Luke 24: 36-48
Year B, Easter 3
Alleluia. Christ has risen
The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia.
So what? That is what I want to ask sometimes. Our liturgy offers such succinct and elegant ways of articulating what we believe. This liturgy has been honed over 100s or even 1000 years. The benefit is that it’s a constant. We can always fall back on the words of our liturgy and the words of the Book of Common Prayer. When we do not have the energy or perhaps even the faith to create our own prayers, or talk to God, we can always turn to what we have in front of us. But the problem is that we do not always think about what we say. We say it because it is written and we have always said it that way. Sometimes I wish we could adlib a little and after you say, “The Lord is risen indeed!” I could say, “So what?” Why does it matter that he is risen indeed?
Let’s consider the way the disciples reacted to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We know that after his death they ran and hid. They thought it was over. They were probably just trying to figure out where to go next. They could not stay in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the scene of failure and death. It was the end of a movement that they had dedicated their life to. And while Jesus had told them he would be back, they did not know what he meant by that. Thus their initial reaction to the empty tomb and accounts from those who claimed to have seen Jesus alive was doubt and incredulity. Those are fairly logical reactions to news that a dead person is back.
In today’s reading, the disciples aren’t just dealing with an empty tomb or stories of the risen Christ, they are actually seeing Jesus alive in front of them. He came to where they were. He opened with a greeting that should have eased their anxiety. “Peace be with you.” That is the kind of opening you would expect from Jesus. They did not break into tears. They did not run to him and fall at his feet. They did not say, “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!” They were startled and terrified. They could not process what they were seeing. He was supposed to be dead.
Jesus’ first reaction to their stunned silence was to ask why they were frightened. He knew why they were frightened, but he still had to ask. The next thing he did was a little strange. He showed them his hands and feet. Now most of us do not identify people by their hands and feet. If we are trying to recognize someone, we look at their face. Or we can identify someone by their voice…but the hands and the feet. That’s just odd.
Of course we have all seen portrayals of the crucified Jesus. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross. We know that. Most likely his disciples would have known that as well. But why would Jesus want to draw their attention to his wounds? He could have turned water into wine. He could have transfigured before them as he had before. He could have made them believe. There were so many things he could have done that would have been a lot more divine and godly. But no…he showed them his wounded hands and feet.
The crazy thing is that was fairly effective…mostly effective. They reacted with joy and disbelief. They were joyful because they really recognized him. They knew this was not some mirage. This was the man they had lived with…the man who was tortured and killed, the man they loved. Yet despite this recognition, they could not quite believe because it was too much…too much to take in at once.
Jesus understood this and so he did another odd and undivine thing—he asked them for some food. “Have you anything here to eat?” This line amuses me every time I read it because I picture Jesus looking around at these bewildered men trying to make them understand the unfathomable. I imagine ideas running through his head…what can he do to make them believe and his solution is to ask for some food. Is that the best he can do??
There are theories about why Jesus chose this moment to eat some fish. Most assume it was so he could show them that he was flesh and blood—not a ghost. Yet I wonder if it was something less cerebral. Perhaps he really was hungry or maybe he was just doing that thing you do when you get together with friends, you share a meal together. He let them take care of him—take care of one of humanity’s most basic needs (food) which is amazing given that the disciples had done such a horrible job of caring for him when he needed them the most.
Ironically, it was Jesus’s humanity and vulnerability that helped his disciples believe and see him, finally see him for who he was, not just any god, but the God. The God who suffered like all humans suffered, suffered even more than most suffer, the God who still carried the wounds of that suffering, the God who forgave them despite the fact that they had abandoned him, the God who loved them to the end, the God who died and came back from the dead just to see them again.
I can be fairly certain of how you would react when I say, “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” We will be saying that every Sunday during the Easter season. I hope that during this season, you will consider how you would react if Jesus actually came to your home and said, “Peace be with you.” Would you know it was him? Would you want to see his hands and feet or would you want to see him perform a miracle? Would you want to fix him dinner, or would you want some evidence that this really was the risen Christ?
I believe that the way Jesus interacted with his disciples is exactly how he wishes to interact with all of us today. He wants to be real. He doesn’t just want to show us his scars. He wants to see ours. He wants to know our joy and our pain. He wants to be part of our everyday activities, like eating and spending time with friends and family. I love our liturgy–the beauty and majesty. Our liturgy is a wonderful way to worship God and God wants to be worshipped. God wants this time with us when we are entirely devoted to him. But God also wants to see us when we aren’t wearing our robes and Sunday best. God wants every part of us.
Why does it matter that Jesus was resurrected? He was resurrected to prove that death is not the end–that while he was the first one to be resurrected, he will not be the last. Living the reality of the resurrection does not mean that we forget the crucifixion. Our faith is one that embodies the whole human experience. It is anxiety and peace. It is pain and joy. It is death and resurrection. It is real. It matters that Jesus was resurrected because it gives us hope that we will see the risen Christ and when we see him he will open our eyes to all the mysteries of life and faith. Then there will be peace, real peace and it will be real.