Not a Ghost Story

By Mark D. Roberts

May 2, 2022

Following Jesus Today

Scripture – Luke 24:36-43 (NRSV)

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.


When Jesus first appeared to his disciples as he rose from the dead, they were terrified, fearing that he was a ghost. Jesus, in order to show them that he was not a ghost, invited them to touch his body. Then, he ate a piece of broiled fish, demonstrating conclusively that he wasn’t a ghost. It was kind of Jesus to give his doubting, wondering, fearful disciples such a clear sign that he was truly human.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.


Near as I can remember, I heard my first ghost story when I was at summer camp. My counselor, Kent, related a frightening tale to me and my fellow campers. I was nine years old at the time. Even though I knew the story wasn’t true, I still felt plenty scared. I had a hard time falling asleep that night.

In time, however, I became bolder in my confidence that ghost stories weren’t true. When I was 14, my camp counselor, Stan, told our cabin a story about a creepy hermit who lived in the woods near the camp and who would sneak into cabins and steal campers. I openly scoffed at Stan’s story, trying to prove to my fellow campers how ridiculous Stan was and how wise I was. Stan was miffed and kept trying to get us to believe that his story was true. I did not have trouble falling asleep that night.

However, in the middle of the night—as all the campers in my cabin, including me, were fast asleep—a strange figure busted into our cabin. He growled and yelled and came over to my bunk. He picked me up and dropped me on the floor, still growling and yelling. But I didn’t respond. In time, the intruder left.

I can tell you what happened that night at camp because my cabin mates related the story to me. I, however, slept through it all. Yes, through the growling, the yelling, and the dropping on the floor. I was so exhausted from camp activities that nothing could have awakened me. In the morning, poor Stan was disappointed that his effort to scare the wits out of me utterly failed. Ghost stories just didn’t work on me, even if the “ghosts” tried to wake me up by throwing me on the floor.

I’m glad to report that the resurrection of Jesus is not a ghost story. Also, Jesus does not get our attention by yelling at us and throwing us on the floor. In Luke 24, the resurrected Jesus did get the attention of his disciples in a couple of curious ways. First, he appeared among them unannounced, terrifying them because they “thought that they were seeing a ghost” (Luke 24:37). To reassure his disciples, Jesus invited them to touch his body so as to know that he was not, in fact, a ghost.

But the disciples, understandably, in my opinion, were “disbelieving and still wondering,” even though they were filled with joy (Luke 24:41). So Jesus did the second curious thing. He asked his disciples if they had anything to eat. They gave him a piece of broiled fish, which Jesus ate in their presence (24:41-43). Presumably, Jesus wasn’t just hungry. Rather, he ate in front of his disciples so that they would know he wasn’t a ghost. Not only did Jesus do what, I suppose, real ghosts cannot do, but also he left behind evidence of his humanness. After Jesus had left his disciples, if they began doubting that he was real, they could always say to each other, “But the fish! He ate the fish. And it’s really gone. Look!” It was kind of Jesus to give them an enduring sign of his resurrected reality.

Does Jesus do this sort of thing today? Yes, I believe he still does, though not by eating fish. In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion, I’ll share a story of one time when Jesus was particularly kind by giving a sign to someone in need. I’ll close today’s devotion by noting that, for me, perhaps the most convincing sign of Jesus’s resurrection is the actions of Christians who are faithfully following Jesus. Now, I’m well aware of times when Christians act in ways that are utterly inconsistent with being a disciple of Jesus. But I have also seen people act in amazingly generous, sacrificial, self-denying, and loving ways because of Jesus. I’ve seen churches that actually care more about their neighbors than their own survival. For me, watching human beings and human institutions give themselves away for the sake of others serves as a tangible sign of the reality of Jesus and his resurrection.


Do you have any memories – positive or negative or in between – of hearing ghost stories when you were young?

If you put yourself in the place of the disciples, how would you act in the presence of the risen Jesus? What would you think? What would you feel? What would you say? What would you do?

What helps you to believe that Jesus really is whom the Bible proclaims him to be?


Reflect on times in your life when God seemed especially real to you. What was going on at that time? How did you react?


Lord Jesus, thank you for revealing yourself to your disciples. Thank you for inviting them to touch you, and then eating something in their presence. Thank you for your kindness to them.

And thank you for your kindness to me. In so many different ways you have made yourself known to me. You have reached out to me in times of doubt and distress. You have been faithful even when I’ve been uncertain and unsteady. Thank you.

Lord, please show me more of who you are. Help me to know you more truly and more deeply. May my heart be open to you in new ways. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: Breakfast With Jesus

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Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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