While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood 5478696_samong them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43 NIV)

Dying and rising again must be hard work. And then there was the time spent in the grave. Jesus was hungry and he asked for supper (“anything here to eat…” refers to food left over from dinner). Disciples who enjoy their food will be glad to know that they can continue to enjoy food in the life to come. This passage from Luke is one of my favourite post-resurrection appearance accounts. I particularly like the part where Jesus asks for food, and then eats in front of his disciples. There are few things more human than eating. And that was the point that Jesus was trying to establish. He was no ghost. He had conquered death. He was back in the flesh. Indeed He asked them to touch Him to see that He was solid. This is how N. T. Wright summarizes Jesus’s bodily resurrection:

…Jesus really did reappear, not as a battered, bleeding survivor, not as a ghost (the stories are very clear about that), but as a living, bodily human being.

But the body was somehow different. The gospel stories are, at this point, unlike anything before or since. As one leading scholar has put it, it seems that the gospel writers were trying to explain something for which they didn’t have a precise vocabulary. (N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, New York, NY: HarperOne, 2006, 113.)

A recent issue of TIME Asia (April 16, 2012) ran an article on heaven. In the article, the writer Jon Meacham noted a shift in Christian thinking on heaven. In the past, going to heaven meant escaping from this corrupted material world, going to some spiritual world where we become angelic beings, cupid-like figures with wings, flying around, playing harps. Quoting the work of N. T. Wright, Meacham introduces the new thinking of heaven in this way:

What if Christianity is not about enduring this sinful fallen world in search of a reward of eternal rest? What if the authors of the New Testament were actually talking about a bodily resurrection in which God brings together the heavens and the earth in a wholly new, wholly redeemed creation? (Jon Meacham, “Rethinking Heaven,” TIME Asia, April 16, 2012, 38.)

It would seem that that is exactly what passages like Luke 24:36-43 are teaching. Jesus’s bodily resurrection is the promise and a forerunner of a renewed creation.

For too long, Platonic ideas have influenced Christian thinking, leading to beliefs like: the body is bad and spirit is good, and the need is for our spirit to escape from our bodies. The material world was God’s idea to begin with. Indeed He said that it was good (e.g. Genesis 1:10). When humankind fell into sin, all creation was affected, but Christ’s death on the Cross and His resurrection made possible a new creation. Heaven is not just a tweaking of the present fallen world. Nor is it an escape from the material world all together. Again, Wright is helpful:

Redemption is not simply making creation a bit better, as the optimistic evolutionists would try to suggest. Nor is it rescuing spirits and souls from an evil material world, as the Gnostic would want to say. It is the remaking of creation, having dealt with the evil that is defacing and distorting it. (N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope, New York, NY: HarperOne, 2008, 97)

In his article, Meacham quotes Stephen Hawking who dismisses the idea of heaven. Hawking said: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” (Jon Meacham, “Rethinking Heaven,” TIME Asia, April 16, 2012, 42).

It is easy to buy into Hawking’s view. People who die do not come back. And surely they don’t come back more robust, more alive, than before. So what convinced the early disciples that Jesus had done just that? Convinced them enough to start a revolution that continues until today? Convinced them enough to worship Him, to die for Him, to live for Him? Unless, incredible though it may be, Jesus did come back from the dead, and come back in the flesh. And had supper with them.

Oh, did I mention that there will be eating in the new heaven and the new earth?