Luke 24:36-48 The Resurrection Body

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  For the past two weeks, we have read the narratives on the resurrection which The Gospel According To Mark and The Gospel According to John give us.  The one we read today is The Gospel According To Luke.  As we harmonize what each gospel tells us, the information in each one is quite inconsistent.  We do not understand clearly the order in which things happened.  Who was it that went into the tomb?  What was it that they saw?  How exactly did the Lord appear?  In what order, where, and to whom did [the Lord] appear?  The reports in each gospel vary at one point or another in significant ways.  Based on the descriptions in the gospel accounts, it seems like it's almost impossible to reconstruct the events of that day.

2.  Even if we just pick up Luke's Gospel, there are a number of descriptions in it which one [might] have a hard time following with straight thinking.  For example, in the twenty-fourth chapter and the thirty-first verse, the figure of the risen Christ suddenly disappears.  But, in contrast, in the thirty-ninth verse, which we read today, Christ states that he is "both flesh and bone."  It's like I'm asking Lord "Oh, Lord, if you insist you are bone and flesh, please don't vanish suddenly.  [People would be confused if they'll read this story!]  Oh, Lord! At least please don't eat fish! You just disappeared and appeared a while ago, didn't you?  An appearing-and- disappearing man wouldn't eat fish, you know that.  If you do such a thing the readers will be confused!" 

3.  However, as we repeatedly read such an incoherent and illogical [passage], it is marvelous as the truth of the biblical descriptions become visible to us from it.  To begin with, the event of the resurrection of Christ, no matter how you ponder it, is something that goes beyond the sphere of human experience.  That means that it transcends the sphere of human expression in words.  Thus, to relate the truth in its entirety is impossible in principle.  To attempt with all one's might to truthfully tell such an impossibility in human words is but what the narratives of the resurrection of Christ, which are written in the gospels, are.

4.  Since that's so, it might, after all, mean that the significance in it does not lie in studying all around everything in it driven by curiosity.  The important thing is to follow closely to what they have tried to relate by speaking on the resurrection of Christ, even if they are people with insufficient words.  In today's passage that's how it is.  The Christ of the resurrection began to devour broiled fish. --.  If all we heard were those words, it would be comical and that's it.  But, because the Bible is stating this, there must be something it wants to tell us.  We must finish listening to it, take in its message, and firmly respond.

The Christ Of The Resurrection Is Not A Ghost

5.  With that, please begin by looking from verses thirty-six to forty-three.  The story follows from before.  Two disciples tell the other disciples the extent of their meeting with the Christ of the resurrection.  As far as the time, I think it was in the middle of the night.  Then, Christ stood in their midst and said, "May there be peace in you."  Based on the way this is written, Jesus obviously did not knock on the door and come in.  All of a sudden he appeared.  The reaction of the disciples was fear.  They thought they were seeing a ghost from the dead.  Whereupon the Lord showed them his hands and feet and said, "Touch them and see for yourself.  Ghosts don't have flesh or bone, but as you can see, it is me," (verse thirty-nine).  And then Christ began to eat the broiled fish right before them.

6.  Well, where is the emphasis being placed in this scene?  The exchanges between the disciples and Christ begin from when the disciples mistook the risen Christ for an apparition.  The descriptions which continue afterwards all connect on this point.  In other words, it means that what Luke is wanting to say most here is not about "what the Christ of the resurrection did" but "what the Christ of the resurrection is not."  In short, it meant that he is not a ghost from the dead.  However, how is that so important?

7.  In order to understand this, we have to go back to the world in which the gospel was first preached.  Back in that world it was Greek dualism of the body and soul that was predominant.  In their thinking, materials, including the body, were evils which were all corrupting away and in contrast to that they thought that the soul was good and immortal.  This type of thinking actually had a heavy influence even in the church.

