HAVE YE HERE ANY MEAT?
They had scarcely eaten the last mouthfuls when Jesus appeared in the doorway, tall and pale. He looked at them one by one, and in His melodious voice greeted them: "Peace be unto you." (Luke 24:36)
No one answered. Their astonishment overcame their joy, even for those who had already seen Him since His death. On their faces the Man risen from the dead read the doubt which He knew they all felt, the question which they did not dare express in words, "Art Thou really thyself a living man, or a spirit which comes from the caverns of the dead to tempt us?" (Vs. 37)
"Why are ye troubled?" said the Man who had been betrayed, "and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 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." (Vs. 38-39)
And He stretched out His hands towards them, showed them the marks still bloody left by the nails, and opened His garment over His breast so that they could see the mark of the lance in His side. Some of them, rising from their couches, knelt down and saw on His bare feet the two deep wounds, each with its livid ring around it.
But they could not bring themselves to touch Him, for they feared to see Him disappear suddenly as He had come suddenly. If one of them had embraced Him, would he have felt the warm solidity of a body, or would his arms have passed through the emptiness of a mere shadow?
It was He with His face, with His voice, with the irrefutable traces of the crucifixion, and yet there was something changed in His aspect which they could not have described, even if they had been calm. The most reluctant were forced to believe that the Master stood before them with all the appearance of life begun anew, but their thoughts whirled in the last of their doubts and they were silent as if they were afraid to believe in their senses, as if they expected to wake up, from one moment to another. Even Simon was silent. What could he have said without betraying himself by tears to Him who had looked at him with those same eyes in the courtyard of Caiaphas while he swore that he had never known Him?
To make an end of their last doubts, Jesus asked, "Have ye here any meat?" (Vs. 41)
He needed no longer any food except that for which He had vainly asked all His life. But these men of the flesh needed a fleshly proof, a material demonstration as was befitting those who believed only in matter and nourished themselves only on matter. They had eaten together on their last evening; this evening also, now that they were again together, He would eat with them. "Have ye here any meat?"
A piece of broiled fish was left in a dish. Simon put it before the Master, who sat down at the table and ate the fish with a piece of bread while they all stared at Him as though it were the first time they had ever seen Him eat.
And when He had finished, He raised His eyes towards them, and, "Are you convinced now, or do you still not understand: does it seem possible to you that a spirit can eat as I have eaten here in your presence? So many times I have been forced to reprove your hardness of heart, and your little faith! And behold you are still as you were at first, and you were not willing to believe those who had seen me, and yet I had hid nothing of what was to happen in these days. But you, deaf and forgetful, hear and then forget, read and do not understand. When I was with you, did I not tell you that all things which were written and which I announced must be fulfilled; that it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem? Now you are witnesses of these things, and behold I send the promise of my Father upon you. Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth, and as the Father sent me, I send you. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. I will remain here a little and we shall meet again in Galilee, but I am with you always even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28:18-19; John 13:3)
Little by little as He spoke, His Disciples' faces lighted up with a forgotten hope, and their eyes shone with exaltation. This was the hour of consolation after the gloom of those dreadful days just passed. His indubitable presence showed that the impossible was assured, that God had not abandoned them and never would abandon them. Their enemies, apparently victorious, were conquered; the visible truth bore out all the prophecies. It was true that they had known already everything He was then saying, but those truths really lived in them only when His lips repeated them.
Their King had come back, the Kingdom was near at hand, and His brothers, instead of being derided and persecuted, would reign with Him through all eternity. These words had fired again the most tepid, had brightened the memory of other words, of other sunnier days, and suddenly they felt an exaltation, an ardor, a greater desire to embrace each other, to love each other, never more to be separated from each other. If the Master was risen from the dead, they themselves could not die; if He could leave the sepulcher, His promises were the promises of a God and He would fulfill them to the uttermost. Their faith was not in vain, and they were no longer alone: the crucifixion had been the darkening of one day in order that the light might shine out more splendidly for all the days to come.