Jesus the Not A Ghost
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
- John 20:19-20
Couldn’t Jesus have just come back as a ghost? He could have been a holy ghost, but did he really have to come back in the flesh? A ghost would have been a lot more believable to the broader society than the resurrection from the dead.
Many in the culture at that time didn’t believe that the dead would be raised to new life. The wealthy Sadducees even argued with Jesus about the resurrection (see Matthew 22). But they may have paid attention to a ghost.
Others in the culture believed that the resurrection of the dead would happen at the end of time, when God welcomes the righteous into his kingdom. Only the righteous would be raised. Everyone else would fade away. NT Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God examines this community in great depth. They were stunned and scandalized to hear that Jesus’ disciples were claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead—in the flesh and all by himself!
This little beat about Jesus showing his disciples his hands and side (and subsequent stories about Jesus eating) would have spoken volumes to everyone who heard it in the years that followed the resurrection.
Why might the disciples have claimed that Jesus physically rose from the dead? Maybe they wanted to communicate that our bodies—not just our souls—matter to God. Maybe they needed to signal significant theological truths: Jesus has conquered death, defeated the devil, and achieved all that was necessary for our salvation. Maybe they were just telling what they saw.
Give yourself a little mental workout today … What would be different about your faith if Jesus was just a ghost and hadn’t risen from the dead? How would that affect how you deal with the valley of the shadow of death? What would Easter look like for us if this were the case?
Use the negative image to grow your appreciation for what actually happened.