8.  Of course, the body soul duality is not unrelated to us either.  It is familiar to us.  Why did the idea that sees the flesh as a perishing evil and the soul as eternally good come into being?  I feel like we know why.  Because in the real world we experience the pain of the circumstances which holds this body.  [The Nobel prize winning novelist] Yasunari Kawabata* may have been the one to fret at his own decrepidness of old age and ended up committing suicide, but that's not something we can't understand.  Not only him, but in getting old or in the stress of disease humankind experiences the pain which holds the body.  Of course, it is not only a problem of old age.  In a certain sense in every age and stage of a person's life, the ugliness of humanity is deeply connected to one's body and to the every day living with which the body is involved.  And also the evil of humanity, its sin and its misfortunes are difficult to tell the difference but they are linked to the daily living that involves the body.  Therefore, we know the feeling why we regard the body as evil and want to separate it from the soul.  When it comes to a human being, we want to believe that the body that sins is perishing, but the soul is good and immortal.

9.  However, the Bible flat out denies such a spiritual-material dualism.  The Bible teaches that this body and the visible physical world that has to do with the body are all things God created.  It means that both the body and the world exist because God willed them.  Therefore, God is interested in the visible world and how we ought to be who are involved in this world corporeally.  We see in the Bible such a bond between God and the world.

10.  Well, I will relate the picture concerning the risen Christ to what I stated in the above.  The messenger to the women who first went to the tomb said this, "Why are you searching among the dead for the One who lives?  He is not here.  He has risen," (24:5-6).  "The one who lives" means the one who defeated death.  It is different in meaning from when we say "I am alive."  Our situation, to put it precisely, is a dying existence  In a true sense it is only the Christ of the resurrection who defeats death and lives.  In that sense the figure of Christ shows the perfected figure of salvation, which we haven't attained yet.  In depicting a Christ in whom the salvation of humanity in a perfected form appeared, the Bible emphasizes the bodily resurrection.  In other words, it says the completion of a person's salvation is not a state like some disembodied ghost.  It is not that way, but rather the resurrection of Christ shows a figure in which "a complete human being" with the body that is part of God's creation included, is perfected by the work of God.

11.  Those who observe the body of the Christ of the resurrection affiliate in their thinking present daily living which involves the body with eternal salvation.  Those who don't observe the body of the Christ of the resurrection don't.  So what happens then?  They start seeking eternal salvation for this body in a place where they escape the daily living that has to do with the body.  They start seeking for salvation in what you might call a ghost like state.  Such persons only think of the afterlife as a place where they escape the burdens of this earth.  It is a place where they escape this present every day life and is not the completion of present every day life.  Thus, their experiences in this world visible to the eye end up losing meaning entirely.  Suffering, sorrow, and pain lose meaning.  As a result, in daily living now we start to seek for salvation in escaping from our burdens and hardships; for, we are not aware that life is heading for a perfection.

12.  We must keep in mind that Christ appeared with a body.  That is, we should not take the goal of salvation by mistake.  Salvation is not in escaping from this life, but lies in the perfection of life by God's power.  It lies in not becoming a ghost but in rising from the dead through God's power.  The perfection of salvation is connected to present living.  All present experiences are related to salvation's completion.  Christ ate the broiled fish with a glorious form and showed us this.

The Body Of Christ Bore Eternal Wounds

13.  However, we shouldn't think that what Christ showed us simply became the hope of the disciples.  The body of the resurrection of Christ certainly points to the figure in which human salvation is perfected.  But, that figure does not merely mean that the disciples who were there or we can have a part in a deliverance like that.  Because there is an unmistakable difference between Christ and us.  It is that Christ had no sin in him, but on the other hand, the truth is the disciples who were there or we who are here are sinners.  Because of that, the resurrection of Christ and our resurrections are not connected so easily.

14.  Please give it some thought.  Christ walked the way of hardship.  He went on the way to obedience to God.  Then he hung on the cross and died.  God perfected his walk with the glory of the resurrection.  You might say that it was a truly fitting goal for the walk of a sinless Christ.  But, why do we say that that must be our destination as well?  Instead rather, if we truly look into our lives, we would feel that the destination we deserve could never be anything else but judgment and hell, which we naturally ought to receive.

