While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.
He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish. Taking it, he ate it in front of them.
Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.” (Luke 24:36-53 NRSV)
Like the disciples I must admit that I’m often guilty of not recognizing Jesus in what seems like the most obvious places. On the other hand I’m a firm believer from that Jesus is always present with us and especially at times of pain and suffering ,in times of great love and great loss. Thankfully, the Spirit opens our hearts and minds and helps us see and understand as Jesus did for the disciples at the first post resurrection appearance. Jesus eats fish and offers his body as proof to the disciples that the crucified Christ is indeed the resurrected one. He tells them to look at his hands and feet. He even asks that they touch him and see! Luke also tells us in the preceding verses on the road that it was after Jesus explained the scriptures to them and broke bread with them that “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him”. It takes trust to open up and be receptive to Easter moments of the presence of Christ in our lives. Having reassured the disciples of the reality of his resurrection presence, Jesus leads the disciples to Bethany and after blessing them is taken up to Heaven. The disciples return to Jerusalem and dedicate themselves to a life of prayer.
Over the past several weeks I have spent quite a bit of time at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, N.C. My mom who lives at Glenaire Retirement Community in Cary is now home from the hospital and doing well. Like River Landing here in Greensboro, Glenaire is part of the Presbyterian Homes Inc. These two retirement communities along with Scotia Village in Laurinburg are amazing ministries of the Presbyterian Church for which I am eternally grateful! I could easily make this blog just about the mission and vision of Presbyterian Homes but will save that for another time!
After several days of coming and going at Rex primarily through the Heart Tower entrance, I was shifted to another parking deck and begin to come and go through the Main Entrance of the hospital. Right inside the door of the entrance stands a beautiful life-size statue of Jesus with his outstretched arms and nail pierced hands and feet. It’s as if he might be saying Look at my hands and feet. Touch and see that it’s me. Knowing that Rex is not a religiously affiliated institution, I asked the receptionist at the front desk about the statue and how it came to be placed there. She was quick to say that Rex was not affiliated with any particular faith but a general hospital that served all people, however, it was her understanding that the statue was purchased by the founding Rex family. John Rex was a wealthy Raleigh businessman who set aside money in his will in 1838 to establish a hospital “to care for the sick and poor of Raleigh”. The hospital is the oldest in the city and originated on the campus of Dorothea Dix and then later moved to St. Mary’s St. I was born in this hospital in 1960 when my father was a student at N.C. State University. Later the hospital moved to its current location on Blue Ridge Road. The story as she was told is that the statue of Jesus has moved to each hospital location. It seemed like what they thought the family would want was a way of visibly remembering the Christlike outpouring of love, mercy and compassion to all.
When she realized my interest, the volunteer receptionist went on to tell me that she is often at the desk early in the mornings at shift change to greet employees. She added that she has observed many an employee who stops to touch the hands of the stone statue of Jesus. During the COVID pandemic she was aware of how many doctors and nurses entered the hospital at this entrance just to see and feel the presence of Christ as they began or ended their day. I felt blessed to hear this Easter story and became aware at it’s hearing of not only my own longing to reach out and touch the hands and feet of Christ but also how I saw the living Christ in so many of those who cared for my mom and me throughout her stay. I also felt keenly aware that Jesus had blessed us through the love, support and prayers of many beyond the hospital walls and that as we returned home we were called to bear witness to this experience of touching the hands and feet of Christ