The Hands, Feet, and Fish of the Gospel

There are no rules for these things. You hear the story over and over through the years and it seems so… obvious, that it had to happen exactly this way. But you know, there are no rules for these things.

Jesus rises from the dead and miraculously appears to the eleven (absent Thomas) in Luke 24. It is a familiar account. But with that familiarity, we slip through the story, sliding by details, passing through nuance, the blurring speed of the bullet train blending savory detail away. For a few minutes, please slow down, pull over and take a long, deep breath of fresh mountain gospel air with me.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:36-40 ESV)


“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” Following rumours and reports of seeing Jesus after his death, He (Jesus) abruptly appears in the room with the disciples. They are startled, frightened, caught out-of-place, unsettled. To reassure them, He calls them to see His hands and his feet. Why? Why His hands?  Did His hands stick in the disciples’ minds as He ministered to and with them? Was it His taking of the scroll in hand in Luke 4, declaring Himself the fulfillment of God’s long-standing promise?  Or, from Luke 7, his touch of the bier of the widow’s dead son? Could it be His healing and restoring touch of the leper in Matthew 8. Why His hands?  Perhaps it was His mud-making healing touch of the blind man from John 9 or his compassionate healing touch of the blind men in Matthew 20?

Why His feet? Why call the focused attention of the shocked disciples to look at Jesus’ feet? Did they have treasured memories of His walking by the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 4, calling His first disciples? Or His walking past as John the Baptist pointed out the Lamb of God as future disciples listen? Even more likely, the miraculous feet of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14, amidst the raging storm, stepping into the boat to bring the disciples safely to the other side?

Why His feet and hands? Although possible, I don’t believe these are the real reasons. Something larger is in view here. The disciples were crushed at the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus.

Listen in as Thomas reacts to their report of Jesus’ appearance:

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25   ESV)

Rather than treasured memories, His hands and feet still bore the fresh wounds of the nails. This was not Jesus simply telling the story because it had to be that way. He wrote his resurrection story with wounded feet and hands for the sake of love – patient love for His disciples.

There are no rules for this sort of thing. There is no playbook, no familiar territory with resurrection. Jesus could have instantly healed his body. He could have appeared to them in kingly raiment attended by angels. It could have happened ten million different ways. Yet, He chose to come intimately to His friends to show them His hands and feet, so they would know that it was truly Him.

Joy! Wonder struck them like a hammer, but it did not shatter their unbelief. Not yet

And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:41-43  ESV)

“Have you anything here to eat?”, Jesus asks. What? Lunch at a time like this? Not quite. Is Jesus eating for himself or for His disciples? “He took it and ate before them.”  This everyday, common, run-of-the-mill broiled fish is the final blow to their unbelief. Jesus is eating in front of them, not to dull His hunger, but that they might break free of the final shackles of unbelief; and believing, believe in Him.

Friends, this same Jesus, who suffered long and patiently with the disciples so long ago, continues longsuffering and patient with His disciples today. We walk as they did, with a faltering, unsteady limp. He braces us with nail-scarred hands. He walks the path with us on nail-scarred feet. He defeated death, shrugging off its clammy, powerless grip as He walked alive from the tomb. The hands, feet, and fish of the gospel are true gifts of grace for the first disciples and for us today.

One day we shall see Him, our blessed risen Savior.

Amen and Hallelujah!

All of Christ for all of __________________ (fill in the blank)

Guilt. It’s one of the great hurdles to evangelism. I’m not talking about guilt and forgiveness in the context of the Gospel. No… that would be the very heart of evangelism – the Gospel itself. Instead, I’m thinking of the huge hurdles we build concerning actually doing evangelism. It seems that we evangelicals continually feel the need to run to extremes, to place the bar always far above our own heads. For example, if you’re not evangelizing down-and-out authentically homeless people, then are you truly doing evangelism?
How foolish we are, to manufacture guilt that does not exist and allow it to hold us back from reaching out to the very real people who do exist in our circle of influence. “You mean, I could actually talk to the empty-nester about the Gospel over a cup of coffee?” Yup. That’s what I mean.
For some helpful thoughts on evangelism, check out what Pastor Kevin Miller says in The Gospel for All People.

