(for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2015)
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.
Then he 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 of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:36-48, NRSV).
Since Good Friday we have taken our readings of the death and resurrection of Jesus from the Gospel of John. This week we are in the Gospel of Luke. It reminds us that there are a number of accounts.
Some details are different. On the essentials, however, these stories remain consistent: fear and doubt are the disciple’s experience; together they see and converse with Jesus; they become ‘witnesses’.
Perhaps this should not surprise. They are, after all, eyewitness accounts not calculated, over-planned stories.
Once again, we are presented with the resurrected Jesus simply turning up among the disciples. They take time to adjust to the reality before them. They are afraid (in fact ‘startled and terrified’); they doubt even as they see.
So Jesus begins: ‘Peace be with you’.
It is more than a quasi-spiritual greeting. Jesus backs it by naming and questioning their fear and doubt. He makes his wounded hands and feet visible. The disciples are invited to ‘touch’ and ‘see’. He is ‘flesh and bones’. He eats their fish.
I love Luke’s description of the disciple’s reaction: ‘…in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering…’ It is so true to the way faith slowly dispels doubt. Joy testifies to the world-changing reality before them while at the same time they brim with questions.
Even now they remain in need of someone to open their minds. They have heard it before. Understanding proves illusive.
The ‘scriptures’ are the source of Jesus clarification. In this blinding moment ‘the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms’ are fulfilled. The death and resurrection of Jesus are universe altering. From here God’s grace will invite the world to ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins’.
These doubt and fear ridden disciples will be proclaimers and witnesses. A vital link between God’s action and the world’s response.
Another impossibly brave move on the part of God.