15.  But, we ought to take notice of one more thing here.  It is that Christ ventured to show them his hands and feet.  Please look at verse thirty-nine.  Christ said, "Look at my hands and feet.  It's really me."  They are strange words.  Suppose you had met someone after not seeing them for twenty years, would you then say "It's me," and show them your hands and feet?  We normally show our faces because our hands and feet all look the same.  But Christ said, "Look at my hands and feet."  Why [did he say that]?  Because they knew Christ's hands and feet.  Because on them were the scars from the spikes.  In other words, when Christ says here "It's really me" it is the same as his saying "It is really me, the one who hung on the cross and died."

16.  The glorious resurrected figure and the scars of the cross.  While appearing in the form in which the salvation of humanity was perfected, the wounds of his hands were still not healed.  He appeared to them there as one who eternally bore the wounds on him.  That was a sign that pointed to the fact that he was crucified, and it was a sign of the redemption of [our] sins, a sign which will remain on his body for ever.  He opened the eyes to the disciples' hearts and said, "The following is written, 'The messiah will experience suffering and will rise from the dead on the third day.  Then, repentance which will bring forgiveness of sin will be preached to persons of every nation in his name.'  Beginning from Jerusalem you will be witnesses of these things," (verses forty-six through forty-eight).  The very wounds of Christ which they saw was to become the very foundation for "the repentance which will bring forgiveness of sin" that was supposed to be preached.

17.  At the end of this gospel account, it is written that "After they fell flat to worship Jesus, they went back to Jerusalem with great joy and praised God without ceasing at the temple grounds," (verses fifty-two and fifty-three).  But, as we've already seen, it wasn't just because they met Jesus again that they were overflowing with joy and were praising God.  That's not how it went, rather, it was because the resurrection of Christ had become the hope for their resurrection.  The resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the disciples.  It was the wounds of Christ that had joined together what was originally unjoinable.  It was the forgiveness of sin which God had given them.  As persons forgiven of their sins, they saw their goal in the glorious figure of Christ.

18.  The resurrection of the One who has borne our sins for ever has also been passed on to us.  It may be news transmitted to us in truly imperfect human words.  But, even though it is in such words, we, as persons who have been preached to of the resurrection, are permitted to fix our eyes' on the same goal as they did and live.  We don't seek for salvation any more in escaping from reality or in becoming ghosts with no relationship to the real world around us.  We should live through the lives given us all the way to the end as persons forgiven of our sins.  Because God will perfect those lives for us.

End Note

* Kawabata is the family name.

Kawabata Yasunari (1899-1972), Japanese novelist, born in Osaka. He gradually evolved his own painstaking, episodic style, frequently exploring loneliness and the outer fringes of human sexuality. His works include the novels Snow Country, Thousand Cranes, and The Sound of the Mountain. In 1968 he was the first Japanese to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Ill and depressed, he took his own life in 1972.

Yasunari Kawabata, son of a highly-cultivated physician, was born in 1899 in Osaka. After the early death of his parents he was raised in the country by his maternal grandfather and attended the Japanese public school. From 1920 to 1924, Kawabata studied at the Tokyo Imperial University, where he received his degree. He was one of the founders of the publication Bungei Jidai, the medium of a new movement in modern Japanese literature. Kawabata made his debut as a writer with the short story, Izu dancer, published in 1927. After several distinguished works, the novel Snow Country in 1937 secured Kawabata's position as one of the leading authors in Japan. In 1949, the publication of the serials Thousand Cranes and The Sound of the Mountain was commenced. He became a member of the Art Academy of Japan in 1953 and four years later he was appointed chairman of the P.E.N. Club of Japan. At several international congresses Kawabata was the Japanese delegate for this club. The Lake (1955), The Sleeping Beauty (1960) and The Old Capital (1962) belong to his later works, and of these novels, The Old Capital is the one that made the deepest impression in the author's native country and abroad. In 1959, Kawabata received the Goethe-medal in Frankfurt. Yasunari Kawabata died in 1972 (suicide). From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1968-1980. Copyright© 2000 The Nobel Foundation

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