“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
Behold, my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”
It was the evening of the resurrection day!
And what a day that was, which was now fast coming to its close!
Very early in the morning of that day certain women of the disciples group had gone to the cemetery of Joseph to finish the work they had begun before theSabbath drew on. And to their amazement, they discovered an open tomb, while to them appeared a messenger from heaven to declare unto them the first gospel of the resurrection. Shortly after, the risen Lord Himself had appeared to them as, in obedience to the command of the angel, they were returning to the city to bring the disciples word.
Sometime in the morning of that day the glorified and raised Redeemer had appeared also to the woman of Magdala, out of whom the Lord had cast seven devils, as she sat weeping at the tomb. Shortly thereafter He had appeared also to Peter, whose heart was still heavy with grief because he had only recently so bitterly denied Him. In the late afternoon of that blessed day, the risen Lord communed with two very excited travelers who were on their way to Emmaus, one of whom was Cleopas by name. To them He had expounded in all the scriptures; and with them He ate bread, after He had blessed it. And when their eyes were opened so that they knew Him, they returned with haste to bring the disciples word that they had seen the Lord.
On the evening of that day, when they found the disciples meeting in the upper room behind locked doors because of fear of the Jews, they were greeted with voices crying out in unison, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon.”
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them.
What follows in the text describes in detail how the resurrection-day came to its close.
Indeed, a day that filled the hearts of the followers of the Lord with wonder and amazement!
Easter evening, in the upper room!
A strange meeting!
The strangeness due, no doubt, to the peculiar conception residing in the hearts and minds of the disciples, concerning the resurrection.
O, surely, they believed that the Lord was risen from the dead. The facts were all too evident. All of the facts they were now rehearsing: each one in turn giving utterance to the things he or she had seen and heard.
There was the opened grave, and the vision of angels, with their impressive message, “He is not here, but is risen; Why seek ye the living among the dead? Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
There was also the marvel of the place where the Lord lay. The linen grave clothes lying in their original position, undisturbed; and the napkin which had been about His head, lying in its proper place.
There was the testimony of all those who had seen him, that heard him speak, that listened with burning hearts as he expounded in all the scriptures, that silently wondered as he broke the bread before their very eyes.
And Peter, one of the favored triumvirate, so privileged to be so near to the Lord, and who had been sought out by the living Christ to assure him that, in spite of his renegade action, he was still in the heart and mind of his Saviour. What testimony he could bring to such a meeting!
Yea, such evidence, such undeniable testimony, none could deny!
Rather, they all believed, and rejoiced to believe that the Lord was risen from the dead!
However, their conception of the resurrection was obviously earthly. Perhaps much the same as their understanding of the return of Lazarus, which they all had witnessed. Such a resurrection as they conceived of would bring Jesus back to them and their former fellowship with him, so they undoubtedly thought. But the more they talked about it, the more they became confused.
If the Lord had risen, why did He not come back to them? Why was it that He would appear for a moment, and then vanish out of their sight? All was so different from what it used to be!
Such were the reasonings in their hearts . . .
When suddenly the Lord appeared to them in the presence of them all, and while the doors were locked, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you!”
O, that unmistakable voice! They had heard it so often.
And surely, this was His beloved form! There can be no doubt about it. They had heard and seen Him too often in those three and a half years to be mistaken now.
It is the Lord,—but strange and ghostlike was His appearance, so they thought!
And how shall you and I explain it, beloved reader?
There he stood, while the doors were locked. No audible sign did He give of His approach. Had He been there all the time? Or, did He corn… through the door, while it was locked?
As soon as you ask such questions, you realize how vain it is to ask them. All attempts to explain by applying the laws of our present world to the world of glory, must needs come to naught.
It is the resurrection!
Not a return from the grave, but a going on! Not a mortal body, but that of immortality! Not a body like unto sinful flesh, but a body incorruptible! Not a natural body, but that which is spiritual and heavenly! You can see it, only when He Who is raised is pleased to appear!
If yours is the same as the conception of the disciples, it is small wonder that there should be effects similar to their experience.
They were terrified and affrighted!
They thought they had seen a ghost!
When even locked doors could not keep Him out, you can well understand how they were terrified. As to His being a ghost, this thought must have taken hold on them more and more as the accounts came in that He appeared, and as suddenly vanished from their sight. And now as He stood before them, their confusion knows no end; so that as John records it, for the second time He said unto them: “Peace be unto you!”
A glorious revelation!
Not long does the risen Lord allow them to continue with their imaginations. Immediately He must destroy their fantasy. Quietly He sought to calm their confusion, and to set at rest the reasonings of their hearts.
“Why are ye troubled?
“And why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have!”
Let them come so near to Him that they can touch Him. This should dispel the thought that He is a ghost. Let them take a good look at His hands and His feet, that they are the same as those they all had seen riven on the cross. Such evidence is too good to be true. Consequently, we read: “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, “the raised Redeemer will do still greater things for them. He will reveal Himself to them in such wise that every doubt will have to be abandoned, and every fantasy erased from their minds.
He asks them for something to eat.
When they give Him a piece of broiled fish and an honeycomb, He took it, and did eat before them.
Shall they presently be His witnesses, they must testify of the reality!
The Lord is risen indeed!
He is the light of the resurrection breaking through the darkness. He is the life of the resurrection breaking through the power of death. He is the Immortal appearing for a moment in the midst of that which is subject to death.
He arose, but did not return. He is not on this side of the grave, but on the other side, in heavenly perfection of glory!
Such is the revelation these witnesses must presently attest to, when He shall send them into all the world with the gospel of victory!
Theirs must be a lasting lesson!
And He said unto them, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you,”—implying that He was no longer with them, but wholly other.
But He reminds them of His former conversation, and how His death and resurrection were the fulfillment of all that Moses, and the prophets, and the book of psalms had spoken of Him. Their words He had made the very program of redemption He had followed and worked out. This explains how everything that transpired around His life and ministry, His apprehension and trial, His sufferings and death, and now, His glorious resurrection,—all constituted the very scheme of redemption so plentifully revealed in the scriptures.
These things, in which He had so diligently instructed them, they had never really understood. Consequently, a crucified and raised Redeemer did not harmonize with their conception. According to their way of thinking, there was no room for the cross, and surely no room for the resurrection.
Now, once more, but now with all the evidence before them, of His death and resurrection, let them see how the Christ of the resurrection is the fulfillment, not only of all the scriptures, but of all the purpose of God.
That this must be a lasting lesson, is obvious from the text.
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”
Literally, we read, “he opened thoroughly the mind.” Thus they could join together in the mind the scriptures and the reality of what they saw.
And so it is always . . . !
When the risen Lord opens your understanding, so that the scriptures speak, then the resurrection is more than a wonder!
It is the gospel of our salvation!
It is the hope of our glory!
And the Jesus of the cross, is the One Who was delivered for our transgressions; and Who was raised for our justification!