The Substantial Reality of the Risen Lord.


Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have. S. LUKE xxiv. 39. THIS scene is suggestive of so many considerations that the difficulty is which to choose. There are three which, as it appears to me, claim especial attention just at present. I. And here we see, then, first of all, our Lord s indulgent treat ment of mistakes and imperfections in religious beliefs. We may venture to say that the disciples, seeing our Lord in the midst of them, ought to have recognised Him at once. They knew from long companionship with Him that there were no discoverable limits to His power over life over nature. They knew that He had been transfigured on the mountain that He had walked upon the sea. They knew that He had formally claimed to be Messiah by assuming the distinctive title of Messiahship the Son of Man. They knew that He had shown to them from the Old Testament that the Messiah must suffer and rise again the third day in virtue of a prophetic necessity. They knew that, to remove all doubt, He had on more occasions than one, and very solemnly, stated that this would happen to Himself, so that when they saw Him led away to death, and expiring in agony, and laid in a tomb, they might have known what would what must follow. The earlier part of His prediction had been fulfilled to the letter. Did they not know enough about His power to be certain that what remained would be fulfilled as well ? ow, that our Lord held His disciples to be responsible for such knowledge as this is plain from the words which He used earlier in the afternoon when talking with the two on the 87

EASTER DAY Emmaus road. * O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken ! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory ? The reproach addressed to the two disciples seems to imply that, in their case, the responsibility may have been enhanced by the enjoyment of certain opportunities which we cannot accurately measure.

But S. Mark refers to the very scene which we are considering, by saying that Jesus appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen Him after He rose from the dead. And yet, when we look to S. Luke s report of what actually took place, what tender censure it is ! There is no expression which betrays grief or anger. He meets their excitement with the mildest rebuke, if it be a rebuke. He knew He knows how the tyranny of sense, and of those mental habits which are formed and which are governed by the senses, holds down the aspirations of faith and love ; and therefore He, the true parent and deliverer of souls, acts as one who knows of what His creatures are made. He remembers that they are but dust. II. Here, too, we see our Lord s sanction of the principle of in quiry, upon occasion, into the very foundations of our religious belief. Certainly He said to S. Thomas, a week later, that they were blessed who had not seen His open wounds, and yet who had believed His Resurrection. But in S. Thomas s case, as a week earlier in that of the ten and their friends, He sanctions, nay, He invites, inquiry, observation, reflection. Instead of saying, If you cannot believe after the testimony of My prophets, after My own assurances, after the report of My disciples, that I am risen from My grave, and that you see Me before you, then begone : continue in your unbelief. He does say, * Use the means of inquiry which God has given you given you now. Examine My pierced hands and feet. See for yourselves that I am He who hung upon the Cross. ay, touch Me, if only thus you can escape from your illusion. Discover for yourselves that a body with flesh and bones is before you, with new and glorious pro perties, indeed, but with its substantial identity unimpaired. 1 The life and death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a work of the sanctified imagination of a later age. It is just as much a part of the story of our race as the life, the victories, the assassina tion of Julius Caesar. Handle it ; handle it searchingly but rever ently ; and you will discover this for yourself. You will see that there is an intrinsic consistency, that there is a solidity, that there is a power of resistance to critical solvents, about it, which you little suspect. But do not suppose that, because it condescends to be thus tested by your understanding, as regards its reality, it is therefore 88


within the compass of your understanding as to its scope. It begins, indeed, with that which you can appraise : it ends in that which is beyond you. While you are finite and bounded in your range of vision, it, being an unveiling of the divine Being, is divine. Yes, Christianity plants its feet firmly on the soil of earth in the life of our Lord. Its hands are seen again and again working in the stirring agencies of later history, but it rears its head upwards to the sky. It loses itself as a creed in the clouds of heaven. We see the very feet, the very hands, the reality of the one incomparable life ; but we only see enough to know assuredly that there is much more which is necessarily and utterly beyond us, lost, as the Apostle puts it, lost in * the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and of the know ledge of God. III. And, once more, and lastly, see here the direction which our Lord gives to the thoughts of His perplexed disciples. He does not turn them in upon themselves. He does not take their trouble, so to speak, sympathetically to pieces, and deal with its separate ele ments. He does not refute, one by one, the false reasonings which were working within them. He does not say to them, These dis quietudes, these doubts, are mere mental disorders, and the mind can cure for itself a disease which it has produced. On the contrary, He would have them get out of themselves out of the thick jungle of doubt and fear and hope and surmise which possesses them, and come to Him. Whatever they may think and feel, He is there, utterly in dependent of their doubt, independent, too, of their enthusiasm there, in His own calm, assured, unassailable life. * Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have. Let this, then, be our Easter work : to forget ourselves if we can, to gaze on the wounds, to clasp the feet, of our risen Lord. Water cannot rise above its level, and if the soul of man is to be restored to God it must be from without, by God Himself. It cannot this is certain it cannot be from within. Left to itself it lacks the life, the strength, the impetus, which it needs. It finds them in the eternal Christ. It can by faith gaze on Him even now. It can by faith handle Him and discern that He is man as well as God God as well as man even now. Let us, then, associate ourselves with that company in the upper chamber. Many of us, it may be, share their troubles : why should we be denied their consolations ? To our weakness, to our fears, to our indolent despair, to our fruitless selfcomplacency, He says * Soul, behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and discern, for a mere phantom, a spirit, hath not these flesh and bones hath not this enduring reality which ye see Me have. H. P. LIDDO .



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