The Rev. Jennifer Adams – April 15, 2018 – Easter 3, Year B: Luke 24:36b-48
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. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36b-48)
This is one of those passages that reminds me how very simple and almost tender our faith can be. And in this world, in tthese times that can feel less than simple and rarely tender, we need to be reminded of this.
This is the third resurrection appearance story that we’ve heard this season. Last week we heard the stories from the gospel of John in which the disciples, and then the disciples and Thomas met the resurrected Christ. And today we have an appearance story from the gospel of Luke, one in which all of the disciples were gathered together in one room when the risen Jesus came to them.
Now all three stories reveal the profound mystery that is the resurrection, and there is no denying the doctrinal and theological implications of what’s being proclaimed here. These are the stories that absolutely shattered previous paradigms and doctrines of faith and belief. But before what happened here was ever doctrine, before there was even what one would call “The Christian Faith” or “Belief,” before any of those pieces, there was this was very simple and tender encounter between Christ and his disciples.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus told them which was at that time a relatively common greeting among people of faith, essentially saying, “Hello, I greet you with love. I wish you the wholeness, the Shalom of God.” And so these stories are beautiful from their very beginnings.
Note also that even though a few verses prior to this passage in Luke, the disciples had heard from the two who had encountered Christ on the road to Emmaus… even given that testimony from their friends, the disciples were still “startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost,” when Christ appeared. So it’s good to mention here that it was never only Thomas who needed to “see” for himself, or to experience for himself. Every disciple in these gospels had their very own (even if shared in community,) every disciple had their own resurrection appearance.
And those appearances went like this: They were gathered in a room or walking together on the road, and Christ appeared to them and at first they were afraid. The were always afraid. And then in response to that fear, Jesus simply asked something like, “Why are you afraid?” And then he said something like, “Look at my hands and my feet,” and then tenderly, “Touch me and see…Touch my hands and my side, Thomas and all of you.” “I have flesh and I have bones,” Jesus said in today’s passage. And so maybe the disciples embraced him or maybe since they were still frightened they simply, gently reached out and touched his arm to prove to themselves that it was so. To prove to themselves that He was so. Don’t be afraid. See. Listen. Touch.
And then in this gospel Jesus said a wonderful thing that makes me smile every time: “Do you have anything to eat?” he asked them. Here is this amazing, life-changing, theology-forever-transforming-eventually-doctrine-making-moment, and Jesus very simply asks for something to eat. And maybe that was to show them he was in fact, not a ghost, but maybe it was to say something even more than that. Before faith is anything else, it is peace offered. It is human and divine encounter in rooms and on the roads we travel. It’s a meal.
And so the disciples fed him, which is sort of wonderful too. Given that the Last Supper was days ago now, the first thing that Jesus asked them to do was to feed him. Tables turned. But still a table. And so they did. And then Jesus opened their minds to the Scriptures (nice touch) and sent them forth with a message of repentance, forgiveness and a promise that the Holy Spirit would come.
And so I want us to claim this moment as people of faith. I want us to claim this very moment in the gospels because it contains the makings and re-makings of faith. In this moment before there was belief, catch that, before there was belief the gospel says there was very simply, “joy” in the encounter. “In their joy, they were still disbelieving and wondering,” the gospel says. And Jesus was apparently OK with that. With and for those still disbelieving and wondering disciples, He moved on with the meal.
And so I think that this is a gospel moment that we need to visit, and revisit, and claim. This is the moment that is pre-belief, pre-doctrine, pre-capital ‘F’- Faith. It is simple and it is tender and it is holy encounter with the risen Christ. There are so many examples, too many examples of the Christian faith being used like a wall, or a weight, an argument, or sometimes even a hammer, in an attempt to force, or prove, or separate, or elevate in the name of Christ.
But these resurrection stories contain a different kind of model for how belief comes to be and how the risen Christ is present in our midst. And there are no hammers. There is peace and touch and food. And the Scriptures are opened. They aren’t thrown or inflicted. The minds of the disciples and Scriptures are opened and understanding comes.
And so in many ways these resurrection appearances are essentially the conversion stories of the disciples. These are the ways in which the very first evangelism, “proclamation of good news,” was given by Christ.
And so we are invited into the joy of this moment and we can let it be just that. We might need to let it be just that. This is the moment in which Christ and we as his Body speak and live a message that this world so desperately craves. Because everyone needs a resurrection appearance. We need to see and listen and touch and eat. Before there is belief, or doctrine, or faith, everyone needs, (deserved or not- that didn’t seem to matter in these stories,) everyone needed and got a resurrection appearance.
This moment is about invitation and it’s about conversion, conversion into a way of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. And in all of that there is new life and there is joy. There is disbelief and there is wonder all wound up into an amazing experience of resurrection. And these stories tell us how to receive and offer such grace: Greet with a message of peace: “I come in love. I wish for you the Shalom, the peace of God.” Then ask about fears and in doing so, you will help relieve them. Offer tender encounters that in their very offering shatter expectations of what is possible in this world and open the Scriptures anew. Ask for food. Share it. And trust that in such moments there will be joy.