Luke 24:35-48. Look at my Hands and my Feet

"The Eleven at the Tomb." Alberto Piazza, 1502. Berlin.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading comes from the last chapter of Luke. As we enter the season of Easter, we are presented with a series of Sunday Gospel readings where Jesus appears to the disciples, in person, after his Resurrection. Perhaps we should take a step back and look at what the Gospels say Jesus did after the Resurrection.

A Composite Sketch of the Post-Resurrection Events

What do the post-Resurrection events in each of the four Gospels have in common? First and foremost, all four Gospels tell us that the tomb in which Jesus was interred was found empty on Easter (Sunday) morning, two days after the crucifixion. The Gospels also credit the women with finding the empty tomb first (Lk 24:1, Mk 16:1, Mt 28:1, Jn 20:1). Most prominent among these women is Mary Magdalene, though she is not the only witness named.

Second, we are told that the women tell the disciples (Mt 28:7, Mk 16:10, Luke 24:9) of the empty tomb. Some accounts tell us they encountered an angel or two, others say they were so frightened they initially said nothing. But ultimately, it was Mary Magdalene and the women who brought the news of the empty tomb to the disciples.

Luke and Mark give us a sub-plot to the central story (Lk 24:13, Mk 16:12). Luke relates, in great detail, that Jesus encountered two of the disciples on the road, and that the disciples asked Jesus into their homes. After this, the two went and told the others. Luke makes a point of noting that the disciples did not know they were in the presence of Jesus until they broke bread with them. Aside from the obvious fact that they recognized Jesus in the Eucharist, their anonymity suggests that these two disciples were not of the twelve.

Third, the Gospel accounts tell us that the disciples who did not meet Jesus were skeptical that Christ had risen from the dead, even after being told of the news by Mary or the other disciples (Lk 24:11, Mk 16:11). Even in John’s Gospel, We are told that John and Peter visit the empty tomb. Though John tells us that he “believes,” he confesses in the next sentence that the disciples do not fully comprehend the  meaning or the significance of the risen Jesus (John 20:9).  But when the disciples finally meet Jesus in person, they are over-joyed (Mt 28:9, Lk 24:32, Jn 20:20). Unlike the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, though, the Apostles (including Thomas) have no difficulty recognizing Jesus when they see him.

Fourth, we are told that the disciples saw a person – Jesus  – who showed the wounds of the crucifixion (Lk 24:39, Jn 20:27), and who actually ate food (Lk 24:43) or prepared it for the disciples (Jn 21:13). The Gospels emphasize that Jesus was neither ghost, nor a figment of their imagination.

Some Differences

The commission that the Apostles and disciples receive varies quite a bit from Gospel to Gospel. Why might that be? That is a difficult question to answer. One is left with the impression that Jesus spoke to the disciples more than once. John’s Gospel does help, and tells us that Jesus met the disciples in the locked room at least twice. Luke implies that the gathering of the disciples occurred in Jerusalem, because the disciples on the road to Emmaus return to meet the other disciples. This occurs in the vicinity of Jerusalem. In addition, Luke tells us in Acts that the disciples continue to meet in Jerusalem after the Ascension.

It is not at all clear in John’s Gospel where the disciples are gathered. In Matthew’s Gospel, we are told Jesus gathered the disciples on a mount near Galilee. Given the data from Luke and John, we are given the impression that the disciples met, during the Pentecost period, at least twice in Jerusalem. From Matthew’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus met the disciples at least once in Galilee. From these events, we are left with the various accounts of a commissioning or a mandate by Jesus, given to the disciples.

The reality is that we are left with a series of “snapshots” which are incomplete excerpts from the likely conversations that Jesus had with the disciples. As a result, we have a mosaic of statements, rather than a single image from each Gospel that mirrors the others.

A Common Thread in the Mission Given to the Disciples

Among the four Gospels, there is some similarity among these accounts. In Luke 24, we have the following, Thus it is written that the Christ would… rise from the dead… and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. In Mark 16, we have this phrase, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” In Matthew 28, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In John 20, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 

What is the commonality? In Luke and Mark, the disciples are told to preach the Good News.  In Matthew, Jesus says, Go and make disciples of all nations. In John, the apostles are “sent.”  We can combine the mandate of Jesus by stating: the Apostles are sent to preach the Good News and make disciples of all nations. 

Let’s take a look at four of the addresses by Jesus to the disciples, made after the Resurrection, as recorded by each of the four Evangelists.

From Luke 24:44-48

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you
while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

From Mark 16:14-18

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating;
he rebuked them for their lack of faith
and their stubborn refusal to believe those
who had seen him after he had risen.
He said to them,
“Go into all the world and preach the good news
to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,
but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
And these signs will accompany those who believe:
In my name they will drive out demons;
they will speak in new tongues;
they will pick up snakes with their hands;
and when they drink deadly poison,
it will not hurt them at all;
they will place their hands on sick people,
and they will get well.”

From Matthew 28:16-29

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Then Jesus came to them and said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”

From John 20:20-22

The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!
As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
And with that he breathed on them and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven;
if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”


Gospel Lk 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them 
in the breaking of bread.While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish; 
he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”
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