The Hands, Feet, and Fish of the Gospel
There are no rules for these things. You hear the story over and over through the years and it seems so. . . obvious—that it had to happen exactly this way. But you know, there are no rules for these things.
Jesus rises from the dead and miraculously appears to the eleven (absent Thomas) in Luke 24. It’s a familiar account. But with that familiarity, we slip through the story, sliding by details, passing through nuance, the blurring speed of the bullet train blending savory detail away. For a few minutes, please slow down, pull over and take a long, deep breath of fresh mountain gospel air with me.
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:36-40)
“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” Following rumors and reports of seeing Jesus after his death, Jesus abruptly appears in the room with the disciples. They are startled, frightened, caught out-of-place, unsettled. To reassure them, He calls them to see His hands and his feet. Why? Why His hands? Did His hands stick in the disciples’ minds as He ministered to and with them? Was it His taking of the scroll in hand in Luke 4, declaring Himself as the fulfillment of God’s long-standing promise? Or, from Luke 7, his touch of the bier of the widow’s dead son? Could it be His healing and restoring touch of the leper in Matthew 8? Why His hands? Perhaps it was His mud-making healing touch of the blind man from John 9 or his compassionate healing touch of the blind men in Matthew 20?
Why His feet? Why call the focused attention of the shocked disciples to look at His feet? Did they have treasured memories of His walking by the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 4, calling His first disciples? Or His walking past as John the Baptist pointed out the Lamb of God as future disciples listen? Even more likely, the miraculous feet of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14, amidst the raging storm, stepping into the boat to bring the disciples safely to the other side?
Why His feet and hands? Although possible, I don’t believe these are the real reasons. Something larger is in view here. The disciples were crushed at the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus.
Listen in as Thomas reacts to their report of Jesus’ appearance:
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)
Rather than treasured memories, His hands and feet still bore the fresh wounds of the nails. This was not Jesus simply telling the story because it had to be that way. He wrote his resurrection story with wounded feet and hands for the sake of love–patient love for His disciples.
There are no rules for this sort of thing. There is no playbook, no familiar territory with resurrection. Jesus could have instantly healed his body. He could have appeared to them in kingly raiment attended by angels. It could have happened ten million different ways. Yet, He chose to come intimately to His friends and show them His hands and feet, so they would know that it was truly Him.
Joy! Wonder struck them like a hammer, but it did not shake loose their unbelief. Not yet
And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:41-43)
“Have you anything here to eat?” Jesus asks. What? Lunch at a time like this? Not quite. Is Jesus eating for himself or for His disciples? “He took it and ate before them.” This everyday, common, run-of-the-mill broiled fish is the final blow to their unbelief. Jesus is eating in front of them, not to dull His hunger, but that they would shake free from the final shackles of unbelief, and believing, believe in Him.
Friends, this same Jesus, who suffered long and patiently with the disciples so long ago, continues his long-suffering and patience with His disciples today. We walk as they did, with a faltering, unsteady limp. He braces us with nail-scarred hands. He walks the path with us on nail-scarred feet. He defeated death, shrugging off its clammy, powerless grip as He walked alive from the tomb. The hands, feet, and fish of the gospel are true gifts of grace for the first disciples and for us today.
One day we shall see Him, our blessed risen Savior.
Amen and Hallelujah!