My grandfather, William Lawson Morgan, was a mountain farmer and itinerate preacher who, in the late 1800s or early 1900s, was deeply grieved over the death of his sister Alice. She had died relatively young, and it had broken his heart. He asked the Lord to help him. One day he was working in the upper hillside near the house where Alice had lived. Looking up he saw Alice. She was about a hundred yards away. She had on a white gown, which was blowing in the wind. She was waving to him to come to her. He became so frightened that his heart failed him. He raced back to the farmhouse to tell my grandmother. Though frightened, he was tremendously encouraged by the experience; and it has been passed down from my grandmother to the rest of us.
I don’t know what to do with that story. I’m not an advocate of ghosts, and yet I have a ghost story in my own family. But somehow when I think of how my grandfather must have felt, it helps me imagine the reaction of the disciples in Luke 24 when Jesus suddenly showed up in the Upper Room. They thought they were seeing a ghost.
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.
The thing that impresses us is how determined Jesus was to show us that He was not a ghost. He had literally resurrected in His own three-dimensional flesh-and-bones body.
I cannot understand how certain theologians and philosophers can stupidly and ignorantly claim that it’s the idea of the resurrection that matters, not its reality. Hans Küng, the prominent Swiss Catholic theologian, has written: “All questions about the historicity of the empty tomb and the Easter appearances cease to count beside the question of the significance of the resurrection message.”
In other words, he is saying that it doesn’t much matter whether the resurrection really occurred or not; what matters is its meaning. This is the dominant view among liberal biblical historians. They believe that the meaning or significance of the resurrection can be detached from it the question of its historical reality. Whether or not it really happened isn’t important; it’s the meaning and idea and significance of it that matters.
To me that makes no sense. If it didn’t happen, it has no meaning. Jesus Christ makes quite a point of telling us here that it was His actual, physical, flesh-and-bones body that rose from the tomb, and that the resurrection had eternal significance precisely because it literally happened on the greatest day that ever was. That’s why Jesus was so eager to disprove His ghost-ness to the disciples and show them that He Himself was literally and eternally alive. And this give us literal and eternal encouragement!
–For my complete series of sermons from Luke 24–The Greatest Day that Ever Was–visit the sermon site at www.donelson.org