“Look at my hands. Look at my feet.”
Topnotch movie productions hire body doubles for their blockbuster stars. This makes sense if the film is action packed, but paying someone for their hands on film or in photographs? Yep. This is still a “huh” for me. But it’s true. There are professional hand models out there.
We all know of people watchers. I recently spoke of this in a sermon. Here’s the question though. Are there hand watchers? Feet watchers?
Now, to be honest, perhaps you are like me in that I have never, ever said, “Wow! Great feet!” or “Your hands look exceptionally well in this light.”
This is likely true for you, too. We may not notice someone’s hands or feet if they are common, run of the mill, standard stock stuff. If, however, there is something a bit unusual about them, we may take note.
I am going somewhere with all of this. At the very end of the physician’s gospel, Luke tells us that Jesus calls attention to his hands and his feet. There are nail holes in each hand and in each foot.
I’m paraphrasing here, but in Luke 24:38-40, Jesus says, “Look at my hands and my feet. See that this is me.”
This scripture, which is this past Sunday’s lectionary passage, reveals a tremendous amount of information. This scene flows directly from the Road to Emmaus narrative (Luke 24:13-35). In this lesson, Jesus appears to a group of people that we know to be the eleven disciples and their companions (cf. Luke 24:33). This includes the two unnamed Jesus-followers who have just journeyed from Jerusalem to Emmaus. In all likelihood, this group also includes Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and a coterie of other women.
Note that until this point, the news of Jesus’s resurrection has been sketchy, nebulous, and, even though he taught repeatedly that this, in fact, would happen, his presence with his holes may be a challenge to believe, or these beyond painful wounds present a queasy, pit of the stomach sensation.
The most common versions of this scene in the Gospel of Luke describe Jesus as being a ‘spirit’ or a ‘ghost.’ In verse 37, we read those gathered are “startled” and “filled with fear” or “frightened.” Why wouldn’t this be so? Talk about ghosts and spirits? The dead are supposed to stay dead!
Yet, here is Jesus in the flesh, resurrected. Because he came back with holes and the piercing in his side, the Son of God makes a solid point: He is the Real Deal. This resurrected Jesus is no disembodied spirit or resuscitated corpse. This resurrected Jesus is not a shadow or a modern-day hologram. This is Christ. With a body. Specifically, HIS body.
A shining, white-robed, angelic Jesus is one thing, especially if he slightly hovers over the ground all good and happy. The visceral vision Luke describes, however, is something else altogether because there’s more. After Jesus distills fear by saying, “Peace be with you,” he asks for something to eat. This meal request furthers his emphasis on his body being just that, a body, the Word becoming flesh.
The group presents broiled fish. Hungry, he eats this in front of them.
His actions speak clearly. Jesus then, like Jesus now, invites us to bear witness to his life, his ministry, and his resurrection. Our death-to-life leader presents Christianity as a faith that isn’t about comfort or convenience but sacrifice and suffering with our own holes as we see and care for the holes of others.
To follow Christ means we see his wounds which set us free from our own permeating sins that alone we cannot conquer. As Christians, specifically, post-Easter Christians, we see these hands and feet and, in response, are called to proclaim as well as live into the repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
Tall order? Maybe. Then again, there is something else—someone else—Jesus speaks of following this broiled fish meal. At the very end of Luke’s gospel, which is where we are at this point, Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit. This third part of our triune God makes all our challenges and our own crucifixions not just bearable, but understandable. This is good news for everyone.
In his commentary on this scene, Jacob Myers speaks of this good news. He says the repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.
Myers adds, “This is the narratological hinge that connects the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. We must remember that the good news of Jesus Christ follows a centrifugal trajectory. It is universal in its scope and particular in its articulation. The Church today must remember that the blessings of God in Jesus Christ transcend racial, ethnic, gendered, and heteronormative prejudices (Commentary on Luke, Working Preacher, April 19, 2015).
Let’s keep transcending. Each of us. All of us. To do so, take a look at your hands and/or feet as you serve God’s world, or are served by someone representing God’s world. The role of suffering servant is Jesus’, not ours, but bless those with hole-y, calloused, chapped, or tired hands and feet that live out Christ’s redemption today.