Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016
He said to them, ‘have you anything here to eat.’ They took a piece of broiled fish and gave it to him and he ate it in their presence.
It makes me wonder. Do three days in the grave make one hungry? Upon being raised, I think I might like to visit the people who killed me. I’d look in their eyes and say, “I am baaaaack!” Jesus didn’t do that. He went to his closest friends, and said, “Do you have anything to eat?” Yeah, it is a good thing he’s the Savior and not me.
I imagine myself as a disciple, not one of the 12, but maybe one of the 70 Luke mentions in chapter 10. Jesus has died. We’re in a haze of grief and confusion. What do we do now? And then, he’s just here. The door didn’t even open. It’s locked. Slipping to the back of the group, I nudge Nathaniel. “Is this really happening,” I ask.
Think back through the story. Early on the morning after the Passover, Sunday morning, some of the women disciples made their way to the tomb to anoint a dead body. It was Jesus, but Jesus was no more – no more than a corpse. But that’s not what they found.
In the tomb, there was no body. They rushed back to the 11 apostles, remember Judas is gone, and the women told the 11 that angels told them that Jesus is alive. The 11 and the larger group of disciples with them were stuck in grief and uncertainty (24:9). The crucifixion happened and the entire Jesus movement was bogged down in sorrow.
Into that disorienting silent stillness, the women sound a trumpet blast. He is alive. What? The disciples all said the women were crazy. They shook their heads. They didn’t believe, did they? No, but … Peter went to the tomb. Luke says, Peter ran to the tomb. It was empty, and Peter began to suspect someone stole the body. No, Luke doesn’t say that. Luke says Peter was amazed. He felt his way in the mist at the edges of belief, wanting it to be true, but unsure he could hope for such a thing.
Can we really hope that resurrection could be true and that Jesus’ resurrection means we who trust will also rise after death? Can such things be so?
Luke jumps to another scene. Think back through the story. That same day, two disciples, knowing Jesus is dead, begin the 7-mile walk back to their village, Emmaus. Seven miles is long way, and perhaps it would have been sufficiently long enough to walk in silence with their thoughts, but a stranger sidled up beside them. We could forgive them if they said to this stranger, “Hey, you know, today is not the day we want to make new friends.” But, there was something familiar and inviting. This stranger had an aura.
These disciples walked with Him to Emmaus. They told him all about Jesus and the crucifixion. They told about the outbreak of insanity as some of Jesus’ followers, some of the women, claimed an angel said he was alive. They said, we know it sounds crazy, but we found the tomb empty. These two disciples said all of this to the stranger who walked with them from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
“O how foolish you are,” he said to them. I imagine being one of those two and saying sadly, “Yeah, we know how this sounds.” But that’s not what he meant. He jumped into their story about Jesus, about resurrection, and he told them they were silly to be sad. He talked about Israel’s Messiah – the one sent by God. Reaching back through the pages of their own scriptures, passages like Isaiah 53, he demonstrated to these two Jesus-followers that the Messiah had to suffer and die before entering glory. When he said “how foolish you are,” he did not mean they were foolish to believe such a story. He meant they were foolish to not believe it all the way to the best part – the victorious ending.
Do we see what Luke is showing us? Some of the women disciples say that an angel told them Jesus is alive, and they didn’t believe it. They thought it was silly. But they also ran to check it out. Two disciples start telling a stranger all about Jesus, but halfway through their story, the stranger takes over and he tells them where the story goes. Then, when they bring him to be a guest in their home, he takes over. It’s their house, but somehow, he’s the host. He takes the bread and breaks the bread and gives it to them and their eyes are opened. And he vanishes.
That’s where we live. We have those resurrection moments, eternal moments when the curtain is pulled back and we see reality as it really is. We see beyond the limits of our five sense, we glimpse past the edges of our universe into God’s greater, more real existence and presence. But for now, all we get is glimpses and then poof! We are back here, living in faith, holding to the hope, to the story, to the love of God that is scene in how we love each other. Do we dare believe that it might be true? Can the resurrection of Jesus actually create us as a people who live in a hope so great it transcends the darkness of our present age?
