“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.” (Luke 24:36-43 NIV)
The death and resurrection of Jesus gives His followers the hope and assurance of new life. Why then is death so frightening? Paul says that dying is winning (Philippians 1:21), but we mostly treat it as a terrible loss. Most people are scared to die and want to postpone the prospect for as long as possible. I recently read that those seeking extraordinary medical procedures to sustain their physical lives are more likely to hold Christian beliefs. Why is that?
I think it is because we can’t really imagine life in eternity. It’s like trying something new, like going on a rollercoaster or traveling to a foreign country, that people tell us is so great, but we are unsure because we haven’t experienced it. We know we should be excited, and we may even act as if we are, but deep down we are scared.
Jesus schooled the disciples on things of Heaven, but they had never experienced it. And when they saw Him for the first time after His resurrection, they were terrified. Seeking to reassure them, Jesus showed them His hands and His feet still bearing the scars of His crucifixion. And then He asked for food and ate it in front of them. Could it be that life after death somewhat resembles this life? I think Jesus sought to reassure them that it does.
Death didn’t enter the created world immediately. There was a time when Adam and Eve lived in Paradise where there was no death or suffering. They ate, they drank, and they laughed. When they rebelled against the authority of God, then things turned bleak. But still, as C.S. Lewis once described it, life here is a shadow of eternity. We see resemblances, but not the real thing. The real thing, however, is probably not as far removed from our own experience as we might imagine. We will have real bodies and eat real food. The mountains, the rivers, and the oceans will still exist, but will even be more beautiful than the sin-tainted ones we enjoy so much here on earth.
By simply showing the similarities of His resurrected body to His earthly one, I think Jesus was attempting to reassure His disciples and us that death is not something we need fear. What we encounter on the other side will be recognizable and somewhat familiar to us. Indeed, it will be different, but I think we will find those differences much to our liking.
Today, think of death as like taking a permanent vacation to one of your favorite destinations. It is not something to fear, but to be excited about when it finally is your turn to go.
© Jim Musser 2014