Now we have Luke’s version of that locked room encounter with the Resurrected Jesus. Well, Luke doesn’t emphasize the locked doors as much as John does. But there is a scene of confusion and a faint tinge of hope sneaking in around the corners. They have gotten together in that room, maybe the Upper Room, maybe another gathering place where the hurting and the hopeless gathered together not knowing what to do. They were pooling their experiences, what they had heard and seen. Their hearts were pounding, and their eyes were bugging out. They didn’t dare hope. Even though there was a fire in their chest, that wasn’t leftover pizza.
Then suddenly, he is there. No one saw him come in; no one met him at the door or grabbed a towel and offered to wash his feet. He was just there. “Peace be with you.” That’s what he said, and they picked themselves up off the floor and wondered if they’d ever know peace again. They were haunted by him, by the idea of him, by the blood of him. They were terrified of their shame, of how they had abandoned him, of how they wouldn’t believe in what he had told them before or what the women said they saw.
“Why do doubts arise in your hearts?” What kind of question was that? Surely he knew why doubts were rising in their hearts. Surely he had an inkling of just how incredible this event was. Sure, he had gotten used to the idea, but they never let themselves hope. So they were gasping for air and clutching their chests while he stood there asking them if they were ok.
He decides to ground them in some fleshly reality. He says, “look, I’ve got hands; I’ve got feet. Touch me, I’m real,” he says. “I’ve got flesh and I’ve got bones. I’m real, like the Velveteen Rabbit,” he smiles at them. “Like Pinocchio,” he grins, “I’m a real boy!”
Of course, he didn’t say that. But he’s talking about being flesh and blood like them. Luke says he showed them his hands and feet. How did he do that? Was he showing them the marks in his hands and feet? John says he was. But Luke is a bit more reticent about those specifics. He does say, “Touch me.” “Touch me and see.” Actually, if you dig a little deeper, he doesn’t just say, “touch me and see.” He says, “grab hold of me, handle me, or even grope around.” John says that Jesus says, “don’t hang on to me,” when he meets Mary in the garden. But in Luke, Jesus says to the disciples—the reeling from the shock disciples—“grab hold of me. Ground yourselves in me.” And the verb, ψηλαφήσατέ, is a second person plural. All y’all, grab hold and hang on. Grab hold of me and “behold!” The see, ἴδετε, is imperative, also second person plural. Imperative. Grab hold and see! As if your life depended upon it. As if your hopes would be found in it. Grab hold of the reality of Christ and see not just him but you too. See your path, your future, your mission, and your reason for being.
And then he asks for something to eat. Like a ventriloquist drinking a glass of water, or a magician pulling up his sleeves to show nothing hidden there. This is real, folks. Watch me eat this piece of fish. I’m no ghost, no figment of your imagination, or delusion brought on by a lack of sleep and constant terror. I’m as real as you. I am here with you. And I am who I said I am.
That’s where our text ends this week. We don’t go into the mission, into the sending. We leave it with the declaration. We leave it with the reality of the Resurrected Jesus and the promise that life, the life we know, the life we experience, is stronger than death. It doesn’t avoid death, because he didn’t avoid death. But it goes beyond death. The implications are as staggering as his appearance was to those cowering followers moments ago. But now is not the time to unpack all of that. Luke has a whole second volume for figuring out what it means to have a savior risen from the dead.
But here’s the point of this text. It is real. It is grounded in the reality in which we live. Touch and see. The gospel, the life of faith has to be grounded in reality. That’s why he dwelled on this moment. That’s why we can take a breath at this point before we launch into a life of going to the ends of the earth to tell the story. If we don’t start here, if we don’t watch that piece of fish being eaten, if we don’t grab hold, we won’t see. And if we don’t see, then we are likely to turn our message into one of the hereafter, the sweet by and by and not the here and now. We’re liable to think that all the Resurrected one cares about is getting souls into some spiritualized heaven somewhere else, instead of feeding those who are hungry for breakfast right here in our own neighborhoods. We’re liable to think that injustice here doesn’t matter because it will all be sorted out one day instead of advocating for the oppressed and working for justice in our own communities. Take hold of me and see is about wanting to live in the world that he lived in and bring hope to our reality every day.