Those two disciples who walked seven miles to Emmaus with a stranger who turned out to be Jesus who they recognized when he broke bread – those two looked at each other. They turned and headed right back, 7 miles, to where the rest of the disciples gathered. They said their hearts were burning as he talked to them and all they wanted was for the disciples to feel that, to have sadness burned out and replaced by the fire of the living God warming their hearts.
Blisters? 7 more miles? This could not wait. They went all the way back, burst in on their companions who were still sitting around shaking their heads. “The Lord has risen indeed!” They shouted, and then told about him breaking bread.
These events set up the scene. A group of Jesus followers, bewildered, talked and cried. Some laughed. Others were offended by the laughers’ laughter because they had not yet seen the risen Lord and so could not share in the joy. Those who had seen or at least had met angels kept trying to convince them – it’s true! But those who had not seen were flush with grief and loss and they could not believe. Listen for the noise of all in that room, maybe a rising irritation.
And then notice. In one corner, they all stop talking and they stare. The silence spreads slowly, like dark ink on a white table cloth, as it spills across the room it becomes more and more obvious until in the opposite corner, there is Thomas, the apostle Thomas. His back to the group. “I don’t care what those women say they saw,” he shouts at the apostle Matthew. Then he realizes his voice is the only one speaking in the room. Why is it all of a sudden so quiet? He sees a look of shock and pleasure and awe in Matthew’s eyes and he realizes it is not because Matthew is amazed by his salient argument. He turns around and there is Jesus, smiling, upright, alive. Alive!
It’s still too much for them and I suppose it would be for me if I was there. It’s hard to let God take our pain and shame. We’re used to our failures. We form our identities around our shortcomings. We rely on our own self-sufficiency. Everything we think we know has to be released when we say that Jesus Lord.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus tells the group. They are as terrified as you or I would be. In a voice that calms storms he says, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts rise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet. See that it is I, myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones.”
Resurrection is not resuscitation. It is different, new. It is something the world has not seen before. Resurrection is not disembodied. Can you pinch your own arm? In resurrection, you will be able to pinch your own arm. This is a new dimension of reality which cannot be explained by any science we have, nor can it be understood by our minds, not now, not yet. Even after Jesus invited them to touch him, many in the room with him were in Joy and disbelieving at the same time. Luke makes a point of this. Even in the presence of the resurrected on, doubt persisted. Do we dare believe Jesus rose? Do we dare hope that we will?
As they gawked, Jesus asked, “Do you have anything to eat?” Again, we remember, just as they remembered. It was Thursday. Jesus took the Passover bread and broke as he said, “I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom.” Then he said, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes” (22:16, 18). Jesus clearly stated in that moment that we memorialize every time we eat the bread and drink the cup in worship that he would not eat or drink the kingdom had come. On his resurrection, he ate and drank before the disciples.
No, I don’t think three days in the graves made him hungry.
In the resurrection of Jesus, the Kingdom of God has come. Physicist Deborah Haarsma writes, “The resurrection of Jesus foreshadows a glorious reality free of death, tears, and suffering, which has not yet come.” I love Dr. Haarma’s statement and I would just reword it this way. “The resurrection of Jesus embodies our glorious future which will be free of death, tears, and suffering, and is coming even now.”
Do we believe it? Do we dare hope in it?
I hear the phrase “lean in,” sometimes. In Jesus’ resurrection, The Kingdom of God has come. As we long for His return the Kingdom’s fulfillment, we do so in full confidence with unfailing hope. Thus, all Christians can lean-in to the Kingdom and can do so with the full joy that erupts from us when on Easter Sunday we declare “He is alive.”
Yes, he ate fish among them and we will too – we sit together at His table in the Kingdom.
Yes, he invited them to touch and embrace and we will too – in the new heaven and new earth we will gather, touch, and embrace in a community of unending, holy love.
Yes, he replaced tears with laughter, grief with joy and he does this for us too – right now. We are the body of Christ, animated by the Holy Spirit, bonded by grace and love, arms open to a hurting world, ready to proclaim life to all who are drying.
Yes, he is alive and in Him, we are too and will be forevermore.
Jesus is alive. Hallelujah. Amen!