Jesus’ Character Displayed

“In considering the association of Jesus with the people at large, we are struck at once with the fact that though pure and sinless, he did not shrink from contact with the most sinful and the most despised. He was in this respect the very opposite of the Pharisees. Their name signifies separatists. Fundamental in their conception of a pious life was the idea of scrupulously avoiding any social intercourse, or even the slightest contact, with persons who habitually violated the ceremonial law, as well as with those guilty of gross immorality. This was the idea of personal purity materialized, and pushed to an utter extreme. Accordingly, the Pharisees found it hard to believe that one could be a prophet, a teacher come from God, who would consent to eat at the table of a publican, or would allow his feet to be washed with the tears of a fallen woman.

“Jesus often found it necessary to explain and vindicate his course in this respect; and it was for this purpose that on one occasion he gave the three beautiful parables which tell of joy at the recovery of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. Contact with vile people is proper or improper according to our aim and the probable results. It must be avoided or carefully limited if of such a character as would probably assimilate us to them. But the thoughtful and consistent followers of Jesus have been moved by his example and teachings to far more of kindly effort to redeem the vile than ever existed in the world beyond the influence of Christianity; and to do still more in this direction would only be acting according to his spirit.

“Jeremy Taylor has said that Jesus moved among the despised of humanity like sunshine, which falls among foul things without being itself defiled. To imitate this in our measure must be an attainment full of blessedness for us and rich in blessing to others. Jesus was very weary with months of earnest teaching as he sat that day beside Jacob’s well; yet he aroused himself to speak most kindly with one who came to draw water, and that a woman who was living sinfully with a man not her husband. His conversation with her is a suggestive model of skill in the introduction of religion into private conversation – one of the finest of all accomplishments for Christian men and women. The delicate tact with which he aroused her conscience and thus turned her thoughts away from the mere satisfaction of bodily thirst to the water of eternal life, is among the most wonderful touches in his consummate teaching.”

Paul in Philippi – part 1

We are in Acts 16. Paul is on his second missionary journey. He left Antioch with Silas, drew young Timothy into the journey at Lystra, and is joined by Luke in Troas. The call to Philippi is supernatural. Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him to come over and help. He answers the call and the band of evangelists heads to Philippi.

What does Paul find when he gets there? He starts by looking for a synagogue but finds none. This leads them to look for a place of prayer by the river, hoping to find a group to preach the gospel of Christ to. They succeed in finding a group of women by the riverside, including Lydia, who will become the first convert to Christ in the establishment of the church in Europe.

Paul and his companions stay in Philippi for several days, continuing to visit the little group at the riverside, teaching them the way of salvation. Conflict arises. A slave girl possessed by a spirit of divination starts raising a ruckus, focusing unwanted attention on the evangelists as they seek to establish a church in Philippi. She continues this harassment for many days. Finally, Paul has had enough. He turns and casts the spirit out of the slave girl in the name of Christ.

The slave girl’s owners immediately realize their prophet of profit is fallen silent and they know who has staunched the flow of money. They drag Paul and Silas before the judges, hurling false accusations and stirring the crowd to join in the attack. They are stripped of their robes, repeatedly beaten with rods, and thrown into prison. Having received a command to guard them securely, the jailer takes extra precautions with these so-called rabble rousers, placing them in the inner prison and fastening their feet in stocks.

This is an opportunity. An opportunity to:

1) Question God’s call to Philippi?

2) Doubt God’s love or even existence in the
face of these current troubles?

3) Consider themselves failures in ministry?

4) Pray and sing hymns to God in full view of
the other prisoners?

Before you answer, place this in the context of current evangelical thought concerning successful Christian ministry. And no, I’m not thinking of Joel Osteen. Put it in the context of your local church and how the evangelists’ mission would be judged, or how you personally might respond if you were in Paul’s shoes, er… sandals.

The meta is open. Fire away.