It’s been bugging me for years. I’ve asked a few people but haven’t had a satisfying answer, so let me ask here. For those of you that accept modern formulations of the Trinity regarding the nature of God and believe that Christ is Spirit only and of one immaterial substance with the Father, I would like to understand how the words and actions of Christ in Luke 24 are to be understood. This scene happens shortly after the Resurrection–the great miracle where the physical body of Christ was missing from the grave apparently because it had been re-united with His spirit.. It’s hard to understand any other way to parse the New Testament information on this event. And then Christ shows Himself and His tangible, physical body to His disciples toward the end of Luke 24, a group of men who still didn’t get what the Resurrection meant. They were about to learn:
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 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.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
He stood before them. They could see Him. Wow! They thought it was His spirit. So then he had them feel His tangible body and stated that it was not just spirit, but also obviously comprised flesh and bones. They marveled. To further remove any doubt, He then asked a most surprising question: “Have ye any meat?” What, He wants to eat? Why was He doing this, if not to teach basic facts about Who He was now as a Resurrected Being with flesh and bone?
They handed him some physical, tangible fish. He held that fish in His hands, put it up to His mouth, bit some off with His teeth, chewed it with His jaws and tongue and palate, then swallowed it, presumably sending the food down an alimentary canal. Or was this all just divine smoke and mirrors, with food particles being suspended by a tractor beam and then teleported a few miles outside of Jerusalem to create the majestic illusion of eating and swallowing food, a second act to the trick of creating the illusion of a tangible body? If this was all just a temporary “manifestation” of a body that wasn’t really there and would soon be abandoned in favor of being immaterial spirit only, WHY was he doing this? Why not just say, “Yes, I’m a spirit. Don’t bother touching me, just look and be glad that my spirit lived on.”
Was He showing us what our resurrection will be like with a temporary manifestation that doesn’t really apply to Him? Why not explain that? Why leave His followers with the unmistakable impression that the Son of God looks like us (as if we were created in His image) and has a tangible body of flesh and bones capable of eating food? Maybe that even enjoys eating food? I can understand why philosophers steeped in Neoplatonic thought would find this laughable or shocking, but should we?
Reality or smoke and mirrors? What was Christ doing in this powerful demonstration to his disciples, whom he now asked to be witnesses of what they had just experienced. Witnesses of what–reality or illusion?