May 4, 2003

Luke 24:36-48

While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you." They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, "Don't be upset, and don't let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet-it's really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn't have muscle and bone like this." As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn't believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

He asked, "Do you have any food here?" They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.

Then he said, "Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled."

He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, "You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations-starting from here, from Jerusalem! You're the first to hear and see it. You're the witnesses.

[The Message]


1. On the road to Emmaus, just before this, Jesus was un-recognized. Here Jesus is mis-recognized. "Look," says Jesus. They still couldn't believe their eyes. When we can't believe our eyes, what can we believe? I don't know that Jesus is any easier to identify now. In a time of war, civilians are difficult to deal with. Are they going on about their business are they about to attack and only using their innocent appearance to get close enough to do harm? We don't look for the specific person involved. Everyone becomes a category. And so we mistake identity, even such a desirable one as our Savior.

2. The disciples were talking about Jesus in Emmaus and how he was revealed to them in the breaking of bread. To bring them back to their senses, since his presence with them was simply too much, Jesus again brings things back to the basics - got any food?. Even leftover fish will do. It doesn't have to be sanctified bread. Instead of being the cause of a Scroogian nightmare, a bit of fish wakes us up to live new lives. (Don't you wonder why there isn't an Easter Carol?)

When folks are under stress, say, a family gathered in an Intensive Care Unit, it is often the case that they need to be reminded to eat. Food grounds us.

For us this is a communion Sunday. We will be able to get the presence of Jesus in food because of our context. A question comes - will recognize Jesus' body in every meal or Jesus' presence in every non-meal? Is not the presence of Jesus still ghostly?

3. It seems that forgiveness is still pretty ghostly business. It is most difficult to bear witness to the power contained within this act. It doesn't matter one whit who killed Jesus. They are forgiven. It doesn't matter who has done what to you. They are forgiven. It doesn't matter what you have done to anyone. You are forgiven. It doesn't matter if it is individual or structural sin that is being dealt with, Forgiveness is present everywhere. It is not under any religious control. It challenges us to quit fooling ourselves and build a new community.

This is not just something beginning in Jerusalem. This is the start of a new beginning, a new heaven on a new earth. As its witnesses we are commissioned to prophecy. We point to the unforgiven situation and image how it would be if forgiveness were lived. We know what once scared us to death and kept getting un-recognized and mis-recognized, forgiveness, when recognized, changes everything.