Jesus Is Not a Ghost

Luke 24: 36b-48
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 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 [that]I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

The Congregational Church of Easton – April 14, 2024
We hear the Easter story so often it often loses some of its power. We lose something of the sense of how fantastic and ridiculous this truly is. Jesus dead, now alive. How can that be? Don’t dead people stay dead? We all know that to be true, don’t we?
The disciples were devastated because Jesus was dead and with Him went all their hopes and dreams. The whole of their future was now uncertain. So it is not surprising to find them trying to make sense of the women’s story of the resurrection. They were all locked away in an upper room confused and frightened. Who wouldn’t be?
Then Jesus came into that charged, tear-filled, grief-laden room. But the big question is what is He?
This is not the first or last appearance story, but for our day and age it might be one of the most important. As Luke 24:37 says, they thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death.
Ghosts are part of our way of life. If you took a poll and asked people what they believe, you would find that more people believe in ghosts than believe that Jesus rose from the dead. If you ask in some churches, you would be surprised at how many people believe in ghosts.
And why wouldn’t they? All over the media ghosts make big news. You may have seen films like ‘Ghost’ or ‘Sixth Sense.’ Our grandchildren will have seen things like ‘Casper’ or the Harry Potter films which contain many ghost references. Then there are the advertisements in newspapers from Spiritualists purporting to be Church.
One minister said she has heard many people talk about mediums or ghosts. She said during one funeral there was a medium in the extended family who caused great distress. That minister worked with people who, even though they had been faithful Church members for decades, still believed in ghosts and actually thought spiritualism could be practiced alongside Christianity.
Such things are dangerous. Dangerous because they distort the truth of life and death, and steal power away from the gospel. In the Christian faith ghosts are not acceptable; they do not exist. Indeed, how could they? There is life and death. Scripture knows no middle ground.
Yet the disciples thought Jesus was a ghost. The Greek word used here is pneuma -noo’-mah – which means a current of air or a breeze. They thought Jesus must be either a vision or a ghost, because how can He have a real body?
Luke 24:38-43 says, “He continued with them, ‘Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. 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.’”
As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 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? They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.’
They saw Him, heard Him, touched Him and watched Him eat. So it was impossible for them to have been deceived. Jesus was bodily alive. Believe this or don’t believe it, but don’t try to justify your unbelief by suggesting the disciples only saw a ghost.
Jesus is alive. He has risen from the dead. He is not a shadow, for the tomb is empty. His body is gone. It has been resurrected.
The cry of the Church is and always has been, ‘Christ is risen: He is risen indeed!”
His risen body was the reason those terrified common people were transformed into a powerful, visionary evangelistic community. His risen power is the reason why we are here in this church today.
Christ is risen: He is risen indeed. Death has been shattered. Think about that for a moment.
Please don’t worry that when we die our future is uncertain. No, we will go home. What a wonderful promise that is: we shall go home! Do not fear that we will be floating around hopelessly and aimlessly like a ghost. For death is defeated and can never hold us. What joy!
The resurrection begins with an empty tomb, not because of grave robbers, but because Jesus rose to life so that we might know the truth that death is defeated, and heaven is open to all who confess Jesus as Lord.
How awesome is the God we worship. How awesome is the gospel we are called to share.
Let us pray. Holy One, forgive us for doubting that Jesus is alive in us and among us. Strengthen our faith that death has been defeated once and for all. Give us the courage to share this with others.
In Jesus name. Amen