April 18, 2021
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 24:36b-48, The Message or Luke 24:36b-48, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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Sometimes, modern day sophisticates talk about folks in the Bible as if they were merely uneducated, gullible, bumpkins who unquestioningly accepted any super-natural hocus pocus.
But listen to their reactions to the resurrection events as interpreted by various translations (and note how the translators sometimes struggle to capture the full sense of the underlying Greek):
puzzled, perplexed, did not know what to think
(Luke 24:4, the women's reaction on finding the tomb open and empty)
awe struck, terrified
(Luke 24:5, the women's reaction on the sudden appearance of the two men in dazzling white robes)
didn't believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up, seemed like an idle tale, did not believe them, these words appeared to them as nonsense, the story sounded like a fairy tale
(Luke 24:11, the apostles reaction on hearing the report of the women)
wondered, amazed, marveled, puzzled, shaking his head
(Luke 24:12, Peter's reaction at seeing the empty tomb)
didn't we feel on fire, were not our hearts burning within us, didn't it warm our hearts, their hearts had felt strangely warmed
(Luke 24:32, two followers recall how they felt while Jesus - whom they had not recognized - explained the scriptures to them as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus)
terribly frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost, in a state of alarm and fright, frightened and terrified, startled and frightened, scared half to death
(Luke 24:37, the disciples reaction when Jesus first appears to them)
they still couldn't believe what they were seeing, in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, they were so glad and amazed they could not believe it, their joy was so great that they still could not believe it as they were dumbfounded, they stood there undecided - filled with joy and doubt
(Luke 24:41, the disciples reaction after Jesus shows them his wounds)
These are not the reactions of bumpkins.
In fact, like societies today in which "paranormal" experiences are still considered normal, the followers of Jesus were quite sophisticated in distinguishing different types of nonstandard experiences.
The details reported in Luke make it very clear that it was the same body that was crucified that is now resurrected (see the wounds, Luke 24:39); and what they are seeing is not a ghost (eating before their eyes, Luke 24:43).
One can almost hear the first witnesses of the resurrection patiently explaining to their incredulous friends and family:
No really, the empty tomb wasn't a hoax.
We didn't go there when no was looking and take his body secretly ourselves
(see Matthew 28:11-15).
No really, we aren't hallucinating.
Just the opposite, our eyes have been opened, our minds have been opened to new understanding of the scriptures.
No really, it wasn't "God's Word" re-appearing.
It was the actual Jesus who died on the cross - we saw the wounds.
No really, it wasn't a ghost.
We saw him eat right before our eyes.
However, the Jesus-who-died-on-the-cross-and-has-been-raised has not come back simply to take up his old job.
The now-resurrected-Jesus once again patiently explains "my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you." (Note how the now-resurrected-Jesus who is present now with the disciples makes an odd past-tense, third person reference to that time before, "while I was still with you." There is continuity but also distinction between Jesus then and Jesus now.)
And then, in effect the now-resurrected-Jesus says, "Over to you."
"Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed." Over to you. You are the called-into-court-sworn-witnesses of these things. Get ready to testify to the truth and nothing but the truth. Proclaim it.
And shakily at first, that is what they did. And that is how the Greek word for "witness" has come to be known and used as an English word - martyr. Over to you.
Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 323-324; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See link below.
Luke 24:36b-48 (NRSV)
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Luke 24:36b-48 (The Message)
36 While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you." 37 They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. 38 He continued with them, "Don't be upset, and don't let all these doubting questions take over. 39 Look at my hands; look at my feet—it's really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn't have muscle and bone like this." 40 As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 They still couldn't believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.
He asked, "Do you have any food here?" 42 They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. 43 He took it and ate it right before their eyes.
44 Then he said, "Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled."
45 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. 46 He said, "You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, 47 and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! 48 You're the first to hear and see it. You're the witnesses.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.