“There are many who say ‘O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!'” -Psalm 4
Jesus appears to the disciples in one of their strangest times – they are struggling to come to terms with the events of the crucifixion and what his death by crucifixion means for their community. Then various people start giving accounts of encounters with the risen Jesus. The Apostles are then simultaneously trying to come to terms with his death, as well as reports of his resurrection. And then he appears to the group of the gathered 11.
The different Gospels give slightly different accounts. Last week we heard from the gospel of John about the apostles and Thomas’ encounter with the risen Jesus. This week we hear from the perspective of the gospel of Luke. Some of the elements are the same – Jesus appears to the gathered group, meets them in but also challenges them in their fear.
This week’s gospel reading comes immediately after the story of the road to Emmaus, where two of the disciples who encountered the risen Jesus on the road, run back the 7 miles or 11 km to tell the apostles what they had seen and heard and experienced. And then Jesus appears in their midst.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” -Mt. 18.20
Peace be with you – according to my study Bible, a common Jewish greeting, but also a sign of the kingdom of God. Jesus makes the ‘common,’ Holy. Jesus asks the Apostles to be witnesses – witnesses to the transformation of the common in to the Holy – this was such a major part of what Jesus did – that transformation. Not an outward visible transformation in the sense of clothing someone in luxurious textiles and gold and silver, but rather restoring humanity, self worth, healing brokenness of heart, mind, soul and yes, body too. So in that sense, yes you can see and tangibly feel that – but it is not simply window dressing – it is complete and total transformation. It is God’s proclamation that you are worth everything.
Jesus meets the disciples in the midst of their fear and confusion, and challenges them not to stay there. He reassures them – he’s not a ghost. He invites them to touch his hands and feet. Then he asks for something to eat as further proof.
Then he does something very interesting. He challenges them on their understanding of the Messiah. What was expected was the second coming of King David, and that he would lead the people to rise up and overthrow the Roman Empire who had invaded their land. Just as he had done for the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus reinterprets the Scriptures – the Law (the Torah) and the Prophets so that they might understand that the idea of the Messiah they had was wrong – and that instead of this great king and warrior, instead of bloodshed and war, there was Jesus, full of grace and mercy and compassion and healing, teaching forgiveness of sins, inclusion and hospitality. Not without a sharp word or two, but not the Messiah that they thought was coming.
Jesus commissions them to be witnesses to all of this – his life his teaching and ministry, his death, and more importantly his resurrection. He asks them to carry on the ministry of bringing the kingdom of God to people – preaching and proclaiming salvation and forgiveness of sins – healing and new life – that inward change and transformation that becomes an outward expression of love of God and love of neighbour. This hope filled message of life Jesus commissions them to go out to the whole world, starting in Jerusalem, right where they were.We are called to do the same.