Best of Daily Reflections: Not a Ghost Story
“Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.”
After his resurrection, when Jesus finally revealed himself to the inner circle of his disciples, they were “startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!” (24:37). But Jesus reassured them: “Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do” (24:39).
The Greek word translated here as “ghost” is pneuma. This word had a wide variety of meanings, including “wind, breath, Holy Spirit, evil spirit, animating force in a body.” In the setting of Luke 24, it’s clear that pneuma means something like “evil spirit” or “ghost.” The disciples just couldn’t believe that it was Jesus standing before them. They had witnessed his excruciating death. They knew that dead people don’t come back from the grave. So, the being that appeared to them as Jesus must have been some other kind of spirit.
But, in fact, the being who appeared to the disciples was truly Jesus. Though his resurrected body had unusual capabilities, Jesus was present in flesh and blood. In order to help his disciples believe this, Jesus showed them his pierced hands and feet. Moreover, he ate a piece of fish. Apparently, the disciples knew that ghosts didn’t eat food.
The fact that Jesus was not a ghost has profound theological and practical significance. Among other things, it affirms once more the value of the material world. The resurrection reminds us that God cares profoundly about the world he created and the beings who fill it. We see this in his act of creation. We see this in the Incarnation. And we see this, once again, in the resurrection of Jesus.
The Christian life is not some other-worldly reality that makes no difference to this world. It isn’t believing in Jesus and waiting around until our spirits float up to heaven to be with him. The fact that we will enjoy life beyond this life is indeed wonderful. But the material resurrection of Jesus reminds us that this life matters. Our bodies matter. Our relationships matter. Our work matters. Our acts of kindness and justice matter. What we do with our bodies matters to God. Thus, as it says in Romans 12:1, we are to give our bodies to God as a “living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you think you would have responded if you had been among the disciples when Jesus revealed himself to them? If the resurrection of Jesus reaffirms the value of the created world, how might you live in light of this truth?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I wish I could have been among your disciples when you revealed yourself to them. Not that I think I would have outdone them with faith. I expect I would have been just as flummoxed as they were. But, still, it would have been amazing to see you in person, to realize that you were truly risen from the dead.
Though I am not able to see you with my physical eyes, I am able to see you through the eyes of faith. Thank you, Lord, for making yourself known to me through your Word, through your Spirit, and through the community of your people.
Help me, I pray, to live my life each day as a reflection of your resurrection. In particular, may I offer all that I am to you, so that I might live for your purposes and your glory.
All praise, glory, and honor be to you, risen Lord Jesus. Amen.