Summary: The disciples were still in Jerusalem during the evening of Resurrection Day. When the Lord Jesus Christ appeared suddenly, they were terrified! But when they saw His hands and feet, they began to believe HE WAS ALIVE!
Introduction: On Resurrection Day, the Lord Jesus Christ had walked with Cleopas and another disciple from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The Lord not only walked with them, He also explained the Scriptures about Himself to them and shared a meal with them. After this, He vanished out of their sight and the two disciples returned to Jerusalem. While they were telling the story, Jesus Himself appeared to all of them gathered together!
Even with that, most of the disciples still didn’t believe Jesus was alive until they saw something that nobody could possibly deny.
1 The Lord appeared to the disciples
Text, Luke 24:36-37, KJV: 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
Cleopas and his companion were still talking about their journey to Emmaus and other things when Jesus appeared, standing “in the midst” of them. This could mean the disciples were sitting in a circle or partial circle, listening to Cleopas speak but no matter how they were arranged, Jesus appeared to them. Just as He had disappeared maybe an hour or so before, now He appears to them in an instant, and said “Peace be unto you!”
None of them were expecting this!
And when He, the Lord, appeared to them, they didn’t experience peace. They were all “terrified and affrighted”, as Luke stated. That wasn’t unusual, as several times before, people had experienced a great fear when they saw the Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament (such as Gideon and Samson’s parents in the Book of Judges). Luke also wrote that the shepherds were “sore afraid” when the angels (the heavenly host) appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-14). Why else would the angels say “Fear not” unless the people who saw them were already afraid?
Besides this, the disciples thought they had seen a ghost! How much knowledge they had about spirits, good or bad, is debatable but they had seen the Lord cast out evil spirits. Surely they knew, also, about angels and how they had ministered to people. But this was different, in that they had never seen a spirit or ghost before and now—a Personality was standing in their midst and they really didn’t know what to do!
Fortunately, the Lord knew exactly what to do. And He did it.
2 The Lord appealed to the disciples
Text, Luke 24:38-40, KJV: 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 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. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
The disciples were terrified when Jesus appeared out of nowhere and spoke to them. No doubt they were speechless—and who wouldn’t be, once they had seen something as unusual as that. So the Lord not only spoke peace but began to offer peace. He asked, “Why are you troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” with “thoughts”, here, most likely meaning worries or concerns. The Lord had said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to “take no thought” about life and other things (specifically, Matt. 6:25-33).
After this, He said, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”. They had walked with the Lord for three years and surely would have known what He looked like. Apparently they had not looked at His hands or His feet at that time; otherwise, the Lord would not have appealed to them to do this. Earlier that day, Mary Magdalene had grabbed His feet—maybe holding on for dear life, as some might say—such that the Lord had to tell her, “Stop clinging to Me” or “Let Me go, Mary!” Later, Cleopas and his companion had walked, talked, and had a meal with Him before He vanished from their sight, but there was no record He told these two disciples to look at any part of His body.
Wouldn’t they have noticed the wounds in His hands when He had shared the meal with them, just a few hours before?
Then He knew they thought they had seen a ghost because He said, “Handle Me and see for yourselves that it’s really Me! A spirit or ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones, like I do!” After this, He showed them His hands and feet.
One can only imagine the flood of memories that came to each of the disciples. Some had seen the Lord go into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and, later, be arrested. They also had to remember running away and leaving Jesus behind when Judas led the mob to the Garden. And they all most likely remembered either seeing or hearing about the crucifixion and burial. John, at least, saw and heard the Lord’s last hours and also saw a soldier pierce the Lord’s body, seeing “blood and water” flow from that wound.