Acts 3:12-19, I John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48
“Jesus stood among the disciples and said to them, ‘[Shalom], Peace be with you…”
And in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” Luke 24:36b, 41
Likely everyone wondered what it was that had taken place in Jerusalem over those days… so certainly the band of men and women who had followed the prophet Jesus from Galilee wondered – and were afraid. What meaning could be made of their beloved Master’s execution on the eve of the Passover Sabbath? And now, what to make of the mysterious reports of what some had experienced early on the first day of the week?
The final chapter of Luke’s gospel openly and unapologetically speaks of the startling and terrifying – and ultimately life-transforming – experience of the gathered disciples. “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see!” (v. 38-39a) The One whom they saw die on Friday stands among them again.
This is not the spirit or ghost they at first had feared – both in seeing and in being known by their companions that they were seeing. No, it is One who proclaims himself to “have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” It is the One who asks with a touch of humor, “Have you anything here to eat?”
Acts 3:12-19 / I John 3:1-7 / Luke 24:36b-48
There are many interesting variations in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, but there is one theme that is absolutely consistent, and that is that no one believes in the good news of Jesus’ resurrection when they first hear it. No one. And that includes Jesus’ own disciples, those who were closest to him and spent the most time with him. In fact, the disbelief begins with them.
Luke tells us that the disciples dismissed outright the testimony of the women who had been to the empty tomb. “These words seemed to them an idle tale,” says Luke, “and they did not believe them” (24:11). Actually, “idle tale” is a polite translation. The Greek word that Luke uses – leros – is the root of our word delirious. When the disciples heard the women’s report they considered it crazy; they thought these women were out of their minds!
There’s a story about a Zen Buddhist monk who visited St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. This monk so appreciated the prayer and quiet that he offered to lead a retreat for the monks at Spencer incorporating some aspects of his Zen practice. The retreat included features such as short interviews during which the instructor would offer the student a “koan”. A koan is a statement or question not so much meant to be answered rationally, but rather meant to provoke some lived response or certain kind of awareness. One day, one of the Spencer monks entered the interview room, sat down, and noticed a copy of the New Testament sitting open before the Zen monk, who smiled, and said “I like Christianity. But… I would not like it without resurrection.” Then he leaned forward very close to the Spencer monk and said “Show me your resurrection… That is your koan. Show me your resurrection.”
The gospel tells us that two followers of Jesus were walking and talking as they made their way to the village of Emmaus, a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem. Only a few days had passed since the tragic death of Jesus, and the confusion, fear, disappointment, and grief of that time still weighed heavily upon them. Some of those closest to Jesus had contributed to the tragedy; he had been betrayed by one of his own disciples, denied by another, abandoned by his followers and allies, who had fled for their lives. Furthermore, the body had apparently gone missing! Some women who had visited the tomb had reported a strange encounter with “two men in dazzling clothes” who had greeted them with the amazing news that Jesus was not there, but risen! They had reported this “dazzling experience” to the disciples, but the disciples took it to be “an idle tale” and sent them away.1 And now, as these two were walking along, they were trying to make sense of all of this, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, trying to work through their grief and confusion, trying to find some point of light to illumine the darkness and despair that had overshadowed their hearts.