April 19, 2015 (Year B, Easter 3) Celtic Meditation

Luke 24:36b-48

This reading describes the events back in Jerusalem on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection. Earlier in the day, the women had gone to anoint Jesus’ body, but found the tomb empty. In that confusing moment of discovery, two angels[1] explain to the women that Jesus was not in the tomb because he has risen (Luke 24:1-7). The women told the disciples, but the disciples didn’t believe the women.  Peter, however, went to the tomb to investigate. He saw the strips of linen that Jesus’ dead body had been wrapped in, but what he saw didn’t make sense (Luke 24:8-12). Sure, he had heard Jesus say that after his death that he would rise from the dead. He had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, but in the midst of grief, how could any of this make sense?

In the midst of all this confusion and sorrow, two disciples left to return to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They encountered the resurrected Jesus along the way, but didn’t recognize him until after he explained, from Scripture, his mission to them. But it was when he stayed to eat with them and served the meal that they recognized Jesus for who he was. Jesus disappeared; they got up immediately from the table and went back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples (Luke 24:13-33). In the meantime, Jesus had appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). The addition information from these witnesses must have made for a wild conversation!

While the disciples were discussing these events, suddenly, Jesus was among them. Whatever had been the mood in the room before, now the room is full of startled and terrified people. Jesus immediately responds to their fear that they are seeing a ghost by demonstrating that he is present with them in a physical body that can be touched and can eat. The bodily resurrection of Jesus has been central to the Christian faith from this moment in time. Why is it important for us, as church, to recognize that Jesus’ body was resurrected, not just his spirit?

After settling their anxiety by proving to them that he was really alive,[2] Jesus explained to them how his death and resurrection is in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures.[3] But in order to understand the scriptures, Jesus had to open their minds. The two men on the way to Emmaus described this experience as having their “hearts burning within them” as Jesus taught them (Luke 24:32). How does knowing that even the disciples who were eye witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection needed God’s assistance to understand what the Scriptures teach about Jesus affect how we, as Church, read, study, and discuss Scripture?

Understanding who Jesus is—the Messiah—and what the mission of the church is—to continue being a witness to the truth of the gospel that the Messiah suffered, died, and was raised on the third day in fulfillment of the Scriptures—is necessary for the next stage of God’s work of restoration. Through Jesus, repentance brings forgiveness of sins. How can we, as Church, more fully live into the confidence that God will finish the work of redemption because of Jesus’ resurrection?

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[1] Luke describes these two persons as men in gleaming clothing (Luke 24:4). In John’s gospel, Mary Magdalene talks with two angels (John 20:12).

[2] Not only is Jesus alive, but he is also still fully human. To be human requires having a body.

[3] That the “law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms” are explicitly mentioned demonstrates the importance of accepting the entirety of the Old Testament as Christian sacred scriptures.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

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