The resurrected Jesus had a busy day. It was Easter Sunday and Jesus had already made three appearances. According to John, Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene in the early dawn. Later that day, according to Luke, he had appeared to the two walking to the village of Emmaus. In fact it is while the two men who had seen Jesus on their way to Emmaus were reporting their experience to the disciples and their companions in Jerusalem, that Jesus appears to them a third time. It is as if Jesus was trying to cover all the bases ~ appearing to the women who were in many ways on the periphery of the early faith community; to the disciples on the way to Emmaus, only one whose name we know ~ minor characters in the drama of faith; and to the 11 and their companions ~ the inner circle of Jesus' followers. Jesus would continue to appear to his followers over the next 40 days, and as told by the book of Acts, give them convincing proofs of his resurrection and speak to them of the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
It is all so in character with Jesus' ministry and message ~ Jesus' appearances tell us that the Good News of his Resurrection is for everyone. God's salvation has come for all people. But it's a hard message to believe for anyone and so patient Jesus takes time to help dispel the disciples unbelief. "Don't be afraid and don't doubt," Jesus tells those disciples gathered together around the dinner table in a home in Jerusalem. "Look at me," he says to them, inviting them to look at his wounded hands and feet. I can see him extending his arms to them and saying, "Touch me. Go ahead. You'll see that I'm no ghost, I'm real. I am the same person that walked with you and taught you; that cried and laughed with you; that scolded you but also affirmed you. It is me." The disciples were filled with joy, so much so that their joy clouded their belief. Could it be? Could their Master really be alive and with them?
A parishioner in a church I once served had not seen his family in over 20 years. There had been conflict. He had been hurt and decided to leave home and never return. More than 20 years later he had a change of heart knowing that he needed reconciliation with his family. He gathered up all his emotional strength and returned home. His mother and sisters who had not had any word from him during the long period of separation and had on occasion even wondered whether he was dead, responded like the early followers of Jesus who first saw his resurrected.
When the man arrived at his home the family was startled and fearful. They had not expected to ever see him again and they remembered the conflict that had separated them. Was it really him? Was he back for revenge? They wondered. But finally, their pain became joy, the joy of disbelief this son and brother lived and had returned to them. Throughout their visit the mother and sisters would say to him, "We can't believe its you," and would touch him and hug him for a sense of verification that it was him.
It was that way, and much more so with the disciples and Jesus. They had seen Jesus crucified. Many of them had abandoned him in that hour. Some had stayed and heard his last breath. They had removed him from the cross and felt the cold numbness of his stiff dead body. They had laid him in the tomb and closed it shut. They were all at that very moment in the pit of grief over his death. And yet, here he was before them, warm flesh and bone with a hungry belly asking them for fish! It was of course all for their benefit.
"Peace be with you," had been Jesus' first words to those whom he met in Jerusalem on that night. It had always been for their benefit. Jesus' life and ministry, his crucifixion and death, and now his resurrection. It was for them, and it is for us; that peace might come to us as we are reconciled with God and with each other. It was imperative that those early disciples know and understand the meaning of what had transpired through Jesus in those days. Just as it is imperative that we know and understand in this day and age.
And so Jesus in Resurrection life as he had done time and again in earthly life, taught them reminding them of the lessons of sacred Scripture ~ Moses' law, the words of the prophets, the guiding, comforting, and exhorting psalms. Along the way Jesus opened their minds so that they could understand.
I remember a conversation with my grandmother Sofia about understanding Scripture and Jesus. She was crocheting and I was sitting at her feet reading a portion of scripture aloud. It was her nightly devotional time that she shared with me whenever I would spend the night in her home. I was a child, but already wondering how on earth I would ever understand the meaning of the Holy Word we were reading. How would I know absolutely that Jesus was real. My wise grandmother, unshaken by my questioning, simply said, "Pray. Pray asking Jesus to open your mind to what he has to teach you and fill your heart with him." Even today her lesson always guides my first step as I approach the study of God's Holy Word, and God is always faithful giving me a measure of understanding and filling me with the presence of Jesus every time. It was an excellent lesson and one that I have come to know was Jesus' own lesson to his disciples.
Through his loving care and grace-filled presence in their lives. Jesus taught the disciples. He taught them that things had occurred as had been planned ~ his suffering and his rising from the dead. But it had not been for suffering's sake or for a dramatic display of power. There was a purpose to Jesus' death; an eternal message in his resurrection. Jesus had lived, been crucified, died and been buried to rise on the third day so that all of God's people, every single nation upon the face of the earth, would repent of their sins in the knowledge that in Jesus' name they would find forgiveness, and peace would come upon them.
I do marvel at Jesus' patience. For three years Jesus had taught the disciples this lesson through parables and miracles, through long hours of teaching and days of teaching and days of journeying with them showing them the way. And now even after proving that he has conquered death, he must still explain the message of faith again. Jesus patience is a patience born of love. It is like the patience of a good mother, a good father, a good and faithful older brother. It is the patience of God who never loses the hope of having her children return home to her. It is indeed a family matter and the entire family must be told the Good News.
Jesus told the disciples, "You are my witnesses of these things". What they had known and seen of Jesus needed to be told to others, beginning from Jerusalem and extending to all the nations.
A 9-year-old girl named Erica was so filled with joy when she came to know Jesus that she insisted that all her friends know him too. One day she took me to her neighborhood to invite the children to a vacation bible school our church was having. We went with colorful flyers in hand. I expected that we would tell the children and their parents about the dates and time and place of the vacation bible school, leave them a flyer as a reminder, and be on our way. Erica saw our job differently. When we got to the first home and the door was opened she stepped right up and said, "We've got great news about Jesus and my pastor will tell you all about it." I stood there flabbergasted, but she was right. Our job was first and foremost to spread the Word, proclaim the Good News, tell others about our Risen Lord. Erica and I worked hard that day because she did not want any child in her neighborhood to miss out in hearing about Jesus and the vacation bible school. Erica knew in her own way, Jesus' claim on our lives and the magnitude of that claim. We are Jesus' witnesses and those who need to receive our witness is the entire human family.
Those early disciples were the first blessed by the privilege of having in their hearts, minds and souls, in their hopes and dreams, the Good News of the Resurrected Christ in whom there is salvation. Those who believe in every generation join them in that blessed privilege.
The Lord is Risen, he lives among us, blessing us with his presence and his spirit, and empowering us to be his witnesses. Let us be faithful to the task sharing the Good News with all people. And all praise be to God now and always. Amen.