Thursday, April 16, 2009

“It is written that the Messiah must suffer, and three days later he will rise from the dead. You are witnesses of these things.

The disciples from Emmaus told the others gathered in the Upper Room what had happened on the road, and how they know it was the Lord when he broke the bread and gave it to them.

While they were talking about what had happened Jesus stood among them and greeted them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, thinking that they were seeing a ghost.

Jesus asked them, “Why are you afraid? Why do questions arise in your hearts? Come, look at my hands and feet, and see for yourselves. Touch me and find out that I am real. A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you can see that I have.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. The disciples were joyful, but so amazed that they couldn’t believe their own eyes. Then Jesus asked them, “Do you have something to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish, which he took and ate as they watched.

Jesus said to them, “While I was with you, I told you that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Books of the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” Then he helped them to understand the Scriptures.

He told them: “It is written that the Messiah must suffer, and three days later he will rise from the dead. They also say that repentance and forgiveness of sins must be told in my name to the people of every nation, starting in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of all these things.”

(Luke 24:35-48)

“He stood among them”, Luke writes. John says, in his account of the first appearance of the risen Christ to his disciples (John 20:19) that they were huddled together, with the doors barred, because they were afraid of the Jews. The he uses the same expression as Luke: “He stood among them.” Jesus didn’t knock at the door, or call out to them. He knew that they would ignore the knock or the call, and not open the door, lest it be the Roman soldiers come to arrest them and do to them what they had done to Jesus. He simply appeared, standing in their midst.

Eleven of the twelve had deserted him, only John stood at the foot of the cross with his mother and Magdalene. But he stood among them, and greeted them with peace. Everything in Luke’s account is written from the objective and scientific perspective of the physician. He appears suddenly in the locked room, and they think they are seeing a ghost. He eats some fish, to prove that he is very much alive in the flesh. In Luke’s account, there is no mention of the wounds in his hands and his side, much less are they invited to put their fingers in the wounds. Jesus intention is to demonstrate that he not a figment of their imagination, nor an other-worldly apparition, but a real person, made up of flesh and bones. The expression “flesh and bones” echoes the language of Hebrew Scripture, as Adam describes the newly created Eve as “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh (Genesis 2:23).

Flesh and bones are the material of resurrection, for Jesus, the first fruits, and for you and me, who will be part of a later harvest, and none of us knows when the reaper will come for us. Once again, the theme of this Lenten season is echoed after Easter: Live this day as if it were the first, the last, the only day of your life. One of these days, it will be!

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