risen Jesus is fully a Messianic blessing.

In spite of what they had heard, they are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus asks them:

Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

He shows them his pierced hands and feet. The Greeks mocked the idea of bodily resurrection, but Luke emphasises the physical reality of Christ’s risen body, that is, the wholeness of the person of the risen Jesus.

He invites them to come and touch him. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. As he shows them the wounds in his hands and feet, their fear turns to a mixture of joy and utter astonishment. They can’t believe their eyes. Jesus has to ask them to give him something to eat. Ghosts don’t eat and Jesus is no ghost; he is no disembodied soul. There is also an emphasis that death is not an ‘escape’ from the body, but that the whole person goes into the next life.

Jesus then goes on to explain, as he did with the Emmaus disciples, how all that had happened to him was fully in harmony with, and the fulfilment of, the Law, the prophets and psalms. Mentioning the three constituent parts of the Old Testament, Jesus indicates that the Messiah was foretold through the whole of the Hebrew scriptures.

And out of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection comes the mission to proclaim reconciliation with God through Jesus to the whole word. Jesus tells them:

You are witnesses of these things.

It is their mission to carry on the establishment of the Kingdom throughout the world. Or, as it is put here:

…that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in [the Messiah’s] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

The Kingdom is being realised when people go through that process of radical conversion and change of life (i.e. ‘repentance’ – metanoia) which brings about a deep reconciliation of each one with God, with all those around them, and with themselves – when all divisions fall away, when fear and hostility are replaced with a caring love for each other.

If we have not yet done so, let us become part of that great enterprise today.

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